Time keeps flying by as we're now into Week 4 of the NFL season. We're taking a look at six games on this weekend's slate and deciding which side we'd rather be on. All lines are as of Friday afternoon and courtesy of BetMGM.
Would you rather take the 7 points with the Eagles or the Patriots?
The Philadelphia Eagles are 7-point home underdogs against the Kansas City Chiefs, while the New England Patriots are also getting 7 points at home against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Which home dog are you backing against an elite team coming off a loss?
Pete: I know the Chiefs are on an awful 1-12-1 run against the spread, but it sure does feel like this is a potential get-right spot for Kansas City. They can't keep failing to cover forever. Philadelphia's dominance over Atlanta looks a lot less impressive now that we've seen the Falcons offense in action. Famous last words, I think Kansas City wins big and covers on Sunday.
On the other side, 92% of the money is on Tampa Bay for Sunday. I don't often "fade the public" as a betting strategy, but man, it sure feels like oddsmakers know something we don't. Bill Belichick has probably never wanted to win a regular-season game more than this. I'm taking the greatest coach of all time getting 7 points in the ultimate contrarian spot.
Greg: I love this one because it’s two angry powerhouses on the road, coming off a loss. And then there’s the whole Brady thing.
Let me start with the Patriots. If right tackle Trent Brown isn’t back for this game, go ahead and load up on the Bucs. His replacement, Justin Herron, gave up eight of the Pats’ 16 pressures versus the Saints last week. James White is out for the season, so now they’ve lost their pass-protecting back and their most dangerous receiving back. Tight end Jonnu Smith has been a massive disappointment. Stephon Gilmore is on the PUP until Week 7. This season could slip away from them faster than Robert Kraft’s refractory period.
A lot of the Eagles talk coming into this season was about how their offensive line was decimated by injuries last year, but now they’re fully healthy and ready to gash opponents with RPO. Well, three weeks in and they’re already down to two healthy starters. Kansas City’s defense has been so generous that it may not matter as much in this game, but do you expect the Eagles defense to shut down a Chiefs offense that’s desperately focused on not starting the season 1-3?
I can see the Eagles being down two scores late and then garbage-timing their way into a last-minute cover. What I can’t envision is the Patriots hanging around against a Tampa team that matches up perfectly with them. I’m taking the Eagles here.
Would you rather lay 1.5 points with Washington or Cleveland?
The Washington Football team is a 1.5-point road favorite against the Atlanta Falcons. The Cleveland Browns head to Minnesota, where they are also 1.5-point road favorites. Which road favorite are you backing?
Pete: This Washington line stinks heavily. I know the Football Team just got blown out against the Bills, but I'd still consider them an average NFL team. They hung tough with the Chargers in Week 1 and beat the Giants in Week 2. On the other hand, I think Atlanta is pretty bad. Their offense doesn't do it for me and their defense is below average. So why is this line only 1.5 points? It feels like a trap.
The line in the Browns-Vikings game makes a bunch more sense. The Browns are the better team, but Minnesota is a solid team that could easily be 3-0. I think we have two efficient, underrated quarterbacks here but the Browns defense gives them an edge. At the risk of overthinking this, give me the Browns over that stinky other line.
Greg: The way Kirk Cousins is playing, maybe every quarterback in the league should surround themselves with plexiglass. That’s actually my preferred way to watch the Washington-Atlanta game, but with cardboard.
I get that Washington has played two great offenses in the Chargers and Bills, but man has this defense been disappointing. Daniel Jones looked like “Steamin” Willie Beamen against them in Week 2. This week’s matchup against the Falcons will let us know if they’re a paper tiger. Matt Ryan hasn’t thrown a single pass over 30 yards and has the lowest air yards per attempt of any QB with at least 40 passing attempts, so at least Washington won’t be getting burned over the top like they have been.
It’s tough to know how much to take away from the Browns-Bears game. That was like playing Madden on easy mode. I think this Browns defense is for real, though. Unfortunately, cornerback Greg Newsome is out against the Vikings. Even though he’s a rookie, he’s been Cleveland’s best corner this season, according to PFF, and they could really use him against Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. On the other hand, Minnesota struggles against the run and that’s the Browns’ bread-and-butter. On the other other hand (I am running out of hands), the Vikings are one of the best teams in the NFL at home. I lean Browns, but I’m fairly confident in WFT, so that’s who I’m on this week.
Would you rather take the 4 points with Arizona or 4.5 points with Carolina?
The Arizona Cardinals are 4-point underdogs on the road against the LA Rams. Carolina also heads on the road, where they are 4.5-point underdogs against the Dallas Cowboys. Which 3-0 team do you like in the underdog role?
Pete: This is a tough one for me, as I'm kind of waiting on the other shoe to drop with both of these underdogs. Did Kliff Kingsbury magically learn how to coach over the offseason? And did Sam Darnold really go from the worst quarterback in the league to average simply by leaving the Jets? While I don't fully buy either 3-0 team, I also kind of like them both in the underdog role. You can't make me make sense.
Personally, I'm more worried about Darnold without his security blanket in Christian McCaffrey. For the most part, skill position players are worth very little in the betting market, but I think McCaffrey might be an exception. Does his absence downgrade the Panthers by a point? I wouldn't argue against it. I think Kyler Murray makes enough plays to keep Arizona within the number but I'm not sure how much success the Panthers offense has. Give me the Cardinals.
Greg: I’ve been such a hype boy for the Panthers this season so this really kills me to do this, but I have to go with the Cardinals in this spot. There, I ripped the band-aid off, now I can talk about why.
Christian McCaffrey is a huge loss for the Carolina offense. Sam Darnold has looked really good, and I love how offensive coordinator Joe Brady has put him in a position to consistently win against defenses, but McCaffrey was a big part of that. Defenses don’t have to respect Chuba Hubbard the same way they did CMC and can now put most of their focus on the passing game. Even with all the defensive players Dallas has lost to injury so far this year, Dan Quinn defused an explosive Chargers offense and put the clamps on Jalen Hurts and the Eagles. The Panthers have an uber-talented defense and get corner A.J. Bouye back just in time to make up for losing Jaycee Horn, but Dak Prescott and the Cowboys offense have been so adaptable while playing at such a high level that I can see them covering this one at home.
You know what, I actually think that Arizona may get rolled by the Rams. Sean McVay has that offense turned up to a hundred and Robert Woods hasn’t even gotten that involved yet. The Cardinals are giving up the second-most yards per carry on the ground. Arizona’s linebackers and corners are drawing dead against Cooper Kupp, Tyler Higbee and Woods. I don’t think Kyler Murray will be able to keep up against a defense that’s been pretty solid this year. I’m back on the Panthers again.