NFL Week 4 Picks

Sunday Night Football is the best. It’s not always actually the best game of the week, but it’s the best game to be a part of. It’s the best time slot, on the best broadcast with the best broadcasters and the best theme song (though Thursday Night Football is right there) and the best open (which is most likely by default). The Giants get to play on Sunday Night Football this Sunday night in Philadelphia for the first of just two times this season and I’m ecstatic.

Giants-Eagles games are in a select group of regular season matchups for my teams that also includes Yankees-Red Sox, Giants-Cowboys, Rangers-Devils and Rangers-Flyers. Even though others would disagree I would also put Yankees-Mets in there even if the Mets aren’t good and it’s interleague play and I would put Rangers-Bruins in there too even if it’s just a New York-Boston thing and not a divisional thing. That means that in a normal year, this would be one of four marquee matchups for the Giants, but because of their relentless schedule, they will also play the 49ers, Steelers, Packers, Falcons and Ravens. (The Saints were part of that list three weeks ago.)

This will be the Giants’ fourth game of the season. So far they have played on Wednesday night, Sunday afternoon and Thursday night. They have had 11 full days off in between Weeks 1 and 2 and three full days off and Weeks 2 and 3, and they will have had 10 full days off between Weeks 3 and 4. There has been nothing routine or normal about their schedule to this point. After Sunday night they will have played two primetime games and they still have Sunday Night Football against the Packers in Week 12 after the bye week and then Monday Night Football in Washington in Week 13. But after Sunday night, the G-Men will play their next six games before their bye on Sunday at either 1:00 or 4:25, so things gets more routine. However, they don’t get any easier.

After the Giants play the Browns next week, seven of their 11 remaining games will be against 2011 playoff teams and the other four will be against the NFC East (Washington twice and Dallas and Philadelphia once). This game on Sunday night in Philadelphia in front of the most hostile of stadiums is important anyway, but it’s even more so because of what the Giants will endure over the following 13 weeks.

Week 4 … let’s go!

(Home team in caps)

BALTIMORE -12 over Cleveland
In night games on Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday and Monday, I’m now 4-6. That’s not good.

New England -4 over BUFFALO
The Patriots are 1-2. I thought “the Patriots never lose at home,” but they lost to the Cardinals at home and I thought “the Patriots never lose back-to-back games?” Oh, yeah those were the two theories that were debunked last year when the Giants beat them at home and when they lost back-to-back games to the Steelers and Giants. And then there was the theory that Gresh and Zo called me out for on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston saying that “the Patriots never lose to the same team twice in one season.” The Giants proved that theory wrong too.

In 2004, when I was a freshman in college, the Patriots would have won in Week 2 against the Cardinals and Week 3 against the Ravens. There’s no question in my mind. During the height of the Patriots dynasty they always won close games where they had a chance to seal the deal in the final minutes. It was as much of a guarantee as there is in professional sports. But we are far removed from the 2004 Patriots. Since their Super Bowl win over the Eagles, they have reached the postseason in six of seven years, but have lost in the divisional round to the Broncos, lost in the AFC Championship to the Colts, lost in the Super Bowl to the Giants, missed the playoffs with Tom Brady out for the year, lost in the wild-card round to the Ravens, lost in the divisional round to the Jets and lost in the Super Bowl to the Giants.

This year the Patriots were being penciled in for 13-14 wins all over the place thanks to another easy schedule because of the weak AFC East, but that’s no longer likely unless they find a way to go 13-0 or 12-1 the rest of the way.

As much as I desperately want the Patriots to fall to 1-3 leading into a week in which arguably the worst Red Sox season in franchise history comes to an end in the Bronx, I don’t think the Patriots are going do anything or than destroy the Bills this Sunday. Let’s hope I’m wrong.

DETROIT -4 over Minnesota
I don’t know what to make of the 1-2 Lion,s who lost to the Titans or the 1-2 Vikings, who beat the 49ers. It’s all very confusing, but that’s the way things are in the NFL in 2012. If Matthew Stafford plays I feel confident with this pick. If he doesn’t, I still feel confident since Shaun Hill has screwed me in the past, so he owes me one. Or two. Or 10.

ATLANTA -7 over Carolina
The Falcons are due for a letdown. Especially since they are one of only one of two remaining undefeated teams and because they’re the Falcons and that’s what they do. That letdown could very well come this week, but I’m not about to back the Panthers whose only win came against the winless Saints and who were just embarrassed 36-7 by the Giants. Not even the extra days to prepare could change my mind on a team whose quarterback threw three interceptions and then said, “It was nothing they did, it was all on us.”

San Francisco -4.5 over NEW YORK JETS
Rex Ryan isn’t ruling out Darrelle Revis’ return in the 2012 season in the event the Jets make the Super Bowl. I didn’t make that sentence up. He really said it.

“Let’s see what happens when he goes through surgery, because if there’s that 0.0002 percent chance that he can play in the Super Bowl, why would you take the option away from him?”

It’s obvious that Rex Ryan doesn’t live in real life with the rest of us and after a couple years of Super Bowl guarantees and the promise that he wouldn’t make outrageous claims anymore, I thought Rex was really over it. Shame on me for believing him. The idea of tossing a Jets’ Super Bowl reference into a press conference has just been waiting to slip out of his mouth since training camp and he finally got the opportunity to toss it out there and he did.

KANSAS CITY +1 over San Diego
The Chiefs gave up 75 points in the first two weeks and then needed overtime to beat the helpless and winless Saints. So why am I picking them here? The same reason that Joe Girardi keeps starting Andruw Jones against left-handed pitchers. For no reason of all of course!

HOUSTON -12 over Tennessee
12 points is a lot. And if the first three weeks and the Thursday game this week have taught us anything, it’s that it’s really hard to cover 12-point spreads in this league. But if there’s a team right now capable of covering 12, it’s the Texans. And if there’s a team capable of not covering 12, it’s the Titans.

ST. LOUIS +3 over Seattle
Here’s what I wrote last week about the Seahawks.

“I wanted to take Seattle last week at home against Dallas, and I didn’t, and I lost. I want to take Seattle this week against Green Bay, but I’m not going to.”

Now did I know that the refs were like gambling on the game and that’s why they let the Seahawks hang around with bad calls down the stretch before giving the game on the most controversial ruling since the Steelers-Chargers game in 2008? No, otherwise I would have went with my first instinct and picked the Seahawks. The Football Gods can’t be happy about what the replacements refs did to the sport last Monday night and because of it, picking for the Seahawks here is probably a terrible idea since Pete Carroll probably didn’t take time to plan for the Rams since he was too busy running around Qwest Field like he had just won the Super Bowl.

ARIZONA -5.5 over Miami
The Cardinals are going to lay an A.J. Burnett-like egg here at some point. It makes sense that it would come against the Dolphins in a league where the Saints are 0-3, the Packers and Patriots are 1-2 and the 49ers lose to the Vikings.

Oakland +7 over DENVER
Despite all this talk about how bad Peyton Manning’s velocity is, I still expect him to find it and for the Broncos to be in the postseason. But right now, I have to take the Raiders to cover in Denver. (I regret this pick with each word typed.)

Cincinnati -1 over JACKSONVILLE
This line feels a little low and therefore a little sketchy. Oh, well.

GREEN BAY PACKERS -7.5 over New Orleans
The Packers are 1-2. Aaron Rodgers has three touchdowns, two interceptions and 745 yards through three games. The Packers are averaging 19 points per game. Is this real life? If this is real life then Aaron Rodgers is about to return to MVP form following a game that was stolen from the Packers by the refs and put the Saints in an 0-4 hole and end their season before Oct. 1. Lambeau Field is the last place the Saints want to be on Sunday.

TAMPA BAY -2 over Washington
It’s the “Do I Really Have to Pick This Game of the Week?” It’s good to see the Redskins back in it after their impressive performance in Week 1. Or what we thought was an impressive performance when it was really just a win against a bad Saints team. Welcome back, Washington! It’s been a long two weeks thinking that you might be good this year.

NEW YORK GIANTS +2 over Philadelphia
The Eagles are vulnerable right now. They won in Cleveland by one point in the final seconds, won in Baltimore by one point in the final seconds and then lost in Arizona. Michael Vick has thrown for three touchdowns and six interceptions and there is talk that he might not be the starting quarterback for much longer.

The Giants were outscored 48-30 in the first six quarters this season. In the last six quarters they have outscored their opponents 64-17. Somehow, despite winning their second Super Bowl in four years they are still underrated and under the radar. The Eagles, on the other hand, are still getting respect around the league and from Vegas for accomplishing nothing.

Chicago +3.5 over DALLAS
The idea of Jay Cutler avoiding DeMarcus Ware on Monday Night Football scares me. The idea of Jay Cutler as a whole scares me, but I think this matchup is close enough that I have to take the points.

Last Week: 8-8-0
Season: 20-27-1