NFL Picks - Week 4

Sunday Morning

Cincinnati @ Atlanta
It’s Week 4, so you know what that means ... Bye weeks are back! I’m a huge fan of bye weeks; such a fan that I might even take one myself this season (“might” meaning I definitely will). Byes allow me to utilize the amount of focus I’d normally allot to 16 games and apply it to (in this week’s case) 15 games. That’s an extra 6.25% of focus to spread across the rest of the schedule. In other words, buckle your seatbelt baby! It’s time to unleash a little bit of that 6.25. Here we go ... Bengals and Falcons ... Uhh ... Let’s see ... Well, they have a common opponent this season in the Panthers. Cincy lost to them by 10 in Carolina, while the Falcons beat them by 7 in Atlanta. So this should be a 17 point win for the Falcons. Or is this like the house-painting equation where you have to divide the sum by the difference? Hmm, yeah that sounds better. Ok, off to a bad start, I promise I’ll put that 6.25% to better use on the rest of these.

Falcons 30-24 

Tampa Bay @ Chicago
Alright, it’s time for the weekly Ryan Fitzpatrick MVP status check: is Ryan Fitzpatrick still the NFL MVP? Not quite. He’s probably in the top five, but after throwing three interceptions in his team’s first loss of the season on Monday, FitzMagic regressed towards FitzSurprising. Even with his costly mistakes he still managed to throw for over 400 yards and continued to make a clear and obvious statement that he should remain Tampa’s starting quarterback regardless of whether or not Jameis Winston is available. Case in point, in my MVP rankings Winston is currently third from last, just ahead of Nathan Peterman and Clay Matthews. The Bears are 2-1 on the strength of their defense ensuring that Mitchell Trubisky doesn’t have to do much. Chicago’s offense has put up 16, 17, and 16 points in their three games this season. They’ll most likely need more against Tampa’s bafflingly high-powered offensive attack. Is that possible? Remains to be seen. If I knew that score-picking biz would be a lot easier.

Bears 27-23 

Detroit @ Dallas
Going into the season it seemed clear to pundits and fans alike that the Cowboys had a glaring positional weakness at wide receiver. That became all the more obvious last Sunday when Dak Prescott did not attempt a pass more than 15 yards downfield. Suffice it to say, Dallas needs someone to get open. Either that or they could keep running a boring offense because they don’t have a choice and the rest of us can revel in their ineptitude. Actually, I like that option better, keep doing what you’re doing Boys!

Cowboys 20-17 

Buffalo @ Green Bay
Last week I marveled at the Packers being undefeated while only outscoring their opponents by 1 point on the season. Well now we’re three games into the season and they’ve managed to go .500, a rare feat that was somehow accomplished by FOUR teams this season. Whatever dark overlord controls these NFL season simulations clearly got bored this year and is trying out some new stuff. How else would you explain the Bills going into Minnesota and trouncing the Vikings? Exactly; an apathetic NFL God is the most logical answer. Those Vikings that Buffalo creamed are the same squad that Green Bay battled to a stalemate in Week 2. So it stands to reason that the Bills will waltz into Lambeau and lambast the Packers, right? If you said yes, then you clearly aren’t familiar with Balthazar the Simulator. 

Packers 34-17 

Philadelphia @ Tennessee 
The Titans are somehow 2-1 after beating the Jags 9-6 last week. Those 9 points are the lowest total for a winner this season. Marcus Mariota came off the bench for Tennessee and piloted them to that win, which shouldn’t be surprising considering that he’s regularly praised for being an efficient QB. What’s more efficient than scoring as few points as possible in securing a win? No wasted effort! The Eagles also did just enough to win in Week 3, scoring a game-winning touchdown late in the 4th quarter to top the Colts in Carson Wentz’s return. Just like the Titans, it wasn’t pretty but it got the job done. That’s probably what we should expect from this game, a couple of workmanlike efforts; no frills. It will be the equivalent of eating a Clif Bar. Am I excited to eat it? No. Does it taste good? Not really. But it has useful calories damn it! If you want intrigue from your nourishment look elsewhere.

Eagles 17-16 

Houston @ Indianapolis 
In my season preview I got carried away and picked the Texans to make the AFC title game. They are now one of only three winless teams in the league. I could try to rescind my prediction and edit my original post to insert a more sensible choice, but unfortunately I just have too damn much journalistic integrity to do so. Gah, why do I hold myself to such a high standard?!? Since I’m stuck with Houston they’re going to have to start improving pronto so that people don’t start thinking I could possibly be an idiot who should not be considered an authority nor even a coherent commentator on the subject of the NFL. Now that would be truly dire. So much so, that I’m afraid to even confront it, let’s move on.

Texans 26-23 

Miami @ New England
This game features one of only three undefeated teams in the NFL. Surprisingly that team is the Miami Dolphins. As we discussed in this space a week ago that’s most likely a symptom of a favorable opening schedule, but hey they’re still beating these trash teams, so they deserve some credit. The Dolphins are merely taking advantage of the circumstances presented to them. If that sentence were used to describe a person from Miami, or any of Florida, it would be concerning, but since we’re talking about a football team we shouldn’t be too skeeved out. New England fans, however, should be disgusted by the Patriots’ performance over the last couple weeks, especially their total stinker on Sunday night in Detroit against a winless Lions team. Stinkers in Detroit are nothing new, but for the Pats it’s troubling to say the least. I imagine this game will act as a collective anomaly correction, tempering both the Dolphins’ expectations, and New England’s consternation. 

Patriots 30-20 

New York Jets @ Jacksonville 
Well it happened, on Sunday Blake Bortles fell back to earth like so many of his errant passes. Like I said last week, it was only a matter of time, I just didn’t think it was going to happen so quickly. But it makes sense, the larger the sample size becomes, the more likely it is that Bortles will regress to the mean ... and then keep going right past that to below average. It’s like those videos of a toddler sinking shots on his/her Fisher Price hoop; sure they made them all in this edited video, but if we kept the camera rolling all day, I’d be willing to bet that they end up shooting sub 40% from the field. I’m guessing Bortles will make enough throws/shots into his plastic hoop to get Jacksonville this win.

Jaguars 23-13 

Sunday Afternoon

Cleveland @ Oakland
The Browns won a game last week. That might seem like a dry, uninspired sentence, but really just the fact that it’s factual makes it amazing. It’s the first time anyone’s been able to say that since Week 17 of 2016. And you have to go back another 17 games to find their last win before that. So the sheer magnitude of its mere occurrence should not be overlooked. And it certainly wasn’t in Cleveland, where the fans celebrated as if ... well as if their football team had finally won a football game for the first time in 21 months. The Browns will have had a full 10 days to bask in this foreign afterglow when they step on to the infield/shallow outfield at the Oakland coliseum. Will they be jaded by their newfound success? Or will they be just as hungry to get another W and ensure the highest win total for a Browns season since 2015? I think Oakland gets the win, because they're at home, and they need it more.

Raiders 20-15 

Seattle @ Arizona 
In their three games thus far the Cardinals have faced the top two scoring defenses (Rams and Washington) in the NFL (Going into Week 4). Tough luck one might assume, but I would argue that in such a small sample size those teams have given up so few points because they faced the Cardinals. Case in point, those teams have given up an average of 19 points to non-Cardinal opponents, while surrendering 1.5 per game to Arizona. Of course, the Cardinals figure to improve offensively for a couple reasons: first off, it would be hard for them not to, and secondly they decided to move on from Sam Bradford as their starting quarterback, opting to go with rookie Josh Rosen for Week 4. Will Rosen be any better? The fact that he isn’t Sam Bradford suggests that he will be. He’ll need to be careful though, because he’s facing a Seahawks defense that’s tied for the league lead with 7 interceptions. I expect Arizona to top a point and a half, but still not amass enough for a win.

Seahawks 20-10 


New Orleans @ New York Giants
Saints continue to be the most entertaining team in the league. Shootouts, wild finishes, unpredictability. The Full House theme song scribe would be disgusted, but I’m loving it. What’s more is, the last time these teams met in 2015, it resulted in a mind-boggling 52-49 melee that featured 13 touchdown passes (Ok, they actually played again in 2016, but the final in that game was 16-13, so let’s just pretend it never happened). So surely this game will be of the must-watch variety. At this point though, you could say that about any game involving Eli Manning, there’s no telling what he might do ... Which of course means that he’ll now throw 2 TDs and an interception in a ho hum loss, and you’ll all be pissed at me. But come on, if you’ve been reading for this long and you’re not already upset is this really what’s going to push you over the edge?

Saints 28-20 

San Francisco @ Los Angeles Chargers 
Female viewership between the ages of 18-49 declined sharply for the 49ers with just under 6 minutes left in their loss to the Chiefs on Sunday. This seemed to coincide with Jimmy Garoppolo’s exit from the game due to a knee injury. Advertisers be advised, those numbers are expected to stay near that nadir with the confirmation that Garoppolo will indeed miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL. Though there will be more shots of him on the sideline without his helmet obscuring his face, so who knows, maybe this was a blessing in disguise for that aforementioned demographic. As for San Francisco’s actual on-field product, their season may has well have been riding shotgun on the medical cart with Garoppolo as he left the field. It’s not as if his play had been out-of-this-world, but Garoppolo is at least an average starter in the league, and he’s been replaced with an average starter at Iowa. 

Chargers 35-13 

Sunday Night

Baltimore @ Pittsburgh
As always this is a pivotal match-up in the AFC North, and who better to provide us with analysis than Sunday Night Football color commentator Cris Collinsworth:
A lot to digest there CC, but I'll side with you on your pick.

Steelers 33-20

Monday Night 

Kansas City @ Denver 
Pat Mahomes has started the season, and pretty much his NFL career (if we’re not counting his lone start at the end of last season) by throwing for 13 TDs and 0 interceptions. That puts him on track for 69 TDs on the season. With a stat like that, it’s clear that this guy has it all figured out. The Chiefs defense, on the other hand, is still trying to get a handle on things. They’ve given up an average of about 31 points per game, good for third worst in the league. Of course, they’re getting by because the KC offense has scored the most points in the NFL entering Week 4. Basically the Chiefs’ defense is the coaster in a group project. They know that their class mate is such an over-achiever that they only have to do so much on their end to get an A. And sure, that’s all well and good for now, but what’s going to happen to the KC defense when they’re on their own in the real world and they have to rely on themselves? Then we’ll see how cool and laid back they are. They make me sick, and they'll win again this week.

Chiefs 31-26 



NFL Picks - Week 4 Thursday

Minnesota @ Los Angeles Rams
Alright, let’s take a look at what crummy contest they’re shoving down our throats this Thursday ... Whoa! Vikings/Rams?!? This is a triple P special (Possible Playoff Preview) and we’re getting it on a Thursday. That’s borderline shocking. But is it too good for TNF? We all like to complain about how lousy the Thursday night match-ups are, but now that we have a good one it almost feels irresponsible on the league’s part. This game could help determine playoff seeding in the NFC and it’s being played on a short week when neither team is likely to be at their best. Of course, that argument, and the Vikings’ playoff aspirations, took a bit of a hit on Sunday when they were blown out by the Bills in Minnesota. Sure it’s only one game, but beforehand Buffalo looked to be the worst team in the league, and remember this is a league in which Sam Bradford was a starting quarterback for the first 3 weeks. As it stands now it’s fair to wonder if the Vikings are who we thought they were. Meanwhile the Rams are rolling, and appear to still be at least a few weeks away from being torn asunder by their myriad character issues. Both of their starting cornerbacks are out for this one, so the point total could go up, but I still expect LA to stay undefeated.

Rams 27-24 



NFL Picks - Week 3

Sunday Morning 
New Orleans @ Atlanta
The Saints opened the season with home games against Tampa and Cleveland. On paper, before the season, that was seemingly the easiest schedule in the league. New Orleans barely managed to escape that stretch at 1-1. Not an encouraging start for a team that many considered a Super Bowl contender. In Week 1 their defense was obliterated. In Week 2 their offense could only manage 3 points prior to the 4th quarter. This alternating ineptitude on either side of the ball means the most likely outcome of this game is: special teams catastrophes! I’m guessing that punter Thomas Morstead will accidentally hit the ball too high in his drop and kick the ball directly into his own face mask, wedging it there. He’ll panic and attempt to get the first down, but since he won’t be able to see past the obstruction he’ll run the wrong direction, eventually crashing into the goal post stanchion once he races through his own end zone. The play will result in a safety and the end of Morstead’s career. He’ll retire out of embarrassment. This will result in New Orleans having to go for it on all subsequent 4th downs, due to their lack of a punter. This will not be beneficial.

Falcons 27-23 

Green Bay @ Washington 
After two weeks the Packers are undefeated and have outscored their opponents by a total of 1 point. That has to be the first time that’s ever happened, it’s almost a statistical impossibility. Thank God for ties! Meanwhile Washington followed up what looked like an impressive Week 1 effort with a real stinker at home last Sunday. That opening win in Arizona may continue to look less meaningful the more we see the Cardinals play. Could Green Bay cut loose and really run away with this one? I think so. Look for them to win by 3 maybe 4 points. 

Packers 23-20 

Indianapolis @ Philadelphia 
With Carson Wentz set to return to the field this Sunday it appears that the Nick Foles era is done for now. What will be your greatest memory of his time as the Eagles starting quarterback? For me it would be that time he won the Super Bowl and was named the game’s MVP. In two starts this season though Foles was unable to replicate his postseason success, only managing to throw for one touchdown pass. But isn’t it better that he’s been unremarkable? If he was just awesome now, that championship performance wouldn’t be quite so magical. So thank you Nick Foles for returning to mediocrity, and in the process making us all believe that on any given day we too can do something remarkable. The situation as it is also helps the Eagles smoothly transition back to Wentz without any hesitation. I expect Philly to grind out a win as their franchise QB shakes the rust off. And watching it all from the sidelines with an earpiece and a clipboard will be a schlub who happens to be the reigning Super Bowl MVP.

Eagles 19-17 

Buffalo @ Minnesota 
In the history of the NFL, two franchises are tied with for the worst Super Bowl record, at 0-4. You’re looking at them. Each of these fanbases are so intertwined with misery that it feels wrong to play this game in the sparkling new U.S. Bank Stadium. It would feel more appropriate at an abandoned mall. That’s more about history than anything though, because presently these teams look promising. For the Vikings, that means they have Super Bowl aspirations. For the Bills that means they’re promising that they’re actually trying to win football games. You could forgive anybody that’s watched them play this season for suspecting otherwise. The 17 point spread on this game is the highest of the season, but if I were Bills coach Sean McDermott I wouldn’t bring that up to my team; I wouldn’t want them getting a big head and thinking they can hang within 17 points of the Vikings. 

Vikings 31-6 

Oakland @ Miami 
Miami has a very real shot at remaining undefeated for another week. They may owe much of that to their soft schedule though. After this game we’ll likely be wondering, are these Phins 3-0 or 3 & faux? As for the Raiders, they let one slip away last week, and another close loss wouldn’t just leave them at 0-3, it would make them D’oh & 3. Hey Homer Simpson, get out of here man! And don’t have a cow while you’re at it! 

Dolphins 20-17 

Denver @ Baltimore 
Last season the Ravens were a mercurial team on their way to a 9-7 record. Their average win was by 18 points, whereas their average loss was by 10. So far in 2018 they’ve picked up right where they left off, winning their opener by 44 then dropping their next game by 11. It’s ironic that such an extremist squad is quarterbacked by a man that’s seemingly never shown a human emotion. The Broncos have won two close games so far, but as we just discussed, they shouldn’t count on this being a tight contest either way. I guess what I’m getting at here is that you shouldn’t bother watching this game. If it turns out to be really great don’t @ me, @ the stats ... or the st@s. 

Ravens 27-13 

Cincinnati @ Carolina 
Being in different conferences, these teams only play each other once every four years. So what happened when these two clashed in 2014 you ask? Are you sure you want to know? You might regret it ... Ok fine, but you asked for it. The last time the Carolina Panthers played the Cincinnati Bengals, on October the 12th in the year 2014 the winner was ... no one! They TIED! That’s right, in this, the season of the tie we’re having a tie rematch. We’ve seen one stalemate per Sunday so far, could this be our third in three weeks? Will they tie for the second straight time? A double knot? Of course! It’s fated to be.

TIE 26-26 

New York Giants @ Houston 
Talk about two teams who have had disappointing starts to the season ... Go ahead, talk about them, I don’t feel like writing right now ... Ugh, fine. You know I’ve been noticing you really don’t pull your weight around here. Deshaun Watson has so far failed to regain his rookie season form that saw him light up scoreboards and hearts alike. Meanwhile, Eli Manning has regained his past form, it’s just not the one New York was hoping for. I’m guessing the home team will get the win, but I’m not sure I should place any credence on whether the Giants are home or away, because Eli Manning clearly doesn’t know where he is at any given moment on a football field. 

Texans 24-16 

Tennessee @ Jacksonville 
In Week 2 the Jaguars took a step towards exorcising their postseason demons from last season by convincingly beating the Patriots behind a dominant effort from ... double-checking notes ... Blake Bortles. We’ve seen occasional flashes of brilliance from Bortles before that remind us that he was indeed the 3rd overall pick in the draft at one time. The real question, as always, is whether or not he can maintain this. If he can, the Jaguars will win the Super Bowl. Unfortunately the answer to that question has always been no. It's just a matter of figuring out when he falls back to earth and subsequently burrows beneath the ground into a hole from which no passes can escape. I say he stays up for air this Sunday and gets Jacksonville to 3-0. But if you see a giant dirt clod in the Jags’ backfield midway through the 2nd quarter you’ll know what’s happening.

Jaguars 29-9 

San Francisco @ Kansas City 
Here’s how I see this one going: Standing in the tunnel to the locker room, looking out to the field is a shadowy figure in a trench coat. It’s hard to make out his face but he exudes the vibe of a grizzled man, one who’s been ravaged by the inevitable march of time, one who’s seen a lot, perhaps too much. You may feel sympathy for him, but he’d never ask you to. Suddenly the sun glints on his weathered visage and we see that it’s Alex Smith. He’s returned to gaze upon his old squadrons and take account of how they’re doing in their new lives, with their new quarterbacks. But as quickly as we see that it’s him he turns to leave. Maybe because he doesn’t want anybody to know he was there. Or maybe he’s going to find a change of clothes because he’s wearing a trench coat and it’s 80 degrees in Kansas City. But probably because the Washington game is scheduled at the same time and he’s now running very late.

Chiefs 35-24 

Sunday Afternoon

Los Angeles Chargers @ Los Angeles Rams
It’s the battle of Los Angeles, but unfortunately this one won’t feature Aaron Eckhart. Unless he shows up to the game, but I doubt he will, he’s usually busy with other stuff on Sundays. Er, at least I imagine he is. Anyway, here we have the Rams versus that other team that plays in LA, and it could be a decent match-up. Normally in a split city environment (Giants/Jets or Raiders/Niners) the home team has to consider the likelihood that their crowd may not be as one-sided as usual. Something tells me that won’t be a factor in this one. In fact, there might even be fewer opposing fans than there normally are in the Coliseum. I’m not saying there won’t be any Charger fans in attendance, I assume Phil Rivers’ family will be there, which means LAC have at least 18 people pulling for them. Sadly I don’t think that will be enough.

Rams 31-19 

Dallas @ Seattle 
This is the Seahawks’ home opener and (somewhat sadly) the player that the people of Seattle may be most excited to see is rookie punter Michael Dickson. It’s really a great scenario for the struggling Seahawks offense, because even when they fail the crowd will still be buzzing on 4th down. But it’s not just punts, last week Dickson drop-kicked a penalty-shortened kickoff inside the 5 and then proceeded to attempt a drop-kick onside kick. The latter was far from effective, and was only attempted because Hawks’ kicker Sebastian Janikowski has (mind-bogglingly) never successfully converted a 4th quarter onside kick in his 17 year career. So in other words, the Seahawks will not be recovering an onside kick this season. But I don’t think that will be a problem, because I don’t expect them to be behind again in any 4th quarter from here on out. 

Seahawks 23-16 

Chicago @ Arizona 
If I were on the Cardinals I would feel very disrespected. They have to hear all this talk about how the Bills are the worst team in the league, as if they (the Cardinals) haven’t put up only 6 points over two weeks. As if they haven’t lost their games by 18 and 34 points. As if their quarterback isn't Sam Bradford. What more do these guys need to do to prove themselves to you?!? What, not reach double-digit points over the first 3 weeks combined? Will that make you happy? Very well. 

Bears 20-3 

Sunday Night 

New England @ Detroit 
After a tumultuous week off the field the Patriots travel to Detroit to take on the struggling Lions. And we look to Sunday Night Football analyst Cris Collinsworth to preview this match-up:
Thanks for the trivia CC! We'll keep our ears open.

Patriots 34-17

Monday Night 

Pittsburgh @ Tampa Bay
It’s time for our new weekly feature, the Ryan Fitzpatrick MVP status check . Checking ... yep he’s still the NFL MVP. His main competition would probably be Patrick Mahomes, who just put up 6 TDs against the team that Fitzpatrick gets to feast on this Monday. The Steelers are in a state of disarray, with LeVeon Bell absent, Antonio Brown grumbling, and Ben Roethlisberger sounding as dim-witted as ever trying to publicly sweep everything under the rug. They’re dealing with all of this and now they have to go up against the presumptive NFL MVP? Good luck suckers! Mark Fitzpatrick down for another 400 yard 4TD night. 

Buccaneers 31-26