NFL Football Predictions: Week 4 Opening Line Report and Picks
by Alan Matthews - 9/23/2014
Hard as it is to believe, there are only three unbeaten teams left in the NFL entering Week 4: Cincinnati, Philadelphia and Arizona. The first two I don't consider a huge shock. The Cardinals most definitely. The Eagles might be the most fortunate 3-0 team in NFL history, and that's not an overstatement. They are the first club to win their first three games of a season by rallying from double-digit deficits in each. Sometimes it's better to be lucky and good. It's best to be both. Philly is the only unbeaten to play this week. Around 75 percent of 3-0 teams have made the playoffs since 1990.
Of course, 0-3 teams making the postseason is incredibly rare. Thus it's time to start thinking of 2015 already for Tampa Bay, Oakland and Jacksonville. Not surprised the latter two are winless, but the Bucs were supposed to be a playoff sleeper. I expect all three to be 0-4 by Sunday evening. Here are a few games and interesting opening WagerWeb lines for Week 4.
Bucs at Steelers (-7, 44.5): Let's start with the mess that is Tampa Bay. Could Lovie Smith actually be fired after one season? I highly doubt that, but if the Bucs continue to be embarrassed like they were last Thursday in Atlanta, something will need to be done. Tampa gave Josh McCown $10 million this offseason to lure him from Chicago, but McCown is showing why he was a journeyman his entire career. He has been the worst starting QB in the NFL this year. He won't start this one as McCown has a thumb injury, although he likely was going to get benched regardless. Mike Glennon goes in Pittsburgh, which lost three defensive starters to injury in last week's upset in Carolina -- Ryan Shazier, Jarvis Jones and Ike Taylor -- and they all will sit for a while. The Steelers were so desperate that they brought James Harrison out of retirement on Monday. Glennon actually was the best rookie QB statistically in 2013. He's an upgrade on McCown, not that it will matter. The pick: I'm sitting on this line. At 7.5, take the Bucs (it seems to be moving that way early on). At 6.5, Pittsburgh. Stay Steelers if it stays put.
Dolphins vs. Raiders (+4.5, 41): This game is in London. I also believe it might be the finale for Oakland coach Dennis Allen should his team lose again. If you are going to make a change, it's best to do it on a bye week, which is what the Raiders will have after this one. Oakland actually played pretty well in New England last week, covering the biggest spread on the board (which I called). The real interesting thing here is the talk that Miami might bench QB Ryan Tannehill. Coach Joe Philbin, who also might be fired before the season ends, hasn't committed to him. This puzzles me. Tannehill hasn't been great, but he's in just his third season, the team used a Top-10 pick on him and I know he's better than No. 2 Matt Moore. I think Philbin sticks with Tannehill for one more week. The pick: Dolphins and "under." Probably will be the lowest-scoring game of week.
Jaguars at Chargers (-13, 44.5): This is easily the biggest spread on the board, and I think it's a huge trap game for the Bolts. Jacksonville has looked pitiful since the second half of Week 1. However, rookie Blake Bortles will make his first NFL start in this one, and even as a rookie I'd call him an upgrade over Chad Henne. I do think it might fire the team up a bit because Bortles is the future. I will admit I had San Diego losing in Buffalo last week off a huge win over Seattle and crossing the country. The Bolts beat the Bills easily 22-10. This just smells like a huge letdown game. Plus, the Bolts lost running back Danny Woodhead and linebacker Manti Te'o to injuries against the Bills. Woodhead is finished for the year and Te'o out several weeks. The pick: I will hold back and hope to get at least 14 here, but I lean Jags.
Falcons at Vikings (+3, 46.5): This was my favorite line of the week .... until I remembered that the Vikings no longer play in a dome, which is what the Falcons prefer. I still like it a lot. Minnesota obviously remains without Adrian Peterson, and QB Teddy Bridgewater will make his first NFL start. Matt Cassel broke several bones in his foot in last week's loss to the Saints. I think Atlanta is a playoff team. It beat a good Saints team and destroyed Tampa Bay, with the only loss at a very good Bengals team. The pick: This line is 2.5 at some books. I would jump on that immediately but even at three I lean Falcons. They are taking a heavy lean, so expect this to keep growing, however.
Eagles at 49ers (-5.5, 50.5): There is always one projected Super Bowl contender that flops each year. So far that's looking like San Francisco. The Niners would be 3-0 instead of 1-2 if they played both halves. They led Chicago comfortably in Week 2 at intermission and the Cardinals 14-6 last week at the break but were dominated in the second halves of both. The Niners have been outscored 52-3 in the second half overall. That's coaching. Maybe Jim Harbaugh's mind is on the soon-to-be open Michigan job? Still, this team will play with desperation on Sunday. The pick: 49ers and over.
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