Several opening lines for the NFL's Week 4 action are liable to shrink between now and the impending weekend, but some nevertheless aren't showing enough respect for the perceptive underdogs.
Competition has been tight thus far in the 2013 season, and the league landscape seems to be changing at a rapid rate. Five of the six NFC playoff teams from last year are below .500, and there is no clear-cut favorite in any AFC division.
Here is an early look at some spreads as seen on Oddsshark.com, along with analysis and score predictions for the games.
New York Jets (+6.5) over Tennessee Titans
This line seems a little bit inflated, because as improved as the Titans seem to be, they should not be a touchdown favorite over a Jets team that seems better than anyone expected—even at home.
Which team is likelier to grab an AFC wild-card spot?
Geno Smith threw for 331 yards and two touchdowns with a QBR of 85.8. Bilal Powell had 149 yards rushing in the Jets' 27-20 win against the Buffalo Bills to get back to .500 in the AFC East and improve to 2-1.
With the exotic defenses Rex Ryan can befuddle even elite quarterbacks with, Tennessee signal-caller Jake Locker may be in for some trouble.
Not to take anything away from Locker's clutch play down the stretch of Sunday's victory over the San Diego Chargers, where he tossed a 34-yard touchdown to Justin Hunter with just seconds on the clock.
However, it's hard to believe someone as shoddily accurate as Locker won't make a critical mistake against such an aggressive defense.
The young quarterback battle will be intriguing to watch, but look for the Jets' stout run defense to force Locker to beat them with his arm. Tennessee won't quite survive—and wouldn't have by a touchdown or more.
Prediction: Jets 20, Titans 10
Arizona Cardinals (+3) over Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Entering Week 3, the Bucs had been struggling as much as anyone else in the league, having lost seven of their last eight games under second-year head coach Greg Schiano:
Buccaneers started last season 6-4, 1st under Greg Schiano. Have lost 7 of last 8 since, tied w/ Jaguars for worst record in NFL over span— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 17, 2013
That wasn't helped with a trip to Foxborough, where the New England Patriots dismantled Tampa 23-3. Quarterback Josh Freeman looked lost and posted his worst passer rating of the season with a 54.5.
Somehow, the Buccaneers are being spotted three points against a Cardinals team that got beat 31-7 by a legitimate playoff contender in the New Orleans Saints.
Between Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and Andre Roberts, Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer has plenty of weapons in the passing game at his disposal.
We will get there we need to be @AZCardinals fans!!— Larry Fitzgerald (@LarryFitzgerald) September 23, 2013
Tampa Bay's pass rush is improved from a season ago, but this bunch just seems in disarray. Trade speculation has surrounded Freeman, and this shouldn't be a situation where games are daisy-chained, as the Bucs lost only 16-14 to the Saints in Week 2.
The Cardinals are better than their blowout loss reflected and will prove it in climbing back to .500 this coming Sunday on the road.
Prediction: Cardinals 24, Buccaneers 17
Miami Dolphins (+5.5) over New Orleans Saints
The bold moves GM Jeff Ireland made in the offseason certainly look to be paying dividends right now, as the completely revamped roster of the Dolphins has netted a 3-0 record thus far.
Who would have thought that what is arguably Week 4's most anticipated game would be between two non-playoff teams from a season ago? It happens on Monday night, too, which only adds to the hype.
Ryan Tannehill seems to be justifying Ireland's selection of him at No. 8 overall in the 2012 draft. He rallied the team back from a 10-point deficit in the third quarter, then engineered the game-winning drive in the final minute:
Experts took notice of the statement win over the Atlanta Falcons:
This doesn't fit in the national narrative, but Ryan Tannehill is pretty wonderful.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) September 22, 2013
As good as Luck has been, I hope NFL fans realize how good #Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill is. He continues to get better and better— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) September 22, 2013
Looks like a statement game for the Dolphins right here. Nice comeback. More strong play from Ryan Tannehill.— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) September 22, 2013
Ryan Tannehill is everything you want in a QB. He's kind. Humble. Skilled. Poised. And as we all learned today... he's one bad, bad man!— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) September 22, 2013
The AFC East suddenly has a plethora of talented signal-callers to complement Patriots superstar Tom Brady.
But let's not discount the Saints, who are undefeated to date as well thanks to an immensely improved defense under new coordinator Rob Ryan.
Drew Brees and the passing attack is operating at a high level, but their inability to run the ball (24th in the league) will allow the likes of Cameron Wake and Co. to pin their ears back and pressure Brees in the pocket.
Miami is tied for third in the league with five interceptions, and Brees has already tossed four picks. Look for the Dolphins to continue rolling in a narrow victory in New Orleans.
Prediction: Dolphins 27, Saints 20
|Away Team||Home Team||Pick (Opening Spread)|
|San Francisco 49ers||St. Louis Rams||49ers (-2.5)|
|Baltimore Ravens||Buffalo Bills||Ravens (-3)|
|Indianapolis Colts||Jacksonville Jaguars||Colts (-4)|
|Cincinnati Bengals||Cleveland Browns||Bengals (-3.5)|
|New York Giants||Kansas City Chiefs||Chiefs (-4)|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||Minnesota Vikings||Steelers (PICK)|
|Chicago Bears||Detroit Lions||Lions (-3)|
|Seattle Seahawks||Houston Texans||Seahawks (-2)|
|Arizona Cardinals||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Cardinals (+3)|
|New York Jets||Tennessee Titans||Jets (+6.5)|
|Philadelphia Eagles||Denver Broncos||Broncos (-7.5)|
|Washington Redskins||Oakland Raiders||Redskins (-2.5)|
|Dallas Cowboys||San Diego Chargers||Chargers (-1.5)|
|New England Patriots||Atlanta Falcons||Patriots (-2)|
|Miami Dolphins||New Orleans Saints||Dolphins (+5.5)|
Source: Spreads are courtesy of Oddsshark.com.