After the betting world suffered a universally awful Week 3, I was eager to see how these Winners picks (and Vegas) would rebound. Well, if you followed last week's advice, you turned in a sterling 12-3 record, which should've been good enough to win your office betting pool.
As it stands right now, Vegas has held serve, going 36-27. And while a 57% doesn't seem like a lot of success, the sharks are still better than roughly 85% of online bettors. These Winners, however, have been even better, registering a 39-24 record, ahead of ~97% of the world and three games better than Vegas.
Now, I trust that you'll all forgive me for keeping my explanations short this week, as I've taken quite ill. Still, I stand before you unbowed, my predictions here for you to use as you see fit.
This game should be a lot closer than the records would indicate. For its part, Vegas is only spotting the Rams 1.5 and much of that has to be due not only to the fact that the Cardinals are on the road, but also doubt as to whether Arizona's three coin-flip wins are really indicative of a true-talent 4-0 team. Even so, I think the Cardinals are the better team, and he I think the difference is big enough to account for playing on the road.
THE PICK: CARDINALS
AJ Green is the truth, guys. The rest of the team seems average-to-slightly-above, but Green is the one game-changer on board. Now, Miami's got a couple playmakers of their own (Reggie Bush, Brian Hartline), as well as a very good defense (8th in DVOA) and have done a lot to show me that they're better than the 3-13 record I was afraid the Hard Knockers would have.
If this game were at home, I'd take Miami without hesitation. Still, I see them "stealing" this one from a favored Bengals team.
THE PICK: DOLPHINS
Green Bay Packers at Indianapolis Colts
Been waiting for Aaron Rodgers and that Packers offense to heat up? Then I present to you the Indy defense, a unit that's allowing a more-than-generous 8.1 yards/attempt this season, and that's against guys like Blaine Gabbert, Jay Cutler, and Christian Ponder. Somehow, I don't see that number decreasing against a talent like Rodgers and all of his weapons.
THE PICK: PACKERS
It's truly amazing just how consistent the Ravens franchise has been oner the last 15 or so years. Much of that has to do with their nigh-unrivaled continuity, headlined by Baltimore lifers Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. The Ravens have won at least 10 games in seven if the last 12 seasons, boasting an incredible four Defensive Player of the Year awards (by three different players) over that span. And here they are again, 3-1 and showing no signs of regression. If anything, they seem to be evolving, as Torrey Smith has emerged as a bona fide deep threat to the unending delight of the newly unshackled Joe Flacco. Ray Rice is still as good as he's ever been, and the defense still looks great despite their advancing age and the fact that they're missing 2011 DPOY Terrell Suggs. It's incredible.
I think Jamaal Charles gets his this week, but it won't be enough.
THE PICK: RAVENS
I can't help but feel like Mike Holmgren is the guy in Edgar Allan Poe's "The Pit and the Pendulum." Perhaps an 0-5 start will be the sweet release granted by an ever lowering blade. I trust the Giants will make the Browns consider it.
THE PICK: GIANTS
The Eagles just don't get a break, do they? Vanquishers of the Ravens, they've also had to face the Cardinals and Giants en route to their 3-1 record. Things don't get any easier for them this week, either, as they travel across the state to battle the never-bad Pittsburgh Steelers. Do I think this season will ultimately be a down year by Steeler standards? Yes. But that can mean a nine or ten win season, since the bar in the 'Burgh has been set so high for so long. I think Philly is the better overall team here, but I'm taking Pittsburgh to hold serve in their own house.
THE PICK: STEELERS
Vegas has Atlanta favored by 3, and also has them listed as the team with the third-best chances of winning the Super Bowl. I actually like the Redskins as a good team this year and am very tempted to roll with Robert Griffin III here, but looking at this Falcons roster has me wondering just what it will take to beat them this year. Cam Newton and the Panthers had them woozy and stumbling around the ring at the end of last week's game, but Matt Ryan pulled a game-winning drive from his team's own 1-yard line and Atlanta remained undefeated.
There will be a few teams that beat the Falcons this year, but I don't think Washington has the guys to do it this week.
THE PICK: FALCONS
The sharks are predicting the Panthers to win by three and, given Seattle's inability to move the ball on the road this season, it's easy to see why. Still, the Panthers defense is in the bottom third of the league by nearly every means of measurement and I think this is the game that Russell Wilson breaks out a bit. Mostly, I expect the 'Hawks to continue to lean heavily on the NFL's leading rusher Marshawn Lynch in order to get the lead and maintain it.
THE PICK: SEAHAWKS
In 72 hours, we may live in a world where the Minnesota Vikings are 4-1 and clear of the rest of the NFC North by two games. One of the more underrated storylines of the season so far has been the rapid maturing of Christian Ponder, a growth process completely devoid of even a single turnover. A quarter of the way through the season, Ponder is the only QB that can boast zero turnovers. Combine that with the undercooked casserole that is the Titans' 2012 season and you've got a team in Minnesota that most of the NFC will be looking up at.
THE PICK: VIKINGS
Chicago Bears at Jacksoville Jaguars
This game will hinge on which Bears team shows up on Sunday. If it's the ball-hawking, confident, big-play-making team that dismembered the Cowboys last week, this should be a two-touchdown win. But if the bad Jay Cutler shows up and throws four picks while taking seven sacks like he did against Green Bay, well, the Jags are good enough to take advantage. Still, I don't like betting on someone having an errant performance, so I gotta stick with Chicago here.
THE PICK: BEARS
Much will be made about this game being Peyton Manning vs Tom Brady and we're all sure to see plenty of references to their head-to-head record. Now, I for one, reject the premise of attributing wins and losses to quarterbacks, but what I think doesn't really affect the narrative, so I guess I'll just have to deal with it.
What it comes down to for me is the realization that as of this game, Tom Brady is a better quarterback than Peyton Manning, has more weapons, plays for a better team, and will enjoy home-field advantage. Nothing about this equation equals a Broncos win on my ledger.
THE PICK: PATRIOTS
Last week, the Niners stomped their way to a 34-0 victory while the Bills ended up on the bloody end of a 52-28 slaughter. All told, that makes for a 69-point discrepancy in performance between these two teams and, while there will be some obvious regression applied to that number on Sunday, it won't be nearly enough to account for the talent gap between these two teams. Niners will roll.
THE PICK: 49ERS
If you are ever going to pick an 0-4 team to beat a 3-1 team, this is the time to do it. Hidden beneath the Chargers' three wins over bad teams is the unsettling indication that Philip Rivers is having one of the worst seasons of his career. Much of that can be attributed to his unprecedented lack of receiving threats on the roster and Ryan Mathews' refusal to seize the #1 RB spot is making life even harder.
I've said all along that I don't think the Saints will be very good this year, but I think they're more talented than their winless record indicates. I truly think that San Diego's record is more a product of their schedule than it is a reflection of their true talent and I think Drew Brees and Co will do enough to win this game at home.
THE PICK: SAINTS
The New York Jets are a bad football team. That is something that we're all going to have to realize. In fact, you have probably already realized this, but that knowledge is a but a piece of driftwood we must cling to as the stormy seas of national media attention continue to shove them down our throats.
Fortunately for those of us who have grown tired of Rex Ryan's traveling circus, they welcome the formidable bulwark of football perfection that is the 2012 Houston Texans team. Matt Schaub, Arian Foster, Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels, Brian Cushing, Jonathan Joseph, Ben Tate, JJ Watts -- this team is flat out loaded and the Jets shouldn't even get off the runway against them on Monday.
THE PICK: TEXANS
Best of luck to all of you again this week. In case you were wondering, you can contact me via Twitter (the link is below) regarding info on where to send my cut of your winnings. Cheers!