NFL Week 4 Picks

Well. To say last week was a rough one for this man’s picks would be an extreme understatement—took a few chances, and they didn’t pay off. Either way, I’ll take 8-8, 29-19 overall, and look to improve moving forward. Seems almost everyone had a rough week at ESPN as well, so I’ll consider it a small win.

Here’s to a much improved Week 4.

San Francisco 49ers (-3) @ St. Louis Rams, Thursday, 8:25pm

Of the six NFC teams to make the playoffs last year—relevant because San Fran was one of them—only one has a winning record through three weeks (Seattle at 3-0). Just goes to show, despite how much we think we know, this game is truly unpredictable. The 49ers are coming off of a second straight clunking, and Jim Harbaugh has his first losing record since becoming head coach. They should (should!) right the ship against a Rams defense that ranks 26th in the league, giving up 393 yards per game. San Fran will be without Aldon Smith for the foreseeable future, which could be a factor, but not in this game. 49ers win 20-16

Baltimore Ravens (-3.5) @ Buffalo Bills, 1pm

E.J. Manuel staged an impressive comeback for the second week in a row, but fell just short against the division-rival Jets. This week, he gets to go up against a defense that, since being embarrassed by Peyton Manning on opening night, hasn’t given up a touchdown. The offense still has some work to do (doesn’t it always in Baltimore?), and could struggle again against a team that nearly beat the Patriots at home and hasn’t left the state of New York since the season began (technically they were in East Rutherford, NJ, last week, but that part of the state is essentially owned by New York anyway, so we’ll let it slide). Ravens win 28-20

Cincinnati Bengals (-4.5) @ Cleveland Browns, 1pm

The Browns can’t even tank the right way… The same week they traded their first-round pick from a year ago (a move that was seen as a white flag just two weeks into 2013), they went out and grabbed their first win of the season on the road at Minnesota. Brian Hoyer was pretty impressive in his first start, but maybe just a little beginner’s luck? If tanking actually is the goal, they should get back to form this week when Cincy comes to town, fresh off a dramatic come-from-behind-multiple-times-in-the-same-quarter against the Packers. This is one of the most evenly contested AFC North rivalries, but Cincy’s won four of the last five and I like them to take control of this division. Bengals win 27-24

Chicago Bears (+2.5) @ Detroit Lions, 1pm

Detroit pulled off their first win in Washington in franchise history last week (they’re 1-21 now all-time), and they did so without Reggie Bush. Bush says he’ll be ready Sunday, and it’ll be a much needed boost against a Bears team that has been on a roll to start the season. Defense has played a roll in this stat, but the Bears are averaging just under 32 points per game which ranks behind only Denver and Green Bay. They’re also the second-least penalized team in the league—Detroit’s put some points on the board, but have really hurt themselves in the yellow-flag category, and in divisional contests, those kinds of things usually make a difference. Bears win 23-17

New York Giants (+4.5) @ Kansas City Chiefs, 1pm

Andy Reid has never started a season 4-0. He’ll look to do that against a team he’s incredibly familiar with in the New York Giants. This Giants team, though, is unlike anything Reid saw in his 14 seasons in Philly—they are dead last in the league in turnover differential (-9), and Eli Manning is on pace for some career lows in nearly every category, except interceptions, which he may set an NFL record for at this rate (8 through 3 weeks). The line is giving the G-Men way too much credit on the road. Chiefs win 30-14

Pittsburgh Steelers (-1) @ Minnesota Vikings, 1pm EST

Looking at the schedule a month ago, this was a game that would’ve excited many. Had you told me both sides would be 0-3, I’d have thought you were crazy. Well, turns out you would have been right. Both clubs have put themselves in an incredibly tough position going forward, and now they both have to travel halfway around the globe in search of their first win. But at least one team has some semblance of an offense. The other is putting too much pressure on an aging defense, and is one more loss away from changing the professional titles of a few individuals (cough, Todd Haley, cough). Maybe this is the week we see the first coaching casualty of the season? (Ben’s total sacks tracker: 10) Vikings win 3-2 (in honor of playing at Wembley)

Arizona Cardinals (+3) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1pm

Something’s going to have to give in a couple areas this week for these teams. Josh Freeman’s 45.3 percent completion percentage is the worst in the NFL, but he’s going up against a Cardinals team that has allowed the 8th highest completion percentage (66.7), 7th most passing yards per game this season (297), and 3rd most passing TDs (7). The Bucs as a whole rank second-to-last in total offense (11.3 pts, 282 yds), though they’ve gone against some tough defenses. The Cards have faired well against the run, but have been less-than-average overall, giving up 26 points per game—22nd in the league. They also haven’t won on the road in over a year. This might be their best chance, but the gut tells me Freeman gets it together for at least a week. Bucs win 26-24 (Revision: The Bucs announced on Wednesday that they would be benching Josh Freeman [who’s probably going to be traded in the very near future] in favor of rookie QB Mike Glennon. That changes a lot of things, including my pick. Glennon has received high marks since being drafted in April, but this is a rough situation to get thrown into. He could show some beginners luck, especially going up against a team with the passing numbers I laid out above, but there are distractions galore in Tampa Bay leading up to this game. Cardinals win 24-16)

Indianapolis Colts (-8.5) @ Jacksonville Jaguars, 1pm

Playing @ San Fran > Playing @ Duval… Colts win 34-12

Seattle Seahawks (-3) @ Houston Texans, 1pm

A damn shame that this one isn’t in prime time. This is easily the matchup of the day with the two of the best defenses in the game squaring off—literally, Seattle’s #1, Houston’s #2. The two have faced off twice (in their current state’s), with each holding serve at home in lopsided victories. In looking for the stat or stats that’ll make the difference, I offer this: The Seahawks are doing a much better job at creating turnovers—10 compared to Houston’s 2. Then there’s points per game; Seattle is holding opponents to just 9 points, while the Texans are allowing 27.3. One more; the Seahawks are holding opposing QBs to a rating of just 49.2, the best in the game. If these trends hold, Seattle should be able to walk away with this one. Seahawks win 20-17

New York Jets (+4) @ Tennessee Titans, 4:05pm

The Jets’ 2-1 record is deceiving if you ask me. They did their best to throw away the game last week with 20 penalties (2 shy of tying a league record) and their uncanny ability to let the Bills hang around for so long. Then there’s the Week 1 game they stole from the Bucs thanks to a incredibly stupid late-hit call. They’re a 1-2 team at best. Tennessee might be legit. They were able to put together two late drives—including a TD drive with :15 left on the clock—to beat San Diego. Their defense has kept them in games this season, giving up just 7 touchdowns through three games. They should do just fine against the rookie Geno Smith. Titans win 27-17

Philadelphia Eagles (+10.5) @ Denver Broncos, 4:25pm

I don’t want to get into it, but I pray they prove me wrong. Broncos win 38-23

Dallas Cowboys (-1.5) @ San Diego Chargers

The Cowboys that showed up last week against the Rams are the ‘Boys that everyone has been expecting for the last 5 years or so. Nice of them to finally arrive. It’s just a shame that it was against a Rams team that doesn’t fall under the category of “Elite” just yet. That’s not to say that the Chargers are elite, but I’d go with Philip Rivers over Sam Bradford any day of the week. For fantasy football purposes, I hope Demarco Murray can keep up the pace from a week ago (they’re giving up 5.1 yards per rush—4th highest), but that’s about all the good prayers I’ll be throwing Big-D’s way. Chargers win 23-17

Washington Redskins (-3) @ Oakland Raiders, 4:25pm

The RG 0-3’s travel west to take on a team that’s been known to serve up an upset or two per year on their home field. The way things have been going thus far in 2013 for Washington, this wouldn’t be that big of an upset—in fact, it might not be one at all. In this battle of the two worst pass-defenses, I’m forced to pick between the “resurgent” Terrell Pryor, and the “healthy” RGIII. This could end up being a shootout given how poorly both secondaries have look so far, but someone’s going to have to step it up. It might be the Philadelphian in me, but I’m so tempted to pick against the Skins here, but could they really follow up a season in which they won the NFC East with an 0-4 start? And in a week in which two entire divisions square off, could the NFC East drop all four games against the AFC West? Why the hell not? Raiders win 17-14

New England Patriots (+1.5) @ Atlanta Falcons, 8:30pm

Brady is starting to get *NSync in sync with his rookie receivers which could spell trouble for the AFC North and the league as a whole. Tompkins and Dobson are going to be getting quite the lesson, though, as they watch two guys by the name of White and Jones—who are dinged up but should be good to go—lead Atlanta’s passing attack. The runs are going to be few and far between in this one, which should make for an incredible watch. Tom Brady vs. Matt Ryan would typically lean one way consistently in the past, but the performance of the receiving core could make all the difference in this one. Falcons win 34-31

Miami Dolphins (+6.5) @ New Orleans Saints, Monday 8:30pm

So I guess we’re supposed to start taking the Miami Dolphins seriously? They’ve more than held their own through three weeks, knocking off the Falcons and Colts (who have since knocked of the 49ers, so through the transitive property the Dolphins are better than the Niners???) on top of their opening week victory at Cleveland. Their first serious serious test comes on Monday night when they head into the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to face off against a Saints team with a MUCH improved defense than the historically bad group from a year ago. I think Miami is legit, but even legit teams struggle on the road in the Big Easy (see: Atlanta). Plus, who really thinks a guy named Ryan Tannehill is going to outduel Drew Brees? Saints win 34-30

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