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Thursday, 28 September 2017

NFL Week 4 Picks 2017 (September 28-October 2)

I didn't have any NFL Picks in Week 3 due to the lack of time to research them and it sounds like I was fortunate to miss out on what has been a really poor week for most.

Games saw a number of surprising performances from teams, but we should begin to see more settled outcomes going forward as the season is beginning to take shape. We are almost at a time where the bye weeks start kicking in with the first of those coming in Week 5 and teams will be looking to keep their Play Off ambitions alive by avoiding defeats in three of their first four games.

Last weekend the big news going into the Sunday games was the words coming from President Trump against those who had kneeled during the National Anthem in NFL games. An attack from the President saw the NFL rally together and a number of teams and, more importantly perhaps, a number of owners join their players in either locking arms or kneeling during the Anthem.

It has sparked something of a backlash from those who feel it is disrespecting the flag and the nation, while others have made it clear they will #TakeAKnee alongside those players who did.

My main issue is that the whole reason Colin Kaepernick first did this was to raise discussions about social injustices and now it feels like the whole stance has been taken over by those who perhaps are unsure why they are taking a knee or are doing it as a direct reaction to the President's words.

Sports Illustrated have a cover out about the athletes who have been involved and didn't even have Kaepernick on the cover which shows you how far this discussion has moved away from the real reason behind it.

Now it is between two camps who feel they as Americans have the freedom to protest how they want compared with those who think you should stand for the National Anthem no matter what rather than any discussion about social injustices that Kaepernick was hoping to provoke. It saddens me that the issue has been lost as much as it has and I really hope those who were at the forefront before this became a 'trend' can remind others as to WHY taking a knee has been so important for them.

The above issue is sure to rumble on in the weeks and months ahead and I fully expect the NBA players to do the same when the regular season begins on October 17th. It is an important issue as long as the reason behind it is discussed but I am not holding my breath as that has been lost in the furore and ever since this became a lot more of a prominent thing around the Stadiums on Sunday.

The NFL looks much more competitive through the first few weeks of the new season and I don't think there is a stand out team that you would pick with confidence to win the Super Bowl. Only a couple of teams remain unbeaten and there are a host of teams at 2-1, but this is not the time of the season when teams want to create separation, but instead build up towards January and February.

My current top five teams would be:

1. Atlanta Falcons- I thought there may be a Super Bowl hangover, but instead this is a team that looks desperate to show they belong at the very top of the NFL.

2. Kansas City Chiefs- They may be the best balanced team in the AFC, but I do wonder if Alex Smith can raise his game to a high enough level to take the Chiefs to the Super Bowl.

3. Philadelphia Eagles- This might be a surprising place for many to see the Eagles as high as I have them, but their sole loss came on the road at Kansas City. They have talent on both sides of the ball and have players who will come back and improve them further.

4. New England Patriots- While Tom Brady is around, the New England Patriots will always be there or thereabouts, but there are holes Defensively that need to be fixed.

5. Pittsburgh Steelers- The Steelers haven't hit top form yet, but they have the talent on both sides of the ball and I can only see Ben Roethlisberger improving his play as 2017 develops which will help them get very close to taking the next step.

These positions will change over the course of the season and I wouldn't be surprised if my top five are much different in a month from now. That will all depend on injuries and the way teams play and so only time will tell how things will go for teams as we move through the weeks.

Now onto the NFL Week 4 Picks in a week which includes the second of four games in London this season.

Chicago Bears @ Green Bay Packers Pick: The Green Bay Packers (2-1) and the Chicago Bears (1-2) both needed to go into Overtime in Week 3, but both were able to rally for important wins. There isn't much time for either team to prepare for the Week 4 Thursday Night Football game in what has been an age-old rivalry and the only hope is that some of the injuries both teams are dealing with can clear up in the three days between Week 3 and Week 4.

This has been a series the Green Bay Packers have tended to dominate in recent years and it would be a surprise if that doesn't continue on Thursday. The Packers were beaten at Lambeau Field two years ago by the Chicago Bears in what was a big upset, so there has to be some respect paid to the Bears here.

Injuries on both sides of the ball are hurting the Green Bay Packers and the lack of time between this game and the one they played on Sunday means they are unlikely to have too many players return. That may not be the case in Week 5 with the additional rest that will come before that next game, but this week it will mean this is perhaps a more difficult game for the Packers than it would be if both teams were fully healthy.

Despite having one of the best Quarter Backs in the NFL, Green Bay have to give Aaron Rodgers more time than they have been able to do behind this makeshift Offensive Line. Key pieces are set to miss out again in Week 4 which should mean the Bears Defensive Line are able to win up front and at least stall some drives by pressurising Rodgers.

It will likely come down to Rodgers showing off all his experience at Quarter Back by making the Bears mistime snap counts and also his ability to get outside of the pocket and make plays on the run. His Wide Receivers are still a solid group even if Randall Cobb is not able to go and Rodgers will feel the likes of Jordy Nelson and Devante Adams can find the spaces when he does have or make the time to throw downfield.

Rodgers is unlikely to receive much help from a ground game which has struggled thanks to the injuries on the Offensive Line. The Bears have been able to slow down the run which should mean they keep Green Bay in downs and distances where their pass rush can be unleashed, but Rodgers is likely able to move the chains against a Bears Secondary that is going to struggle to stay with the Receivers he has.

It will mean it is down to Mike Glennon and the Chicago Offense to try and keep up with the Green Bay Packers and they certainly will feel they have some chances to do that. The Bears will feel they can give the ball to Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen at the Running Back positions to move the chains on the ground especially against a Green Bay Defensive Line that may be missing Mike Daniels and who have given up 4.5 yards per carry early in the season.

That would be a huge boost for the Bears who just trampled the Pittsburgh Steelers Defensive Line on Sunday and it will be key for the Chicago Bears Offense to stay in third and manageable spots in this one. They should be able to sustain some drives on the ground behind Howard and Cohen, while the latter is also likely to catch a few passes out of the backfield and make some huge plays.

Teams may look to expose the injuries in the Secondary that the Green Bay Packers are dealing with, but I am not sure Glennon and this Bears Receiving corps are capable of doing that. He hasn't been given a lot of time in passing downs, so the game plan may be to simply lean on the Running Backs for as long as possible, while Glennon did not play well in the one road start he has had in 2017.

The Bears should have their successes in this one, but I think the Packers are the better team and may have a few of their injured faces back which could be a huge boost. The most notable could be Mike Daniels who may help to slow down the Bears rushing the ball to enough of an extent to force Chicago to rely on their Quarter Back to move the chains with his arm.

That is where I think Glennon may make a couple of key mistakes which allows the Green Bay Packers to pull away in this one. The Bears are just 1-5 against the spread in their last six games following a straight up win, and they are 3-10 against the spread in their last thirteen against the Green Bay Packers.

I will look for Rodgers and the Green Bay Offense to do enough to cover the spread in this one in what could be a fairly low-scoring game. I was hoping the spread would come down off the key number 7, but I do think Green Bay will win by double digits as they do enough to slow down Chicago on the ground and give Rodgers just enough time to carve up the Secondary.

It's been a long weekend and I am attending the Miami-New Orleans game in London on Sunday which means I will be putting down the picks for the Sunday games in the section below.

MY PICKS: Green Bay Packers - 7 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Atlanta Falcons - 8 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Dallas Cowboys - 6 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Minnesota Vikings - 2 Points @ 1.91 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Philadelphia Eagles + 2.5 Points @ 1.95 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Arizona Cardinals - 6.5 Points @ 1.95 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Seattle Seahawks - 13 Points @ 2.00 Sky Bet (2 Units)

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