Expert NFL Picks for Week 4, Including Browns-Cowboys and Patriots-Chiefs
Chris Altruda of PennBets.com, Borgata sportsbook director Tom Gable and VSiN sports betting reporter Josh Appelbaum offer their insights
This is NFL Best Bets, a recurring series in which professional sports handicappers lend us their insights and picks for the most intriguing matchups for each week of the football season.
For this edition of Best Bets, Chris Altruda, a national betting industry analyst for PennBets.com, Thomas Gable, the director of race and sportsbook at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, and sports betting reporter Josh Appelbaum of VSiN shared their opinions on five Week 4 games, including the Browns going to Dallas to take on the Cowboys and the winless Vikings traveling to Houston to play the 0-3 Texans.
You’ve got places to go, people to see and possibly some wagers to make, so let’s get to it.
Colts (2-1) (-140, -2.5, O/U 45) at Bears (3-0)
A compelling matchup because … Nick Foles will be making his first start at quarterback for an undefeated Chicago team that could very easily be 0-3. Opposing him at quarterback for Indianapolis will be first-year Colt Philip Rivers, who has played reasonably well as the leader of a team that surprisingly has the best point differential in the AFC at +39.
Altruda’s Angle: Are the Bears the softest 3-0 team among the seven in the league? Undoubtedly. Are they lucky more than good? Probably. Does coach Matt Nagy have a quarterback dilemma on his hands? Perhaps. After Foles replaced the ineffective Mitch Trubisky and rescued Chicago in Atlanta against the league’s most dysfunctional team — the Falcons — he makes his first start for Chicago against a Colts defense that toyed with the hapless New York Jets and contributed 16 points with a pair of pick-6 INTs and a safety. The Bears are also without running back Tarik Cohen, further mucking up Nagy’s offensive planning for this contest. When Indianapolis’ defense is forcing turnovers, it makes the game easy for Rivers and the offense. The feeling here is the Bears finally get exposed enough as the Colts keep them in check. Lay the points with the Colts and take the under. A six-point teaser of the Colts getting 3.5 points and under 51 also works well here.
Gable’s Guess: The Bears are coming off an improbable victory over Atlanta. Foles looked great and needed to be great in order for them to win that game and complete their comeback. But he’s going up against the Colts defense that had two pick-sixes and a safety against the Jets a coach in Frank Reich, who’s intimately familiar with Foles having coached him in Philly. The Colts defense has actually given up the fewest yards in the NFL. The Colts have one of the better offensive lines in football. The Bears have a pretty good defense so that’s going to be key if the O-line can protect Rivers. I think this game is going to really tell us a lot about who the Colts are, because they’ve played three teams now with a combined 1-8 record. I think the Bears are capable of winning more games now with Foles as quarterback, but I don’t see a Bears’ victory. I’d be looking to lay the points here with the Colts.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: The Colts (2-1 against the spread) rebounded from an embarrassing Week 1 loss to the Jags with a pair of blowout wins and covers against the Vikings (28-11) and most recently the Jets (36-7). Meanwhile, the Bears (2-1 ATS) are off to an undefeated start and are riding a big come-from-behind win over the Falcons last week as 2.5-point dogs. This line opened with Indianapolis listed as a short 2.5-point road favorite. Heavy public betting pushed the Colts up to the key number of 3. That’s when sharps got down hard on Bears +3, dropping it back down to 2.5. I’ll back Foles and the Bears at home as a live contrarian dog in a low total game.
Our Pick: Maybe the Bears can score with Foles. It’s odd, but take the over.
Browns (2-0) (+180, +4.5, O/U 55) at Cowboys (1-2)
A compelling matchup because … with quarterback Baker Mayfield (two touchdown passes) and running back Nick Chubb (two rushing scores) leading the way, the Browns knocked off the Washington Football Team 34-20 in Week 3, pushing Cleveland’s record over .500 for the first time since 2014. Coming off a shootout loss in Seattle, the Cowboys will look to even their record and retain their divisional lead by dropping the Browns back to .500.
Altruda’s Angle: If you had Week 4 as the week when Jerry Jones would surface to ignite a controversy about Dak Prescott, go collect your winnings. The Cowboys owner did not exactly throw his quarterback under the bus during his weekly radio show Tuesday, but comparing Prescott in a lesser light to Patrick Mahomes and former Cowboys QB Tony Romo was also not a confidence booster after a tough loss to the Seattle Seahawks. The caveat of the Browns looking good in rolling up 69 points in wins the last two weeks is they have played Cincinnati and Washington. But the offense is developing an identity, and more importantly, making sure Chubb and Kareem Hunt get plenty of touches. This is a “show me” game for both teams, but this looks to be too big an ask for the Browns on the road. The pick is the Cowboys -4.5.
Gable’s Guess: The Cowboys are still heavily favored to win the NFC East despite the fact that they are really an onside kick recovery away from being 0-3. Their offense has been very, very good and their defense has been equally as bad. Since their Week 1 loss, the Browns have bounced back with two wins. Chubb and Hunt should get a lot of work against the defense that really hasn’t had success in stopping anyone. Coming into this, the Browns have lost seven straight road games, but the Cowboys are 1-4 against the spread in their last five games when they were the favorite. I’d probably be looking to take the Browns with the 4.5 here.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: After a blowout loss to the Ravens in the season opener, the Browns (1-2 ATS) have rebounded with a pair of wins over the Bengals and Washington. It’s been a struggle thus far for the Cowboys (0-3 ATS), who could very well be winless. Dallas just lost to the Seahawks last week 38-31, failing to cover as 5.5-point road dogs. This line opened with the Cowboys listed as 5-point home favorites. The public still believes in Dallas and doesn’t think the Browns are for real. However, despite two-thirds of bets laying the points with the home favorite, we’ve seen smart money hit Cleveland, dropping the line from +5 to +4.5. Some books have briefly touched 4. Essentially, all liability has been on Cleveland and the points. I like the Browns’ impressive rushing game against a porous Cowboys defense that can’t stop the run. Give me the Browns +4.5.
Our Pick: Until proven otherwise, the Browns are still the Browns. Go Cowboys and lay the points.
Vikings (0-3) (N/A, +3.5, O/U 54.5) at Texans (0-3)
A compelling matchup because … both of these teams made the playoffs last season and advanced to the second round before losing but neither has won a game since. Barring a tie, that will change this week following a game that will effectively end the season for one of these teams and potentially save the year for the other.
Altruda’s Angle: This game was pulled by sportsbooks during the week due to COVID-19 related concerns after the Vikings suspended activities Tuesday as a precautionary measure after their Week 3 opponents, the Tennessee Titans, had three players and five team personnel members, test positive for the virus. This game is the “Desperation Bowl” since the loser will be trying to join the 1992 San Diego Chargers as the only team in NFL history to reach the playoffs after an 0-4 start. Neither team has shown any consistency defensively, and they are the two worst teams in terms of time of possession on offense. The unknown of the aftereffects of a team shutdown make this a difficult game to pick, but the poor defenses and competent offenses make the over the most available play given the situation. Go over 54.5 points should the game come back online.
Gable’s Guess: This game’s off the board at the moment due to the COVID-19 news. Before that, the Texans were laying 4 points. The Texans had three very, very tough opponents, which is why they are 0-3. Kirk Cousins did complete some downfield throws last week for the Vikings, but their defense is just a mirage of what it used to be. They really can’t get any stops when they need to or make any sort of plays. I don’t think Houston QB Deshaun Watson has the supporting cast he’s had in the past around him. But, I think this is a game Houston should definitely be able to put in the win column.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: Both of these teams are off to terrible starts in 2020. Minnesota (0-3 ATS) is coming off a heartbreaking 31-30 loss to the Titans, although they covered as 3-point home dogs. The Texans (0-3 ATS) have been the worst team to bet on this season, failing to win or cover any of their games thus far. Houston blew a 14-3 lead last week, falling to the Steelers 28-21 as 4-point road dogs. This line opened with the Texans listed as 4-point home favorites. The public sees two struggling teams but feels the home favorite is the lesser of the two evils, which has pushed Houston up to -4.5. I’m worried the Vikings are dealing with the COVID-19 fallout, but I’ll buy on bad news and back a desperate Vikings team +4.5 with their season on the line.
Our Pick: The Texans had a normal week and didn’t travel. Lay the points with Houston.
Patriots (2-1) (+240/, +7, O/U 53) at Chiefs (3-0)
Editor’s note: This piece was written and published before Cam Newton was ruled out and the game was moved to Monday night. Our pick is now the Patriots +11.
A compelling matchup because … these teams have played three times in the past two seasons, with New England winning the first two games and the Kansas City taking the third matchup. The Chiefs have generally looked unstoppable on offense through the first three weeks of the season, but if anyone can come up with a gameplan to at least slow them down, it is Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
Altruda’s Angle: For anyone pondering the Chiefs having a letdown after pole-axing the Ravens in Baltimore, consider the defending Super Bowl champions have an opportunity to take the inside track on two of their top pursuers for the lone bye to the divisional round of the playoffs. Though there were some second-half hiccups, the rest of the NFL is playing catch-up to Kansas City right now. Patrick Mahomes is doing Patrick Mahomes things and rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire is being incorporated into the passing offense at an impressively fast clip. The problem for the Patriots is not a lack of quality as much as it is matching the Chiefs point-for-point in this game. It has all the makings of déjà vu from Seattle two weeks ago, but the additional wrinkle is the Chiefs’ defense won last year’s game between the teams in New England. The spread must be watched like a hawk, because a half-point hook in either direction will offer enough value to take either team, and the under has value, with the Chiefs facing a dual-threat quarterback for the second straight week in Cam Newton after keeping Lamar Jackson largely under wraps. Take under 53 points with a lean on the Chiefs at -7 and actual pick if the line moves in New England’s favor.
Gable’s Guess: Baltimore has a very good defense, but Mahomes just made it look like a joke in the first half on Monday Night Football. The Patriots have the top rushing offense in the league, averaging 178 yards a game. Their defense has also been playing very well and they are at +4 takeaways, which is third in the NFL. On the Chiefs’ side, Mahomes has zero interceptions through three games and is looking like a prime MVP candidate. It’s going to be a good matchup between a tough Patriots defense and the Kansas City offense. The Chiefs have demonstrated they can play from either in front or from behind. I do think the Patriots are going to keep this close. I would probably be taking the Patriots and the points here.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: This late afternoon showdown between two AFC powerhouses will be one of the most heavily bet games of the week. The Patriots (2-1 ATS) rebounded from a tough Week 2 loss against Seattle with a resounding win over the Raiders last week, easily covering as 7-point home favorites. Now they must travel to Arrowhead to take on an undefeated Chiefs (2-1 ATS) team that just waltzed into Baltimore on Monday night and waxed the Ravens 34-20 as 3.5-point dogs. This line opened with Kansas City listed as a 7-point home favorite. Some books opened further toward KC at -7.5 or -8. The public is all over Mahomes at home, yet the market is down to 7 and even creeping toward 6.5. This signals liability on New England. The Patriots enjoy a rest advantage as KC is coming off a short week having just played on Monday. Give me Belichick and the Pats in a rare contrarian spot getting a touchdown.
Our Pick: It’s so rare to get the Patriots and a lot of points. Take ’em both.
Bills (3-0) (-165, -3, O/U 52.5) at Raiders (2-1)
A compelling matchup because … the Bills have been one of the most-hyped teams in the NFL to begin the season while the Raiders have generally flown under the radar despite taking a game from the favored Saints in Week 2. The Raiders franchise is undefeated in Las Vegas thus far, and the Bills may already be looking ahead to Week 4 and 5 games against the undefeated Texans and Chiefs, respectively. Should be a close one.
Altruda’s Angle: Courtesy of a very questionable pass interference call in their favor, the Bills remain among the unbeaten after squandering a 28-3 third-quarter lead before rallying to defeat the Los Angeles Rams. To a degree, the jury is still out on Buffalo after that tale of two halves, even with QB Josh Allen showing impressive overall improvement from Year 2 to Year 3. The Raiders played New England tough for three-plus quarters last weekend, but Jon Gruden’s decision to kick a field goal down 13 early in the fourth quarter against a Patriots offense that was moving the ball all day was questionable, at best. Las Vegas, though, has shown an impressive ceiling already in defeating New Orleans and has a nicely balanced offense behind running back Josh Jacobs. The play, though, looks to be in the first half in Sin City — the Bills are a league-best plus-43 in the first two quarters, and the Raiders are tied for 23rd with 45 first-half points allowed. The first-half over/under has a high-end hook of 24.5 points, which makes taking the Bills and laying the points before halftime a better proposition. Take the Bills at -2.5 in the first half.
Gable’s Guess: Josh Allen continues to impress at quarterback for the Bills. He’s actually getting mentioned in the MVP conversation. In fact, we took a $25,000 bet from somebody on Allen to win the MVP at 25 to 1 odds last Friday. One thing with the Bills, especially last week with the Rams, their offensive line has really struggled. The pass defense hasn’t been that great for the Bills. Derek Carr will be looking to exploit that. Buffalo’s run defense hasn’t been that much better, as they’re allowing 4.6 yards per carry to the opposition. So even though New England held him to a season low in yards, this could be a bounce-back game for Jacobs. I think this game could come down to turnovers. If the Bills can get a few, I think they should be able to cover in this game. But I think as long as the Raiders protect the ball, they should be right there and look to possibly deal Buffalo their first loss.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: The Bills (2-1 ATS) have gotten off to an undefeated start thanks to the stellar play of Allen. Buffalo just took down the Rams 35-32 as 1.5-point home favorites. Meanwhile, the Raiders (2-1 ATS) jumped out to a strong 2-0 start but then got humbled in Foxboro in Week 3, falling to the Patriots. This line opened with Buffalo listed as a 2.5-point road favorite. The public is circling the wagons with the streaking Bills, which has pushed this line up to the key number of 3. That’s when some sharp buyback hit the Raiders at 3, keeping the line where it stands now. Vegas has value as a home contrarian dog on a short spread. I’m waiting for Buffalo to slip up. This might be the spot. I’ll buy low on the Raiders and sell high on Buffalo. Give me Vegas +3 as a live home dog.
Our Pick: Not buying in on Buffalo, yet. Take Vegas and the points.
Last Week: 5-0, Season: 13-2
Editor’s note: Lines fluctuate throughout the week based on injuries, weather reports and other factors. Make sure to double-check odds before betting.
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