With a quarter of the season in the books, we have a pretty good idea of which teams are for real. The Broncos and Vikings are 4-0 in the NFL and ATS (against the spread) standings. The Eagles are right behind them at 3-0 in both categories.
The Patriots, Steelers, Falcons and Seahawks headline the one-loss teams. There are 13 1-3 teams, including last year’s Super Bowl runner-up Panthers.
Falcons-Broncos, Bengals-Cowboys and Giants-Packers are the most intriguing games of the week. It’s also the return of Tom Brady, who unfortunately for the 0-4 Browns will want to make a statement after his four-game suspension.
Favorites went 8-7 last week, and underdogs are 36-26-1. A few underdogs could make some noise this week, but based on the matchups, expect the “for real” teams to continue their hot starts.
JETS (1-3) AT STEELERS (3-1), 1 p.m.
TV: Ch. 2; Radio: ESPN (98.7)
Steelers by 7; O/U: 48
So if the Chiefs beat the Jets by 21 points in Week 3 and the Steelers beat the Chiefs by 29 in Week 4, the Steelers will beat the Jets by 50 in Week 5, right? That kind of math doesn’t fly in the NFL. Still, everything points to a comfortable win for the Steelers. While it’s too soon for J-E-T-S fans to say, “Just End The Season,” a 1-4 start won’t help. Neither will another Ryan Fitzpatrick pick-fest. The Steelers’ opportunistic defense could have a big day. Meanwhile, the Jets’ secondary has struggled all season, especially on deep balls. Hmm, do the Steelers have a good deep passing game? Ben Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown is the most unstoppable connection in the NFL, and it’s hard to see the Jets slowing down Brown. Roethlisberger is 66-21 straight up at home. Even though the Jets are desperate, Pittsburgh’s offense is relentless and should produce a 10- to 14-point win.
The pick: Steelers
GIANTS (2-2) AT PACKERS (2-1), 8:30 p.m.
TV: Ch. 4; Radio: WFAN (660, 101.9)
Packers by 7; O/U: 48
Another week, another prime-time road game against an NFC North powerhouse for the Giants. The schedule makers didn’t do them any favors, sending Big Blue to Green Bay — which is well rested after a bye — six days after a Monday nighter in Minnesota. The good news: The Packers’ defense isn’t in the same league as the Vikings’. Green Bay has allowed the fourth-most passing yards in the league (307.3 per game) and six touchdown passes. Eli Manning and his talented trio of receivers could have a big night. All eyes will be on Odell Beckham Jr., but maybe this week it could be for spectacular catches instead of arguing with the opposition and refs. After two straight losses, the Giants are desperate for a win and have the offensive firepower to match Aaron Rodgers & Co. Nobody wants to be embarrassed before a national audience in back-to-back weeks, another reason to think the Giants could keep this close the entire game.
The pick: Giants
1 P.M. GAMES
LOCK OF THE WEEK
TEXANS (3-1) AT VIKINGS (4-0)
Vikings by 6.5; O/U: 40
The Vikings have beaten Rodgers, Cam Newton and Manning in the last three weeks while holding the Packers, Panthers and Giants to 14, 10 and 10 points, respectively. Now they get a home game against Brock Osweiler, who has looked underwhelming. Osweiler playing on the road conjures up flashbacks of that dismal Thursday night performance in New England two weeks ago. The Vikings’ defense is right there with the Broncos’ as the best in the league, and they’ll torment Osweiler. Minnesota is allowing only 12.5 points per game, and if the Texans crack double digits, it will be surprising. The under is also a strong play.
The pick: Vikings
EAGLES (3-0) AT LIONS (1-3)
Eagles by 3; O/U: 46
Carson Wentz and the Eagles are flying high. Any more room on the Wentz Wagon? The last time we saw Philly — the Eagles had a bye last week — it was ringing the Steelers’ bell, 34-3. The Eagles are allowing an NFL-low nine points per game. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz was the Lions’ head coach, and his knowledge of Matthew Stafford is a big bonus in this game. Not that the Eagles needed any more against a Lions team that’s lost three in a row, including against the Titans and Bears.
The pick: Eagles
PATRIOTS (3-1) AT BROWNS (0-4)
Patriots by 10.5; O/U: 47
Tom Brady is back to kick off Act II of “The Deflategate Revenge Tour.” While the Browns have hung around in three of their four losses and are 2-2 ATS, it’s hard to see this game being close. Yes, Brady might be a little rusty, and it could take a while for the offense to click, but this game has 34-10 written all over it. Brady’s first game back + Pats coming off a shutout loss at home to Rex Ryan and the Bills adds up to Bill Belichick & Co. pouring it on against his former team.
The pick: Patriots
REDSKINS (2-2) AT RAVENS (3-1)
Ravens by 4; O/U: 45
This game is a tossup, and when that’s the case, it’s always wise to take the points. Kirk Cousins and the Redskins’ offense are on a little roll after an 0-2 start, and even if the Ravens win, it’s probably going to be close. Their four games have been decided by a combined 14 points (6, 5, 2 and 1).
The pick: Redskins
BEARS (1-3) AT COLTS (1-3)
Colts by 4.5; O/U: 48
Teams that play in London always have been on a bye the following week. Not this year for the Colts. That might be a good thing, as they’ll want to rebound after losing to the winless Jaguars (they’re on a bye, by the way). Andrew Luck takes his frustration out on a banged-up Bears defense.
The pick: Colts
TITANS (1-3) AT DOLPHINS (1-3)
Dolphins by 4; O/U: 43
The biggest game-changer in this matchup may be Matthew, as in the hurricane. In a battle of two of the NFL’s worst teams, there’s not much to analyze. Gut instinct: If the Dolphins were a missed field goal away from losing to the Browns in their home opener, there’s no reason to believe the Titans can’t keep this close or even win.
The pick: Titans
4 P.M. GAMES
FALCONS (3-1) AT BRONCOS (4-0)
Broncos by 6; O/U: 47
TV: Ch. 5
This is the game of the week as Denver’s dominant defense faces Atlanta’s high-powered offense. The Broncos are allowing the fourth-fewest yards per game at 283.2 and second-fewest passing yards at 169.5. On the flip side, the Falcons are averaging an NFL-best 478.8 yards and 354.2 passing yards. They’re also averaging a whopping 38 points, more than a touchdown than the next team. Scoring 30 is highly unlikely against Denver, but Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and the running game has looked so good that it’s not crazy to think Atlanta can score in the 24-to-27 range. Just as long as Ryan can avoid being helped up off the ground after Von Miller continually hits him, of course. If Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian can’t go, it’s rookie Paxton Lynch. While Denver has shown it can win with anyone at quarterback, Atlanta’s offense makes it the right play getting this many points.
The pick: Falcons
BENGALS (2-2) AT COWBOYS (3-1)
Pick ’em’ O/U: 45
TV: Ch. 2
Dak Prescott has yet to throw an interception, but the Cowboys rookie is due for a misstep. Dallas has won three in a row after a one-point loss to the Giants, but those wins are against the Redskins, Bears and 49ers. The Bengals, a perennial playoff team, are a step up. Andy Dalton likes playing against the NFC. He’s 14-4-1 straight up, including 3-1 vs. the NFC East. That one loss was against the Cowboys. Dalton and A.J. Green should have success in the passing game and hold on in what could be the most competitive game of the week.
The pick: Bengals
BILLS (2-2) AT RAMS (3-1)
Rams by 2.5; O/U: 39
Raise your hand if you picked the Bills and Rams to beat the Cardinals the last two weeks? Yep, didn’t think so. The resurgent Rams have won three in a row, and the home crowd will be pumped for the team’s second game back in L.A. In the first game, the Rams held Russell Wilson and Seattle to a field goal. L.A. can use that blueprint to stop Tyrod Taylor, another mobile quarterback. Rex Ryan probably wishes he had the Rams’ dominant defensive line. Also, you have to think Buffalo still will be giddy about shutting out the Patriots. L.A. wins a low-scoring game.
The pick: Rams
CHARGERS (1-3) AT RAIDERS (3-1)
Raiders by 3.5; O/U: 50
The Raiders probably wish this game was on the road, where they’re 3-0. While Oakland has enjoyed a pair of late, thrilling wins — Week 1 at New Orleans (35-34) and last week at Baltimore (28-27) — San Diego has given away fourth-quarter leads in all three of its losses. This figures to be a close, high-scoring game, and the Raiders’ offense gets the edge. Bet the over over and over again.
The pick: Raiders
BUCS (1-3) AT PANTHERS (1-3)
Line, O/U: OFF (Panthers QB)
If Derek Anderson gets the start, and it’s looking that way, Carolina probably will be favored by 3 to 4 points. If Cam Newton can go, it will be in the 6-7 range. Either way, take Carolina. Its defense has a chip on its shoulder after last week’s meltdown in Atlanta, and it’s hard to envision the Panthers starting 1-4.
The pick: Panthers
Bye week: Chiefs, Jaguars, Saints, Seahawks
Staff picks (best bets in bold)
Record: 28-34-1 overall, 2-2 best bets
Last week: 10-5
Steelers, Giants, Vikings, Eagles, Patriots, Redskins, Colts, Titans, Falcons, Bengals, Rams, Raiders, Panthers
Record: 28-34-1 overall, 3-1 best bets
Last week: 7-8
Steelers Giants Vikings Lions Patriots Ravens Colts Dolphins Broncos Bengals Rams Raiders Panthers
Record: 31-31-1 overall, 2-2 best bets
Last week: 8-7
Steelers Giants Vikings Lions Patriots Ravens Bears Titants Falcons Bengals Bills Raiders Panthers
KIMBERLEY A. MARTIN
Record: 24-38-1 overall, 2-2 best bets
Last week: 8-7
Jets Packers Vikings Eagles Browns Ravens Colts Titans Broncos Cowboys Bills Raiders Bucs