NFL Odds, Week 4: Point Spread Analysis of This Weekend's Slate

Evan Habeeb-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

And there was I doing so well. Well, I still am, if I may be so bold as to say so, but 6-1 looks so much better than 8-3, which is my record ATS after three weeks of what has been an already unforgettable season; particularly unforgettable in Seattle and Green Bay.

This week is a tough one to predict although there does look to be one outstanding bet of the week. However, I'm going to advise against it as it looks just too good to be true. So, yes, just one outstanding bet, but I'm going to put forth three picks at the end of this post.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS at BUFFALO BILLS

BAL Patriots -3.5...BAL Bills +4

I wouldn't want to be associated with the Buffalo Bills this week, either as a player or a fan. If you think the Packers are going to be fired up this week, then they almost have nothing on the Patriots.

They've lost their last two games by a total of three points, but while New England found some sympathisers in league circles after Baltimore was awarded what Bill Belichick clearly thought was a rogue winning field goal, I believe the call was good.

I've seen the winning kick ten times and the field goal is good on all ten occasions. However, the ire that Belichick feels, a conniption that will undoubtedly have been translated to every player on his roster, could very well come to the bettors' aid this week.

This Patriots two game losing streak won't last very long and I see it coming to an end this week. Yes, against a Bills team who've won two in a row after a stupendous opening day loss to the Jets. Belichick and Tom Brady just don't enter territory such as losing three games in a row and, lest we forget that, despite losing in Baltimore last Sunday night, they covered the spread as they were available +2.5.

Fred Jackson returns for the Bills this week, amazing timing considering that C.J. Spiller is questionable, but New England's stout against the run (81 YPG). The Patriots are angry and I like them to win by at least four.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS at NEW YORK JETS

BAL 49ers -3.5...BAL Jets +4

Last week, before the 49ers went to Minnesota as 6.5 point favourites, I wrote this: At face value, San Fran look good being asked to only win by a touchdown, especially as they've already covered the spread against the Packers and Lions in the first two weeks. However, I'm wary. I just am.

Probably because those two wins were against playoff calibre teams and the Vikings are nothing of the sort, meaning they may take their foot off the gas a little this week.

Plus, they're on the road at the Jets next week, kicking off at 10 a.m. PT, a game they'll really need to focus all of their energies on.

There really are some ‘trap' games when it comes to betting ATS in the NFL and they don't come much more classic than the Niners' trip to the Vikings last week.

The 10 a.m. PT kick off for San Fran should actually present a problem or two this week, but they were exceptional at covering the spread in the Eastern time zone last season. However, it pays to remember that they crept up on the rails of quite a few teams last year, something that has no chance of being repeated in 2012.

Imagine how the Patriots would feel should Tom Brady be lost for the season. Yes, it happened once. The Jets are (probably) experiencing similar emotions right now having lost their best player for the rest of the season.

The green half of New Jersey is a different proposition when Darrelle Revis is lined up at cornerback. Kyle Wilson, picked 29th overall in the 2010 draft, takes over opposite Antonio Cromartie and you want to know the Jets' contingency plan? Running back Joe McKnight. I kid you not.

Popular wisdom has it that the Jets are on such a downer now that they're there for the taking. If anybody takes that as the cue to lay your hard earned on the 49ers, then may the luck of Alex Smith be with you. This is far from being a ‘trap' game, but I'm still leaving it well alone.

CAROLINA PANTHERS at ATLANTA FALCONS

BAL Panthers +8...BAL Falcons -7

I always saw Andy Dalton suffering a sophomore slump, but never Cam Newton. It is too early to confirm such a notion, but not too early to speculate. Maybe we'll find out, as his career careers along, that he's not up to playing on primetime as his performance was demoralising in the thumping Carolina received at home to the Giants.

An NFC South matchup could be just what he needs right now, but if the Panthers are to win, they'll need to buck an early betting trend.

With Week 3 in the books, form lines are emerging and the term ‘covering machine' can begin to be wheeled out. Atlanta is one of four such teams, 3-0 ATS right now, along with Arizona, Houston and Tampa Bay.

The Falcons are averaging 31.3 points per game, tied for second in the league (behind Washington) and will look to air out often and early against the Panthers. They're coming off a quite sensational win in San Diego, a game in which they were actually three point underdogs, a line they made a mockery of and there's no chance they'll be taking their foot off the pedal this week either.

The Panthers were considered to be a major threat to Atlanta in the NFC playoff race this season, but the Falcons have the chance to forge a three game lead over Carolina after only four weeks. It's a chance they should be able to take and I am inclined to take them -7. However, they won't go 16-0 ATS and the streak will come to an end at some stage.

Up against Newton, it's difficult to predict what kind of game he'll have so, while I lean towards Atlanta, it's ultimately not enough for me to lay down any hard earned.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS at DETROIT LIONS

BAL Vikings +4.5...BAL Lions -4

Faint praise effort of the week: Steve Mariucci this week said that Christian Ponder was "steady" against San Francisco last week. Wow. He was sensational against San Francisco last week, throwing for two touchdowns and running 23 yards for another. And all this against a defense being lauded as the league's best.

If Minnesota's the pleasant surprise of 2012, then Ponder's play thus far is a close second. On the season, he's completed 70.1 percent of his passes for 713 yards, has 4 TDs against 0 INTs and has a passer rating of 104.9. This is heady stuff and his leadership qualities are also being admired. Completely under the radar, the Vikings look to be a team on the rise and what's not to like about them receiving 4.5 points in Detroit this week?

Matthew Stafford looks set to play this week despite nursing a hip injury and Jared Allen would have been dreaming of this matchup all week.

Minnesota covered the spread as the underdog last week after having twice failed to do so as a favourite while Detroit are 0-3 ATS, twice as a favourite. They'll be glad to be back at home this week, but the betting form points all one way here. It simply has to be the Vikings and the points.

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS at KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

BAL Chargers PK...BAL Chiefs +1.5

I don't want anything to do with this one. San Diego was horrible last week and Kansas City was horrible through the first two weeks of the season. Good luck picking ATS here.

After their mauling at home to the Falcons last week, the Chargers won't be relishing heading to Arrowhead. Conversely, the Chiefs will be buoyed by their comeback on the road in New Orleans last week and are licking their chops in anticipation of facing a wounded AFC West foe. A wounded foe is often a dangerous animal, but San Diego have proven themselves to have a soft underbelly in recent seasons and that, in my opinion, comes straight from the head coach. Norv Turner is docile and his team mirrors that sometimes, particularly when it most matters.

Jamaal Charles ran riot in the Superdome last week, to the tune of 233 yards, but that hasn't proven difficult against the Saints this season; New Orleans is giving up a ridiculous 215 yards per game on the ground, worst in the NFL by a considerable margin.

The Chargers are a lot more stout defending the run, allowing just 67.3 rushing yards per game. However, and somewhat intriguingly, the Chiefs lead the league in rushing, averaging 191.7 yards per game so something's got to give this week.

Enjoy this one for what it is, a throwback to the glory days of the AFL, but forced to pick here, I prefer KC and their number two ranked offense over San Diego's 24th ranked unit.

TENNESSEE TITANS at HOUSTON TEXANS

BAL Titans +12...BAL Texans -12

I wrote last week that I couldn't give any credence to Houston's form over the first two weeks of the season, sitting as they were at 2-0 having seen off the might of the Dolphins and Jaguars. Week 3 in Denver would prove how good they were and they passed with flying colours. This week they go back to (probably) seeing off another weak team...well, weak when compared to what's on show in south east Texas.

If events in Seattle created the wildest ending to any game last week, the wildest game was Tennessee's overtime win over Detroit. Jake Locker was sensational, throwing for 378 yards and two touchdowns and he knows that this week everything's all on him again as the Titans' running game is worse than woeful.

It seriously looks as though Chris Johnson's head has gone. His pitiful stats this season are 33 rushes for 45 yards at 1.4 yards a pop. That's an embarrassment and how the heck is he going to muster anything against Houston's number five ranked run defense? In short, he won't, or at least he shouldn't. If he manages anything like 60 yards against them, that's got to be considered a success so Locker will have to use everything in his own, er, locker to pull out the W here.

Let's face it, it isn't going to happen. The Texans had the Titans on their tail in the AFC South all of last season and they had to swat them away to win the division. Things are different in 2012. Houston's a juggernaut of a team and the division is theirs for the taking, something that began in earnest last week.

Will they cover the spread? Perhaps, but buyer beware. They travel to face the Jets on Monday night next week so if they develop a decent lead against the Titans, expect them to relax a little in the fourth quarter, possibly allowing Tennessee a back door cover.

CINCINNATI BENGALS at JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

BAL Bengals PK...BAL Jaguars +1.5

Jacksonville made a mockery of my bet of the week last week when they won 22-17 in Indianapolis, an outcome I never anticipated, particularly when we were sitting pretty with the Colts leading 14-3 at halftime. I'll keep to myself my thoughts on Andrew Luck as the game entered the final five minutes, suffice to say that I won't be trusting him with any more of my money any time soon...perhaps even for the remainder of the season.

I'd consider the Jaguars win last week, on the road at a division rival, an emotional win, which makes Cincinnati relatively good value here. In addition, it's difficult to trust Jacksonville to pull out two good performances back to back. Heck, they couldn't even pull out two decent halves of football back to back last week. Then again, nor did Seattle.

Both teams are 2-1 ATS, but the Bengals barely covered in Week 2, at home to Cleveland. However, I was mightily impressed with their win in Washington last week and like them from scratch (PK) here. It does literally all come down to which team I trust more and, despite the Jags making me look a fool last week, I'm not prepared to suddenly jump on their merry little bandwagon.

With little to no delving into the spread, my hunch says the Bengals to win straight up (SU), which translates to covering at the same time.

OAKLAND RAIDERS at DENVER BRONCOS

BAL Raiders +7...BAL Broncos -6.5

If Jacksonville surprised me last week, then so did Oakland. They easily covered the spread (+4.5) at home to Pittsburgh, but I do believe the sportsbooks to have overreacted a little to that win as I'm more inclined to offer the Raiders +9.

The fact that this is a divisional matchup would likely have played a part because if this were played on a neutral field, you'd reduce the spread by three points to account for no home field advantage. Suddenly, the Broncos -3.5 looks very attractive so why wouldn't -6.5 be equally so? Especially against a Raiders team likely missing Darrius Heyward-Bey at wide receiver with a neck injury/concussion like symptoms. Admittedly, it's not as though Heyward-Bey's pulling up trees this season, but quarterback Carson Palmer's targeted him 18 times this season, joint second on the team.

Denver were being dominated by Houston last week until they scored a couple of touchdowns in the fourth quarter, but that could happen to almost any team so there's no disgrace in going down 31-25 at home to the Texans. Just two weeks ago, Oakland was destroyed in the second half by Miami and that lingers fresh in the memory, particularly as it was a road game, as is the case here.

I cannot advise on backing Oakland here so I side with Denver to cover...but not by much.

MIAMI DOLPHINS at ARIZONA CARDINALS

BAL Dolphins +6.5...BAL Cardinals -5.5

What's going on here? This doesn't feel right. Why aren't the Dolphins +10?

The Cardinals are a covering machine (3-0 ATS) with a defense conceding 13.3 points per game, second in the league behind the Seahawks. The Dolphins have already been blown away as a road underdog this season so why are the Cardinals being asked to win by just six points here?

In addition, Reggie Bush is banged up (knee) although his prospects of playing this week appear to be good. In further addition (if such a phrase passes through the Oxford English Dictionary), Arizona tore the Eagles apart last week and covered the spread ridiculously easily.

Should Bush suit up, and if he's ready for the pounding, he may actually have some success running the ball, particularly as Darnell Docket looks set to miss out with a hamstring injury.

As expected, Ryan Tannehill has struggled somewhat as a rookie and if Bush doesn't play, I make the Cardinals an absolute certainty to cover the spread. They may have an eye on next Thursday night when they travel to the division rival Rams, but that still doesn't justify (to me anyway) what looks to be a skinny line.

Still, be careful on this one as it just doesn't feel right.

WASHINGTON REDSKINS at TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

BAL Redskins +3...BAL Buccaneers -1.5

This is another line that looks to be a tad skewed. All that Tampa does is cover the spread; Washington is 1-2 ATS and 0-2 ATS since their stunner in the Superdome on opening weekend. However, despite the line not looking entirely trustworthy, a little digging does give us a clue as to perhaps why.

Yes, the Buccaneers are a covering machine, but they've achieved such lofty status as the underdog on each occasion, including twice on the road (at the Giants and Cowboys).

They're being asked to cover this week as the favourite, something they're not accustomed to. You may think that has little significance, but betting trends aren't something that are guessed at and this needs serious thought.

There's no stingier defense against the run than the Buccaneers (47.3 YPG), but that'll be severely tested this week when the Redskins bring their second ranked rushing attack (180 YPG) to town. It's a classic case of the irresistible force against the immovable object and I like the latter more, which means much rests on Robert Griffin III, but it's a challenge he's more than up for, particularly this week.

As astoundingly good against the run as the Buccaneers are, they rank dead last defending the pass, giving up 353 yards per game through the air. Griffin's made a solid start to his NFL career (67.4 completion percentage, 4 TDs, 1 INT) and will fancy his chances of adding to his passing touchdowns this week.

I can make a case for backing both teams this week, but like Washington and the points more than I do asking the Bucs to win by two.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS at GREEN BAY PACKERS

BAL Saints +9...BAL Packers -7.5

If I wouldn't wish to be associated with the Buffalo Bills this week, up against a ticked off Belichick/Brady double headed monster, then the same can be said of the New Orleans Saints. They're not simply up against two first ballot Hall of Famers, they're up against an apoplectic city burning with rage at a perceived injustice and looking to knock seven bells of muck out of the next team in their path. And the game just happens to be at Lambeau Field. Blimey.

The Packers will be able to run all day on the Saints and if ever I could feel sorry for a bunch of guys being paid to play sport, this is one of those occasions. I expect Green Bay to steamroller New Orleans, despite their offensive woes so far this season and you may even hear the noise in a city near to you.

NEW YORK GIANTS at PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

BAL Giants +2.5...BAL Eagles -1

Philadelphia may have a 2-1 record, but they're 0-3 ATS and they're favoured for the fourth game in a row this week. It seems incredulous and they are vastly overrated by the sportsbooks so I wouldn't stand in anybody's way wishing to back the Giants with what looks to be a generous 2.5 start. Well, it may be generous if Hakeem Nicks were playing. He's officially listed as doubtful (swelling in his knee), but it's unlikely he'll play.

He also missed Week 3's thrashing of Carolina, but he wouldn't wanted to have missed this. It's one thing for the Big Blue to go against a Panthers pass defense allowing 243 yards through the air, quite another when the Eagles allow 172 passing yards per game, third in the league. He'll be missed this week and it's a huge boost for Philly.

Michael Vick's problems are well documented and he's more than played his part in the Eagles being 0-3 ATS. I have to say that it is a little strange that a team that ranks fifth overall in offense and fifth overall in defense can't buy a win ATS; it makes them incredibly hard to trust, despite the undoubted talent on the roster.

I watched them capitulate in Arizona last Sunday and it was a staggering exercise in ineptitude and there's no way I can ask them to give away points this week. As highly ranked as they might be statistically, the Eagles inevitably find ways to beat themselves, at least in the eyes of the bettor.

These two teams don't like each other one bit and it's going to be a feisty affair and one I can't wait for. As for who I like, the Giants and the points, with or without Hicks.

CHICAGO BEARS at DALLAS COWBOYS

BAL Bears +3.5...BAL Cowboys -3

Since making a statement when marching into New Jersey and winning on opening night, Dallas has gone 0-2 ATS and both times as favourite. They're favoured again this week so might they underwhelm once again? Their running game might as, having come up against the top two run defenses in the league in Seattle and Tampa Bay the past two weeks, they face a Chicago run defense ranked sixth in the league this week. Is there no end to the brick walls? Not yet and they travel to Baltimore after their bye week.

The Bears are my Super Bowl XLVII tip so I was naturally concerned when Matt Forte went down recently, but he's recovered sufficiently to play on Monday night. And his presence is much needed.

Michael Bush is a capable backup, but that's the operative word. His 3.4 yards per carry on 44 carries this season are not a patch on Forte's 4.8 yard average and he'll test Dallas's 19th ranked run defense. As for the fanfare surrounding the Bears passing game this season with the additions of receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, they rank just 28th in that category and will struggle against a Cowboys defense allowing just 137 yards per game through the air.

Chicago have impressed at home so far, albeit against the Colts and Rams, but were shockingly bad in Green Bay in Week 2. A trip to Dallas is a tough proposition and as much as I want the Bears to triumph, I really do like the Cowboys -3.

THE LOWDOWN:

This is not an easy week to pick teams with certainty, but here goes: my ‘Aaron Curry' is the Patriots -3.5 and my bet of the week is the Cowboys -3. The Vikings, despite being 1-2 ATS, are a team I can't escape from and I also take them +4.5.

Please gamble responsibly.

------------

In addition to contributing here, Rob runs his own blog, Rob's NFL Yard, so make sure you head over there and check out more of his work. He'll be with us all season to give all you degenerate gamblers a better look at the ever-changing NFL odds, with a focus on the Seahawks, but attention to the NFL as a whole.

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