It certainly gives me something to build upon as we move into Week 4 and the beginning of the Bye Weeks- I am not sure any team really wants to take a Bye at this stage of the season knowing they will have to come out and play twelve straight weeks when the injuries can pile up, but you have to deal with the schedule given to you and both the New York Jets and San Francisco 49ers will have to accept the early rest.
Before I get into the Week 4 Picks, I have a few thoughts about the NFL after Week 3 which can be read below. I will then update my top five and bottom five list before moving into the Week 4 selections as I look to produce back to back strong weeks for the NFL Picks.
Freddie Kitchens might be out of his depth- you know the expectations in Cleveland have grown massively since the end of the 2018 season, but new Head Coach Freddie Kitchens has not impressed early on in 2019.
The Browns dropped to 1-2 with a home defeat to the Los Angeles Rams meaning their sole win is against the 0-3 New York Jets who had a third string Quarter Back playing by the end.
It is one thing to be disappointed in losing to a team who played in the Super Bowl last season, but the play-calling from Kitchens was horrific to say the least and this first time Head Coach is not going to have a long leash with the expectations where they are. He has quickly been promoted to this level having had just a few games as an Offensive Co-Ordinator under Gregg Williams here last season, but that isn't going to be good enough for a team who have to look at the AFC North as being significantly weakened by the injury to Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh.
In Week 4 the Browns play the Baltimore Ravens on the road and a defeat would mean being two games back in the Division and two games under 0.500 with just a quarter of the season in the books. A visit to the unbeaten San Francisco 49ers out of a Bye follows that game before hosting Seattle going into their own Bye Week and I would not be surprised if Kitchens is perhaps shown the door during that time if the Cleveland Browns have not shown significant improvement over the next three weeks.
Injuries to key players piling up- injuries are a part of life in the NFL, but we have seen some big names knocked out in the last couple of weeks.
For those that play Fantasy Football these injuries can be hard to deal with as you scramble for replacements, but for the teams it can be the difference between a potential PlayOff spot and playing golf in January.
I think the Pittsburgh Steelers are in a big hole already, while the New York Giants will have to make do without Saquon Barkley for a few weeks and were unlikely to really compete for a PlayOff spot. The New Orleans Saints might be best placed to remain competitive until Drew Brees is back, but this underlines why it is so hard to make pre-season predictions in the NFL when injuries can decimate teams very quickly in a hard hitting sport.
Miami Dolphins might be the worst team in the NFL, but they are no sure things for the Number 1 Draft Pick- in 2017 there were five teams at 0-3 after Week 3 of the NFL season had been played and in 2018 that number became three teams.
In 2019 six teams are 0-3 going into Week 4 and the Arizona Cardinals are also winless which means even a terrible Miami team might not be guaranteed the best Pick in the next NFL Draft. The Dolphins are bad, but the New York Jets and the Washington Redskins don't exactly look like powerhouses and both are also at 0-3.
To make things more complicated for the Dolphins is that they can ruin their own chances of the Number 1 overall Pick as they face those two teams three times in the coming weeks and months. Two of those three games are played in South Florida so even a historically bad team like this Dolphins one looks like might be able to make enough plays to win a couple of games and perhaps even finish with a pick outside the top two in the Draft.
Miami insist they are not tanking, but there are some bad teams in the NFL this season so I would not be totally sure the Dolphins are going to finish with the kind of record their roster suggests they should. As a New York Knicks fan, I am taking nothing for granted for my Miami Dolphins and the Draft position they end up in, although they are also given a bonus by holding the Pittsburgh Steelers First Round Picks... That is the 0-3 Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Philadelphia Eagles have a big few weeks before their Bye Week- I thought the Eagles might be the team to beat in the NFC this season, but they have made a poor start to 2019 as they sit at 1-2 and with injuries hurting them.
The Secondary have struggled and the Eagles are also competing with a very good looking Dallas Cowboys team in the NFC East having falling a couple of games behind their rivals.
The bigger issue through the injuries might be the schedule and the Eagles could conceivably be out of PlayOff contention by the time they get into their Bye Week in Week 10 of the season. That might sound like a big statement, but they are 1-2 and the games before the Bye read @ Green Bay, New York Jets, @ Minnesota, @ Dallas, @ Buffalo and Chicago.
All but one of those teams has a winning record, three of them are at 3-0 going into Week 4 of the season and you would begin to wonder about the Eagles chances of even making a Wild Card spot in the post-season if things go wrong. Is it that hard to see a situation where the Eagles are going into their Bye with a 2-7 record? Or 3-6?
If that is the case, the Eagles might be cooked before Thanksgiving Day and this might be seen as a lost season with big questions needing answering in the off-season. They have a big game on Thursday Night Football to try and build some positive momentum behind them.
The NFC North and NFC West are the best Divisions in the NFL- all but one of the teams in these two Divisions combined has a losing record going into Week 4 of the 2019 season. Remarkably three of the eight teams are at 3-0, while the Detroit Lions should be at 3-0 having blown a big lead and settled for a tie at the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1.
The NFC North has all four teams with a winning record at this moment, but my fear for both of these Divisions is that they could cannibalise teams within them which will prevent at least four of the six NFC PlayOff teams to come from them.
Two Division Winners and two Wild Card teams would not be a big surprise though when you see how the other two NFC Divisions are shaping up early in the season and I have to say I very much like what Green Bay, Minnesota, Chicago, LA Rams and San Francisco have put together so far.
Others will believe they have begun well enough to really compete for Wild Card spots at the very worst and I am looking forward to all of the Divisional games in these two Divisions in the weeks and months ahead.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Green Bay Packers Pick: Back in early September I suggested the Green Bay Packers would be much improved from the team that has had back to back losing seasons and would be a team that ended up in the PlayOffs. I feel pretty good about that prediction right now with the Green Bay Packers at 3-0 with two Divisional wins under their belt, but then again I also called the Philadelphia Eagles as my favourite to win the NFC and represent that Conference in the Super Bowl.
That prediction looks very poor as the Eagles sit at 1-2 and have lost two games as the favourite in the last couple of weeks. They are in a difficult portion of their schedule and injuries are hurting the Eagles as they look for an upset on Thursday Night Football to get back on track.
Carson Wentz is doing his best to keep the Eagles afloat, but there are injuries in a number of areas with the most pressing being the Wide Receiver position. The Quarter Back could be boosted by the return of Alshon Jeffrey who is expected back after missing Week 3, but Wentz is also throwing into a much improved Green Bay Secondary and a limited Jeffrey might struggle to break free of the attention the likes of Jaire Alexander will be giving him.
It will be a challenge for Wentz to find the time to attack down the field as we have seen Green Bay produce plenty of pressure from their new look pass rush. While the Philadelphia Offensive Line is a good looking unit, they have not always had it easy to protect Wentz with much of the problems coming down from the fact that the Eagles are being put in third and long situations.
The Eagles may have some success running the ball in this one if they can find some consistency from the committee they are using at Running Back. Despite all the improvements on the Defensive side of the ball, teams have found a way to have some success running the ball against Green Bay so it could be a chance for Philadelphia to at least keep Carson Wentz in third and manageable spots.
However it is going to have success consistently with the way that the Packers have been playing and the way these teams match up. I expect Philadelphia to have some success moving the chains, but ultimately the Packers have shown they can do enough to limit teams Offensively and give Aaron Rodgers and the Offense the field positions to win games.
It has been needed too.
Aaron Rodgers has really had a hard time getting to grips with the new Offensive schemes that Matt LaFleur wants Green Bay to run and the Offense has spluttered. So far the most passing yards Rodgers has produced in a single game is actually below 250 yards, while his total passing yards after three games is the second lowest of his career and those are statements that you simply would not expect from Green Bay.
The Offense has looked to run the ball more, but Green Bay have not exactly thrived doing that and that has meant Rodgers is throwing from third and long spots far too many times. The Packers can't expect to run the ball effectively against the Philadelphia Eagles, but Aaron Rodgers has made it clear the passing game needs to get back on track and he is facing a Secondary that has struggled to contain Case Keenum, Matt Ryan and Matt Stafford.
Injuries are hurting the Eagles Secondary who have allowed almost 300 passing yards per game and I think Rodgers and his Wide Receivers can get back on track in this one. With the Quarter Back talking about wanting to improve the passing numbers, I do think Green Bay will come out throwing with success, especially as we have yet to see the Eagles pass rush show up.
I think that is going to be key in helping Green Bay coming through with a win and a cover on Thursday Night Football. The short week doesn't help an injury hit Philadelphia team prepare for this game and I think the Defensive unit make enough plays to slow the Eagles Offensively, while I look for Aaron Rodgers to have his biggest game of the season so far.
Aaron Rodgers has a very strong record as the home favourite and the Packers are 9-0 against the spread as the home favourite of less than 13 points when coming off a non-Conference game. As good as this Philadelphia team could potentially be, Carson Wentz is only 4-7 against the spread as the road underdog, while the Eagles are 1-4 against the spread in their last five games off a straight up loss, and I am going to back the Packers to do enough on both sides of the ball to earn the cover on Thursday Night Football.
Cleveland Browns @ Baltimore Ravens Pick: Suffice to say that I am not very high on Freddie Kitchens as a Head Coach, but that doesn't mean the Cleveland Browns should be an underdog of this size going on the road to the Baltimore Ravens. A 1-2 start has left the Browns scratching around to figure out how to get better play out of their talented team on both sides of the ball, and they can't really afford to fall two games behind the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North with just four games in the books.
In previous years I would have worried about the spot for the Ravens who face the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 5, but I think they are going to be fully focused for this game against what is most likely their biggest rival in the Division.
Even with that in mind, I do think we are getting a lot of points with the underdog with both teams looking to bounce back from a loss in Week 3. The Baltimore Ravens are still trying to show they can find the Offensive balance with Lamar Jackson at Quarter Back and so far the young signal caller has made strong plays on the ground and through the air.
Mark Ingram has helped with the ground game and the Ravens have piled up some big numbers through their first three games of the 2019 season. It is hard to think the Cleveland Browns will clamp down completely on the run, but the Defensive Line is the strength of the Defense and they have found a way to restrict teams to 4 yards per carry which will mean forcing Jackson to beat them with his arm not his legs.
Jackson himself has admitted he prefers throwing the ball to running and he can have another big game against a banged up Secondary which is in front of him. There could be a couple of key players returning for Cleveland in time for this Week 4 game, but I still think Jackson can have some success throwing the ball as he looks to prove once and for all that he is a player that can be a quality operator at the Quarter Back position for the years ahead.
The Cleveland Browns do have a pass rush that will likely get in Lamar Jackson's face in a bid to stall drives or force Field Goals instead of Touchdowns and that is going to be important for them to at least allow their own Offense to have more success than they did in Week 3.
A home defeat to the Los Angeles Rams is a disappointment, but some of the play-calling at the end of the game was ridiculous to say the least. Any kid who has played Madden would have made better decisions than the Browns Coaching staff, but I expect the team to bounce back in this Divisional game.
Nick Chubb is not likely going to have a great impact on proceedings against a Baltimore Defensive Line that has been stout up front and have been able to shut down the run. However I still expect Chubb to feature in the passing game as a safety valve for Baker Mayfield who is also looking to ram some of the criticism he has received back down the throats of his critics.
The young Quarter Back has had a poor start to the 2019 season, but part of the reason has been a limited protection offered to him by the Offensive Line. Baker Mayfield will be under pressure in this one if he is playing from third and long spots, but the Baltimore Secondary looks like it is struggling and he still has some big time weapons that can make plays for him.
David Njoku is injured which is a blow, but both Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr will win their battles on the outside and it is up to Mayfield to play better and find those targets. Turnovers have hurt Baker Mayfield, but I do think he can make enough plays through the air to make this competitive and potentially even earn the road upset.
The road team has improved to 13-5-1 against the spread in the last nineteen between these Divisional rivals. Cleveland have gone 7-2 against the spread in their last nine off a straight up loss and the Baltimore Ravens have failed to cover in their last four against the AFC North.
In a small sample Baker Mayfield has gone 2-1 against the spread in Divisional games and I think the Quarter Back will use the motivation of the criticism he has received over the last week to produce a big performance and a cover with the points given to the underdog.
Los Angeles Chargers @ Miami Dolphins Pick: It is amazing to look back at Week 1 of the season and think the Baltimore Ravens for less than a Touchdown favourite to win in Miami against the hapless Dolphins. Of course no one could have known how bad the Dolphins were going to be and when the spreads were first released the team had not traded away the last of their top tradable assets.
The blow out at the hands of the Ravens meant the Dolphins were huge underdogs in Week 2 and Week 3 and out of principle those were numbers I did not want to touch. However Miami have not come close to covering the spread and now host the desperate Los Angeles Chargers who were dropped to 1-2 last week.
With the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West Division, the Chargers can't afford to lose too much ground to one of the favourites to win the Super Bowl. They also won't want to add a disappointing Conference loss to their record as it could come down to tie-breakers when the Wild Card spots are handed out in January.
There are a couple of concerns here- the Los Angeles Chargers heading from the West Coast to the East Coast for an early Eastern Time kick off is never a good spot for those teams. They also have a big Divisional game at home next week which might be taking away some of the focus while I also can't help the feeling that the Miami Dolphins have to eventually start covering with these big starts being given to them.
The good news is that the public seems to be behind the Miami Dolphins which does make me a little more comfortable in backing the Los Angeles Chargers to win the game and cover a big number.
Melvin Gordon is back from his hold out from the Chargers, but the Running Back will not be available this weekend. That is not expected to be an issue for the Chargers in Week 4 when you think of the impact the likes of Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson have had on the season and the two players have helped Los Angeles produce over 100 yards per game on the ground at 5.2 yards per carry.
Unsurprisingly the Miami Dolphins have struggled to stop the run when you think of the way they have gutted their team in both trenches. The Defensive Line is giving up over 200 yards per game at 5.4 yards per carry so I expect Ekeler and Jackson to have another big day together and remind Melvin Gordon that he will have to work hard to get his touches on his return from his hold out.
The Los Angeles Chargers Offensive Line has not been playing as well in pass protection as they have in run blocking, but the team should open up play-action for Philip Rivers who has had some eye-catching numbers. He is throwing into a Secondary that has only one serviceable starter and Rivers should be able to have a comfortable day as long as he avoids some of the mistakes which have blighted the Chargers in the first three weeks of the season.
I don't really have a lot to say about the Miami Dolphins on either side of the ball as they continue to evaluate Josh Rosen at Quarter Back. He didn't play badly in the loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 3, but Rosen has yet to throw a Touchdown pass and has 2 Interceptions and I do feel sorry for any Quarter Back that is throwing to a set of Receivers like the one Rosen has at his disposal.
The Offensive Line has lost key Tackles since 2018 and they have struggled to run the ball with little hope of improving against the Chargers Defensive Line. It has not been a lot better from the Dolphins in pass protection and it might be the kind of game the Chargers have needed to get their own pass rush back on track and I can see Los Angeles making enough plays on both sides of the ball to eventually pull clear against arguably the worst NFL roster that has ever been put together.
Los Angeles have been struggling in recent games against Miami, but the Dolphins are much changed since they last met in 2017. The Chargers are also 7-2 against the spread in their last nine road games and they are 5-2-1 against the spread as the road favourite under Anthony Lynn.
Philip Rivers is not easy to trust when it comes to big spreads, but the Chargers should be focused off back to back losses and I expect them to run through the Dolphins and eventually pull clear. A big number this may be, but being able to oppose the public with the better team is good enough for me.
New England Patriots @ Buffalo Bills Pick: The Antonio Brown era is over in New England before it ever really begun, but that doesn't mean the Patriots are anything other than the favourite to win the Super Bowl as they were before they signed the troubled Receiver. Moving to 3-0 behind another comfortable win in Week 3 means New England are once again in a position to show the rest of the AFC East that the dynasty is here to stay for the immediate future at least.
They have already beaten the Miami Dolphins on the road in Week 2 and beat the New York Jets in Week 3, but now the New England Patriots have to face the other 3-0 team in the Division.
The Buffalo Bills have beaten the Jets from within the Division and followed it up with wins over the New York Giants and Cincinnati Bengals, but everyone associated with the team will know they will only be considered a real contender if they can beat the New England Patriots. The Bills have lost five in a row against the Patriots and they are considered big underdogs in this one despite coming in with a Defensive unit that has given Tom Brady things to think about in recent games.
Unfortunately for the Bills they have not produced enough Offense to back up the Defensive plays and that looks like it could be an issue for them again in 2019. Josh Allen is improving in his second year with the Bills, but the New England Patriots Defense is playing some of the best Football in the NFL and Bill Belichick has masterminded his team to remove the biggest threat they face and force teams to be them in unfamiliar ways.
In reality I am not sure I could really point out the biggest strength on the Buffalo Bills Offense and it may just be a case of preventing Josh Allen from trying to win the game on his legs rather than with his arm. The Quarter Back might not have a lot of support the Offensive Line establishing the run as New England have clamped down on opponents up front and Frank Gore is a veteran that has seen his best days behind him.
Keeping Allen and the Bills in third and long spots is going to allow the Patriots to unleash their pass rush which has been very effective early in the season, while the Secondary is vastly under-rated. It makes it difficult to see Buffalo sustaining drives having had some issues against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 3 who don't have a Defensive unit nearly as competitive as the one the Patriots will be bringing to New Era Field.
I am also not expecting a blow out for the New England Patriots, but I have to be encouraged about their chances of covering if they can hold Buffalo to 6 or fewer points as they have in their last two visits here. The Patriots have yet to give up an Offensive Touchdown and that makes them very difficult to oppose in terms of the cover in Week 4.
There are some injury concerns on both sides of the ball which could have an affect on the New England Patriots and one of those is James Develin. The Full Back might be playing in a position that has not been that important for other teams in the NFL, but Develin has been very important for New England and it is hard to see the Patriots having a lot of success moving the chains with Sony Michel running the ball.
New England have not been churning out big yards on the ground, but Tom Brady will be looking to make sure the Bills respect the balance of the Offense. Tom Brady is going to have Julian Edelman available and I do think Brady will be able to make enough plays through the air to put the Patriots in a position to win the game.
The Bills Secondary have played well, but Andy Dalton showed there are one or two holes that can be exploited and I would expect Tom Brady to do the same. He has to be aware of the pass rush pressure the Bills will get whenever New England are in third and long situations, but I do think having Edelman and Josh Gordon should mean New England can score just enough points coupled with their strong Defensive play to win and cover on the road.
The Patriots are 14-3 against the spread in the last seventeen in Buffalo and they have remained very strong against Divisional opponents as well as when they are playing on the road. Buffalo failed to cover last weekend and are just 2-5 against the spread in their last seven at home, while they are also 4-7 against the spread in their last eleven as the home underdog.
It is a big number for the road team to cover against an unbeaten opponent, but I like the New England Patriots as the one team who I will back along with the public.
Washington Redskins @ New York Giants Pick: The Eli Manning era is most definitely over at the New York Giants after Daniel Jones helped his team recover from 18 points down and win on the road at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 3. The Giants are now 1-2 for the season and this is going to be a learning year for Jones, but the minute you are given a nickname like 'Danny Dimes' then you know the fans are ready to see you perform on the big stage.
After winning on the road, Jones will lead the Giants into this Divisional game against the Washington Redskins who slipped to 0-3 on Monday Night Football. Some in the nation's capital would have been hoping that they would get to the see the Quarter Back they selected in the First Round of the 2019 Draft, but Dwayne Haskins was not asked to take over last week and Case Keenum looks to have recovered from a knock to take the starting snaps on Sunday.
It might better for Haskins to take the year to absorb as much as he can about the NFL, but Head Coach Jay Gruden is not going to have a lot of time to see the development of this Quarter Back if they are to keep losing games. He will need more out of Keenum, but the Redskins look banged up and they have not been as competitive in the last two weeks as they were in the narrow defeat to rivals Philadelphia Eagles in Week 1.
Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson may try and help Case Keenum by establishing the run in this game, but the Washington Offensive Line has to be perform better than they have so far. This season the Redskins are only producing 2.4 yards per carry and they are not expected to get a lot of change out of the New York Defensive Line which is going to heap the pressure on Keenum at Quarter Back.
To be fair to Keenum there have been some solid moments from him in every game played so far this season and he looks to be a comfortable fit for the system that Gruden wants to run. Ultimately he is an inconsistent Quarter Back and that is why his tenure has never lasted too long in any starting role he has picked up, but I do think Keenum can have a decent game in this one.
His Offensive Line might not be the best, but the Giants have not produced a heavy pass rush and they have a very weak looking Secondary that can be exposed by the Quarter Back. The continued absence of Jordan Reed does hurt the Redskins, but Terry McLaurin has shown flashes in his rookie season and he is expected to be good go here.
Case Keenum should be able to keep the ball moving and help Washington put up some decent points in this one and I think that will give them a chance. As much as I was impressed by the way Daniel Jones played last week, the injury to Saquon Barkley removes another big weapon for the Giants and there is the increased sense of expectation that can affect the mentality of rookie signal callers as we have seen throughout the history of the NFL.
Stopping the run would have been a lot more difficult for the Redskins if Barkley was playing, but Wayne Gallman is a considerable downgrade. However the Quarter Back showed he is much more mobile than Eli Manning so I do think the Giants will have success moving the ball on the ground and that will keep the Offensive unit in manageable downs and distances.
It is a big help for Daniel Jones who is not blessed with a deep Receiving corps, but has talented players like Evan Engram and Sterling Shepherd to make plays. He will have to be aware that the Washington Redskins have a better pass rush than they have shown this season, but running the ball should just reduce the enthusiasm to get the Quarter Back and this New York Offensive Line can protect Jones for long enough to make his plays through the air.
There are some major breakdowns in the Washington Secondary and I would expect New York to have success moving the chains too in what could be a very competitive game. Both Offensive units look like they can get the better of the Defenses they are facing and I do think having the hook with the Washington Redskins on the handicap is the play.
They have to be looking for revenge for the blow out defeat at home the last time these Divisional rivals met in 2018 and the Redskins have covered in their last seven games when coming in off a double digit home defeat. Washington have a decent trend on the road when it comes to the against the spread numbers and a rookie Quarter Back making his first home start in the NFL is going to produce pressure for Daniel Jones to deal with.
It is a new era for the Giants, but they are 1-7-1 against the spread in their last nine games here and I am going to back the Washington Redskins with the points and am willing to pay for the number to go through a key number too.
MY PICKS: Green Bay Packers - 3.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Cleveland Browns + 7 Points @ 1.91 Coral (2 Units)
Los Angeles Chargers - 14 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)
New England Patriots - 6.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Washington Redskins + 3.5 Points @ 1.83 Coral (2 Units)
Kansas City Chiefs - 7 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Denver Broncos - 2.5 Points @ 1.86 William Hill (2 Units)
Chicago Bears - 1 Point @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Dallas Cowboys - 2.5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Week 3: 5-2, + 3.28 Units (12 Units Staked, + 27.33% Yield)
Week 2: 3-4, - 2.70 Units (14 Units Staked, - 19.29% Yield)
Week 1: 4-4, + 0.16 Units (15 Units Staked, + 1.07% Yield)
Season 2019: 12-10, + 0.74 Units (41 Units Staked, + 1.80% Yield)