Another week of football, another week of madness. Aaron Rodgers’ 37-second game-winning drive in San Francisco, Justin Tucker’s 66-yard-field goal, and AFC West shootout between the Chargers and Chiefs; Week 3 had quite the entertaining slate of games.
Today, let’s take a look at the Week 4 slate! Every week, I’ll be providing my projections on the outcome of each game, and then contextualizing what to do with that information: best bets, teasers, parlays, survivor picks, and much more!
These projections started with me using projected PFF grades to decipher the true talent of every team. From there, I utilized those projections to establish each team’s offense and defense rank, which allowed me to derive how talented each team is compared to the average team with a neutral field; as the season goes, I’ll be analyzing PFF data and other key metrics to continue to update each team’s offense and defense ranking. Adding in an adjustment for home field, and, what do you know, each game had a projection! The combination of the foundation of it starting objectively, and then the mixture of subjective analysis to make it less of a “blind” projection, will hopefully lead us to where we want to go. You can consider these, based on the subjective touch, predictions instead of pure projections, but, hey, it gets us in the same place!
Enough rambling; it’s time to get to the point of this article! Let’s completely preview Week 4 from a betting perspective! Right now, the Chiefs are in last place in the AFC West Is it time to stop the count? Nope. Trust me, you won’t want to miss this week’s action.
All Stats via Pro Football Focus
Week 4 Personal Projections
SEA (+3) at SF
I was very tempted to take the Packers as a 3.5-point underdog against the 49ers last week but ultimately decided against it. This week, it’s time to redeem me. I often harp on betting on the better quarterback when they’re getting points, and that’s what is happening here. Russell Wilson is currently averaging 10.4 yards/pass attempt, is making big plays (5.6% big-time throw), and isn’t making mistakes (0% turnover-worthy play). That’s a great difference from Jimmy Garoppolo, who has just a 59.5 PFF passing grade this year, a 0% big-time throw, and a 4.6% turnover-worthy play.
I guess there is a reason the Seahawks lead the league in yards/play, while the 49ers rank just 17th. Meanwhile, the gap in defenses might be less extreme than you think:
- SF: 5.7 Yards/Play Allowed, 65.1 PFF defense grade
- SEA: 5.8 Yards/Play Allowed, 64.8 PFF defense grade
Remember, that’s with the Seahawks facing the Titans and Vikings, while the Packers are the only above-average offense San Francisco has faced this season. 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 Lockett. I’ll side with the far more explosive and efficient offense, led by the far superior quarterback, especially when I’m getting three points.
BAL (+1) at DEN
The Broncos have had a phenomenal start to the season, ranking 1st in the NFL in point differential (50). Yet, context is required here. Getting the Giants, Jaguars, and Jets have surely helped them get out to an early start; although they’ve been impressive in their own right, they’ll have to prove themselves against tougher opponents.
That’s exactly what the Ravens are. Quietly, they rank 5th in yards/play, despite ranking 32nd in third-down conversion rate. Considering they have consistently ranked near the top of the league third-down conversion rate, positive regression is coming; even as they face tougher defenses, they’re going to be a top-notch offense this season. Per Dwain McFarland of Pro Football Focus, Baltimore is passing the ball 7% more than they did last year, “despite playing in close or leading scripts on 67% of plays.” Quietly, Lamar Jackson is on pace for the best (8.7 yards/attempt) of his career, and that production has all come from a clean pocket.
The Broncos, on the other hand, face more questions with their offense. While they rank 1st in a time of possession, per McFarland, they rank 32nd in plays/minute; they’ve relied on their defense to give them the opportunities to score points. The Ravens, however, have ranked in the top three in time of possession in each of the past two years, which could force Denver to open things up with Teddy Bridgewater under center. To his credit, Bridgewater has been fantastic with an 84.3 PFF grade, but it’s also been in a structured offense (37% play action, playing with a lead). How things fare in many different circumstances remains to be seen.
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.
WSH at ATL (Under 48)
Surprise! Usually, I only list two “best bets”, but I couldn’t help myself here. I have little faith in either of these two offenses and with a 48-point total, that makes me heavily interested in the “under”.
The Falcons offense, to say the least, is a mess. They rank 28th in yards/play, while Matt Ryan has an average depth of target of 4.9 yards. Whether this is due to the team’s poor offensive line or a decline in arm strength, there isn’t an explosive element to this offense at all. Facing a Washington defense that ranks 4th in PFF pass-rush grade won’t help matters. Neither is the fact they’re a run-oriented team facing a stout defensive line; I’m struggling to see how the Falcons have any early-down efficiency, which could leave Ryan out to suffer in obvious passing situations.
However, it’s not as though Washington has it much easier. Yes, Taylor Heinicke averaged 8.8 yards/pass attempt in Buffalo, but that is completely skewed by one 73-yard screen pass to running back Antonio Gibson. Outside of that, he averaged just six yards/pass attempt, while his performance under pressure (8.1 yards/pass attempt) is sure to regress negatively as well. With bottom-ten ranks in PFF passing grade and receiving game, I’m skeptical of their ability to put together a strong offensive performance here.
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.
GB (-0.5) vs PIT
TB (-0.5) at NE
Here we see two favorites that can be teased to essentially a “pick-em”. I don’t think we need to touch on the quarterback gaps here. The Steelers, in particular, are showing little reason for optimism currently, and can’t rely on their defense when they have the third-worst PFF coverage grade. Meanwhile, the Bucs are a significantly more explosive offense than New England, whose preference to run the football won’t work against Tampa Bay’s defensive front. Long story short, we can feel very confident in Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady taking down Ben Roethlisberger and Mac Jones, respectively.
Parlay (Four Games and Eight Games)
SEA (+3) at SF
BAL (+1) at DEN
WSH at ATL (Under 48)
IND at MIA (Under 42.5)
CLE (-2) at MIN
NYG (+7.5) at NO
ATL (+1) vs WSH
GB (-6.5) vs PIT
For the rest of the season, I’m forcing myself to deliver an eight-game parlay, which is the better option over the four-game parlay this week. The Colts and Dolphins are amongst the most inefficient offenses with very poor quarterback situations, making the “under” a strong play here. Meanwhile, the Browns are a more aggressive/optimized team than the Vikings, have performed better offensively, and could cause issues for Kirk Cousins that other teams haven’t been able to. From there, it’s hard to bank on Jameis Winston or Taylor Heinicke as a favorite, while the same isn’t the case with Aaron Rodgers. Both the Giants and Packers, specifically, would need to be bet at the listed number, which isn’t crossing a specific key number (seven).
BUF vs HOU
I usually pick two teams just in case the first option had been used previously, but there is no reason to NOT pick the Bills as your survivor pick this week. Josh Allen bounced back in a major way on Sunday in Washington with a 43-point showing, and they now get to face the Texans. I don’t know if you watched Houston take on the Bills in Week 3, but a Davis Mills-led offense doesn’t profile as explosive. I gladly take one of the league’s most dynamic passing attacks with tons of talent on both sides of the ball over a run-heavy, conservative team with little life offensively, thank you very much.
Parting Bold Predictions
The Seahawks Win By Double Digits
The Broncos Are Held To Under 200 Total Yards
Neither Quarterback In WSH at ATL Throws a Touchdown Pass
Remember, these are BOLD predictions! All of these align with my previous betting picks, but allow us to get a bit spicy here! Enjoy an exciting week of football, and please remember to bet responsibly!
Photos by Bob Kupbens & John Cordes/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Aaron Polcare (@bearydoesgfx on Twitter)