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NFL Week 4 Picks Against the Spread

This week’s slate features several quarterback duels, and we like Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, and Trevor Lawrence in their respective games. Here are all picks against the spread for every game this week.

Two good weeks in a row. Let’s keep the intro short. I’m terrified of jinxing myself.

We’ve got another full slate of games on the schedule, including our first London matchup. Lines are from FanDuel. Stats are from TruMedia/Pro Football Focus unless otherwise noted.

Week 3 record: 10-6

Season record: 28-20

Miami Dolphins at Cincinnati Bengals (-3.5)

The Dolphins defense was on the field for 90 snaps last week and now has to face Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase on the road on short rest. That’s a really tough spot to be in.

As of this writing, it’s unclear whether the Dolphins will have quarterback Tua Tagovailoa for this game. He’s questionable, along with left tackle Terron Armstead, wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, and cornerback Xavien Howard. This could easily be a schedule loss for Miami, but given the Dolphins’ ability to produce explosive plays and pressure opposing quarterbacks, I like them to keep it close.

The pick: Dolphins (+3.5)

Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints (+2.5)

Kirk Cousins versus Jameis Winston, London at 9:30 a.m. ET, just feels right. The Vikings overcame a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to rally for a win against the Lions last week. But it feels like their defense is making life a little too easy on opposing quarterbacks, who are completing 69.4 percent of their passes against Minnesota.

The Saints, meanwhile, managed to lose to the Panthers last week, despite allowing just 12 first downs and 148 passing yards. Winston is dealing with back and ankle injuries but is expected to start.

My only expectation for this game is chaos. And when that’s the case, I take the points.

The pick: Saints (+2.5)

Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts (-3)

The Colts found a winning formula last week against the Chiefs. Here’s everything that needed to happen to squeak out a 20-17 win:

  • The Chiefs muffing a punt
  • The Chiefs missing a 34-yard FG
  • The Chiefs missing a PAT
  • The Chiefs botching a fake FG
  • Travis Kelce dropping a TD
  • Chris Jones getting called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that turned fourth-and-14 into a first down on the Colts’ game-winning drive

If the Colts can just force their opponents to make all of those mistakes every week, they might finish the season 15-1-1.

Let’s be honest: Indy has flat-out looked like one of the worst teams in the NFL. Their offense is 32nd in expected points added (EPA) per drive. Nothing I saw last week suggested that this is a team close to figuring things out.

The Titans, meanwhile, went up and down the field against the Raiders, scoring on four of their first five possessions. They’re a flawed team, but they’re going to be competent and feisty most weeks. I pretty much always give Mike Vrabel the benefit of the doubt when he’s an underdog, and I’m sticking to that here.

The pick: Titans (+3)

Chicago Bears at New York Giants (-3.5)

One of these teams is going to be 3-1. How is that possible?

The Bears’ 23 pass completions through the first three weeks are the fewest by any team in the last 15 years. The Giants have four total completions of 20-plus yards through three games. That ranks dead last (even the Bears have five!).

Both of these offenses stink. We know the Bears are going to run the ball, and their defense should keep them in the game. I’ll reluctantly take the points.

The pick: Bears (+3.5)

Buffalo Bills at Baltimore Ravens (+3)

Lamar Jackson has accounted for more offensive touchdowns on his own (12) than 30 of 32 NFL teams. The only exceptions are the Ravens (he’s accounted for all of their offensive touchdowns) and the Lions, who also have 12.

Josh Allen dropped back to pass 71 times in last week’s loss to the Dolphins. That’s the most dropbacks for a quarterback in a single game in TruMedia’s database, which goes back to 2000.

Both quarterbacks are off to MVP-caliber starts this season. There’s a scenario where Allen lights up this Ravens defense and the Bills’ pass rush harasses Jackson all afternoon. But given how banged up the Bills’ secondary is and how grueling that Week 3 game was, I’m going with Baltimore.

The pick: Ravens (+3)

Los Angeles Chargers at Houston Texans (+5.5)

The Chargers can’t control injuries, and last week was devastating. They lost left tackle Rashawn Slater, a second-team All-Pro last year as a rookie, for the season and star edge rusher Joey Bosa for the foreseeable future.

The Chargers can control how they handle Justin Herbert, who is dealing with fractured rib cartilage. Last week against the Jaguars, with his team down 38-10 with 4:54 left, head coach Brandon Staley sent Herbert back onto the field, and Herbert dropped back to pass 14 times on the ensuing drive. Staley said afterward that Herbert wanted to be out there with his teammates. Players always want to play. It’s up to the coach to take that kind of decision out of their hands. I have a lot of questions about the Chargers’ decision-making through the season’s first three weeks.

The Texans have been competitive in all three of their games. But even with the injuries, the Chargers are a much more talented team. It might not be pretty, but I like them by a touchdown here.

The pick: Chargers (-5.5)

New York Jets at Pittsburgh Steelers (-3)

Without T.J. Watt, the Steelers have performed like roughly the 25th-ranked defense this season (EPA per play). The Browns offense went up and down the field with ease against Pittsburgh in Week 3. As for Pittsburgh’s quarterback, if Mike Tomlin were going to make a change, this would’ve been the week to do it. The Steelers had a mini bye after playing on Thursday night last week and are now facing the Jets. But Tomlin has not wavered in his support of Mitchell Trubisky.

Meanwhile, second-year quarterback Zach Wilson is expected to make his first start of the season for the Jets.

I don’t expect Trubisky to suddenly light it up, and this one could definitely be ugly. But with the line being only a field goal and Wilson seeing his first action post-injury, Pittsburgh feels like the safer side.

The pick: Steelers (-3)

Jacksonville Jaguars at Philadelphia Eagles (-6.5)

The Eagles continue to come out and just jump on their opponents every week. They have outgained opponents by 652 yards in the first half of their first three games. No other team is at more than plus-324. Small sample? Sure. But maybe a sign of good coaching as well.

Speaking of good coaching, Doug Pederson has the Jaguars rolling. They moved the ball efficiently all game long last week against the Jaguars. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence has the seventh-fastest time to throw in the NFL, according to Next Gen Stats. He has consistently looked comfortable taking what the defense has given him, but is also using his natural ability to make second-reaction plays.

The battle between the Jaguars’ defensive line and the Eagles’ offensive line will be fun to watch. It’s possible that the Eagles are just really, really good and are going to continue to steamroll their opponents. But I really like what I’ve seen from this Jaguars team. This feels like a close game.

The pick: Jaguars (+6.5)

Cleveland Browns at Atlanta Falcons (+1.5)

These are two offenses that have been surprisingly efficient so far this season. The success rate metric measures simply whether each play is a positive or not based on EPA. But it strips away outliers. A 7-yard completion on third-and-6 is judged the same as a 50-yard completion. Both are considered successful. This is a nice metric to look at early in the season when we’re dealing with an especially small sample. So far, the Falcons offense has a success rate of 49 percent. That’s second in the NFL behind only the Bills.

Meanwhile, the Jacoby Brissett experiment has gone far better than anyone could’ve expected in Cleveland. The Browns offense is third in EPA per drive behind only the Dolphins and the Chiefs.

This is a toss-up game, and Brissett is going to come back down to earth one of these weeks. But the Browns’ run game against Atlanta’s defense feels like a serious mismatch.

The pick: Browns (-1.5)

Seattle Seahawks at Detroit Lions (-4.5)

The Seahawks offense has been functional with Geno Smith. The Seahawks defense, meanwhile, has been a disaster. They rank dead last in EPA per drive through three weeks.

The Lions blew a fourth-quarter lead against the Vikings last week, but their offense continues to move the ball effectively. Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown did not practice Wednesday, and his status for this game is unclear.

It would not surprise me to see the Seahawks pull off the upset, but the Lions have been the better team so far this season. They improve to 2-2.

The pick: Lions (-4.5)

Washington Commanders at Dallas Cowboys (-3)

The Commanders were not competitive last week in a 24-8 loss to the Eagles. Quarterback Carson Wentz was sacked nine times. Their first 11 possessions resulted in: eight punts, one fumble, and two turnovers on downs. Now they get to face a Cowboys pass rush that includes Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence.

Quarterback Cooper Rush played well in the Cowboys’ Monday-night win over the Giants, and Dallas produced some explosive plays with their run game. It’s entirely possible that recency bias is taking over here and the Commanders aren’t as bad as they showed last week, while the Cowboys won’t look as good as they did Monday night. But I feel good about Dallas’s chances to pressure Wentz into a couple of big mistakes.

The pick: Cowboys (-3)

Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers (-1.5)

Based on EPA per pass play, Baker Mayfield has been the worst starting quarterback in the NFL through three weeks. He’s 32nd, just below Justin Fields and Trubisky.

The Cardinals, meanwhile, are one miraculous comeback away from being 0-3. Neither TruMedia nor PFF keep this specific stat, but I’m confident in saying that Kyler Murray leads the league in throwing to receivers who aren’t looking. Murray’s look of disgust every time it happens has been the perfect symbol of the Cardinals’ season so far.

I don’t believe in either of these teams. There is no reason to bet this matchup. But since the exercise here is to pick every game all season long, give me Arizona.

The pick: Cardinals (+1.5)

Denver Broncos at Las Vegas Raiders (-2.5)

My favorite part of the Broncos’ win last week was when the broadcast crew gave Nathaniel Hackett credit for getting the field goal unit out on time. We’re talking about a pretty low bar for competence here, people.

While the Broncos offense was unimpressive against the 49ers, there are some numbers that suggest Denver could get going in the weeks ahead. Through three weeks, they have converted just 14.3 percent of their red zone trips into touchdowns. On one hand, that’s terrible. Really terrible. It’s tied for the lowest conversion rate by an offense through three weeks in the last 10 years. On the other hand, being that bad in the red zone is unsustainable. From 2012 to 2021, no team was worse than 27 percent for a full season, and the league average over that span was 56.5 percent. Bottom line: The Broncos’ red zone performance pretty much has to improve.

The Raiders, meanwhile, are the NFL’s only 0-3 team. Their offense has moved the ball, but they’ve made too many mistakes in high-leverage situations, and the defense has been a disappointment. The Raiders’ three losses have been by a combined 13 points. They’re operating more like a mediocre team than a bad team. I like them to get a little luckier this weekend and notch their first win.

The pick: Raiders (-2.5)

New England Patriots at Green Bay Packers (-9.5)

It sounds like Brian Hoyer will make the start at quarterback with Mac Jones likely to miss a chunk of time with a high ankle sprain. The Patriots’ best offensive strategy last week was to throw the ball up to DeVante Parker, who finished with five catches for 156 yards and made a number of highlight-reel grabs. The Ravens beat the Patriots, 37-26, but it felt like the Patriots defense played better than that final number might suggest.

The Packers, meanwhile, grinded out a win against the Bucs and have notched consecutive victories since dropping the opener to the Vikings.

Green Bay is obviously the superior team, but there’s a scenario here where the Patriots are able to run the ball and ugly this one up a bit. This is the pick I’m most likely to regret once Sunday evening rolls around, but …

The pick: Patriots (+9.5)

Kansas City Chiefs at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+1.5)

As outlined in the Colts section above, the Chiefs gave that game away in Week 3. There is no reason to draw any big conclusions from that performance. It was a complete fluke—one of those games where anything that could have gone wrong did go wrong. I’ll admit that the Chiefs offense looks different without Tyreek Hill, but they’re second in EPA per drive through three weeks. They’ll be fine.

The Bucs defense has played great, but unlike the Chiefs, their offense actually is a legit concern. Would you believe that they rank 31st in EPA per drive—ahead of only the Colts? I still think Tampa Bay will be fine once it gets some injured players back, but in the short term, the Bucs could have some issues.

The pick: Chiefs (-1.5)

Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers (-1.5)

I have no idea what exactly Jimmy Garoppolo was saying here, but I’m thrilled that we have people willing to put in the work to give us content like this:

Garoppolo was terrible last week. But we have a pretty large sample (52 starts with the 49ers) that suggests those bad performances generally are balanced out by performances where the offense functions at a pretty high level with Garoppolo (note that I said with Garoppolo, not because of Garoppolo).

The Rams, meanwhile, have had a strangely uneventful start to the season, considering they’re the defending champs. I feel like I haven’t heard anyone offer any kind of opinion about the Rams in the past two weeks. They’re 2-1 but have not looked like a team that’s poised to repeat. Of course, it’s only Week 4, so that could change.

I don’t think the 49ers offense will be as bad as it looked last week, and I love their defense. They bounce back here.

The pick: 49ers (-1.5)