In the NFL’s first week featuring real officials there was still a measurable amount of controversy, but all-in-all sanity was restored and Week 4’s games went about as smoothly as could be expected.
The Falcons, Texans and Cardinals all remained unbeaten while the Saints and Browns continue on as the only teams still waiting to get off the schneid with their first wins of the year.
After a rough start to the year, I pulled a 67% overall in Week 4 finishing 11-4, 10-5 and 9-6 straight up, against the spread and over/under respectively. This up week helped pick my season totals up a bit bringing me to:
Straight: 35-28 (56 percent)
Spread: 28-35 (44 percent)
Over/Under: 34-29 (54 percent)
Which puts the overall total at 97-92, just above the 51 percent mark. A welcome improvement, I must admit, but until that spread number crosses the 50 percent threshold, I will not feel anywhere near respectable. Here’s to another productive week filled with exciting finishes and solid selections.
Arizona Cardinals (-1.5) at St. Louis Rams (O/U = 38.5)
The Cards continue their improbable roll after they snuck out a victory over the Dolphins in overtime. They remain among the league’s three unbeaten squads, but it’s hard to really view them as an elite team. Believable or not, Arizona will take the hot start as Kevin Kolb continues to will out wins despite his first two picks of the season last week.
St. Louis pulled out a win themselves against Seattle, and with that move to 2-2 on the year. With just four touchdowns to go with four interceptions, QB Sam Bradford has left a lot to be desired this season. His slow progress and mediocrity may be starting to wear down on the Ram faithful.
I don’t have a ton of faith in AZ despite their perfect record, but I will ride their hot streak against a St. Louis squad that hasn’t done much to impress in 2012.
Miami Dolphins (+4) at Cincinnati Bengals (O/U = 44.5)
The “Hard Knock” Dolphins have been just that this year, finding themselves on the losing end of a late field goal in consecutive weeks heading into this tough matchup with the Bengals. Rookie QB Ryan Tannehill has gotten off to a rough start in his debut season, and although he stands in the top 15 in passing yards amongst starters, he is at the bottom of the barrel in QB Rating due to a pitiful 2-6 touchdown to interception ratio.
Cincinnati has won three straight while averaging 33 points per game along that stretch. Young wideout A.J. Green has, without question, blossomed into one of the league’s premier pass catchers and finds himself in the top 5 in receiving yards through Week 4.
Unfortunately for the Dolphins, they will likely not find themselves in a late game field goal situation here as I expect the Bengals to win this one handily.
Green Bay Packers (-7) at Indianapolis Colts (O/U = 48)
A big win over the Saints in Week 4 moved the Packers to .500 on the year, and a superb performance by Aaron Rodgers made all the difference. If the Green Bay offense can continue to ramp up into the monster it has been in the past couple seasons, then the cheesehead fanbase could see their first back-to-back wins of the season here.
Coming off of their bye week the Colts have had an extended period to prepare for one of the more difficult games on their schedule, and it’s likely they will need it. Andrew Luck has been serviceable in his rookie season, but may find it tough to get enough going to compete with the GB offense with the likes of Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson slowing him down on the other side of the ball.
I think that coming off of a victory against NO the Packers will continue to roll here against arguably their easiest opponent thus far this season.
Straight: Green Bay
Spread: Green Bay
Baltimore Ravens (-5) at Kansas City Chiefs (O/U = 46)
Baltimore followed up a big win against the Pats with a gimme against the Browns, but it took a full-fledged effort to down Cleveland in the rain on Thursday night. Joe Flacco sits in the top three in the NFL in passing yardage with an above-average QB rating to boot, so watch out for a big game against a KC secondary which has given up 10 TDs this season, second worst behind only Washington.
Due in large part to that porous secondary the Chiefs enter this one at 1-3 hoping to hold on to any sort of hope in the AFC West. While Jamaal Charles has showed signs of brilliance he will need the offensive players around him to step up if he hopes to find any room to run against the Ravens D. Unfortunately QB Matt Cassel has been far from excellent and as a result the Chiefs team has suffered.
I see the Chiefs getting down early on some long passing plays over the top, and never being able to make it back due to a sub-par passing attack. Ravens on the road here.
Atlanta Falcons (-3) at Washington Redskins (O/U = 50.5)
A miraculous comeback in Week 4 highlighted by a Matt Ryan bomb to Roddy White in the closing minutes propelled the Falcons to their current 4-0 record, and they have certainly put themselves in the conversation of today’s elite teams. They will look for a powerful performance from their superb offensive unit in order to keep up with a Redskins team which has scored a lot, but been scored against even more.
Robert Griffin III has provided everything the DC faithful could have hoped for besides one key statistic…. wins. The team does, however, sit at .500 making this a crucial game moving forward. A loss would put them behind the 8-ball in the NFC East while a win could propel them to the division lead if the cards fall right.
I think this will be a fun game to watch with all of the offensive firepower, but Washington’s pass defense has been so atrocious it is hard to imagine them stopping what has been arguably the best air attack in the league this year.
Cleveland Browns (+9) at New York Giants (O/U = 44)
As mentioned earlier, the Browns showed a lot of poise against division rival Baltimore last Thursday in a loss that came right down to the wire. Rookie QB Brandon Weeden has surprised a lot of people who thought he would be too old to come in a make a difference for his team, but despite a 0-4 record the new signal caller has shown the ability to maintain calm in heated situations even if he has yet to pull out a pro victory.
The Giants lost a heartbreaker to the division rival Eagles in Week 4 after kicker Lawrence Tynes couldn’t convert on a late-game field goal that would have pushed the G-men into the division lead. Instead, the Eagles hold that honor after the win and NY remains hot on their tail.
I think the Browns' woes continue here and Eli leads his team to victory to remain afloat in the closely contested NFC East.
Straight: New York
Spread: New York
Philadelphia Eagles (+3.5) at Pittsburgh Steelers (O/U = 44.5)
We just talked about how the Eagles sit perched atop their division, but that position could quickly fade with all three contesting teams just a game back and Andy Reid’s group headed into Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. With their only loss coming at the hands of the undefeated Cardinals the Eagles look good on the surface, but a -17 point differential tells a different story.
The Steelers come off a bye week fully rested and in an unusual third place slot in the AFC North. Ben Roethlisberger has looked comfortable in each game, but losses to both Denver and Oakland put the Steelers in these somewhat uncharted waters.
I think the Steelers defense feels the pressure and steps up big to slow down Philly and keep themselves in the division hunt.
Seattle Seahawks (+3) at Carolina Panthers (O/U = 43.5)
The Panthers are coming off back-to-back losses against two of the best teams in the league. While the Seahawks aren’t quite at the level of the Giants and Falcons, they have opened a lot of eyes with strong defense throughout the season’s onset. Cam Newton will have to get himself out of the dumps and come out ready to attack early and often against a team which has allowed just three passing TDs on the year.
Seattle followed their Monday night fluke win with a disappointing loss to St. Louis despite a strong effort on the defensive side of the ball. Russell Wilson has not been spectacular, but appears to have the reins to the offense for now. He will need to improve the ‘Hawks scoring numbers to compliment the defense’s stellar work if this team ever hopes to get off the ground this season.
I like the Panthers to come out swinging and make a statement with a win at home.
Chicago Bears (-5.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars (O/U = 40)
The Bears embarrassed the Cowboys on Monday night forcing five Tony Romo interceptions, two of which went back for six. They are currently tied atop the NFC North with a surprising Minnesota team, and find a sub-par Jags squad here that appear ripe for the picking if this defense remains as charged up as they were against Dallas.
Jacksonville has gotten out of the gates extremely slow putting up the second fewest points in the league up to this point. Maybe it has to do with MJD’s off-season holdout, or maybe it has to do with the fact that that Blaine Gabbert has yet to prove that he can hack it as a starter in the National Football League. Either way, those are not the types of questions to be asking heading into a game against this kind of defense.
Chicago will take it to the Jags in their own house, and there probably won’t be too many Jacksonville fans waiting around in the 4th quarter for the finish.
Tennessee Titans (+5.5) at Minnesota Vikings (O/U = 43.5)
One of the year’s bigger surprises has been Christian Ponder and the Minnesota Vikings. Coming out of the chute 3-1 and putting together back-to-back wins against San Fran and Detroit has a lot of people wondering if this team is ready to break out behind the mistake-free arm of their young gunslinger. If Ponder can continue to control the ball with such efficiency then this Vikings team could, in fact, find their way into the playoff hunt.
The Titans got thrashed by Houston in Week 4 and to add injury to insult QB Jake Locker was lost for at least this game, if not more, with a separated shoulder. Chris Johnson finally broke out of his shell in that game, however, crossing the 100 yard mark for the first time this year.
The Vikings appear to be on a roll here and I don’t believe that an underwhelming Titans squad with Matt Hasselbeck at the helm have enough gusto to pull out the win in Minny.
Denver Broncos (+7) at New England Patriots (O/U = 51.5)
The Patriots rallied late against Buffalo in Week 4, rattling of 45 second half points en route to a 52-point explosion. Brady was able to find a slew of receivers all over the field, and really could have put up even more points if it weren’t for some inadvertent fumbles from Gronk and Welker. At just 2-2 they lead the AFC East in a down year for the division and appear to be hitting their offensive stride.
Denver also put a whooping on their opponent last week in a 37-6 beat-down of the division rival Raiders. Peyton Manning looked more than ever like the Peyton of old throwing for 338 and three touchdowns in the lopsided victory. With each week it looks more and more like Elway and the Broncs got a steal by going out on a limb for the future Hall of Famer.
This might be the most interesting matchup of the week and I love the thought of another Brady vs. Manning battle. I think the home field advantage will give the Pats just enough to pull out a win here in a tight one coming down to the fourth quarter.
Straight: New England
Buffalo Bills (+9.5) at San Francisco 49ers (O/U = 44)
The Bills were on the losing end of the NE thrashing that we just went through, but still remain tied with the Pats for the division lead. Their rushing attack has remained superb through injuries to both Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. It will be important moving forward that they are able to keep both, or at least one, on the field at all times.
The Niners sit at 3-1, but answered any lingering questions following a loss to Minnesota in Week 3 with a complete annihilation of the Jets in Week 4. That kind of statement game tells me that this defense is still exactly who we thought they were (insert Denny Green voice) and I believe they will continue on here with another strong defensive performance.
While I think the Niners win for sure, I see it being a low scoring game somewhere in the twenties to teens range, so I am taking the 9.5 for the Bills despite their inferiority.
Straight: San Francisco
San Diego Chargers (+3.5) at New Orleans Saints (O/U = 54)
In an easy win against the Chiefs in Week 4, the Chargers showed that their 3-1 start is not just a fluke and that they may very well be vying for an AFC West title. A team typically highlighted by the play of QB Philip Rivers has instead been led by an above average run-stopping defense that has allowed the Bolts to remain competitive in each of their contests in 2012.
The Saints lost in a heartbreaker to the Pack in Week 4, but in defeat showed that they are still fully capable of playing at the high level that fans have grown accustomed to. I still see one of the league’s top offenses in New Orleans. With even a little help from the defense this team should be able to turn it around enough to at least compete for a Wild Card spot in the NFC.
I think it is high time the Saints broke out of this early season slump, and they finally give the fans on Bourbon Street something to cheer about.
Straight: New Orleans
Spread: New Orleans
Houston Texans (-8) at New York Jets (O/U = 41)
The Texans are the league’s third undefeated team, and take that perfect mark on the road on Monday night to face the Jets. Houston has looked solid, if not dominant, in every aspect of play and appear to already have the weak AFC South locked up even at this early stage. One knock on the team has been a somewhat easy early season schedule, so the Jets could provide a bit more of a challenge than they have faced up to this point.
After already losing CB Darrelle Revis for the season the mud continued to slide in NY as star WR Santonio Holmes was also lost to a season ending injury in Week 4. Despite the unfazed façade projected by Rex Ryan and the rest of the Jets, it is clear that that losing arguably their best players on both sides of the ball will be tough for this team to overcome. A couple more losses and don’t be surprised to see good ‘ol Tim Tebow back in the headlines. Scary, I know.