The pattern so far is: good at home, debacle on road, good at home, debacle on road. That refers to the performances of the Mike Glennon-quarterbacked Chicago Bears (+7.5) through the first four weeks of the season. In the debacles, the turnovers have come early and often. Last night we saw Glennon’s strip-sack fumble (first Bears snap of the game) lead to a Packers touchdown, and a botched-snap-fumble-loss on the next possession set the tone for a four-giveaway night.
The point is, bet the Bears to cover the spread at home next week against the Vikings on Monday Night Football after an extended layoff. I expect we’ll see No. 2 overall draft pick Mitch Trubisky under center no later than November 12 after the bye, with a possibility that he starts on MNF. Earlier this year Glennon earned $18.5 million guaranteed upon signing. It will cushion his fall from grace. The Packers didn’t come away from the 35-14 rout unscathed, by the way, as running back Ty Montgomery broke his ribs and wideout Davante Adams took a scary helmet-to-helmet hit from Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan. But there’s much to get to so let’s get on with it.
NFL Week 4 Survivor Pool Picks and Score Projections for Every Week 4 Game
In Week 3, survivor pools were a total minefield. Better yet, we’re talking about pools, so let’s say that some buddies came over to swim and some of them didn’t feel like drying off to go inside to the bathroom.
It was ugly. I’m going to pat myself on the back for trying to steer you away from some bad but popular options (Dolphins, Steelers, Broncos), while pointing very strongly in the direction of New England which, well, you saw. I watched the final minutes through my hands covering my face. To win one of these pools, you’re going to suffer through games like that. About 12-15% of poolsters are sitting pretty right now after the Packers thumped the Bears, so let’s look at the top five most popular remaining options (as of Thursday night, all teams here have at least 5% pool support or higher) in Yahoo! and ESPN-hosted pools.
The Best and Most Popular Survivor Pool Picks
Indianapolis Colts at Seattle Seahawks: I won’t bury the lede — this is the best option. It is not without risk, which you know if you’ve watched a few minutes of Seahawks football this year. We’ve seen the Seahawks take their time departing the runway in recent seasons but this team looks and feels a bit different. A bit… maybe not that good.
It all starts with the offensive line. It’s just as bad as it’s been since they decided they didn’t need to roster good linemen. Seattle’s apparent front office theory is that a Ferrari is still a Ferrari without an airbag, brakes or seat belt. (Looks to see who’s the backup. It’s Austin Davis, who has 10 career starts, most recently in Cleveland in 2015.) They don’t have car insurance either. The Seahawks’ struggling 2017 offense is toast without Wilson. Take a look at this:
QB's who have taken the most hits through 3 weeks of NFL action!@NFLFilms @ESPNNFL #Browns #GoBills pic.twitter.com/Hz1q1tXQ2v
— NFL Matchup on ESPN (@NFLMatchup) September 27, 2017
Wilson might be number one if he weren’t so good at escaping pressure; he’s already rushed 21 times this season. Speaking of rushing, the vaunted Seahawks defense got shredded for 195 rushing yards last week at Tennessee (75 coming on a long DeMarco Murray score) and now rank 30th in rush defense DVOA (Football Outsiders). Very un-Seattle like.
The good news is that the Colts, coming off their first win in Week 3 over the Browns, stink at rushing the football (averaging 2.7 yards per carry). Frank Gore is about age 103 in Running Back Years and the Colts’ O-Line doesn’t do him favors. Also this game is on Sunday night on primetime at CenturyLink field where the Seahawks almost always play better. Check on Richard Sherman (Achilles) and Doug Baldwin’s status (groin, questionable). Ideally both are in there but it may be one out of two. The Seahawks know they cannot afford to fall to 1-3 in what would be a very embarrassing loss.
Here’s a look into the crystal ball at the 12’s, and Brett Smiley, if the Colts win this football game:
Buffalo Bills at Atlanta Falcons: Kudos to the Buffalo Bills for scooping two wins in their first three weeks, both at home against some very average offenses (Jets, Broncos). This is where the fun ends: in Atlanta, on the turf, against a machinelike offense that’s picking up steam. The Bills contained the Panthers offense as well but they’re stepping up two weight classes here. The good news is that the Bills’ strength — rushing — matches a Falcons weakness, defending the run (ranked 31 in run defense DVOA). But that’s a moot point if the Bills get in a hole and need Tyrod Taylor to throw the Bills back into to the game.
As for meaningful injuries, the Bills and Falcons may trade pawns (well, not pawns, very large humans) on the right side with Falcons tackle Ryan Schraeder possibly out (concussion) and same for Bills DE Shaq Lawson (groin). Atlanta ought to win, but I would probably look to Seattle first based on the situation and opponent. But I don’t fault you for wanting to avoid the possible crash in the Pacific Northwest.
San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals: Not a crazy idea — a real vote of confidence — but I wouldn’t do it. For starters, the Cardinals are coming off a short week (Monday Night Football) and the Niners the reverse (last played on Thursday Night Football). You may also recall seeing Carson Palmer on that list of most-hit QBs up above. Palmer is not exactly mobile but the offensive line has been cratering and allowed Dallas to pressure Palmer despite rushing only three men. It’s not a good situation there for an offense that can’t run the football — at all — without David Johnson, averaging 2.9 yards per carry between the trio of Andre Ellington, Kerwynn Williams and Chris Johnson (also aged 103).
The Niners don’t have the sacks yet but they know this is a spot to tally ‘em up (and get their first win) against a division foe. “It’s so freaking close for those guys and if they continue to just freaking work there’s no doubt in my mind the sacks are going to come in bunches and all that stuff will happen,” defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said on Thursday. Beware the Dumervil. Meanwhile the 49ers offense doesn’t inspire much confidence against a defense that can stuff the run, but maybe Carlos Hyde can wear them down like Ezekiel Elliott did last week.
Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Jets: Both coming off nice and convincing wins, which is surprising, to put it very mildly. Jacksonville is definitely a better team overall with an impressive defense and secondary with receiver-erasing cornerbacks in Jalen Ramsey and AJ Bouye.
Jalen Ramsey hasn't allowed a catch longer than 8 yards yet this season.
— Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) September 26, 2017
The defense should keep them competitive in most games if the offense doesn’t face plant. But that’s the risk: Blake Bortles ain’t good despite the nice outing in London and they’re very rush-heavy with nearly half their offensive yardage coming on the ground. If the Jets can contain Leonard Fournette and do some ground-and -pounding of their own (Matt Forte likely out with turf toe, not ideal), they’ve got a real shot. I would see what happens in New York and wait for an opportunity to take the Jags at home (Colts).
Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns: A high volume of bets are coming in on Cincinnati to get their first win, which is a good sign for Cleveland. Do I think the Bengals win? Yeah, probably. I bet them to cover last week at Green Bay and they did thanks improvements by new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and a common offensive boost when the old OC goes. Browns wideouts have dropped the ball — literally and figuratively — for rookie QB DeShone Kizer’s chances at confidence-building and first-down making. Seven dropped passes last week at Indianapolis alone. Seven!!!
But the Browns did muster 28 points last week and notched 25 first downs. They are capable of moving the ball. On defense, the Bengals get back the suspension-prone but talented linebacker Vontaze Burfict. For Cleveland, No. 1 overall pick DE Myles Garrett has an remote chance to make his debut (ankle) but if not, at least he’s practicing. The Browns need any/all help to mask a shoddy secondary. All in all, I’d much rather push my chips on Seattle or Atlanta this week than get picked off by the Red Rifle.
The Rest of the Week 4 Games: Two Squads Get off the Shneid
New Orleans Saints (-3) “at” Miami Dolphins (in London): Two bad defenses square off at Wembley Stadium. (Read about the London betting scene here.) It should make for an entertaining Sunday morning and a very fruitful one if Drew Brees is your fantasy football quarterback (Saints also get back WR Willie Snead this week) or Jay Ajayi your running back. The Dolphins have racked up some serious frequent flyer miles to start the season and it’s likely to have some impact here. If the Fins fall behind, look out for Jay Cutler interceptions. I won’t be touching this spread but may think about the over as long as it stays below a key number in 51. Score projection: Saints 31, Dolphins 24
Carolina Panthers (+9) at New England Patriots: Although the Panthers offense is bordering on disaster right now with Greg Olsen out, Kelvin Benjamin banged up, and Cam Newton really off his game, the Patriots’ league-worst defense should not have New England laying nine points against any NFL team right now. The pass and rush defense have been equally inept. Has anyone checked Bill Belichick’s blood pressure? He can’t be handling this well. The Patriots have a bevy of offensive weapons and can stack points against anyone but man, maybe defensive coordinator Matt Patricia needs to shave that beard. Something, anything. Score projection: Patriots 28, Panthers 20
Detroit Lions (+1.5) at Minnesota Vikings: I’m still not convinced the Lions are an above-average or playoffs-caliber football team (this year). Matthew Stafford has the fourth quarter gene, the pass rush has improved, so has the secondary, but they don’t quite have a “plus” positional group. I realize this is a Don LaGreca-on-numbers-guys-esque position:
No words. pic.twitter.com/btsaBZLrpf
— Alex Seixeiro (@alexfan590) September 21, 2017
The Vikings have been crushing opposing run games so far, so it’s going to be on Stafford and the receivers to move the chains. On the other side I don’t think we’ll see Case Keenum having another 350-plus yard passing game, though he’s filled in admirably for Sam Bradford. I’m on board with Minny here. Score projection: Vikings 24, Lions 20
Los Angeles Rams (+6) at Dallas Cowboys: I think a lot of people think the Real Dallas Cowboys showed up in Arizona toward the end of the first half on Monday Night Football. Interestingly, this Rams/Cowboys tilt mirrors the 49ers/Cardinals with the short week versus long week opponent. Anyhow, that is a factor. The Rams have really improved on offense under head coach Sean McVay while the ‘Boys offense seems to have shifted a gear back from their 2016 form. Here they get a defense that’s been struggling to squash run games. Their defense is banged up, although the secondary is healing. This line has moved from a Rams +7 or 7.5-point opener to +6 (as of Friday morning), so keep that in mind if you like the Rams; I do think they make it a game. Score projection: Cowboys 28, Rams 24
Pittsburgh Steelers (-3) at Baltimore Ravens: The Ben Roethlisberger and Pittsburgh Steelers home/road Jekyll/Hyde dichotomy is oft-discussed and a legitimate thing. After the Ravens got absolutely steamrolled by the Jaguars in London, they’re catching a field goal at home against a familiar opponent. Run-stuffing DT Brandon Williams (foot) is still not practicing and is likely out on Sunday. But this Ravens defense is still pretty stacked and ought to have steam pouring out their ears after that very sorry Sunday morning display last week. Pittsburgh also needs to get right after a loss at Chicago. It’s a fairly low total (42) in probably a low scoring game so this is one to watch unless you see it differently. Score projection: Steelers 21, Ravens 20
New York Giants (+3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Good lord, the New York Football Giants. They should have frozen Lawrence Taylor’s genetic material years ago and produced at least one of him for every generation. They haven’t had a plus linebacker since Antonio Pierce and could really use second-year man B.J. Goodson back (shin) this week and it looks like he should be a go. The Giants offense finally (somewhat) came to life last week with a quickened pace and should be able to move the ball against a very banged up Bucs defense. Odell Beckham Jr. will score a pair of touchdowns and possibly simulate a dog urinating again, which would be really foolish but he’s reached Terrell Owens circa 2006 territory where he can get away with anything he’s so good. The New York secondary should be able to stifle Mike Evans and perhaps force some Jameis Winston errors, which have become common. Score projection: Giants 24, Bucs 17
Tennessee Titans (-2.5) at Houston Texans: Texans rookie QB Deshaun Watson took a big step forward at New England, even though he did it against New England’s current sieve-like defense. The Titans got their offense cooking again last week against Seattle, doing big damage on the ground, where Houston has been pretty strong so far this season. Watson will have opportunities through the air if pass protection holds up. I’ll be watching this one for the intrigue but will take at the home dog if forced to pick a side. Score projection: Texans 24, Titans 21
Philadelphia Eagles (+1.5) at Los Angeles Chargers: The Chargers are just too talented on both sides to go 0-4. Come on, Chargers, seriously? This is your chance against a team coming cross-country off an emotional win that’s possibly/maybe without one of their top defensive players in Fletcher Cox (ankle). Wear the powder blues. Score projection: Chargers 28, Eagles 24
Oakland Raiders (+3) at Denver Broncos: Two teams, divisional rivals, that really need to bounce back and restore their confidence. I was very impressed by the way the Redskins wrangled the Raiders offense last week. The Broncos may be able to contain Oakland in similar fashion by limiting away Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree and challenging Oakland’s run game. We’ll see if Beast Mode can quake through Denver’s improved rush defense. This game will turn on Trevor Siemian’s competence and maybe a special teams play. Someone ask football clairvoyant Tony Romo. Score projection: Broncos 24, Raiders 20
Washington Redskins (+7) at Kansas City Chiefs: Like I said, great win for Washington last week but Kansas City is looking like a 13-win team and has the weapons to bust up any defense. Arrowhead Stadium is also a very tough environment and should reach peak volume for Monday Night Football. The Chiefs’ main vulnerability so far is on the ground where Washington is hobbled a bit right (Samaje Perine has a hand injury but should be a go, Fat Rob Kelley ribs and may not be). Score projection: Chiefs 27, Redskins 17
Projections for Games Covered in Survivor Section:
Cincinnati Bengals (-3) at Cleveland Browns: Bengals 22, Browns 20
Buffalo Bills (+8) at Atlanta Falcons: Falcons 35, Bills 24
Jacksonville Jaguars (-3) at New York Jets: Jaguars 20, Jets 17
San Francisco 49ers (+7) at Arizona Cardinals: 49ers 24, Cardinals 21
Indianapolis Colts (+13) at Seattle Seahawks: Seahawks 30, Colts 14
Happy Week 4, everybody! You can hit me me up on Twitter with any thoughts, comments, questions or well-crafted insults.