I'm taking over the NFL picks feature from Mike, so let's begin with a story. Probably the worst thing that happened in my gambling career was that I started out winning. The first football season I regularly bet I could hardly miss, and I ended the year way up. But the gambling gods have a way of catching up with you. Over time I gave back some of those early winnings, had a few rough weekends and learned why you drink for free in Vegas. Now things have stabilized and I limit big losses. The key is to find a line you think has value and jump on it. If gambling is the Serengeti, find that three-legged gazelle and attack.On to the Week 4 NFL picks. Lines from SSB Nation's NFL Odds page. And if anyone asks, this is all recreational.
New Orleans Saints at Jacksonville Jaguars (+7): This one isn't science. The Jacksonville defense can play pretty well, but their offense is awful. Rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert threw for a garbage touchdown last week in Carolina, but I think New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams shuts the wide-eyed rookie down this week. Also, Drew Brees. Lay the points. Pick: Saints.
Denver Broncos at Green Bay Packers (-13): The Pack looked very good last week in Chicago, with Aaron Rodgers connecting on three touchdowns to tight end JerMichael Finley. The Broncos lost on the road to the Titans and showed little in the run game. Even if Knowshon Moreno plays, I don’t think it makes much of a difference. Charles Woodson will pick off Kyle Orton and the Pack offense will fly. Pick: Packers
Miami Dolphins at San Diego Chargers (-7): This is our first tricky line. I would probably stay away here, but since this is a picks column, I'll soldier on. San Diego is yet to blow anybody out, and they have played two bad teams in Kansas City and Minnesota. Miami is sneaky, even with their record. The Dolphin offense can move the ball and it looks like coaches realized rookie Daniel Thomas is a better option than Reggie Bush. If this game was in September, when the Chargers tend to be brain-dead, I would take Miami with points. But since the calendar will say October, I'm guessing Phillip Rivers bounces out of his early season funk. The bet I really like here is over 45 points, but my pick is San Diego.
New York Giants at Arizona Cardinals (Pick 'em): Before some hot shot on Twitter points it out, yes, I realize there are a lot of home underdogs this week. And yes, I realize I am picking some road favorites. I don't necessarily like it, but I'm not going to stop here either. Kevin Kolb is not good. Giant defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul might be the best d-linemen in the NFC before the season is over. Arizona just lost to Seattle. The Giants just beat the Eagles. The Eagles are better than Arizona or Seattle. Deductive reasoning tells me the Giants will beat the Cards, even in the desert. And since the line only means they have to win, the pick is the Giants.
New England Patriots at Oakland Raiders (+4): Another home dog, and this Raider team is damn feisty. The win over the Jets last week proved that Oakland can play tough football. Darren McFadden is turning into the elite runner many expected after his impressive career at the University of Arkansas. The Raiders will score but so will the Pats. If Tom Brady did not have the letdown last week against the Bills, I would like this as an upset pick, but I have a real hard time picking against Brady and Bill Belichick coming off a loss. I'm going with the Patriots.
San Francisco 49ers at Philadelphia Eagles (-10): This line might shift until the status of quarterback Michael Vick is certain. My guess is Vick plays, plays well and the Eagles roll. Regardless of the line, the Eagles will cover it after last week's disappointing loss to the Giants. Eagles.
Carolina Panthers at Chicago Bears (-7): The big question here is if the biblical rains last week in Charlotte slowed down Cam Newton, or if the Jacksonville defense had something to do with it. The Bears are a defensive team, and head coach Lovie Smith now has three weeks of tape on Newton. The Panthers' defensive line should be able to get after Bear's quarterback Jay Cutler, mainly because the Bears' offensive line is built out of coffee filters. Upsets happen, and I think this might be it. Go Cam. Go Panthers.
Minnesota Vikings at Kansas City Chiefs (+2): This game will be awful. Nobody except Vikes and Chiefs fans will want to watch this game, and outside of Adrian Peterson I can't imagine a game with less fantasy impact anywhere on the board. Maybe Dwayne Bowe? Neither is good, but the Vikes are less bad than the Chiefs. Take the Vikings.
Buffalo Bills at Cincinnati Bengals (+3): I liked the Bengals as a crappy team that could cover spreads with ugly football and good defense until last week. You can't get beat at home by the Niners and expect me to bet on you again. You just can't. My apologies to the Red Rifle. The Bills offense, gulp, is explosive. Ryan Fitzpatrick and Fred Jackson have game, and those receivers make plays. I am almost confident in this pick, even if it does SCREAM trap game. Beware of this line moving, as the public will probably hammer the Bills. As long as it stays below 4.5, take Buffalo.
Tennessee Titans at Cleveland Browns (-1): With a healthy Kenny Britt, I would love the Titans here. With Kenny Britt out for the year, I lean Browns. Peyton Hillis will be back after strep throat forced him to miss last week's game, and the extra rest will do him well. This is another hard game to pick in a day that seems full of them. Browns.
New York Jets at Baltimore Ravens (-4): This should be a great game. Hard hitting. Trash talking. Rex Ryan coming back to Charm City to face his old team. Purely a hunch, but I think Gang Green shows up. Rex usually does well in prime time and Sunday night will be no different. The pick is the Jets.
Washington Redskins at St. Louis Rams (+1): This line confused me. The Redskins have looked exponentially better than the Rams through three games. Vegas has no faith in the Redskins, and I know why. This is a game that most Redskins teams over the last 15 years would lose. Not this team. Not this year. Redskins.
Atlanta Falcons at Seattle Seahwaks (+5.5): Matty Ice may sell jerseys, but that offensive line is letting him melt so far for Atlanta. The Seahawks stifle Michael Turner, and the Seattle crowd wills their team to a tight win. Yes, an outright win. Sidney Rice has another big day; his presence makes a big difference for Tavaris Jackson and the Seahwaks.
Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys (-1): I don't like what I am about to do. The Lions have become America's darling, and EVERYONE will be betting on them to win in Dallas this week. Generally, when everyone bets one way, it is wise to go the other. Part of me likes a Bengals/Cowboys tease, go against the Lions/Bills love affair. The media can only slurp the Lions and Tony Romo so much, with the two squaring off against each other on Sunday something is bound to give. Pick: Cowboys.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Houston Texans (-4): Wow. I'm surprised here. I know the Steelers won a squeaker last week in Indy. I know their offensive line looked like a JV team. But the Steelers will beat the Texans. The Texans defense will give up big plays, and Ben Roethlisberger will extend plays for big gains. I just got to take the Steelers with points here.
Indianapolis Colts at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-11.5): The Monday night game takes us to Florida, where the resilient Bucs take on the downtrodden Colts. Indy laid it all on the line last week against the Steelers, and an incredible home crowd made a huge difference. Dwight Freeney showed he is still a premier pass-rusher, especially on turf with the home crowd making it hard for the opposing offense. This game is on grass. Tampa will have the crowd. Tampa Bay wins, and covers, with relative ease.