Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Week 4: Picks and preview

Week 4 in the NFL arrives with seven undefeated teams, and the league's first serious brush with COVID-19, in the form of multiple positive tests in the Tennessee Titans' organization. The game will be rescheduled at a later date, due to two more positive tests with the Titans; one player, and one member of team personnel. Beyond that situation, there are other major storylines. The Chiefs asserted themselves as the league's best team, Aaron Rodgers' torrid start continued, Russell Wilson set records, and Drew Brees looked every bit his age. Plus, Matt Patricia might have saved his job with a last-second win, and Carson Wentz and Doug Pederson are searching for answers after a humiliating tie with Cincinnati. There are also several 2-1 teams looking to make statements this week, with New England and Cleveland in particular having golden opportunities to put the rest of the league on notice.

Weekly point spreads are from BetOnline.ag, and are current as of 11 a.m. ET Thursday.

NOTE: Pick with spread is in bold. 

Last Week: 9-7     Season: 24-23-1

 
1 of 15

DENVER (0-3) AT NY JETS (0-3) (Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET)

DENVER (0-3) AT NY JETS (0-3) (Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET)
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

TV: NFL NETWORK        Line: New York -1


What you need to know:  Frankly, this whole thing seems like a cruel joke for football fans. Denver signed Blake Bortles but won't start him tonight, which is a shame, because there's a chance he's the best quarterback on either roster at this point. Brett Rypien will instead get the start for Denver, primarily on the strength of his 8-for-9 performance in relief of Jeff Driskel last week against Tampa Bay. It won't matter who is under center if the Broncos don't protect better; they've allowed 13 sacks in their last two games, a number that is good for the second-most allowed all season. The Jets are an absolute train wreck. Adam Gase continues to sputter and flail, and Sam Darnold's performances have been one part spectacular throws, 10 parts awful decisions and general poor play. The Jets have no playmakers, and are dead last in the NFL in both points and yards per game. Other than that, everything is great. 

On the spot: Broncos QB Brett Rypien . Denver seems to like Rypien's quick decision-making and ability to get the ball out quickly as a result. This is his chance to impress a team that pretty clearly has nothing going for them. 

Jets WR Braxton Berrios Jamison Crowder is listed as questionable, so Berrios, who leads New York with two receiving touchdowns, will have to pick up even more slack if Crowder can't go.  

The Pick: Broncos 6 Jets 3

 
2 of 15

INDIANAPOLIS (2-1) AT CHICAGO (3-0) (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

INDIANAPOLIS (2-1) AT CHICAGO (3-0) (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

TV: CBS        Line: Indianapolis -2


What you need to know:  The Colts did what a presumptive contender should do to the Jets, obliterating them with a workmanlike, opportunistic performance. Indianapolis' defense accounted for two touchdowns and a safety, and harassed Sam Darnold into a terrible game, one that saw him throw two pick-sixes. The task will be different this week, and likely tougher, as Nick Foles should at the very least have a grace period where the Bears play well around him, and he is able to exploit defenses who haven't seen much of him. Foles taking over for Mitchell Trubisky is a move that felt inevitable the minute Trubisky was named the starter. That uncertainty at quarterback is appropriate for the Bears, who are the rare 3-0 team with more questions than answers. Chicago isn't as good as its record, but a win over the Colts would put them at 4-0 and provide evidence that perhaps they've stumbled upon something with Foles.

On the spot: Colts QB Philip Rivers . Indianapolis is the more balanced team, but Chicago could surprise them if Rivers gets careless with the football. It's incumbent on him to not press against the Bears' defense, and let the game come to him. 

Bears WR Allen RobinsonRobinson and Trubisky were able to make some plays before Foles took over, but Robinson didn't find the end zone until Foles was the one throwing him the ball. He needs to build off his strong game against Atlanta if Chicago is going to win.

The Pick: Bears 23 Colts 14

 
3 of 15

JACKSONVILLE (1-2) AT CINCINNATI (0-2-1) (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

JACKSONVILLE (1-2) AT CINCINNATI (0-2-1) (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

TV: CBS        Line: Cincinnati -3


What you need to know:  Jacksonville is trending downwards; Week 1 brought a surprise win over Indianapolis, Week 2 a close loss to the Titans, and Week 3 a rout at the hands of the previously winless Dolphins. D.J. Chark's offense was a massive hindrance to Jacksonville's offense, which is a bad sign for Gardner Minshew. The best quarterbacks elevate their receivers, not the other way around. It's clear that the Jaguars have a tough time doing anything without their top receiver. Joe Burrow took some vicious hits against the Eagles, but hung tough and made enough plays to forge a tie after Philadelphia turned tail and ran in overtime, instead of trying for the win. Early returns on Burrow are positive; he looks the part, is capable of making big throws, and appears to have plenty of toughness, both mental and physical, required for the position. What he doesn't have yet is a win, but that could change this week. 

On the spot: Jaguars LB Myles Jack . Jack is going to be tasked with trying to contain Burrow if he breaks the pocket and scrambles, and with trying to help neutralize Cincinnati's short passing game. If he has a tough day, Jacksonville's defense will be vulnerable. 

Bengals HC Zac TaylorI'm sure Taylor is thrilled to have Burrow around, but he can't keep having him drop back to throw 45-55 times every game. Cincinnati, both for the short and long term, needs to find some offensive balance. 

The Pick: Jaguars 27 Bengals 20

 
4 of 15

CLEVELAND (2-1) AT DALLAS (1-2) (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

CLEVELAND (2-1) AT DALLAS (1-2) (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

TV: FOX        Line: Dallas -4.5


What you need to know:  Don't look now, but Cleveland is 2-1 and over .500 for the first time since 2014, which is equal parts stunning and profoundly sad (for Browns fans). Cleveland appears more than willing to take the ball out of Baker Mayfield's hands more often and use their dynamic running game to keep him in advantageous situations. That's called "good coaching," which is something that Cleveland fans probably aren't too familiar with. The Cowboys fell just short against Seattle, and while there's no shame in having 38 points put on your team by Russell Wilson, the game still represented another test that the Cowboys failed to pass. With a win, however, Dallas will be at worst tied for first in the NFC East, a division so profoundly mediocre that it's impossible not to gawk at how flawed every team is. The Cowboys, by the way, have been truly terrible on defense this year, particularly against the pass.

On the spot: Browns QB Baker Mayfield. Mayfield hasn't had to try and do it all himself this season, and so far it's working out for he and the Browns. The million dollar question concerns whether or not Mayfield will continue to be happy in a more conservative scheme.

Cowboys CB Trevon Diggs Diggs had a big matchup with D.K. Metcalf last week, and though Odell Beckham Jr. isn't nearly as big as Metcalf, he's a much more polished target, who should present a massive challenge for the young corner. 

The Pick: Cowboys 35 Browns 27

 
5 of 15

NEW ORLEANS (1-2) AT DETROIT (1-2) (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

NEW ORLEANS (1-2) AT DETROIT (1-2) (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

TV: FOX        Line: New Orleans -4


What you need to know:  Is Drew Brees nearing the end? The Saints quarterback has been utterly unable to challenge teams down the field; his average intended air yards per pass, per NFL Next Gen Stats, is 4.8, lowest in the league by over a full yard. Throwing short as a strategy is one thing, and Brees' exceptional accuracy makes it a shrewd plan for the Saints, but if he can't take any deep shots whatsoever, New Orleans' offense will struggle as a result, and the short passes will become much more difficult. The Lions squeaked out a win over the Cardinals, intercepting Kyler Murray three times in the process. That probably turned down the heat on Matt Patricia at least somewhat, but Detroit's defense will have a much different kind of challenge to deal with this week. With Brees loving to throw short and Alvin Kamara so lethal in the open field, the Lions' fundamentals and tackling will be severely tested.

On the spot: Saints QB Drew Brees. It's the question everyone wants an answer to: "Is Drew Brees' arm shot?" The best way for Brees to refute that notion is to simply come out firing and challenge a defense relying at youth in a variety of spots on the roster. 

Lions WR Kenny GolladaySomething tells me this game is going to be a shootout, and in that setting, a player as explosive as Golladay can make the difference between winning and losing. Golladay grabbed a touchdown and 57 yards on six catches last week, in what was his season debut.

The Pick: Saints 30 Lions 24

 
6 of 15

SEATTLE (3-0) AT MIAMI (1-2) (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

SEATTLE (3-0) AT MIAMI (1-2) (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

TV: FOX        Line: Seattle -6.5


What you need to know:  Russell Wilson is on fire. Wilson set two NFL records thanks to his performance against the Cowboys; he surpassed Patrick Mahomes for the most touchdown passes through the first three weeks of a season, 14 to 13, and became the first player in league history to throw four or more touchdowns in each of the first three games of a season. He (along with receivers Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf) is the only reason the Seahawks, who are atrocious at defending the pass and rushing the passer, are 3-0. Miami looked good in dismantling Jacksonville on a short week, and despite the seeming mismatch on paper, the Dolphins might be equipped to make this game interesting. Ryan Fitzpatrick is usually good for one or two explosive games every season, he's mobile, and should be able to put up points against Seattle. Whether he can match Wilson score for score, however, is another matter altogether.

On the spot: Seahawks CB Shaquill Griffin . Griffin has given up a 131.2 passer rating when targeted this season, and has allowed 75.9% of passes thrown his way to be completed, both numbers career worsts. Fitzpatrick will likely target him early and often.

Dolphins CB Xavien HowardWho will Howard cover, Metcalf or Lockett? Both present different, but equally daunting challenges, and Miami's hopes of an upset rest on whether or not Howard is up to the task, particularly with Byron Jones' status in question.

The Pick: Seahawks 31 Dolphins 23

 
7 of 15

LA CHARGERS (1-2) AT TAMPA BAY (2-1) (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

LA CHARGERS (1-2) AT TAMPA BAY (2-1) (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

TV: CBS        Line: Tampa Bay -7


What you need to know:  Justin Herbert put up big individual stats for the second straight game against Carolina, but turned the ball over twice and didn't necessarily play a particularly good game. Herbert also attempted 49 passes, and if Anthony Lynn wants to ease him into being the starter, he might want to try to commit to a bit more of a running attack, if for no other reason than to minimize the number of chances for Herbert to get hit. Tampa Bay appears to have righted themselves after a shaky opening game against New Orleans; the Buccaneers have won comfortably their last two times out, and while Tom Brady's play has been roughly league average, the team around him is playing well. Tampa's defense, in particular, has been just as stout against the run this season as it was last year, so far ranking second in yards allowed per attempt, at a paltry 2.9.

On the spot: Chargers RB Austin Ekeler . No one player on Los Angeles' offense can help Herbert more than Ekeler, a do-it-all threat who is equally adept at making plays in the run and pass game. Involving him early, often and in creative ways is a must for the Chargers.

Buccaneers S Antoine Winfield Jr:  Winfield has already proven himself a dangerous defensive weapon, with two sacks and a forced fumble in three games. He is also tied for the team lead with three quarterback hits, and could be a major headache for Herbert.

The Pick: Buccaneers 30 Chargers 20

 
8 of 15

BALTIMORE (2-1) AT WASHINGTON (1-2) (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

BALTIMORE (2-1) AT WASHINGTON (1-2) (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

TV: CBS        Line: Baltimore -13


What you need to know:  The Ravens are licking their wounds after being soundly beaten by Kansas City, and what was perplexing about their performance was how timid it was. Baltimore chose to kick a field goal early rather than go for it on fourth-and-three, and abandoned their running attack once they fell behind, despite there being plenty of time left in the game. The Ravens' issues at wide receiver were once again laid bare, and Washington, even without Chase Young, has the kind of attacking front four that could make Lamar Jackson's life difficult. As mentioned, Washington will likely be without Young, who is nursing a groin injury, for this game. Their defense is talented, but he's the type of player whose presence, or lack thereof, is transformative. Speaking of transformations, Washington could really benefit from Dwayne Haskins turning into a dynamic NFL quarterback. He's still sputtered along, and has not yet shown himself capable of the consistently dynamic play required of the league's best passers.

On the spot: Ravens TE Mark Andrews . Andrews disappeared, as did most of the Ravens, against Kansas City. He is Baltimore's most consistent receiving threat, and must be better.

Washington WR Steven Sims:  After Terry McLaurin, Washington has no consistent threats out wide. Sims hasn't been utilized much, and is battling a toe injury, but if he can go, Washington must try to look for him more often.

The Pick: Ravens 34  Washington Football Team 14

 
9 of 15

ARIZONA (2-1) AT CAROLINA (1-2) (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

ARIZONA (2-1) AT CAROLINA (1-2) (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
Michael Chow via Imagn Content Services, LLC

TV: FOX        Line: Arizona -3.5


What you need to know:  The Kyler Murray Show finally had a bumpy episode, as his three-interception performance was the main reason the team fell to the previously winless Lions. Murray's propensity for pyrotechnics is what makes him special, but the Detroit game was an object lesson in just how thin his and any other quarterback's margin for error is. Murray should be able to find DeAndre Hopkins with regularity against a middling Panthers pass defense, but he could really go wild against their run defense, through three weeks one of the league's worst. The Panthers managed to grind out a win over the Chargers despite not having the services of Christian McCaffrey. Mike Davis acquitted himself well enough, with 46 yards rushing and 45 receiving, posing two total touchdowns in the process. The Panthers will likely need more than 21 points this week, however, if they want to get a second straight win.

On the spot: Cardinals RB Kenyan Drake . Carolina's rush defense is bad; the Panthers are giving up 4.9 yards per attempt, 24th in the league. Some big runs from Drake could help alleviate the pressure on Murray, and make his life easier.

Panthers WR D.J. Moore:  Robby Anderson has been more reliable, but Moore has been a feast or famine player. His 17.1 yards per reception is by far the best on the Panthers, and he'll need to have a big game in what is shaping up to be a shootout. 

The Pick: Cardinals 28 Panthers 21

 
10 of 15

MINNESOTA (0-3) AT HOUSTON (0-3) (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

MINNESOTA (0-3) AT HOUSTON (0-3) (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

TV: FOX        Line: Houston -4.5


What you need to know:  The Vikings managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory against Tennessee, blowing a big lead and becoming the first team in league history to have a 175-yard rusher and receiver in the same game. That they managed to lose the game is even more amazing in light of that fact. If Mike Zimmer wants to play the blame game for his team's 31st-ranked scoring defense, he might want to look at his son, Adam, whose first season as co-defensive coordinator has been a disaster. Houston looked superb for the first 30 minutes against the Steelers, but when Pittsburgh dropped into a zone and rushed four against Deshaun Watson, the Texans couldn't make them pay. Getting more consistent rushing from David Johnson and better work from a so-far spotty offensive line would go a long way towards helping the cause.

On the spot: Vikings DE Ifeadi Odenigbo . Odenigbo is part of the problem on a defense that has just four sacks through three games, two of which belong to Yannick Ngakoue. Odenigbo had seven sacks last year, but needs to find his game this season.

Texans LB Whitney Mercilus Mercilus has yet to record a sack through three games this season, and the Texans have struggled defensively. J.J. Watt doesn't seem 100 percent, so Mercilus having a big game could help the league's 29th-ranked scoring defense.

The Pick: Vikings 30 Texans 27

 
11 of 15

NY GIANTS (0-3) AT LA RAMS (2-1) (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)

NY GIANTS (0-3) AT LA RAMS (2-1) (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

TV: FOX        Line: Los Angeles -13


What you need to know:  If any team turned in a truly embarrassing performance last week, it was the Giants, who played a severely undermanned 49ers team and got waxed, 36-9. The Giants did nothing well offensively, and their pass defense got shredded by San Francisco backup Nick Mullens. The task gets no easier this week, as the Rams are much healthier, and have the best defensive player on earth licking his chops at the prospect of going up against a very spotty offensive line. Los Angeles showed real character in rallying from a 28-3 deficit to take a late lead against Buffalo before Josh Allen rallied the Bills to a win. Jared Goff was sharp and Darrell Henderson piled up 114 yards on 20 carries, and for the most part, once the Rams got rolling, Buffalo had no answers for them. Good news for Los Angeles; the Giants are not the Bills.

On the spot: Giants HC Joe Judge . It's already shaping up to be a lost season in the swamps of New Jersey, so Judge will have to show that he can navigate choppy waters, keep his team together, and perhaps pull some surprise wins, all without his best player.

Rams TE Tyler HigbeeHigbee might be Los Angeles' new secret weapon, though he never was exactly a secret. Despite getting less attention than the Rams' bigger names, he's caught 10 of 11 targets this year, and has three touchdowns.

The Pick: Rams 34 Giants 16

 
12 of 15

NEW ENGLAND (2-1) AT KANSAS CITY (3-0) (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)

NEW ENGLAND (2-1) AT KANSAS CITY (3-0) (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)
Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

TV: CBS        Line: Kansas City -7


What you need to know:  Bill Belichick and New England have to be feeling good about themselves through three games. While they aren't unbeaten, it is very clear that they have something great with Cam Newton at quarterback, and if the defense makes its typical in-season strides under Belichick, the Patriots will be a force again in the AFC, and could be the team most primed to take down the Chiefs. They'll get their first crack at it, with Kansas City no doubt being motivated to send a message of its own. The Chiefs haven't put together four quarters of great football yet, but they're still 3-0 and were in total command in two of their three games. That should be scary for opponents, as should the ease with which Patrick Mahomes dismantled the Ravens. What was supposed to be a high-stakes showdown turned into a sandlot exhibition, with Mahomes laughing as he took apart Baltimore's defense.

On the spot: Patriots RB Rex Burkhead . The Pats will no doubt try to eat clock against Kansas City, and limit the number of possessions Mahomes gets, and Burkhead is the kind of grinding runner who specializes in that department. 

Chiefs WR Mecole Hardman Everyone who's watched the Patriots knows Belichick likes to take away his opponent's best option, which means that Tyreek Hill, or Travis Kelce, or Clyde Edwards-Helaire will be his target. That should free up Hardman to have a huge game.

The Pick: Chiefs 28 Patriots 24

 
13 of 15

BUFFALO (3-0) AT LAS VEGAS (2-1) (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)

BUFFALO (3-0) AT LAS VEGAS (2-1) (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)
JAMIE GERMANO/ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT AND CHRONICLE via Imagn Content Services, LLC

TV: CBS        Line: Buffalo -3


What you need to know:  The Bills looked like world-beaters against the Rams, until they started just looking beaten. An important step in Josh Allen's evolution was that he was able to shake off the doldrums and rally Buffalo to a win, in what otherwise would have been a crushing defeat. One note about the Bills' 3-0 start; while Allen's play is understandably drawing headlines, Buffalo's normally stout defense has been pedestrian, at best. Allen playing well coupled with a defense that gets back to last year's level would make the Bills a  legitimate threat to Kansas City. Las Vegas found out the hard way that they still have a ways to go to be considered a serious AFC contender. Their defense has been a major weakness all year, and the offense couldn't match New England. They have a chance to make amends in this game, but it is going to take a major effort from Derek Carr and the offense.

On the spot: Bills DL A.J. Epenesa . Epenesa saw his playing time jump to 24 defensive snaps against the Rams, and he had a sack and two quarterback hits. Can the second-rounder from Iowa be the spark Buffalo's defense needs?

Raiders WR Hunter Renfrow Henry Ruggs III is out for this game, and Darren Waller is questionable. Josh Jacobs is banged up as well. Renfrow is a reliable possession target; can he be something more this week?

The Pick: Raiders 27 Bills 26

 
14 of 15

PHILADELPHIA (0-2-1) AT SAN FRANCISCO (2-1) (Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET)

PHILADELPHIA (0-2-1) AT SAN FRANCISCO (2-1) (Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET)
Danielle Parhizkaran/NorthJersey.com via Imagn Content Services, LLC

TV: NBC        Line: San Francisco -7


What you need to know:  The Eagles are a total mess. Doug Pederson seems to have lost all confidence in Carson Wentz, despite saying that Wentz is still very much his starting quarterback, and the team's 0-2-1 start featured a humiliating low point when they punted to settle for a tie against lowly Cincinnati. Wentz has been inaccurate and though he has been making correct decisions, is not physically doing what he needs to do. That's troubling, given that his physical skills were one of the major reasons he was the second overall pick in 2016. The 49ers showed plenty of guts and resiliency, overcoming numerous injuries to hammer the Giants in one of Week 3's most impressive showings. Nick Mullens was plenty good enough in relief of Jimmy Garoppolo, and though on paper the Eagles are better than the Giants, and have a better pass rush, there is little reason to think that Mullens won't play well for San Francisco for the second straight week.

On the spot: Eagles QB Carson Wentz . Wentz's struggles are getting painful at this point, as Eagles fans are clamoring for Jalen Hurts and lamenting the fact that Nick Foles is no longer around. Wentz needs a great game, and fast.

49ers RB Jerick McKinnonMcKinnon will once again be counted upon to shoulder the load against the Eagles, and as long as he can continue to give the 49ers balance against a strong Philadelphia run defense, San Francisco will be in good shape.

The Pick: 49ers 23 Eagles 20

 
15 of 15

ATLANTA (0-3) AT GREEN BAY (3-0) (Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET)

ATLANTA (0-3) AT GREEN BAY (3-0) (Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET)
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

TV: ESPN        Line: Green Bay -7.5


What you need to know:  Can this be over yet for Dan Quinn? Seriously. It's getting uncomfortable to watch the Falcons, at this point. They could jump out to a big lead in this game and no one would believe for a second in their ability to actually close the deal. The Falcons are sixth in the league in scoring, but dead last in points allowed, and their task gets even tougher this week, with Aaron Rodgers rampaging through the NFL over the first three weeks. Atlanta's only chance to win is a shootout, but even that seems unlikely to work. Rodgers, for his part, has turned back the clock, and his work against the Saints was his best yet this season, as he tortured New Orleans' defense despite not having Davante Adams at his disposal. Rodgers looks like a man on a mission, and even without Adams again this week, he and the Packers will likely find a way to put up a huge point total.

On the spot: Falcons RB Todd Gurley . Atlanta's defense can't be counted on to do anything good, so their best chance to try and keep the Packers at bay is to possess the ball. That would take steady, consistent running by Gurley, who has so far been solid, if unspectacular, on the ground this year.

Packers RB Aaron JonesJones has turned into a touchdown machine, and one of the league's best backs. He's still averaging over six yards per carry, has a team-leading five touchdowns, and is the perfect running-game complement to Rodgers' aerial brilliance. 

The Pick: Packers 40 Falcons 24

Chris Mueller is the co-host of The PM Team with Poni & Mueller on Pittsburgh's 93.7 The Fan, Monday-Friday from 2-6 p.m. ET. Owner of a dog with a Napoleon complex, consumer of beer, cooker of chili, closet Cleveland Browns fan. On Twitter at @ChrisMuellerPGH – please laugh.

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