B/R Expert Consensus NFL Picks for Week 4
Bleacher Report NFL analysts Gary Davenport, Brad Gagnon and Brent Sobleski have defied the odds with their weekly picks against the spread thus far in 2019.
They haven't performed especially well—or sickeningly bad—but they all share the same record through three weeks.
T-1. Brent Sobleski: 22-26 (8-8 last week)
T-1. Brad Gagnon: 22-26 (8-8 last week)
Consensus picks: 22-26 (9-7 last week)
Maybe our experts are due for a breakout in Week 4. At least some trends have been established at this point. For example, favorites are 20-27-1 against the spread this season. Home favorites are only 10-21-1 ATS, and teams favored by nine or more points are just 2-4 ATS.
However, road teams favored by more than a field goal are 8-0 against the spread.
In other words, oddsmakers and the public have been giving too much weight to home-field advantage.
Is that a trend to jump on in Week 4, or should we expect a correction? That's what makes this betting thing so tricky.
Still, it's good to have a sample to work with now, and we'll see if our experts can utilize that to get on track (together or individually) before we close out September.
Lines from Caesars as of 9 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Sept. 25.
Philadelphia Eagles (1-2) at Green Bay Packers (3-0)
Our guys are ignoring that trend on Thursday night and laying four points with the Green Bay Packers at home against a limping Philadelphia Eagles squad that is traveling on short rest.
"The Packers aren't winning in very Packers-like fashion this year," Davenport said. "But they are winning, courtesy of a stifling defense that has already notched eight takeaways in three games. The Eagles are an injury-ravaged mess that has to travel to Lambeau Field on a short week to face an undefeated Packers club. As if that wasn't bad enough, a Philly secondary that was already bad will be without top corner Ronald Darby. Look for Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay passing game to get untracked and for the Packers to roll."
Even if Green Bay's offense continues to experience growing pains, its defense has performed unbelievably well this season. With DeSean Jackson ruled out, Alshon Jeffery and Dallas Goedert banged up and quarterback Carson Wentz struggling (he's completed only 55.7 percent of his passes and has a combined 76.5 passer rating in back-to-back losses), it'll be difficult for that unit to solve a daunting defensive front featuring Za'Darius Smith, Preston Smith and Kenny Clark.
The last 18 home favorites are 13-4-1 against the spread in Thursday games, and a home underdog won straight up in convincing fashion when the Jacksonville Jaguars beat the Tennessee Titans 20-7 last Thursday night. It'd be nice for Packer backers if this dropped to -3, but Green Bay still looks like the right bet at -4.
Davenport: Green Bay (-4)
Gagnon: Green Bay (-4)
Sobleski: Green Bay (-4)
Consensus: Green Bay (-4)
Score Prediction: Packers 27, Eagles 20
Carolina Panthers (1-2) at Houston Texans (2-1)
Cam Newton's absence didn't cost the Carolina Panthers in Week 3, as Carolina still easily won and covered thanks in part to a strong performance from backup quarterback Kyle Allen. But now Allen and the Panthers have to travel to Houston to face a much more challenging Texans defense, and an opponent that is a miraculous New Orleans field goal short of 3-0.
The majority of our experts figure the home fave can win by a handful of points.
"Is Allen legitimately good?" Sobleski said. "No one should take away what he did in his second NFL start, but facing the Arizona Cardinals defense is far different than looking across the line of scrimmage and seeing J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus, etc. Plus, Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel will certainly have a game plan ready to confuse the young signal-caller."
The Houston defense basically shut down inexperienced Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II in this building two weeks ago, and the Texans also shut down rookie signal-callers Baker Mayfield (when he was red-hot) and Josh Allen last season. Crennel should be well-prepared to exploit an undrafted 23-year-old on Sunday.
But we don't have a unanimous consensus because of Davenport, and it's worth noting that he beat his two colleagues with a 133-116-7 record ATS in 2018. In addition, those among this group who picked against the majority as lone wolves were 78-74-1 since the start of last season.
Davenport: Carolina (+4.5)
Gagnon: Houston (-4.5)
Sobleski: Houston (-4.5)
Consensus: Houston (-4.5)
Score Prediction: Texans 26, Panthers 20
Cleveland Browns (1-2) at Baltimore Ravens (2-1)
Our analysts aren't biting on a 6.5-point spread in favor of the Baltimore Ravens against the Cleveland Browns, who should be desperate to beat a familiar foe that they played tight on two occasions in 2018.
"The Browns aren't good," Sobleski said. "At least, they're nowhere as good as they expected to be, especially on offense. But they're good enough to keep the game tight if the league's 10th-ranked defense corrals and frustrates Lamar Jackson, who is coming off a poor passing effort against the Kansas City Chiefs."
Jackson has generally performed better this year than he did as a rookie, but the Browns outscored the Ravens 36-35 in two tight 2018 matchups, and this Cleveland team is better on paper now.
The Browns had a chance to beat the Los Angeles Rams last week even though their entire starting secondary was injured. They should have a chance to get some of those key players back Sunday, making it tough to justify picking the Ravens to win by more than a touchdown.
"The Ravens offense lacks teeth, and Jackson and Co. have yet to really face a strong defense," Gagnon added. "This might not be as challenging overall as playing Kansas City on the road, but there's little reason to think this won't be a close game."
Davenport: Cleveland (+6.5)
Gagnon: Cleveland (+6.5)
Sobleski: Cleveland (+6.5)
Consensus: Cleveland (+6.5)
Score Prediction: Ravens 24, Browns 21
Kansas City Chiefs (3-0) at Detroit Lions (2-0-1)
Remember what we said about big road favorites: Those laying more than a field goal on the road are 8-0 straight up and against the spread this season, and that includes the Kansas City Chiefs on two separate occasions. The Chiefs beat both the Jaguars and Oakland Raiders by at least 14 points to start the season, and they're now laying less than a touchdown for a road matchup with the Detroit Lions.
Our analysts aren't ready to buy enough Lions hype to give them only a handful of points here.
"I don't believe in the Lions at all," Gagnon said. "They choked against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1, and they got lucky by running into the injury-ravaged Los Angeles Chargers and Philadelphia Eagles in Weeks 2 and 3. Detroit has been held to 20 or fewer points in six consecutive home games, while Kansas City has scored 26-plus points in all 22 of Patrick Mahomes' career starts (including the playoffs). This might not be a blowout in Detroit, but I'm cool with spotting the Chiefs a touchdown."
It doesn't seem to matter that the Chiefs have been without All-Pro receiver Tyreek Hill, but the Lions aren't likely to be as lucky without cornerback Darius Slay, whose status is in doubt because of a hamstring injury. Veteran defensive lineman Mike Daniels was in a walking boot after Sunday's game as well, which suggests Detroit could be in trouble here.
Davenport: Kansas City (-6.5)
Gagnon: Kansas City (-6.5)
Sobleski: Kansas City (-6.5)
Consensus: Kansas City (-6.5)
Score Prediction: Chiefs 34, Lions 21
Los Angeles Chargers (1-2) at Miami Dolphins (0-3)
The Miami Dolphins likely won't go 0-16 against the spread this season. And while nobody believes they have a serious chance at beating the talented Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, the majority of our experts figure they're due to finally cover in a home matchup with a team that hasn't been right or healthy.
"Let's get one thing straight: This pick says nothing good about the Dolphins," Davenport said. "However, the Chargers aren't exactly playing lights-out football, either. The Bolts are traveling east for a 1 p.m. ET game, and the Dolphins were able to hang around for a half with the Cowboys in Dallas last week. The Chargers are going to win, but they won't cover because they are the Chargers—and nothing can ever be easy for the Chargers."
The Chargers have yet to win in regulation this season. And as Davenport noted, Miami hung with the superior Dallas Cowboys for a few quarters last week. The wheels fell off after that, but you wonder if they'll be better-suited to put together a half-decent four-quarter effort with another week of practice under their belt with Josh Rosen at quarterback.
Rosen led four first-half drives inside the Dallas 30-yard line, but mistakes and drops caused the Dolphins to settle for only six points on those series. Against an opponent that is again traveling across the country and is both banged up and snakebitten, look for Miami to put up enough of a fight to cover a big spread.
Still, we don't have a unanimous consensus, which is understandable. Don't break the kid's piggy bank to bet on one of the worst teams in NFL history.
Davenport: Miami (+15.5)
Gagnon: Miami (+15.5)
Sobleski: Los Angeles (-15.5)
Consensus: Miami (+15.5)
Score Prediction: Chargers 24, Dolphins 13
New England Patriots (3-0) at Buffalo Bills (3-0)
The New England Patriots are laying a touchdown against an unbeaten team on the road. And like the Chiefs, more than 80 percent of the betting public is backing the Pats.
That's something to be wary of, especially considering that New England is shorthanded in its receiving corps and along the offensive line for Sunday's matchup with the 3-0 Buffalo Bills. But that isn't enough to convince Davenport or Gagnon to back the Bills, who have fallen by at least 12 points in each of their last four matchups with New England.
"I'm concerned that Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon and Matt LaCosse are all hurting," Gagnon said, just as I'm concerned that offensive linemen Isaiah Wynn and David Andrews are out. But I'm just not sure any of it matters with New England. The Pats are destroying everybody right now, and they might have one of the best defenses in NFL history. They haven't allowed a touchdown on D in four games! I think this'll be a competitive game, but New England should still get the W by more than a touchdown."
With that said, Sobleski stands in dissent.
"Buffalo's defense is exceptional," he said. "The unit ranks first overall in percentage of three-and-outs forced. Obviously, Tom Brady is a different animal at quarterback than those the Bills already faced. But the Patriots have their own problems along the offensive line and in their receiving corps."
This might be a game to watch even if you aren't betting on it.
Davenport: New England (-7)
Gagnon: New England (-7)
Sobleski: Buffalo (+7)
Consensus: New England (-7)
Score Prediction: Patriots 27, Bills 16
Oakland Raiders (1-2) at Indianapolis Colts (2-1)
Yes, we're backing another relatively substantial favorite, which means that our analysts either haven't learned their lesson or are hoping that there's some regression to the mean when it comes to favorites covering in Week 4.
The latter is realistically likely, and it's hard to fault our guys for unanimously siding with the Indianapolis Colts -6.5 at home against an Oakland Raiders team that has been outscored 214-86 in its last seven road games.
"It's not ideal that Indianapolis could be without T.Y. Hilton and Darius Leonard and definitely won't have Malik Hooker here," Gagnon said. "But the Raiders are awful on the road and Indy is great at home. The Raiders have failed to cover the spread in seven of their last eight road games, while Indy has failed to cover just twice in its last seven home games. Indianapolis injuries could prevent this from being a blowout, but I'm cool with giving up less than a touchdown with the Colts."
Davenport and Sobleski agree, but you'll want to keep an eye on the statuses of Hilton and Leonard.
Davenport: Indianapolis (-6.5)
Gagnon: Indianapolis (-6.5)
Sobleski: Indianapolis (-6.5)
Consensus: Indianapolis (-6.5)
Score Prediction: Colts 27, Raiders 17
Tennessee Titans (1-2) at Atlanta Falcons (1-2)
Few teams cause bettors more frustration than the unreliable Tennessee Titans and the inconsistent Atlanta Falcons, so Sunday's matchup between the two is likely a crapshoot.
That's why the majority of our panelists are taking the points with Tennessee.
"I actually like that the Titans have lost back-to-back games, because they're at least resilient under Mike Vrabel," Gagnon said. "They followed up a tough stretch early last season with back-to-back jaw-dropping victories over the Cowboys and Patriots, and after a few defensive duds against Indianapolis and Houston later in the year, the defense was suddenly unbeatable for four straight weeks. I have less confidence in the Falcons, who were crushed by the Vikings, were lucky to beat the depleted Eagles and then fell again to the banged-up Colts."
There's also something about the Dan Quinn-led Falcons in cross-conference games. Dating back to the 2016 season, they've failed to cover in an astonishing 11 consecutive games against AFC opponents. The Titans happen to play in the AFC.
The Falcons offense has also been uncharacteristically mistake-prone, and the defense just lost star safety Keanu Neal to another major injury. And while Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota is unpredictable, the Tennessee defense might be the best unit in the league. The Titans have surrendered 20 or fewer points in six of their last seven outings dating back to last December.
Davenport is understandably robbing us of a consensus in a game you won't want to commit your life savings to, but the Titans appear to be the better bet.
Davenport: Atlanta (-4)
Gagnon: Tennessee (+4)
Sobleski: Tennessee (+4)
Consensus: Tennessee (+4)
Score Prediction: Titans 24, Falcons 23
Washington Redskins (0-3) at New York Giants (1-2)
The Washington Redskins were a mess at home on Monday Night Football, and now they're running into a hot new quarterback on short rest on the road. That has our analysts unanimously backing Daniel Jones and the New York Giants with only 2.5 points on the line.
"The Danny Dimes era is fresh and exciting," Sobleski said. "However, the Giants offense must operate over the next few weeks without Mr. Everything Saquon Barkley. Still, Washington is falling apart at the seams. Jones' potential as a downfield-passing franchise savior supersedes Washington's downward spiral."
Even with Barkley out, this line seems off. It essentially suggests the Redskins are a better team than the Giants on a neutral field, which is hard to imagine. Washington has been outscored 87-43 in its last 10 quarters, while the Giants are coming off an exhilarating comeback road victory over a decent opponent.
"The Giants might have the worst defense north of Miami-Dade County, but let's not pretend the Redskins have been good at anything this season," Gagnon added. "They might be desperate enough to keep this close against a familiar opponent, and you have to account for potential growing pains from Jones. But with a near-pick'em line, it's gotta be the G-Men or nothing."
Davenport: New York (-2.5)
Gagnon: New York (-2.5)
Sobleski: New York (-2.5)
Consensus: New York (-2.5)
Score Prediction: Giants 27, Redskins 21
Seattle Seahawks (2-1) at Arizona Cardinals (0-2-1)
Just as our analysts are supporting the Chiefs and Patriots as big road favorites, they're willing to get behind the Seattle Seahawks -5 in Arizona.
"The Seahawks have to be seething after the New Orleans Saints trounced them last week," Davenport said. "But Week 4 brings the cure for all that ails them: a road trip to face a Cardinals team that appears to be getting worse by the week. The Cardinals haven't beaten the Seahawks at State Farm Stadium since long before it was called State Farm Stadium (2012), and they aren't going to do it Sunday. In fact, I'm pretty confident laying the points with the road team. Seattle gets back on track with a double-digit win."
Indeed, the Cardinals have lost some momentum the past few weeks. They stunk against Detroit before earning a tie with an amazing fourth-quarter comeback, but they couldn't finish drives against the Ravens in Week 2, and they laid an egg last Sunday at home against a Panthers team using an inexperienced backup quarterback.
They're in awful shape at cornerback, and opponents are beginning to take advantage of that.
Still, Gagnon spoiled a potential unanimous party by going against the grain with Arizona, which should give bettors some caution. He notes that the Seahawks have failed to cover in each of their last five matchups with the Cards, and that they have a negative points differential despite playing two backup quarterbacks and playing two of their first three games at home.
So you might want to consider playing this safe and rolling with the moneyline, or just staying away entirely.
Davenport: Seattle (-5)
Gagnon: Arizona (+5)
Sobleski: Seattle (-5)
Consensus: Seattle (-5)
Score Prediction: Seahawks 27, Cardinals 20
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-2) at Los Angeles Rams (3-0)
The Los Angeles Rams were one of the best teams in the NFL last season, but they often had to scratch and claw for wins at home. They beat the Packers, Seahawks and Chiefs by a combined total of only 10 points in Los Angeles, and they later lost to the Eagles there.
This year's team has been far less crisp offensively than the 2018 version, which is why two of our three analysts are willing to take the points and back the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday at the Coliseum.
"This Rams team doesn't feel right to me at all, and I wonder if they're about to hit a wall against a frustrated Bucs squad that has too much talent and too good of a coach to be this frustrating," Gagnon said. "The Rams barely got past a clearly injured Cam Newton and the Panthers in Week 1, benefited from an injury to Drew Brees and fortuitous officiating in Week 2 and cut it close despite facing a completely depleted Browns secondary in Week 3. Freddie Kitchens handed them that W.
"They're due for an upset loss, but even if the Rams manage to move to 4-0, I think the Bucs will put up a hell of a fight in this spot. I'm not willing to give up more than a touchdown."
This might also be a trap game for the Rams, who beat the Browns on the road on national television this past week and travel to Seattle for another prime-time game next Thursday.
Still, you can't be faulted for having no trust left in turnover-plagued Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston, especially three time zones over against a defense led by Aaron Donald. Davenport has the Rams winning big, so you'd be smart to tread carefully here.
Davenport: Los Angeles (-9.5)
Gagnon: Tampa Bay (+9.5)
Sobleski: Tampa Bay (+9.5)
Consensus: Tampa Bay (+9.5)
Score Prediction: Rams 28, Buccaneers 20
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2) at Denver Broncos (0-3)
The majority of our analysts are apparently Minshew Maniacs. Or they at least feel there's enough good mojo surrounding the Jacksonville Jaguars and rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew II that Jacksonville can build off an impressive prime-time victory over the division rival Titans.
Coming off a mini bye week, they're getting three points against a winless Denver Broncos team, which has Davenport and Sobleski licking their chops.
"The Jaguars aren't an especially good team, and the Broncos are at least a little better than their record indicates," Davenport said. "At some point, that defense has to log a sack and a takeaway (I think). Denver isn't an easy place to play, either. But Jacksonville's defense was impressive in last week's win over the Titans, and as things stand right now, the Jaguars are getting better play at quarterback from Minshew than the Broncos are from Joe Flacco. Fear the 'stache, folks."
Still, Gagnon isn't buying it. The Jaguars haven't won back-to-back games since the start of the 2018 season. And while Denver is the first team in NFL history with zero takeaways and zero sacks in its first three games, it would make a lot of sense for Von Miller and/or Bradley Chubb to explode against a sixth-round rookie backup quarterback who has limited support.
The Jags have also lost seven of their last eight road games, with four of those defeats coming by 16 or more points. And as Davenport mentioned, the Broncos are usually a tough out in Colorado. So it makes sense that there's no consensus here, and you should probably exercise caution.
Davenport: Jacksonville (+3)
Gagnon: Denver (-3)
Sobleski: Jacksonville (+3)
Consensus: Jacksonville (+3)
Score Prediction: Jaguars 21, Broncos 20
Minnesota Vikings (2-1) at Chicago Bears (2-1)
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins is 4-26 in his career against teams with a winning record. And after defeating the Redskins on Monday night, the Chicago Bears have themselves a winning record.
That doesn't bode well for a Vikes team that was outscored 49-30 in two losses to Chicago last season.
"I don't trust Mitchell Trubisky, but I also don't trust Kirk Cousins," Gagnon said. "And both teams have ridiculous defenses, but Chicago's is probably a little more fierce. With the Bears laying less than a field goal at home against a quarterback and team that continually struggle against quality opponents, this is an easy decision."
The public is all over the Vikings, who are slightly more rested and are coming off their second strong performance in three weeks to start the year. Davenport is well aware of that, and he figures Minnesota should capitalize on the fact it is in more of a groove than the offensively challenged Bears. And there's logic there.
Still, the Vikings beat up on Atlanta and Oakland at home. Those aren't supposed to be challenges, and Minnesota has always delivered in those routine Sunday afternoon home games. This'll have a big-game feel, which makes it hard to get behind Cousins and Co.
Davenport: Minnesota (+2)
Gagnon: Chicago (-2)
Sobleski: Chicago (-2)
Consensus: Chicago (-2)
Score Prediction: Bears 21, Vikings 17
Dallas Cowboys (3-0) at New Orleans Saints (2-1)
The New Orleans Saints just went on the road without their future Hall of Fame quarterback and handily defeated one of the best home teams in the NFL. At home in prime time, the majority of our experts figure they can keep that rolling as a small underdog against the Dallas Cowboys.
"This isn't a pick I'm particularly confident in," Davenport said. "The Saints were the beneficiaries of both a defensive and special teams score in Seattle last week, and the Cowboys are playing as well as any team in the NFL. But the Saints have happened upon the recipe to win with Drew Brees on the shelf—run the ball with Alvin Kamara and play good defense. The Superdome will be rocking as usual in prime time, and New Orleans will win a squeaker outright."
For what it's worth, the Saints are 17-3 straight up and 15-4-1 against the spread in home prime-time games this decade, and the Cowboys have beat up on three teams that are a combined 1-8 this season. This'll be a different challenge, and the Saints still have plenty of talent sans Brees. They should be highly motivated, and talented backup Teddy Bridgewater was superb in Seattle.
If you can buy half a point to avoid a hook loss and at least settle for a push in the case of a field-goal loss, do it. But even with only 2.5 points in the Saints' back pocket, our crew is still leaning New Orleans' way.
Davenport: New Orleans (+2.5)
Gagnon: New Orleans (+2.5)
Sobleski: Dallas (-2.5)
Consensus: New Orleans (+2.5)
Score Prediction: Saints 26, Cowboys 23
Cincinnati Bengals (0-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (0-3)
Both the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers are 0-3. But Cincinnati's two road losses have come by a total of only five points, while the Steelers lost by four despite recording five defensive takeaways last week in San Francisco.
That has the majority of our analysts believing the Bengals can keep things close and cover a four-point spread in favor of the Steelers on Monday night in Pittsburgh.
"The Bengals aren't terrible on offense," Sobleski said. "Granted, they aren't particularly good, either, but they can move the football. The Steelers made all of two successful offensive plays in Mason Rudolph's first start. When those two points intersect, a tight contest will ensue on the national stage."
Still, Gagnon isn't high on a Bengals team that is just 5-13 against the spread versus the Steelers this decade.
"The Bengals were embarrassed by San Francisco two weeks ago," he said. "They were outplayed badly despite the final score in Buffalo, and that mistake-prone offense is in trouble against a D that still has some talent and teeth."
And thus we lack unanimity in the final game of the week.
Davenport: Cincinnati (+4)
Gagnon: Pittsburgh (-4)
Sobleski: Cincinnati (+4)
Consensus: Cincinnati (+4)
Score Prediction: Steelers 21, Bengals 20