After a very exciting week three, we’re starting to get a good read on the outlook of each NFL team. Still, with so many intriguing matchups on this week’s slate, we’ll learn a lot more this week; this will be a very important week; it’ll serve as the time where we can start truly judging teams and players, rather than overreact to small sample sizes. So, who’ll make a statement this week? Let’s predict every game in week four!
TNF: Philadelphia Eagles (1-2) at Green Bay Packers (3-0)
Spread Pick: GB (-4)
Over/Under Pick: Over (46)
Score Prediction: Eagles 21 Packers 31
Do the Eagles need to win this game to salvage their season? Not exactly; this is a talented team, and the schedule will eventually soften up. Still, with the way the division-rival Cowboys are playing, Philadelphia needs as many wins as possible to stay afloat in the NFC East. The problem is, they’re dealing with injuries at receiver (Desean Jackson), cornerback (Ronald Darby), and interior defensive line (Malik Jackson and Timmy Jernigan), and they’re facing one of the league’s best teams in the Packers. Green Bay’s defense is currently dominating, and although Carson Wentz has been excellent this season, it’ll be difficult for him to have success without Desean Jackson against a secondary that is very deep and athletic. Furthermore, Philadelphia’s pass rush has struggled, and that won’t change against a very strong Packers offensive line, which means Aaron Rodgers will have plenty of opportunities to expose this very weak secondary. It’s hard to imagine the Eagles being 1-3, but Green Bay matches up well against them, are the healthier team, and are at home; they’re the clear favorites to win this game; the spread should be much larger.
Titans (1-2) at Falcons (1-2)
Spread Pick: TEN (+4)
Over/Under Pick: Under (45.5)
Score Prediction: Titans 20 Falcons 17
Last week, the Falcons lost to an AFC South team that relies on the running game and good enough defense to generate wins. Yes, from Pro Football Focus’ grades, Atlanta outplayed the Colts last week, but their general lack of toughness and undisciplined play was evident, and that could cost them against a tough, hungry Titans team. Tennessee’s defense is generally very opportunistic and at its best when they can generate pressure, and considering the poor state of Atlanta’s offensive line, they should have the advantage in that department. Generally, the Titans are also strong against 11-personnel, which the Falcons rely on, and they also have ten days to prepare for this game; add in that Atlanta’s defense isn’t in a position to expose Tennesee’s conservative offense, and this has all the makings of a close, low-scoring game, which would favor the Titans in an upset.
Browns (1-2) at Ravens (2-1)
Spread Pick: CLE (+6.5)
Over/Under Pick: Over (45.5)
Score Prediction: Browns 31 Ravens 26
As the Browns’ hype train has quickly fallen, the Ravens’ hype train is just getting started. Due to a few highlight-reel plays from Lamar Jackson, and a rough primetime loss for the Browns against the Rams, NFL fans are forgetting one key fact: the Browns are simply better than the Ravens. Whereas Jackson relied on luck and looked very squirmy in the pocket, and Baltimore as a whole was lucky to have any fighting chance in Kansas City, Cleveland didn’t play badly against the Rams, despite several injuries and being on a short week. The Ravens defense has notoriously struggled against 11-personnel, which the Browns are running 84% of the time, and don’t have the pass rush to exploit a weak offensive line. Furthermore, Cleveland is strong enough up front defensively to not have to put extra focus on stopping Baltimore’s elite rushing attack, which allows them to focus on stopping Jackson, which they should be able to do, especially if Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams are able to play in this game. In other words, the better team and quarterback, who happen to match up well versus their opponent, is a 6.5-point underdog; that’s absurd, and the Browns will prove themselves as the best team in the division this weekend.
Patriots (3-0) at Bills (3-0)
Spread Pick: NE (-7)
Over/Under: Under (42.5)
Score Prediction: Pats 19 Bills 7
Last season, the Dolphins got off to a 3-0 start by playing lesser teams, had a matchup against the Patriots, and was hyped up as the team that would finally challenge the kings of the AFC East. Instead, they were blown out, and ended up finishing four games behind New England. The Bills are a better team than the Dolphins were last year, but a major reason for their 3-0 start is their opponents (Jets, Giants, Bengals); they’re probably not prepared to take on a team that looks unbeatable at the moment. Buffalo has a very talented defense that has had success against the Patriots in the past, and with receiver Julian Edelman banged up and fullback James Develin on injured reserve, there’s a good chance the Pats don’t score 20 points in this game. Still, New England’s defense hasn’t allowed a touchdown this season, and it’s hard to see Josh Allen being a serious challenger for him. In order to win this game, he has to practically flawless, but considering how turnover prone he tends to be, that won’t be the case. Therefore, this a game in which Tom Brady can just be a game manager, and with a few forced turnovers, New England can coast to a road victory that once again will prove to the world that their reign on the division isn’t ending anytime soon.
Chiefs (3-0) at Lions (2-0-1)
Spread Pick: KC (-7)
Over/Under: Over (55)
Score Prediction: Chiefs 41 Lions 24
The Lions are technically undefeated at 2-0-1, and there’s a lot of reason to back them keeping that up against the explosive Chiefs. Head coach Matt Patricia has played this Andy Reid-style offense a lot from his days in New England, and has had some success facing him. Furthermore, Detroit’s run-heavy approach should work against the league’s worst run defense, which could set the tone of this game as a nasty, close game, which is not Kansas City’s strength. Still, the latter concern didn’t matter against the Ravens last week, and as for the former, the Lions are not built to stop this team. Detroit’s secondary has struggled on passes down the field this season, lack a pass rush, and don’t have great linebackers. Considering the Chiefs have been dominant in the vertical passing game and utilize their running backs really well as receivers, that’s an issue; the Lions don’t have the athleticism on defense to properly match up with Kansas City. Furthermore, though the Chiefs will struggle to stop Detroit’s rushing attack, they still have an elite pass rush that matches up well versus this mediocre offensive line, and their secondary hasn’t been as bad as anticipated this season. These teams are on different levels, and that’ll be exposed on Sunday; the only real challenge to the Chiefs at this point is the Patriots.
Panthers (1-2) at Texans (2-1)
Spread Pick: HOU (-3.5)
Over/Under Pick: Under (47.5)
Score Prediction: Panthers 20 Texans 24
Many wrote off the Panthers after the 0-2 start, but the change from the injured Cam Newton to Kyle Allen under center was always going to be an upgrade; Newton was holding the team back. As a result, Carolina came out firing on the road against the Cardinals, and have a chance to replicate that success against the Texans. Houston’s secondary is very thin, which doesn’t bode well for their chances of stopping the Panthers’ two playmaking receivers in DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel, and it’s also worth noting that Carolina’s offensive line played much better with Allen getting the ball out quicker. However, there’s a reason that the games are played. It’s very tough to win back-to-back road games in the NFL, and teams tend to drop off in a backup quarterback’s second game; the energy isn’t usually the same. Plus, the Texans offense is slowly becoming something special. Despite facing three strong pass rushes, their offensive line held up, and no corner on Carolina’s roster can seriously matchup against DeAndre Hopkins. This is a relatively even game, but when that’s the case, I’ll take the star power of Watson and Hopkins, and the little advantages Houston carries in the matchup. Still, this will be an incredibly close game, and if the Panthers were able to win, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised.
Raiders (1-2) at Colts (2-1)
Spread Pick: OAK (+6.5)
Over/Under Pick: Under (45.5)
Score Prediction: Raiders 17 Colts 23
The Colts may not have Andrew Luck, but they’ve been scrappy this season, and as a result, are 2-1 this season. They have prime opportunity to go to 3-1 with a home game against the hapless Raiders, but it won’t be as easy as originally thought. Safety Malik Hooker, linebacker Darius Leonard, and reciever TY Hilton will all not play this game, while top corner Pierre Desir is questionable. For those counting, that’s arguably their three best defensive players and their best offensive skill position player; Indianapolis will be in mini-survival mode this week. Luckily for them, this is the perfect matchup to do so. Oakland has an absolutely dreadful run defense, while the Colts like the run the ball often behind their strong offensive line. It’s very easy to imagine Marlon Mack rushing for 150+ yards in this game, and if that’s the case, it’ll force Derek Carr to be more than a game manager; Indianapolis will control the time of possession by a large margin. Since Carr continues to be a very conservative quarterback not capable of stretching the ball through the air, that formula will be a winning formula; the Colts will continue to be at the top of the division.
Chargers (1-2) at Dolphins (0-3)
Spread Pick: LAC (-14.5)
Over/Under Pick: Under (44.5)
Score Prediction: Chargers 27 Dolphins 10
It’s been a rough couple weeks for the Chargers, who’ve lost back-to-back close winnable games to the Lions and Texans. However, they’re about to start a very easy stretch of games, and that starts with the easiest of all: a free win against the tanking Dolphins. Los Angeles’ roster may be decimated with injuries, but their talent is still on another level compared to Miami. Their pass rush duo of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram has yet to break out, but against by far the league’s worst offensive line, they could each have 3+ sacks. Furthermore, facing a pass defense that features no pass rush and a very thin secondary, Phillip Rivers should have field day in this game; the outcome should be known by halftime. This is Miami’s third straight game against a top-ten team and legitimate Super Bowl contender, and like their matchups against the Patriots and Cowboys, they’ll fail to cover, despite being 14.5-point home underdogs.
Redskins (0-3) at Giants (1-2)
Spread Pick: WSH (+3)
Over/Under Pick: Over (48.5)
Score Prediction: Redskins 27 Giants 24
In a matchup between NFC East bottom dwellers, the Redskins and Giants will essentially try to preserve hope for their outlook this season. With reports that Redskins head coach Jay Gruden could be fired with a loss, there’s a lot for Washington to play for, while New York will continue to feed off the energy caused by the insertion of sixth overall pick Daniel Jones. Essentially, since both teams are talent-deficient, it’s a coin-flip, and because of that, I’ll take the team still needing their first win. 0-3 teams don’t usually fall to 0-4, unless their the Dolphins, and anyways, Washington has some small advantages. They’ve gotten good production from the receivers this year, especially third-round rookie Terry McLaurin, and that should continue against arguably the league’s worst secondary. Plus, Jones is bound to regress slightly after a strong first outing, the Redskins aren’t completely without talent on the defense, and although his value is diminished as running back, not having Saquon Barkley will still hurt. The Redskins are likely to be the hungrier team and have more talent, and as a result, they’ll get their first win of the year against a divisional rival.
Seahawks (2-1) at Cardinals (0-2-1)
Spread Pick: SEA (-5.5)
Over/Under Pick: Under (47.5)
Score Prediction: Seahawks 24 Cardinals 16
As a draft prospect last year, Kyler Murray’s most common comparison was Russell Wilson. Both quarterbacks excel at improvising, have elite accuracy, are smaller-stature quarterbacks, and have the ability to elevate the players around them. Now, Murray gets a chance to face off against the veteran in what will be the first of several matchups between the two. The Seahawks are more of a mediocre team than a true playoff contender, but unfortunately for Murray, Arizona doesn’t have enough talent to win this game. With receivers Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, Wilson has two elite vertical threats, and against a secondary that clearly misses Patrick Peterson, the duo may too much for the Cardinals to contain. If Seattle opts to run the ball a lot, as they tend to do, it’s not as though Arizona is very strong up front, and the big chunk plays will still be there through the air for the Seahawks. Plus, while Seattle doesn’t have a great pass defense, their pass rush should do fine against the Cardinals’ awful offensive line, and Kliff Kingsbury’s offense has been too conservative to suggest they’ll able to create chunk plays the way Wilson can. How this quarterback matchup fares in the future remains to be seen, but for now, Murray will have to wait before he can truly have attempt to get the upper hand.
Buccanneers (1-2) at Rams (3-0)
Spread Pick: LAR (-9)
Over/Under: Under (49)
Score Prediction: Bucs 17 Rams 30
Last week against the Giants at home, the Bucs blew a 28-10 second-half lead, but after a great drive by Jameis Winston and Mike Evans, needed just a 34-yard field goal to win. Instead, rookie kicker Matt Gay missed the field goal, and with a very difficult matchup against an undefeated Rams team up ahead, they’ve put themselves in a hole. They couldn’t stop Daniel Jones, receiver Sterling Shepard, and tight end Evan Engram, and now, they’ll have to try to contain one of the league’s best offenses. The lack of experience from Tampa Bay’s undisciplined secondary is showing, and facing three elite receivers in Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, and Cooper Kupp, this will be an optimal game for Jared Goff to get back on track, especially in the play-action passing game. Meanwhile, Los Angeles’ defense is very opportunistic and has the corner depth necessary to slow down Evans and Chris Godwin, while their revamped pass rush should expose the Bucs’ offensive line. In their comfortable environment and with a chance to go 4-0 before an important primetime matchup against the Seahawks, the Rams won’t drop the ball in this game; this is simply a complete mismatch.
Vikings (2-1) at Bears (2-1)
Spread Pick: CHI (-1)
Over/Under: Under (38)
Score Prediction: Vikings 10 Bears 16
Last season, the Bears defense allowed just 30 points in two games against the Vikings, sweeping the season series. Additionally, Kirk Cousins’ putrid record against teams with a winning record is well known, especially on the road. Yet, the Bears are only one-point home favorites in this matchup? Honestly, that’s absurd. With elite ballhawks in the secondary such as safeties Eddie Jackson and Ha-Ha Clinton Dix, they have one of the most consistently opportunistic defenses in the NFL, and given Cousin’s mistake-prone tendencies, that could play a major role in this game. Furthermore, if Minnesota tries to run the ball with Dalvin Cook, they’ll be met by Chicago’s elite front seven, particularly against an extremely bad offensive line. Said offensive line figures to have little chance against the Bears’ pass rush, and as a result, Cousins figures to take a beating in this game. Yes, Chicago’s offense isn’t exactly functional right now, and the Vikings have a strong defense in their own right, but quarterback Mitch Trubisky’s home-road splits are significant, and they’re probably the better bet to do enough to let their defense carry them to victory. It’ll be very low-scoring, but the Bears have significant advantages in this game that’ll result in a huge win for them.
Jaguars (1-2) at Broncos (0-3)
Spread Pick: DEN (-2.5)
Over/Under Pick: Under (37.5)
Score Prediction: Jags 13 Broncos 17
With sixth-round rookie Gardner Minshew becoming a fan favorite, and the Jaguars showing out strong last week on Thursday Night Football, the public is betting heavily on Jacksonville in their road affair with the Broncos. That’s not exactly surprising; it’s normal for fans to opt for the more flashy and exciting teams and players, and that’s certainly not a Broncos team led by Joe Flacco. However, flashy isn’t always better; Denver will be able to do just enough to secure their first win of the season. For as well as Minshew’s been playing, there’s a reason he was a sixth-round pick; he has several limitations. The Broncos may not have a sack or a forced turnover this season, but that’ll obviously change at some point with an elite pass rush led by Von Miller and a secondary led by Chris Harris Jr. Assuming Miller and Bradley Chubb can feast on Jacksonville’s questionable tackle situation, there’s a lot of reasons to believe head coach Vic Fangio’s defense can break out in this game. If that holds true, an offense that has been serviceable should be able to feed of off the defense; that’s their winning formula. Here’s another way to think of this game; the Broncos should’ve beaten the Bears in week two, and Jacksonville is practically the same team, but less talented; despite dealing with some injuries, Denver will avoid going 0-4, especially behind their great home-field advantage.
SNF: Cowboys (3-0) at Saints (2-1)
Spread Pick: DAL (-2.5)
Over/Under Pick: Over (47.5)
Score Prediction: Cowboys 41 Saints 10
Last season, the Cowboys exposed the Saints’ offense, holding them to ten points in primetime. Now, they’re without Drew Brees, and Teddy Bridgewater relies on screens and short passes EVEN MORE. In other words, New Orleans doesn’t stand a chance against Dallas. In their road win against the Seahawks last week, the Saints needed a punt return touchdown, a fumble recovery touchdown, an Alvin Kamara screen pass touchdown, and some short fields. It’s very unlikely they’ll replicate that luck again, however, and the fearsome linebacker duo of Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch will neutralize Kamra, while Byron Jones will doe the same with receiver Michael Thomas. On the other side of the ball, the Cowboys’ elite offensive line and usage of play-action passes will take away the Saints pass rush, which will, in turn, allow Dak Prescott to have a field day against a substandard secondary. Even adding onto Dallas’ case further, New Orleans has really struggled against outside runs this year, and the Cowboys have utilized that heavily with Ezekiel Elliot and rookie Tony Pollard. Everything is working in the Cowboys favor; they’ll completely blow out the Saints in New Orleans, proving them to be the class of the NFC, while the Saints remain an average at best team without Brees.
MNF: Bengals (0-3) at Steelers (3-0)
Spread Pick: PIT (-3)/PUSH
Over/Under Pick: Over/PUSH (45)
Score Prediction: Bengals 21 Steelers 24
Neither the Bengals nor Steelers will be contenders in the AFC North, but still, both teams certainly should be motivated to pick up their first win of the season. Mason Rudolph’s first start under center in Pittsburgh was a disaster, but against a Cincinnati’s secondary, he’s bound to improve. Theoretically, with all the weapons he has (receivers Juju Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Diontae Johnson, and running back James Conner), Pittsburgh’s offense should be able to put up 30 points, especially with their offensive line likely to limit a pretty strong defensive line and pass rush, though that’s definitely not a certainty until Rudolph shows any sort of promise. Defensively, the Steelers are weak at linebacker and in the secondary, and as a result, Andy Dalton could have success with receivers Tyler Boyd and John Ross, as well as tight end Tyler Eifert, when he has time to throw. That’s a big if, however; the Bengals have one of the worst offensive lines, while the Steelers have a front four capable of limiting running back Joe Mixon and harassing Dalton. That’ll likely be the difference, though this is essentially a 50-50 game that should come down to the wire; picking the winner of this game is more about picking against one of these teams than actually putting faith in either of these defective rosters.