Saturday, September 27, 2014

2014 NFL Week 4 Picks

Week 4

If I were a betting man, I'd parlay the Lions -1.5, the Colts -7.5, and the Patriots -3.

Washington -3.5 versus New York Giants

Have I mentioned how much I hate Thursday games? The home teams had covered every week until this week, and with Jon Beason still out, I thought Alfred Morris would help mitigate the risk of Kirk Cousins turning back into a pumpkin. I should have seen this coming with Eli Manning looking more and more comfortable in this fast paced offense and facing a bad secondary. At least I was right about Rueben Randle?

Buffalo +3 at Houston

Tying my upset of the week to E.J. Manuel might not be the smartest thing I do this week, but the Texans got exposed a bit last week. If the Bills can get ahead early and move the mall consistently with their running game, they can take advantage of Ryan Fitzpatrick's limitations. Buffalo's already playing stout run defense, and although Alfred Blue looked good (as I had hoped), Houston needs the hobbled Arian Foster to be a workhorse. However, I retain the right to rescind this pick if DeAndre Hopkins makes another ridiculous one-handed catch.
An illegal formation robbed a catch of the year candidate from counting.
Green Bay -2 at Chicago

Talk about a clunker last week for both the Packers and the Lions, but at least Green Bay's defense has been looking better. Matt Forte should still finally find some room to run, though, and Eddie Lacy could have an even bigger breakthrough game on the other side. After the way these teams performed last week, I'm surprised the line moved 3.5 points in favor of the road team since opening, but I guess all of the money agrees with me that Aaron Rodgers and the Pack are going to turn these around against the Bears' banged up secondary.

Detroit -1.5 at New York Jets

Conversely, this line shifting 2.5 points isn't a surprise since the Lions defense continues to look impressive, and Eric Decker remains bothered by his hamstring injury. Neither team is likely to have much success running the ball or covering on the back end, so whichever quarterback makes fewer mistakes is likely to come away with the victory. I like the veteran Matthew Stafford in that regard, especially since Detroit is likely to have the better pass rush.

Indianapolis -7.5 versus Tennessee

It must be nice to play in the AFC South and have back to back games against the Jags and Titans to let out your frustrations. With Jake Locker nursing a bad wrist, the Colts can focus on stopping Tennessee's confusing, yet effective running game. If you're going to pick Bishop Sankey in the second round (ahead of more talented backs), why would you berate him over footwork when he provided a spark in an otherwise embarrassing loss?

Baltimore -3 versus Carolina

This is the toughest game of the week. I wouldn't hesitate to take the Ravens at home if not for left tackle Eugene Monroe's arthroscopic knee surgery this week. I wouldn't be surprised if Charles Johnson's pressure rattles Joe Flacco, especially with his safety net, Dennis Pitta, out for the year. However, with Greg Hardy and Thomas Davis out, the Panthers' normally fearsome defense was surprisingly gashed on the ground last week. Lorenzo Taliaferro backed up my "interesting sleeper" tag last week, and Bernard Pierce is expected back healthy, as well. Together with scatback Justin Forsett, I'd expect Baltimore to ride the running game and squeak out a close one. 

Oakland +3.5 versus Miami

The Raiders can't match Wallace's speed.
This is a London game, and those can always get a little crazy. Amid some turmoil between Ryan Tannehill and Joe Philbin, I'd expect the Dolphins to get back to the running game against a soft Raiders defense. Lamar Miller's been running well, and that'll set up easier play action throws in Bill Lazor's offense, which has predictably made great use of Mike Wallace. However, I think the Raiders have started to show signs of life and can hang with the 'Phins in a neutral field. They aren't likely to win the battle in the trenches, but they can exploit a depleted linebacker core with Darren McFadden and Marcel Reese. They'll have a chance if their defense can get some stops, but I think Miami pulls it out in the end.

Tampa Bay +7.5 at Pittsburgh 
Jacksonville +13.5 at San Diego

Maybe I'm just a glutton for punishment with these teams, but I think both lines are too high due to reputations. Although the road aspect presents a challenge, I think the young quarterbacks making their first starts of the season will keep the games respectable. I feel pretty confident about the Steelers winning, but their defense did lose Ryan Shazier, Jarvis Jones, and Ike Taylor. With Doug Martin returning against a team that was already getting chewed up in the run game, Mike Glennon just has to not be Josh McCown in order to cover.

Blake Bortles, on the other hand, brings game-changing playmaking ability and is surrounded by talented young skill players. Pure athleticism should help him overcome his porous offensive line, but the risk here is that the Chargers control the ball and clock by just running Donald Brown down their throats.

Atlanta -3 at Minnesota

Julio Jones is ridiculous.
The other rookie QB wearing #5 and making his starting debut, Teddy Bridgewater, at least has the advantage of playing at home against a team not known for their defense, hence the more reasonable spread. However, a run game that was already in shambles lost RG Brandon Fusco for the year, and Bridewater's would-be reliable big target over the middle, Kyle Rudolph, will miss a majority of the remaining days, as well. I still have faith that he'll look more than competent, but I don't expect the Vikings to keep up with one of the most explosive offenses in the league.

Philadelphia +5 at San Francisco

Speaking of explosive offenses, the Eagles represent the best second half team in the league going against the worst. However, I'm skeptical that all of these comebacks will continue with their offensive line devastated by injuries and right tackle Lane Johnson still a week away from returning from suspension. Conversely, the Niners might have Anthony Davis available for the first time this year, and Alex Boone should eventually round back into form after his extensive holdout. That inconsistency has been the biggest reason for the stark first and second half splits on offense, and the pass defense has worn down while maintaining leads for so long. Perrish Cox has filled in well for the injured Tramaine Brock, but the pass rush needs Aldon Smith back from suspension. Thus, while I like the Niners to win at home, I'm not picking them to cover.

Dallas +3 versus New Orleans

I'm going with the home 'dogs to cover, but I don't feel great about it. I'm counting on the Cowboys continuing to play ball control offense with their big offensive line and DeMarco Murray in order to keep Drew Brees off the field. Dallas struggles against tight ends, and Jimmy Graham is arguably the best in the business, so if the game's close at the end, I'm expecting him to be the difference maker.

New England -3 at Kansas City

The Pats round up the 3 point road favorites at the end of the slate, and it's a fair line. The Chiefs pass rush could get to Tom Brady a lot, but he can help negate that by picking them apart in the short to intermediate area with Rob Gronkowski, Shane Vereen, and Julian Edelman on quick throws. New England's defense should be able to hold the lead as Bill Belichick focuses on taking away their most explosive option in the passing game nowadays: tight end Travis Kelce.

Last week: 8-8
Season total: 21-27

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