With a plethora of storylines and a handful of exciting matchups, here are my best bets for Week Four of the NFL season.
Disclaimer: We are not financial advisors. Bet at your own risk.
1. Panthers @ Cowboys (-4.5)
I’ll admit it, the Panthers have probably been the biggest surprise of the season so far. Their defense is galaxies ahead of schedule and Sam Darnold has had a career renaissance. While they have been quite impressive, there is a bit of “luck” to them. Two of their wins have come against the Texans and Jets, who have a combined one win. Yes, the Saints win was quite impressive, but I don’t think we know who the real Saints are yet. All in all, I think the Panthers are more than likely a product of their early schedule.
The Cowboys, on the other hand, have been nothing short of impressive. Their lone loss was on the road to the Buccaneers, which was Dak’s first game back from his ankle injury. Impressive wins against the Chargers and the Eagles have shown how dangerous this Cowboys team can truly be. Dak and Co. may be the most electrifying offense in football, and the defense had been stronger than expected.
While I think the Cowboys are better with both sides healthy, the Panthers will be missing some key contributors. Christian McCaffrey is tending to a hamstring injury, while rookie Jaycee Horn has been placed on the injured reserve. I like the Cowboys to win this one somewhat handy.
2. Steelers @ Packers (-6.5)
I think this has to be the most surprising line of the entire week and, quite honestly, I’m not exactly sure what the oddsmakers have been watching to come to the decision on this one. Outside of a 17-point fourth quarter that led to a win over the Bills, the Steelers have looked like one of the worst teams in the league. In the other 11 quarters they’ve played, they have managed a measly 3.3 points per quarter. A 14-point loss to the Bengals was the biggest sign that this is not the Steelers that we have come to expect.
Big Ben is so far over the hill that he’s almost back on flat ground. The offensive line, while not as bad as originally thought, isn’t nearly good enough to make up for Ben’s inefficiencies. The defense is still solid, but unlike the offensive line, not enough to make up for a below-average quarterback.
The Packers, on the other hand, have a quarterback that is still able to carry an offense, a defense, special teams, and whatever else needs to be carried. Aaron Rodgers has shown that the week one pounding they took in New Orleans was a fluke, as they have rattled off back-to-back wins against the Lions and 49ers. They are starting to look much more like the Super Bowl contenders that most people thought they were.
While the Packers are rounding into form as an NFC powerhouse, the Steelers are rounding into form as a team that will be deciding what to do with their top-ten pick come draft day. The Packers should have no problem taking care of business at home.
3. Buccaneers (-7) @ Patriots
It what may be the most highly anticipated game in recent memory, Tom Brady returns to Foxboro for the first time as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer. As crazy as it may seem given the amount of success Brady had in a Patriots uniform, he may be having the best start to a season he has ever had.
He may also have the best weapons he’s had since the historic 2007 season. The trio of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Rob Gronkowski have been nearly unstoppable. Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones have been just enough of a problem on the ground to force teams to respect them, allowing Brady to work his magic.
It hasn’t been quite the successful start for Belichick and the Patriots. While the defense has been close to its normal, dominant self, the offense has sputtered for the most part. The 25 points they scored against the lowly Jets is largely in part due to the lack of resistance. The 13 and 16-point outings are more fitting for how effective this offense has really been. While the run game has been solid, the Bucs might have the best interior front seven in the league. The likes of Vita Vea and Devin White will make sure that the rookie will have to be the one that beats them.
That’s where it gets scary for New England. Mac Jones has had a somewhat inauspicious start to his rookie campaign, and it won’t get any easier this week. An elite pass rush mixed with a top-notch secondary will make life rough for Mac come Sunday night. While seven points is a lot to lay on a team traveling to New England, I think Brady gets the job done in front of his former home crowd.