NFL Week 4 Picks

Rashad Jennings

Thursday is a gongshow. It’s Derek Jeter’s final home game ever at Yankee Stadium and the Giants are playing the Redskins in a must-win game to save their season, which means the DVR is already going to need to be ready for a Game 7-like performance. And that’s before I factor in my girlfriend trying to work Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal into the mix.

7:00: Derek Jeter’s final home game on YES
8:25: Grey’s Anatomy on ABC
8:30: Giants at Redskins on CBS
9:00: Scandal on ABC

Obviously we have a problem here. The final game at the Stadium for Number 2 and the Giants playing basically a playoff game in Week 4 should take precedence over the 11th season of Meredith Grey and whatever insane (actually insane) plot Olivia Pope is going to be a part of. However, I don’t know how to cook, or at least cook well, and my girlfriend is very good at it. As much fun as eating pizza sounds every night for the foreseeable future, I do want some actual nutrition in my diet, so I’m going to have to figure something out to make sure Meredith and Olivia make the cut.

It sucks having the Giants play on a short week in an important game just four days after their first win of the season. And it sucks even more that because of Jeter’s final game, I won’t get to enjoy the Giants (if you can really call watching Giants football “enjoyment”) for another 10 days when they play the Falcons. But it won’t suck if they win in Washington, improve to 2-2 with a 10-day break and get my picks started off with a win in Week 4.

(Home team in caps)

New York Giants +3.5 over WASHINGTON
The road team is 0-2 on Thursday Night Football this year. Last year the road team went 6-9 on Thursday Night Football. In other words, it’s really hard to play on Sunday and then have three fake days of practice and preparation and then travel and win a game. Luckily for the Giants, their trip to Washington isn’t that far and if they have to travel to somewhere that isn’t Philadelphia, Washington is a great second choice.

To non-Giants and Redskins fans, this game probably appears as a Thursday Night mess the way the Falcons-Buccaneers game was last week, but there is a lot at stake in this game. As I told my friend Ray, one team is going to enter a 10-day break at 2-2 with control of their season and other team is going to be 1-3 and will have unsuccessfully made it to October with playoff aspirations. Sure, the season will only be 25 percent over for the Giants and Redskins after Thursday night’s game, but look at the schedules for both teams and then tell me that 1-3 isn’t the same as calling them mathematically eliminated on Sept. 25.

After watching the latest edition of the Kirk Cousins experiment in Washington, I wish RGIII hadn’t dislocated his ankle and would be starting this game. Led by Cousins, the Redskins gave away a game in Philadelphia on Sunday and went punch for punch with the best offensive team in the NFC and now Cousins can either begin his campaign to unseat RGIII as the franchise quarterback in Washington or he can dig the Redskins’ hole a little deeper and make sure the Jay Gruden era continues the way the Mike Shanahan era ended.

This is a must-win game for both teams and with the Giants’ season on the line on Sept. 25, the Yankees having been eliminated from postseason contention on Wednesday and the Rangers not starting for another 14 days, I feel like Mitch’s co-worker in the copy room trying to join the fraternity in Old School: “You listen to me. I need this, OK?”

OAKLAND +4 over Miami
I want to believe in the Dolphins because a good Dolphins team means a better chance the Patriots or Jets don’t win the AFC East, but after beating the Patriots in Week 1, the Dolphins have scored 25 points over their last two games and Ryan Tannehill has been just blah. He hasn’t thrown for more than 241 yards in any of his three games and last week at home he completed just 48.8 percent of his passes in a loss to the Chiefs. He hasn’t progressed or showed signs of growing as a quarterback the way you would like a quarterback to start to in his third season.

Oddly enough, the Raiders, who haven’t won a game on the East Coast since 2009, have lost by five and seven points in their two road games against the Jets and Patriots. They have scored even less than the Dolphins (37 points in three games), but they have … well they have … umm … they … OK, fine I don’t have anything good to say about the Raiders or anything positive to try to justify picking them to cover. I guess they did make Tom Brady look as human as any team has in recent years and nearly brought the Patriots to overtime. Other than that, I have nothing. They’re really bad. Let’s move on before I switch this pick.

CHICAGO +1.5 over Green Bay
The Packers aren’t good. They’re just not. But because they have Aaron Rodgers, they are made to be better than they are and I’m sick and tired of hearing about Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Nothing is ever his fault. It’s either his offensive line’s fault or his receivers’ fault and of course it wasn’t his fault when the Packers put up seven points in a dome in Detroit last week.

So far this season, the Packers were routed in Seattle, needed to overcome a 21-0 deficit and survive a controversial timeout call to beat the Jets at home and had that seven-point performance against the Lions. Get out on the Packers while you still can.

Buffalo +3 over HOUSTON
For anyone who watched Ryan Fitzpatrick play quarterback for the Texans on Sunday, how the eff do the Texans have one win let alone two? I guess when he has Arian Foster to hand the ball off to like he did in Weeks 1 and 2 when he only attempted 22 and 19 passes respectively his job is a little easier than when he is asked to throw the ball 34 times like he did against the Giants, resulting in three interceptions.

It hasn’t even been three years since Fitzpatrick signed a six-year, $59 million contract with the Bills during the 2011 season when his stock was the highest and he was shifting power in fantasy leagues across the country, but it feels like that was 30 years ago with the way his career has gone since, bouncing around from Buffalo to Tennessee and now to Houston. With Houston playing Buffalo, Dallas, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh in their next four games, there’s a good chance Ryan Mallett becomes the quarterback of the Texans around Week 8.

INDIANAPOLIS -7.5 over Tennessee
The 2014 Colts are going to look back on the season and thank the Jaguars for propelling them to a great season in Week 3 by giving them their first win, building their confidence and getting back on track after two devastating losses to start the season. And after thanking the Jaguars, the Colts are going to thank the Titans for continuing the Colts’ surge and keeping them on track in Week 4.

Carolina +3.5 over BALTIMORE
After Roger Goodell’s press conference last Friday, I thought we would have to wait a long time for a worse press conference from a high-ranking major sports executive and even then we might never see one. But three days later, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti decided he would take a run at the title by holding his own press conference and just jumping right into questions in an attempt to rebut the ESPN Outside The Lines piece that ripped apart the Ravens’ handling of the Ray Rice situation and made them out to be liars. Luckily, on this site, I don’t have anyone who can suspend me for calling someone else a liar, so I will gladly call Bisciotti a liar because if you have ever asked anyone a question knowing as a fact they are lying well that’s exactly how Bisciotti acted on Monday.

Bisciotti didn’t come across as someone who started his own business out of his basement, eventually making him a billionaire, and he didn’t speak like someone who is worth a reported $1.5 billion. Bisciotti stuttered and mumbled and “umm’d” and “uhh’d” his way through a painful question-answering session in which he frequently told reporters that his answer to their question was “in the statement” referring to a nine-page statement handed out minutes before the press conference began. As an entrepreneur, who has obviously made great decisions and who could spend $50,000 a day for the next 50 years and still have $587.5 million left, why would you think it would be a good idea to hand out a lengthy statement full of answers minutes before beginning a press conference and then getting testy that people are asking questions that have been answered in the statement?

Detroit -2 over NEW YORK JETS
We are so, so, so, so, so close to hearing Michael Vick chants at MetLife Stadium and if the first half of this game gets away from the Jets, we could very well see the end of Geno Smith’s career as a starting quarterback. That might seem unfair considering he is only in his second season in the league, but Rex Ryan is coaching for his job in 2015 and his job is solely tied to wins and losses and if Geno can’t get him wins, he is going to turn to someone who might be able to.

Rex isn’t with the Jets to grow with Geno and build the franchise since Geno isn’t his quarterback and he isn’t John Idzik’s guy. He is leftover from the previous regime and Idzik has obviously wanted him gone and his own coach brought in since he arrived in New York. If the Jets have a losing season, Idzik will get that chance. If Rex plays Vick and Vick wins then Rex saves his job and creates a problem for Idzik since at 34, Vick isn’t the quarterback of the future for the Jets, and if Geno isn’t playing, he certainly isn’t the quarterback of the future either.

The Jets are on 1-yard line of having a five-alarm dilemma on their hands and if you watched the Bears’ receivers abuse the Jets’ secondary at will on Monday night then it looks like Calvin Johnson and company could be the ones to get Michael Vick more than one snap a game.

PITTSBURGH -7.5 over Tampa Bay
Everything I said about the Steelers last week was thrown out the window after they went into Carolina and embarrassed the Panthers on Sunday Night Football. But everything I said about the Buccaneers was correct.

The Tampa Bay bandwagon has been pulled out of service like the New York subway cars with bed bugs and after losing at home to a Rams team quarterbacked by Austin Davis, I think it’s been derailed for the season.

Maybe this is a trap pick since everyone will be on the Steelers already because they are a national team and then they will be on them extra because the Buccaneers gave up 56 points last week, but if it’s a trap, I’m falling for it.

SAN DIEGO -13.5 over Jacksonville
The Jaguars are 0-3 this year and have lost by 17, 31 and 27, so on average they lose by 25. Last season they went 4-12 and lost by an average of 18.5. So if you think the Jaguars are going to lose, which they are, then there’s a very good chance they lose by two touchdowns since 19 of their last 29 losses have come by at least 14 points and that’s before you factor in that they will be flying across the country to face a Chargers team that flew across the country and beat the 2-0 and emotionally-high Bills last week and knocked off the defending Super Bowl champions the week before. Good luck to every person who will be teasing this game and also selecting it in their elimination pool.

Philadelphia +5 over SAN FRANCISCO
Like, the Packers, the 49ers just aren’t that good. For the last three regular seasons you could have called them the best team in the NFL and no one would have really taken exception with it. But now the 49ers are no longer one of the league’s elite teams. They are a good team, and not a great team, even though I wish they would be a great team this week and beat up on the Eagles, it’s not going to happen.

MINNESOTA +3 over Atlanta
I’m rooting for the Vikings to win this game because my girlfriend is a Vikings fan and Sunday won’t be fun for me if I’m sitting next to her rooting against her team that was destroyed by Adrian Peterson’s personal choices. Maybe now that Teddy Bridgewater is playing, the Vikings will throw downfield, which is something Matt Cassel couldn’t do and has never been able to do. When you have Cordarrelle Patterson on your team, you should probably use him.

New Orleans -3 over DALLAS
This pick goes against everything I know and say about the Outside the Superdome Saints, but AT&T Stadium is basically a dome and the Saints have won their last two games there. I trust this pick as much as I trust the Outside the Superdome Saints, but I still trust them more than the Cowboys.

KANSAS CITY +3.5 over New England
Millions of dollars in elimination pools were saved when Derek Carr threw a game-ending interception against the Patriots and millions of dollars in teasers were lost when Tom Brady threw for only 234 yards, one touchdown and forced the Patriots to settle for three field goals against the Raiders. So far this season, the Patriots allowed 33 points to the scoring-challenged Dolphins in a loss, beat up on the Vikings immediately following Adrian Peterson’s suspension, which left the Vikings without a game plan and then had to hang on and have a rookie quarterback in his third career game make an ill-advised throw at the Patriots’ 12 in the final minute to win.

I have long waited for the Patriots to become just another team and even though they haven’t won a Super Bowl in what will be 10 years this season, they have still appeared in two over that time and made another three AFC Championship Games. But the dynasty is finally slowing down and coming to an end. Brady’s protection isn’t what it once was when he could stand like a statue for what seemed like a minute in the pocket, the team has failed to give him proven receivers even though the league has changed its rule to favor offense and overall, he looks like the quarterback who became a starter starting in 2001 and not the one who took over the game starting in 2007.

Last week: 9-7-0
Season: 21-27-0