NFL Week 4 Predictions: Latest Odds and Picks Against the Spread
If there's one thing that was made abundantly clear during the officiating fiasco that handed the Seattle Seahawks a win over the Green Bay Packers on Monday night, it's that trying to pick an NFL game against the point spread with replacement officials on the field is an exercise in futility.
The Packers should have covered, but didn't thanks to the single worst call by an official I've seen in 30+ years of watching professional football.
However, my doctor keeps harping at me about getting more exercise (he insists that 12-ounce curls don't count), so here's a look at my Week 4 picks against the spread.
These picks were made using the current point spread at Caesar's Palace according to VegasInsider.com.
Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens (-12)
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Mind you, I have very little doubt the Baltimore Ravens will win this game with relative ease.
However, the Ravens are playing their fourth game in 18 days coming off an emotional win over the New England Patriots on Sunday night.
Even at home on the short week, the Ravens could come out a little flat—making it hard for them to cover a hefty point spread such as this.
Plus, I'll freely admit that very rarely would I will be willing to give double-digit points in the NFL. It's bad juju.
The Pick: Take the Browns and the points.
New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills (+4)
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Normally I see a home underdog getting more than three points in a divisional game, and I start looking at those tasty points like money in the bank.
That's not the case with this game.
With the New England Patriots fuming about a 1-2 start after losing a heartbreaker to the Baltimore Ravens Sunday night, a very angry Patriots team will be visiting upstate New York this week.
Add in that Tom Brady threw for 725 yards and seven touchdowns in two meetings with the Bills last season, and I smell a blowout.
The Pick: Patriots win big
Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions (-4.5)
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Caesar's Palace isn't even taking bets on this game right now, as is the case with many casinos due to the uncertain status of Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford.
If I was a betting man and could find one (using this consensus spread from Vegas Insider as a benchmark), then I'd take the Minnesota Vikings and the points in a heartbeat.
These are two teams that appear headed in opposite directions.
The Vikings looked lights-out in upending the San Francisco 49ers last week, while the Lions appeared totally out of sync for much of their overtime loss to the hapless Tennessee Titans—including on the botched snap that decided the game.
With an injured quarterback and a defense that can't stop anyone, the Lions aren't exactly the sort of team I'd be wagering on.
The Pick: Vikings win outright
Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons (-7)
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This one's easy.
On one hand, you have a Carolina Panthers team that just got destroyed at home and has played sloppily through the first three weeks of the season.
On the other, you have an undefeated Atlanta Falcons team playing at home that's coming off a demolition of the San Diego Chargers and leads the NFL in turnover differential.
See where I'm going with this?
The Pick: You can have the touchdown. I'll take the Falcons.
San Francisco 49ers at New York Jets (+4)
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I'll freely admit if I weren't picking every game I wouldn't touch this one, as I don't trust West Coast teams traveling east and laying points in an early game.
However, I gotta pick someone.
The San Francisco 49ers will be looking to rebound after losing their first game of the season, while the New York Jets are reeling after losing star cornerback Darelle Revis for the season with a torn ACL.
It's going to be a closer game than many might expect, but the 49ers will pull it out.
The Pick: San Francisco covers, but barely.
San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs (PK)
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Ah, the dreaded straight-up pick, scourge of degenerate gamblers everywhere.
Given the lack of a spread, one would think that I'd be inclined to favor the Chiefs at home coming off a big win against the New Orleans Saints, especially given how awful the San Diego Chargers looked last week.
One would be mistaken.
I don't think that Chiefs are as good nor the Chargers as bad as last week's games indicate. A rebound week from quarterback Philip Rivers and a healthy dose of a healthy Ryan Mathews will pave the way to a close win for the Bolts.
The Pick: San Diego in a close one
Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans (-12.5)
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The Houston Texans may well be the best team in the National Football League, with a formidable defense led by emerging superstar J.J. Watt and a powerful rushing attack driven by tailback Arian Foster.
I'd have to be crazy to bet against that, especially at home against the 1-2 Tennessee Titans.
Well, call me crazy.
This contest screams trap game, and while I can certainly see Houston coming out of this game at 4-0, I can also see it happening in a way that won't cover that fat point spread.
The pick: Texans win by 10—Titans are the bet.
Seattle Seahawks at St. Louis Rams (+2.5)
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You would think that the Seattle Seahawks would be in for some sort of karmic retribution—cosmic payback for the win that was so egregiously gifted to them by the officials against the Packers Monday night.
That may well happen, but it isn't going to be this week in St. Louis.
If Seattle rushes the passer against the Rams anywhere near as successfully as they did against the Packers, then they're going to need dental records to identify Sam Bradford. While Seattle won't blow the Rams out they will win by enough to cover.
The Pick: Seattle by a touchdown
Miami Dolphins at Arizona Cardinals (-6.5)
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There's been no bigger surprise in the NFL this year than the 3-0 Arizona Cardinals, and given their respective records, you'd think this would be an easy call.
It's really not.
After their big win over the Philadelphia Eagles, the Cardinals have to be leery of a letdown game, and an underrated Miami Dolphins defense could keep this game close enough to make the spread here a sticky one.
This is another game I wouldn't touch with actual cabbage, but I'll take the Cardinals with more than a little reservation.
The Pick: The Cardinals make you sweat, but will cover.
Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos (-6.5)
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Ah, one of the great rivalries in the National Football League featuring two teams that honestly and truly dislike one another.
Welcome to the AFC West, Mr. Manning.
The honeymoon's over for Peyton Manning in Denver, and after two straight losses in which Manning didn't play all that well for the first three quarters, the Denver Broncos desperately need a win.
I think they get one this week even though the Oakland Raiders are coming off a huge win against the Pittsburgh Steelers, as Manning should rebound against an Oakland secondary that has been eviscerated by injuries.
The Pick: Broncos by 10.
Cincinnati Bengals at Jacksonville Jaguars (+2.5)
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After getting blown out in the season opener by the Baltimore Ravens, the Cincinnati Bengals have bounced back, reeling off two straight wins propelled by strong games from quarterback Andy Dalton.
Meanwhile, the Jacksonville Jaguars got their first win of the season last week by riding star tailback Maurice Jones-Drew—not a bad idea given that the NFL's leading rusher from last season is effectively their entire offense.
Both Jones-Drew and Cincinnati running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis should find room to rumble given these two teams' troubles stopping the run in 2012, but a better quarterback and the presence of wide receiver A.J. Green gives the Bengals enough of an edge for me to feel comfortable laying points on the road.
The Pick: Cincinnati covers easily in one of Week 4's safest plays
New Orleans Saints at Green Bay Packers (-7.5)
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If I'd told you before the season that entering this game the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints would have one win between them, you'd have called me drunk, a moron, or a drunken moron.
And yet here we sit.
It's hard to fathom the Saints falling to 0-4, but after what happened to the Packers Monday night, that team and their fans are going to be looking for payback.
Unfortunately for New Orleans, they get to provide it.
The Pick: Packers blow the reeling Saints out.
Washington Redskins at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3)
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I might as well flip a coin of throw a dart blindfolded with this game.
On one side, you have the visiting Washington Redskins, who have shown ample ability under rookie quarterback Robert Griffin to put points on the board, but absolutely no ability to stop opponents from doing the same.
On the other side, you have the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are playing better under new head coach Greg Schiano, but have still been wildly inconsistent on both sides of the ball.
At the end of the day, I have a lot more confidence in Griffin's ability to lead his team to a win than I do his counterpart Josh Freeman, so I'll take the Redskins and the points.
The Pick: Washington, I guess.
New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles (-2)
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Sunday night's showcase features an NFC East showdown between the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles, with both teams trying to take control of the division and improve to 3-1.
After already losing to the Dallas Cowboys, the New York Giants can ill afford another division loss this early in the season. The team was all business in dismantling the Carolina Panthers last week.
Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Eagles have to be the ugliest 2-1 team in the NFL, and between the turnovers they keep committing and their inability to protect quarterback Michael Vick, this has the potential to be an very rough evening in Philly.
The Pick: Take the Giants and the points without hesitation.
Chicago Bears at Dallas Cowboys (-3.5)
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The last game of Week 4 features a pair of 2-1 NFC teams with Super Bowl aspirations and a nagging case of the yips.
The Chicago Bears have looked decent in their wins and terrible in their loss to the Green Bay Packers, while the Dallas Cowboys looked great against the Giants, got manhandled by the Seahawks, and were lucky to squeak by Tampa Bay last week.
That inconsistency makes this game a tricky pick, but with the Bears on the road and likely without the services of running back Matt Forte for another game, quarterback Jay Cutler's tendency to make bad decisions under pressure will be the difference in this contest.
Well, either that or the officials.
The Pick: Dallas by double-digits.