The combined record of the New England Patriots’ first three opponents is 0-9.
If you’re looking for a reason to believe the Patriots might not be that good this season, hope that an early soft schedule has inflated New England. It’s still a reach considering the Patriots blew out the Pittsburgh Steelers when they still had Ben Roethlisberger, but it’s not like there’s another argument against New England’s dominance right now.
The Patriots are plus-89 in point differential through three games, an amazing 36 points ahead of anyone else. The defense hasn’t allowed a touchdown in four straight games, going back to last season’s Super Bowl. New England’s offense is tied for fifth in yards gained per game and is second in points per game. The Patriots look like a machine.
This week, the challenge gets a little tougher than Miami or the Jets. The Buffalo Bills are 3-0, and they host the Patriots on Sunday.
Buffalo also hasn’t played the toughest schedule, but is off to a good start. The defense has a lot of young talent and looks legit. Quarterback Josh Allen continues to make strides. Given the number of winnable games on the Bills’ schedule and their 3-0 start, it looks like they’re set up well to be a wild-card team this season.
Of course, Buffalo likely still has dreams of being a division winner. Realistically, the only way that path opens up is with a win over the Patriots on Sunday. That has been rare. Tom Brady has been a part of 15 wins in Buffalo’s stadium, the most for any quarterback since 2001. That includes all Bills quarterbacks in that stretch.
It’s hard to pick a seven-point road favorite over a 3-0 team with a good defense, but I’ll go with the Patriots. Their defense looks like it could be the best in the NFL or close, and I’m not sure the Bills can avoid making big mistakes against it. And if the Patriots cruise by the 3-0 Bills in Buffalo, what hope does anyone (other than maybe the Chiefs) have?
Here are the against-the-spread picks for Week 4 of the NFL season:
Falcons (-4) over Titans: Maybe the Falcons will be one of those teams that are better at home. They did look better in the second half against the Colts, though they still lost. The Titans haven’t looked good since Week 1.
Raiders (+6.5) over Colts: The Raiders are in the middle of an impossibly tough stretch of games away from home, and that’s a concern. But the Colts have some key injuries, and this could end up being a close game.
Dolphins (+16) over Chargers: If you’re in a survivor pool, you either passed the Chargers or didn’t feel good picking them. This is the type of game the Chargers can screw up, right? The history says to just take the Chargers, even if it’s scary: According to Pro Football Reference, 16-point favorites since 1980 (when PFR’s point-spread history starts) are 80-6 straight up. If you bring that down to 15.5 points, which is where the line was in Las Vegas on Friday morning, favorites are 95-6 straight up. If they lose, it’ll be historic. Still, it’s too many points to lay with a team that is known for dumb losses.
Broncos (-3) over Jaguars: I can’t comprehend how the Broncos have no turnovers and no sacks through three weeks. If that doesn’t change this week, something is really wrong. We all love Jaguars rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew, but this is a tough spot for him.
Cowboys (-2.5) over Saints: The Saints got a special teams and defensive touchdown to beat the Seahawks last week. I’m not convinced they can produce enough offense with Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback. It’ll be impressive if they can beat a hot Cowboys team without Drew Brees.
And here are the rest of the picks ...
Eagles (+4) over Packers (picked Thursday): The big story out of this game might end up being Davante Adams’ turf toe injury. If Adams has to miss some time, the Packers’ pass-catching crew doesn’t look too good anymore.
Chiefs (-6.5) over Lions: Matt Patricia needs a heck of a game plan this week. The Lions are strangely in first place of the NFC North after the Packers’ loss on Thursday night, but they don’t look much like a first-place team yet. We’ll revisit that if they beat a great Chiefs offense.
Giants (-3) over Redskins: This seems like a bit of a trap. The Giants are knee-deep in Daniel Jones hype. The Redskins looked absolutely awful on Monday night. And now the Giants are only laying a field goal at home? Beware.
Browns (+7) over Ravens: I’m giving the Browns one last chance. If they can’t at least be competitive in this game, they can pretty much forget about competing for a division title and we should have serious questions about Freddie Kitchens and whether he’ll be a one-and-done coach. It hasn’t looked good for him so far. The Browns’ injury report is also concerning, but at some point Cleveland’s offense has to show up ... right?
Panthers (+4) over Texans: I liked the Panthers before the season and would have bailed on that if I knew Cam Newton was going to miss time. But the Panthers played their best game of the season last week with Kyle Allen. Let’s see where this thing goes.
Buccaneers (+10) over Rams: This could be the game in which the Rams’ offense explodes. But it hasn’t looked great yet. Jared Goff doesn’t look special, though he was paid like he is. We know the Bucs can score, and at very least they can get a backdoor cover.
Seahawks (-5) over Cardinals: Seattle’s loss last week means they won’t sleepwalk into this game. Arizona looked bad last week, and other than a spirited comeback against the Lions in Week 1, they haven’t shown much.
Vikings (+2.5) over Bears: In the Kirk Cousins era there has been a clear trend. The Vikings beat bad teams and lose to good teams. I’ll give them a chance here, with their strong defense against Mitchell Trubisky, but I might regret it.
Bengals (+4) over Steelers: If you just tracked the Steelers’ score against the 49ers last week, you’d have thought they played well and lost late. The Steelers were actually pretty awful. They forced five turnovers and still lost, which is just about impossible. Maybe Mason Rudolph is better this week, but he wasn’t good last week.
Last week: 8-8
Season to date: 27-22
SuperContest: 3-2 last week, 8-7 season to date
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