Giants, Colts, Vikings Are Top Picks in Week 4

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Giants, Colts, Vikings Are Top Picks in Week 4 Monday night provided the latest reminder of just how impossible it is to try to predict the game of football.

The Carolina Panthers were in a great position to cover the nine-point spread and in decent position to win. Then Dallas took a three-point lead. No biggy. Then the Cowboys stretched it to six points. Still doing all right.

Then the Jake Delhomme interception bug swept through the flashy new stadium and seized Steve Smith, forcing him to inexplicably stop running a short slant and essentially spoil the evening of anyone who picked Carolina to cover.

With that game now squarely in rear view, let’s take another crack at it this week (home team in caps).

HOUSTON (-9) over Oakland

Dear Houston,

Are you good? I mean, can you cover a spread? I thought you were OK when you beat the Titans in Week 2. Then again, I thought the Titans were OK, too.

Then you went to Jacksonville, where you were supposed to easily beat the Jaguars by a mere 3.5 points and be on your merry way. I now can never again pick you with any sort of confidence.

Unless you’re playing the Raiders.

Tennessee (-3) over JACKSONVILLE

The Titans are too good to be 0-3. The Jaguars are due for a loss after their one-game winning streak.

Baltimore (+2) over NEW ENGLAND

The Patriots looked strong against the Falcons last week, due in large part to a highly effective pass defense. With Jerod Mayo still out, though, there’s not much reason to believe the Pats will be able to shut down the two-headed monster of Ray Rice and Willis McGahee.

On the other side, even if New England’s offense was firing on all cylinders, putting up a lot of points on Baltimore’s defense is never an easy task. But after last week, the offense was disjointed and looked like it needed more than a few days to get on the same page.

Cincinnati (-5.5) over CLEVELAND

The Cleveland Browns have been outscored 95-29 in three weeks. They have a new starter at quarterback this week. He used to be a backup, then he was the starter, then he wasn’t the starter again, then he went back to being the starter before he wasn’t the starter. Now he’s the starter again. Their players are filing grievances on their coach, whose genius intellect told him to charge thousands of dollars for a bottle of water.

The best thing to come out of Cleveland this year has been the Romeo Crennel commercial. And the Hastily Made Cleveland Tourism Video.

Advantage: Cincinnati

New York Giants (-8.5) over KANSAS CITY

What is going on with these spreads on the Giants’ games? Last week, they were only giving 6.5 to Tampa Bay, one of the worst teams of the millennium. This week, they’re still not double-digit favorites over the 0-3 Chiefs, who have been outscored by 37 points (and lost to the Raiders).

Last week, the Giants beat the Bucs so badly that Tampa had to go and make a quarterback change this week. New York probably won’t send Matt Cassel back to Backup Land, but this one could still get ugly (even with the Giants’ injuries).

CHICAGO (-10) over Detroit

The Lions won a game. Let the land rejoice. OK, now back to normal.

The Bears are coming off a pair of ugly wins, but you can bet they’ll be bringing something extra as they head into their bye in Week 5. This team wants to be 3-1 at their break, and by golly, they’re good enough — and the Lions, with their 278.7 passing yards allowed per game, are bad enough — to do it.

WASHINGTON (-7) over Tampa Bay

This is unequivocally the scariest game in the history of gambling. You’d have to have some sick, twisted fascination for pain if you put more than 60 cents on this game. Because make no mistake about it, this game will be excruciating to watch.

Ultimately, you have to think the Redskins aren’t as bad as they look. Right? OK, maybe not. But if 91,000 Redskins fans still exist and decide to show up and be loud, maybe they can rattle Josh Johnson, who’s thrown 10 passes in the NFL.

Maybe.

New York Jets (+7) over NEW ORLEANS

The Jets have nearly played perfect football thus far. The Saints have been explosive but have given up more than 18 points a game. The Jets, on the other hand, have surrendered just 11  points per contest.

The Jets ultimately do not have enough answers to each and every weapon on the other side of the ball, but the defense has already shut down what were supposed to be two of the more potent offenses in the league.

The biggest concern here is rookie Mark Sanchez feeling the pressure in a loud Superdome. Still, until the Jets show a glaring weakness, I’ll take the points every time.

(As a side note, this may very well be the best game of the weekend, but not many people around the country will be able to see it. You might want to give that friend of yours with the satellite dish a call on Saturday afternoon.)

INDIANAPOLIS (-10.5) over Seattle 

The Colts have been a tricky team to figure out. They looked incapable of beating anyone by more than four points before blasting the Cardinals out of their own building on Sunday night.

Fortunately, Matt Hasselbeck and Walter Jones have been ruled out for this one. Combine that with the fact that Seattle is 25th in rushing defense, and Indy may be able to control this one from start to finish.

Buffalo (-2) over MIAMI

So … Chad Henne is starting a game … and the Dolphins are only giving two points to the Bills? Am I the only one who saw Henne throw a ball from three yards beyond the line of scrimmage?

St. Louis (+9.5) over SAN FRANCISCO

As strong as the 49ers’ run defense has looked, and as terrible the Rams have looked, it’s hard to pick a team with Shaun Hill and an inexperienced Glen Coffee in the backfield to win by 10 points.

Dallas (-3) over DENVER

Which team’s record is more fraudulent? The Broncos won their first game on a miracle catch before getting to play the Browns and Raiders. The Cowboys could very well be 0-2 at home had Jake Delhomme’s generosity not kicked in late Monday night.

This week, Marion Barber is expected to return to an offense that leads the league in rushing (193.7 per game). Denver currently ranks second in passing yards allowed and seventh in rushing yards allowed, due mostly to facing inferior opponents.

Ultimately, this is a tough one, but the lean goes to Dallas.

PITTSBURGH (-6.5) over San Diego

Before the season started, this game might have been sold as an AFC Championship preview.

Not so much anymore.

Still, you want to stay away. Remember the gambling disaster last November?

I’m going with the champs on this one for no other reason than the fact that CBS made me watch the Chargers-Dolphins game for three hours on Sunday, thoroughly convincing me that the Chargers are a mess and might not beat any worthy opponent this year.

MINNESOTA (-3.5) over Green Bay

Favre Bowl I.

These two teams are a combined 5-1 against opponents with a combined record of 7-11. The Vikings are essentially coming off a tough home loss that Brett Favre magically turned into a memorable home win.

But even though Favre is the No. 1 story heading into the game, he won’t be the key if the Vikings play this one right. Green Bay’s defense gave up 117 yards to Steven Jackson last week and 141 yards to Cedric Benson the week before. Adrian Peterson, meanwhile, is coming off a pedestrian 85-yard performance against the Niners. Mr. Peterson probably isn’t pleased with that.

Expect Peterson to get the ball early and often, and the Vikings will handle the Packers at home.

Ten bucks says Suzy Kolber still chases down Favre for the postgame interview.

Last week: 11-5
Season: 30-18

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