The week started with a Thursday night game that cut against several trends. Heading into Week 4, the Jacksonville Jaguars had yet to cover a spread all season, going 0-3. The Cincinnati Bengals had covered the spread in six of their last eight games at Paul Brown Stadium and were 9-4-1 against the spread with Joe Burrow as the starting quarterback. (Read the Nostrathomas analysis here).
Reality had different ideas for this game though. Jacksonville jumped out to a 14-0 halftime lead against lethargic Bengals opposition. The Jaguars made one mistake before heading into the locker room for halftime.
On fourth down at Cincinnati’s one yard line, rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence kept the ball instead of pitching to James Robinson. The Bengals got the ball back on downs with a fresh sense of momentum. Cincinnati scored on all four of their second half possessions with the last being a field goal as time ran out for a 24-21 victory.
Nostrathomas picked up the straight-up win but came up short against the -7.5-point spread. Let’s see what the remainder of the Week 4 slate holds in store for us.
Game of the Week
Arizona Cardinals vs Los Angeles Rams -4 (4:05PM ET; SoFi Stadium, Los Angeles, CA)
No, the game of the week is not the overhyped meeting between Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers visiting Brady’s old stomping grounds. The true Game of the Week is this battle for first place in the NFC West between the undefeated Los Angeles Rams and Arizona Cardinals.
Los Angeles is looking intimidating after grinding the Tampa Bay Buccaneers into the SoFi Stadium turf last week but so far in 2021, the Cardinals haven’t looked like a team that’s willing to be intimidated.
Still, Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray is in a rut against Los Angeles. He has yet to beat the Rams in his career, going 0-4 and losing by an average of 14 points per game.
It’s surprising about how similar a trajectory both these teams have taken to get to 3-0. Arizona currently leads the NFL in scoring with 103 points. The Rams are third with 95. Matthew Stafford has thrown nine touchdown passes while Kyler Murray has seven.
On defense, both are strong up front. The Cardinals have 10 sacks on the season with Chandler Jones contributing five. Los Angeles has nine, spread among seven players.
The one weakness in Arizona’s game that the Rams are primed to take advantage of is three of Kyler Murray’s starting offensive linemen are listed as questionable heading into this game. Tackle Kelvin Beachum (ribs), tackle Justin Murray (back) and guard Justin Pugh (back) will probably play but won’t be at full strength.
Those offensive line problems are enough to give Los Angeles the edge in this game. Also, the Rams are on an eight-game winning streak against Arizona. Take Los Angeles to win and cover.
Los Angeles Rams 32 Arizona Cardinals 24
New York Giants vs New Orleans Saints -7 (1PM ET; Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA)
The New Orleans Saints are 31st in the NFL in yards of total offense. However, they are the best team in the NFL in making their yards count. New Orleans is averaging one point scored for every 9.6 total yards of offense. That multiplies out to seven points for 67.2 yards of offense.
How does this happen? It takes a defense that gives their offense opportunities on short fields. It also takes an offense that takes full advantage of those opportunities. New Orleans has only attempted three field goals this season, making one. Everything else for the Saints has gone into the end zone for touchdowns.
New York’s chances in this game come down to whether Saquon Barkley can gain consistent yards on the ground. The Saints have a pass defense that should create headaches for Daniel Jones, no matter how good he’s looked in the last two games for the Giants.
New Orleans Saints 24 New York Giants 14
Washington Football Team -1.5 vs Atlanta Falcons, Over/Under 48 (1PM ET; Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA)
Neither of these teams have been what fans were expecting when the season began. The Football Team has so far failed to generate the level of defense they achieved last year. The Atlanta Falcons have yet to play the caliber of offense that fans expected when former Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith was named as head coach.
Atlanta is last in the league on offense with a 4.3 air yards per pass attempt average. No NFL offense is going to succeed if the ball is barely getting through to the second level. That’s also a bad look for a team who’s fourth overall draft was considered as close to a “can’t miss” tight end/wide receiver as he can get.
Nostrathomas isn’t recommending this game as a Best Bet because of the point spread. Washington has gone under in six of their last eight games. The Falcons have gone under in five of their last seven games at home.
If you’re going to pick a spread here, take the Football Team. They are potentially better on defense. The bet Nostrathomas is recommending here though is take the Under 48 points and add it to your parlay.
Washington Football Team 22 Atlanta Falcons 16
Pittsburgh Steelers vs Green Bay Packers -6 (4:25PM ET; Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI)
After their last two games I think it’s fair to ask how much gas Ben Roethlisberger has remaining in the tank.
Roethlisberger has thrown for 295 yards two weeks ago against Las Vegas, and 318 yards last week against the Bengals. What has hurt is he’s only thrown two touchdowns against three interceptions in those games. His 5.6 net yards per pass attempt average is also dramatically down from where the Steelers are used to seeing it.
One of the problems with the Steelers offense that is out of Roethlisberger’s control is that they’re offensive line has yet to coalesce into a unit that can protect Big Ben while opening holes for rookie running back Najee Harris.
Pittsburgh is only averaging 3.2 yards per rush attempt. That is dead last in the league while Roethlisberger has been dropped eight times, tied for seventh most.
It’s unfortunate for the Steelers that their offense has been so far down in the dumps through three games. Green Bay has been vulnerable on defense. Their offense is back to performing at the high level that everyone expected before the season started.
The Packers defense nearly let last Monday night’s game get away. A game where it appeared that victory had been tucked into Aaron Rodgers pocket.
Taking Green Bay to win and cover has been a very popular bet at the sports books this week. It’s tempting to be a contrarian and pick the Steelers to cover, except betting their offense to rise to the occasion is too much to ask until Ben Roethlisberger proves there’s still life in his right arm.
Green Bay Packers 26 Pittsburgh Steelers 16
Best of the Rest
Carolina Panthers vs Dallas Cowboys -4 (1PM ET; AT&T Stadium, Dallas, TX)
If it weren’t for the Rams hosting the Cardinals being a battle for first place in the NFC West, this would be the game of the week.
The Carolina Panthers are 3-0 on the back of a suffocating defense and a strong start by quarterback Sam Darnold. The Dallas Cowboys have been riding the right arm of quarterback Dak Prescott to the top of the NFC East.
For Carolina, how will their offense react to the loss of running back Christian McCaffrey? Chuba Hubbard becomes the featured running back now but McCaffrey also leaves a large hole in Carolina’s passing game.
The Panthers defense will have its hands full trying to slow down Dallas’ offense. This is the best offense that Carolina has played this season.
At this point, the Cowboys have a more consistent offense on the ground and through the air. They’ve also the top team in the NFL in turnover ratio. That’s as good a reason as any right now to take them to win and cover.
Dallas Cowboys 27 Carolina Panthers 22
Indianapolis Colts vs Miami Dolphins -2.5 (1PM ET; Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, FL)
These are two closely matched teams, and not in a good way. For Miami, Tua Tagovailoa will be out for an extended period of time with broken ribs which means the Dolphins will go as far as Jacoby Brissett will take them.
For the Indianapolis Colts, it’s the same question week after week. Is Carson Wentz not just healthy enough to play, but healthy enough to move his team’s offense.
This would be a great spot for Indianapolis to get their first win of the season if they weren’t so beaten up on offense. All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson has been placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury. Wentz is fighting injuries to both ankles and running back Jonathan Taylor will be playing despite a knee injury.
This is a coin flip game. Do not bet it! Nostrathomas is going to pick the Miami Dolphins to win and cover because they’re less beat up and also playing at home.
Miami Dolphins 20 Indianapolis Colts 16
Tennessee Titans -6 vs New York Jets (1PM ET; MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ)
This would be an easier game to pick if A.J. Brown and Julio Jones weren’t both out with injuries. The Titans do still have Derrick Henry though and that makes up for a lot of problems.
Through three games, the New York Jets have put the “ic” in pathetic.
If the Jets score first, they have a chance to keep this game within the spread. Even that is asking a lot from New York until we see some concrete improvement from the team on both sides of the ball.
Tennessee Titans 20 New York Jets 9
Houston Texans vs Buffalo Bills -17.5 (1PM ET; Highmark Stadium, Orchard Park, NY)
The Buffalo Bills stumbled out of the starting gate for the 2021 season but have come back strong the past two weeks against struggling teams. They get their third straight struggling opponent at home this week.
It’s always tough to make a pick when the spread is this large. A point spread on a game doesn’t get any larger than 17 points.
Don’t ever bet such an insanely wide-spread and if you do, get help. However, since Nostrathomas picks all games against the spread, take Buffalo to win and cover. They are currently the superior team on both sides of the ball.
The only thing that might work against the Bills in this game is they could possibly be looking past the Texans to their Week 5 game against the Chiefs in Kansas City. After losing their home opener to Pittsburgh though, it’s doubtful the Bills have no interest in falling on their faces at home again.
Buffalo Bills 34 Houston Texans 13
Cleveland Browns -1 vs Minnesota Vikings (1PM ET; U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN)
Here is another tough game to pick with two teams that are off to strong starts and have the playoffs in their sights.
Kirk Cousins has been playing some of the best football of his career for the Vikings but Cleveland is sixth in net passing yards allowed so he’ll be challenged to continue making big plays.
Both teams bring strong running games to the field but Minnesota’s defense will have a tougher time trying to stop Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. The Vikings give up 4.8 yards per carry on defense, 28th in the league. Cleveland’s defense is third in the NFL on defense in yards allowed per carry.
There is another weakness in Minnesota’s defense that the Browns are primed to take advantage of. The Vikings are 31st in the league on defense in passer rating allowed. Baker Mayfield will have his chances to find Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. in Minnesota’s secondary.
Nostrathomas says the Browns continue to keep pace in the AFC North with a win and cover in Minnesota.
Cleveland Browns 30 Minnesota Vikings 27
Kansas City Chiefs -6.5 vs Philadelphia Eagles (1PM ET; Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA)
As rough as Kansas City has been out of the starting gate this season, it’s been worse for the Eagles. Philadelphia beat up on the Atlanta Falcons in Week 1, then got crushed by the 49ers and Cowboys.
Jalen Hurts still has to show more consistency behind center to convince everyone that he’s prepared to be the franchise quarterback in Philadelphia. This wouldn’t be a bad week for him to do that. The Chiefs have been horrible on defense so far and don’t seem to have any immediate answers.
Kansas City can still do too much on offense though for the Eagles to overcome. The only hope for Philadelphia is if the Chiefs get caught looking past this game to their Week 5, Sunday night spotlight against the Buffalo Bills.
Kansas City Chiefs 30 Philadelphia Eagles 20
Seattle Seahawks +2.5 vs San Francisco 49ers (4:05PM ET; Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, CA)
From looking at a statistical analysis of these two teams, Seattle has not been as bad as they’ve looked at times this season, nor have the 49ers been as good as they’ve looked in spots.
San Francisco let a game get away from them last Sunday night. Aaron Rodgers moved the Packers into range and Mason Crosby punched through the game-winning 51-yard field goal.
Russell Wilson is still leading the NFL in passer rating. The challenge for the Seahawks will be in getting off the field on defense.
Seattle is looking for a breakout game and Levi’s Stadium may be the place to get it. The 49ers have lost five straight and eight of their last nine at home.
Seattle Seahawks 25 San Francisco 49ers 24
Baltimore Ravens vs Denver Broncos Pick ‘em (4:25 PM; Empower Field at Mile High Stadium, Denver, CO)
The Baltimore Ravens have been living on the edge so far this season and Denver is the city where that comes to an end.
The Broncos defense is elite and Teddy Bridgewater has teamed with coordinator Pat Shurmer to run a productive passing game.
Denver Broncos 27 Baltimore Ravens 23
Tampa Buccaneers -7 vs New England Patriots (Sunday Night Football, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA)
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are unbeatable again in 2021, at least until last week when the ran face first into the Rams defense. Then there are the New England Patriots, who’ve looked awfully average since Tom Brady took his talents to Florida.
Defensively, New England should be able to compete in this game. Offensively, Mac Jones needs to prove that he can finish drives. Through three games, the Patriots have struggled to turn their yards on offense into points. New England has only scored four touchdowns in three games.
No amount of “want to” can overcome the shortcomings that Tampa will take full advantage of on Sunday night. Even with Rob Gronkowski declared out for this game, the Buccaneers are still loaded with too many weapons on offense.
Take Tampa Bay to win and cover.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 34 New England Patriots 17
Las Vegas Raiders +3.5 vs Los Angeles Chargers (Monday Night Football; SoFi Stadium, Los Angeles, CA)
The month of October is when things usually start going south for the Raiders. In their last 14 October games, Las Vegas is 2-12. The Raiders are not the only team that will be looking to break some trends this week. The Chargers will be playing against at home in name only. Expect a majority of the crowd at SoFi Stadium to be wearing silver and black.
The last time these two teams faced each other, the Chargers won a Thursday night overtime thriller in Las Vegas. However, until that game Los Angeles had been on a five game, prime time losing streak.
The Raiders currently lead the NFL in total yards and are tied for seventh in points scored. Los Angeles moves the ball well but has trouble turning those yards into points. They’re currently 20th in scoring.
Las Vegas is currently playing better on both sides of the ball. We’ll see if they can start taking steps to make their trend of October losses a bad memory.
Las Vegas Raiders 29 Las Angeles Chargers 26
Game of the Weak
Detroit Lions +3 vs Chicago Bears(1PM ET; Soldier Field, Chicago, IL)
The Detroit Lions have played strong for head coach Dan Campbell so far. They should have won last week against Baltimore but were completely jobbed by the referees twice at the end of the game.
As for the Chicago Bears, at this writing it appears that Justin Fields will be starting for the second week in a row. Will head coach Matt Nagy continue to call his generic, offensive system plays or will he reach into his encyclopedic playbook to find a few that are more suited to Fields’ particular talents.
The Bears have the defense to win this game but they were gassed by the fourth quarter last week against the Browns.
Detroit will be out to prove a point this week and Jared Goff will still be the best quarterback on the field in this game.
Detroit Lions 20 Chicago Bears 16