Just when you think you’re starting to get a grasp on the NFL landscape, the league reminds you that anything can happen. The Jacksonville Jaguars, who smoked the New England Patriots the previous week, couldn’t even beat the Tennessee Titans at home. The Minnesota Vikings, who nearly went into Lambeau Field and upset the Green Bay Packers, were crushed at home by the Buffalo Bills. And the Detroit Lions, who were 0-2 and were embarrassed at home in Week 1 by the New York Jets, easily handled the New England Patriots. Go figure. Let’s shift our focus to Week 4 and see what it has in store.
Minnesota Vikings @ Los Angeles Rams
Odds: Rams -6.5
The Vikings were thoroughly embarrassed by the Bills. They couldn’t do anything of note on offense and watched the Bills walk up and down the field on their defense. The Rams have looked like the best team in the NFL so far, scoring 33, 34 and 35 points in the first three weeks. We’ll see if the Vikings can bounce back but they’ll have to play significantly better this week.
Miami Dolphins @ New England Patriots
Odds: Patriots -7
The Dolphins are 3-0 and the Patriots are 1-2. Just as everyone predicted, right? This is a barometer for the Dolphins to find out if they’re for real. They’re expected to lose, but a win here puts them in the driver’s seat in the AFC East. Imagine a world where Miami has a three-game lead on the Patriots along with a head-to-head tiebreaker before September ends? The Patriots should be very sharp after back-to-back losses, so this feels like a tall order for Miami.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Atlanta Falcons
Odds: Falcons -5.5
The Falcons continue to lose key pieces off their defense. They’ve now lost three Pro Bowl-caliber players in Deion Jones, Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen. The good news is their offense is clicking, having scored 68 points in the last two weeks. They’ll have to rely on that unit far more than they expected as their defense simply won’t be able to maintain last year’s levels given the losses in talent.
San Francisco 49ers @ Los Angeles Chargers
Odds: Chargers -10.5
How quickly your fortunes can change. The 49ers were +4.5 in the look-ahead lines in this spot and were around +3000 to win the Super Bowl in the preseason. Now that quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is out for the season, the line has jumped to +10.5 and they’re expected to be among the biggest long shots to win the Super Bowl. Remember, they started last year 1-10 before Garoppolo took over and they mostly have the same roster.
Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Odds: Steelers -3
It’s very rare that a Ravens-Steelers showdown disappoints. Both teams are quite talented and should be in the playoff race but so far this season, the Steelers have mostly disappointed. As for the Ravens, one bad half in Cincinnati is what stands between them and 3-0.
The question here is how will they perform on the road, a place where they and Joe Flacco often seem to struggle? If this game were in Baltimore, they’d have a bigger edge – especially with the Steelers on a short week after playing Tampa Bay on Monday Night Football.