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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Week 4 NFL Game Picks 2020

Last week: 9-6-1

Season: 34-13-1


DEN (0-3) @ NYJ (0-3) | THU 8:20 PM ET | NFL Network

Football is football, and anyone complaining about watching Broncos-Jets tonight probably isn’t a serious fan to begin with (I’m convinced that some people who cover the NFL actually dislike the game). Injuries will have a significant impact on both sides, but we will get to watch Sam Darnold try to carry New York on offense, and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams should have his guys fired up to force turnovers against quarterback Brett Rypien in his first career start. Also, getting Jamison Crowder (hamstring) back would be a big boost for Darnold, and Chris Herndon might be positioned for a primetime breakout after three quiet weeks to being the season. Perhaps a simplified game plan on a short week will help Rypien pull off a road victory—and Denver does have some explosiveness on offense with Melvin Gordon, K.J. Hamler, and Noah Fant—but I think the edge goes to the home team, especially since they are somehow even healthier than the Broncos. If New York is going to turn things around, it needs to start tonight and continue through the next couple of weeks before a scary stretch kicks in (v BUF, @ KC, v NE).

Winner: New York Jets


BAL (2-1) @ WAS (1-2) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS

The Ravens still have plenty of questions to answer about their ability to win games when they fall behind after being handled by the Chiefs on Monday night, but they haven’t had a problem beating teams when there is a clear talent advantage, and that will be the case this weekend in Washington. While it’s too early for Baltimore to panic, I am assuming Lamar Jackson may decide to get back to what he does best by running more, and rookie phenom Chase Young (groin) being out eliminates a potential game-wrecker on defense for Ron Rivera’s squad, which will make it all the more difficult for them to contain the dynamic ground game. On the other side of the ball, Marlon Humphrey should be used in shadow coverage against Terry McLaurin, but Washington should look to exploit Marcus Peters with a double move if they can get their second-year receiver against him. Overall, Dwayne Haskins needs to play better, and the team could make things easier on him by using rookie Antonio Gibson more as a pass-catcher—including routes from out wide. Unless Baltimore somehow comes out flat after their Week 3 loss, I don’t anticipate an upset.

Winner: Baltimore Ravens


LAC (1-2) @ TB (2-1) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS

Justin Herbert hasn’t looked like a rookie yet for Los Angeles, but the Buccaneers will be his toughest opponent yet, as Todd Bowles’ defense is fast, physical, and talented. For those unfamiliar with the emerging unit, they have Pro Bowl-caliber players at all three levels, and second-round pick Antoine Winfield Jr. in particular has been sensational so far with 2.0 sacks and a forced fumble; the development made by Herbert as a passer will certainly be tested on Sunday, so we’ll see if he can avoid a big mistake. Offensively, Tampa Bay is going to be without Chris Godwin (hamstring) for the second time this year, but making a point to involve Rob Gronkowski more last week was a good sign, and Tom Brady surely knows the size advantage he and Mike Evans will have against the Chargers. The potential advantage Los Angeles could’ve had in this matchup would have been with Joey Bosa (bicep) and Melvin Ingram (knee, IR) on the edge versus offensive tackles Donovan Smith and Tristan Wirfs, but only having Bosa—at less than 100%—definitely hurts their chances. With Chris Harris (foot, IR) also out for LA, Brady should come out firing.

Winner: Tampa Bay Buccaneers


SEA (3-0) @ MIA (1-2) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX

The Dolphins came out with tons of energy in last Thursday night’s win over the Jaguars, and a few extra days to prepare for Seattle could make it a surprise battle on Sunday. I personally think Jordan Howard being the lead runner would make the strategy even more effective, but Miami wants to consistently pound the ball (Myles Gaskin rushed 22 times for 66 yards in Week 3), and their offensive line has some maulers to grind out the tough yards needed to build momentum for a scrappy team. Furthermore, Ryan Fitzpatrick’s play style and personality gives everyone a belief that they can compete in any given week, so the Seahawks need to continue letting Russell Wilson air it out—to put Miami away early—rather than allowing them to make it a mud fight (which Pete Carroll might have preferred in previous years). Maybe the injuries on defense for Seattle can lead to a shootout with DeVante Parker now healthy as Fitzpatrick’s top target, but top corner Byron Jones (groin/Achilles) being out or less than 100% for the Dolphins would make stopping D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and a white-hot Wilson nearly impossible.

Winner: Seattle Seahawks


MIN (0-3) @ HOU (0-3) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX

No one would have guessed that an October matchup between the Vikings and Texans—both of whom won a playoff game last season—would feature two winless teams, but that’s what we’re getting, and while it’s not exactly an elimination game because of how early it is (plus expanded playoffs), I’m sure Mike Zimmer and Bill O’Brien will be stressing it as such. Houston’s offense should be fine with the schedule lightening up and the chemistry now built up some for Deshaun Watson and his receivers, but the defense remains a concern, and Justin Jefferson breaking out as the sidekick to Adam Thielen will give Kirk Cousins the firepower to win a shootout if needed. That said, cornerback Mike Hughes (neck) missing another game would be a key loss with Zimmer’s defense trying to contain Will Fuller, Brandin Cooks, and Randall Cobb, so I expect Watson to build on a strong showing from the first half last week against Pittsburgh with a full performance this weekend. David Johnson should also find more room to run with the Vikings being weakened on the defensive line, and in general, the Texans seem more desperate.

Winner: Houston Texans


NO (1-2) @ DET (1-2) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX

The Saints haven’t looked like a championship contender over the past two weeks, and the play of Drew Brees is a real concern, as I don’t think you can outscore some of the high-flying offenses in the NFC without at least sometimes pushing the ball downfield. Maybe the absence of Michael Thomas (ankle) has been the primary reason for the struggles, but it’s not like he routinely takes the top off the defense, and Brees’ flaws could be fully exposed against the Lions—who have formulated some really impressive defensive game plans under Matt Patricia despite their overall lack of success. This week, Detroit will likely force New Orleans to challenge them deep, and successfully mixing up underneath coverages like they did against Kyler Murray in last Sunday’s win could cause Brees to make a mistake. However, the Saints have too many pieces on defense to not improve (31.3 points per game allowed), and Marshon Lattimore can match up with Kenny Golladay in terms of size/speed, while Demario Davis can try to take away T.J. Hockenson. I’m going with New Orleans in a close game.

Winner: New Orleans Saints


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

He was at 19 carries rather than the desired 20-carry benchmark, but the Browns at least remained committed to Nick Chubb in Week 3, and back-to-back games with 100+ yards and multiple scores should lead to them never going away from him again. To his credit, Odell Beckham Jr. has said he knows he won’t be putting up monster numbers in a run-first offense, but this weekend could be a spot for him to go off against a young Dallas secondary, and Baker Mayfield’s efficient play since the opener should Cleveland’s passing attack to have more success when they need to open it up. At home, though, the Cowboys badly need to get a win if they are going to take advantage of Philadelphia falling on their face out of the gate, and injuries for the Browns’ secondary—namely Denzel Ward (groin) and Greedy Williams (shoulder)—could allow Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and CeeDee Lamb to continue getting open for Dak Prescott. Possibly not having Tyron Smith (neck) for the third game in a row is a concern with Myles Garrett coming to town, but Dallas should score enough points to get to .500 if they don’t allow Chubb and Odell to go completely crazy.

Winner: Dallas Cowboys


JAX (1-2) @ CIN (0-2-1) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS

Although the Bengals haven’t been able to get a win yet this year, they’ve competed in all three games, and Joe Burrow is already too good of a quarterback with too good of a supporting cast to not get on the board soon. Others might feel differently, but Cincinnati playing in three close games despite Joe Mixon and A.J. Green both having very quiet starts could mean they are primed for an offensive explosion, and the Jaguars are an attackable defense in 2020 (especially compared to last season when they held Mixon to two yards on ten carries). As was the case against Miami, the area where Jacksonville projects to have an advantage is in terms of their pass rush against a shaky offensive line, so Josh Allen—who is heating up with a sack and three quarterback hits in Week 3—can cause havoc if they can’t keep him away from Burrow. On offense, the Jags missed D.J. Chark (chest/back) last Thursday night, and his hopeful return would be a substantial boost for Gardner Minshew as he tries to bring back the magic from the first two games. Either way, I like the Bengals to win at home as long as they can keep Allen away from their quarterback.

Winner: Cincinnati Bengals


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

With former offensive coordinator Frank Reich on one sideline and quarterback Nick Foles—fresh off a comeback victory over the Falcons—on the other, Philadelphia fans might be watching Colts-Bears as the What-Could-Have-Been Bowl. Not everyone is a believer, but the personnel and system in Chicago both perfectly fit Foles’ skillet, so his play in Week 3 shouldn’t have been a surprise, and I’d expect him to perform the rest of the way to get the Bears back into the postseason. Fortunately for the Bears, David Montgomery having the ability to play on all three downs will help overcome the loss of Tarik Cohen (knee) for the year. Of course, Indy will be a bigger challenge than Atlanta was—particularly if they can play with a lead to feature rookie Jonathan Taylor—and the stingy pass defense will have had a week to prepare for an offense with Foles at the controls. Still, I don’t think the hot streak will end for Foles after one half of football, and Chicago’s defense should be able to contain T.Y. Hilton with Parris Campbell (knee) and Michael Pittman (leg) both on IR.

Winner: Chicago Bears


ARI (2-1) @ CAR (1-2) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX

They obviously have a new coaching staff under Matt Rhule, but it’s notable that Carolina gave Kyler Murray problems last year in a 38-20 victory, and the defense is even more athletic/versatile this season. The eventual NFL Rookie of the Year was sacked eight times and threw two interceptions in the 2019 defeat, so protection needs to be improved for them to avoid another loss. In general, I’m a bit concerned about Arizona running the offense through DeAndre Hopkins too much, and featuring Kenyan Drake as a receiver out of the backfield might take some of the pressure off Murray, who has already tossed five interceptions in three games. Defensively, the Cardinals likely won’t have Budda Baker (thumb) at safety, but No. 8 overall pick Isaiah Simmons is ready for a bigger role after 17 snaps over the past two weeks, and Chandler Jones should be able to generate a consistent pass rush against a rotating duo at left tackle with Russell Okung (groin) banged up for the Panthers. More mistakes from Murray would open the door for Teddy Bridgewater and his explosive supporting cast to get another win, but the Cardinals have more top-end talent on both sides of the ball.

Winner: Arizona Cardinals


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

The Giants had a chance to upset the decimated 49ers last week and move into a first-place tie in the NFC East, but they ended up getting destroyed—at home—and they’ll now have to face a Los Angeles team that is surely angry about the loss against Buffalo. Daniel Jones needs to play better, but he hasn’t had much help in terms of protection (or health for the supporting cast), so a matchup against Aaron Donald doesn’t inspire much confidence for New York being able to get out of their tough early-season schedule with a win. Things have changed over the past few years, but when these teams met in 2017, Jared Goff only needed 14 completions to rip New York for 311 yards and four scores, and the Giants won’t have a shot on Sunday if they don’t get to LA’s quarterback to make him uncomfortable. Overall, Sean McVay’s offense is more balanced than ever, and I’m not sure how New York will score enough points to make it competitive late; perhaps Evan Engram coming alive can be the answer, but he’s having by far the least efficient season of his career.

Winner: Los Angeles Rams


BUF (3-0) @ LV (2-1) | SUN 4:25 PM ET | CBS

I said last week that the selflessness displayed by the Buffalo receivers was championship-level stuff, and they added “resiliency” to the list in Week 3 by overcoming a Rams’ comeback to win in the final seconds with Josh Allen dropping a touchdown to tight end Tyler Kroft. As noted by some converters who have signed the Josh Allen apology form, the intangibles of the third-year quarterback were overlooked in pre-draft analysis, and the 2020 version of Allen has become one of the NFL’s best overall players in part because of how much he wants to be great; Buffalo isn’t looking ahead, but we’ll see if he can keep it up over the next three months and carry the wins into January. On Sunday, not having fans will make Allegiant Stadium less intimidating than it will be in future years, and that’s unfortunate for Las Vegas, as they could use every advantage they can get this week with Henry Ruggs III (hamstring) and Bryan Edwards (ankle) out for the offense. Nelson Agholor can and should contribute, but Derek Carr will likely lean on Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow in the middle of the field to avoid Tre’Davious White, and defending the Death Star at less than full strength will be easier said than done with the Bills flying high at 3-0.

Winner: Buffalo Bills


PHI (0-2-1) @ SF (2-1) | SUN 8:20 PM ET | NBC

“Bad things happen in Philadelphia. Bad things.” – President Trump and every Philly sports fan in history

Winner: San Francisco 49ers


NE (2-1) @ KC (3-0) | MON 7:05 PM ET | CBS

The Patriots are touchdown underdogs for Sunday’s highly-anticipated matchup against the Chiefs, but I actually think they have a better chance to win than Baltimore did on Monday night. Remember, New England is a goal-line stand away from being 3-0, and the ground game was dominant last week with 250 yards and two touchdowns against the Raiders—and that was despite a quiet game from Cam Newton (nine carries for 27 yards). The Chiefs have been run on by Sony Michel in both of their losses to the Pats since Patrick Mahomes took over as the starter (including playoffs), and they’ll now have to contend with not only the running backs, but also Newton. As for Mahomes and the Kansas City offense, they have actually put up bigger numbers against Bill Belichick in the losses (323.5 yards per game and a 7:2 touchdown-interception ratio) compared to last year’s 23-16 win, but I’d bet the Patriots would love to keep it low scoring again if they can. By now, both sides are familiar enough with each other to know what the respective game plans will be, but Clyde Edwards-Helaire adds another dimension, and Mecole Hardman is the wild card.

Winner: Kansas City Chiefs


ATL (0-3) @ GB (3-0) | MON 8:50 PM ET | ESPN

If you went back in time and told the Falcons that they would be up 26-10 in two of their first three games this season, they would certainly be happy about it, but Atlanta sits at 0-3 after consecutive blown leads, and their backs are now against the wall for a Monday Night Football matchup against a confident Green Bay team. The offense has played great so far this season, though, and with Julio Jones (hamstring) expected to be back in the lineup, Matt Ryan should continue to have success against the Packers (3-1 record with 298.5 passing yards per game and an 11:1 touchdown-interception ratio over the past four meetings, including playoffs). Plus, the run defense of Green Bay continues to struggle, and Todd Gurley—like his quarterback—has had huge games against them in the past. Where the concern comes for the Falcons is on defense, but it sounds like Aaron Rodgers will at least be without Allen Lazard (core muscle), and Davante Adams (hamstring) isn’t a lock to return, which gives Matt Ryan the edge when it comes to firepower. The Falcons are responsible for 23% of my incorrect game picks so far this year, so as Michael Scott once said: “No question about it, I am ready to get hurt again.”

Winner: Atlanta Falcons


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