Buffalo, Carolina, Detroit and San Francisco are all winless this year after four weeks. The fact that we would have four teams at 0-4 is completely unremarkable. What is remarkable, though, is that all four teams that have yet to win in the NFL this season are favored this week.
They are all at home. Detroit gets Saint Louis at home. Buffalo is playing Jacksonville at home, and the line has moved to Buffalo as a slight favorite. Carolina and San Francisco may not have been favored a week ago, but injuries at the quarterback position for the opponents (Chicago and Philadelphia, respectively) has seen the lines swing. Usually, teams that start the season 0-4 will rarely find themselves favored for the rest of the year, let alone all of them at once.
Last week, I rallied with a 4-1 record in both games I liked and games I leaned, and finished with a 9-5 overall record last week, so I don’t have to throw in the towel. Overall for the season, it got me back over .500 for all picks (30-28-3). My record by category:
Games I like: 11-11-1
Games I lean: 14-6-1
Let’s get to this week’s picks:
GAMES I LIKE
1. CLEVELAND (+3) vs. Atlanta, 1 pm est. I picked against Atlanta successfully on their first trip North to Pittsburgh in week 1 when they were a road favorite, and I’m going to go back here. Cleveland has three close losses, and has been far more competitive than people think. Atlanta’s peripheral passing numbers aren’t that impressive for a 3-1 team. Upset pick of the week.
2. ARIZONA (+7) vs. New Orleans, 4 pm est. How can I possibly refuse the points when Max Hall is the next Kurt Warner? On a more serious note, Arizona has been horrible on the road, but has opened with 3 of the first 4 away from Phoenix. This pick is as much about going against New Orleans, who has underwhelmed (they have not won a game by 7 or more yet) and has major injury issues at both running back and the safety position.
3. WASHINGTON (+3) vs. Green Bay, 1 pm est. Green Bay hasn’t been sharp offensively the last few weeks, and is struggling to get balance from the running game, and so I’ll take the team that has the better pass efficiency numbers through four weeks, which happens to be the Redskins.
4. San Diego (-6) at OAKLAND, 4 pm est. The Chargers have owned the Raiders in the Black Hole recently, going 8-2 ATS in the last decade in Oakland. The Chargers are also in the top 2 in passing efficiency on offense and defense so far, and so long as the special teams doesn’t let them down, should have a big advantage in this game.
5. NY JETS (-4.5) vs. Minnesota, monday night. This line does not reflect how these teams have played this year. I’ll take the better team here laying a relatively small number at home. The Vikings will be found in a dumpster when this one is done.
GAMES I LEAN
6. Kansas City (+8.5) at INDIANAPOLIS, 1 pm est. The Chiefs are playing better defensively, and can run the ball, while the Colts are the far more injured side (KC is at the opposite end, with very few key injuries). The Colts are 30-5 over the past 5 years when favored by more than a touchdown, but 16-18-1 ATS.
7. NY Giants (+3) at HOUSTON, 1 pm est. Houston’s pass defense has struggled, so look for Eli to find success to Nicks and Smith. On the other side, Houston still without LT Brown, and both Andre Johnson and Jacoby Jones are slowed by injury.
8. BUFFALO (-1.5) vs. Jacksonville, 1 pm est. Jacksonville has been consistently bad defending the pass; the inconsistency has come on offense, where they have played well in wins and poorly in losses. This is their second road game, and the Jags have not played well on the road of late.
9. DALLAS (-7) vs. Tennessee, 4 pm est. Cowboys have had two weeks to get ready for this one and get the offensive line sorted out.
10. Philadelphia (+3.5) at SAN FRANCISCO, sunday night. Kevin Kolb is getting his chance now, and he better make the most of it.
11. CINCINNATI (-7) vs. Tampa Bay, 1 pm est. T.O. is oldest player to have 200 yards receiving in a game, surpassing James Lofton at age 35 from 1991.
12. BALTIMORE (-7) at Denver, 1 pm est. A top passing offense against the team leading in pass defense. Difference, though is on the other side of the ball, where Denver vulnerable against the pass. Also, Denver is struggling to run the ball, which means Lewis and company can focus on the pass.
13. St. Louis (+3) at DETROIT, 1 pm est. Detroit has had two tough road losses against division rivals, and both of these teams are playing better than last year.
13. Chicago (+3) at CAROLINA, 1 pm est. Cutler is out, but I’m not sure Carolina should be favored over anyone at this point.
[photo via Getty]