Week 4 of the NFL season got underway on Thursday night with the Cincinnati Bengals winning and covering as a 3.5-point favorite against the Miami Dolphins. We have 15 more games to sift through on this weekend's NFL slate. We're taking a look at three sets of games with similar point spreads and then deciding which side we'd rather be on if we were forced to make a choice.
The Indianapolis Colts enter Week 4 with a 1-1-1 record, coming off their first victory of the season last week against the Kansas City Chiefs. This week, the Colts are 3.5-point home favorites against the Tennessee Titans, who also got their first win of the year last week. Elsewhere, the Pittsburgh Steelers are a 3.5-point favorite at home against the New York Jets. Zach Wilson will make his season debut for New York, while Pittsburgh fans are hoping that they'll see their young quarterback on the field soon. Which home favorite would you rather back?
Greg: Both the Steelers and Colts are dragging their quarterbacks along like Cool Hand Luke eating 50 eggs. I like Indy’s matchup because they’ve been stonewalling the run this year, allowing the fewest rushing yards per carry (2.6). If they can stuff Derrick Henry on early downs and get the Titans into third-and-long all game, this could turn into an easy outing with Jonathan Taylor battering the league’s worst run defense (5.8 ypc).
I also love the spot the Steelers find themselves in. Zach Wilson returning under center behind a pitiful offensive line missing three starters feels similar to the Soviets sending a dog into space. Pittsburgh’s defense wins this one. Give me the Steelers.
Pete: Last week was a nice win for the Colts, but let's be honest, they were pretty fortunate. The Chiefs had the awful fake field goal attempt and then missed two other field goals. They muffed a punt inside their own five yard line. Travis Kelce dropped a touchdown in the end zone. With all of that going right for Indianapolis, they still had to grind out a win at the buzzer. I just don't see it with this Colts offense right now. Tennessee beat the Colts twice last year and while the rosters are different, Mike Vrabel has beaten Frank Reich three straight times.
In the other matchup, I can see this being the game that kickstarts the Kenny Pickett era in Pittsburgh. There is just nothing happening on offense there. Pittsburgh's lone win this season came in a game where they forced five turnovers and benefitted from missed kicks all over the place. They still needed overtime to pull it out. While the defense might be able to single-handedly win them this game against the Jets, this is a defense that let Mac Jones run the clock out on them with seven minutes left in Week 2 and then followed that up by getting carved up by Jacoby Brissett last week. Pittsburgh's offense continues to soil themselves, and the Jets do enough on offense. Give me the Jets.
Cowboys or Giants?
The Dallas Cowboys were left for dead when Dak Prescott was injured in Week 1, but the Cooper Rush era has yielded two wins. Suddenly, there's a positive vibe in Dallas and some are even trying to push a quarterback controversy. This week, the Cowboys are 3-point home favorites against the Washington Commanders. Elsewhere, two surprising 2-1 teams meet in New York when the Giants host the Chicago Bears. The Giants are coming off their first loss of the season, but they're 3-point home favorites in this one. Which home team would you rather lay the field goal with?
Greg: Chicago may be my favorite underdog this weekend. I think they win this one straight up, thanks to Khalil Herbert and their running game, which has been surprisingly outstanding. They’re averaging 186.7 rushing yards per game coming into Week 4. The Giants’ defense ranks 29th in rushing EPA per play and their offense has virtually zero playmakers outside of Saquon Barkley and Kadarius Toney, who Brian Daboll refuses to play. Dallas should dominate the trenches in their matchup against the Commanders, so I’ll take the Cowboys.
Pete: Giants' defensive coordinator Wink Martindale is known for sending excessive and unique blitzes at opposing quarterbacks, so the best way to counter that is to simply not throw the ball. Thankfully, Justin Fields and the Bears are yet to eclipse 8 passing completions in a game this season, so that should be easy for them. I can see Chicago hanging tough, but I also don't trust them enough to place a bet on them.
As far as Dallas-Washington, Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence might be able to twist Carson Wentz into a pretzel. Dallas should be able to run the ball against a team giving up nearly 130 yards per game on the ground. Cooper Rush has mastered the game-management aspect and has made some solid throws in big spots. I think Washington rolls at home on Sunday. Give me the Cowboys.
49ers or Buccaneers?
Both the San Francisco 49ers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost ugly games in the final few minutes in Week 3. This week, both are slight home favorites against good opponents. San Francisco is a 1.5-point home favorite against the Los Angeles Rams. Elsewhere, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a 1-point home favorite against the Kansas City Chiefs. Which short home favorite would you rather back?
Greg: No defense has pressured quarterbacks at a lower percentage this season than the Los Angeles Rams. That will be key against a San Francisco offensive line that was bad even before left tackle Trent Williams was sidelined with a high ankle sprain. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how willing Jimmy Garoppolo has been to take deep shots this season when the opportunities are there. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t feel anyone breathing down his neck to take his job or maybe he’s evolved a bit? He hasn’t evolved too much, as we saw a lot of the classic back-breaking Garoppolo flubs versus Denver last week. The Rams have a lot of problems and I’m not sure if they’ll put it together this year. This is a vulnerable team waiting to be exposed.
Tampa Bay has their own set of problems, but they’re mostly injury-related and will resolve as the season goes on. Getting Mike Evans back from suspension is a nice start and it looks like Chris Godwin isn’t far from being back in the lineup. While the offense finds their footing, the Bucs defense is playing lights-out. I like Tampa to win this game but I’m more confident in the Niners.
Pete: Heading into the playoff matchup between these two teams last year, there was a lot of talk about Kyle Shanahan owning Sean McVay. Did McVay slay the dragon last year? I guess he did win the game, but it wasn't a schemed masterpiece from McVay that made it happen. San Francisco wins if they don't drop an interception. Currently at BetMGM, over 75% of the money is on the Rams but the line has moved in favor of San Francisco.
The Chiefs-Buccaneers game is intriguing. I feel like we haven't learned much about the Buccaneers yet this season due to their injury situation. Mike Evans is back from suspension and receivers like Chris Godwin, Russell Gage and Julio Jones are practicing this week and might play. Donovan Smith is also practicing which could be a potential boost on the offensive line. Both of these games are tossups, but I roll with Shanahan and the 49ers.