Week 4 in the NFL features a couple of games with massive spreads, and the odds of these underdogs winning are low. But, after watching the replacement referees burn the Green Bay Packers on Monday night, my confidence in picking games against the spread has wavered.
I'll soldier on and do my best to ignore the NFL's blatant disregard for integrity, but there's no telling what may happen in the upcoming weeks.
Here are the latest odds for each game, along with my picks against the spread.
Note: All betting information is courtesy of FootballLocks.com.
Prediction: Ravens win and cover this massive spread.
The Baltimore Ravens did a good job of bouncing back after their heartbreaking loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, by beating the New England Patriots.
Through three games, this team has put up just under 30 points a game, while the Cleveland Browns have only managed less than 20 points per game.
Trent Richardson had a big game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2, and so did Brandon Weeden, but neither one of them will thrive against the Ravens in Baltimore. This game will be a blowout of massive proportions, as Joe Flacco, Ray Rice and the Ravens' offense will have a big game against the Joe Haden-less Browns.
Prediction: Patriots will win and cover the spread.
After suffering two heartbreaking losses in a row, the New England Patriots are due for a breakout game.
The biggest reason I'm picking the Pats to win and cover, though, has more to do with the fact that Fred Jackson may or may not be coming back from his knee injury, and C.J. Spiller is likely going to be out with his shoulder injury.
Without a competent running game, Ryan Fitzpatrick—never one to be able to take over a game by himself—will struggle to make any hay against the Pats' young and improved front seven.
Prediction: Lions win and cover the spread.
The Minnesota Vikings shocked the NFL in Week 3 by beating the pants off the San Francisco 49ers at home, but things are going to look a lot different for this team in Week 4.
Matthew Stafford is suffering from an undisclosed leg injury, but all signs point to him being able to go on Sunday. Even if he's not in the lineup, Shaun Hill is more than capable of running the offense and getting Calvin Johnson the ball downfield.
Look for Mikel Leshoure to get a heavy workload on Sunday, especially if Hill is the one behind center. The Vikings have done well against the run so far, but all Leshoure needs to do is keep the defense off balance, so Johnson can run wild in the secondary.
The real kicker here is that the Vikings are the visiting team. If this game was being played in Minnesota, I would hesitate to give the Lions the nod, but it's not.
Prediction: Falcons win and blow the spread to bits (cover).
This is a simple call to make.
Cam Newton leads one of the worst offenses in the NFL in terms of turning the ball over, and the Carolina Panthers are minus-six in the turnover department in 2012 through three games.
Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons don't turn the ball over much, and Mike Nolan's defense leads the NFL in takeaways, with 11. The Falcons are plus-10 in the turnover department as a result.
The Panthers are doomed.
Prediction: 49ers win and cover the spread.
If any game was tailor-made for the San Francisco 49ers to bounce back in a big way from their embarrassing performance in Week 3 against the Minnesota Vikings, this is the one.
The New York Jets can't stop the run, pure and simple. Through three games, this defense has given up 446 yards on 97 carries (No. 28 in NFL) for an average of 4.6 yards per carry (No. 27 in NFL). Frank Gore should get plenty of carries in this game, and the 49ers' offense will roll.
Furthermore, the Jets' inept offense is just what the doctor ordered for the 49ers' defense to get the bad taste out of its mouth from the debacle in Minnesota.
Prediction: Chargers win.
This game currently is set at even odds, but the San Diego Chargers have a clear edge.
The Kansas City Chiefs' greatest asset on offense is their running game—something the Chargers are quite proficient at stifling. Through three games, this unit has only given up 202 yards (No. 4 in the NFL) and 3.6 yards per carry (No. 9 in the NFL).
Philip Rivers and company will get back to playing well on offense after Mike Nolan's defense abused them at home, and the Chargers will win the game by at least one touchdown.
Prediction: Texans win and cover the huge spread.
There isn't much more to it than that, unless you want to talk about how the Texans also have the No. 2-ranked defense in the NFL, while the Titans are ranked No. 24 on offense.
It's going to be over before halftime, and the Texans will cruise to 4-0.
Prediction: Rams win at home and cover the spread.
This pick is a gut feeling only, and perhaps I'm just hoping the Seattle Seahawks lose after the Monday Night Football debacle.
If I go with statistical analysis here, the Seahawks will win, though they might not cover the spread, given the close games they've had against the Arizona Cardinals and Green Bay Packers.
Prediction: Cardinals win and cover the spread.
The Arizona Cardinals have won seven straight home games, dating back to Week 9 of the 2011 season, and during that time, they've held opposing teams to just 16 points per game.
And, after watching this impressive defense dominate Tom Brady and Michael Vick two weeks in succession, Ryan Tannehill is doomed—especially considering he may be without Reggie Bush (h/t ESPN's Adam Schefter).
As long as Kevin Kolb doesn't flame out, this game is in the bag for the Cardinals.
Prediction: Broncos win, but Raiders cover the spread.
The Oakland Raiders are a tough team. Dennis Allen has had a positive influence on the players, and they will fight every game until the bitter end—win or lose.
Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos will edge the Raiders out in front of their home crowd, but it's not going to be easy.
The difference in this game will be the Broncos' ability on defense to pressure Carson Palmer. They will force him into an interception or two, and Manning and the offense will make him pay.
Prediction: Bengals win and cover the spread.
After watching the Cincinnati Bengals put up over 28 points per game in the first three games, it's hard to envision the Jacksonville Jaguars holding them to less.
Andy Dalton looks great right now. He has completed over 68 percent of his passes this year so far, and he has thrown twice as many touchdowns as interceptions. As long as his defense doesn't allow Blaine Gabbert to have a career day, the Bengals will win by at least a field goal.
Prediction: Packers win and cover the spread.
Who would have thought that the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints would start the 2012 season with a combined record of 1-5 before the season began?
That's where we stand with these two teams, though, and I'm predicting an 0-4 start to the season for the Saints after the Packers get their revenge for the MNF charade in Seattle.
As pissed off as the Saints might be for starting out the season 0-3, they can't match the fury of the Packers after getting robbed in Week 3.
Prediction: Redskins win and cover the spread.
Robert Griffin III has already proved he can win on the road.
Given the fact that neither defense is hot right now, this game boils down to two young quarterbacks, and between Josh Freeman and RG3, I'm taking RG3 every time.
Prediction: Giants win and cover the spread.
These two teams always play one another tough.
This pick boils down to one thing: I don't trust Michael Vick to make good decisions.
The New York Giants' defense proved that it can still get mad pressure on quarterbacks last week against the Carolina Panthers, and Vick will be under the gun all game long.
He is sure to make a couple of head-scratching plays resulting in turnovers, and Eli Manning and company will make him pay.
Prediction: Cowboys win at home and cover the spread.
Jay Cutler's 2012 campaign hasn't gotten off to a good start. Through three games, he's completed barely half his passes for 642 yards with three touchdowns and six interceptions. He has also been sacked 11 times, and his passer rating is a miserable 58.6.
It's not going to get better in Week 4 in Dallas.
Cutler's offensive line has played terribly, and the way he treated J'Marcus Webb in Week 2 isn't going to inspire a sudden sense of loyalty. This game will be ugly for the Bears on offense.
Tony Romo has had two bad games in a row, but at worst, he'll do just enough to stay ahead of Cutler and the Bears. At best, the "good" Romo will show up, and the 'Boys will roll.
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