When it comes to predicting NFL games against the spread, this year has been much better for me than the start of last year, which was rough the first three weeks then improved. Let's see if I can keep it going with the Week 4 picks against the spread. There are a couple of divisional games this week and a lot of interesting match-ups. I don't have an over abundance of confidence about this week's slate of games, but that won't stop me from trying.
Last week I think the Giants played well because they were able to establish the running game and then hit passes that kept the chains moving. The offense seems to be playing better, but this is a tough match-up. The Redskins are only allowing 63.7 yards rushing per game (thirdrd in the league), and also lead the league in sacks. This is an imposing defense early in the season. The Giants on the other hand have yet to play a clean game. They have had problems on special teams every week, they played better on the offensive line, but that's still questionable, and they are giving up a ton of big plays, and the Redskins have one guy especially who always seems to make big plays against the Giants.
I really like what Ben McAdoo is bringing to the Giants offense and regardless of how this season turns out I'd like to see him stay. He's more innovative than we've seen in a while and hopefully the offense works out all the issues, but this is a tough match-up early in the season for a short week. I like the Redskins to win and cover the spread (Booo!, Jesse).
[Record picking Giants games: 3-0]
The Dolphins are not world beaters but they are solid and I would like them even more in this spot if their coach wasn't playing around with their quarterback. I think Philbin will lose this team eventually but not quite yet and the Raiders right now are the worst offensive team in the league, averaging just over 12 points per game.
The Green Bay Packers have Aaron Rodgers and that makes them favorites in a lot of games, but I just don't think their team overall is any good. Their offensive line is getting dominated from what I've seen (which Pro Football Focus) backs up, and their defense is giving up 26.3 points per game. This is not a good team, it just has a great quarterback. I think the Bears are actually the better team, though their pass rush has been pedestrian (one sack on the season) and are getting points so I'll take the Bears for the upset win.
The Buffalo Bills are the opposite of the Green Bay Packers, they have a very nice supporting cast of players, but they are lacking the great quarterback play. The Bills have a good offensive line, good running backs, intriguing wide receivers, plus special teams play, and one of the better defensive lines in the league. I think they will give the Texans and Ryan Fitzpatrick problems, E.J. Manuel just needs to connect on the passes he missed last Sunday against the Chargers.
Pick: Bills win outright
I thought the Titans might be a team that surprised a big this year, but they only thing they have done is stink up the joint. But I'm a glutton for punishment and think they will eventually figure it out and be a solid team. They have one of the better pass defenses in the league this season (second in pass yards, third in total yards) while the Colts have one of the worst (28th against the pass). Is this the week Jake Locker finally hits his targets in Justin Hunter and Kendall Wright? I believe so.
Pick: Colts win, Titans cover
I still don't have a great feel for this Ravens team and I dont think they are all that good but they are winning but I didn't like what I saw from the Panthers last week although I think they'll be okay.
Pick: eeny meenie miney mo ... the Ravens cover the spread?
I like Jets as underdogs with bigger point spread because I think they have a good running game and a talented defense, but Geno Smith is a little too turnover prone for me to trust. The Lions are doing a much better job avoiding the turnovers that have plagued them the last few years and their defensive line is going to make it tough for Geno Smith.
When the Buccaneers get back some of their best players (Doug Martin, Gerald McCoy, Michael Johnson), I think they'll play better, but right now they are awful. The Steelers looked much better on Sunday vs the Panthers, but I still don't think they area great team. I'm torn here because I think this is a touchdown game and the Buccaneers might cover this spread.
Jacksonville Jaguars (+13) at San Diego Chargers
I don't like huge point spreads like this and though I the Chargers should be heavy favorites I'm going to say that starting Blake Bottles inspires the Jags to be competent and they lose by less than 13.
Pick: Jags lose, but cover
The 49ers defense is not humming along right now and their offense is not special. Eagles keep it close.
Pick: Eagles cover but 49ers win.
The Vikings are playing this home game outside now which changes things a bit. I'd love the Vikings with Adrian Peterson here and though I'm more hesitant I still think they are going to pull out a victory in the surprise upset of the week. Their defense is very underrated they just need a couple big plays from Cordarrelle Patterson, which I can see happening against the very average Falcons defense.
Pick: Vikings with the upset win
New Orleans (-3) at Dallas Cowboys
New Orleans is not the same team on the road as it is home, but playing against that defense in Dallas would do wonders for any offense. I expect a lopsided victory here.
The Chiefs have the kind of pass rushers who could cause problem for a stagnant Patriots offense. Alex Smith also doesn't make a ton of mistakes and the Chiefs have one of the better home field advantages in the league in terms of fan support. I think the Patriots squeak out a close victory.
Pick: Patriots win, Chiefs cover
Week 1 -- ATS 8-7-1 Straight up: 12-4
Week 2 -- ATS: 7-8 Straight Up: 8-7 (Removed the Vikings game because of the Peterson scandal that broke out after I made picks -- for the record I liked the Vikings to cover before hand, and would have changed it after but you can add in the loss if you want)
Week 3 -- ATS: 13-3 Straight up:14-2
Season -- ATS 28-18-1
Straight up -- 34-13