Week 4 NFL Picks & My Gambling Rock Bottom

steelers-eagles

Over the course of an entire NFL season, even us professional bettors are due for a horrible week. There’s just no getting around the fact that in a 21 week sample size where just 267 games are played, there are bound to be some random, unexpected results.

But just like a 1-loss college football team can be either helped or hurt by when that loss takes place, so too does the timing of the rock bottom week for the professional gambler have a major effect on the overall success of the season.

Last year my gambling partner & I didn’t have our “week from hell” until late December. That meant not only did we have a bankroll to bounce back from such a shitty week, but we already had a successful formula in place for knowing which teams and matchups would likely produce the most profit for us. It was extremely easy to put that awful week behind us and continue on.

Unfortunately we just endured our 2016 rock bottom last weekend. At least I hope it was our rock bottom. I can’t imagine continuing to live if we have an even worse week on the horizon.

Since this huge letdown happened in week 3–while we were still figuring out how good & bad the various NFL teams are this year, along with their styles of play–it’s a little bit of a problem knowing if our preseason thoughts are still valid, how much stock we should put into these first few weeks, and if we were just plain lucky in 2015.

Thanks to the Steelers & Cardinals, the Teasy Money crew has been shaken to its core.

But then I take a step back and notice I’m still in first place in one of my Pick ‘Em leagues. And my against the spread record for the year is a decent 26-22. And even the bet recommendations I’ve given you in this space for the past three weeks have had more hits than misses. So it’s not all gloom & doom. I don’t think we just got lucky last year. I think week 3 will go down as one of the toughest weeks for gamblers in 2016 and we just gotta roll with the punch.

So as I keep saying in writing and on our Teasy Money podcast, I remain undeterred. Trust the process and the rest will work out.

It’s onto the week 4 picks.

Miami at Cincinnati -8 | over/under 46.5

The Pick: Miami

The Score: Cincinnati 23, Miami 18

The Bets: None

SuperContest: No

I highly recommend you stay away from this game. First of all, it’s a Thursday night game. Usually that’s a good enough reason to hang onto your money until Sunday.

But it’s also very tough to get a read on either of these teams. While both could easily be 0-3 (Cincy’s one win was by 1 point against the Jets in week 1. Miami’s win was in overtime against Cleveland last weekend), they’ve each had to face a brutal opening schedule. The Bengals were at the Jets and at Pittsburgh before the week 3 home game against Denver. Miami started the year at Seattle and at New England.

Until Tyler Eifert returns and we see what this fully healthy Bengals offense looks like, I won’t be picking them to cover a full touchdown or more, regardless of who they’re playing. And be careful betting against Miami this year. They seem like the team that loses 11 games but never by more than a touchdown.

Indianapolis (-3) vs Jacksonville | over/under 49 (IN LONDON)

The Pick: Jacksonville

The Score: Jacksonville 29, Indianapolis 23

The Bets: Over (43) in a 2-way tease

SuperContest: Yes with Jacksonville (+3)

If only the Colts had managed to lose in week 3 against San Diego, we’d be able to call this the “loser leaves its newly-fired coach in London” game. Initially I wanted to predict that the Colts would extinguish what little hope Jacksonville has left for the season, and Gus Bradley would indeed get fired during the team’s bye week. But the numbers just aren’t there to back up such a claim. Indy’s defense is so bad that I feel like this is the game that gets the Jags back on track, offensively speaking.

Buffalo at New England (-6) | No current over/under

The Pick: New England

The Score: New England 33, Buffalo 17

The Bets: New England (PICK) in a 2-way tease

Supercontest: No

There really is a first time for everything, huh? Never in my five years of doing this have I been unable to find a game total this late into the week. But it’s also understandable because there’s a gigantic gap between what we should expect out of New England’s offense if Jimmy Garoppolo starts at QB compared to another start by Jacoby Brissett.

What I love about the Patriots here is that they don’t play into any of the ways Buffalo has had success this season. All three of Buffalo’s offensive touchdowns last week against Arizona came on drives where they got to start around midfield. The Patriots almost never give a team the ball in such good position. Two weeks ago against the Jets, two of Buffalo’s three offensive touchdowns came on ridiculous 70+ yard touchdown passes. The Patriots almost never get burned by the long plays. And in those two games, the Bills’ defense scored a couple times on fumble recoveries or interceptions. Guess what? The Patriots don’t turn the ball over.

So good luck to sophomoric prankster Rex Ryan and his crew of shitty football players in trying to keep up with the Patriots on Sunday. My score prediction is based on Garoppolo playing. If Brissett plays instead, maybe the Patriots score three less points.

Tennessee at Houston (-5.5) | over/under 41

The Pick: Houston

The Score: Houston 23, Tennessee 14

The Bets: Houston (-5.5) straight up, Houston (+0.5) in a 2-way tease

SuperContest: Yes with Houston (-5.5)

The Titans are averaging 14 points per game. Though they faced the Vikings in week 1 (one of the best defenses in football), their other two games were against Detroit (currently 31st in FootballOutsiders’ defensive DVOA rankings) and Oakland (29th in defensive DVOA).

They’re going into Houston and playing the 8th best defense this weekend. I feel like we’ll see an almost identical game as when Chicago traveled to Houston in week 1 so that’s why I’m predicting that exact same score.

And don’t worry about J.J. Watt being out. He was essentially invisible these first three weeks so if anything, the Texans might get a boost by having a healthy body take over his spot.

Oh, and the Texans are on extra rest. Bet this game confidently.

Cleveland at Washington (-8) | over/under 46

The Pick: Cleveland

The Score: Washington 31, Cleveland 26

The Bets: Over (46), Over (40) in a 2-way tease

SuperContest: No

I suspect lots of money has come in on the Browns earlier this week because this line opened at Washington -10. I would have LOVED to get Cleveland with that spread. I still think the line is too high. I guessed it would be Washington -6. I think I’ll stay away from the spread, but where I’m loving a bet here is on the over!

Certainly the Browns have been nothing to write home about offensively this year (averaging 15.7 points per game on offense), but all three of the Redskins’ games have gone over the point total. And their defense is bad enough to make me think Cleveland won’t pull a “Texans at Patriots” in this one. Washington’s defense has given up 11 touchdowns in three games, and only one of them was of the cheap variety (a short field that the Giants scored on to open the game last week).

Seattle (-2.5) at NY Jets | over/under 40.5

The Pick: NY Jets

The Score: NY Jets 23, Seattle 17

The Bets: None

SuperContest: No

Even though the Jets’ schedule is famously impossible this year, I think they actually get a little bit of a break by playing Seattle early in the season. If this was the Seahawks of weeks 10-17 from last year, I’d confidently be betting on them here. But this current installment is a lot more like their team from weeks 1-8 last year, where they either lost on the road (at St. Louis, at Green Bay, at Cincinnati) or won in unimpressive fashion (at Dallas).

So yeah, I feel like I have no choice but to pick the Jets at home, but I’m not confident enough to put money on it.

Carolina (-3) at Atlanta | over/under 50

The Pick: Carolina

The Score: Carolina 27, Atlanta 23

The Bets: None

SuperContest: No

On this week’s Teasy Money Podcast, I talked about my high level of interest in teasing the over in this game. But I’m backing away from that a little bit. Carolina’s still got a legit defense, even if it’s not as good as last year’s version, and it looks like the Atlanta receivers are pretty banged up. What I thought would be a track meet with lots of passing now looks like it could turn into two teams focused on running as much as possible.

And for as good as the Atlanta offense has been so far, they’ve gotten the luxury of facing the 21st (Tampa Bay), 29th (Oakland) and 30th (New Orleans) ranked defenses. Playing the Panthers will be a different story. No confidence on the pick or the score in this one, but I’m leaning towards Carolina.

Oakland at Baltimore (-3.5) | over/under 46.5

The Pick: Oakland

The Score: Baltimore 23, Oakland 20

The Bets: None

SuperContest: No

Go ahead and try to make sense out of this game because I can’t. Baltimore has the 5th ranked defense but the 26th ranked offense. Oakland comes into week 4 with the #1 offense in the entire league but the 29th ranked defense.

No real idea how this plays out so I’m staying away from all bets. Since the Ravens are winning ugly these days, I’m thinking they’ll win by a field goal.

Detroit (-3) at Chicago | over/under 47.5

The Pick: Chicago

The Score: Chicago 24, Detroit 19

The Bets: None

SuperContest: Yes with Chicago (+3)

Detroit feels like such an obvious pick here. So obvious, in fact, that something doesn’t smell right. The Bears haven’t put up more than 17 points in a game this year, and they happen to have a pretty bad defense. Meanwhile Detroit checks in with the 3rd best offense in the league (according to FootballOutsiders). And the Bears are missing Jay Cutler and plenty of other important players. So why is this line so low? Not sure, but not betting it.

Bonus stayaway reason: EVERYONE IN YOUR PICK ‘EM LEAGUE WILL BE BACKING DETROIT. That’s normally a recipe for disaster…you know what, as I type this and realize I’m low on the five SuperContest picks I need to make, fuck it, I’ll take Chicago.

Denver (-3.5) at Tampa Bay | over/under 43

The Pick: Tampa Bay

The Score: Tampa Bay 26, Denver 23

The Bets: Over (33) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: No

The way I see it, the Bucs defense probably won’t play Denver much worse than Cincy did last week. And the Tampa Bay offense is dangerous enough to put up some points, especially with the Broncos on the back end of a two-game road trip. Tampa keeps this close-ish and either wins outright or covers when they’re down by 10 late and drives for a semi-meaningless touchdown.

But instead of betting on such uncertainty, I’d much rather roll with a teased over on this game. Two solid offenses, one bad defense, and one tired, road-weary defense. Get this over down to 33 and you won’t be sorry.

Los Angeles at Arizona (-8) | over/under 43

The Pick: Los Angeles

The Score: Arizona 24, Los Angeles 20

The Bets: None

SuperContest: No

Despite the pressure I’m definitely going to get from my gambling & podcast partner to tease the Cardinals down to -2, I’m not willing to do it. The Rams get up for their division games like no other team, and Arizona is legitimately sketchy right now. I can’t imagine putting my hard-earned money on the Cardinals and having to live through three hours of their Jekyll & Hyde play. And after watching the Bills rush for 208 yards (6.5 yards per carry) on this “vaunted” Arizona defense last week, I just can’t pull the trigger on anything in this game.

I’ll gladly wait until the Cardinals get right and string together multiple games of looking good.

New Orleans at San Diego (-4) | over/under 53.5

The Pick: San Diego

The Score: San Diego 28, New Orleans 18

The Bets: Under (53.5), Under (59.5) in a 2-way tease

SuperContest: San Diego (-4)

The pick for San Diego and the under is simple if you know how the Saints perform on the road. It’s basically the exact opposite of how they play at home. Over their past nine road games, the Saints have averaged 18 points per game. If you take out road games within their division (where they generally play teams with terrible defenses), that number drops to 16 points per game. This is a large enough sample size for me. Betting the under straight up and in a teaser are must-do’s this week. And I don’t hate a bet on the Chargers at -4 (or teased to +6) either.

Dallas (-3) at San Francisco | over/under 45.5

The Pick: San Francisco

The Score: San Francisco 21, Dallas 15

The Bets: None

SuperContest: Yes with San Francisco (+3)

Similar to the Jaguars, Jets, Bears & Bucs this week, I’m taking the home underdog. Maybe I’m a sucker for thinking all five of these teams will keep it close or even win outright. In the case of the 49ers, we can’t be too down on them just yet. They dominated the Rams at home in week 1, then hit the road for impossible games at Carolina and Seattle. And they really haven’t looked as horrible as I expected.

Throw in the fact that Dez Bryant’s status is completely unknown, and that it wouldn’t be crazy for the Cowboys to overlook the 49ers as games against Cincinnati & Green Bay loom in weeks 5 & 6, and it just feels like we’re heading for an upset.

Kansas City at Pittsburgh (-5.5) | over/under 47.5

The Pick: Kansas City

The Score: Pittsburgh 17, Kansas City 13

The Bets: None

SuperContest: No

So I ran through this stat on this week’s podcast: Since Kansas City’s 1st half no-show against the Chargers in week 1, their defense has allowed only one touchdown in five halves of football…and that touchdown was in Houston on a 1-play, 27-yard pass by the Texans after Alex Smith fumbled and gave them the ball basically in the red zone.

That’s great for the Chiefs defense, but on the flip side, their offense has only scored one touchdown in the past two games. So what do we make of this game? Are we looking at a ridiculous defensive game where Pittsburgh wins 10-7? Actually yeah, I do expect a low scoring game with a ton of punting, running (Le’Veon Bell returns!) and sloppy play. While throwing the Steelers into a 2-way teaser looks appealing, I’m too nervous that these teams are in the same tier of the NFL contenders and either one could win.

NY Giants at Minnesota (-5.5) | over/under 43

The Pick: NY Giants

The Score: Minnesota 19, NY Giants 16

The Bets: Under (43), Under (49) in a 2-way tease

SuperContest: No

The decent defense in this game (Giants) gets to face the decent offense, and the juggernaut defense (Vikings) gets to face the solid offense. I really can’t imagine a lot of scoring unless Eli Manning tries to one-up Ryan Fitzpatrick’s awesome interception count from week 3.

And in a game featuring two anemic offenses, it’s wise to pick the team getting a handful of points. This would be a minor shock of an upset if the Giants pull off the win, but they should be able to keep it relatively close. And if you’re seriously considering backing the Giants, I’d wait as long as possible to make the bet. It looks like the public money is already all over the Vikings, and when people are chasing their losses from Sunday, they’ll look to Minnesota to help them recoup some of it. My guess is this line goes to Minnesota -6 or 6.5 by Monday afternoon.

The under bet is one of my favorites of the week.

Here are the season-long stats I’ve been tracking:

  • Favorites are 18-29-1 against the spread (including an incredible 5-11 last week!)
  • The point total has landed on Over 25 times, Under 21 times and Pushed 2 times
  • I’m 26-22 against the spread

Enjoy week 4.

Advertisements

Week 4 NFL Picks: Even More Backup Quarterbacks!

Oct 13, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick (7) looks on from the bench as he wears pink in honor of breast cancer awareness during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-20. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to week 4! This weekend we get the return of two annual NFL traditions:

  1. Pink gear will be on many athletes and coaches throughout the league for the entirety of October. The pink is for Breast Cancer Awareness, and as the NFL has proven time and again, they really care about women.
  2. A short cameo for Michael Vick as a starting QB. In 2011 Vick started 13 games. In 2012 he started 10 games. In 2013 it dropped to six starts, and last year it was a mere three. If you set the over/under for Vick starts in 2015 at 2.5, I’m definitely taking the under. Fun times for the state of quarterbacking!

I’m glad I started pretty hot out of the gate this season because I’m currently out of town for a friend’s wedding and all my usual routines are completely thrown off. The routines I’m talking about basically revolve around consuming as much football content over the course of the week as possible.

So as I write this late at night on Wednesday, I’ve kind of heard that Andrew Luck is day-to-day with a shoulder injury; someone mentioned something about the Washington-Philadelphia game being in jeopardy because of a hurricane; I think New Orleans is still pretending that Drew Brees might start even though we all know that’s 100% not happening; and Colin Kaepernick just threw another interception.

I’m out of my element this week and I can’t promise the quality of the week 4 picks. But I’m 27-20-1 against the spread to this point, so one down week won’t kill me. Don’t get me wrong. I still have faith in myself. I always do. It’s just a notch below my normal level of (over)confidence.

Let’s dive right in.

Baltimore (-3) at Pittsburgh

The Pick: Pittsburgh

The Score: Pittsburgh 6, Baltimore 3

Even with the obvious downgrade from Ben Roethlisberger to Vick, I’m surprised Baltimore’s giving a full field goal on the road, as an 0-3 team. In fact, I thought there was a chance the Steelers would still be favored in this game because, again, the Ravens have looked like dogshit through three weeks. But I’m sure this Thursday nighter will be a spectacular display of why the Bengals have already locked up the division.

Side Note: Why is everyone wasting their time trying to figure out if Vick can be serviceable for the next four to six weeks? The real question is: Should the Steelers feel comfortable with Landry Jones starting a few games? Or should they be looking into a free agent / backup who can be had for cheap? Because anyone with half a brain knows Vick won’t last past one or two starts. Charlie Batch is a free agent, just saying.

NY Jets (-2) against Miami (In London)

The Pick: NY Jets

The Score: NY Jets 18, Miami 5

Two thumbs up for the 6:30am Pacific Time game back in our lives (the first of three London-based games this year that’ll kick off early in the morning). Seventy-five thumbs down for London once again getting a shitty-looking game featuring a team that may have already quit on its coach.

Look what the stress of playing for a hopeless team with a shitty head coach has done to Ndamukong Suh: 

warren-buffett-dolphins-jersey

Jacksonville at Indianapolis (-9)

The Pick: Jacksonville

The Score: Indianapolis 33, Jacksonville 27

Now Andrew Luck is dealing with an injury? The plot thickens…

If the Colts had a halfway decent defense, you could count on them starting to blow out teams like the Jaguars as the Indy offense finds its footing. But this defense is crap, and it just gave up 74 plays and 433 yards of offense to the Titans. I’m pretty confident the Colts aren’t going to be great at putting teams away even if they start winning against the lesser competition.

Question for future former head coach Chuck Pagano: If you win this weekend in dramatic fashion, at home with Luck ailing, how will you possibly top that totally appropriate reaction to last week’s win?

NY Giants at Buffalo (-5.5)

The Pick: Buffalo

The Score: Buffalo 27, NY Giants 17

The injuries are starting to pile up for Buffalo (including LeSean McCoy “unlikely” to play). The Giants are on 10 days rest, have held leads in the fourth quarter of each of their games, and Victor Cruz is returning to reinforce the receiving corps. (Whoops. Wrote that last part earlier this week and it turns out Cruz already hurt himself again and won’t be playing this weekend. Fun times for the Giants.)

Counterpoints: The Bills just throttled a team on the road. They’ve demolished two teams in three weeks. The only other game they played was against a team that obviously cheated to beat Rex Ryan’s squad. So the Bills are still undefeated in the eyes of Mark Brunell, Marshall Faulk, Bill Polian, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Carolina Panthers, the entire Colts organization and many more.

It’s not just the Giants’ offense contending with the Buffalo defense. New York’s defense also has to show up because Tyrod Taylor has the 8th best QBR of all quarterbacks.

Carolina (-3) at Tampa Bay

The Pick: Carolina

The Score: Carolina 30, Tampa Bay 10

Here’s where I went wrong in picking the Bucs to cover +6.5 in Houston last week: I didn’t realize the Saints might be the worst team in the league, meaning the Bucs could potentially be the second worst team and still would have beaten New Orleans in week 2. Carolina being undefeated isn’t a total fluke. It’s just an ugly type of winning that leaves very little room for error. And I’m not even slightly worried about a letdown game because the Panthers are getting a bye in week 5. Looming after the bye is a game in Seattle, but Carolina isn’t thinking about a game that’s 14 days away.

This might be my favorite pick of the week.

Philadelphia (-3) at Washington

The Pick: Washington

The Score: Washington 24, Philadelphia 22

The jury’s still out on Washington. No, one of the jury’s choices is not “they’re a playoff contender.” But are they a frisky team at home because they hung with the Dolphins and easily handled the Rams? Or are they a terrible team because we expected it before the season began and maybe the Dolphins are horrible and that wasn’t a difficult opponent to hang with?

For now I’m going to lean towards the Skins being a frisky team at home.

On the other side, we know Sam Bradford’s garbage.

Oakland (-3) at Chicago

The Pick: Chicago

The Score: Chicago 23, Oakland 16

Sure, I’d love to see the Bears to go 0-16 this year. After all, I placed a bet in August on at least one team going winless all season. And they seem like the most likely candidate right now. But it’s so difficult to lose every game in the NFL. This might be their only chance for a win until they host Washington in week 14.

Here’s a huge red flag for this game: According to my Pick ‘Em league on CBSsports.com, 75% of all people on their site are picking the Raiders to cover this spread. The Raiders. On the road. Back-to-back road wins? There’s no way this game’s turning out the way it should.

Houston at Atlanta (-6.5)

The Pick: Houston

The Score: Houston 26, Atlanta 23

Welp, I spent about 15 times longer thinking through this pick than any other pick this week. But at the same time, I’m toying with the idea of using Atlanta for my Survivor/Eliminator pick. I’m having this love affair with the Falcons where I’m all in on the relationship but I have zero confidence in the Falcons’ feelings towards me, and I’m always looking over my shoulder expecting them to be cheating on me.

The Falcons are the polar opposite of the Giants.Whereas the Giants have held leads in the 4th quarter of every game (and blown two of those games), Atlanta has been trailing in the 4th quarter of their three games, only to come back and win all of them. The reason I’m taking Houston is because the Falcons have to be due for a letdown. They just have to. And if not now, when?

Look at the very comfortable road immediately in front of Atlanta after this game: vs Washington, @New Orleans, @Tennessee, vs Tampa, @San Francisco, bye.

Kansas City at Cincinnati (-4)

The Pick: Cincinnati

The Score: Cincinnati 31, Kansas City 21

Is it Andy Dalton in a Primetime game? No?

Is it one of the three or four best teams in the league heading into Cincy? No?

Got it. Bengals win. The media’s “Circle Jerk sponsored by Andy Dalton” keeps going for another week.

Cleveland at San Diego (-7.5)

The Pick: San Diego

The Score: San Diego 28, Cleveland 20

The worst case scenario if I pick the Chargers is they’re only winning by three late in the game and they just can’t seem to get that final touchdown to cover the spread. But I know it’ll be in play until the end.

The worst case if I pick the Browns is they’re losing by 27 after one quarter and both of their quarterbacks have thrown multiple pick sixes.

Josh McCown got dinged up again last week. There’s a decent chance Johnny Manziel plays parts of many games in 2015. I don’t know if this is a good thing or bad thing for the Browns. It’s just a typical Cleveland thing.

(By the way, how little confidence must I have in San Diego if I can’t even consider them for my Survivor/Eliminator pick this week?)

Green Bay (-9) at San Francisco

The Pick: San Francisco

The Score: Green Bay 28, San Francisco 24

Oh good. If I turn on the NFL Network or ESPN at all this week, I’m likely to see an old video of Aaron Rodgers saying on Draft Day 2005 that the 49ers are going to regret not drafting him. But I hope I’m wrong, because we’ve been down this road before. That video was all the rage in January 2013 when the Packers were preparing for a postseason game at San Francisco. They promptly got killed in that game and we should have buried the “Aaron Rodgers has an extra edge against San Francisco” narrative.

Regarding this game, I’m sure 95% of the public will be backing the Packers. But they’re definitely more beatable on the road. Last year they went 4-4 on the road, and they won two of those games by only three points. So they’re less juggernaut-y away from Lambeau. That fact combined with the overwhelming amount of money that’ll come in on Green Bay has me leaning towards the 49ers in this one. Plus, doesn’t Colin Kaepernick own the Packers?

St. Louis at Arizona (-7)

The Pick: St. Louis

The Score: Arizona 24, St. Louis 21

That Arizona-San Francisco game last week was unwatchable to many people, but I couldn’t take my eyes off it. Just an absolute undressing of the 49ers in every conceivable way. But if I can put my game film analyst hat on for just a sec…I’d tell you that it feels like Carson Palmer holds on to the ball for a looooooooooooong time more often than not. And the Arizona offense seems designed to have success only when he gets all that time. I have a feeling that the league’s handful of awesome pass rushing teams are the ones that will have success against the Cardinals.

St. Louis is in that handful. Can’t wait to see just how wrong I am about this.

Minnesota at Denver (-7)

The Pick: Denver

The Score: Denver 33, Minnesota 10

I’m not at all nervous that my preseason proclamation that the Vikings aren’t getting to eight wins is going to look bad by the end of the year. The Broncos are going to completely shut down this offense (an offense that is a lot worse than you think it is, by the way).

The Denver run defense has played two great games and one terrible game. That terrible one came in Kansas City to Jamaal Charles. I’m guessing Adrian Peterson, good as he is, won’t go crazy in Denver.

Dallas at New Orleans (-4)

The Pick: Dallas

The Score: Dallas 30, New Orleans 20

Just a brilliant matchup for the NBC Primetime spotlight, isn’t it? Brandon Weeden goes to winless New Orleans to take on Luke McCown. And remember that Thursday’s nationally televised game features an 0-3 Ravens team missing Terrell Suggs traveling to the Steelers, newly led by Michael Vick. The NFL’s injury problem is ruining these big games. I wish I could say Monday Night Football this week is going to be more competitive, but…

Detroit at Seattle (-10)

The Pick: Seattle

The Score: Seattle 28, Detroit 16

Yup, it’s likely another game that’ll be over by halftime. I don’t think the Lions punt 11 billion times like the Bears did in week 3, but it probably won’t be pretty for a Detroit team that couldn’t even put up two touchdowns at home in a must-win situation last Monday.

Here’s the weekly tally:

  • 7 Favorites, 8 Underdogs
  • 4 Road Dogs, 4 Home Dogs
  • 9 Home Teams, 5 Road Teams (Neutral-site game in London not counted)

Enjoy week 4!

NFL Week 4 Picks: Factoring in Four New Starting Quarterbacks

whitehurst

And so begins the bye weeks.

Welcome to nine weeks of less than 16 games and harder-to-calculate records & standings.

Would you believe that the NFL seems to have no rhyme or reason for the number of teams that get a bye during week 4 of a given season? There have been years of two, four, six and even zero teams with a bye in week 4. OH MY GOD, THEY CAN’T GET ANY THING RIGHT. FIRE GOODELL!!!

This week we have six teams on byes.

We’ll catch up with each of them in a few minutes, but first let’s get through some housekeeping:

  • The Ryan Tannehill thing was pretty strange, right? The Dolphins don’t have a young franchise QB to insert. Tannehill showed pretty significant improvement between years one and two. New system and offensive coordinator (I predicted in August that Andy Dalton would take time to adjust to his new coordinator, but it looks like I misfired). Only three games into the season. Who in their right mind would ride out his last season as coach with Matt Moore at the helm? Joe Philbin, apparently, is the answer. Is there something more going on here?
  • Speaking of underwhelming quarterback play, it appears as though Chad Henne is officially our first QB benched for ineffectiveness. I’m not positive, but I think he might be the first three-time winner of this award! In our preseason picks, I went with EJ Manuel and guest blogger Neil went with Alex Smith. No points awarded.
  • And with that, we have four quarterbacks making their 2014 debuts as starters this week. Two of them—Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater—are rookies who have the hopes of some pretty downtrodden fan bases on their shoulders. The other two are also playing for franchises who fall into that depressing category, but these two men offer no hope. Mike Glennon hasn’t been around long enough to officially call him a dud, but he wasn’t able to stave off Josh McCown for a starting job this year. Charlie Whitehurst has been around long enough and we know he’s terrible. And yes, that’s who’s featured in the photo on this blog. Clipboard Jesus gets to throw some passes for the first time since 2011 (And the Colts’ incredible luck just keeps chugging right along as Whitehurst leads the Titans into Indianapolis this weekend).
  • Somebody talked me into signing up for FanDuel before the season started. I was extremely underwhelmed by it until I won $50 on a $5 buy-in this past week. So here’s my pitch. FanDuel is single-week fantasy football where you pick a team while making sure to stay under the salary cap (players are assigned dollar values on the site). You’re playing against possibly hundreds of others (all entrants can choose whatever players they want, meaning two people could be starting Aaron Rodgers) and you’re just trying to place “in the money.” Think of it like an online Poker layout, where you can buy into different leagues, each of which have different prize pools, buy-ins, etc. Anyway, I’m a fan now. If it turns out I didn’t just have beginner’s luck, I’ll start posting my roster before each week.

And now a word about the six bye teams:

  • Cincinnati: Dominant. On top of being the best-looking team in the AFC, the Bengals really only have four difficult games the rest of the year: @New England, @Indianapolis, @New Orleans, home vs Denver (I’m willing to include @Pittsburgh in week 17 as a tough game, but there’s a chance the Bengals are resting starters by then).
  • Cleveland: Two last-play field goals by their week 1 and week 3 opponents are the difference between 3-0 and 1-2. And the Browns could realistically win its next five games: @Tennessee, vs Pitt, @Jacksonville, vs Oakland, vs Tampa Bay.
  • Denver: They’re right on track with preseason expectations. They’ll want to win their next two (vs Arizona, @Jets) because then they play San Francisco, San Diego and New England (that Patriots game starts a six out of eight on the road stretch).
  • St. Louis: These guys are fucked. Week 5 starts eight in a row against 10-win teams from last year. They are FUCKED.
  • Arizona: This isn’t the same as the 2012 Cardinals that started 4-0 but anyone with half a brain knew they were total frauds. These guys aren’t going to suddenly lose nine in a row. But they probably still lose at least seven games.
  • Seattle: Ship shape so far. That was a very difficult opening trio of games. After the bye they’ll get to work on some of the NFC’s lesser teams before the late season sequence of @San Francisco, @Philadelphia, vs San Francisco, @Arizona.

I enter week 4 sporting a 22-24-2 record against the spread. I’m encouraged because I seem to be nailing my confidence picks and losing those 50/50 games. Those should even out. Let’s hope this is the week that the luck changes.

NY Giants @ Washington (-4)

  • The Pick: NY Giants
  • The Score: Washington 30, NY Giants 27

Regardless of who’s playing quarterback for Washington, I feel like these teams are pretty closely matched. I don’t have enough faith in the Redskins to take them by more than a field goal. Interestingly enough in all three Thursday games so far this season, the home favorite has throttled the road underdog. So I guess if you’re into that sort of thing, the Redskins might be the way to go. Another item to make me nervous about my pick: What if Kirk Cousins is the type of guy who’s going to thrive in a big way now that he knows he’s the man in Washington for as long as he wants? What if he just plays out of his mind in his first home start where there’s finally no RG3/QB controversy stuff to talk about?

Green Bay (-1.5) @ Chicago

  • The Pick: Green Bay
  • The Score: Green Bay 26, Chicago 20

OK, Aaron Rodgers, I’m willing to R-E-L-A-X for a little while longer, but what if you L-O-S-E at Chicago this week? And what if you beat Minnesota in two weeks but still can’t crack 17 points on offense? Then can we P-A-N-I-C?

An important part of football gambling is being able to pivot on your preseason picks as circumstances change. Two teams that I predicted for the playoffs currently sit at 2-1. They both host teams with losing records in week 4. But due to a demolition of their respective defenses from injury, it might be time to turn on them. Those teams are Chicago and Pittsburgh. Neither team is particularly deep nor have they looked great when at full strength, and now they’re severely short-handed. Keep this in mind as you pick them in the coming weeks.

Buffalo @ Houston (-3)

  • The Pick: Houston
  • The Score: Houston31, Buffalo 20

Wow. I want to say we could see a record number of interceptions in this game, but that’s giving the two quarterbacks a little too much credit. Instead my prediction is that this game sets the record for most passes called uncatchable in a single NFL game.

I don’t see this ending well for the Bills. It might be time to get those Kyle Orton whispers started again.

Tennessee @ Indianapolis (-7.5)

  • The Pick: Indianapolis
  • The Score: Indianapolis 34, Tennessee 21

Listen, this could easily be one of those picks I turn on as soon as I find out that 99% of the population is backing the Colts. But the Titans did just get throttled in Cincinnati and now they’re likely starting Charlie Whitehurst at quarterback. If I was picking teams in a pickup football game and the player pool consisted of a bunch of my friends and Charlie Whitehurst, I almost definitely would not pick Whitehurst with one of my first three picks.

Carolina @ Baltimore (-3)

  • The Pick: Carolina
  • The Score: Carolina 23, Baltimore 15

If you’re picking the Ravens simply because Carolina’s supposed to regress, don’t do that. Even if they win this week, there’s a very good chance the Panthers are losing their next seven. It’s a gruesome schedule that includes five straight games against 2013 playoff teams.

Meanwhile, I wish there odds on the Ravens losing this game because of a Steve Smith Sr. unnecessary roughness/unsportsmanlike conduct penalty late in the 4th quarter. Because if anyone is going to sacrifice a win to show his former team that he’s still a badass, it’s Smith Sr.

Detroit (-2) @ NY Jets

  • The Pick: NY Jets
  • The Score: NY Jets 29, Detroit 23

This is purely a home underdog pick for me. I don’t feel strongly enough to do anything other than grab the points and assume the underdogs are going to continue covering at a good rate. Besides, the NFC North might be that division that sends a 9-7 team to the playoffs (which unbelievably would be a ½ game better than last year’s division winner).

Tampa Bay @ Pittsburgh (-9)

  • The Pick: Tampa Bay
  • The Score: Pittsburgh 24, Tampa Bay 17

The number of injuries that the Steelers are dealing with makes me think they’ll win, but not by enough. Either their starters won’t play well so Tampa keeps it close the whole game, or they’ll take starters out as soon as they can to preserve what little health they have left and the backups will give up some garbage time points. Either way this line is too high for an untrustworthy Pittsburgh team.

Miami (-4) @ Oakland

  • The Pick: Oakland
  • The Score: Miami 17, Oakland 15

If this game was in Oakland, I’d be jumping all over the Raiders moneyline. Enjoy that NFL game, London!

Miami might be bad. Oakland might put up a garbage touchdown to get the backdoor cover. Both things might be true. I don’t like Miami as a four-point favorite in just about any scenario.

Jacksonville @ San Diego (-14)

  • The Pick: Jacksonville
  • The Score: San Diego 33, Jacksonville 20

The Chargers are legitimately the only team I feel safe backing this week in my Suicide Pool. The Colts would be next, but they’re still not completely reliable. I have trouble thinking about any scenario where all Suicide Pick entrants aren’t taking the Chargers for their team this week.

However, I’m not ready to start backing teams that are two-touchdown favorites. Blake Bortles might just make this Jaguars team good enough to only lose by 10-13 points each week. Progress!

Philadelphia @ San Francisco (-4.5)

  • The Pick: Philadelphia
  • The Score: Philadelphia 31, San Francisco 23

I was a little surprised by this line. I figured with the 49ers looking bad in Arizona last week and the Eagles now sporting a 3-0 record, people would be dying to jump on Philly. What am I missing about this game that it should be more than a field goal in favor of San Francisco? Oh, the Eagles might be playing with five backups on their offensive line? Does that trump the ugliness with which San Francisco is currently playing football? I don’t know. But I’m in on the Eagles.

Atlanta (-3) @ Minnesota

  • The Pick: Minnesota
  • The Score: Minnesota 33, Atlanta 30

I’m not convinced of two things regarding this Falcons team: 1) That they’re good on the road, and 2) That they’re good.

And it’s not stressful to pick a rookie quarterback in Bridgewater to do well in his first start because guys like Derek Anderson and Austin Davis are winning games with regularity these days.

New Orleans (-3) @ Dallas

  • The Pick: New Orleans
  • The Score: New Orleans 34, Dallas 27

I had Dallas winning right up until I remembered this is the Sunday Night game that will be on national TV. Isn’t this where Tony Romo does his finest work? (Where finest means most disastrous of course.)

New England (-3.5) @ Kansas City

  • The Pick: New England
  • The Score: New England 37, Kansas City 23

Bill Belichick kind of owns Andy Reid. This Patriots team definitely gets to start playing the disrespect card as it seems anyone with a microphone is willing to talk about how bad they’ve been. It seems like a nationally televised game is a good opportunity to unleash Gronk, intercept Alex Smith a few times and walk off with people taking them seriously once again.

Regardless of how my picks do this week, I’m just really happy that I was able to work Charlie Whitehurst so prominently into this blog. Enjoy week 4!