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Weekend Football Picks and Fantasy Football 2020 (February 8-17)

The English Winter Break is in play for the first time this season and I think it has not gone as well as the Premier League and the top clu...

Thursday, 25 September 2014

NFL Week 4 Picks 2014 (September 25-29)

Week 3 proved to be a very good one for the picks, even the ones where I didn't put any units on the teams and that gives me something to build on going into Week 4. The big news on this side of the pond is that we get to see the first London game of three as the Miami Dolphins and Oakland Raiders meet at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, although the performances of those two teams in the first three weeks is hardly inspiring anyone to think a great game is in the offing.

Week 3 Thoughts
Aaron Rodgers tells the Pack Nation to R-E-L-A-X: After going down to the Detroit Lions on Sunday, the questions returned about Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Offense which has struggled in the opening three weeks of the season. Scoring just 7 points against the Lions is not what anyone expected this team was going to be capable of producing, while Rodgers didn't have a great passing day again.

Rodgers hosts an ESPN radio show in Milwaukee and made a point of telling the Packers fans that have begun to worry to relax, while ignoring some of the reasons that have been given on social media sites for his poor start to the season.

This week is a big game for Rodgers and Green Bay as they visit the Chicago Bears who have a 2-1 record and a second Divisional loss in a row won't be good news for a team that some picked as a Super Bowl contender.

With the injuries in the Chicago Defense, Green Bay won't have a better chance to get the Offense back on track and I have to believe Rodgers when he clearly explains he is not close to being worried about how things have gone so far. However, another loss for the Packers and I think even the normally laid-back Quarter Back may begin to wonder if they will find a way to turn things around.

It is time for the rookies to start at Quarter Back... Except not Johnny Football: It isn't a big surprise that the Minnesota Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars have joined the Oakland Raiders in giving their rookie Quarter Backs the keys to the Offense as all three of those teams have losing records.

Minnesota have obviously been forced into the move after Matt Cassel was placed on IR this week following his exit from the Week 3 loss at New Orleans, but Teddy Bridgewater needs to be given the chance as Cassel isn't taking the Vikings anywhere. Without Adrian Peterson, Norv Turner can really move the Offense in a new direction and it looks the right move for the Vikings who are unlikely to be a threat in the powerful NFC North.

The Jacksonville Jaguars may have taken too long to make the decision to give Blake Bortles the ball in place of Chad Henne as the latter is nothing more than a career back-up. Henne has been atrocious in the first three weeks of the season and the Jaguars have been blasted in back to back games and needed to make the change just to see what the future holds for the franchise.

While not a rookie as such, Ryan Mallett should perhaps also be given the chance for the Houston Texans over the awful Ryan Fitzpatrick who is a mistake waiting to happen every time he throws the ball. The Texans are 2-1 thanks to a weak schedule rather than anything they have turned around from last season and Mallett could potentially be the future of the team. If he is not, at least Bill O'Brien can start planning to Draft a new Quarter Back in the off-season, but I don't see what the Texans are learning with Fitzpatrick.

The one team that shouldn't even think contemplate a change are the Cleveland Browns who are arguably a couple of plays from being 3-0 rather than 1-2 and Brian Hoyer has done nothing to lose the job. It is the Defense that has cost the Browns their two losses and Johnny Manziel needs to keep sitting even if the Browns have reached their bye week which was suggested as the right time to make the move before the season started.

What's wrong with the New England Offense: They are 2-1, but New England struggled in their win over the Oakland Raiders and needed four Interceptions to pull away from the Minnesota Vikings and that has raised some questions about Tom Brady.

The Offensive Line hasn't played that well when it comes to protecting Brady, but he Receivers have struggled with their catching, outside Julian Edelman at least, and Rob Gronkowski hasn't really played to the level he has shown previously.

He remains a big redzone target, but Gronkowski has been less of a threat to help move the chains between the 20 yard line and Brady has subsequently struggled with having reliable players to make the big catch keep the Offense on the field.

You would think Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels and Tom Brady will get things straightened out, but the Patriots can be very happy with the fact that the AFC East isn't the strongest Division. However, it makes me wonder if New England will have enough to challenge the best teams in this Conference when it matters in January.

Russell Wilson or Andrew Luck? One of the big stories at the end of Week 3 was Chris Harris' comments that Russell Wilson is a far better Quarter Back than Andrew Luck having seen both at close quarters during the first three weeks of the season.

It has sparked an interesting debate, although I would still say that Luck would have had a similar success with Seattle as Wilson has had, but I am not as convinced Wilson would have been able to replace Peyton Manning as well as Luck has. Both are extremely competitive and it has sparked a debate during the week where the majority still side with Luck, although the gap is considerably smaller than it was when both were drafted at the end of the 2011 season.

To be honest, both would be an extremely good start to a franchise that started from scratch, but Luck has to be the call at the moment.

I think he is the better thrower from the pocket and is capable of making plays by scrambling around as much as Wilson is, while Luck has been dealing with having to make up for a much weaker Defense. To be honest, I wrote three years ago that I thought the Miami Dolphins should have made a play for Wilson as a Third Round pick, but Andrew Luck is the guy I would back to have the more successful and lengthy career.

Top Five
1) Cincinnati Bengals (3-0): It is September so it doesn't mean a lot right now, but the Bengals look the most complete team in the NFL.

2) Philadelphia Eagles (3-0): The Eagles could just as easily be 0-3 as 3-0, but they continue to show the heart to win games and look the best team in the NFC East.

3) Arizona Cardinals (3-0): A big win over San Francisco with Drew Stanton at Quarter Back is the good news... However, if Carson Palmer is out for any length of time, it might be tough for the Cardinals to remain the team to beat in the NFC West.

4) Seattle Seahawks (2-1): Beating the Denver Broncos in overtime to frank the Super Bowl win moves the Seahawks back into the top five.

5) San Diego Chargers (2-1): The Chargers have a win over the Seahawks, but they have bigger tests than Buffalo to overcome if they are to prove themselves worthy of a top five spot.

Bottom Five
32) Jacksonville Jaguars (0-3): The only way is up for the Jaguars who should have made the permanent move into the Blake Bortles era.

31) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-3): The embarrassing defeat on national TV moves the Buccaneers down a couple of spots, although the injury to Josh McCown may be a blessing in disguise.

30) Oakland Raiders (0-3): Oakland played their best game of the season to fall short against the New England Patriots and a defeat in London this week may cost Dennis Allen his job.

29) Tennessee Titans (1-2): Back to back big defeats for the Titans makes their win over the Kansas City Chiefs look like being an exception than a rule in 2014.

28) St Louis Rams (1-2): You can't blow a 21 point lead at home and not expect to take some criticism.

Week 4 Picks
After a pretty tough opening week of the season, the last two weeks have been an improvement coupled with a really good Week 3 where the majority of picks went exactly as I wanted them to. I also got back one of the bad breaks of earlier this season as I was finally on the right end of a team blowing a huge lead when the Dallas Cowboys beat the St Louis Rams, while more fortune smiled on the picks thanks to Billy Cundiff and the Cleveland Browns Special Teams screwing up a couple of Field Goals in the eventual two point loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

All in all, Week 3 provided a number of winners that has turned the season back into the positive side of the field and I will be hoping Week 4 can back up that success. This is the first week that teams have bye weeks too so there is a smaller amount of games to get through, including the Dolphins and Raiders playing in London.

New York Giants @ Washington Redskins Pick: It looks like there isn't simply a battle between Divisional rivals this Thursday night, but the public and the sharps are on opposite teams too. I wish I had gotten the memo- I really liked the underdog but now miss the hook thanks to the sharp money moving the spread a little more!

The Washington Redskins looked very good with the ball in their hands against the Philadelphia Eagles but they have suffered a number of injuries to Defensive positions that could give the New York Giants a real chance to move to 0.500 and earn a big Divisional win.

Eli Manning finally found a connection with his Wide Receivers last week against the Houston Texans and he was well protected by his Offensive Line which was something of a surprise. If Rashad Jennings can run hard like last week, the Giants could find their Offensive groove in this one and make this game a real shoot out.

I fully expect Kirk Cousins is going to be capable of replicating some of the numbers he produced last week as he does look a good fit with the system, but a couple of things concern me. First off the Giants have actually managed to pressure the Quarter Back fairly effectively in their first three games and the Washington Offensive Line might not be able to cope. Secondly, the Giants are pretty good against the run and may be able to limit Alfred Morris' gains to force Cousins into third and long situations where their pass rush will be all the more effective.

Finally, Cousins struggled terribly in a loss to the Giants at the end of last season and I think the Giants look a decent underdog in this one. It is a shame that they are no longer being offered more than a Field Goal in terms of points, but I will take the 3 points on offer and look for Manning to outplay Cousins.

Both could have big games, but the Giants Defense may be able to make the bigger plays and continue their recent dominance of Washington after winning 12 of the last 16 games in the series.

Detroit Lions @ New York Jets Pick: The New York Jets are coming off a Monday Night disappointment to the Chicago Bears, but they could still take advantage of a Detroit team that had an emotional victory over the Green Bay Packers.

The spread looks crazy if you consider some of the performances these teams produced this season, but the Jets have a great spot in which to bounce back. The Defense is still playing well enough to contain Matt Stafford, especially as the Quarter Back and the Lions can be prone to mistakes, while Calvin Johnson is banged up.

Geno Smith is also a Quarter Back that has a number of mistakes in his game, but I like the spot the Jets are in, if only for a small interest.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Pittsburgh Steelers Pick: Another team coming off a hugely disappointing performance are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but the Pittsburgh Steelers look like they are being asked to cover too much in my opinion.

As well as the Steelers played against Carolina last week, Tampa Bay are a lot better against the run than people may think and I don't believe Le'Veon Bell and LaGarrette Blount have the same impact in this one.

Also, Mike Glennon is an upgrade on Josh McCown who showed he could get the ball to Vincent Jackson in the 2013 season and now he also has another huge body in Mike Evans to throw to now. Doug Martin is back to help run the ball against the Steel Curtain, or former Steel Curtain, and Tampa Bay have more Offensive success than some people may think.

Pittsburgh have received all the praise of the last week performance at Carolina, but they might not be able to win this one by more than a Touchdown.

Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears Pick: I really think Green Bay are in a strong position to come through Week 4 to level their season record, even if the Packers have played badly in their two previous road games. Aaron Rodgers has not been as sharp as I would have liked to have seen him, but he has every chance of bouncing back against a banged up Chicago Bears Secondary.

The Offensive Line hasn't helped Rodgers much at all, but this Chicago pass rush isn't as fierce as the one that the first three teams Green Bay have faced can produce and I think the Quarter Back will have enough time to make plays. If Chicago sell out to defend the pass, Eddie Lacy is capable of having his best game of the season to run the ball down their throat.

It isn't to say that this is going to be one-way traffic as Chicago should be able to have plenty of success with the ball in their hands too. Matt Forte should be able to run the ball and Jay Cutler is going to have the time to hit Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffrey or Martellus Bennett when throwing the ball too.

The difference between the teams in my opinion is that I think Aaron Rodgers is less likely to panic if his team is in a hole and not push too much to lead to more mistakes. On the other hand, Jay Cutler is less likely to manage himself and avoid trying to throw into tight spots when trying to get his team back into the game and I think the Packers win the turnover battle which ultimately decides this game.

Aaron Rodgers has a strong record of covering the spread coming off a loss, especially if that spread is less than a Touchdown, and I think the Packers win this game and cover.

Buffalo Bills @ Houston Texans Pick: I was hoping that the Buffalo Bills would still have had slightly more than a Field Goal headstart in this one, but the Bills still look the shout in the road game at the Houston Texans.

CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson should be able to set EJ Manuel up by ripping off big gains on the ground and that should set the Bills up for the surprise.

The bigger key could be the Defense which should be able to give Ryan Fitzpatrick a few problems after his struggles a week ago. The Bills have been tough to run against all season and that will mean Fitzpatrick is asked to do more than he would normally be trusted to do.

The Bills Secondary have given up big numbers at times this season, but Buffalo have a powerful pass rush that could be all over Ryan Fitzpatrick if Arian Foster is unable to run the ball for the Texans.

Houston also could be overlooking the Bills with their 2-1 record, especially as they have to face Dallas and the Indianapolis Colts in their next two games, and I like the Bills to cover.

Tennessee Titans @ Indianapolis Colts Pick: If Jake Locker was in the line up, Tennessee would have a much stronger chance of keeping this competitive because the Indianapolis Defense is not one that will shut down too many opponents in my opinion. I don't come close to respecting Charlie Whitehurst's ability to do that in this game and it does feel it can result in another big loss for the Titans who are on back to back road games.

Andrew Luck is a top Quarter Back that should be able to sling the ball around once and effective ground attack is established through Trent Richardson/Ahmad Bradshaw. The latter is also a threat coming out of the backfield to pick up short passes, while Luck himself can scramble away from pressure.

The Colts would have been 2-1 if they had avoided mistakes against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 2 and I do think they are the better team here. I would back Luck over Whitehurst every day of the week and I think 9 out of 10 times Luck would lead his team to a comfortable win.

Indianpolis have covered in 5 straight games against Tennessee, but none have been for a spread of this size and the majority of those games have been competitive. Divisional games usually are but I like the Colts to find their way and cover by winning by double digits.

Philadelphia Eagles @ San Francisco 49ers Pick: This looks like being a huge game for the San Francisco 49ers who can't afford to take another loss, but that doesn't mean they are going to blow away the Philadelphia Eagles who have another Offensive personnel to win this game outright.

I think the 49ers are going to have a better game plan for this one than they have run the last couple of weeks, although it would be ironic if they overdo the rush compared with the pass as that may play into the hands of the Eagles.

Colin Kaepernick has Vernon Davis once again to help him move the chains through the air and I do think San Francisco can hit the Eagles through the air after seeing Andrew Luck and Kirk Cousins dissect them at times.

However, the lack of a pass rush on the Defensive side of the ball will give Nick Foles a chance to punish a Secondary that has regressed from last season. LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles are big threats coming out of the backfield too so this could be a tough day for the 49ers Defense which has not played well against Drew Stanton last week.

Both teams could move the chains at will in this one and I also think there is something to be said about the way San Francisco have played in the second half compared with Philadelphia. The Eagles have shown their up-tempo Offense wears teams out and the 49ers have been heavily outscored in the fourth quarter which could see the Eagles come out with a late cover in this one, even if they don't manage to win the game.

New Orleans Saints @ Dallas Cowboys Picks: The New Orleans Saints and the Dallas Cowboys should both have a lot of success moving the ball in this one against two Defenses that are both not really up to the standard of the Offenses.

Both should score points pretty efficiently but the real difference in the game could come if the Saints can somehow slow down DeMarco Murray to the point that they are forcing Tony Romo to throw from third and long situations.

Rob Ryan should have his Defense fired up against his former team, but the Saints have to improve significantly on what they have produced so far this season if they are to beat the Dallas Cowboys. The Saints should have all success with their own Offense, but the question is whether the Defense will let them down as they have in the two losses they have suffered.

It is tough to see the Saints losing another game though and I think they will win the scoring duel with Dallas on Sunday night and I will back this team to cover.

0 Unit Picks: Baltimore Ravens - 3.5 Points, Oakland Raiders + 3.5 Points, San Diego Chargers - 12.5 Points, Atlanta Falcons - 3 Points

MY PICKS: New York Giants + 3 Points @ 2.10 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
New York Jets + 1.5 Points @ 1.92 SkyBet (1 Unit)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers + 7.5 Points @ 1.92 Coral (1 Unit)
Green Bay Packers - 1.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Buffalo Bills + 3 Points @ 1.92 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Indianapolis Colts - 7.5 Points @ 2.05 William Hill (2 Units)
Philadelphia Eagles + 4 Points @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)
New Orleans Saints - 3 Points @ 2.08 Pinnacle (2 Unts)

Week 3: 8-2, + 9.82 Units
Week 2: 5-3, + 1.50 Units
Week 13-6, - 3.18 Units

Season 201416-11, + 8.14 Units
Season 201386-70-2, + 22.27 Units
Season 2012- 4.78 Units

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