Three weeks of mayhem and controversy are not only in the books, but also put to rest after the return of the NFL officials. No doubt, there are numerous players and coaches – some with lighter wallets – that couldn’t be happier to see the door close on the replacement ref era (or shall we say error?).
Left to pick up the pieces are teams like the Green Bay Packers, ready to face a potent, yet wounded New Orleans Saints team that is desperate to get into the win column. A batch of heated rivalry games also headline the Week 4 slate, as the Giants face the Eagles, Chargers battle the Chiefs, Broncos take on the Raiders and Vikings hope to oust the Lions.
Over in the “Pick Your Knows” department, Week 3 was better, until the Seattle-Green Bay debacle sent me below the .500 mark. Again, try to remember my past history (144-112 picking spreads in 2010 and 131-125 in 2011). There’s still plenty of time to recover from this slow start.
Last Week: 7-9
This Season: 21-27
Last Two Seasons: 144-112 and 131-125
It’s once again time to “Pick Your Knows” – the only time it’s not a disgusting habit – and here are Week 4’s scheduled games (with spreads as they appear through CBSSports Fantasy).
Pick Your Knows: 2012 NFL Week 4 Picks Against the Spread
Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens (-13.5) – Final: Ravens win 23-16
A division rivalry, coupled with sloppy weather conditions set me in the direction of the Browns. The Ravens, following an emotional, late-night, last-second victory against the Patriots, pushed me there further. Cleveland’s defense played teams like Philadelphia really tough. That’s why the two-touchdown spread was too rich for my blood, and I went with the Browns, inking my pick on Wednesday, and finally getting into the win column early, after botching the previous three weekly openers.
KP’s Pick: Cleveland
San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs (+1.5)
Watch for Kansas City’s top-ranked rush offense (191.7 ypg) against San Diego’s 4th-ranked rush defense (67.3 ypg). It may surprise, but the Chiefs also lead the NFL in total offense (441.7 ypg), yet were outscored by an average of 17 points over its first two games. The Chiefs lost its starting center for the rest of the season, which may hurt the running game. Also, the homefield advantage at Arrowhead doesn’t seem to be what it once was for the Chiefs. The Chargers have more talent, and will win this game on the road.
KP’s Pick: San Diego
San Francisco 49ers at New York Jets (+4.5)
The Niners had a letdown in Minnesota last week, and will be looking to bounce back. The Jets have lost shutdown corner Darrelle Revis for the rest of the season, putting a major hit on the defense. New York has allowed 20 or more points in each of its first three games. It’s hard to imagine the QB duo of Sanchez and Tebow being able to consistently move the ball on San Francisco’s defense. Niners cover on the road against the depleted Jets.
KP’s Pick: San Francisco
Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons (-7.5)
The odds stack against the Panthers in this game. Atlanta is at home, and arguably is playing better than any other team in the NFC over the first three weeks. In this series, he home team is 6-2 against the spread in the last 8 meetings, which favors Atlanta, too. Carolina was manhandled by the Giants last week, and that’s where this thought comes into play. Steve Smith called out Cam Newton, likely motivating the quarterback (and the entire team). Carolina also has had an extra three days of rest to prep for Atlanta. With these thoughts in mind, I’m going against the grain, and picking the Panthers and the points. Atlanta wins in a close one.
KP’s Pick: Carolina
Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans (-12.5)
The Titans are dead last in rushing, averaging just 39 yards per game. Houston’s defense is second in the NFL, allowing just 255.7 total yards per game. Tennessee has been a one-dimensional offense, and it’s a tall order for Jake Locker to have to carry an offense against a loaded Texans D. Houston is playing at home, allowed just three sacks on the season and sports a top five defense both against the pass and the run. Houston’s top five rushing offense should also control the tempo of this game. All signs point to a convincing victory for the Texans. Houston covers at home.
KP’s Pick: Houston
Seattle Seahawks at St. Louis Rams (+1.5)
Everyone is wondering how Seattle will follow its controversial Monday night victory over the Packers. The key point to note is that Seattle’s underrated defense is suffocating and talented. The Seahawks are currently ranked 4th in total defense, allowing just 272.3 ypg. The St. Louis offense has only excelled against the Redskins, once Washington lost two of its defensive linemen to injury. Seattle’s run defense should force St. Louis to be one-dimensional, and expect the ‘Hawks to limit the Rams to dink and dunk plays to Danny Amendola in the flat. Seattle wins on the road.
KP’s Pick: Seattle
New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills (+3.5)
The Patriots have a losing record for the first time in nearly a decade. New England’s loss to the Ravens featured some controversial replacement ref moments, and therefore, it’s easy to anticipate a fiery Patriots team to come out hungry against the Bills. Buffalo is third in rushing, but injuries to Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller may slow them a bit. New England is 7-1 against the spread over its last eight games in Buffalo. Pats cover on the road.
KP’s Pick: New England
Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions (-4.5)
Both teams play in a dome, so that advantage is limited. Minnesota surprised the football world with its upset of the 49ers. Christian Ponder showed some signs of why the Vikes drafted him in the first round a few years ago. Detroit has the NFL’s second ranked offense (436 ypg), but has been very vulnerable on defense. But the key to the game is Matthew Stafford, who is probable on Sunday with a hip injury. If he’s affected at all, Detroit’s offense could suffer. If the Vikings can establish Adrian Peterson and the run game, this should be a close game. I’m taking Minnesota and the points.
KP’s Pick: Minnesota
Miami Dolphins at Arizona Cardinals (-6.5)
The Dolphins may be without Reggie Bush this week, a major key to its offense. Backs like Daniel Thomas will need to pick up the slack, which is a tall order against an Arizona defense that has been playing at a high level this season. The Cardinals dismantled a much more potent Eagles team last week at home, and the expectation is that Arizona will likely force many rookie mistakes by Ryan Tannehill, while establishing a consistent attack with Kevin Kolb and Larry Fitzgerald. Arizona not only covers, but wins by double digits at home.
KP’s Pick: Arizona
Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos (-6.5)
The Raiders surprised last week by upsetting the Steelers at home. A few spread stats would point this week towards Oakland, with one being the fact that the road team in this rivalry is 7-1 against the spread over the last eight matchups. But Peyton Manning is in Denver now, and it’s hard to imagine the future Hall of Famer not torching Oakland’s 30th ranked pass defense. I like the Broncos to win by a touchdown and avoid a 1-3 start. Denver covers.
KP’s Pick: Denver
Cincinnati Bengals at Jacksonville Jaguars (+2.5)
The Jacksonville secondary has zero interceptions, which could mean opportunities for A.J. Green to get open all day. Also, Cincy has the 4th ranked pass offense, while Jacksonville is 28th against the pass. The key for the Jags, as always, will be Maurice Jones-Drew, who is currently averaging 5.3 yards per carry. If MJD can get going, the Jags will have a chance, but I’m banking on Cincinnati’s pass offense to be too much on this day. Bengals cover on the road.
KP’s Pick: Cincinnati
New Orleans Saints at Green Bay Packers (-6.5)
A shootout is expected and each team is in a must-win situation, with the Packers 1-2 and the Saints winless. Surprisingly, Drew Brees’ completion percentage is under 55% on the year, throwing 5 INT’s. Green Bay is third in total defense and has managed 12 sacks in three games. Green Bay is also first in pass defense, allowing just 125.3 yards per game. New Orleans should still get its yards, but it will be a challenge at Lambeau. Packers cover.
KP’s Pick: Green Bay
Washington Redskins at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3.5)
Tampa Bay is 3-0 against the spread this season. Both teams have struggled on defense, with the Redskins struggling more since the injuries to Orakpo and Carriker. The Redskins have given up 30 or more points in each of its first three games. As A.J. Green and Danny Amendola torched the Redskins, the same could happen with Vincent Jackson. RGIII and the ‘Skins should score points, but my pick is with the home team. Bucs cover.
KP’s Pick: Tampa Bay
New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles (-2.5)
This matchup features two of the league’s top five offenses, with the Giants 3rd (426 ypg) and the Eagles 5th (416.3 ypg). The Giants are set to see Ahmad Bradshaw back in the lineup, sporting a two-headed monster at running back with Andre Brown. The Eagles have been committing too many turnovers, and will seek to protect the ball at home in an intense division rivalry. In a game with a tossup spread, I’m leaning towards the team that has been protecting the ball more, which in this case, would be the Giants. If Vick struggles again, expect a QB controversy in Philly.
KP’s Pick: New York Giants
Chicago Bears at Dallas Cowboys (-3.5)
The Bears lead the NFL with 14 sacks, which means Tony Romo could face a lot of pressure on Monday night. The same could be said for Jay Cutler, as Dallas has allowed just 250 yards per game (best in the NFL after three weeks). This game will either be a shootout, or a sloppy mess with numerous turnovers, penalties and three-and-outs. Don’t expect anything in between. Because of how well these defenses have been playing, I’m leaning towards a low-scoring affair, with the final result coming down to a fourth quarter field goal. That’s why I’m taking the Bears and the points.
KP’s Pick: Chicago
Bye Week: Indianapolis and Pittsburgh