Mike Ivcic’s Week 4 NFL Preview and Free Picks

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Mike Ivcic’s Week 4 NFL Preview and Free Picks ]]> include($base_url . “/includes/header.htm”); ?>


By Mike Ivcic, UltimateCapper Contributing Writer


Arizona Cardinals @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sun, 1pm, FOX
Line: Buccaneers by 2.5
Ok, look, I get that my record against the spread doesn’t put me in the best position to question the oddsmakers, but Vegas needs to explain this line to me. How is it that an 0-3 team that’s scored a whopping 34 points in three games and has proven an inability to close out two close games and just benched their starting quarterback is favored over a 1-2 team that has a win over a projected NFC sleeper (Detroit) and actually put up a better fight on the road last week against an “elite” team (a 31-7 loss to New Orleans) than the other team did (a 23-3 loss to New England)? It doesn’t make any sense to me. Because of that, I’m sure the Bucs will probably win this game, but I can’t justify writing that in a preview intended for wide public dissemination. I just can’t.
Pick: Arizona 24, Tampa Bay 21

Baltimore Ravens @ Buffalo Bills
Sun, 1pm, CBS
Line: Ravens by 3
That shockwave you may have felt around 4 p.m. EST last week was the reverberation of the emphatic statement the Ravens were making in their 30-9 dismantling of Houston. Perhaps we were all a little quick to write off the defending champs after they lost their two inspiration defensive leaders, got smoked by Peyton Manning in primetime to open the year, then slept-walked through a 14-6 home win over Cleveland while celebrating their Super Bowl win one final time. Still, something says “letdown game” here. Buffalo has to feel like they should have won at the Meadowlands last week, while I’m still not totally convinced that one win is enough to put the Ravens back into the “legitimate challenger to Denver” category. In fact, avoiding the classic hangover in Buffalo would say a lot about the growth of this team from a maturity standpoint with the absence of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. I guess I’ll take the Ravens here, but I definitely wouldn’t blame you for picking Buffalo.
Pick: Baltimore 24, Buffalo 20

Chicago Bears @ Detroit Lions
Sun, 1pm, FOX
Line: Lions by 3
Here’s another line that confuses me. Yes, I know the Lions are home, but Chicago is 3-0, looks like a legitimate contender in the NFC, and typically plays very well early in the season. Meanwhile the Lions lost in Arizona and posted two wins over teams (Vikings and Redskins) that have a whopping zero wins. So why, again, is Detroit favored? I do like their offense and the defense certainly has the ability to shut down another team, but unlike Chicago the Lions can’t run the ball. At the end of the game, I think that will be a big factor in this game, which means this one is advantage Bears.
Pick: Chicago 27, Detroit 24

Cincinnati Bengals @ Cleveland Browns
Sun, 1pm, CBS


Indianapolis Colts @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Sun, 1pm, CBS

New York Giants @ Kansas City Chiefs
Sun, 1pm, FOX
Line: Chiefs by 4
It’s incredible to think just how bad the Giants were last week, in what was by all accounts a must-win game. It’s still hard to say that the playoffs are totally out of the question for Eli and Co. – that answer will come next week at home against the Eagles – but given the way the Chiefs handled the explosive Philadelphia offense last week and the extra time off from Thursday night, it’s hard to see New York going into one of the most difficult environments in the league and pulling off a victory after looking so bad against Carolina. I can’t believe I’m about to say that, but if I had to make an eliminator pick for this week, I would probably be taking the Chiefs.
Pick: Kansas City 30, New York 20

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Minnesota Vikings (London, England)
Sun, 1pm, CBS
Line: Steelers by 2.5
Someone has to win this game, right? Both of these 2012 playoff teams enter this game 0-3, which definitely isn’t what the NFL was expecting when they slated this game for Wembley Stadium. The Steelers have zero running game, which would, in theory, allow the Vikings defensive line the opportunity to tee off against Roethlisberger – except the Vikings defensive line has teed off on exactly no one so far this year. Still, the Minnesota offense has shown they can actually score points, and even with Matt Cassel starting over Christian Ponder, I think they’re able to score enough to pick up their first win of the year and send Pittsburgh fans screaming towards the Pirates and Penguins.
Pick: Minnesota 31, Pittsburgh 27

Seattle Seahawks @ Houston Texans
Sun, 1pm, FOX
Line: Seahawks by 2.5
I’m a little surprised that the Seahawks are favored in this game. I’m assuming this line is based upon two games – Seattle’s throttling of the Niners in week two, and the Texans no-show in Baltimore last Sunday. Two quick points to consider before betting this game, though. First, Seattle always wins at home. They destroyed San Fran last year too, along with 7 other teams that ventured to the Pacific Northwest, so let’s take that game out of the equation for a minute. Their other two wins are home to Jacksonville (please) and at Carolina in week one… by a score of 12-7! Are we sure this is the best team in football? Secondly, Houston has been one of the best four teams in the AFC each of the last two seasons and is widely expected to be the best threat to Denver this year. After one (albeit very) poor performance against the defending Super Bowl champions, are we suddenly thinking this team isn’t a legitimate threat in the AFC? Every team is allowed a bad game, and you can bet the Texans will be fired up to prove that last week was simply a poor performance and not a sign of more bad things to come. Maybe I’m crazy, but I’m taking Houston here.
Pick: Houston 32, Seattle 27


New York Jets @ Tennessee Titans
Sun, 4:05pm, CBS
Line: Titans by 3.5
The Jets have been a winning bet each of the first three weeks of the season, beating Tampa outright, covering the spread against New England, and overcoming 20 penalties last week to outpace Buffalo by more than the line. Now they head to another 2-1 teams that’s been slightly more impressive, and as a Jets fan I still just can’t, for the life of me, figure out how they actually have a winning record. Yes, the defense is good, and yes, Geno Smith has been solid for a rookie, but they’re not a good team. And so, I will continue to pick against them. If I’m right, my record gets better. If I’m wrong, the Jets are better. It’s a win-win!
Pick: Tennessee 17, New York 13

Dallas Cowboys @ San Diego Chargers
Sun, 4:25pm, FOX
Line: Chargers by 2.5
If you missed my Wednesday column “Fourth and Long,” I wrote that I plan on taking all four AFC West teams to beat their respective NFC East opponents this week. If I had to pick which game I feel least comfortable picking with that mindset, it would be this one. The Chargers are a flawed team that has played three close games to start the season, so there’s no reason to think this one will be any different. I think Dallas is actually the better team here, but I’m not backing down from my previous comment, so let’s go Bolts!
Pick: San Diego 28, Dallas 24

Philadelphia Eagles @ Denver Broncos
Sun, 4:25pm, FOX

Washington Redskins @ Oakland Raiders
Sun, 4:25pm, FOX

New England Patriots @ Atlanta Falcons
Sun, 8:30pm, NBC

Miami Dolphins @ New Orleans Saints
Mon, 8:30pm, ESPN
Line: Saints by 6.5
For one more week, I will defy conventional wisdom and pick against Miami, but this time I have legitimate reasons. One, they are one the road in a ridiculously difficult environment. Two, they have yet to face an offense that is as talented as the Saints. And three, they’re going to try to battle that environment and offense without their best defensive player in Cameron Wake. If Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins can win this game, I will pick them every single game for the rest of the season.
Pick: New Orleans 34, Miami 23

Straight-Up: 31-18
Against Spread: 23-24-2


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