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Week Four Picks

September 27th, 2018

Damned underdogs.

That’s where I’m placing the blame for my horrific performance in week three. I’m not sure you could call it upset week — hell, I’m not inclined to believe you could call any week three upset week — but it’s nonetheless true that six underdogs won outright last week. Four of them did it on the road. And one of those teams, the Buffalo Bills, was getting most of three scores (16.5 points) going in. There’s no picking a team like that to win it straight up. Just isn’t.

Of course, it’s also possible that I’m just a dunce. I’ll let you weigh the possibilities while I point out that I finished the week at 7-9 both straight up and against the spread. That brings my season numbers to 26-20-2 (.563) straight up and 22-25-1 (.458) against the spread.

Let’s see if I can’t manage to creep even closer to the Mendoza Line this week. Here’s what not to expect.

Minnesota (+7) at LA Rams
The Vikings need a big win to rebound from the beatdown the Bills put on them on Sunday. Not exactly the circumstances under which you want to travel on short rest to face the Rams. Los Angeles by 17.

Miami (+7) at New England
I’m not sure I’d give a touchdown to the Dolphins in September (maybe December in Foxborough) even if the Patriots hadn’t stunk up the field in each of their last two games. I definitely wouldn’t give seven here. At the same time, though, I’m not overly impressed with the path Miami has taken to 3-0. New England by three.

Houston (+1) at Indianapolis
The Colts don’t look to me like a team that can succeed against top-tier opponents. But the Texans aren’t a top-tier opponent. The Texans are toast. Indianapolis by four.

Cincinnati (+5.5) at Atlanta
These teams may be more evenly matched than I imagined four weeks ago. I’m still taking the home team. But I wouldn’t give more than a field goal.

Buffalo (+10) at Green Bay
With Josh Allen starting behind center, the Bills may be capable of more than anyone expected. Winning against a heavily favored opponent in a road game for a second straight week? I don’t think they’re up to that quite yet. Packers by nine.

Detroit (+3) at Dallas
There are a lot of ways one can look at the Lions’ destruction of the Patriots on Sunday night. I, for one, believe I saw a team that should have been better than its 0-2 start finally buying into its new head coach’s approach and playing disciplined football. Add to that the fact that the Cowboys have been wholly unimpressive thus far this season and I’m looking for an upset here. Lions by a point.

NY Jets (+7.5) at Jacksonville
With their letdown game behind them, I expect the Jaguars to get back to business. Jacksonville by 10.

Tampa Bay (+3) at Chicago
Here’s how this game is going to prove harmful to the Buccaneers: They’re going to lose and the loss is going to be pinned on Ryan Fitzpatrick, opening the door for Jameis Winston to retake the role of starting QB. In reality, the loss is going to be the fault of the Tampa Bay defense. But for the rest of the season the conversation in Tampa is going to revolve around which quarterback is more of a disappointment, all while the Bucs D continues to sputter. And nothing will get fixed. Bears by six.

Philadelphia (-4) at Tennessee
Whichever team discovers the magical football quality called “offense” wins. I’ve gotta think that’s Philadelphia. Eagles by three.

Seattle (-3) at Arizona
I’m confident Josh Rosen is going to have his moments in this game. Rosen’s a talented guy. And the Seahawks at best are an uneven team. But I don’t think any one player is turning the 2018 Cardinals around. Seattle by four.

Cleveland (+2.5) at Oakland
I’m not 100 percent on this, so, you know, don’t quote me or anything, but I think the last time the Browns won two straight, their quarterback was Otto Graham. Of course, since the Oakland defense is a complete shambles … nah, actually, I still can’t pull the trigger. Raiders by one.

San Francisco (+10.5) at LA Chargers
The 2018 San Francisco 49ers put all of their offensive eggs in one basket. C.J. Beathard is not that basket. Chargers by 13.

New Orleans (-3.5) at NY Giants
Drew Brees has been lighting up questionable defenses, which has covered up the Saints own defensive struggles. I don’t believe the Giants’ D is likely to make things easy for Brees, though. And to my mind, that means this game comes down to whether Eli Manning can avoid making stupid mistakes. In New Jersey, anyhow, I’m inclined to think he can. Giants by a field goal.

Baltimore (+3) at Pittsburgh
Nothing I’ve seen from the Steelers this season has been remotely impressive. Ravens by four.

Kansas City (-5) at Denver
The Chiefs’ lack of balance is going to catch up with them at some point. But not this point. Kansas City by seven.

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