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Week 4 NFL Picks

Despite injuries and suspensions, the Patriots keep on winning. Bill Belichick deserves all the credit. (Photo by AP)

Last Week:    11 – 5 – 0
Season: 29 – 19 – 0

Thursday Recap

Dolphins 7 at Bengals 22
The Bengals again struggled inside the red zone (1/3), averaged less than three yards per rush and still dominated Thursday night because the Miami Dolphins are mostly horrible. I’m no expert, but the red zone issues have to be tied to the running game. For some reason the Bengals appear intent on running the ball inside the ten. On Thursday, Cincinnati ran the football five times for zero yards inside the red zone. AJ Green is unquestionably one of the top 3 receivers in the league. Running the football should be the change of pace and targeting Green should be the priority, not vice versa. If a 4/13 red zone showing through four weeks isn’t enough to convince the Bengals to rethink their red zone strategy I’m not sure what will.

Early Games (1:00PM ET)

Colts at Jaguars
If the NFL really wants American Football to catch on overseas, they should probably consider the product they send over in these pointless London games. In fairness to the NFL, the Jaguars were supposed to be competing for a playoff spot this year and the Colts’ disappointing 2015 season was thought to be the result of injuries. On the other hand, assuming an AFC South matchup will be intriguing makes you an idiot. The division has been horrible for years and is trending that way again in 2016. JAGUARS If I were Charles Barkley; Jaguars +3

Titans at Texans
Speaking of the AFC South, let’s play a fun game proving how dismal the division is again this year. Here are the point differentials for each division through three weeks; AFC East: +5, AFC North: -22, AFC West: +62, NFC East: +60, NFC North: -10, NFC South: -29, NFC West: +4. The AFC South? -70. Yes, that’s 41 points worse than the next division. In fact, the AFC South is the only division where all four teams have a negative point differential. TEXANS If I were Charles Barkley; Texans -5

Browns at Redskins
No one without a gambling interest cares about this matchup, so allow me to brag about the Eagles here. The 2nd through 4th highest point differentials in the NFL are as follows; Patriots +36, Broncos +27, Vikings +24. The Philadelphia Eagles of Wentzylvania are +65. (Drops mic…) REDSKINS If I were Charles Barkley; Redskins -7.5

Seahawks at Jets
The Jets are a perfect example of how hard it is to survive in the NFL without a stable quarterback. In Week 1, Fitzpatrick couldn’t crack 200 yards, completed less than 55% of his passes and tossed an interception. Five days later (right after I declared him the reason the Jets couldn’t compete for an AFC title), Fitzpatrick threw for 374 yards while completing 70% of passes. Last week in Kansas City the wheels completely fell off for Fitzpatrick. He completed only 45% of his passes, threw for less than 200 yards and added 6 interceptions for good measure. Even without a healthy Russell Wilson, I trust Seattle to grind out a victory more than I trust Fitzpatrick against the NFL’s 2nd ranked pass defense. SEAHAWKS If I were Charles Barkley; Seahawks -3

Bills at Patriots
Bill Belichick should get coach of the year. In fact, he’s a lot like Gregg Poppovich in that everyone knows he’s the league’s best coach and should probably win the award every season but doesn’t because that would just be boring. Anyway, Belichick has the Patriots at 3-0 despite losing his franchise quarterback, starting a backup quarterback, starting a 3rd string quarterback, and missing his All-Pro tight end. Did I mention New England took out two likely playoff teams? Belichick plays chess while everyone else plays checkers. He’s going to tank this game to make Brady’s comeback easier and throw everyone off the Patriots’ scent. BILLS If I were Charles Barkley; No Line Yet

Panthers at Falcons
I’m getting nervous about the Panthers and Cam Newton. They might be rattled, and I mean rattled for good. Last week the Panthers came out and dominated the Vikings for almost the entire opening half. The Carolina offense moved the football almost at will and the defense smothered Sam Bradford and the Minnesota offense. A missed Carolina field goal and a Vikings punt return for a touchdown swung a 10 point halftime lead to a two point game. Minnesota came out of the half and attacked Newton. As we’ve seen since the Super Bowl, Newton and the Carolina offense short circuit under such conditions. The Panther offense mustered only 81 yards and committed two turnovers in a disastrous 2nd half. I’m nervous about this but I’m taking the Panthers. PANTHERS If I were Charles Barkley; Panthers -3

Raiders at Ravens
One last time, let’s go back to the point differential talk. The AFC West is the only division in football where all four teams have a positive differential. Only one other division can claim more than two positive differentials (NFC East). I haven’t been overly impressed with the 3-0 Ravens thus far. However, this feels like one of those games where the veteran-laded Ravens get the better of the supremely talented but inexperienced Raiders due to a late Oakland mental lapse. RAVENS If I were Charles Barkley; Raiders +3.5

Lions at Bears
The Lions are bad but not quite as bad as you’d think. They did Detroit Lions “things” in an epic collapse against the Titans in Week 2 and made a respectable comeback last week in Green Bay after getting pummeled for most of the opening 30 minutes. I’m not trying to convince you they’re a playoff team, but they’re good enough to beat the dreadful Bears. LIONS If I were Charles Barkley; Lions -3

Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)

Broncos at Buccaneers
It’s hard to find a team as impressive as the Broncos through three weeks. Sure, the Patriots and Vikings have been impressive in winning without their top talent. The Eagles have been equally impressive and surprising out of the gates. But the Broncos have been simply dominant. They’ve bullied their opponents into submission with a swarming defense and relentless pass rush. To the AFC’s horror, Denver added an aerial attack to their arsenal in Week 3. The Buccaneers, who’ve surrendered 77 points the last two weeks could be in for another slaughter. BRONCOS If I were Charles Barkley; Broncos -3.5

Rams at Cardinals
I can’t tell you how horrible the Bills and Cardinals game was last week. It’s hard to imagine a team scoring 33 points, winning by 15 and playing worse than the Buffalo Bills did last week. If I had to bet on it now, I’d still put the Cardinals in the NFC playoffs. I have plenty of concerns, though. Their defense is surprisingly suspect and Carson Palmer is flirting with the Ryan Fitzpatrick week-to-week seesaw. Though, it’s not all Palmer’s fault. Michael Floyd dropped at least two 1st downs in Buffalo and it’s hard to run an offense when you’re under heavy pressure all game long. Arizona is also one of those teams that fall in love with passing the ball too much. I’m too lazy to look up any stats to back this up, but I feel like Palmer only gets worse with a heavier workload. Regardless, I’m taking the Cardinals this week because they’re desperate. CARDINALS If I were Charles Barkley; Rams +8

Saints at Chargers
Drew Brees is Carmelo Anthony but with a ring, right? At this point (and for the past three years), Brees is just playing out the remainder of his career and making a boatload of money while throwing up Pro-Bowl numbers year after year. With the Panthers, Chiefs and Seahawks on deck, this could be the Saints only chance at avoiding an 0-7 start. I don’t like their chances. CHARGERS If I were Charles Barkley; Saints +4

Cowboys at 49ers
I make sure to thank the Good Lord for keeping Jason Garrett employed. Why Dez Bryant is targeted so little is beyond me. Bryant has been targeted more than 8 times in only four games throughout 2015 and 2016 combined. On a related note, he’s had more than 5 catches only once in that time span (12 games). Sure, Bryant is a head case and all that, and he’s proven he’s not quite on that level as Antonio Brown, Julio Jones and AJ Green, but he’s still an elite receiver. Why the Cowboys refuse to send the ball in his direction more than a few times a game makes me so thankful Jason Garrett is a head coach in my division. COWBOYS If I were Charles Barkley; Cowboys -3

Sunday Night (8:30PM ET)

Chiefs at Steelers
Remember that time the Steelers went to Philadelphia as 5 point favorites and were promptly destroyed by Carson Wentz and the Eagle defense? Remember how there were no Terrible Towels to be seen after the 1st quarter? Hey Pittsburgh people… Shhhhh          And to everyone telling me that Wentz is a glorified “dink and dumper” or the Eagles haven’t played anyone good… Shhhhh       Seriously though, how good is Antonio Brown? It felt like he didn’t do anything Sunday against the Eagles and he still racked up 12 receptions and 140 yards. My guess is the Steelers bounce back from what was admittedly an unusually bad offensive performance, but I kind of like the Chiefs here. CHIEFS If I were Charles Barkley; Chiefs +6

Monday Night (8:30PM ET)

Giants at Vikings
If you wondering whether or not my picks are worthy of your respect, allow me to introduce this damning piece of evidence: I’ve picked against the Vikings and Broncos every week thus far. Obviously, I’ve gone 0-6 in those picks. I finally changed course with the Broncos this week, but I feel the same about the Vikings as I’ve felt since the season opened. Sam Bradford will ruin their season. It just hasn’t happened yet. Besides, Eli Manning does this all the time; throws back-backing interceptions one week and goes on to smoke the NFL’s top defense the next. GIANTS If I were Charles Barkley; Giants +6

*****

If I were Charles Barkley;
Last Week: 9 – 5 – 2
Season:    21 – 25 – 2

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