NFL Week 4 lines are here! The NFL season has been one of the best, and get fantastic NFL Week 4 picks and predictions from Jacob Wayne in this article. This is the second to last week without BYEs until Week 15, so cherish the full 16-game slate while it is still around. Compare and find the best odds pricing for NFL Week 4 with the table below.
My Week 3 record: 10-6 SU, 7-9 ATS, 10-6 O/U
My record overall: 27-21 SU, 23-25 ATS, 27-21 SU
Thursday, September 30
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Cincinnati Bengals
This game is being billed as a shootout between Trevor Lawrence, the first overall pick from this year, and Joe Burrow, the first overall pick from last year. However, Burrow is three years older than Lawrence and further along in his development as a polished product. Lawrence has struggled this season as he has thrown for seven interceptions through just three games, the most in the NFL. He also has the third-worst QBR in the NFL, ahead of only fellow rookies Zach Wilson and Justin Fields. James Robinson finally emerged for the Jacksonville offense on Sunday as he had over 100 yards from scrimmage for the first time this season and scored his first rushing touchdown. Jacksonville’s offensive line has held up surprisingly well, though, as they have allowed the lowest adjusted sack rate in the NFL per Football Outsiders. I’m very intrigued to see if Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard can break through that line as they did on Sunday when they helped take down Ben Roethlisberger four times.
In terms of pass protection, Cincinnati’s offensive line ranks on the other end of the spectrum n terms of pass protection as they have allowed the highest adjusted sack rate per Football Outsiders. That has created a problematic situation for Joe Burrow as he has been under heavy fire all season. Burrow took five sacks in each of the first two weeks, and it was surprising to see him take none against the vaunted Steelers defense, but I’m not sold. However, the team isn’t necessarily lamenting the decision to draft Ja’Marr Chase as he has picked up right where he left off from his previous chemistry with Burrow – the two have combined for four touchdowns so far this season. Tee Higgins’s availability is in question for this game after he missed last week against the Steelers. Still, with Chase and Tyler Boyd, Burrow will have plenty of ammo to take advantage of the Jaguars’ pass defense that ranks as the fifth-worst in the NFL in coverage grade per PFF. That will only get worse after former first-round cornerback C.J. Henderson was traded to the Panthers.
These are two teams amid their respective rebuilds, but the Bengals have impressed me this season. The Cincinnati defense has competed surprisingly well, and the additions of cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Mike Hilton have paid dividends for the secondary so far. Both quarterbacks in this game have decent skill position talent supporting them, but Burrow is more poised despite his offensive line’s issues. The Jaguars don’t have the pass rush talent to take advantage of the poor offensive line. Jacksonville has failed to cover the spread in three games so far, and I’m not betting on that changing now.
Matchup To Watch: Ja’Marr Chase (CIN WR) vs. Shaquill Griffin (JAX CB)
My Pick: Bengals win 30-21, Bengals cover, over 46.5 points
Sunday, October 3
Tennessee Titans @ New York Jets
Like the Jaguars, the Jets are another team with a rookie starting quarterback in Zach Wilson who have failed to cover the spread in three games. The Titans, meanwhile, are coming off two statement wins – a comeback victory over the Seahawks and a decisive win over the Colts that put them in the drivers’ seat in the AFC South. Ryan Tannehill had the bounce-back he needed in terms of passing touchdowns – he had three of them – although his two interceptions kept the Colts hanging around for longer than they should have been. A.J. Brown has had a rough season plagued by drops, and he left the game with a hamstring injury leaving his status is up-in-the-air for Sunday. The Titans will rely more on Julio Jones, who had a modest three catches for 47 yards on Sunday if he can’t play. Left tackle Taylor Lewan has recovered from a brutal start to the season in which he was embarrassed by Chandler Jones in Week 1 and missed Week 2. He’ll continue to get on the right track against the Jets. They have struggled to garner a significant pass rush from their front seven following Carl Lawson’s season-ending injury over the offseason.
Zach Wilson has had a dreadful rookie season, and he threw another two interceptions and took five sacks on Sunday. He’s now taken 15 sacks for the season, more than any other quarterback, and the team misses Mekhi Becton. Greg Van Roten has been particularly awful, and he allowed six quarterback pressures on Sunday. There haven’t been many positive takeaways for the Jets offensively this season as the new coach, quarterback, and offensive pieces have resulted in New York scoring just 6.7 points per game, the fewest in the NFL by far. While the Titans don’t profile as an elite defense, they have figured some things out as of late, and the secondary play has been awe-inspiring with an ascendant Kristian Fulton joining veterans Jackrabbit Jenkins and Kevin Byard. Tennessee ranks just 30th in defensive DVOA so far this year per Football Outsiders, so maybe Wilson starts to get on the right track this week.
Zach Wilson is a talented player, and he’s going to turn things around at some point, but it’s difficult to envision that happening this week based on what we’ve seen from the rookie so far and how poor this offensive line is has been. The Jets have struggled against the run this season, and a couple of Wilson turnovers with Henry’s ability to dominate possession leads to a blowout Titans’ win.
Matchup To Watch: Corey Davis (NYJ WR) vs. Jackrabbit Jenkins (TEN CB)
My Pick: Titans win 27-10, Titans cover, under 45.5 points
Kansas City Chiefs @ Philadelphia Eagles
On Sunday, the Chiefs suffered their second straight loss for the first time since October 2019. Patrick Mahomes had an uncharacteristically lousy game that included a 61% completion rate and two interceptions despite playing at home. The Chargers uncovered unique ways to attack the Kansas City offense and showed the blueprint to other teams with similarly elite personnel. The Eagles do not. On Monday night, Philadelphia let Dallas run up the score as Dak Prescott completed over 80% of his passes and threw for 238 yards to 3 touchdowns. If it weren’t for an early fumble return for a touchdown by Fletcher Cox, this would have been even more of an embarrassing defeat. This sets up exceptionally well for Patrick Mahomes to bounce back with considerable performance. Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce draw favorable matchups. At the same time, Clyde Edwards-Helaire should succeed for the second straight week against a Philly defense that allowed Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard to combine for 28 carries for 155 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
Jalen Hurts should succeed against a defense that struggles somewhat against mobile quarterbacks, and the Eagles’ run game should get back on track against Kansas City, who ranks last in the NFL in run defense DVOA per Football Outsiders. That bodes well for Miles Sanders and Kenneth Gainwell, neither of whom had an imposing game on Monday. However, the Chiefs may force Hurts to have a heavier passing volume than he would like if they run up the score. In that case, DeVonta Smith and Jalen Reagor are capable of making big plays against Kansas City. Hurts can move the ball in this game, although his Monday night performance wasn’t good at all.
While the Chiefs have to go on the road now, it’s hard to imagine a better get-right opportunity for them following their two losses. Dak Prescott showed the Eagles’ defense was a mirage from the first two weeks of the season, and Mahomes should continue to expose them. It will be fun to see Travis and Jason Kelce’s team face off on Sunday, but Travis’s Chiefs should get a decisive win.
Matchup To Watch: Jason Kelce (PHI C) vs. Chris Jones (DT)
My Pick: Chiefs win 38-28, Chiefs cover, over 54.5 points
Carolina Panthers @ Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys dismantled the Eagles on Monday Night Football in a 20-point win over their divisional rival. Dak Prescott was superb in his first game back in Dallas – he completed 80% of his passes, threw for three touchdowns, and finished with a passer rating of 143.3. The Panthers rank #1 in the NFL in defensive DVOA so far per Football Outsiders, but they have yet to face a team with nearly the offensive capabilities of the Cowboys. After rookie cornerback Jaycee Horn’s injury on Sunday, C.J. Henderson will likely be immediately thrust into action alongside Donte Jackson to face Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb. The solid front seven will also face a terrific two-headed backfield monster in Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. Carolina’s defense is no farce, but this could be a challenging game for them.
Carolina could also have a tough time in this game, with Christian McCaffrey injured and highly unlikely to play. D.J. Moore is having a stellar season with 22 catches for 285 yards and a touchdown already this season, and he’ll be leaned on even more with CMC out. Robby Anderson and Terrace Marshall Jr. will also likely see more targets as Chuba Hubbard takes over as the starting running back. Moore will likely see many Trevon Diggs in this game, the Cowboys’ cornerback who had a pick-six on Monday night. Sam Darnold has been solid so far with his new team, but Dallas’s new-look defense under Dan Quinn has been surprisingly good, and that spells trouble for Carolina without McCaffrey.
The Panthers may be 3-0, but this will surely be their biggest test of the season so far after the Cowboys showed a national audience how good they could be on Monday. While the Cowboys are on a short week, they don’t have to travel and stay in their home confines. Dak Prescott has been excellent this season, and I’m betting on him to keep it going this week.
Matchup To Watch: D.J. Moore (CAR WR) vs. Trevon Diggs (DAL CB)
My Pick: Cowboys win 27-20, Cowboys cover, under 50 points
New York Giants @ New Orleans Saints
I picked the Giants to win last week over a hapless Falcons team, but they never put it together offensively – they only had six points in the game until the fourth quarter brought their first touchdown. If the Giants struggled to score on the Falcons at home with ten days of preparation, they certainly will have a tough time against the Saints’ lights-out defense. New Orleans ranks fifth in defensive DVOA per Football Outsiders, and they shut down the Patriots in New England on Sunday. Mac Jones threw three interceptions after none in the first two games, and the Patriots averaged just 2.9 YPC. Daniel Jones has been decent this season, but I was expecting more from him on Sunday. The Giants have allowed the eighth-highest adjusted sack rate so far this season, and while left tackle Andrew Thomas has improved in his second season, Nate Solder has been a huge liability. Cameron Jordan has 15 total pressures so far this season and will likely make Solder’s life miserable this week. If that’s not enough, Jones will have a tough time throwing the ball against Marshon Lattimore and an elite New Orleans secondary.
In the least surprising development of the season, Jameis Winston has been remarkably hot-and-cold so far. So far, Winston has had two games with multiple touchdown passes and no interceptions (including his five touchdowns on 20 attempts in Week 1) with a no-touchdown, two-interception game in the middle. It’s been tough to predict how he will play, and I admit I thought he would have a more challenging time on the road against the Patriots last week. The Giants rank in the bottom ten in the NFL in pass defense DVOA, so I trust Winston in this matchup. Alvin Kamara also had the bounce-back game he needed last week with over 100 yards from scrimmage and a receiving touchdown. While the Saints don’t have enough consistent production from their offensive skill position players, they won’t need it with the way the Giants’ defense has produced this season.
The Saints are a difficult team to predict this season, but it’s tough to imagine Daniel Jones going on the road and succeeding against Cameron Jordan and Marshon Lattimore. It really wouldn’t be shocking to see Jameis Winston gift the Giants with some short-field situations, though, and Jones has yet to throw an interception this season. If Sterling Shepard can play in this game, I’ll take the Giants to keep it somewhat interesting.
Matchup To Watch: Nate Solder (NYG OT) vs. Cameron Jordan (NO DE)
My Pick: Saints win 27-20, Giants cover, over 43.5 points
Cleveland Browns @ Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota picked up a must-win game at home on Sunday and heads into Week 2 very much alive in the NFC North as they are only one game behind the Packers. The Browns, meanwhile, are tied with both the Ravens and Bengals at 2-1 in the AFC North. Vikings’ rookie left tackle Christian Darrisaw has yet to make his NFL debut, and Rashod Hill has struggled in replacement as he has allowed eight pressures through three games. Myles Garrett will match up Hill and Garrett had four and a half sacks and four tackles for loss on Sunday. Kirk Cousins will have to get rid of the ball quickly in this game as he has the last two weeks, but it won’t be as easy against a solid Browns’ pass defense. Denzel Ward, Troy Hill, and rookie Greg Newsome provide an excellent trio of cornerbacks to match Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and K.J. Osborn. We knew what to expect from Jefferson and Thielen, but K.J. Osborn has been the surprise of the group with fourteen catches for 193 yards and a touchdown so far. I’m excited to see what Cleveland, the sixth-best run defense in DVOA per Football Outsiders, can do against Dalvin Cook this week, assuming he plays. Alexander Mattison had a strong game in relief last week as Cook was unable to go.
The Vikings’ defense was the more encouraging piece of their Week 3 win, as holding Russell Wilson to 17 points is no easy feat. Minnesota’s defensive line is much improved from last season as Danielle Hunter is back after missing all of last yea. The team has a great rotation of linemen alongside Hunter, including Everson Griffen, Sheldon Richardson, and Dalvin Tomlinson. The secondary has not been ideal, particularly as Bashaud Breeland has been burned repeatedly – he allowed nine receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown to Seattle last week. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt will put Minnesota’s defensive prowess against the run to the test, and if they need to drop more players into the box to deal with those runners, I don’t trust their secondary to hold up. Odell Beckham Jr. returned for the Browns last week, and while he only had five catches for 77 yards, I’m expecting a more significant impact in this game.
Both of these offenses know how to score, but the Browns have the better defense, and I think that shows in this game. Minnesota’s defense shined against Seattle last week, but I think there are some ways Cleveland can take advantage. In Kevin Stefanski’s return to Minnesota, I’m picking him to get one over his old team and win.
Matchup To Watch: Rashod Hill (MIN OT) vs. Myles Garrett (CLE DE)
My Pick: Browns win 27-23, Browns cover, under 52.5 points
Detroit Lions @ Chicago Bears
We got to see the debut of Justin Fields on Sunday, and it did not go as Bears fans hoped or expected. The Browns sacked Fields a whopping nine times and hit the quarterback 15 times. The Lions don’t have anyone the caliber of Myles Garrett, who had 4.5 sacks on Sunday, especially with Trey Flowers injured. If there were ever a game for Fields to produce in the NFL, it would be this one against the worst defense in the NFL per Football Outsiders DVOA. The Lions already lost second-year cornerback Jeff Okudah for the season, and Ifeatu Melifonwu is on Injured Reserve, leaving what was already a lousy secondary even lighter than usual. Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney are very capable of taking advantage of this plus matchup, and I’m expecting much better play from Fields in this game. In addition, David Montgomery should take advantage of the Lions’ poor run defense.
Jared Goff played much better last week than I expected him to against a tough Ravens defense, and surprisingly T.J. Hockenson wasn’t the reason why as he only had two catches for ten yards. D’Andre Swift racked up 107 yards from scrimmage on 20 total touches while Khalif Raymond broke out as the team’s top wideout with six catches for 68 yards. The Lions’ offensive line held up surprisingly well last week, but Taylor Decker still has yet to play this season with a finger injury and his loss is massive against an elite front seven in Chicago. Rookie Penei Sewell is still growing and improving, and a matchup against the Bears’ edge rushers Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn could spell trouble for this team. Roquan Smith is uniquely capable of guarding either D’Andre Swift or T.J. Hockenson in space, and without much in the way or reliable wide receivers, I’m not expecting big things from Detroit’s offense this week.
I have high hopes for Justin Fields’s future in this league, and this matchup should provide an excellent bounce-back opportunity for him against the Lions. Aided by a defense that should make Jared Goff’s life very difficult and David Montgomery should run all over Detroit, I’m betting on the Bears getting their second win of the season.
Matchup To Watch: Penei Sewell (DET OT) vs. Khalil Mack (CHI OLB)
My Pick: Bears win 24-17, Bears cover, over 42.5 points
Houston Texans @ Buffalo Bills
I didn’t expect to be glowingly talking about the Bills’ run game through three weeks of the season, but Devin Singletary has been excellent with 35 carries for 180 yards and a touchdown. Zack Moss was a healthy scratch in Week 1, but he now has 21 carries for 86 yards and two touchdowns in the last two games. If Buffalo’s offense can provide a consistent rushing threat to go with an elite offense, it will make this team even more dangerous. On Sunday, Josh Allen had a stellar game with 358 passing yards and four passing touchdowns with another touchdown on the ground. Cole Beasley had 11 catches for 98 yards while Emmanuel Sanders broke out with five catches for 94 yards and two touchdowns. Of course, Stefon Diggs is still an elite weapon for this team, but he had a modest six catches for 62 yards on Sunday.
Houston will have plenty of time to prepare for this game, but it may not matter much as they are massive 17-point underdogs. Davis Mills had an acceptable performance in his NFL debut with no turnovers, but he was sacked four times and only threw for 168 yards. He did have to face the Panthers, who have the best defense in terms of DVOA per Football Outsiders, but the Bills rank just behind them at second. Brandin Cooks has been stellar this season and still had nine catches for 112 yards even though an inexperienced Mills was the starter. This week, Cooks has to face one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL in Tre’Davious White, while Buffalo’s renewed pass rush will make Mills uncomfortable.
If Tyrod Taylor were playing in this game, we’d be discussing revenge game possibilities and the Texans being able to keep this close. However, I don’t trust Mills on the road against an excellent Buffalo defense. Josh Allen should be able to do whatever he wants against the Houston defense, and I’m comfortable betting on the Bills here despite the massive spread, the biggest one we’ve seen this season.
Matchup To Watch: Brandin Cooks (HOU WR) vs. Tre’Davious White (BUF CB)
My Pick: Bills win 38-10, Bills cover, over 48 points
Indianapolis Colts @ Miami Dolphins
I faded the Dolphins last week without Tua Tagovailoa after being placed on IR, but Jacoby Brissett did enough to keep the game close against the Raiders. With just 6.7 yards per completion, Brissett did a solid job of getting rid of the ball quickly to compensate for a poor Miami offensive line facing a potent Raiders’ front seven. Mike Gesicki was a huge part of the game plan with 10 catches for 86 yards and Jaylen Waddle added 12 receptions for 58 yards with a long of just 9 yards. That game plan worked wonders and shows how much the rest of the league is starting to respect the Raiders’ pass rush. Brissett might be good enough to keep the Dolphins competitive until Tua gets back into the lineup, which I hope is sooner rather than later as I had high hopes for him this season.
For the Colts, their 25-16 loss to the Titans was much closer than the final score indicated, as they were within one point at the start of the fourth quarter. Carson Wentz was feeling the impacts of his two ankle injuries as he completed just 51% of his passes and struggled to lead a competent offense. Jonathan Taylor ran for 6.4 YPC, by far his best efficiency of the season, but he only saw ten carries in an unexpectedly small workload. The Colts offensive line hasn’t been as good as advertised as it has dealt with several injuries, limiting Wentz’s ability to be productive. Emmanuel Ogbah has led a solid Dolphins’ pass rush that sacked Derek Carr three times last week.
Both of these teams are dealing with quarterback injuries now, and I honestly feel that a full-strength Jacoby Brissett, even though he’s the backup, is better than a hobbled Carson Wentz. This season has gone as poorly as possible for the Colts so far, and with several injuries still plaguing them, I’m taking the team that has gone 11-4 ATS in their last 15 games.
Matchup To Watch: Michael Pittman Jr. (IND WR) vs. Xavien Howard (MIA CB)
My Pick: Dolphins win 20-17, Dolphins cover, under 43 points
Washington Football Team @ Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons surprised me with their win last week, and Matt Ryan bounced back a bit with a 75% completion rate and two touchdowns with no interceptions. Still, Ryan has had a plodding start to the year as he’s adjusted to yet another new offense under new head coach Arthur Smith. Calvin Ridley has underwhelmed preseason expectations, while Kyle Pitts has had a limited impact as a rookie. This offense is very reliant on Cordarelle Patterson which does not bode well for their ability to produce moving forward. Washington’s defense hasn’t lived up to the hype so far this season, and they rank just 18th in the NFL in defensive DVOA per Football Outsiders after ranking third last season. A game against Atlanta could be just what they need to get back on track, though, as Chase Young and Montez Sweat should run roughshod over Atlanta’s Jake Matthews and Kaleb McGary.
Taylor Heinecke is coming off a game in which he made many mistakes and only completed 58.3% of his passes while throwing two interceptions. He was forcing the ball downfield too much to keep pace with Josh Allen, something he won’t need to do in this game as Matt Ryan has struggled to start this season. Terry McLaurin has had an excellent start with 19 catches for 231 yards and a touchdown so far, while Antonio Gibson broke off a 73-yard touchdown reception last week. Atlanta has a decent run defense led by Grady Jarrett, but its cornerbacks can’t hang with McLaurin on the outside, and Heinecke is good enough to expose a weak defense.
Washington had a brutal defeat on the road in Buffalo last week, but I still think this is a very competent team. I’m not overreacting to a narrow Falcons’ win over a Giants’ team that is seemingly attempting to invent new ways to lose this season, and I love this as a nice bounce-back spot for the Washington defense.
Matchup To Watch: Chase Young (WAS DE) vs. Kaleb McGary (ATL OT)
My Pick: Washington wins 23-17, Washington covers, under 48 points
Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers
The Seahawks have won 13 of their last 15 against the 49ers, but make no mistake about it – this one of the premier divisional rivalries the NFL has to offer. After Russell Wilson complained about the Seattle offensive line over the offseason, they haven’t improved in pass protection much. According to Football Outsiders, the Seahawks ranked 30th in the NFL last season with an 8.2% adjusted rack rate – that has increased to 10.4% this year. Duane Brown has been a stalwart at left tackle, but the rest of the line has been very inconsistent. Wilson hasn’t seemed to notice, though, as he has completed 73.3% of his passes this year for 895 yards and seven touchdowns with no interceptions. Tyler Lockett has been excellent with 16 catches for 309 yards and three touchdowns, while DK Metcalf has 16 catches for 220 yards and two touchdowns. The 49ers’ defense is hurting after the loss of Jason Verrett as they allowed Aaron Rodgers to have a very efficient game on Sunday, and I expect Wilson to take advantage.
Seattle’s defense has been tough to gauge this season as they’ve had stretches of excellence and periods of very poor play. The Seahawks hoped to have an improved pass defense this year, but they have allowed the seventh-most passing yards in the NFL. Deebo Samuel has been terrific so far this year, while Brandon Aiyuk found the end zone last week and should continue to emerge out of an early-season slump. George Kittle led the way in Week 3 with seven catches for 92 yards, and that trio of pass-catchers should expose a limited Seahawks’ secondary. However, I am not confident San Francisco can run the ball against Bobby Wagner and the Seattle front seven with all of their injuries at the running back position.
Both of these teams are dark-horse Super Bowl contenders, and both will view this as a crucial divisional matchup. I’ll take the team with the recent history of success, the better quarterback, and the better health at the moment. Russell Wilson gets another win against the 49ers at Levi’s Stadium in front of fans waiting for their first home win with fans in the building since 2019.
Matchup To Watch: Duane Brown (SEA OT) vs. Nick Bosa (SF DE)
My Pick: Seahawks win 30-27, Seahawks cover, over 52 points
Arizona Cardinals @ Los Angeles Rams
These NFC West teams are 3-0, and the Rams’ Matthew Stafford and the Cardinals’ Kyler Murray are early MVP candidates. Los Angeles hosted Tom Brady and the Buccaneers last week, and the game wasn’t particularly close as the Rams went into the second half with a 7-point lead and never looked back. Cooper Kupp has been stupendous so far this year with 25 catches for 367 yards, and five touchdowns, and the Cardinals will likely be another team that doesn’t have an answer for Matthew Stafford’s favorite target. Kupp has lined up out of the slot on most of his snaps and will likely see a lot of Byron Murphy Jr., a 2019 second-round pick, in this game. Darrell Henderson’s health is a question mark, but Sony Michel is serviceable in replacement, and Stafford’s elite deep ball doesn’t require a run game to open it up. Andrew Whitworth will be relied upon to block against Chandler Jones.
Kyler Murray has been fantastic to start this season with over 1,000 passing yards and ten total touchdowns (seven passing, three rushing). However, the Cardinals have faced three weaker defenses in the Titans, Vikings, and Jaguars. Over the offseason, the most significant addition for the Cardinals was three-time Pro Bowl center Rodney Hudson, a stabilizing force for the offensive line. He’ll need to have his best game in a Cardinals uniform on Sunday when he faces three-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald. The matchup between DeAndre Hopkins and Jalen Ramsey should also be must-watch television. The Rams held down Tom Brady for most of their matchup on Sunday, and while Murray provides a different kind of challenge, it’s hard to imagine him keeping up his absurd pace against the best defense he’s played so far.
Both of these teams have potent offenses that feature MVP candidates, and both have some elite defensive talent. The bottom line for me in this matchup is I trust the home team to defend, and I trust Matthew Stafford to hang in the pocket and expose a weaker Arizona secondary as he did against Tampa Bay last week. Murray is electric, but the Rams are better-coached and have the better team overall.
Matchup To Watch: DeAndre Hopkins (ARI WR) vs. Jalen Ramsey (LAR CB)
My Pick: Rams win 28-24, Cardinals cover, under 54.5 points
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Green Bay Packers
The Steelers are disintegrating before our eyes. The injuries continue to pile up as T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith, and Diontae Johnson didn’t play on Sunday before Chukwuma Okorafor, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Kendrick Green all got hurt against the Bengals. Stephon Tuitt and Tyson Alalu had already been on Injured Reserve. Ben Roethlisberger looked cooked against the Bengals on Sunday as he threw two interceptions and led his team to just ten total points against what should have been a beatable defense. Roethlisberger is also dealing with some sort of a pectoral injury. That’s now a starting quarterback, two starting receivers, two starting offensive linemen, and four starting front seven pieces dealing with injuries. Najee Harris led the team with 14 catches on Sunday as Roethlisberger repeatedly checked the ball down and could not combat the Bengals’ pass rush behind his weak offensive line. While the Packers don’t have an elite front seven, Rashan Gary, Kenny Clark, and Za’Darius Smith should take advantage of this deteriorating situation.
Remember when the Packers lost to the Saints 38-3, and everyone was in a tailspin? Good times. Aaron Rodgers told everyone to “R-E-L-A-X” again and delivered on preseason promises with two straight wins. A win over the Lions was expected while a road win over the stout 49ers in their home opener was very impressive. Aside from a scary hit to the head (that absolutely should have been a penalty, by the way), Davante Adams was stellar with 12 catches for 132 yards and a touchdown. Pittsburgh has no defenders who are capable of slowing him down. The Packers didn’t get a crazy amount of production from the rest of their offense, but they didn’t need a ton of volume as their defense forced two turnovers and created excellent short-field situations.
These two teams provide a lesson against overreacting to Week 1 results. The Steelers had a win over the Bills that put them right into the conversation for dark horse Super Bowl contenders. The Packers got blown out by the Saints, and it spelled the end of Aaron Rodgers’s time as an invested member of the team. Or so we thought. These teams have since launched into opposite directions, and that disparate play will show on Sunday as Rodgers turns this into a rout at Lambeau Field.
Matchup To Watch: Chase Claypool (PIT WR) vs. Jaire Alexander (GB CB)
My Pick: Packers win 30-17, Packers cover, over 45.5 points
Baltimore Ravens @ Denver Broncos
If you told me before the season that the Broncos would be favored in this game, I wouldn’t have believed you. Here we are, though, as Denver hosts a Baltimore team in a battle of 3-0 squads. The Broncos are off to their first 3-0 start since 2016, and it’s been a combined effort by Teddy Bridgewater and a dominant defense that may be the best in the NFL. Bridgewater didn’t throw a touchdown against the Jets last week, but he has no interceptions through three games and has a QBR of 77.8, the third-best in the NFL. Football Outsiders ranks the Ravens 24th in the NFL in pass defense DVOA, so this may not be the enormous challenge many pundits will make it out to be. Baltimore has missed cornerback Marcus Peters after his season-ending injury, and Jimmy Smith didn’t have the impact the team hoped for in his debut last week. Baltimore’s pass rush is also somewhat limited between a 35-year-old Calais Campbell, 32-year-old Justin Houston, and rookie Odafe Oweh. While the Broncos’ offensive line isn’t top-notch, Garrett Bolles and company still rank about league average in adjusted sack rate per Football Outsiders. Denver’s run game hasn’t been overly productive, but Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams ran for touchdowns last week.
The Broncos’ defense has been one of the most consistent in the NFL so far, and they rank first in points allowed and second in yards allowed. Of course, matchups against the Jets, Jaguars, and Giants will aid in that standing, but Denver’s defense is full of talent. Von Miller has turned back the clock with four sacks through three games. Alexander Johnson has emerged as an excellent off-ball linebacker. The trio of Patrick Surtain, Kyle Fuller, and Bryce Callahan has rendered Ronald Darby, a crucial part of the elite Washington defense last year, unnecessary. Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson continue to be among the best safety tandems in the NFL. The Broncos’ defense is complete and is one of the few capable of slowing down the Ravens’ potent rushing offense. The team has shown some inability to recover from the losses of J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, and last week, the Lions held them to 16 points before a historic Justin Tucker field goal to win the game. Marquise Brown did have a couple of dropped balls that could have been long touchdowns, but he will have a much tougher time gaining separation against this defense.
Denver may not have the flashy quarterback play of the Cardinals or Rams, but they are one of the most balanced teams in the NFL at the moment. Vic Fangio and Pat Shurmur are ready to deliver the Broncos a statement victory, and Teddy Bridgewater is the quarterback to make it happen. A mistake-free, steady effort from the Broncos earns them their best win in years.
Matchup To Watch: Courtland Sutton (DEN WR) vs. Marlon Humphery (BAL CB)
My Pick: Broncos win 23-20, Broncos cover, under 44 points
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New England Patriots
Welcome to the most significant revenge game in NFL history. Tom Brady will return to Gillette Stadium, where he said he enjoyed “some of the greatest experiences of [his] life.” Brady will be fired up to play his old team and will have to overcome some crazy circumstances, unlike anything he’s faced so far in his career. The Patriots will be ready for him. New England ranks second in the NFL in pass defense DVOA this season as J.C. Jackson, Devin McCourty, Adrian Phillips, and Kyle Dugger have played well so far. Matthew Judon and Josh Uche have also provided a tremendous pass rush presence. Brady will likely have his full complement of receivers back for this game, though. Antonio Brown will come off the COVID-19 IR and Rob Gronkowski should be able to play following his negative rib X-Rays. Gronk will be highly motivated to play with his QB in their return to Foxboro.
Mac Jones has been hit-or-miss in his rookie season, which is more than you can say about all of the other rookie passers, and he’ll undoubtedly be feeling the pressure of being the hand-picked Brady replacement on Sunday night. Last week, Jones struggled against the Saints as he threw three interceptions and completed just 58.8% of his passes. With James White injured, Jones will likely be without his safety blanket in this game. New England should also struggle to run the ball in this game despite their talented offensive line, as the Buccaneers have had one of the best run defenses in the NFL for the past handful of years. Asking Jones to outproduce Brady against one of the best defenses in the NFL that just won the Super Bowl is a tall order for a rookie still getting comfortable at the pro level.
Tom Brady has had this game circled on his calendar for months, and it sets up perfectly for him to break the career passing yards record against his old team with whom he won six Super Bowls. Bill Belichick will do his best to have New England ready for this game, but the better team will win out, and Brady will exact another measure of revenge over his old coach.
Matchup To Watch: Tom Brady vs. the Patriots, obviously
My Pick: Buccaneers win 26-20, Patriots cover, under 49 points
Monday, October 4
Las Vegas Raiders @ Los Angeles Chargers
The Raiders eked out a close overtime win over the Dolphins to move to 3-0 on the year as Derek Carr further inserted himself into the MVP conversation. He leads the NFL with 1,203 passing yards so far and has helped the Raiders overcome three straight strong defenses in the Ravens, Steelers, and Dolphins. The Raiders have gotten great play out of their skill position players so far, including 200+ receiving yards from Darren Waller, Hunter Renfrow, Henry Ruggs III, and Bryan Edwards. All of them have been impressive in different ways this season. With Chris Harris Jr., Asante Samuel, and Derwin James playing awesome football, I’m excited to see what these receivers can accomplish. In the wake of Josh Jacobs’s injury, Peyton Barber has stepped up with 36 carries for 143 yards and a touchdown through two games. There’s a good chance Jacobs is back in action this week and able to take advantage of the Chargers’ defense, allowing the most rushing yards in the NFL so far.
Justin Herbert has been excellent so far in his sophomore season. Sunday was possibly the best game he’s ever played as he was cool, calm, and collected as ever and threw for 281 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions despite facing the Chiefs in a raucous Arrowhead Stadium with fans. Mike Williams had another seven catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns and has been insanely productive this season. Keenan Allen had eight catches for 50 yards and a touchdown of his own. Combined with Austin Ekeler, the Chargers have one of the most dynamic trios of skill players in the NFL. The new-look offensive line has also done a great job of protecting Herbert – they have allowed the ninth-lowest adjusted sack rate in the NFL so far per Football Outsiders. Maxx Crosby, Yannick Ngakoue, and Carl Nassib have led an ascendant pass rush that will put that offensive line to the test.
This should be a fun divisional bout between these two teams that could truly go either way. I see this game as being decided by a field goal in one direction or the other, though, so I’ll take the Raiders to cover and I’ll pick Derek Carr to get the divisional upset on the road.
Matchup To Watch: Kolton Miller (LV OT) vs. Joey Bosa (LAC DE)
Raiders win 27-24, Raiders cover, under 52.5 points