So far, this NFL season has been all about the haves and the have-nots.
Entering Week 4, there are eight unbeaten teams (including the 2-0-1 Detroit Lions) and seven teams (including the 0-2-1 Arizona Cardinals) still in search of their first victory. With two matchups pitting unbeaten teams against each other and a Monday night tilt between two winless clubs, something has to give.
NESN.com’s Mike Cole, Ricky Doyle and Andre Khatchaturian give their take on those games and the entire Week 4 slate in their picks below.
Here’s how they fared last week.
Mike Cole: 8-8 (26-21-1 overall)
Ricky Doyle: 8-8 (24-23-1)
Andre Khatchaturian: 6-10 (24-23-1)
Here are their Week 4 picks.
THURSDAY, SEPT. 26
Philadelphia Eagles at (-5) Green Bay Packers, 8:20 p.m. ET
Mike: Eagles. I like this stat from Odds Shark’s Joe Osborne: Teams who are 0-3 against the spread are 8-3-1 ATS in their fourth game over the last five seasons. Philly (and Miami) are the two teams who are 0-3 ATS to start the season.
Ricky: Packers. The injuries to Philadelphia’s receiving corps wouldn’t hurt quite as much if the Eagles weren’t so reliant on their passing attack. Carson Wentz is being asked to shoulder too much of the load right now, and that’s a tough way to live against Green Bay’s defense at Lambeau Field, where the Packers are 9-1 SU and 8-2 ATS in their last 10 games as favorites of 4 1/2 points or fewer.
Andre: Packers. The Packers’ defense is what’s made them so good this year. Their pass rush is graded No. 1 on Pro Football Focus and their total defense is No. 2. They have the third-best sack rate in the league and are fifth in QB hits. This might be the week Aaron Rodgers comes alive against a banged-up Philly team on short rest.
SUNDAY, SEPT. 29
Carolina Panthers at (-4) Houston Texans, 1 p.m.
Mike: Texans. Kyle Allen looked good last week for the Panthers, but that was against the Cardinals. Things should be a little different here on the road for the second straight week against a much better Houston defense.
Ricky: Panthers. Only the Packers have allowed more receptions to opposing running backs through three weeks than the Texans, who might have visions of teeing off on Allen, but ultimately need to take into account Christian McCaffrey’s pass-catching prowess. On the flip side, Carolina’s defense is coming off an eight-sack performance against one of the few offensive lines worse than Houston’s, and a similar effort isn’t outside the realm of possibility.
Andre: Panthers. Carolina’s defense is sneaky underrated. They allow 4.3 yards per play, which is second-best behind New England. Their pass rush is strong (10.1 percent sack rate) and they’re going up against a weak offensive line. Deshaun Watson has been pressured on 55 dropbacks this year — the most in the league. while Houston’s run defense issues (31st in yards per carry) bodes well for McCaffrey.
Cleveland Browns at (-7) Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m.
Mike: Browns. Despite Cleveland’s issues this season, this feels like too many points for a divisional game, especially considering how desperate the Browns should be here. And for as good as Baltimore has been this year, it’s not like we’ve seen a ton of big plays on defense, so maybe that helps Cleveland get going.
Ricky: Browns. Cleveland’s performance has yet to match its talent, but look on the bright side: The Browns were just a few yards away from tying last week’s game against the reigning NFC champions in spite of some really bad coaching decisions. The challenge doesn’t get much easier this week, but the Browns are facing a borderline must-win situation given the level of panic facing the Dawg Pound.
Andre: Ravens. The Ravens lead the NFL in QB hits. Baker Mayfield is 13-of-35 with 11 sacks, no touchdowns, two picks and a 28.3 passer rating when facing pressure. Only four quarterbacks have a lower rating when under pressure. The Ravens’ field-position prowess (opponents start on average from their own 23-yard line) might also make Mayfield work with long fields.
(-6) Kansas City Chiefs at Detroit Lions, 1 p.m.
Mike: Lions. I think the Chiefs win, but I’ll grab the points with the hope that Kansas City leaves open the back door. The Detroit rushing attack has been nonexistent, but I think it gets going against a Chiefs defense that’s allowing a yard more per rush than any other team in the NFL.
Ricky: Chiefs. What exactly do the Lions do well? They’re a middle-of-the-pack squad in almost every way, and thus it’s hard to imagine them keeping pace, particularly given Andy Reid’s track record against Matt Patricia-coached defenses. Detroit ranks 20th in opponent yards per completion (11.7), which means Kansas City’s let-it-fly attack (18 pass plays of 20+ yards; eight pass plays of 40+ yards) is positioned for more success, especially if neither Darius Slay nor Mike Daniels suits up for the Lions.
Andre: Chiefs. The Lions are unbeaten but could easily be winless. They blew a huge lead to the Cardinals, the Chargers gave them a game, and Detroit could’ve lost to the Eagles if Philly didn’t drop the ball so many times. The Chiefs’ biggest weakness is their rush defense, but Kerryon Johnson doesn’t scare anyone with his 2.6 yards per carry.
(-16.5) Los Angeles Chargers at Miami Dolphins, 1 p.m.
Mike: Dolphins. Fine, give me the points. After this week, the Chargers have a brutal stretch with games against Denver, Pittsburgh, at Tennessee, at Chicago and home for Green Bay. They’ll just be looking to get in and get out of South Beach with the win.
Ricky: Dolphins. The oddsmakers are daring you to take Miami here. And I love a good dare. No matter how horrendous the ‘Fins have looked this season, I can’t justify laying so many points in favor of a banged-up, 1-2 team that’s going on the road after a loss.
Andre: Chargers. The Dolphins are last in turnover differential, last in third-down efficiency, 31st in yards per carry, 31st in yards per pass attempt, 31st in yards per play, tied for the most giveaways, second-to-last in yards allowed per carry, 30th in sacks, last in yards allowed per play, 31st in yards allowed per pass and opposing QBs have a passer rating of 139.1 against Miami.
(-7) New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills, 1 p.m.
Mike: Patriots. Josh Allen has already thrown three picks and fumbled four times, and now he gets arguably the best defense in the league. Allen also leads the league in scrambling (per PFF), so I expect Bill Belichick to keep him in the pocket, where Allen’s 86.1 passer rating when kept clean is 24th out of 27 qualified QBs.
Ricky: Patriots. Buffalo’s elite defense can compensate for its mediocre, turnover-prone offense against a lot of teams. But not New England, which rarely beats itself with stupid mistakes. A few opportunistic plays by the Patriots’ defense — or dumb plays by the Bills’ offense — will tilt the field in New England’s favor, making all the difference in a possible grind-it-out affair.
Andre: Patriots. The Patriots, whose last nine wins over Buffalo were by an average of 14.7 points, are also 14-0 (10-4 ATS) since 2016 against QBs with fewer than 20 career starts. Allen makes his 15th career start Sunday.
Oakland Raiders at (-6.5) Indianapolis Colts, 1 p.m.
Mike: Colts. The Raiders’ road trip (six straight weeks away from Oakland) continues against a team that beat them by two scores in the Black Hole last year. Marlon Mack gained 132 yards with a pair of scores, and he’ll do more of the same Sunday against a defense that was just gashed for 200 rushing yards in Minnesota last week.
Ricky: Colts. The Raiders aren’t good on the road (3-12-1 in their last 16 road games), which is a startling reality for a team whose schedule requires it to quite literally travel the globe.
Andre: Colts. Are the Raiders smart enough to utilize Josh Jacobs against Indy’s weak rush defense? That could also open up play-action for Derek Carr, who thrives in those situations. But I don’t think Jon Gruden is that smart. Oakland also doesn’t really pressure the quarterback and Jacoby Brissett has a 120 passer rating with six touchdowns and one pick when kept clean, according to PFF, so the Colts might get ahead early and not allow the Raiders to establish their run game.
Tennessee Titans at (-4) Atlanta Falcons, 1 p.m.
Mike: Titans. There’s a lot going against the Falcons right now, most notably the loss of Keanu Neal. Despite the Titans’ own obvious issues, they’ll be the better-rested, better-coached team against Atlanta, which is averaging the second-most penalty yards per game, have the third-worst turnover margin, third-worst third-down defense and sixth-worst special teams (per PFF).
Ricky: Titans. Never thought I’d see the day where I’d clamor for Ryan Tannehill, yet here we are. Marcus Mariota has sucked this season, often walking directly into pressure and offsetting the work of Tennessee’s offensive line, which remains without left tackle Tyler Lewan. That said, I’ll roll with the Titans to keep things close, largely because the Falcons can’t seem to figure out the AFC (1-10 SU and 0-11 ATS in their last 11 games against interconference opponents).
Andre: Falcons. Atlanta has a lot of injury issues, but Matt Ryan is a different quarterback at home than on the road. The Falcons should also dominate the line of scrimmage against the Titans, who have allowed a league-high 17 sacks. Atlanta, meanwhile, has allowed sacks on just 3.9 percent of dropbacks.
Washington Redskins at (-3) New York Giants, 1 p.m.
Mike: Redskins. I’ll be honest: I’m just trying to zig while everyone else zags because there’s not a ton of reasons to take Washington in this spot. But nearly 60 percent of betting tickets are on the Giants, and the line has held steady or even moved in Washington’s favor, so that should raise some antennae.
Ricky: Redskins. Maybe the Redskins will watch Daniel Jones on Sunday and realize it’s time for them to unleash their own rookie QB, Dwayne Haskins? Then again, that might be giving Jay Gruden too much credit.
Andre: Giants. There’s no better way to build the confidence of your rookie franchise quarterback than to start him against the Bucs and the Redskins. Opposing QBs have completed 79 percent of passes against Washington and they just made Mitch Trubisky look like Tom Brady on Monday night.
(-5) Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals, 4:05 p.m.
Mike: Seahawks. Here’s an insane number: Pete Carroll is 33-17-2 ATS following a loss since taking over in Seattle. Only the Patriots have covered more frequently in that spot since 2010.
Ricky: Seahawks. According to Odds Shark, the 16 sacks Kyler Murray has taken so far this season are the second-most of any quarterback through three weeks since 2002. Seattle’s pass rush isn’t quite the same these days without Frank Clark and Michael Bennett, but it’ll face an enticing matchup in the desert if Murray tries to do too much. Also, the Seahawks typically bounce back well. Expect a much cleaner game from Carroll’s team after Seattle let one slip away last week against New Orleans.
Andre: Seahawks. Murray has been sacked 16 times this season, but even when he’s kept clean, he only has a passer rating of 85. It appears opponents are forcing Murray to stay in the pocket and beat them with his arm. Russell Wilson, on the other hand, has been kept clean on nearly 70 percent of his dropbacks and has five touchdowns, no picks and a 78.2 completion percentage in those situations.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at (-10) Los Angeles Rams, 4:05 p.m.
Mike: Bucs. Tampa is a tough nut to crack, but the Rams just don’t look quite right yet, and Jared Goff — averaging a yard and a half less per attempt this year — is a big reason why. Just too many points to feel good taking L.A.
Ricky: Bucs. Tampa Bay’s defense under Todd Bowles showed promise through the first two weeks before Daniel Jones and the Giants overcame a sizable lead in Week 3. I’m not ready to forget those strides just yet. T.B. stays within the number.
Andre: Bucs. Jameis Winston will make his mistakes and the Rams will win, but Tampa is allowing just 3 yards per rush to Matt Breida, Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley. That’s a pretty good group. If they contain Todd Gurley and force Goff to throw a lot, they can keep this within 10.
Jacksonville Jaguars at (-3) Denver Broncos, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Broncos. If this isn’t the week the Broncos defense dominates, it might never happen.
Ricky: Jaguars. What happened to Denver’s defense? There was reason to believe the unit would be even more of a force with Vic Fangio installed as the head coach. Instead, not so much.
Andre: Jaguars. Line of scrimmage will dictate this game. Jacksonville leads the NFL in sacks and the Broncos have allowed the sixth-most. The Broncos also don’t have a single sack or a takeaway this season — a strange reality for a team known for its suffocating defense over the years.
Minnesota Vikings at (-2.5) Chicago Bears, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Vikings. I want to take the Bears because I think we’re all forgetting how dominant that defense can be (see: Monday night), but Chicago has a lot of injuries. Perhaps none is bigger than Akiem Hicks, who missed Wednesday’s practice with a knee injury. Losing him would be a devastating blow going up against the Minnesota run game.
Ricky: Vikings. Mitchell Trubisky improved in Week 3, but the Bears quarterback still wasn’t as good as his final stat line indicated. Chicago scored just 19 points in its first two games against the Packers and Broncos, and similar struggles will crop up against an all-around solid Vikings defense, especially with the Bears on a short week.
Andre: Vikings. Trubisky and Kirk Cousins will revert to their old selves in this one because they’re not facing the Redskins and Raiders, respectively. Both teams put a ton of pressure on quarterbacks (each have 21 QB hits), but Cousins performs better under pressure (88.4 rating) than Trubisky (12-of-29, TD, INT, trash 20.3 rating).
(-2.5) Dallas Cowboys at New Orleans Saints, 8:20 p.m.
Mike: Cowboys. Go back to last season’s game between these two teams when Dallas bottled up Alvin Kamara and the Saints’ offense, limiting New Orleans to 10 points on 176 yards while holding Kamara to 72 total yards — and that was with Drew Brees, not Teddy Bridgewater, under center.
Ricky: Cowboys. Dallas’ offensive line remains one of the best units in football, whereas New Orleans has had problems stopping the run. This suggests the Cowboys, who lead the NFL in third-down conversion percentage (58.06 percent), will sustain drives on the road, thus wearing down a Saints defense that’ll already face a stiffer test than usual given the state of the team’s offense without Brees.
Andre: Cowboys. Tyron Smith has been on the field for 206 snaps this season and has allowed a grand total of ZERO QB pressures, according to PFF. Dallas’ offensive line is too good and that means Ezekiel Elliott is going to be able to run against a weak Saints rush defense, which allows more than five yards per carry, and allow Dak Prescott to partake in the play-action pass (137.5 rating in play-action, according to PFF).
MONDAY, SEPT. 30
Cincinnati Bengals at (-4) Pittsburgh Steelers, 8:15 p.m.
Mike: Bengals. Let’s get weird. Cincinnati has been slinging it this season with a pass-heavy offense, averaging more than 300 passing yards per game. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, has been woeful against the pass, with opposing QBs posting a 121.8 passer rating against the Steelers through three games.
Ricky: Steelers. Pittsburgh might not be that good. But Mike Tomlin’s team can’t be 0-4 bad, right? Whatever the case, the Bengals typically flop in these situations (0-9 SU and 2-6-1 ATS in their last nine road primetime games), and they’ve done little this season to suggest several weaknesses from a year ago — tackling, coverage, offensive line, etc. — have been solved.
Andre: Steelers. Pittsburgh’s opponents have a combined record of 8-1 this year so the team finally catches a break against a really bad Bengals team. The Steelers have the second-most takeaways this year while the Bengals have the most giveaways.
Thumbnail photo via Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports Images