For the past four weeks, my typical segue into my NFL game picks has been, “So without any further ado, let’s try not and get embarrassed!” That statement has somewhat held up, as I haven’t had a truly awful week yet. But going 7-8 this past week and falling to 32-31 overall on the year has me itching to be better. A lot of road dogs won yesterday, which in turn swung the results, but I think (more like hope) I’ll be back with a vengeance in Week 5.
So without any further ado, let’s not settle for mediocrity!
(Betting lines via Caesar’s Sportsbook; last updated October #3rd)
BYE-WEEK TEAMS: Detroit Lions (2-1-1) and the Miami Dolphins (0-4)
ARIZONA CARDINALS (0-3-1) vs. CINCINNATI BENGALS (0-4) [-3.0]
Why not start things off with an absolute stinker between two of the league’s worst teams?
For an optimist like myself however, this could low-key be a fun game. We have two young offensive minded coaches in Kliff Kingsbury and Zac Taylor, and the loser moves up the #TankForTua standings! (although a certain team has the upper hand) After seeing the Bengals fall apart Monday night against Pittsburgh, it made my confidence in Arizona shoot up. The Cards have actually hung in most of their games this year, and Kyler Murray using his speed against the slow-as-molasses linebacker group on Cincinnati should be an easily exploitable weakness. The result should be close nonetheless, but I am confidently taking the Redbirds.
THE PICK: Cardinals (+3.0)
BUFFALO BILLS (3-1) vs. TENNESSEE TITANS (2-2) [-3.0]
This game is a little more tricky dicky. Josh Allen is in the concussion protocol, and if he misses this game I think Matt Barkley would be… eh against this ferocious Titans defense. Tennessee knows a win can help them in a wide-open AFC South, but I don’t trust them whatsoever. They’re the type of team if Buffalo goes up 7-0 in the first quarter, they’ve already lost in my eyes. Also, if Josh Allen is cleared, this game is a true toss up. I’m going to reluctantly take the team that will have it’s starting quarterback in Tennessee, although I’m not sure how much of an advantage Mariota is over Barkley.
THE PICK: Titans (-3.0)
CHICAGO BEARS (3-1) [-6.0] vs. OAKLAND RAIDERS (2-2)
For the NFL fans located in London, their first taste of NFL action will be watching the Chicago defense devour the Raiders like some bangers and mash. I have no doubt a Bears’ D allowing only 11.3 points per game this season will find success, but with Mitchell Trubisky on the mend with a dislocated non-throwing shoulder, Chase Daniel will need to fulfill his one duty: DON’T SCREW UP! This has all the making of a 13-7, 16-10 snooze-fest, and if that’s the case both teams may get booed out of the country.
THE PICK: Bears (-6.0)
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (2-2) vs. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (3-1) [-3.5]
If Tampa Bay hung a 50 burger on the Rams, they almost certainly will do the same to the Saints! Right? Right…
Not taking away anything from a Bucs offense that has been superb so far, but this New Orleans defense is no joke either. I covered in my Week 4 recap article how if Teddy Bridgewater simply plays the role as game-manager and doesn’t turn the ball over, the Saints should waltz into W’s. For as good as Bruce Arians has this offense playing, the Tampa Bay defense, while very much improved behind Todd Bowles, still has leaks in the secondary and isn’t at full health. The depth that New Orleans possesses on their defense is the key to this game.
THE PICK: Saints (-3.5)
MINNESOTA VIKINGS (2-2) [-5.5] vs. NEW YORK GIANTS (2-2)
The New York Football Giants have had a renaissance the past two weeks, pulling off consecutive wins over the Buccaneers and Redskins. They face a much more formidable challenge this week when Minnesota comes into town, but the question will be can Minnesota score enough? This may seem like ludicrous question against the Swiss cheese defense of the Giants, but Kirk Cousins looks like a guy who is simply still the starter thanks to his contract. On the contrary, their defense is poised to pressure Danny Dimes all day, and I would be shocked if he didn’t have his worst performance as a professional. This is a good bounce-back spot for Minnesota.
THE PICK: Vikings (-5.5)
NEW YORK JETS (0-3) vs. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (2-2) [-13.5]
The Dolphins aren’t the only AFC East team that’ll be season-long double digit underdogs!
Even with Sam Darnold possibly returning from his bout with mono, they’re at Philly against a surging Carson Wentz-led offense. Could they score a touchdown or two on this injured and decrepit defense? Sure. However, the Eagles would have to have a meltdown of the century to not blow this team out.
THE PICK: Eagles (-13.5)
BALTIMORE RAVENS (2-2) [-3.5] vs. PITTSBURGH STEELERS (1-3)
If you would’ve told me a week ago this would be one of the hardest games to pick this week, I would’ve thought you were crazy. Here we are though, and the Ravens are trying to avoid falling behind Cleveland in the AFC North standings. While Pittsburgh has a minimal shot at postseason contention, you know damn well Mike Tomlin will have his team ready against their division rival. Mason Rudolph looked really good (albeit conservative) playing Cincinnati, and the way the Ravens’ D has been play lately, it may not be that big of a step up in competition. Add the fact that the Steeler’s defensive line has been elite and the rest of that unit is playing superb, I think we’ve got an upset cookin’.
THE PICK: Steelers (+3.5)
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (4-0) [-15.5] vs. WASHINGTON REDSKINS (0-4)
I don’t know. Maybe it’s just my blind faith in this Redskins defense (which is second-worst in the league), or maybe I’m a big Dwayne Haskins fan (who threw three picks in his NFL debut), but this game made me think about it. Of course, like any sane and knowledgable football fan would conclude, I’m taking the Patriots. It’s the safe pick. Let me just say, if things get a little wonky I wouldn’t necessarily be blown away.
THE PICK: Patriots (-15.5)
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (2-2) vs. CAROLINA PANTHERS (2-2) [-3.5]
Both Jacksonville and Carolina are coming off of big victories that put them back at .500 on the year. One of these teams is going to lose, unless a tie occu – STOP! With how wide-open the AFC South is, I wouldn’t say this is as must-win for the Jags as it is for a Carolina team that needs to compete with New Orleans and (maybe) Tampa Bay. Jalen Ramsey might be back for this game, but even so, I like Carolina pulling out a close dub and keeping themselves in the playoff hunt in the NFC. The #BenchCam movement would be stronger than ever.
THE PICK: Panthers (-3.5)
ATLANTA FALCONS (1-3) vs. HOUSTON TEXANS (2-2) [-5.0]
Matty Ice and the Falcons need to pull this one out. I wrote in my recap column this week that Dan Quinn might be looking at unemployment soon, and falling to 1-4 would be a steep hill to climb. The Texans have looked inconsistent to say the least, but the good news is their offensive line should be tested too much against an atrocious Atlanta pass-rush. I think this game is going to be a true shootout (betting the over at 48.5 might be the smartest move), so five points is a little too big for me in this case.
THE PICK: Falcons (+5.0)
DENVER BRONCOS (0-4) vs. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (2-2) [-6.5]
The Denver Broncos might just be the best “defeated” team in the league this season. They have suffered two gut-wrenching losses in the last minute and a half this year, but they honestly haven’t looked awful. Joe Flacco is a fine starter, Courtland Sutton is breaking out, and the secondary looks improved. Their main problems are situational football and penalties. Going against a Chargers team that is known for it’s closing time screw-ups should allow some confidence to build up, but Philip Rivers has been excellent this season despite an awful offensive line and mounting injuries. Oh yeah, and Melvin Gordon will be back. It’s gonna be a long season for the Broncos faithful. It’s a good thing they live in Colorado, if you know what I mean.
THE PICK: Chargers (-6.5)
GREEN BAY PACKERS (3-1) vs. DALLAS COWBOYS (3-1) [-3.5]
Who doesn’t love it when these teams face-off? This is clearly the game of the week and I think we’re all going to be in for a treat. Both teams are at the top of the NFC despite coming off losses in Week 4. The Packers have been mostly stellar in every area this season, excluding run defense where they rank in the bottom third of the league in that category. If the Cowboys want to win this game, they must feed Zeke. Dallas on the other hand, has very little weaknesses on the defensive side of the ball, but they are lacking Green Bay in one category: quarterback. Aaron Rodgers is 2-0 in his career against Dak Prescott, outplaying him both times. I don’t expect this stage to be to big for the Packers, and Rodgers should have a vintage game.
THE PICK: Packers (+3.5)
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (2-2) vs. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (4-0) [-11.0]
Uhhhhhh… are we being serious? 11 points!?? I know the Colts are coming off of a brutal loss to Oakland, but still. They hung in there and almost came back at the end until Jacoby Brissett’s awful INT. Their defense isn’t what it was last season, and not having Andrew Luck to bail you out in these situations is noticeable. Thta being said, the Chiefs defense has been a little off the past few weeks, playing both the Ravens and Lions close and pulling out wins in the end. If I’m Frank Reich, I’m gashing the Chiefs with a high-powered running game with a lot of screens, RPO’s and short passes. Get them gassed and optimize your chances of scoring as much as possible.
THE PICK: Colts (+11.0)
CLEVELAND BROWNS (4-0) vs. SAN FRANCSICO 49ers (3-0) [-3.5]
If I’m just looking at these two rosters, I would probably take the Browns. But not everything is based simply on players, those players have to be put in optimal positions, and while Freddie Kitchens coached a much better game in the Browns’ 40-25 drubbing of Baltimore, he is simply no match to the play-calling expertise that Kyle Shanahan possesses. Expect Cleveland to look silly on several trick plays and RPOs and a predictable Cleveland game-plan of feeding Nick Chubb, wich may not have the same success going against a ferocious Niner’s D-line led by DeForest Buckner and Nick Bosa.
THE PICK: 49ers (-3.5)