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!

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Week 4 NFL Picks Against The Spread

old-man-crystal-ball

And just like that, we’ve reached the start of the bye weeks. We won’t be seeing Green Bay or Carolina in week 4. And that’s fine because those are some crappy 1-2 teams anyway. The less garbage teams we have to deal with, the better the Red Zone Channel will be.

Speaking of bye weeks, is it completely unheard of for an analyst/blogger to take a bye week in order to lick his wounds, recuperate from a brutal opening three games and get mentally prepared for the long haul of the rest of the season? Because if things don’t pick up for me quickly, I might just take a week off and spend my Sunday picking out a new couch with the girlfriend.

I was 6-9-1 against the spread last week, and I’m now 15-30-3 on the year. Writing that sentence brings a tear to my eye.

As for the NFL landscape after three weeks, we’ve got seven undefeated teams and six unvictorious teams. And the other 19 teams fall somewhere in the middle.

I think we’ll still have five undefeated teams after this week, but we could have as many as six still (someone has to lose the Miami-New Orleans Monday night game).

And I think two of those winless teams will get on the board finally, meaning we’ll still have four 0-fer teams. So it’s going to be a while before we find out who’s the last undefeated team and who’s the last “only-defeated” team.

If you’re a Washington fan and want to feel even worse about your team, there’s this: The Redskins’ opponents from the first three weeks of the season are a combined 1-5 in games not against the ‘Skins. So they’re not exactly losing to the cream of the crop.

And if you want to feel better as a Tampa Bay fan, here you go: The Bucs’ opponents from the first three weeks are a combined 5-1, so they’ve been forced to play against some of the competent teams in the league. Things could get better…

Enough of me trying to make coherent judgments based on a tiny three-week sample size. Let’s get to the week 4 picks:

San Francisco (-3.5) @ St. Louis

In the two most recent Thursday night games, the home favorite didn’t even come close to covering. There could be plenty of reasons for that, but it might just be that every Thursday game turns into a sloppy, replacement-player-looking shit show. The quick turnaround in such a brutal sport could be a realistic reason these games always seem to look so bad. And for the 49ers, this short week is even worse because their injury report is littered with important players. Patrick Willis is probably missing this game, Justin Smith is limited in practice, Aldon Smith, as you may have heard, is in rehab and gone for the foreseeable future, and maybe most importantly, Vernon Davis may not play again because of his hamstring. This team seems offensively neutered right now (I mean that they are neutered on the offensive side of the ball, not that they got neutered in a particularly offensive way), and the defense may be in rough shape for a couple weeks. The Rams are mostly healthy and they’re playing at home against a tough opponent they know they can beat based on last year. I’m taking them to only lose by a field goal. St. Louis covers, but San Francisco wins 23-20.

Pittsburgh (-1.5) @ Minnesota (but really @ London)

This game’s currently off the board because of the Minnesota QB situation, but I’m not sure replacing Christian Ponder with Matt Cassel changes much in the bettors’ eyes. This is literally an elimination game as the loser will be 0-4. And it would take a level of chaos and lucky breaks we haven’t yet seen for an 0-4 team to rattle off 11 wins in their final 12 games and make the playoffs. We might be talking about the NFC’s worst vs the AFC’s worst. You’re welcome, London!

In a game like this, it’s time to fall back on the QB position. And I’ll take Ben Roethlisberger over Ponder or Cassel every day. I think Steelers win 27-17.

Baltimore (-3.5) @ Buffalo

For those of you who read my picks last year, you’re going to notice an old standby I’m unearthing from the 2012 time capsule: trying my hardest to discredit the Ravens! This time my biggest knock on them is the offense. Did you know that if you take out defensive and special teams scores as well as garbage time points (some against Denver in week 1, a field goal against Houston with the game out of hand last week) this Ravens team has put up 44 total points on offense during the competitive portions of their three games? That’s less than 15 points per game. And that’s with the benefit of playing two home games already, one of which they got to play on 10 days rest. All I’m saying is that this team makes me nervous. And sure, I’m willing to admit that the defense, outside of that Denver game, still looks solid.

Wait a second though. If I’m about to pick the Bills to upset Baltimore, I better be damn sure that Buffalo’s pretty close to healthy…

One look at the google results of their Wednesday injury report, and nope, not even remotely healthy. The Bills’ head coach is even on record saying that other teams are picking on his secondary because they’re down to their 12th best option at cornerback (slight exaggeration only).

The Ravens will have their day when they don’t squeak by because of the other team’s inferior play or from a lucky defensive/special teams score. But just hearing the Bills admit that they can’t stop anybody in the passing game until they get healthy scares the shit out of me. Let’s go with Baltimore winning, 31-24.

Cincinnati (-5) @ Cleveland
When you see a point spread at five, it means the line setters have no idea what to make of this game…which seems appropriate because I have no idea what to make of this game. The Bengals could win by 50. The Bengals could win by a field goal. The Browns…could…win?

Looking at last week’s games doesn’t help us come to a conclusion because both teams benefited from some crazy, unrepeatable plays. The Bengals got two Aaron Rodgers picks and a Green Bay fumble at the worst possible time (or best possible time from Cincy’s point of view). Cleveland ran a fake field goal and got a touchdown out of it, recovered a Ponder fumble while Minnesota was in the red zone and then recovered an Adrian Peterson fumble, something that’s only happened to AP four other times in his past 908 carries.

So lots of flukiness went into both these teams’ wins last week, which helps us 0.00% for this week.

I’m falling back on a preseason instinct that had me thinking this AFC North division is going to play each other particularly close. So the Browns at home can keep it a one-score game. And I’ll buy into Josh Gordon’s return really stretching the field and opening up space for everyone else. The Browns move to 2-0 in the Trent Richardson-less era, winning 23-17.

Indianapolis (-9) @ Jacksonville

Without even thinking, I’m taking the Colts. All I needed to see is that Blaine Gabbert will be back under center for the Jags on Sunday. I’m out on the Gabbert era. The Colts coast to a 30-13 victory.

Seattle (-3) @ Houston

Since Seattle’s unlikely to go 16-0, we eventually have to pin a loss or two on them. And no doubt those losses will come on the road. But this isn’t a moment to get cute and pick the upset. We know Seattle’s secondary will shut down Houston’s passing attack regardless of whether Andre Johnson plays or not. So is Houston going to run all over the Seahawks and cause some timely turnovers? Doubtful. When picking Houston based purely on them being at home, remember they had to win an overtime home game against Tennessee in semi-miraculous fashion just two weeks ago. I could see the Seahawks winning big enough on Sunday that the TV media starts having the “will Seattle and Denver both go 16-0 in the regular season” debates. I’ll say Seattle wins, 30-10.

Arizona @ Tampa Bay (-2.5)

Out of all the statistical reasons to pick against the Bucs in this game, here’s the actual reason I’m doing it: I’m worried that as Larry Fitzgerald is catching his 11th pass of the day against a Tampa Bay zone defense, Darrelle Revis is going to walk over to the sideline, decapitate his head coach and defecate into the neck hole. That’s how pissed off Revis probably is that he’s not matching up against the opposition’s WR1 this year. Because stupid Greg Schicano plays a stupid version of football. And how can you back a team whose players are undermining its coach while the coach is undermining those players right back? Oh, and I’m happy for Mike Glennon especially because I predicted in the preseason blog that Josh Freeman would be the first QB benched due to ineffectiveness, but if you don’t think Glennon has a costly “rookie trying to do too much for a desperate team” moment in this game, you must not watch very much football.

Arizona gets a road win for the first time in its last 10 tries, 34-27.

Chicago @ Detroit (-3)

These two teams are pretty similar, right? Both have big-armed QBs who primarily throw to only one reliable wide receiver. Both have a fantastic running back who is usually more dangerous as a receiver than a runner. Both lost a key player from the defensive line for the year last week. And neither will be satisfied until they take the division title back from Green Bay.

Chicago might be 3-0, but Detroit’s played the better football so far this year. And for all the talk the Bears defense gets for its “ball-hawking skills” and “nose for the end zone,” they’re actually pretty pedestrian against the pass. Give me Detroit in a close one, 33-27.

NY Giants @ Kansas City (-4.5)

Things look bad for the Giants, and the worst part is I don’t hear any informed analysts or media types saying reinforcements are on the way for this team. And Kansas City looked pretty ferocious on defense last Thursday night. Oh yeah, and the Chiefs had 10 days to get ready while the Giants were busy getting embarrassed in Carolina over the weekend. I honestly expected this line to be closer to a touchdown so I’ll gladly take the Chiefs to cover and win, 28-14.

NY Jets @ Tennessee (-4)

It’s terrifying to think one of these teams will emerge on Sunday afternoon with a 3-1 record. It’s even more terrifying when you realize that both of these teams are one play away (in their week two games) from being 3-0. Could you imagine if the Titans were 4-0 by the end of this weekend? The 4-0 Jets? I shudder to think of the trash-talk that would be coming out of the New York area if that was the case.

I’m not ready to live in a world where the Jets are 3-1, Rex Ryan’s job is safe and Geno Smith is the answer at quarterback.

The Jets’ success so far seems based on a lucky break (Tampa game), the now-predictable Thursday night slopfest (narrowly losing to the Patriots in Foxboro) and a terrible road game from a rookie QB (EJ Manuel sucking it up in New Jersey last week).

I like Tennessee a lot more. They’ll win 24-17.

Dallas (-2) @ San Diego

No, Dallas, you don’t get to improve your record to 3-1. That wouldn’t be fair to the rest of the NFC East teams, who are desperately counting on a 9-7 record to take the division. I know the Cowboys can’t mathematically lock up the division by winning this game, but they might have an insurmountable two-game lead if they do. And that’s just not the way the East gets won these days. And, hey, San Diego’s frisky. And what if the middle class teams of the AFC are as good or better than the middle class of the NFC? I think San Diego wins this game, 34-30.

Washington (-3) @ Oakland

Matt Flynn hasn’t started a football game in 635 days. Seriously. It’s one of those situations where our hands are tied picking this game. You have to pick the Redskins based on the QB situation with Oakland (I guess there’s a chance Pryor starts, but since I’m posting these picks on Thursday, I gotta go with the information available. So far Pryor hasn’t practiced this week because of a concussion). And let’s not forget that the Raiders were supposed to be terrible anyway. I gotta go with a Washington win, 34-20.

(Side Note: My poor friends who are Washington fans. They are desperately hoping I start picking against their team because I’m a known jinx. Whenever I buy a jersey of a player, it’s basically a death sentence for that guy. And whenever I eagerly board a team’s bandwagon (like I did with Washington at the start of last year’s playoffs and continued to do so in the preseason this year), the thing immediately crashes into a brick wall and catches on fire, killing all of the passengers and even some innocent bystanders. If they lose to Oakland, I promise to pick against them at Dallas after their bye week, if only to try to save some friendships.)

Philadelphia @ Denver (-11)

It won’t be a close game, but it feels like a backdoor cover in the making. Denver up comfortably all game, kicks a late field goal to go up three scores, Philly marches down the field for an easy touchdown, but time’s up and they lose by 10. Denver wins 38-28.

Interestingly enough I’m picking the Broncos as my suicide pick this week even though I think Philly covers. If these two teams play 100 times in Denver, I see the Broncos winning in routine, one-score-difference fashion about 75 times; the Broncos winning in crazy blowout fashion 15 times, and the Eagles pulling off the upset 10 times. Of course that 10% scares me but no other team is as much of a sure thing this week (i.e. lots of the best teams are on the road it seems).

New England @ Atlanta (-2)

I think this game is extremely close the entire time. And if this was 2012, I’d immediately pick against the Patriots because over the past couple years they’ve been terrible in close games, especially when they have a chance to close out an opponent with a clock-killing drive. But this year they’ve already won two of those kind of games, and the defense in particular has looked good in the 4th quarter. The Falcons on the road is tough, but they have a ton of injuries that are already catching up to them. Atlanta at home over the last handful of years is stupid to bet against, but that’s what I’m here for, stupid bets. I think the Patriots win another close one, 26-23.

Miami @ New Orleans (-7)

Wow, Monday Night Football’s actually getting a great matchup. Two 3-0 teams. AFC vs NFC. Is New Orleans’ turnaround for real? Is Miami ready to be a playoff contender? I feel like the loser of this game should be forced to be the team most closely associated with Ricky Williams.

So which 3-0 start is more legit? The Dolphins have already won two road games, have outscored their opponents by 21 points, and have knocked off two of last year’s playoff teams.

The Saints have won two at home and a close one on the road, have outscored their opponents by 32, and have knocked off one 2012 playoff team.

Both teams have beaten Atlanta at home. New Orleans won 23-17, and Miami won 27-23.

Lots of statistical similarities between these teams. I definitely have not found a good reason to think the Saints will win by more than a touchdown. As a matter of fact, out of the seven undefeated teams, the Dolphins have played the toughest schedule (based on opponents’ record in their other games). Let’s take Miami to cover, but the Saints to win, 28-23.

For those of you keeping score at home, in week 4 I’m taking:

  • 8 Favorites & 7 Underdogs
  • Of those 7 Underdogs, 3 of them are Home Dogs and 4 of them are Road Dogs

Enjoy week 4.