Tell you what, Week 4 of the NFL season is in an unenviable position.
Week 3 was one of the wildest, controversial and exciting weeks of football we’ve seen in a long time, and hopefully things are just as fun this week as we already near the quarter pole.
NESN.com’s Mike Cole, Ricky Doyle and Andre Khatchaturian are ready to dive right in and give their Week 4 picks against the spread.
Here’s how they fared in Week 3.
Mike Cole: 6-8-1 (22-23-1 overall)
Ricky Doyle: 5-9-1 (24-21-1)
Andre Khatchaturian: 7-7-1 (22-23-1)
See their picks below — and watch “The Spread” in the video above — with lines courtesy of our friends at OddsShark.com.
THURSDAY, SEPT. 28
Chicago Bears at (-7) Green Bay Packers, 8:30 p.m. ET
Mike: Bears. Ultimately, the Packers win this game, because Aaron Rodgers and all that. But Green Bay already had offensive line issues, and now Kyle Murphy — who was a turnstile Sunday vs. Cincinnati — is on injured reserve, too. The short week evens the playing field here some.
Ricky: Packers. Rodgers needed to pull a rabbit out of his hat last week against the Bengals, which is troubling when added to Green Bay’s slew of injuries. But Rodgers generally steps up against NFC North opponents, totaling 30 touchdowns and just four interceptions against divisional foes over the last five seasons. The Bears, who are 0-6 SU and 1-5 ATS in their last six games after a win, are primed for a letdown at Lambeau.
Andre: Bears. The Packers are banged up and allowing 4.5 yards per play. The Bears can exploit the Green Bay defense, eat some clock using their elite running game and keep the game close. Rodgers also has been sacked 13 times so far (most in the NFL) while throwing an interception in every game so far.
SUNDAY, OCT. 1
(-2.5) New Orleans at Miami Dolphins, 9:30 a.m. in London
Mike: Saints. Miami has dealt with a major hurricane and then had to travel to Los Angeles, New York and now London. Oh, and they’re allowing 6.2 yards per play (fifth worst) and now get the Saints’ offense. Yikes.
Ricky: Dolphins. Don’t let last week fool you. If there’s a defense you want to play to get back on track after mustering up just six points against the Jets, it’s the Saints’, whose solid Week 3 showing against the Panthers had a lot to do with Carolina’s offensive shortcomings.
Andre: Dolphins. These are the two worst teams in terms of yards allowed per pass attempt, but I trust the Dolphins’ defense just a bit more. The Saints’ run defense isn’t all that great (4.6 yards per carry allowed), and Jay Ajayi should be able to take advantage of that. I also don’t think the Dolphins defense as a whole has reached their potential. They have too many big names on that front seven to be this bad all year.
Los Angeles Rams at (-6) Dallas Cowboys, 1 p.m.
Mike: Rams. I liked this pick a lot more when it opened around plus-8, but that quickly got bet down. Wildly enough, I look at the Rams offense (assuming Sammy Watkins plays) as the equalizer here. I think they can match points with Dallas and at least keep it close.
Ricky: Cowboys. This will be the Rams’ stiffest competition yet, and a matchup with Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys’ rushing attack isn’t exactly what Los Angeles’ defense needs after surrendering 139 yards per game on the ground through three weeks (29th in the NFL).
Andre: Rams. The Dallas defense, despite all the injuries and suspensions, has played remarkably well. They allow just 4.7 yards per play (fifth-best) and have the second-most sacks, but the Rams have protected Jared Goff well this season. Dallas should win, but the team with the third-best yards per play differential should be able to cover this large spread.
(-3.5) Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Jets, 1 p.m.
Mike: Jaguars. Any and all explanation would be too much for a game like this, but I’ll side with the Jags defense against that Jets offense — London return travel be damned.
Ricky: Jaguars. The Jaguars seem like they’ll be a volatile team as far as the picks column goes, but they should take care of business against some cupcake opponents. Jacksonville has the ground game to pull away here, even if the real Blake Bortles resurfaces on American soil after last week’s out-of-nowhere breakout in London.
Andre: Jaguars. The Jaguars’ pass rush, which leads the NFL with 13 sacks, is for real, and they’ll use that pressure to force Josh McCown into making mistakes.
(-3) Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m.
Mike: Browns. Nothing has gone right for the Bengals, and it looks like they might also be without their two starting safeties while still missing Tyler Eifert and John Ross. Cleveland can do just enough to muck this up and keep it close in a relatively low-scoring game.
Ricky: Browns. The Bengals gave the Packers all they could handle last week, but Cincinnati still features the only offense to average less than one point per drive (0.72), per ESPN.com’s KC Joyner. Let’s get crazy here and say the Browns, who are 0-13 SU and 1-11-1 ATS in their last 13 divisional games, beat the Bengals to the punch in getting their first win of the 2017 season.
Andre: Bengals. The Bengals, who get Vontaze Burfict back from suspension, must be encouraged by their strong performance against the Packers last week. Now they get DeShone Kizer, who has been really good at throwing interceptions and not getting any protection this year.
Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m. (no line as of Thursday morning)
Mike: Lions. Case Keenum was bad two weeks ago. He was good last week. Since he’s Case Keenum, I’ll assume the up and down continues this week, and he’ll be bad again.
Ricky: Lions. There’s no such thing as moral victories in the NFL, especially when you have your heart ripped out with a 10-second runoff at the end of a game. But the Lions hung tough with the Falcons, arguably the best team in the NFC, and that defense is making plays.
Andre: Vikings. It doesn’t matter who the Vikings’ quarterback has been this season, they’re putting up points, getting yards and avoiding turnovers. They’re eighth in yards per play this season. If the Vikes can continue to protect the ball, they will be fine.
Buffalo Bills at (-8) Atlanta Falcons, 1 p.m.
Mike: Bills. Dan Quinn says Julio Jones’ back injury is nothing to be concerned about, but if No. 11 is even a little bit off, I really think the Bills’ defense is good enough to keep this close.
Ricky: Falcons. The Bills might be better than advertised, thanks to their defensive improvements under new head coach Sean McDermott. They just won’t be able to keep up offensively this week in Atlanta, where the total has gone over in each of the Falcons’ last 11 home games.
Andre: Falcons. The Falcons have the second-best yards per play differential at 1.5. The Bills’ defense stepped up big in the second half against the Broncos, but it was against Trevor Siemian; Matt Ryan and Julio Jones are different animals. Also, expect the Falcons’ pass rush to be active against Tyrod Taylor, who was sacked more than any quarterback last season.
(-1.5) Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans, 1 p.m.
Mike: Titans. Expect Tennessee (5.1 yards per carry) to take a similar ground-and-pound approach that worked so well for Jacksonville in Week 1. Also, keep an eye on special teams: Houston has struggled covering kicks, and Adoree Jackson looks like the NFL’s next great returner.
Ricky: Titans. Conventional wisdom says Tennessee should ride its rushing attack, backed by steady offensive line play, in attempt to wear down Houston’s formidable front seven. But the Texans’ secondary has looked vulnerable. The Titans should take some shots down the field.
Andre: Titans. Marcus Mariota has only been sacked twice this season. Texans quarterbacks have been sacked 15 times. Mariota will get protection and the Titans’ explosive running game should be able to eat the clock.
Carolina Panthers at (-9) New England Patriots, 1 p.m.
Mike: Patriots. That Panthers offense has looked so bad through three weeks, with the low point coming last week at home against a bad Saints offense. For a week, at least, the Panthers are just what the doctor ordered for New England.
Ricky: Patriots. Cam Newton had the NFL’s third-lowest passer rating last season (ahead of only Brock Osweiler and Ryan Fitzpatrick, neither of whom are starters anymore). He had the worst completion percentage. Those trends have continued this season. Good luck to the Panthers.
Andre: Patriots. The Patriots’ defense has stunk this year, but this is the game they can turn it around. Cam Newton has been sacked on nearly 11 percent of all passing plays, the second-highest mark for any quarterback. As for the Carolina defense, it put up solid performances against Brian Hoyer and Tyrod Taylor but showed its true colors against Drew Brees last week. Tom Brady will have a field day.
(-2.5) Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m.
Mike: Ravens. Baltimore is just so good at home (10-1 ATS in its last 11 home games), and there’s something about that Steelers offense that doesn’t look right. Do they get it together this week? Maybe, but there’s nothing that says otherwise at this point.
Ricky: Steelers. Joe Flacco stinks. The Ravens’ offense stinks. Traveling back from London stinks. Go with the Steelers, who don’t stink, last week’s surprising loss to the Bears aside.
Andre: Steelers. The Ravens’ offensive line without Marshal Yanda is clearly problematic. Jacksonville was successful against Flacco because they pressured the hell out of him. Well, Pittsburgh has a great pass rush, too, recording 11 sacks (second-most) this season.
Philadelphia Eagles at (-1) Los Angeles Chargers, 4:05 p.m.
Mike: Eagles. Philly figured out its running game against a supposedly solid Giants defense. The Eagles should have similar success against a Chargers D that’s allowing 4.7 yards per carry, and that can go a long way in neutralizing L.A.’s pass rush.
Ricky: Chargers. The Chargers need to pull their heads out of their asses, and I’m banking on it happening this weekend thanks mostly to the injuries the Eagles are dealing with. Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (calf) likely is out, linebacker Jordan Hicks has a balky ankle and Carson Wentz just lost his trusted security blanket, Darren Sproles, for the season.
Andre: Chargers. The Chargers are better than their 0-3 record shows with the NFL’s 12th-best yards per play differential. Their defense is more than capable of putting on the pressure with an 11.7 sack percentage (second-best) and Wentz hasn’t been protected well this year. Let’s also not forget Wentz’s abysmal road record (2-8 record with 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in his career.)
New York Giants at (-3) Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 4:05 p.m.
Mike: Giants. New York showed signs of getting right last week, as the offense finally started to click, with three wideouts racking up at least 66 yards each. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, was torched by Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen last week. It could be more of the same here.
Ricky: Giants. The Giants can’t be this bad, right? A healthy Odell Beckham Jr. has given New York’s offense a shot in the arm despite the Giants’ losing ways, and that bodes well for the G-Men against a Tampa Bay defense that struggles against the pass.
Andre: Giants. Like the Chargers, I don’t think the Giants are as bad as their record shows. Their offense showed what they can be in the second half of their game against the Eagles, and I expect to see more of that against a shaky Buccaneers defense. Jameis Winston also makes way too many mistakes and the Giants defense has enough big names to make him pay.
San Francisco 49ers at (-7) Arizona Cardinals, 4:05 p.m.
Mike: Cardinals. The David Johnson injury has nearly killed them, but the Cardinals are getting a little bit healthier, potentially getting two offensive linemen back Sunday. Also looks like Deone Bucannon will be back, which is a huge boost to the defense, especially with Carlos Hyde coming to town.
Ricky: 49ers. The 49ers will be well-rested after playing Thursday night in Week 3. The Cardinals, meanwhile, enter this game on a short week after playing Monday night. Arizona has some offensive line issues, so this could be a coming out party for San Francisco’s young pass rushers.
Andre: 49ers. Johnson’s loss has really hurt the Cardinals, who average just 2.8 yards per rush attempt — the second-lowest mark in the league. That puts too much pressure on Carson Palmer to succeed. While the 49ers’ offense won’t put up points like it did in Week 3, their defense allows just five yards per play (ninth-best). Expect an ugly, low-scoring game similar to the Cardinals’ victory over the Colts in Week 2.
Oakland Raiders at (-3) Denver Broncos, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Broncos. Gotta like Trevor Siemian at home (11 TD, 4 INT over his last five home games), especially against that leaky Raiders defense.
Ricky: Broncos. For as much talent as the Raiders have in their front seven, their secondary leaves much to be desired. On the flip side, it could be a long day for Derek Carr if the Broncos can make the Raiders’ offense one-dimensional, something that seems plausible given that Denver is allowing an NFL-best 59.7 rush yards per game and 2.6 yards per rush attempt this season.
Andre: Broncos. The Raiders have the fifth-worst yards-per-play differential in the NFL and although Carr can be explosive at times, the Raiders are 19th in yards per pass attempt. The Broncos’ defense allows just 4.3 yards per play so they’ll be able to contain Carr. On the other side of the ball, Siemian has shown he can be competent at home, and he’s facing against a defense that allows 6.2 yards per play (fourth-highest).
Indianapolis Colts at (-13) Seattle Seahawks, 8:30 p.m.
Mike: Colts. Seattle has covered just two of its last five home games in which it was favored by at least 10 points, and it’s not like the Seahawks have displayed anything yet this season to make it seem like they’re capable of a huge win — even against the Colts.
Ricky: Seahawks. The Colts have allowed big plays all season. They also have an inexperienced quarterback, no rushing attack and are traveling to Seattle to face a desperate team in a primetime matchup. This is a get-right game for the 1-2 Seahawks.
Andre: Colts. The so-called Legion of Boom is now allowing 5.5 yards per play (10th-highest in the NFL) and has forced only two turnovers this season. Russell Wilson had his moments last week and he should be able to succeed against the weak Colts defense, but Indy keeps it close and covers the large spread.
MONDAY, OCT. 2
Washington Redskins at (-6.5) Kansas City Chiefs
Mike: Chiefs. Kansas City just keeps rolling, and while Washington looked good last week, I can’t pass up the Chiefs laying less than a TD at home in primetime.
Ricky: Chiefs. The Redskins just strike me as that team that gets mollywhopped the second you start to buy into them. So, as good as Washington looked against Oakland, Kansas City is the pick.
Andre: Chiefs. I will pick the Chiefs until they give me a reason not to. They have the best rushing offense in football, most total yards per play, best yards-per-play differential, and are 25-4 in their last 29 games.
Thumbnail photo via Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports Images
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