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Week 4 NFL Game Picks

Last week: 9-7

Overall: 23-23-2


MIN (1-1-1) @ LAR (3-0) | THU 8:20 PM ET | FOX/NFL Network/Amazon

The league made no mistakes in picking Vikings-Rams to kickoff their Thursday Night Football schedule on FOX, and we should get a great game between two teams that expect to compete for the Lombardi Trophy when the calendar turns. I have no doubt that Mike Zimmer’s squad will be motivated after sleepwalking last week, but Los Angeles has enough weapons to move the ball behind the arm of Jared Goff and the all-around game of Todd Gurley, and Sean McVay probably has a solid game plan ready after they were contained in last year’s 24-7 loss. On the other side of the ball, the Rams can certainly be run on this year—mostly because the linebackers behind the ferocious defensive line are a weak spot—but I’m not sure Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh will even allow Dalvin Cook (hamstring) and/or Latavius Murray to get to the second level if they are able to dominate the interior of Minnesota’s offensive line. Big-name cornerback Aqib Talib (ankle, IR) is a big loss for Wade Phillips’ defense against Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, so we’ll see if Kirk Cousins is able to consistently take advantage before Donald and Suh crash the pocket. This is the kind of game that Minnesota paid Cousins for, but I’m taking LA.

Winner: Los Angeles Rams


NYJ (1-2) @ JAX (2-1) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX

The Jaguars had a chance to take a two-game lead over everyone in the AFC South last week, but Tennessee was able to beat them in another slugfest with Marcus Mariota coming in at less than 100% and making enough plays in a 9-6 win. It has to be concerning that this physical, defensive-minded Jacksonville team has been unable to get past the Titans over their past three meetings, and now they’ll face another physical football team that’s coming off a mini bye week when the Jets come to town. Last year, New York was able to defeat the Jags in overtime, 23-20, but it took an 81-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown by Myles Jack in the fourth quarter to even make it a game, as the Jets were driving to go up 27-10 or 23-10. Now, the Jets are better defensively than they were a year ago, but it’s asking a lot of a rookie quarterback—even one that likes attacking the middle of the field rather than the perimeter—to move the ball against a secondary with a couple All-Pro cornerbacks. I think this will be a close game, but the slight edge goes to the home team with Leonard Fourentte (hamstring) likely returning.

Winner: Jacksonville Jaguars


MIA (3-0) @ NE (1-2) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS

Do people really believe that New England’s dynasty is falling apart before our very eyes? The Patriots have seemed to struggle with finding their identity in recent years before eventually rounding into form, and that’s the case again in 2018 with Julian Edelman suspended and injuries all over the place. I have no doubt that Edelman will make a huge difference in Week 5, but help could also be coming as soon as this Sunday if Josh Gordon (hamstring) makes his team debut. Should that be the case, it will take the pressure off everyone by allow Chris Hogan to get less attention in the slot, Phillip Dorsett to avoid Xavien Howard on the outside, and Rob Gronkowski to not be bracketed all afternoon. Some might say it’s a fluky 3-0 start for Miami, but I think the Dolphins are a real playoff contender with Adam Gase in charge and Ryan Tannehill—who has a 10-1 record over his past 11 starts—at quarterback. That said, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick aren’t going to let them get anymore confidence with a three-game lead in the division before October; this is the game the Pats figure it out.

Winner: New England Patriots


PHI (2-1) @ TEN (2-1) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX

It wasn’t perfect, but Eagles fans had to be thrilled to see Carson Wentz back on the field in last week’s 20-16 win over the Colts. The 25-year-old looked like his normal, playmaking self, and he is only going to get better as the game slows down and he knocks the rust off. For this week, I just hope Wentz gets Nelson Agholor (and Alshon Jeffery if he makes his season debut) involved after locking into Zach Ertz a bit too much in his first game action of the season. Opposing them, the Titans could easily be 3-0 after a couple weather delays and a 62-yard touchdown run by Derrick Henry that was called back on a questionable penalty impacted them in the opener, but Marcus Mariota is going to make plays whether he is fully healthy or not, which is exactly what Mike Vrabel’s squad needs since they should put up a good weekly fight on defense. Plus, Tennessee might be even more determined than usual after wideout Rishard Matthews essentially quit because he wasn’t getting enough targets or “respect” (and we just saw how Buffalo came out against the Vikings after Vontae Davis retired at halftime a couple weeks ago). It’s a toss up, but I’m going with the Birds on the road.

Winner: Philadelphia Eagles


HOU (0-3) @ IND (1-2) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS

I wasn’t sold on Houston as a Super Bowl contender entering the season due to their offensive line, as time and time again, we’ve seen star-studded teams be derailed by sub-par blocking. Poor pass protection in particular is the concern for the Texans because they have a promising second-year quarterback that still needs to develop, but it’s tough to read the coverage or go through progressions—both of which Deshaun Watson can and has done—when you’re seeing ghosts on every play. So, until the team figures things out up front (which might not happen this season), it’s going to probably take a Defensive-Player-of-the-Year form from J.J. Watt to single-handedly win games like he did a few years ago. We saw flashes of it last week with three sacks against the Giants, and Watt will try to get after a quick-throwing Andrew Luck this weekend. It’ll be interesting to see if Luck uncorks a deep ball early to T.Y. Hilton—who has absolutely torched the Texans throughout his career—after a miniature controversy about him not throwing the Hall Mary pass at the end of last week’s loss, but overall, the short-passing game is the way to go against Watt and company.

Winner: Indianapolis Colts


BUF (1-2) @ GB (1-1-1) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS

Could you imagine if Sam Darnold or Baker Mayfield or Lamar Jackson dominated the arguably best defense in the league for their first career road start like Josh Allen did last week against the Vikings? Because almost everyone hated the small-school prospect coming out of Wyoming, it didn’t get close to the recognition that Darnold and Mayfield got after impressing in their debuts, but this is nothing new for Buffalo. Last year, Tre’Davious White was robbed of even making the Pro Bowl, let alone an All-Pro team like he should have, and all he did last week was hold Stefon Diggs to almost as many targets (ten) as yards (17) in Minnesota. Barring a Super Bowl, White and Allen might not get the recognition they deserve this year or maybe ever, which is unfortunate, but the franchise has two premium building blocks in place along with a great head coach in Sean McDermott. I wouldn’t be shocked if another upset occurred with White shadowing Davante Adams and Allen making more plays with his legs, but the Packers aren’t going to look past a confident team coming to Lambeau Field.

Winner: Green Bay Packers


DET (1-2) @ DAL (1-2) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX

Matt Patricia got his first victory as a head coach with a huge Sunday Night Football win over his mentor, and the scene in the locker room after the game proves that he definitely hasn’t lost his players as was reported over the summer. I admittedly didn’t give the Lions much of a chance last week, but they smothered New England’s receivers and didn’t let Rob Gronkowski beat them. The matchup gets even easier—and perhaps as easy it will get all year—against the Cowboys’ passing attack, as the weapons for Dak Prescott haven’t been able to create separation or show much chemistry through three games. Dallas would probably be wise to give out defined roles to create more timing and consistency, but it doesn’t sound like they have any plans to make significant changes. On defense, while it will be a tall task replacing Sean Lee (hamstring), first-round pick Leighton Vander Esch should be up for the challenge against fellow rookie and emerging star Kerryon Johnson. It could come down to whoever runs the ball better (and I expect Ezekiel Elliott to be fed), but the Lions have the air game to rely on that Dallas doesn’t.

Winner: Detroit Lions


TB (2-1) @ CHI (2-1) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX

Seeing people write off Mitchell Trubisky before he even makes with 16th NFL start is hysterical to me, as we’re talking about a quarterback that only started 13 games in college and had barely any playing time in the preseason under a new coaching staff. That’s not to say I was a proponent of the Bears’ trade up to get him in 2017 NFL Draft, but the 24-year-old deserves a lot more than three games with Matt Nagy to prove himself. This week is a major opportunity to silence the critics, as Tampa Bay entered the regular season with what I believed to be the worst secondary in the league, and they’ve done nothing to make me think otherwise with 375 yards per game and seven touchdowns allowed through the air. Sunday afternoon could turn into a straight-up shootout if Khalil Mack is offset by standout right tackle Demar Dotson, but what kind of impact will Jameis Winston’s return have on the psyche of Ryan Fitzpatrick? Based on this, “Fitz Magic” isn’t ready to disappear anytime soon. Still, I like this matchup for the Bears at home.

Winner: Chicago Bears


CIN (2-1) @ ATL (1-2) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS

Every year, a possible contender is ravaged with injuries… but it’s usually the Chargers. This season, the Falcons have already lost Keanu Neal (knee) and Ricardo Allen (Achilles)—two above-average starting safeties—and star linebacker Deion Jones (foot) is also on injured reserve and out indefinitely. However, Atlanta’s offense is willing to get in shootouts if need be, and that’s what it will take to become the only team in the NFC to make the playoffs in each of the past three seasons. Matt Ryan is coming off a 374-yard, five-touchdown performance in last week’s overtime loss to the Saints, and he was really stopped by a coin toss more than anything else. The game plan could change a bit against the Bengals, though, as they just allowed 184 yards on the ground to Christian McCaffrey, and Tevin Coleman is bound to break off a chunk play (or a string of chunk plays) soon enough, whether it’s as a runner or a receiver. It might be more high-scoring than he would like for the rest of the year, but I think Dan Quinn and his team will be just fine, including this week against Andy Dalton and the Bengals.

Winner: Atlanta Falcons


SEA (1-2) @ ARI (0-3) | SUN 4:05 PM ET | FOX

It’s a shame that Larry Fitzgerald has to deal with an underperforming, poorly-coached team around him in what will now almost certainly be his final season; and he’s much too loyal to request or even accept a trade if presented the opportunity, which means we’ve seen the last of the seemingly unstoppable playoff version of Fitz. It would have been really fun to see Sam Bradford orchestrate Bruce Arians’ system this year, but new offensive coordinator Mike McCoy hasn’t put his players in the best position to win games through three weeks, and there’s really no reason to be optimistic about No. 10 overall pick Josh Rosen having much more success other than the fact that a simpler playbook might help the unit as a whole. Also, being at home will help, but while Seattle’s defense clearly isn’t what it used to be, they are still an opportunistic, aggressive bunch that leads the league in interceptions (seven) on the young season. If Russell Wilson takes care of the football, he should be able to make sure the Seahawks don’t give the Cardinals their first win of the year.

Winner: Seattle Seahawks


CLE (1-1-1) @ OAK (0-3) | SUN 4:05 PM ET | FOX

Jon Gruden hasn’t been able to pick up a win yet this year, but if there’s one thing he’s proven through three games, it’s that he knows how to game plan and take advantage of matchups. Derek Carr is completing 76.6% of his passes (second in the NFL), but interceptions have been a killer, and the 27-year-old is too good not to get it corrected. This week, I think Gruden is going to consistently dial up the right play against Gregg Williams’ defense so it could be up to Baker Mayfield to be the hero again after his Week 3 performance. For what it’s worth, the Raiders not having a pass rush might actually work to their own benefit, as Mayfield has an innate ability to avoid pressure anyway, which often hurts the defense by allowing him to have a cleaner view in or out of the pocket. Instead of trying to collapse with the objective of making the rookie uncomfortable, Oakland could decide to drop back in coverage and accomplish the same thing by making him jumpy for no apparent reason. Of course, Mayfield going off on the road similar to Josh Allen last week would be great for the league, but I don’t see the Raiders dropping to 0-4.

Winner: Oakland Raiders


NO (2-1) @ NYG (1-2) | SUN 4:25 PM ET | CBS

Pat Shurmur’s offense clicked in their 27-22 win over the Texans last week, and they probably need the good times to keep rolling if they want to keep up with the Saints on Sunday. It’s really anyone’s guess as to who will have the upper hand in a matchup between strength versus strength (NYG running game and NO run defense) and weakness versus weakness (NYG passing game and NO pass defense), but I do know that New Orleans has looked even worse on the backend than their bottom-barrel numbers suggest, and Shurmur should have a game plan in place to potentially make this a game. That said, a lack of edge pressure from the Giants might make 40 points the benchmark, and I’m not sure Eli Manning has enough left in the tank to go toe-to-toe with Drew Brees, who has shown zero signs of decline by completing a league-best 80.6% of his passes for 1,078 yards and an 8:0 touchdown-interception ratio; also, Brees recently proved to his flag football team that “spin moves are good” with video evidence to back up his claim (I agree).

Winner: New Orleans Saints


SF (1-2) @ LAC (1-2) | SUN 4:25 PM ET | CBS

They are coming off a loss in the the Battle for Los Angeles, but the Chargers are fortunate to have not had to travel for an away game in Week 3, and they’ll be at home again for another California matchup against the 49ers—a team that lost their franchise quarterback in a decisive defeat at the hands of the Chiefs—this weekend. Philip Rivers knows full well that a slow start can come back to be the difference between making the postseason or watching at home in January, so expect him to have his guys prepared for a winnable four-game stretch (v SF, v OAK, @ CLE, v TEN) before the bye week carries them into November. The seven-time Pro Bowl quarterback will get a defense that he can put up big numbers against on Sunday, as San Francisco will be without Richard Sherman (calf), and they’ve allowed 300+ yards and three touchdowns to Matthew Stafford and Patrick Mahomes in back-to-back games. I think C.J. Beathard should fill in admirably for Jimmy Garoppolo over the next several weeks, but it’s asking a lot to beat a high-powered contender on the road.

Winner: Los Angeles Chargers


BAL (2-1) @ PIT (1-1-1) | SUN 8:20 PM ET | NBC

This is a colossal AFC North matchup on Sunday Night Football, as the division looks more wide open than ever with Cincinnati sitting at 2-1 and the Browns suddenly coming to life. Pittsburgh has won each of the past three meetings after the Ravens had taken six-of-seven matchups (including the 2014 AFC Wild Card Game), but both teams look quite a bit different from even a season ago. The Steelers will obviously be without Le’Veon Bell as he continues to hold out, but James Conner has been really good, and JuJu Smith-Schuster replaces some of what Bell brings as a weapon underneath. On the other side of the field, Baltimore’s revamped receiving core with John Brown, Michael Crabtree, and Willie Snead should be able to keep up with Pittsburgh and their struggling secondary, but despite all their off-field issues that they say are manufacturing, I’m taking the Steelers in what should be a really good game.

Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers


KC (3-0) @ DEN (2-1) MON 8:15 PM ET | ESPN

“Showtime” Patrick Mahomes will get a chance to showoff in front of a national audience on Monday Night Football, and even if Denver was still as good on defense as their reputation suggests, it’d be a tough task to match up with all the weapons on Andy Reid’s offense. Excluding the Week 17 matchup in Mahomes’ first start last year, Kansas City has averaged 30.7 points per game against the Broncos over the past two seasons (3-0 record over that span), so we can probably expect another high-scoring output with Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Travis Kelce, Kareem Hunt, and everyone else unlikely to be contained. Case Keenum has a chance to put up big numbers against a soft secondary, but the Broncos won’t keep up if he continues to make mistakes (five interceptions so far this season). I hope we get a 60-minute game, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Kansas City pull away.

Winner: Kansas City Chiefs



Against-The-Spread Picks


Last week: 8-8 /// Overall: 20-28

Recommended picks last week: 3-2 /// Overall: 9-6


Vikings (+7) @ Rams

Jets (+7.5) @ Jaguars

Dolphins @ Patriots (-7)

Eagles @ Titans (+6)

Texans @ Colts (-1)

Bills (+10) @ Packers

Lions (+3) @ Cowboys

Buccaneers @ Bears (-3)

Bengals @ Falcons (-6)

Seahawks (-3) @ Cardinals

Browns @ Raiders (-3)

Saints (-3.5) @ Giants

49ers @ Chargers (-10.5)

Ravens @ Steelers (-3)

Chiefs (-5) @ Broncos



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