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Week 4 NFL Picks

Russell Wilson is red hot, and he’s leaving a trail of scorched defenses in his in wake. (Photo by Elaine Thompson/AP)

Remember last week when I prefaced my picks with this…

Warning, WARNING: I felt overly confident about a number of Week 3 matchups, so I expect to look like a genius or for this to be an outright disaster with no in-between.

An outright disaster it was indeed. My advice for this week; stand back and stand by. 

Last Week:     6 – 9 – 1
Season:         26 – 21 – 1

Thursday Night (8:20PM ET)

Broncos 37 at Jets 28
It was bad but it was kind of exciting. Then it was really bad before it got a little more exciting. Then it was just ugly, especially if you’re a Jets fan. Rex Ryan’s son is some kind of coach with the Chargers. Since Rex was the only coach to make the Jets good over the last few decades, it’s worth giving another Ryan a shot at the job, even if he’s not at all qualified.

Early Games (1:00PM ET)

Colts at Bears
Nick Foles is the cockroach of the NFL. He just won’t die. It’s hard to second-guess Matt Nagy’s decision to go to Foles considering the outcome, but I found his decision somewhat rash and emotional. Mitch Trubisky wasn’t great on Sunday, but he wasn’t awful either. He made a big play with his legs, missed some throws and made some others. It was a typical Trubisky day. Then he threw a really bad interception. That was the end of his day, and perhaps his career in Chicago. I consider myself a realist when it comes to Foles. He’s a bit overrated. The 2017 Eagles should’ve been eliminated by the Falcons in the Divisional Round if Julio Jones does what he does 99.99% of the time. Foles was awful that day. He was also awful in the 2nd half of the Eagles loss in the 2018 Divisional Round against New Orleans. Foles can be really good, but over the course of a season, he’s going to be mediocre more often than good. COLTS If I were Charles Barkley; Colts -2.5

Jaguars at Bengals
Cincinnati must figure out the running game. Joe Mixon is getting crushed behind the line of scrimmage. He’s running into brick walls where there’s supposed to be running lanes. I’ll give the Bengals credit for trying. Mixon is 6th in the league in attempts despite averaging an abysmal 3.2 yards per carry. The Eagles sacked Joe Burrow 8 times last week. The Chargers and Browns abused him in the first two weeks as well. If the Bengals can’t pass protect AND can’t run the football, Burrow will be a wreck by November. In fairness to the Bengals, their three 2020 opponents to date all rank in the top 11 in rush defense, so maybe the running game improves moving forward. For Burrow’s health, let’s hope so. If I were Charles Barkley; Bengals -3

Browns at Cowboys
While watching the Cowboys last week, I finally figured out Dak Prescott. He’s what you’d get if you merged Russell Wilson and Jameis Winston into one quarterback. Sure, Prescott isn’t a turnover machine like Winston, but Prescott’s turnovers are often killers. His back-to-back turnovers between the 1st and 2nd half Sunday swung a 15-16 game to a 15-30 game. Seattle only traveled a combined 39 yards on the two scoring drives. Dallas eventually fought back to take a lead but trailing by double digits in every game isn’t a recipe for long-term success. I thought for sure the Cowboys would win in Seattle after their miraculous win over the Falcons but that Dallas pass defense is baaaad. While they’re clearly the best team in the NFC East, the Dallas offense has lost itself a bit. I still think Ezekiel Elliott is their meal ticket. He had only 14 rushes Sunday. I know he dropped a number of passes and seems aloof at times, but they have to ride him if they want to help their defense. COWBOYS If I were Charles Barkley; Browns +4.5

Saints at Lions
Was anyone else a little sad watching Drew Brees the last two weeks? The absence of Michael Thomas is obviously massive, but Brees can’t get the ball downfield. Sean Payton has to keep defenses honest and that won’t work if Taysom Hill is the only QB capable of stretching the defense. We’ve all seen this before with Peyton Manning in his last two seasons in Denver. It isn’t pretty. Brees is their best option at quarterback, but I wonder if Payton finds more ways to keep Hill on the field. SAINTS If I were Charles Barkley; Lions +4.5

Seahawks at Dolphins
Mr. Unlimited is rolling through defenses right now. His 14 touchdowns and 139 QB Rating lead the NFL. He’s top 3 in every other statistical category including QBR, completion % and average yards per attempt. His lone interception was the result of an obvious drop. The Seahawks have scored touchdowns on 15 of their 33 drives this season. Seattle’s red zone percentage is 100%. If you let Russ sniff that end zone, it’s going to be 6. His offense is 2nd in points per drive behind only the Packers and Aaron Rodgers. Wilson’s high level of play is also, in the words of Jorge Masvidal, “super necessary.” His defense is last in the NFL in yards allowed. They’ve surrendered at least 30 points in each of the last two weeks. Wilson is playing the position better than anyone right now and his offense is nearly unstoppable. SEAHAWKS If I were Charles Barkley; Dolphins +7

Steelers at Titans
Postponed. It will be real interesting to see how the NFL handles postponed games here and in the future. This isn’t baseball where you can squeeze more games in a week or day. The chances of bye weeks pairing up are slim. Extending the season and delaying the playoffs is likely the only option, but how does that impact teams who made it through the season without delay? A top seeded team could have a three or even four week break before their first postseason contest.

Chargers at Buccaneers
Justin Herbert gave us the full rookie quarterback experience in Week 3. At times he looked unstoppable. Squeezing passes in tight windows, extending plays with his feet and moving the offense at will. At other times he was missing open receivers, taking bad sacks and worst of all, ill-advised passes that resulted in turnovers. Tyrod Taylor hasn’t been ruled out this week, but if I’m a Charger fan, I’d rather have the roller coaster of excitement Herbert provides over the bland Taylor offense. CHARGERS If I were Charles Barkley; Chargers +7

Ravens at Football Team
Confidence can’t be high in the Baltimore locker room right now. Their MVP quarterback couldn’t reach triple digits in passing yards and their defense surrendered 517 yards and an alarming 77% 3rd conversion rate. Panicking about a potential matchup in late January is futile in October, but there’s little doubt it’s on the minds of the Ravens. If not for a sloppy late 2nd quarter to early 3rd quarter stretch by the Chiefs, the Ravens would’ve lost by 30. I wonder what team shows up Sunday: A discouraged team that sulks their way through a lackluster contest, or an angry group intent on burying an inferior opponent? RAVENS If I were Charles Barkley; Ravens -14

Cardinals at Panthers
Kyler Murray was sloppy in Week 3 and it’s not a stretch to say it cost his team a victory. The Cardinals are good, but they’re not good enough to just show up and win. Very few teams, if any, are good enough to do that. Sunday will be another test for Murray and the Cardinals. Like the Lions, the Panthers may appear an NFL write-off. They’re without their MVP and the team is trying to find its footing after an offseason of major changes. They’re no walkover, though. They gave the Raiders fits in Week 1. They wouldn’t die against the Bucs in Week 2. In Week 3, they capitalized on a few Charger mistakes to swing the game. Obviously, the Panthers miss Christian McCaffrey, and boy did they miss him in the red zone. Carolina finished 1-6 in the red zone against Los Angeles. If not for a foolish penalty on a field goal, the Panthers would’ve been a perfectly inept 0-6 inside the 20. CARDINALS If I were Charles Barkley; Cardinals -3.5

Vikings at Texans
Both teams were expected to contend for their respective division titles before Week 1. The Minnesota Vikings were even the favorites. By Sunday evening one of them will be staring at an 0-4 hole and the likely end of a meaningful 2020 campaign. Minnesota blew it last week against the Titans. Did anyone else question Mike Zimmer’s call to go for 2 on Sunday? I’m guessing analytics said to go for it after the Vikings scored to go up 30-25 with 10 minutes to go in the 4th quarter. Sure, 2 points makes the lead 7, but failing to convert means 2 field goals beats you instead of simply tying. That’s ultimately what happened. On the other hand, the Vikings had plenty of opportunities to still win the game. Before Tennessee kicked the winning field goal, Minnesota dropped what would’ve been the game clinching interception. Still, after the field goal, Minnesota had yet another chance to get into field goal range with 1:44 left on the clock. Instead they missed the snap, lost 16 yards and failed on a desperation heave on 4th down. TEXANS If I were Charles Barkley; Texans -4

Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)

Giants at Rams
I thought the Rams got ripped off last week. Then again they did trail 28-3, so I don’t feel that bad for them. Can we applaud the NFL for the extra playoff spot? I’m generally against change, but this is a great idea for the league. More playoff games? Win. More teams invested in the regular season for longer? Win. I know some will criticize a .500 team or worse making the postseason, but I’m all for keeping as many teams in contention for as long as possible without compromising the importance of the regular season (hi, NBA). I think the NFL nailed it. RAMS If I were Charles Barkley; Rams -13

Patriots at Chiefs
Earlier I raved about Russell Wilson and his Seahawks offense. The great Bill Belichick had no answers for Russ. If Belichick has even a small amount of answers for Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, that means Wilson is the best and Mahomes is 2nd best, right? Ok, good, glad we solved that. Monday night’s drubbing of the Ravens was the most impressive win of the season to date. However, I still think Kansas City needs to improve their running game. Statistically speaking, the Chiefs ground attack is top 10 in both yards per game and yards per attempt. However, if you eliminate Mahomes’ rushing numbers and only include rushing stats from running backs, Kansas City falls back into the middle of the pack in yards per attempt and way down into the 20s in rushing yards per game. It’s a minor concern on a team with few, but I had to find one. CHIEFS If I were Charles Barkley; Chiefs -7

Bills at Raiders
Derek Carr at age 29 is what Drew Brees is at age 41; a dump-off machine. The Patriots even doubled some of Carr’s check down options Sunday, forcing him out of his comfort zone. Carr has been solid for the Raiders. He’s moved the offense and protected the football. I know Henry Ruggs was out Sunday, but what was the point of using high draft capital on a player if your quarterback doesn’t throw deep? RAIDERS If I were Charles Barkley; Raiders +3.5

Sunday Night (8:20PM ET)

Eagles at 49ers
George Kittle is supposed to be a full go Sunday night, which means Nate Gerry will be continuing his two-week streak of being exploited by the opposing offense. The 49ers are probably more banged up than the Eagles, which conveniently eliminates all excuses for another Eagles loss. Philadelphia has been spared National TV embarrassment thus far. If they want to prove the season isn’t lost like they keep reminding everyone, now would be the time to do it. I’m a homer and an idiot, so I’ll keep picking my Eagles, but I don’t expect anything but a loss. Also, look out for Brandon Aiyuk. The Eagles took Jalen Reagor over Aiyuk. Passed over receivers always crush the Birds. EAGLESIf I were Charles Barkley; Eagles +7

Monday Night (8:15PM ET)

Falcons at Packers
How does Atlanta blow back-to-back double digit 4th quarter leads? Well, there are three major components. They failed to jump on an onside kick. That’s number one. Second, their pass defense is a mess in these scenarios. Dallas’ last three drives in Week 2 totaled 175 yards. 167 of those yards were through the air. Against Chicago last week, the Bears racked up 161 yards over their final three drives. 134 of those yards were through the air. Third, Atlanta’s offense is a bit of a mess with the lead late in games. Against Dallas, the Falcons took a sack on 2nd down, resulting in a 3rd and 19 and all but eliminating any hope of running out the clock. The issues started earlier against Chicago. Brian Hill dropped a 3rd down reception that would have extended a late 3rd quarter drive. Instead the Falcons settled for a field goal. On their next drive Matt Ryan was sacked for a loss of seven yards. Atlanta missed the ensuing field goal as a result. On their next two drives, the Falcons ran a combined 6 plays (3 per drive). They ran three times for a total of 6 yards and threw it three times for a total of 0 yards (all incompletions). You can’t win games if your offense turns to mush when it’s time to milk the clock. How Dan Quinn survived another week is beyond me. PACKERS If I were Charles Barkley; Falcons +7.5

*****

If I were Charles Barkley;
Last Week: 5 – 11 – 0
Season:       22 – 25 – 1

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