Beating the Spread: Week 4 Picks

Our Week 4 Beat the Spread column is ready to go for your consideration as you put in your weekly bets!

After three weeks of football, we should be able to tell which things are trends and which were anomalies to start the season.  For example, Carolina has a pretty darn good defense, so that’s a trend.  The Packers aren’t 35 points worse than the Saints.  Anamoly.  So, what trends are we looking at this week to make our picks?  Let’s find out.

For the first time this season, we have a pick that more than two of us agree on.  Let’s see how that one affects the bottom line!  Justin has been on fire with his picks on the “under” and is looking to hit two more this week.  Brennan isn’t afraid of spreads larger than 7 points as he’s banking on big favorites again this week.  Erik and I did our analysis between customers at our respective jobs, but we agree on a couple of games.  As a group, we don’t have any picks going head-to-head, so there’s a chance we could go 20-0 this week!

Gamblers know that 60% is the magic number to come out ahead, so that’s the goal again this season.  We didn’t make it last year, which just motivates us, even more, this season.  Every week the four of us will pick five games against the spread or on the over/under.  We’ll track the picks every week and see where we end up.  Feel free to play along in the comments or find us on Twitter!

Let’s get to the lines and picks for Week 4!

 

The following lines were captured on Tuesday. Betting lines can vary by site and move throughout the week so check yours to make sure that you have similar information.

Week 1 Betting Lines
Away Home Line O/U
Lions Bears Bears -3 42.5
Panthers Cowboys Cowboys -5 50.5
Giants Saints Saints -7.5 43.5
Browns Vikings Browns -2 53
Texans Bills Bills -16.5 46
Titans Jets Titans -7.5 46
Chiefs Steelers Chiefs -7.5 54.5
Colts Dolphins Dolphins -2 43
Football Team Falcons FBT -1.5 48
Seahawks 49ers 49ers -3 52
Cardinals Rams Rams -4.5 54.5
Ravens Broncos Broncos -1 44
Steelers Packers Packers -7 45.5
Buccaneers Patriots Buccaneers -7 49
Raiders Chargers Chargers -3.5 52.5
Staff Picks

 

Analysis

 

Justin Dunbar: Justin puts together an article analyzing some of his picks in more detail.  Check out his Week 4 Betting Preview for more! Here are some snippets from his first three picks for this week.

As we saw on Sunday night, the 49ers’ secondary is hamstrung with injuries right now, and it’s hard to see them keeping up with DK Metcalf and Tyler LockettI’ll side with the far more explosive and efficient offense, led by the far superior quarterback, especially when I’m getting three points SEA +3

In my opinion, Baltimore has the significantly better offense, while there isn’t a defensive gap that I’m aware of. I get the advantage of playing in Denver, but how are the Ravens not favored to win this game? I’m not only all-in on them for this game, but moving forward as well. BAL +1

Both of these offenses aren’t slow-paced (Washington is fast-paced), but it’s hard to trust either of these passing attacks, which lack any sort of explosiveness whatsoever. With each side in need of methodical drives to score points and likely stuck in a low-scoring, close affair, I’d bank on not many points being scored here. I’ll gladly take the “under” here until Ryan shows any signs of aggression. WAS/ATL Under 48

This is such a low total, but there’s a reason for that, after all. At the moment, both quarterbacks in this game (Carson Wentz and Jacoby Brissett) are failing to average even five yards per pass attempt. That’s an extraordinarily poor feat and explains why both of these offenses rank in the bottom-eight in yards/play. Plus, it’s not like either of these defenses are considered poor. The Dolphins, in fact, rank 8th in PFF coverage grade, and now get to face a Colts offense with an injured Wentz, who will likely be without multiple offensive linemen on Sunday. As they did against the Titans in Week 3, expect them to try to slow the pace down with a run-heavy mindset, while both teams adopt a conservative mentality in a defensive grudge match. Who’s ready for some throwback football! IND/MIA Under 43

The Vikings surprised me last week by absolutely obliterating the Seahawks in the second half, but, in a lot of ways, the Browns are just a more optimized version of them. Cleveland currently ranks 6th in yards/play this season and 2nd in PFF team offense grade, while Baker Mayfield is off to the best season of his career; he’s currently averaging 9.8 yards/pass attempt. Minnesota was able to rely on their pass rush to cover up some of their pass coverage warts against the Seahawks, but that won’t work against PFF’s fourth-highest graded pass-block unit. On the other end of the spectrum, the Browns defense is due for more positive regression when it comes to their third-down defense, while Kirk Cousins can expect to be under more pressure than usual in this game. Considering his consistently poor production (5.3 yards/pass attempt) in those situations, that could force Cousins to continue to post the lowest average depth of target (six yards) of his career, which, at some point, is going to come back to bite him; it’s hard to thrive with such a methodical offense. Essentially, Cleveland appears to have the better offense, defense and is the much more savvy team when it comes to fourth-down decision making. With this number not crossing the key number of three, I’ll gladly lay the points with them. CLE -2

 

Brennan Rampe: The Saints have started 2-1, largely due to their fantastic defense. Former first overall pick Jameis Winston has been playing mistake-free football for the most part, and despite not putting up tons of passing yards, the offense is getting the job done. This Sunday marks the first time this season that they will be playing in front of their fans in New Orleans as they host the winless Giants. New York is struggling on both sides of the ball. The Giants’ defense has given up a decent amount of points and can’t stop offenses when it matters most, while the offense has had a hard time scoring so far this season. The Week 1 version of Winston should show up again, while the defense should have another fantastic performance. The Saints should cover while the Giants fall to 0-4, creating tons of pressure on third-year quarterback Daniel Jones and second-year coach Joe Judge. Inside the Numbers: Since last year, the Saints are 5-4 as a home favorite. NO -7.5

The Chiefs have surprisingly started off the season at 1-2, which can be blamed mostly on turnovers by the offense. The defense isn’t helping either, giving up about 30 points per game. When the Chiefs don’t turn the ball over seemingly every other possession, the offense is as potent as ever. The Eagles haven’t started the season very well either, as they are also 1-2. The offense has struggled the past two weeks while the defense couldn’t stop the Cowboys at all in their Week 3 loss to them. The defensive issues for the Eagles will continue, and Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts won’t be able to keep up with Patrick Mahomes, who isn’t going to lose three consecutive games. The Chiefs should win and cover while the Eagles lose three straight games. Inside the Numbers: Since 2018, the Chiefs are 14-10-1 against the spread as the away team. KC -7.5

The Rams are looking like Super Bowl contenders after defeating the defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers to improve to a 3-0 record. Matthew Stafford is a huge upgrade from Jared Goff, while the defense has picked up where it left off last year. Their division rival Cardinals are also 3-0. The combination of the Kyler Murray-led offense, which is a threat to score at any time, combined with the talented defense which makes lots of key plays when it matters, has them tied atop the NFC West. Rams coach Sean McVay is unbeaten against the Cardinals in his career. The Rams seem to be the team that gives Kyler Murray the most trouble, as evidenced by his pedestrian 75.8% passer rating against them. The Rams are also the only team in the NFC West he hasn’t beaten at least once. This should be a high-scoring affair, and although this is the most talented Cardinals team Sean McVay has ever gone up against, I still think the Rams win and cover. Inside the Numbers: Since 2018, the Rams are 13-9-2 against the spread at home. LAR -4.5

The Packers had a huge win on the road Sunday night against the previously unbeaten 49ers. Aaron Rodgers played flawlessly against the 49ers’  talented defense, while leading the offense down the field with 30 seconds left to play and no time-outs to get Mason Crosby in position to kick the game-winning field goal as time expired. The winning streak will continue as they return to Lambeau Field to take on the struggling Steelers. The Steelers defense hasn’t been all that bad. The same cannot be said for the offense. The offensive line is terrible, and Ben Roethlisberger isn’t what he once was. The Packers’ offense should score a ton, while the defense should have their most dominant game of the season. The Packers will win and cover by a lot. Inside the Numbers: Green Bay is 13-7 as home favorites under Matt LaFleur. GB -7.5

Tom Brady returns to New England in what many are calling the most anticipated game of the year. The Buccaneers lost their first game since Week 12, 2020 to the Rams. Brady performed well, but the defense struggled, particularly the secondary. They think they have fixed that deficiency by signing free-agent cornerback Richard Sherman, who was the top free agent available. I think he’ll be a great addition to the defense. The Patriots also lost last week, with quarterback Mac Jones looking like a rookie after playing well the first two weeks. Jones threw three interceptions, including a pick-six. The defense has performed well, but I think it’ll struggle in this matchup. It’s true that no one knows Tom Brady more than Bill Belichick, but Brady has a supporting cast, unlike anything he ever had during his time in New England. The Buccaneers will get back on track with a road win and cover. Inside the Numbers: Tampa Bay is 5-0 against the spread after a loss with Brady at the helm. TB -7

 

Erik Smith: I was very impressed by the Cowboys’ defense on Monday Night Football. Sure it was against an Eagles team that has a ways to go on offense, but the Cowboys D was at least playing fast, and they seem to have some talented athletes, which is more than some teams can say on that side of the ball. I’m not ready to buy into Carolina, and while their defense has impressed as well, I would expect Dak Prescott and company to be able to move the ball on them at home. Five points is a weird line, but I think there is legitimate blowout potential here against a Panthers team that has not faced the stiffest competition thus far. DAL -5

Cleveland has one of the most complete rosters in the NFL, and they just terrorized the Bears and Justin Fields last week. While Minnesota has looked good on offense, I still remember this offensive line struggling on the road Week 1 against the Bengals, and despite impressive games against the Cardinals and Seahawks the past two weeks, I believe that this Browns team will be much more of a problem for Kirk Cousins and the Vikings offense. I expect them to struggle to contain this Cleveland pass rush, giving the Browns some short fields to put up points. Even on the road, I like Cleveland here. CLE -2
I think we are officially in “bet against the Jets until we lose” mode for 2021. New York is 0-3 against the spread, and while the Titans are severely diminished at wide receiver with both A.J. Brown and Julio Jones potentially injured, I’m not sure they need receivers in this matchup. The Jets will be without their best defender in safety Marcus Maye, another blow to their chances. The Titans should handle this team easily if they truly have playoff aspirations. TEN -7.5
I’m concerned about the Ravens as far as being a Super Bowl contender, as they have significant injuries up and down their roster. And yes, they just struggled to beat the Lions on the road. But I would expect them to figure this out sooner rather than later, and they play a Broncos team that has faced the Jaguars, Jets, and Giants on their way to a 3-0 record. Those teams are a combined 0-9. If Hollywood Brown hangs on to a few passes last week, we probably don’t even need the Justin Tucker heroics, but hey, it’s good to know Tucker is there if we need him. I trust the Ravens to find some way, any way, to scrape out a win here, as they should be the more desperate team in this matchup. BAL +1
Atlanta does not look good offensively or defensively, and I was shocked to see them on Red Zone lining up for a game-winning field goal against the Giants last week (well, maybe not too shocked considering how the Giants have looked). Washington has its fair share of problems, including a vastly underperforming defense, but this has the looks of a get-right game. Atlanta is struggling to protect Matt Ryan, and Ryan is looking like a much older version of his 2020 self. This could be the game where the WFT pass rush wakes up, and even if it doesn’t, I think that Taylor Heinicke, Terry McLaurin, and Antonio Gibson can keep pace with the Falcons if needed. WAS -1.5

 

Bryan Sweet: In 304 games as a starting QB, TomBrady has lost in back-to-back regular-season games just 12 times in his career.  I have a hard time believing #13 will happen this weekend.  It’s Brady’s first time playing in Foxborough not in a Patriots’ uniform and he is looking to surpass Drew Brees as the NFL’s all-time leading passer.  Add that to the fact Bill Belichick seemed to indicate Brady decided to leave and not the organization’s choice and it all adds up to a beatdown at the hands of Brady.  Mac Jones looked like a rookie QB last week and I think we see more of the same in this one.  I like the Bucs to cover easily. TB -7

An absolutely devastating loss last week dropped the Lions to 0-3 on the season but something is bubbling under the surface in Detroit and they are going to win some games this year and potentially cost a team a playoff shot.  There is some talk about Bill Lazor taking over the playcalling for Chicago, so we may see a very different offense than last week, but I think Detroit can pull off a minor upset here.  At worst, I think this is a push but it wouldn’t surprise me to see an outright win for the Lions.  DET +3

How quickly things change in the NFL.  It seems like an eternity ago when Jameis Winston tossed five TDs in a surprising blowout defeat of the Packers.  Winston struggled against what we now know is a good Carolina defense before putting together another multi-TD game last week against New England.  The Giants rank 20th or worse in every defensive category against the pass.  Alvin Kamara has been held mostly in check to this point, but he’s getting touches and should become the RB we’ve come to know sooner rather than later.  I think the Saints cruise to victory in this one, I just hope that 0.5 doesn’t get me… NO -7.5

The line in the Denver/Baltimore seems like a reaction to Week 3 as opposed to a reflection of each team’s actual value.  Denver has started the season 3-0 behind safe QB play from Teddy Bridgewater and an opportunistic defense.  Baltimore eked out a victory over the Lions last week with a record-setting FG, but they were three Marquise Brown drops away from blowing out Detroit.  John Harbaugh won’t let this team have two down games in a row and I think Baltimore hands Denver its first loss of the season.  This is essentially a pick ’em, so give me the more talented team.   BAL +1

How about them Cowboys!  A thorough dismantling of the Eagles on Monday night showed just how good this team can be when everything is clicking.  We already knew how good the offense could be just based on the four games Dak Prescott was able to play in last season.  What may be more surprising is how well this defense is playing.  Trevon Diggs might be turning into a shutdown CB right before our eyes and the defense as a whole leads the NFL in turnovers with eight.  Carolina is going to be without Christian McCaffrey again this week and Sam Darnold has yet to prove he can carry a team to victory by himself.  Unless Carolina’s defense can slow down Dallas’s multi-faceted offense, I think it’s going to be a long day for the Panthers.  Give me the Cowboys. DAL -5

 


 

What are your favorite picks of the week? Put in your comments below to play along. We’ll be updating our records all season!

 

Featured image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)

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