Week 4 NFL Picks: Early-Week Favorites Guaranteed to Cover Spread
Though it was one of the most controversial weeks in NFL history, it seems that Week 3 finally gave us answers about the true quality of certain teams.
After an NFL record 20 teams walked into last week's slate of games with a 1-1 record, just 15 teams now stand with a winning record.
For oddsmakers, that means Week 4 kicks off the first set of large spreads for the 2012 season. This week marks the quarter-season mark for every team in action, meaning flukes and inexplicable results will soon start falling by the wayside.
Nevertheless, as bettors and pick 'em players look for advantages, there is sometimes the temptation to go against the favorites.
While that can sometimes prove fruitful, it would be ill-advised to do so against certain squads this week.
With that in mind, here's a look at a few favorites guaranteed to cover the spread in Week 4.
New England Patriots (-4) at Buffalo Bills
Though the Patriots come into Sunday's game losers of two straight and tied with the Miami Dolphins at the bottom of the AFC East, they may be one of the best 1-2 teams in NFL history.
Buoyed by a brilliant offensive performance from Tom Brady and the passing attack, it seemed like New England was well on its way to beating Baltimore in Week 3. Ahead 30-28 with less than four minutes remaining, all the Patriots had to do was manage the clock well and drain the time.
Unfortunately for New England, curious play calls gave the Ravens the ball back with plenty of time for a game-winning drive.
Don't expect them to need clutch clock management to beat the Bills, which will most likely be without running back C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson this week. While Tashard Choice is probably the best third-string running back in the NFL, he brings neither the explosiveness nor the array of skills that his predecessors possess.
New England won't completely blow Buffalo out at home, but expect a relatively stress-free fourth quarter for Brady and Bill Belichick.
Score Prediction: Patriots 31, Bills 17
San Francisco 49ers (-4) at New York Jets
While it is inherently risky to guarantee two road favorites to cover in hostile environments, picking San Francisco feels like the lock of Week 4.
The 49ers are coming off a game where, quite frankly, they got dominated in every facet by a less talented Minnesota Vikings team. Christian Ponder efficiently carved the secondary and avoided mistakes while exploiting deficiencies in the San Francisco pass rush.
On the other side of the ball, that performance eerily resembled the 49ers' loss to the New York Giants in the NFC championship game last season. Down by two touchdowns, Alex Smith seemingly lost his brazen confidence of the season's first two weeks as the offense reverted to mediocrity.
Unfortunately for New York, what San Francisco has are problems. The Jets, on the other hand, have crises.
Outside of Nick Mangold and D'Brickashaw Ferguson, the team can barely cobble together a collection of second-tier talent offensively. That was expected, though.
What came as a complete surprise is New York's ineptitude at stopping the run. Expect a huge day for Frank Gore en route to a relatively easy 49ers victory.
Score Prediction: 49ers 24, Jets 7
Miami Dolphins at Arizona Cardinals (-6.5)
This line opened at most sportsbooks at 4.5 points and most bettors saw what I'm still seeing now: free money.
After coming into the season written off due to their quarterback situation, it has to come a point where we recognize the job Ken Whisenhunt has done turning the Cardinals into playoff-worthy team.
In particular, the transformation of Kevin Kolb into a Trent Dilfer-like game manager has been brilliant. Much like Jim Harbaugh has molded Smith in San Francisco, Whisenhunt has finessed the offense to accentuate Kolb's strengths while masking his weaknesses.
Nonetheless, the true calling card of Arizona is its defense. Yet to face a weak opponent, the Cardinals have systematically shut down opposing offenses by cutting off the source of their strength.
This week will be their first opportunity to feast on an overmatched quarterback in Miami's Ryan Tannehill. The game won't be pretty to watch, nor will it be close.
Score Prediction: Cardinals 27, Dolphins 10
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