Week 3 of the NFL season was likely a difficult one for anyone attempting to pick games, with or without the spread factoring in. What should make Week 4 any different?
A crazy start of the 2012 season continues rolling Sunday, with a slightly reduced slate (Indianapolis and Pittsburgh already have byes) but plenty of interesting fixtures.
Here's our last-minute look at our picks against the spread for Week 4 of the NFL season:
Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons (-7.5)
Matt Ryan is an early MVP candidate, and he rarely loses at home in the Georgia Dome (27-4 in the regular season). That said, Carolina is an embarrassed team coming off a long week of preparation for this game. The Panthers don't pull off the upset, but they do cover the 7.5-point spread on the road.
Falcons 24, Panthers 21
New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills (+4.5)
The Bills may get both Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller back, although Spiller looks like he may have a limited role. Having some kind of presence in the backfield gives Buffalo a chance, especially at home. But can the Patriots really fall to 1-3? It would fit the wackiness of this season, but I just can't see it happening. Patriots by eight.
Patriots 24, Bills 16
Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions (-4.0)
This game just screams let down for the Vikings, who are coming off their biggest win in three years, but travel to a venue where they haven't won since Brett Favre was quarterback. The Lions are in desperate need of a confidence-building win, so we'll give them a slight edge. A Vikings team still on Cloud 9 keeps it close and covers the four-point spread.
Lions 20, Vikings 17
San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs (+1.5)
You have to wonder what the mindset of the Chargers is this week. After starting 2-0, San Diego took a whopping at home in what could have been a season-building game. The Chiefs, on the other hand, rallied on the road and may now have woken up from its two-week slumber. Chiefs win and cover at home while keeping the 2011 version of Philip Rivers alive.
Chiefs 23, Chargers 17
Seattle Seahawks at St. Louis Rams (+3.0)
I could see a lot of action going to the Rams side on this game, as the Seahawks are coming off an emotional win Monday night and St. Louis should give Russell Wilson all he can handle from a pressure standpoint. But how do the Rams score against the Seahawks defense? That unit isn't a joke. Seahawks use a turnover or two to get up on the scoreboard.
Seahawks 20, Rams 9
San Francisco 49ers at New York Jets (+4.5)
A crazy season certainly has room for a Jets upset, especially considering the 49ers are a long ways from home and New York has heard all week how its season is over now that Darrelle Revis is done for the year. An ugly game, but Rex Ryan gets his team up for this one.
Jets 17, 49ers 13
Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans (-12.5)
12.5 points is a scary line for a division game, especially with the Titans possessing a semblance of momentum after beating Detroit in overtime last Sunday. But the Texans are so good in so many phases of the game, and Jake Locker hasn't been good against pressure early on (grades out No. 23 under pressure, according to Pro Football Focus.) Texans get up early and roll with Arian Foster and Ben Tate late.
Texans 34, Titans 20
Cincinnati Bengals at Jacksonville Jaguars (+3.0)
The story no one is talking about is how good Andy Dalton has played the last two weeks. He's thrown for over 600 yards and six scores in leading the Bengals to back-to-back wins. The Jags are fresh off giving up 300 and a couple of scores to Andrew Luck, so Dalton's hot streak should continue. There won't be enough offense on the home side to keep it close.
Bengals 27, Jaguars 16
Miami Dolphins at Arizona Cardinals (-6.0)
Ryan Tannehill has had his moments as a rookie, but he's going to endure plenty more bumps. Sunday will be one of them. Arizona has been suffocating on defense in 2012, roughing up Russell Wilson, Tom Brady and Michael Vick in consecutive weeks. Tannehill will be next. Not a pretty offensive game, but the Cardinals cruise to a two-score win on the back of its defense.
Cardinals 20, Dolphins 6
Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos (-7.0)
The Raiders road loss in Miami is hard to forget, but this team is playing better football. The pass defense was atrocious (nearly 400 yards and four scores for Ben Roethlisberger in Week 3), but the offense has some life. Broncos win at home, but this won't be a blowout. Oakland may be a lot peskier than I originally pegged them to be in 2012.
Broncos 31, Raiders 27
New Orleans Saints at Green Bay Packers (-8.0)
Boy, do both these teams need a win Sunday. The Saints will be nearly eliminated with a loss (only one 0-4 team has made the playoffs since 1990) and the Packers losing another home game would be only slightly less catastrophic. The difference here is that the Packers look like they have a defense to bring to this dogfight. The Saints have been the worst in football on that side. Aaron Rodgers finally breaks out of his four-game slide, dating back to last January.
Packers 35, Saints 17
Washington Redskins at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3.0)
A three-point line for the home team essentially means a toss up and that's exactly what this game is. I still like the team with the quarterback who can manufacture big plays on his own. Of course, that team is Washington and the quarterback is RG3. Close win and cover for the 'Skins.
Redskins 21, Buccaneers 20
New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles (-1.0)
Most have jumped off the Eagles bandwagon, and rightfully so. Two close wins was followed up by a lashing on the road in the desert last week. But isn't this the kind of game that Andy Reid always seems to win? The Eagles won't look like the uninspired bunch that got steamrolled in Arizona. In another classic Eagles-Giants clash, Philly escapes with the win and cover.
Eagles 31, Giants 28
Chicago Bears at Dallas Cowboys (-3.5)
Getting Matt Forte back would be huge for Chicago, but he's still questionable after being limited most of the week. Without Forte, the Bears may not have a chance, especially considering the pass protection issues. You may have heard of him, but the Cowboys have this pass-rusher named DeMarcus Ware. He'll get to introduce himself to Jay Cutler most of the night with J'Marcus Webb lined up opposite him Monday night.
Cowboys 20, Bears 13
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