NFL Week 4 Picks for Sunday, September 29, 2013

September 29, 2013 on 9:12 am | In NFL | No Comments

The final Sunday in September offers plenty of intriguing
matchups.  Call it ‘Separation Sunday,’
for Week 4 in the NFL as several teams try to go into October with strong
momentum.  Seven teams – Chicago, Denver,
Kansas City, Miami, New England, New Orleans and Seattle – enter the weekend undefeated.  Meanwhile, there are six winless squads – NY
Giants, Jacksonville, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Washington – with two
of them squaring off in London.

Let’s go through the games and give some predictions (sure
to go wrong)

My Record:  30-18 (7-9 in Week 3)

Week 4 Picks . . .

San Francisco 49ers
(1-2) at St. Louis Rams (1-2) –
It’s the Thursday Night Football matchup on
NFL Network with San Francisco reeling, coming off back-to-back losses to the
Seahawks and Colts, the ladder most puzzling because they were favored by
double-digits at home and lost by 20 in their building.  QB Colin Kaepernick
is starting to draw criticism, but look for a strong bounce back against a St.
Louis team that struggled to stop Dallas’ running game in a 31-7 Week 2
loss.  Expect RB Frank Gore the deep,
talented San Fran backfield to be involved heavily in this one.  Pick –
San Fran 24-10, Niners -3.5

Baltimore Ravens
(2-1) at Buffalo Bills (1-2) –
Believe it or not, Bills rookie signal
caller E.J. Manuel has thrown more touchdown passes with four than reigning
Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco of the Ravens.  Flacco has thrown
three so far.  The key to this game will
likely be pass protection as you’ll see two of the best sack artists in the
league on display with Buffalo’s Mario Williams, who has 4.5 sacks, and
Baltimore’s Terrell Suggs, the team leader in sacks for the Ravens with
three.  Right now, Baltimore has more
ways of scoring as evidenced by getting a defensive touchdown and special teams
touchdown in their 30-9 trouncing of the Texans a week ago, giving them the
slight edge on the road.  Pick – Ravens 23-17 (OT), Baltimore -3

Cincinnati Bengals
(2-1) at Cleveland Browns (1-2) –
The Bengals won a wild, roller-coaster
game with the Packers last week by a count of 34-30 in which they scored 14,
gave up 30 unanswered and then scored the final 20 points.  Cleveland made an interesting move before
Week 3 when they traded star tailback Trent Richardson for a future first round
draft choice.  Meanwhile, they inserted
Brian Hoyer into the starting lineup and the new QB tossed three touchdowns,
including the game-winner in a 31-27 win over Minnesota.  Does he make it two in a row?  Although they’re at home, it’s doubtful
against a much stingier Bengals defense.
Pick – Cincy
27-17, Bengals -3.5

Chicago Bears (3-0)
at Detroit Lions (2-1) –
First place in the NFC North is on the line as the
Bears take on the Lions in Detroit.
Chicago has dominated the series of late, winning nine of the last ten
meetings.  The Bears got defensive
touchdowns from Major Wright and Julius Peppers in last week’s 40-23 victory at
Pittsburgh.  Detroit’s passing combo of
QB Matthew Stafford and WR Calvin Johnson was on point in last week’s win over Washington,
their first road win over the Redskins since 1935.  Stafford threw for 285 yards and two scores
with Megatron snagging seven balls for 115 yards and
a touchdown.  If Detroit’s d-line gets
Bears QB Jay Cutler off his timing and rhythm with his receivers, the Lions
should take care of business in their building.
Pick – Lions 34-21, Detroit -3

Seattle Seahawks
(3-0) at Houston Texans (2-1) –
The top two ranked defenses in the league
go head-to-head as Seattle visits Houston.
Seattle’s super-sized secondary with Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond is bar
none most intimidating going in the NFL.
Houston QB Matt Schaub will have to find
success against them without turning it over, which means relying on the
running game and make sure he checks down to the backs and tight ends instead
of taking too many shots against a defensive backfield that’ll make you
pay.  At home not wanting to fall to 2-2,
I expect the Texans to play desperate, start out fast and hold on late.  Pick –
Texans 14-13, HOU +1.5

NY Giants (0-3) at
Kansas City Chiefs (3-0) –
If ever there was a ‘must-win’ this early in the
season, this would be it for Tom Coughlin and the New York Giants.  Big Blue got spanked last week in Carolina,
thus they’ve heard strong critics all week about not only their poor play, but
their overall effort.  Giants QB Eli
Manning has only 5TD’s passing compared to 8INT’s.  Kansas City is one of the early season
surprises with Andy Reid the front-runner for Coach of the Year less than one
month into the 2013 campaign.  Justin
Houston has made an NFL-best 7.5 sacks right now as
the KC outside linebacker is extremely disruptive and someone the Giants will
have to block in order to give Manning time to throw against that bump-and-run
coverage of the Chiefs DB’s.  Generally,
the Giants rise to the occasion when their backs are against the wall, and this
one of those times.  Pick – Giants 21-7, NYG +3.5

Arizona Cardinals
(1-2) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-3) –
There has been a lot of turmoil in
Tampa Bay revolving the benching of starting quarterback Josh Freeman, who last
year threw for a team record in yardage and TD’s, but been plagued by inconsistency,
most notably completing under 50% of his throws on the campaign.  Coach Greg Schiano
has decided to go with rookie Mike Glennon, the third
QB taken in this past NFL Draft out of NC State.  Against an Arizona defense that has a couple
of playmakers up front in DT Darnell Dockett and LB
John Abraham as well as INT threats on the back end in CB Patrick Peterson and
rookie safety Tyrann Mathieu, it might not be a good
debut for Glennon.
Pick – Cards 20-16, AZ +2.5

Pittsburg Steelers
(0-3) vs. Minnesota Vikings (0-3) in London –
Stadium will play host to this matchup between two winless teams that had
playoff aspirations before the season.
After all, Adrian Peterson rushed for 2097 yards last season en route to
winning the MVP and guiding the Vikings into the postseason, while Ben
Roethlisberger has won two Super Bowls as the starting quarterback of the
Steelers.  Despite not having much of a
running game, the Steelers can hit for more big passing plays than the Vikings,
and the Pittsburgh defense may be built better to stuff the running of Peterson
than Minnesota is to get after Big Ben.  Pick – Steelers 23-14, Pitt -3

New York Jets (2-1)
at Tennessee Titans (2-1) –
If not for a late hit out of bounds by the
Buccaneers late in Week 1, the Jets would be 1-2 instead of 2-1.  And in the case of Tennessee, the Titans
rallied in the final moments to stun the Chargers and get above the .500 mark
instead of being 1-2.  The loser in this
game could be headed for a slide, whereas the winner has a shot to be a sneaky
team that cracks the postseason party.  The
Jets have won five of the last seven in this series, but can their defense come
up with takeaways in this one?  To me,
the difference is ball security, and Titans QB Jake Locker has yet to be picked
off, whereas Jets rookie Geno Smith has thrown six
interceptions thus far.  Pick – Titans 17-10, TN -3.5

Washington Redskins
(0-3) at Oakland Raiders (1-2) –
There has been an awful lot of scrutiny
over Redskins second-year QB Robert Griffin III, who electrified Washington a
season ago as they went from 3-6 to a surprise playoff participant.  Griffin hasn’t looked 100% and not been as significant
of a threat on the run as he was during his rookie year.  Even worse for the Redskins is the fact their
defense has given up more yards through three games than any in league history
to start out a season in the modern era.
Oakland comes in with a dynamic dual-threat QB themselves in Terrelle Pryor (822 total yards), but he doesn’t have a ton
of weapons around him the Oakland defense could find it tough to stop the
Redskins from moving the ball down the field.
Pick – Redskins 30-24, WSH -3.5

Philadelphia Eagles
(1-2) at Denver Broncos (3-0) –
It has been a record-setting start for
Peyton Manning at quarterback as Denver is unbeaten and dominating its foes to
this point.  Manning has thrown for 1143
yards, 12 touchdowns and not been intercepted yet on 122 pass attempts.  His receiving core is playing with supreme
confidence as well, and the Broncos enter with the longest regular season
winning streak at 14 in a row.
Philadelphia’s fast-paced offense under new Head Coach Chip Kelly was a
huge hit in a Week 1 road win at Washington with RB LeSean
McCoy atop the league stats in rushing and WR DeSean
Jackson #2 in receiving, but their defense is a far cry from the offense.  It’s a nightmarish matchup in Denver against
Manning and a hot Broncos offense.  Pick – Broncos 42-24, Denver -10.5

Dallas Cowboys (2-1)
at San Diego Chargers (1-2) –
San Diego is a bounce or two away from being
3-0 instead of a game under .500 going into the final Sunday of September.  Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has thrown
eight touchdowns with only one interception, performing much better than he did
during a disappointing 2012 campaign.  Dallas’
defense has been terrific at coming up with takeaways and they currently stand
at +3 in the turnover margin category, which also means that QB Tony Romo is protecting the ball reasonably well.  What may determine the outcome is how well
the Cowboys incorporate DeMarco Murray and the
running game into their offense against a San Diego defense that is leaky at
times.  In the end, I’ll go with Rivers
at home in a mini shoot-out.  Pick – San Diego 31-23, Chargers +1.5

New England Patriots
(3-0) at Atlanta Falcons (1-2) –
The NBC Sunday Night Game of the Week is a
good one as it features the two quarterbacks with the best active starting
records in the league in the Pats’ Tom Brady (139-39 for a .781 mark) and the
Falcons’ Matt Ryan, who is 57-24 (.704).
Both teams lost in the Conference Championship game, and the Pats are 3-0
with two narrow wins over division rivals Buffalo and the NY Jets, whereas
Atlanta lost twice in the final minutes to the Dolphins and Saints.  At home, the Falcons are tough, having won 12
of their last 13 in the regular season.  Pick – ATL 31-20, Falcons -2.5

Miami Dolphins (3-0)
at New Orleans Saints (3-0) –
The Dolphins are one of the biggest surprises
in the league, rallying to beat the Falcons 27-23 in Week 3, and a couple of
the free agent additions for Joe Philbin’s squad like
WR Mike Wallace from the Steelers and MLB Dannell
Ellerbe from the Ravens are paying dividends so far.  Several years back, Miami had a chance to get
its franchise quarterback to be the guy that finally admirably fills the shoes
of Dan Marino, but couldn’t bring in Drew Brees and
instead the Saints got him and went on to win Super Bowl XLIV (44).  Brees has thrown for
over 300 yards in eight consecutive games, one off the league record that he
owns.  Tight end Jimmy Graham is a major
matchup problem that figures to be the difference in this one.  Pick –
Saints 35-21, NO -7

Locks:  ATL -2.5, Over 49.5 in ATL/NE, Denver -10.5,
Over 58 in DEN/PHI, Detroit -3, Jacksonville +9 and Houston +2

Upset Specials:  NY Giants +3.5 and Arizona +2.5

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