Here are my NFL Week 4 Picks

(12-4 last week, 29-19 for the season)

Bye teams: Patriots, Titans

pitsteelersBal @ Pit – For the first time in team history, the Ravens have opened the season 0-3.  They were the only franchise never to do that, which doesn’t exactly tell the whole story, since they used to be the Browns, and have only existed since 1996.  But all that aside, it’s still sad for Baltimore fans that a team they thought was playoffs contender-caliber should begin the season so poorly.  Is there hope for a rebound?  Meh.  Flacco has almost no one to throw to, Gary Kubiak took his running scheme away with him when he left, and that famous Ravens defense isn’t what it used to be.  Meanwhile, the Steelers have their own problems, namely losing QB Big Ben for the next 6 weeks.  Michael Vick takes over, which isn’t terrible, especially with RB Bell having returned from his suspension and the Pittsburgh defense playing fairly well, giving up 17 points per game.  Can Vick hand the ball to Bell and throw screens to Brown?  He sure can, and Pitt can win this game at home on Thursday Night.


miadolphinsNYJ @ Mia – The Jets can win in Indy but they can’t at home vs Philadelphia?  Well, that doesn’t make sense.  This is the best defense in football, allowing only 14 points per game.  And what’s surprising is that their offense has been holding their own as well, with Fitzpatrick, Marshall, & Ivory.  New York is a hard-nosed team that is playing better than expected and can win some tough games, at home or on the road.  The Dolphins have done the opposite, failing to live up to the high expectations that the offseason brought.  The offense is failing to click consistently, the defense isn’t as stout as we’ve seen in past seasons, and they are nowhere near the solid team I thought they would be.  Can that change this week?  I tentatively want to say yes.  They have a very young receiving corps that needs time to gel, they have the best defensive player in the league in DT Suh, and they have a quarterback who could have a career year.  Nothing great has happened yet, but I’m holding out hope that it could.


atlfalconsHou @ Atl – Things are about to get better in Houston, as Arian Foster should return very soon, possibly this week.  The problem is, Ryan Mallett is still their quarterback.  He’s not an upgrade over Brian Hoyer, and most likely neither one is the answer.  People talk about the Browns having a terrible QB carousel over the past how-ever-many years, but how about the Texans?  Since their inception in 2002, their primary quarterbacks have been David Carr and Matt Schaub.  That’s it, that’s the history of the franchise.  Think you might have found something better in the last 13 years?  The Falcons have their guy, Matty Ice, who has been a consistent star since he was drafted in 2008.  He & Julio have something special going on this year, staging comeback after comeback, complimented by good defensive play when it matters most.  Atlanta is 3-0 and should move to 4-0 with ease.


bufbillsNYG @ Buf – The Giants are literally the only team in their division with a good quarterback right now.  Romo is hurt, RG3 is benched, and Bradford is, well, Bradford.  That leaves little Eli as the Super Bowl-winning veteran who can lead his team to a division title.  Except, that isn’t going so well.  They lost two badly managed games, finally won last week, and are holding on for dear life at 1-2.  I think Manning will improve as the season progresses, but meanwhile he’s got one tough game on the schedule.  The Bills are a shocker at 2-1, winning vs Indy and in Miami.  They even put up a fight with the Patriots, and Tyrod Taylor has led his team to the third most points per game on the season, behind only New England and Arizona.  With a defense that’s also playing well, this is a team that’s ready to make some noise.  They’ll still stumble; after all, they’re young and Rex Ryan is their coach.  But they still have a good many wins left in them this year, one of which should come this week.


oakraidersOak @ Chi – It’s sad when the Raiders are the favored team in a matchup purely by default.  To their credit, they are 2-1, and second place in the AFC West, having beaten the Ravens and the Browns.  But overall, they’ve scored -9 net points and aren’t blowing anyone away.  Carr is playing well, but this defense just isn’t scary, leading to the offense being forced to put the ball club on their backs.  So, why are they the favorites in this game?  Because Chicago stinks.  They’ve scored the fewest points in the league, allow the most, have a net total of -59, and just got shut out in Seattle last week.  Cutler is banged up, but even when he plays the Bears don’t stand a chance.  In this one, they should get completely mauled by a Raiders team that isn’t elite, even though this contest is in Chicago.  You know it’s especially bad when NFL teams start selling their players like MLB teams who know they’re out of the playoffs.


cinbengalsKC @ Cin – Jeremy Maclin finally did the impossible; he caught a touchdown.  It’s well documented that the Chiefs don’t throw TDs to their wideouts, but it finally happened after KC was down a million points to GB last week on Monday Night.  Does that herald a change in philosophy?  Probably not, but maybe it should.  The Chiefs are 1-2, are scoring a bit more than analysts thought they would, but aren’t playing the kind of defense we’ve come to expect.  That said, they haven’t had an easy schedule and so maybe they pick up steam later in the season, but don’t count on it this week.  It’s finally time to start picking the Bengals.  I know, I know, that means they’ll start losing now, since they’ve gone 3-0 despite my picking against them every single week.  Well, I’m convinced, I apologize, I see what’s happening, and Cinci seems to be the real deal.  I still only trust Andy Dalton & Marvin Lewis so far, and would never be shocked to see them drop a game that the team should win.


indcoltsJax @ Ind – I said last week that things were going to return to normal, that the balance would swing back toward the elite teams, and it really, really did.  The Jaguars were first place in the AFC South going into Week 3, as weird as that sounds, but that is no longer the case.  Why?  Because they got creamed by the Patriots.  They’ll probably get creamed this week too, which just feels right.  The Colts have started out the 2015 season completely opposite of how they had hoped to begin.  They lost their first two games and barely won last week, failing to fire on all cylinders in any phase of the game.  Luck is a star in the NFL, a leader on his team, and will most likely be just fine, especially since Indy gets a bit of a breather at home vs the Jags.  But what does the future hold for HC Pagano?  This is the season that will decide his fate with this franchise, and this start hasn’t helped his cause.  Look for some rallying in the next few weeks as these guys fight for their guy.


carpanthersCar @ TB – Man the Panthers are tough.  You don’t hear a lot about them, but this team might be the underdog to watch as the season rolls on.  Cam is playing very well despite not having many stellar offensive weapons to target.  The defensive is playing lights out despite having many key injuries.  And, as a whole, this Carolina team feels like a unit that has come together toward a common goal; to take the NFC South by force.  Now, the Falcons might have something to say about that, but I highly doubt that the Buccaneers will.  Other than one solid game in New Orleans, Jameis and his Tampa team have looked pretty beatable.  They only score 17 points per game, which is among the worst in the league, and they have failed to win at home yet this season.  I don’t like Famous Jameis, don’t wish him luck, and don’t want him to win, honestly.  But that aside, I think Carolina is the far superior team and should move to 4-0.


wasredskinsPhi @ Was – Did the Eagles turn a corner last week in New York?  They beat a very good Jets team, and actually barely lost both of their first two games, making their 1-2 record a fact that doesn’t tell the whole story.  I’m no Chip Kelly fan, nor do I think Sam Bradford is a quality quarterback.  But perhaps Philly just needed some time to work out the kinks and to realize how to use their weapons the most efficiently.  The Redskins are in the same boat at 1-2, and have also not played as badly as their record would indicate.  They have quarterback issues as well, and aren’t quite sure how to get their talented offense humming, but that could change at any time.  I don’t feel like either of these teams should be considered likely to reach the playoffs, but both have hope to improve quickly, making this matchup one that could be very evenly matched.


sdchargersCle @ SD – If we didn’t see it every week, it would be hard to imagine that one NFL franchise could be so consistently inept.  The Browns seem to enjoy shooting themselves in the foot, making the wrong decision, supporting the obviously sub-par player.  This year it’s all about Josh McCown, using him despite the fact that he’s awful, refusing to go with Johnny Manziel, even though he creates a spark for the team.  Not that he’s a much better quarterback, but at least he’s something fresh.  Cleveland is stuck in a culture of losing that extra brown on their uniforms can’t fix.  San Diego is equally stuck with a leader who doesn’t have what it takes to be great; Phillip Rivers.  He’s good, not wonderful, and not a guy who is going to put a bad team on his back.  Coach McCoy isn’t much better, getting a head coaching job too soon after a little success in Denver.  I don’t like the Chargers, wouldn’t pick them often, but at home against the Brownies I like their chances.


aricardinalsSTL @ Ari – I think a lot of analysts and casual fans thought that the Rams would be better than they are.  Jeff Fisher has had long enough to prove that he’s the coach for the job, and that he can make this franchise relevant.  Well, they’ve have a good defense, finally got rid of Sam Bradford, so you figured this might be the year.  So far it isn’t, and I’m not sure we should be surprised.  In his tenure with Tennessee, Fisher had only 6 winning seasons out of 16.  So far in St. Louis, his teams have gone 7-8-1, 7-9, 6-10, and are currently 1-2.  It might be time to admit that Fisher isn’t the coach we like to think he is.  The Cardinals, on the other hand, could not be any better, at least this year.  They’re 3-0, score the most points in the league, allow among the least, and seem poised to take the division if Seattle doesn’t turn things around quickly enough.  And even if they do, Arizona has the leg up and would only need to hold on to the NFC West to make the playoffs with home field advantage.  I think they win here, probably big, and keep this good thing going.


denbroncosMin @ Den – If the season ended today, the Vikings would be a wildcard team and play the Panthers in Carolina.  They would probably lose that game, but that shows you where Minnesota is right now, and that’s a good place to be.  They’re playing well, taking advantage of the return of Adrian Peterson and the emergence of a stout defense.  They don’t score enough points to be scary, but Bridgewater is still improving and this team should continue to be solid.  Sucks for them that they have to go to Denver.  Peyton Manning and the Broncos are just starting to hit their stride.  Not bad considering that they’re unbeaten and haven’t been playing excellent football.  But the Orange Crush 2.0 defense has stepped up when it was needed, Peyton & Kubiak are finding a middle ground between their styles, and if a running game can be established this could be a frightening team to play, especially at Mile High.  Look for the Broncos to pick up another win at home as Manning continues to improve and this defense continues to dominate.


gbpackersGB @ SF – After the Cardinals and the Patriots, the Packers seem to be the most complete team in the league.  They can put up points, they can play defense when it counts, and they have a veteran quarterback who is confident that he can win in any situation.  Aaron Rodgers is already being called the greatest QB to ever play the game.  Funny, considering everyone was saying the same about Peyton in 2013 and Brady in 2014.  Oh how quickly the “greatest ever” can emerge.  I guess they’re just excited about Rodgers’ play, and well they should be, especially if they have him on their fantasy team.  The Niners used to be one of the best teams in the NFC, would have been right in this game against the Pack, especially in San Fran.  But things have changed, the entire roster retired, Harbaugh flew the coop, Kaep can’t seem to stay focused, and the walls are crumbling for the Niners.  It’s still a tough road game, but Packers fans travel well, Rodgers is locked in, and Green Bay should take this one.


nosaintsDal @ NO – This is not the matchup the schedule makers imagined when they created this Sunday Night Football game.  Instead of Romo vs Bress we could have Weeden vs McCown; that actually felt bad to type.  Weeden is a weird player, coming into the league at the age of 28, playing terribly in two season with the Browns, and now entering his second year as a backup in Dallas.  He’s in for Romo, but he’s not good, and will probably just mess everything up.  I blame Cleveland for letting this guy into the league.  New Orleans is hurting too, with Brees missing last week and possibly missing Week 4 as well.  Luke McCown will take his place if he can’t go, the star of those Verizon commercials, and a career backup.  This could be the worst SNF game of the decade, and even if Brees plays he won’t be 100%, leading to interceptions and bad play in general.  These are two teams in need of a break, not the big stage, and who knows who will emerge as the victor.


seaseahawksDet @ Sea – It seems odd to be surprised by this, but the Lions are winless.  In recent years, that has often been the case, but since Stafford & Megatron have paired up in Detroit, they’ve been a legitimate team.  And when Suh emerged, that defense was more than stout.  But the Lions are back to their old ways, it seems.  Suh left, Megatron got old, Stafford has been exposed, and Caldwell is just a bad coach.  So Detroit is 0-3 and doesn’t have much hope on the horizon as they travel west to Seattle.  The Seahawks were almost 0-3 themselves, but their team vibe is a little different.  They were without Kam Chancellor, couldn’t get Jimmy Graham involved in the offense, saw Marshawn Lynch get banged up, and just weren’t gelling.  But that’s all changing.  Kam is back, Jimmy is producing, and the Seahawks seem like they put a few of their issues behind them.  It helps that they got Chicago at home, where they won 26-0, and now get Detroit at home too, where the score could be the exact same.