Mike Ivcic’s Week 4 NFL Preview and Free Picks [2014]

By Mike Ivcic, UltimateCapper Contributing Writer

Sometimes it’s just better to be lucky than good. Last week I went with a relatively simple philosophy – either pick the underdog to win outright or pick the favorite to win and cover. Only twice (Seattle and Miami) did I pick the favorite to win by less than the spread, and both times I was burned – the Seahawks scored an overtime touchdown to cover the five points and Miami was manhandled by Kansas City. While my record would have been the same by simply following my philosophy straight across the board, I am still annoyed at myself that I wavered. So, this week… no more! This week you will not find any hedging as part of my column. Instead, I’ll look at every game and decide who I think will win, and then adjust the score accordingly. You’ve all been warned.

New York Giants @ Washington Redskins
Thu, 8:25pm, CBS/NFL
Line: Redskins by 3.5
I won’t spend too much time on Thursday night games, since the turnaround time is so short. About this game, let’s just say: one team is good coming off a tough division loss and is playing at home, the other team is bad coming off a win against a weak team and is playing on the road. The first option sounds so much better, doesn’t it?
Pick: Washington 30, New York 17

Buffalo Bills @ Houston Texans
Sun, 1pm, CBS
Line: Texans by 3
If the Bills believe they have a realistic shot at winning their division, this is a must-win game. Houston looked borderline awful against the Giants, and their 2-0 start is in jeopardy of being completely wiped away. I think the Texans come through with the win here, though, mostly because I still don’t think Buffalo is good enough – yet.
Pick: Houston 23, Buffalo 17

Carolina Panthers @ Baltimore Ravens
Sun, 1pm, CBS
Line: Ravens by 3.5
That loud commotion you heard was hundreds of people leaping off of the Panthers bandwagon. Their defense held for a while, but it just becomes far too difficult in today’s game to stop a team that many times in a row when your own offense is shooting itself in the foot. Cam Newton needs to play significantly better if Carolina expects a repeat playoff berth, and the last thing anyone wants in that situation is a road game in Baltimore.
Pick: Baltimore 24, Carolina 16

Detroit Lions @ New York Jets
Sun, 1pm, FOX
Line: Lions by 1.5
The winner of this game will be whichever team’s defense scores more points. After all, we know neither offense is going to do a whole heck of a lot in between disastrous turnovers in the red zone. Scarily enough, I actually think the jets are due to win this one.
Pick: New York 21, Detroit 19

Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears
Sun, 1pm, FOX
Line: Packers by 1.5
Umm… what? No.
Pick: Chicago 34, Green Bay 23

Miami Dolphins @ Oakland Raiders
Sun, 1pm, CBS
Line: Dolphins by 4
So a team that just got bludgeoned at home by the winless Chiefs now has to go on the road and play the winless Raiders – who very nearly beat the Patriots on the road last week. And Miami’s favored by four???

Where’s option “C” when you need it?
Pick: Miami 20, Oakland 13

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Sun, 1pm, FOX
Line: Steelers by 7.5
I was a bit miffed during the preseason that people thought Tampa would be a playoff team this year, but I was willing to concede that maybe I missed something in the offseason. After all, I don’t tend to get too caught up in the whole “free agent/draft” aspect of any sport, so it was quite possible I had missed some shrewd roster moves that would enable the Bucs to win what I saw as one of the most competitive divisions top to bottom in the NFL. Well… I didn’t. They’re a bad football team. I’m still not buying into Pittsburgh as a playoff team, either, but they’re significantly farther along in the process.
Pick: Pittsburgh 27, Tampa Bay 10

Tennessee Titans @ Indianapolis Colts
Sun, 1pm, CBS
Line: Colts by 7.5
The last time Indianapolis lost to Tennessee, Peyton Manning was on the sidelines in street clothes, Curtis Painter was taking snaps from center, and Andrew Luck was in Palo Alto. Albert Pujols was a St. Louis Cardinal, Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, LeBron James was still title-less, and no one knew what “twerking” was. The date was October 30, 2011, and I’m just going to venture a wild guess that come Monday, all of those facts mentioned above will still be true.
Pick: Indianapolis 35, Tennessee 16

Atlanta Falcons @ Minnesota Vikings
Sun, 4:25pm, FOX
Line: Falcons by 3
The Falcons won’t score 56 again, but they probably won’t need to in order to win. Teddy Bridgewater will probably be a very solid QB in this league, but I think Matty Ice and the Atlanta offense will be too much for his first career start.
Pick: Atlanta 34, Minnesota 20

Philadelphia Eagles @ San Francisco 49’ers
Sun, 4:25pm, FOX
Line: 49’ers by 5.5
This absolutely screams “Niners line.” There’s no reason that 1-2 San Francisco, who had a week one win gift-wrapped by Dallas and then looked very pedestrian against both Chicago and Arizona, should be favored at all against an Eagles team that has rallied from a double-digit deficit in each game this year. Thus, there must be something that’s pushing the line this way – but for the life of me, I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s desperation on San Fran’s part, or maybe it’s the Eagles finally running out of luck climbing out of big holes, or maybe it’s just a bad matchup. Whatever it is, remind me I wrote all this when Harbaugh’s crew wins by a touchdown, because I can’t pull this trigger.
Pick: Philadelphia 31, San Francisco 21

New Orleans Saints @ Dallas Cowboys
Sun, 8:30pm, NBC
Line: Saints by 3
I’m torn on this one. On one hand, the last thing I want is the Eagles to win the NFC East, and it would appear that the best chance of that not happening actually lies in the Lone Star State. On the other hand, I picked the Saints to win the entire NFC – and I just can’t go against my preseason pick in week four, especially when their 0-2 start left them very little margin for error.
Pick: New Orleans 38, Dallas 31

New England Patriots @ Kansas City Chiefs
Mon, 8:30pm, ESPN
Line: Patriots by 3.5
Is anyone else starting to think that maybe the Patriots just aren’t that good anymore? Sure, they might still win the division because it looks like none of the four AFC East teams are all that good, but perhaps the time has come to lower the Pats from the ranks of the NFL’s elite. This will be a very telling game for New England, since they’ve already lost at Miami and looked very impressive beating Oakland at home. This game will either re-establish the Chiefs as a possible playoff contender, re-establish the Patriots as a legitimate title threat, or leave us all wondering whether either team is really all that good.
Pick: New England 27, Kansas City 21

Last Week
Straight-Up: 11-5
vs. Spread: 11-5

Straight Up: 29-19
vs. Spread: 26-22