Week 3 saw some surprising results in the NFL, including the Bills upsetting the Vikings, who were more than two-touchdown favorites. And now the Vikings have a short week to come back from their disappointing performance on Sunday as they face the squad that could be the best team in the league on Thursday night when they visit Jared Goff and the Rams. Tom Brady and the Patriots, who are coming off back-to-back road losses, return home to face the undefeated Dolphins as the Pats look like to gain ground on the AFC East leaders. The Sunday nighter features an AFC North rivalry with the Ravens battling the Steelers in Pittsburgh, and the Broncos host the Chiefs in an AFC West battle to close out the week on Monday. This week has our first byes of the season, with the Panthers and Redskins getting an early off-week. I went 5-11 last week, giving me an overall record of 20-38 for the season. As always, I’m using the lines from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick ‘Em game. My picks are in bold and my survivor pool pick (straight up, not ATS) is in red
Byes: Panthers, Redskins
Thursday Night Football
Vikings at Rams (-6.5) – The Vikings have to travel to Los Angeles for a Thursday game against the undefeated Rams just four days after losing to the Bills in a major upset. Things don’t seem to be in the Vikings’ favor in this scenario. One potential positive for them is they may get back RB Dalvin Cook, who missed the Week 3 loss with a hamstring injury. On the other side, the Rams will look to continue their strong offensive performance to date with Goff, RB Todd Gurley and WRs Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp leading the way. Both teams will be without key pieces of their defense, with DE Everson Griffen out for the Vikings and the Rams expected to miss CB Aqib Talib and DB Marcus Peters. I’ll give the points.
Sunday 1PM games
Bengals at Falcons (-5.5) – Both of these teams are expected to be without their starting running back — Joe Mixon for the Bengals and Devonta Freeman for the Falcons — for the second straight week, but the Falcons have the advantage with their backup RB Tevin Coleman being better than the Bengals’ Giovani Bernard. The Falcons also have the better offense overall, with QB Matt Ryan being able to throw to WR Julio Jones and emerging rookie WR Calvin Ridley, who had three touchdowns last week. I’ll give the points.
Bills at Packers (-10.5) – The Bills were 16.5-point underdogs against the Vikings last week and won the game. Now they’re 10.5-point dogs to another NFC North opponent. QB Josh Allen played decently last week as the Bills picked up their first win of the season. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is still dealing with a knee injury but will play through it. I expect the Packers to win the game, but I’ll take the points with the BIlls on the road.
Buccaneers at Bears (-2.5) – The Buccaneers have a decision to make at quarterback this week. After two weeks of passing for more than 400 yards, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick didn’t do as well last week against the Steelers, but he still had a pretty good game despite three interceptions. But QB jameis Winston is coming back this week after serving a three-game suspension. Fitzpatrick is expected to get the start again this week, but regardless of which quarterback is under center it will be a tough matchup against a strong Bears defense led by LB Khalil Mack. I think defense wins out in this game so I’ll go with the home team.
Lions at Cowboys (-2.5) – A couple of 1-2 teams are trying to get to .500 in this game. Despite the Lions beating the Patriots on Sunday night, I’m not overly impressed with either team’s offense. But the Lions are better than the Cowboys, so if they’re getting points I’ll take them because I think either team could win the game outright.
Eagles at Titans (+3.5) – Eagles QB Carson Wentz returned from his knee injury last week, beating the Colts. The Titans also won in a bit of a surprise over the Jaguars, but they only scored nine points in the game. QB Marcus Mariota, who is continuing to recover from a hand injury, is expected to get the start with QB Blaine Gabbert in the concussion protocol after leaving Sunday’s game early. The Titans signed QB Austin Davis to add some depth at the position with Mariota and Gabbert both dealing with their various maladies. The Eagles, meanwhile, may get back starting RB Jay Ajayi, who missed last week’s game with a bad back. The Eagles are the better team in general, but especially with injuries and question marks at quarterback for the Titans. I’ll give the points with the road team.
Texans at Colts (-0.5) – The Texans continue to look for their first win of the season after an 0-3 start. Texans DE J.J. Watt had his best game in a while last week, recording three sacks against Giants QB Eli Manning. I think Watt and the Texans defense will be the difference in this game. And if QB Deshaun Watson can get off to a better start than he has in the first three games, it’ll help out the defense if the Texans can put some points on the board early. Colts QB Andrew Luck has played better than expected so far this season, but he doesn’t have many good options in the receiving corps beyond WR T.Y. Hilton, and the Colts don’t have much of a running game. I’ll go with the Texans to pick up their first victory of 2018.
Dolphins at Patriots (-6.5) – The Patriots are in the midst of a rare two-game losing streak with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady at the helm of the team. Now they have a home game against the 3-0 Dolphins. WR Josh Gordon may make his Patriots debut this week after missing last week’s game with a hamstring injury, which would give Brady another weapon to help in getting the win against the Dolphins. I don’t think the Dolphins are going to go 4-0 so I expect the Patriots to win the game, but I’ll go with the Dolphins to cover.
Jets at Jaguars (-7.5) – The Jags are looking to bounce back from their loss to the Titans when they host QB Sam Darnold and the Jets, who have been inconsistent through the first three weeks of the season. Putting a rookie quarterback like Darnold up against a defense like the Jags have likely isn’t a recipe for success for the visitors, and RB Leonard Fournette may be ready to return to the Jaguars after missing last week’s game, so I’ll give the points.
Sunday 4PM games
Browns at Raiders (-2.5) – Rookie QB Baker Mayfield is going to get his first NFL start after coming into last week’s win in relief of Tyrod Taylor. He’ll be going against CB Derek Carr and a Raiders team in search of their first win of the season. I think Mayfield could be overwhelmed in his first start and I don’t think the Raiders go 0-4, so I’ll give the points.
Seahawks at Cardinals (+3.5) – Like the Browns, the Cardinals are giving their rookie quarterback his first career start. In this case, it’s Josh Rosen, who was given the reins late in last week’s game in place of veteran QB Sam Bradford. In order for the Cardinals to win, RB David Johnson will have to perform better than he has in the first three games of the season. I don’t think Rosen will be able to keep up with Seahawks QB Russell Wilson, so I’m going with the road team, leaving the Cardinals reeling at 0-4.
Saints at Giants (+3.5) – The Giants picked up their first win last week, but now they face one of the top offenses in the league with QB Drew Brees, WR Michael Thomas and RB Alvin Kamara. Giants QB Eli Manning, who played better last week, isn’t in the same league as Brees at this point in his career so — like with the Cardinals — the Giants will have to succeed in the running game with Saquon Barkley if they are going to win this game. I don’t expect that to happen, so I’ll give the points.
49ers at Chargers (-10.5) – The 49ers were dealt a massive blow last week when their up-and-coming QB Jimmy Garoppolo suffered a season-ending ACL injury that leaves C.J. Beathard as the starting quarterback. That is not a recipe for success, so I expect the Chargers to win the game and it comes down to what the margin of victory to be. A 10.5-point spread is a lot, but the 49ers will struggle on offense so I think the Chargers barely cover.
Sunday Night Football
Ravens at Steelers (-3.5) – The Steelers held on to barely beat the Bucs on Monday night to win their first game of the season, and now they face a divisional foe as they look to improve to 2-1-1. They’re still without RB Le’Veon Bell as he continues to holdout amid rumors that the Steelers are exploring trade opportunities for him. WR JuJu Smith-Schuster has started the season strong and is a good second option for QB Ben Roethlisberger behind star WR Antonio Brown. I think the Steelers’ offense is significantly better than the Ravens, so I’ll give the points despite Pittsburgh’s less-than-stellar defense.
Monday Night Football
Chiefs at Broncos (+5.5) – The Chiefs have looked like the best team in the AFC so far behind the arm of QB Patrick Mahomes, who has thrown a league-high 13 touchdowns in the team’s first three games. His pace will likely slow down at some point, but he should still play well enough against the Broncos to get the Chiefs another win and get them to 4-0 on the year. I’m giving the points.