Week 3 turned out to be the first, real “surprise Sunday” of the 2013 season.
At this point last week, who would have guessed that we’d see the 49ers lose to the Colts at home, the Giants get absolutely embarrassed and shut out by the Panthers, the Browns win a game on the road just days after trading Trent Richardson and the Bengals cough up five turnovers yet still find a way to beat the Packers?
If last week is any indication, 2013 could be one of the wildest and most unpredictable seasons in recent memory.
Hopefully, though, the league will return to some type of normalcy this week.
The Week 4 slate of games features its fair share of duds like Arizona at Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh at Minnesota and Washington at Oakland. However, there are plenty of big, intriguing matchups as well such as New England at Atlanta, Miami at New Orleans, Seattle at Houston, Chicago at Detroit and San Francisco at St. Louis.
Here’s a look at the predictions for every single Week 4 game.
*Note: All lines courtesy of Covers.com
Records Through Three Weeks
Against the Spread Picks: 29-16-3
Total Picks: 31-17
San Francisco 49ers at St. Louis Rams
Spread: San Francisco (-3)
Picks: San Francisco (-3), Over
Prediction: San Francisco 34, St. Louis 24
Following a surprising and disappointing 1-2 start to the season, the sky is now apparently falling in San Francisco. The 49ers are "overhyped," Colin Kaepernick is a “one-year wonder” and Aldon Smith is a “loser boozer.”
While it’s true that the defending NFC champs are showing a lot of glaring deficiencies, the fact is they’ve still got plenty of talent. They’ve got too much talent to go to 1-3, no matter the circumstances. Those circumstances, of course, involve a tough road visit to St. Louis after a short week of practice.
Ever since walking off the field in a dreadful losing effort to Indianapolis last Sunday, Kaepernick has been hearing all about how he was overrated coming into the season. So how will the incredibly gifted, young playmaker respond to the new-found heat?
If he’s ready to defy the criticism and play up to his true potential against the Rams, the 49ers should finally have the breakout offensive performance we’ve been waiting for, which should quiet the critics.
Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo Bills
Spread: Baltimore (-3.5)
Picks: Baltimore (-3.5), Under
Prediction: Baltimore 23, Buffalo 16
After a lousy showing against Denver in the season-opener, Baltimore has managed to right the ship over the last two weeks, beating both the Browns and the Texans at home.
Now, however, the Ravens must head back out onto the road, and they’ll do so after a distracting week, which included an embarrassing story about players reportedly being involved in a fight on a party bus.
While that’s the type of distraction that could throw the team off its game this week at Buffalo, I still think coach John Harbaugh will be able to flip it around and use it as motivation.
Expect another ugly, low-scoring win for the Ravens on Sunday.
Arizona Cardinals at Tampa Bay Bucs
Spread: Tampa Bay (-1)
Picks: Arizona (+1), Under
Prediction: Arizona 23, Tampa Bay 14
Will rookie QB Mike Glennon be able to provide Tampa Bay’s offense with the same type of spark that Brian Hoyer did for the Browns last week?
It’s a tough question to answer, considering this will be Glennon’s first ever career start, and it’s impossible to know what to expect from him.
Though this would seem to be a situation that favors the Buccaneers, since the Cardinals will be playing their second consecutive road game, it’s still tough to trust that Glennon will be able to get the job done—especially since this is a team that already seems to be ready to pack it in for the season.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Minnesota Vikings
Spread: Pittsburgh (-1)
Picks: Pittsburgh (-1), Under
Prediction: Pittsburgh 19, Minnesota 16
Can’t you just feel the anticipation and excitement permeating from across the pond, as London welcomes two 0-3 teams for what is shaping up to be the weakest matchup of Week 4?
No? Ok then.
In a battle of two sad teams, it’s tough to figure out which side will be less crappy than the other. Ultimately, though, it’s always safer to side with the better quarterback and the better head coach in theses type of games, and that’s clearly Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Tomlin.
New York Giants at Kansas City Chiefs
Spread: Kansas City (-4.5)
Picks: Kansas City (-4.5), Over
Prediction: Kansas City 34, New York 24
The one thing the 0-3 Giants could use right now is a nice easy home game against a soft opponent to help get them back on track. But unfortunately, this week, they’ll have the exact opposite of that, as New York will have to go on the road to face a 3-0 Kansas City squad that has had an extremely impressive start to the season.
The Chiefs are one of the most balanced teams in the league, but it’s their defense, which features budding star pass-rusher Justin Houston, which will really be the key to this game.
After allowing a whopping seven sacks in last week’s blowout loss to the Panthers, it’s tough to see the Giants offensive line fairing much better against Kansas City this week.
Ultimately, Eli Manning just won’t have the time necessary to make the plays he needs to in order to keep up with Alex Smith, Jamaal Charles and the Kansas City offensive attack.
Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars
Spread: Indianapolis (-9.5)
Picks: Jacksonville (+9.5), Over
Prediction: Indianapolis 26, Jacksonville 20
This is the type of situation that calls for a big-time letdown performance from the Colts. After picking up a huge statement victory on the road against the 49ers last week, Indianapolis will now have to try to get back up emotionally for another road battle with the league’s worst team, the Jaguars.
The Colts clearly have too much talent for the Jaguars to handle, but if they come out and sleepwalk through the first half, Jacksonville could at least end up hanging around and keeping this game relatively close.
Seattle Seahawks at Houston Texans
Spread: Seattle (-3)
Picks: Houston (+3), Over
Prediction: Houston 27, Seattle 23
The Texans have failed to play to their potential in any of their first three games of the season, especially in a terrible losing effort to Baltimore last week. However, Houston should be ready for battle this week, as I expect the team to have its best effort of the season.
The Seahawks have looked great in their two home games this year. But the same can’t be said for their performance on the road in Week 1 against Carolina, when they barely hung on to win 12-7.
Without the energy and the noise of the 12th man, Seattle could be in a vulnerable spot against a Texans defense that is much better than the numbers would lead you to believe.
Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns
Spread: Cincinnati (-4)
Picks: Browns (+4), Under
Prediction: Cincinnati 17, Cleveland 14
As strange as it may sound, this could actually be a letdown situation for both of these teams, since both of them are coming off of big wins last week.
The Browns finally look like they’ve found some life after giving Brian Hoyer a chance to lead the offense, instead of Brandon Weeden. They should be able to hang around with a Bengals team that lost by 10 points the last time they made a trip to Cleveland.
This is shaping up to be a hard-fought, low-scoring defensive battle that should remain close deep into the fourth quarter.
Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions
Spread: Detroit (-3)
Picks: Detroit (-3), Over
Prediction: Detroit 35, Chicago 27
Is Chicago for real?
That’s the question many have been asking since the Bears’ come-from-behind win over the Bengals in Week 1.
So far, Chicago has looked like a legitimate contender. But now the Bears will have a chance to really prove themselves on the road against a division foe.
We know that the Lions are capable of scoring plenty of points, especially at home, and they’ll pose quite a challenge for the Bears defense.
After barely surviving to win their first two games, and then benefiting from a ton of turnovers in a win over the Steelers, it seems like the Bears are finally due to have a letdown performance. This seems like the perfect spot for it to happen.
Though Chicago may be the better all-around team in the long run, this is a situation that seems to favor the home-standing Lions.
New York Jets at Tennessee Titans
Spread: Tennessee (-3.5)
Picks: Jets (+3.5), Over
Prediction: New York 26, Tennessee 21
Considering the level of criticism and media scrutiny that Geno Smith was slammed with throughout the draft process and during the offseason, you have to really admire the way he’s played so far during his rookie season.
Sure, Smith has made his fair share of dumb mistakes, most notably during a rainy and sloppy second half in a loss to the Patriots. However, he’s displayed the type of explosive arm strength that has added a new downfield, vertical element to New York’s offense.
Geno and the Jets will face a tough test on the road this week against a strong Titans defense. But now that it seems like Smith is starting to grow more comfortable in the offense, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to out-duel Jake Locker, especially if the Jets defense handles its job and continues to play in the same dominant fashion we’ve seen so far.
Washington Redskins at Oakland Raiders
Spread: Washington (-3)
Picks: Raiders (+3), Over
Prediction: Oakland 27, Washington 21
Is there a reason why anyone would trust the 0-3 Redskins right now, especially after another disastrous, sloppy loss at home to Detroit last week?
Sure, Washington may be facing one of the league’s least talented teams, but the Raiders are at least showing some fight this season.
If RGIII continues to look rusty, the Raiders should be able to capitalize and ultimately balance out their record with their second win of the season.
Philadelphia Eagles at Denver Broncos
Spread: Denver (-10.5)
Picks: Denver (-10.5), Over
Prediction: Denver 45, Philadelphia 24
Remember back to that time not all that long ago when Philadelphia was 1-0, and everyone was talking about how Chip Kelly was going to revolutionize the NFL?
Well, don’t expect any of that talk to return any time soon, since Kelly’s 1-2 Eagles are now staring at a brutal midseason stretch of games, which starts off with a road trip to the thin air of Denver.
Peyton Manning and the Broncos have managed to look even better than originally advertised so far this season, and there doesn’t seem to be any reason to bet against Denver now, even if the team is laying double-digit points.
Dallas Cowboys at San Diego Chargers
Picks: Dallas (-1), Under
Prediction: Dallas 24, San Diego 17
The Cowboys are going to be a bettor’s worst nightmare this season, as Dallas looks like it’s going to be the league’s most unpredictable team on a week-to-week basis.
After looking overpowering in a dominant win over the Rams last week, it’s tough to trust that Dallas can have that same type of effort on the road against a feisty team like the Chargers.
This matchup appears to hinge on whether or not Dallas will be able to establish a consistent rushing attack. If the Cowboys can get a good ground game going early, they should be able to control the tempo of the game, avoid mistakes and ultimately come away with a tough road win.
New England Patriots at Atlanta Falcons
Spread: Atlanta (-1)
Picks: Atlanta (-1), Over
Prediction: Atlanta 38, New England 31
The Falcons haven’t beaten the Patriots since 1998, but they’ve got a great shot to end their three-game losing streak to New England with a big victory at home on Sunday night.
After a tough road loss to Miami last week, Atlanta should have plenty of motivation to come out and have a big performance in front of their home crowd against a marquee team in front of a national audience.
Though the Pats may be 3-0, this is clearly not a vintage Bill Belichick team, as New England seems to be lacking that same type of intimidation factor that it’s had in years past.
Matt Ryan is clearly looking to take that next step towards elite status this season. He should inch a little closer by beating a legend like Tom Brady in a spotlight showdown.
Miami Dolphins at New Orleans Saints
Spread: New Orleans (-6.5)
Picks: New Orleans (-6.5), Under
Prediction: New Orleans 27, Miami 17
When you consider the fact that the Saints defense was one of the worst statistical units in the history of the league last year, you simply have to appreciate and admire the job Rob Ryan has done turning the unit around.
New Orleans currently ranks fourth in the league in total defense and fifth in scoring defense, allowing just 12.7 points and 295 yards per game.
The Saints should be up to the task of shutting down a Miami team that just had a huge, yet emotionally draining win over Atlanta at home last week.
Given all that’s gone on surrounding the franchise over the last couple of years, New Orleans is clearly playing with a different type of edge and mindset than the rest of the league this year.
That attitude should carry the Saints to another big win on Monday night.