Week 4 Edition
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*Note – DVOA stands for Defense-adjusted Value Over Average: It’s Football Outsiders’ primary efficiency statistic and I believe it to be the best and most predictive measure of assessing the strength of NFL teams
**Note – All betting odds courtesy of Vegas Insider
***Note – Public betting refers to the amount of wagers taken on the spread
Records Entering Week 4
Straight Up: 36-11 (.770) Last Week: 12-4 (.750) Total: 200-112-2 (.640)
Spread: 32-13-2 (.700) Last Week: 12-3-1 (.780) Total: 181-122-11 (.590)
Over/Under: 31-14-2 (.680) Last Week: 9-7 (.560) Total: 173-139-2 (.550)
Locks: 4-1 (.800) Last Week: 0-0 (.000) Total: 36-7 (.837)
Best Bets: 18-7 (.720) Last Week: 6-5 (.550) Total: 147-107-1 (.580)
*Note: Total records date back to 2016 season.
*Prediction for TNF: Green Bay 30, Chicago 17 One Best Bet was placed: GREEN BAY (-7)
New Orleans Saints (1-2) vs Miami Dolphins (1-1)
Spread: NO -3 Over/Under: 50.5
DVOA: NO (20) > MIA (27)
Public Betting: NO 71%
After traveling to Los Angeles in Week 2 and then flying back across the country for last Sunday’s tilt against the Jets, the Dolphins will make their third consecutive 6+ hour trip for this London contest. No wonder why Miami asked the NFL to have this game relocated from Wembley Stadium–that’s a brutal travel stretch! The jet-lagged Dolphins are likely to be as ill-prepared for this contest as they were for their uninspired loss to New York. Drew Brees and the Saints’ passing offense will pick apart a weak Miami secondary that is tied for last in opponent yards per pass attempt (albeit with New Orleans) and get back to .500.
New Orleans 27, Miami 19
Carolina Panthers (2-1) vs New England Patriots (2-1)
Spread: NE -9.5 Over/Under: 49
DVOA: CAR (15) < NE (3)
Public Betting: NE 79%
It’s common to overlook teams coming off a blowout loss such as Carolina, who lost 34-13 to New Orleans last week. However, led by standout linebacker Luke Kuechly, the Panthers’ front-seven is still one of the more formidable units in the NFL. And considering how teams receiving under 30% of public support went 6-1 against the spread last weekend, Carolina might be talented enough to keep this game close.
One problem for the Panthers in this matchup, however, is that their secondary is below-average. This unit ranked 22nd in opponent yards per pass attempt last season and provided little resistance last weekend to Drew Brees (76% completion percentage, 131.6 quarterback rating). This, of course, doesn’t bode well for Carolina against a Patriots offense that leads the NFL in passing yards by a mile, especially when you consider that its defense will be without starting cornerback Daryl Worley.
It certainly doesn’t help that Cam Newton (30th in Total QBR) has been terrible through three weeks, either. Based on how he was only a limited participant in practice this week, I think the 2015 MVP is playing through an injury. Regardless, the Panthers simply won’t keep up with a Pats offense that should have another big day through the air.
New England 33, Carolina 17
Los Angeles Rams (2-1) vs Dallas Cowboys (2-1)
Spread: DAL -6 Over/Under: 48.5
DVOA: LAR (4) > DAL (6)
Public Betting: DAL 60%
The Rams’ numbers look great so far, particularly on the offensive side of the ball: Los Angeles is 1st in the NFL in points and 2nd in yards per play. But let’s consider this more carefully. Who have the Rams played? Indianapolis? San Francisco? Those are two of the weaker defenses in the NFL.
Dallas’ D may not be elite, but it’s solid enough to contain Jared Goff, as evidenced by how its only allowing 4.7 yards per play (7th in the NFL). And after a sluggish start to the season, I trust the Cowboys’ offense to finally kick into gear this week. This Rams defense has relied heavily on forcing turnovers (it has five through three weeks). Plus, it just allowed 39 points to Brian Hoyer. Dak Prescott, who has just six interceptions in twenty career starts, will lead the Cowboys to another victory.
Dallas 27, Los Angeles 20
Detroit Lions (2-1) vs Minnesota Vikings (2-1)
Spread: MIN -2 Over/Under: 42.5
DVOA: DET (5) > MIN (16)
Public Betting: DET 59%
Last week I said we shouldn’t underrate Case Keenum going up against a banged-up Buccaneers defense. But let’s not overrate him after only one terrific performance. After all, he has just a 10-16 career record as a starter. Simply put, I’ll take the team quarterbacked by Matthew Stafford over the team quarterbacked by Keenum, particularly since the Lions are getting points.
Detroit 24, Minnesota 20
Tennessee Titans (2-1) vs Houston Texans (1-2)
Spread: TEN -2.5 Over/Under: 43.5
DVOA: TEN (10) > HOU (25)
Public Betting: TEN 54%
Tennessee’s offense is off to a great start, as it’s ranked in the top-ten in both rushing and passing. But I still have faith in Houston’s strong defensive front, which has allowed just 3.6 yards per carry through three weeks. J.J. Watt and company should be able to neutralize DeMarco Murray and the Titans’ running game, so can Marcus Mariota carry the offensive load? Potentially. But the Texans’ secondary won’t play Tom Brady every week, so I bet it will perform better against Tennessee. Plus, Deshaun Watson finally has this Houston offense heading in the right direction. I’ll take the Texans to win this crucial divisional matchup.
Houston 23, Tennessee 21
Jacksonville Jaguars (2-1) vs New York Jets (1-2)
Spread: JAC -3 Over/Under: 38
DVOA: JAC (18) > NYJ (30)
Public Betting: JAC 74%
This is potentially a letdown spot for the Jaguars after their outstanding 44-7 win over the Ravens. They’re making another trans-atlantic trip, for starters, and the Jets aren’t quite as bad as people think, as evidenced by their dominant win over Miami last Sunday (which I called!). With that said, Jacksonville’s defense should continue its stellar play against New York. The Jets’ passing offense offers little outside of receiver Jermaine Kearse, so the Jaguars and their league-leading pass defense should impress once again. Moreover, New York has a below-average running attack, so I don’t see it taking advantage of Jacksonville’s poor run-defense.
Running backs Leonard Fournette and Chris Ivory will be just enough to top the Jets, even though I’ll join the minority of people taking New York to cover the spread.
Jacksonville 15, New York 13
Cincinnati Bengals (0-3) vs Cleveland Browns (0-3)
Spread: CIN -3 Over/Under: 41.5
DVOA: CIN (24) > CLE (32)
Public Betting: CIN 71%
What a game we have here! Given how the Browns have lost twenty-eight out of their previous thirty games, there’s really no sense putting your faith in Cleveland at any point this season. Andy Dalton and the Bengals’ offense should build on its nice performance against Green Bay (7.1 yards per pass, 24 total points) to notch win #1 of the season.
Cincinnati 28, Cleveland 16
Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1) vs Baltimore Ravens (2-1)
Spread: PIT -3 Over/Under: 42.5
DVOA: PIT (1) > BAL (12)
Public Betting: PIT 58%
Something is not right with Pittsburgh’s offense, which is averaging just 5.0 yards per play (20th in NFL). Combine that with Ben Roethlisberger’s recent struggles on the road, as well as the Steelers’ offensive woes in Baltimore specifically (they’ve averaged just 12.3 points per game at M&T Bank Stadium since 2014), and I’ll take the Ravens, led by their strong and motivated defense, to rebound after an uncharacteristic performance last weekend.
Baltimore 23, Pittsburgh 20
Buffalo Bills (2-1) vs Atlanta Falcons (3-0)
Spread: ATL -8 Over/Under: 48.5
DVOA: BUF (17) < ATL (11)
Public Betting: ATL 74%
Atlanta is clearly the superior team. Offensively, the Falcons rank 3rd in yards per play and defensively they’re not too bad, as they’re tied for ninth in opponent yards per play and third in opponent yards per pass attempt, albeit through three weeks. However, people are sleeping on the Bills. They just handled Denver, one of the better teams in the NFL, with relative ease, and are arguably one dropped pass near the Carolina goal-line from being 3-0. Buffalo should be able to pound LeSean McCoy against Atlanta’s 29th-ranked run defense, so this game will be much closer than people anticipate. Ultimately, though, the Falcons will hold serve at home.
Atlanta 24, Buffalo 21
New York Giants (0-3) vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1)
Spread: TB -3 Over/Under: 44.5
DVOA: NYG (23) < TB (22)
Public Betting: NYG 65%
Once again, Tampa Bay’s defense is depleted due to injuries. Starting linebackers Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David are out. Same is likely for safety T.J. Ward (doubtful). Star defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and starting cornerback Brent Grimes are questionable, too. As Case Keenum and the Vikings’ offense (369 passing yards, 34 points) did last week, the Giants’ offense should take advantage of this weakened unit. Combined with a solid defensive effort, New York will finally win its first game of 2017.
New York 24, Tampa Bay 17
Philadelphia Eagles (2-1) vs Los Angeles Chargers (0-3)
Spread: LA -2.5 Over/Under: 47.5
DVOA: PHI (13) > LAC (21)
Public Betting: PHI 55%
I’ve predicted the Chargers to win before every one of their games this season…and it hasn’t worked out too well. Time to abandon ship! Melvin Gordon may play, but he is nursing a knee injury. With its top running back limited, I think Los Angeles’ offense will struggle and lose once again.
Philadelphia 21, Los Angeles 19
San Francisco 49ers (0-3) vs Arizona Cardinals (1-2)
Spread: ARZ -6.5 Over/Under: 44.5
DVOA: SF (31) < ARZ (26)
Public Betting: ARZ 52%
The Cardinals’ offense, averaging just 2.8 yards per carry (31st in NFL) has been predicated solely around its passing game. That sort of one-dimensionality can lead to problems. Even though San Francisco’s defense is not strong, I think it can take advantage of Arizona’s weak offensive line that will be without guards Mike Iupati and Alex Boone. I like the Cardinals to win, but San Francisco will cover.
Arizona 21, San Francisco 17
Oakland Raiders (2-1) vs Denver Broncos (2-1)
Spread: DEN -2.5 Over/Under: 46
DVOA: OAK (14) > DEN (19)
Public Betting: DEN 65%
Oakland’s offensive woes last week were troubling. The Raiders scored just 10 points and gained a mere 128 yards of total offense against a Redskins’ defense that is by no means elite. Now Oakland will travel to the Mile High and actually play an elite defense. Plus, considering how the Raiders have one of the five worst pass-defenses in the NFL, I think Trevor Siemian will look more like the quarterback who threw four touchdown passes against Dallas than the one who turned the ball over twice in a loss to Buffalo.
Denver 27, Oakland 20
Indianapolis Colts (1-2) vs Seattle Seahawks (1-2)
Spread: SEA -13 Over/Under: 41.5
DVOA: IND (29) < SEA (9)
Public Betting: SEA 52%
The league might want to think about changing its early-season flex policy because this game is a complete mismatch. The Seahawks, who are clearly better than the Colts, surely don’t want to fall to 1-3. Their defense will make Jacoby Brissett’s life miserable in front of a raucous home crowd.
*Seattle 30, Indianapolis 13
And lastly, here are my best bets for Week 4…
- TEASER: NEW ENGLAND (-2.5) over Carolina & New England vs Carolina OVER 42.5
- TEASER: DETROIT (+8.5) over Minnesota & BALTIMORE (+9) over Pittsburgh
- CINCINNATI (-3) over Cleveland
- BUFFALO (+8) over Atlanta
- NEW YORK (+3) over Tampa Bay