Well, if I would have just asked the public who to take last week in my free NFL predictions I would have ended up way ahead – that’s for sure. As far as I can see, the public went 12-4 last week. That’s a good day for the people and a bad day for the books, but don’t you worry, they books will be back to get theirs. I’m not sure that will happen this week, but it will happen in good time. As it turns out, I’m going against the public in 9 of 16 contests, that sounds good enough. Here’s how I see the games going in Week 4.
Detroit Lions @ Chicago Bears (-10): Believe it or not Joe Public is loving the Detroit Lions in this one. How much? Well, after the public has spent much of the last few years running away from the Lions like the Road Runner from Wiley Coyote, 61% of the bunch likes Detroit this week. That might be giving them a little too much credit huh? I mean, it took them 20 games to win once over the last year plus. The Bears are a good football team, despite their early struggles – they sit at 2-1 with at least one very good win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. This game is in Chicago, and Detroit’s secondary shouldn’t have an easy time with Jay Cutler, even if Jay is locking in on his receivers. Detroit has covered in 4 of the last 5 contests in this match-up, but I like the Bears in this one. 10 seems like a lot for a Bears team that has yet to play a game decided by more than 6 points this year, but like I said, I like them to have their way with the Lions.
Cincinnati Bengals (-5.5) @ Cleveland Browns: The Bengals beat the Browns, that’s the way it has gone in 7 of the last 9 games between these two franchises. But history shmistery, I have better reasons for taking Cincinnati. One, the Bengals are actually good. Now the public apparently knows this as the game started out with the Bengals favored by jut 3.5, but the spread has shot up 2 full points already. I imagine it gets to 6, maybe 6.5 by Sunday. I think Vegas just put this spread out way too low, thinking the public still things the Bengals are the Bungles. Now don’t get me wrong, Cincinnati has proven over the years that they are always ready to take a step back into the Bungle past, but I don’t think it’s this week. Unlike year’s past, the Bengals are committed to the run these days. Cedric Benson may not be flashy, but he gets the job done, and I expect that to especially be the case against the Browns. The Brownies have been outrushed by 339 yards over the first three games. You can go ahead and do the math on that one, yes, lots of yards per game. I don’t know what Eric Man-Jina has done to this defense but they weren’t this bad against the run last year. They did have to play Baltimore and Minnesota in 2 of their first 3, but Denver outrushed the Browns by 132 yards. I think the Bengals kill in this one, but so does the public, 77% of them… ugh.
Oakland Raiders (+9) @ Houston Texans: This game has moved up to 9.5 and even 10 on some books, as 54% of the bets are still coming in on the Texans despite seeing the spread move 1.5 points in the Raiders’ favor. Listen, I like the Texans and I think Al Davis is the designer and carrier of all major diseases, but the Raiders shouldn’t be a two score underdog in Houston. Houston’s rushing attack hasn’t been good enough, but even if it is better against the Raiders, I know their rush defense won’t be. If you can’t stop a running team from running, it’s very hard to win by 10 points. You look at Houston’s past and you’ll see how rare it is that they kill an opponent. That’s because if you can’t stop the run, you rarely win big. I think the Raiders run the ball well here, keeping it close if nothing else.
Seattle Seahawks (+10.5) @ Indianapolis Colts: Like the Texans, the Colts can play in their fair share of close games as well. Now I don’t expect them to lose, but Seattle is going to run the ball, and they’re going to do it successfully. Seattle has also shown, with the exception of Frank Gore, an ability to stop the run. Now Peyton should pick the Hawks secondary apart, no doubt, but if Seneca can stay mistake free I think it will be very difficult for the Colts to win by more than 10 points. Again, you look at it historically and you’ll see it’s pretty rare. Don’t believe me? The Colts always win big? Try this: Indianapolis won 11 games last season, how many of them were by more than 10 points? You didn’t guess it, the answer is two. The Hawks are full of injuries, no doubt, but they get healthier on the offensive line this week, or so I’ve been reading, and I think that helps their covering cause.
Tennessee Titans (-3) @ Jacksonville Jaguars: 70% like Tennessee here. This is a very tough one for me, but in the end I’m with them. I would like to preface my selection with this: if the Titans weren’t 0-3 I would be taking the Jaguars here for sure. I think Jacksonville should find some openings in the Titan secondary, and MJD will probably have a decent day despite Tennessee’s stellar run defense. But the Titans can’t go 0-4. Nope, I don’t see it. This is not a losing team. Chris Johnson will have a big day, and LenDale White will have his best game of the year, scoring a touchdown or two as the Titans pull it off by a touchdown. I don’t think either of these teams is bad enough to be 1-3, but both will be after this weekend.
New York Giants @ Kansas City Chiefs (+9): The Giants have beaten the Chiefs by 10 or more points every time these two teams have played since 1998. Now that doesn’t mean much to me, I’m just saying so you know. The Giants can really run the ball, the Chiefs can’t stop the run. The Giants take full advantage of the passes they do attempt, the Chiefs shoot themselves in the foot with penalties like it’s their job. The Chiefs struggle with pressure put on them by opposing defenses, the Giants can make life hell on most quarterbacks while rushing just four guys. Now, I wanted to let you know all that stuff before I told you this: I’m taking the Chiefs (+9). Call me nuts, it wouldn’t be the first time, but I like the Chiefs to cover. KC isn’t as bad as the Bucs have been, and I’d say they are better than the Redskins. The Giants should have gotten beat by the Cowboys and they couldn’t put the finishing touches on the Redskins despite dominating that game. Everyone and their mother likes the Giants in this one, I think 9 is too many in Kansas City. There it is.
Baltimore Ravens @ New England Patriots (-1.5): The Ravens are a very good team, I just don’t think they match up well against the Patriots. Tom Brady and company should, like other teams the Ravens have played this year, find room to throw on Baltimore’s secondary. And they throw a lot. I don’t think the Patriots have a great defense, but they are the best unit Baltimore has gone against so far this year. KC, San Diego, and Cleveland aren’t going to scare anyone. I think the Patriots started to figure it out late last week against the Falcons, and that continues here. Baltimore has had trouble with prolific passing attacks in the past, and I think that historical norm continues this weekend. The Patriots favored by just a couple at home is good enough for me! As many of you know, I make my picks then check the public numbers, and I’m always excited to be surprised. How the public has forgotten about the Patriots, 57% like the road Ravens in this one. Crazy. That always makes me feel good.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Washington Redskins (-7): Well, I took the Redskins last week, so I have to take them here, at home, against a Bucs team that basically told the world that they are building for the future by benching Byron Leftwich, their starting quarterback that played pretty damn well to start the season. I’ve decided I’d rather take a talented team that doesn’t respect their head coach over a team that has already accepted losing all season long. Tough call, but that’s the direction I’m going. Haynesworth should be playing well this week, he’s listed as probably but said to be healthy, and if that’s the case I think the Redskins do a good job of shutting down the Bucs running game. They’ll have 8 in the box all game long, and I don’t think Josh Johnson in his first career start will torch the Redskins. Jason Campbell has looked decent to me, but the Redskins need to run the ball. I think they will, and that should give them a double digit win.
Buffalo Bills @ Miami Dolphins (+2): The Dolphins have a great running game that will be used even more extensively now that their starting QB is out. Now that defenses will have to prepare for a quarterback with a strong arm, I think the Dolphins will be tougher stack up against. With elite speed like Ted Ginn Jr.’s and a QB that can make all the throws, I can see the Dolphins getting some big play action plays going here. All Chad Henne has to do is not throw interceptions, and I really like the Dolphins chances – if he does get pick happy, I’m in trouble with this one. This game is close to a toss up for me, and both teams have a lot to play for in a very tough division – but I’ll take the home team and a running game that has really impressed me.
New York Jets (+7) @ New Orleans Saints: I like the Jets. Their defense is better than the Saints, they have great balance on offense, and the Saints didn’t play all that well last week despite winning 27-7 against Buffalo: it was 10-7 Saints in the 4th quarter. The Jets have a great secondary, the best the Saints will see this season. I just think the Jets are the better team, so +7 is way too big for me to think any other way.
Dallas Cowboys (-3) @ Denver Broncos: I think Dallas is a little overrated, but I also think Tony Romo has played poorly to start the season despite being very good. This Dallas team will win a lot of games, and should move to 3-1 with relative ease against the Broncos this week. Now Denver has been solid, and they are a decent team, no doubt, but getting some luck to beat Cincinnati, then methodically galloping through Cleveland and Oakland isn’t the same as matching up well with the Cowboys. The Broncos have used their rushing attack a lot over the last couple weeks, outrushing Oakland and Cleveland by 252 yards – but that won’t happen against Dallas. No-no. Kyle Orton will have to beat the Cowboys, and despite Orton’s winning ways during his tenure as a starter in this league, rarely does his team play well when he has to win with his arm. A road game for the Cowboys, but they’ll be hurting if they fall to 2-2 in the NFC East. I think they play very well in Denver and while the game will be closer than a lot of people think, I still think Dallas wins by a touchdown.
St. Louis Rams @ San Francisco 49ers (-9.5): The 49ers are as good as they’ve shown. They have a stout defense that brings it every play. They have elite players in the secondary, in the line backing crew, and on the defensive line. They have an offense that pounds it until opposing defenses can’t take it anymore. The only reason I’d take the Rams here is because they actually have a chance now that Marc Bulger is out. I think last week’s last second loss puts some piss and vinegar into the 49ers this week. They should be 3-0 if black magic didn’t strike them dead in Week 3. St. Louis is still the worst team in football, even with Bulger finally on the sidelines. This win would make San Francisco undefeated against the entire NFC West to start the season, and I know Mike Singletary will have made that an emphasis for this playoff bound 49ers squad. Now the 49ers aren’t going to win a lot of games by double digits, but they’re not going to play the Rams very often, either. Take them here, despite the high spread.
San Diego Chargers @ Pittsburgh Steelers (-6.5): Even the Steelers can run the ball against San Diego’s defense. Now Pittsburgh has played pretty poorly to start the season, never being able to finish, and lucking out to have just one win thus far (they should have lost to the Titans). But they’ll play better in this one. THe Chargers aren’t good defensively, and I don’t think they run with any success in Pittsburgh. I don’t think the world of the Steelers but doubt they drop to 1-3 to start the season, not with all that open room to accrue yardage against the Chargers defense. How does San Diego’s 24-20 win over Oakland look right now? How about their 10 point win against Miami when they were down 6-3 after Chad Pennington went down? Listen, neither of these teams is as good as everyone thought heading into the season, but Pittsburgh is still the better team. I like the over here a lot as well, but since I only take sides, I’ll just say I’m leaning on the over. Many big plays in this one, Steelers by 10 at home on Sunday Night Football.
Green Bay Packers @ Minnesota Vikings (-3.5): The Vikings are the better team. Defensively, offensively, probably in special teams as well. Green Bay has been pretty mediocre to start the season, both through the air and on the ground. Minnesota has done both well. Now, if you read my picks weekly, you’ll know that I usually bet against a team that I thought should have lost last week. The Vikings should have lost. Nobody throws a 40 yard laser to the back of the end zone with 2 seconds left to win the game – nobody besides Brett Favre and Steve Young. Brett did it last week to the Niners, and some years ago Steve did it to Brett’s defense in Green Bay. I love Brett’s competitive spirit too much to see him losing to his old team. Since Green Bay didn’t want him back, he’s been aiming to beat his old squad. He gets his chance for the first time this Monday Night, I’ll forget what I usually do and I’ll take the Vikings by a touchdown in this one.