Pudge’s Picks – Week 4 2014

Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

Teddy Bridgewater makes his first start on Sunday

This week did not get off to as strong a start as I was hoping, with my pick of the Washington Redskins getting thrashed on Thursday night against the New York Giants. Before it became official, I did a bit of waffling over whether to take the Redskins, but ultimately decided to stick to my initial gut feeling. I tend to believe in the K.I.S.S. principle when it comes to picking games. Hopefully, it won’t steer me wrong this week.

* All lines come from ESPN.

Atlanta Falcons (2-1) at Minnesota Vikings (1-2)
Sunday, September 28 at 4:25 pm ET on FOX

*Line:: Vikings (+3.5)

I appear to be in the minority when it comes to this matchup between the Falcons and Vikings in thinking that the Vikings have more than a fleeting chance of winning this game. I think that has a lot to do with the manner in which the Falcons rolled over the Buccaneers last week, and the fact that the Vikings have a number of notable players missing (Adrian Peterson and Kyle Rudolph immediately come to mind) and are starting a rookie quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater. But ultimately, I think all those things are a red herring to the real issue in this matchup: the Falcons offense vs. the Vikings defense. It’s reminiscent of the Falcons 2010 season-opener against the Steelers, where people were overly focused on Dennis Dixon at quarterback rather than the fact that the Steelers gameplan would center on their running game and defense.

This game will ultimately be a good litmus test to determine whether or not the Falcons are “for real” in terms of being a viable playoff contender, and whether the Falcons offense can carry this team even against good defenses. The Vikings have a good defense that has the ability to really stall the Falcons offense as they did a week ago against the Saints, and make this a winnable game for Bridgewater. Unlike Dixon in comparison to Ben Roethlisberger, Bridgewater is likely to be a major upgrade over Matt Cassel at quarterback, making the Vikings a far more formidable opponent than conventional wisdom suggests.

This game has all the makings of a trap game for the Falcons, and contrary to popular opinion, the Falcons have had a habit of falling into said traps over the years.

Spread Pick: Vikings
Straight Pick: Vikings

Buffalo Bills (2-1) at Houston Texans (2-1)
Sunday, September 28 at 1 pm ET on CBS

*Line:: Texans (-2.5)

This is a tough one seeing that the Bills finally came back down to Earth a bit last week, and the Texans showed some promise against the Giants. But Ryan Fitzpatrick had his classic Ryan Fitzpatrick game and just looked completely out of sync. Such that I fear the tide has turned against him and facing his former team won’t help matters. With Arian Foster being a game-time decision, that won’t help matters if the Texans have to rely on Alfred Blue against a formidable Bills front. But the fact that J.J. Watt might be matching up against Erik Pears up front does give the Texans somewhat of an advantage on that side of the ball. But in the end, I’ll go with the Bills, who have a lot less questions. Only against a team helmed by Fitzpatrick could the Bills possibly argue they have the advantage at quarterback with E.J. Manuel under center.

Spread Pick: Bills
Straight Pick: Bills

Green Bay Packers (1-2) at Chicago Bears (2-1)
Sunday, September 28 at 1 pm ET on FOX

*Line:: Bears (+0.5)

The healthy return of Bryan Bulaga, coupled with the fact that Julius Peppers will be lining up across from Jordan Mills means that the Packers should have the advantage. With Brandon Marshall missing the entire week of practice, things aren’t looking too promising for the Bears. Throw in some lingering question marks involving the Bears run defense and the fact that Eddie Lacy is due for a big game at some point, all signs point to the Packers. But I’ve yet to pick any of the Bears games correctly this year, which makes me cautious. But I won’t overthink this one.

Spread Pick: Packers
Straight Pick: Packers

Detroit Lions (2-1) at New York Jets (1-2)
Sunday, September 28 at 1 pm ET on FOX

*Line:: Jets (+1.5)

This is probably the point in the year where I need to start buying into the Lions defensive improvement. Their secondary has performed far better than expectations dictated. Throw in the fact that Calvin Johnson will have a chance to wreak havoc on a porous Jets secondary, it all points to the Lions having a good day. But call me stubborn, since Matt Stafford has not been particularly good the past two weeks and the fact that Johnson isn’t 100 percent, suggests the Jets have a chance at home if they can get stronger play from Geno Smith. This is likely to be the last week in regards to both these teams that I can afford to fly in the face of conventional wisdom and take the underdog Jets.

Spread Pick: Jets
Straight Pick: Jets

Tennessee Titans (1-2) at Indianapolis Colts (1-2)
Sunday, September 28 at 1 pm ET on CBS

*Line:: Colts (-7.5)

Reports are saying that Titans quarterback Jake Locker’s wrist injury may keep him out the lineup, meaning the Titans will have to turn to Charlie Whitehurst. Thus if the Titans have a chance it will come down to their running game controlling this contest. And given the Colts defensive struggles this year, that is a realistic possibility. But once again, it’s Andrew Luck at home, and it’s hard to bet against him there.

Spread Pick: Colts
Straight Pick: Colts

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Can Derek Carr pull off his first win in London?

Miami Dolphins (1-2) vs. Oakland Raiders (0-3)
Sunday, September 28 at 1 pm ET on CBS

*Line:: Raiders (+4.5)

I’m still trying to reconcile many of the advanced metrics suggesting the Dolphins have one of the best defenses in the league despite giving up a combined 63 points to the Bills and Chiefs the past two weeks. Given the horrific nature of the Raiders offense this year, this should be an easy win for the Dolphins. Perhaps my unequivocal dislike of the Dolphins is blinding me to the obvious truth, but the fact that the Raiders spent the entire week in London “acclimating” makes me optimistic this thing will be closer than most expect.

Spread Pick: Raiders
Straight Pick: Dolphins

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1)
Sunday, September 28 at 1 pm ET on FOX

*Line:: Steelers (-7.5)

With Gerald McCoy back in the lineup and Mike Glennon starting for the Bucs, I like their chances more than I probably should. Pittsburgh is by no means a great team. They had an impressive win against the Panthers last week thanks in large part to their success running the ball. But despite the Bucs struggles last week, I think they’ll rebound and play a much tougher, tighter game this week. Lovie Smith has had the success he’s had over the years for a reason, and thus there’s every reason to think the Bucs will be much improved this week. It’s just hard to trust the Steelers at this point.

Spread Pick: Buccaneers
Straight Pick: Steelers

Carolina Panthers (2-1) at Baltimore Ravens (2-1)
Sunday, September 28 at 1 pm ET on CBS

*Line:: Ravens (-3.5)

This undoubtedly will be a defensive-minded, low-scoring affair given the natures of both teams’ defenses. But I’m counting on Steve Smith to play especially angry in this game against his former team and tip things in Baltimore’s favor even though I have the sinking feeling that given Cam Newton’s struggles last week, he’ll be great this week.

Spread Pick: Ravens
Straight Pick: Ravens

Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

Will Blake Bortles be all smiles after Sunday?

Jacksonville Jaguars (0-3) at San Diego Chargers (2-1)
Sunday, September 28 at 4:05 pm ET on CBS

*Line:: Chargers (-13.5)

San Diego isn’t quite the offensive juggernaut that would normally put up a 40-burger on the Jaguars to make this cover easy. But at the same time, the Jaguars can’t be trusted to score more than 17 points in a game, meaning if the Chargers get beyond 30, they should be okay. But we revisit the old tried and true method of always picking against the Jaguars to cover until they prove that they can reliably keep things within single digits. But the presence of Blake Bortles in the lineup does make me a bit more apprehensive about completely writing off the Jaguars. But I’m just not prepared to venture out on the limb quite yet. Perhaps next week…

Spread Pick: Chargers
Straight Pick: Chargers

Philadelphia Eagles (3-0) at San Francisco 49ers (1-2)
Sunday, September 28 at 4:25 pm ET on FOX

*Line:: 49ers (-5.5)

The 49ers are struggling and perhaps facing a team like the Eagles is perfect for them. Mainly because the Eagles offensive line looks very rough and even though the 49ers pass rush isn’t quite as formidable as it once was, that should give them a decided defensive advantage. The 49ers desperately need this win, and I suspect they’ll get it.

Spread Pick: Eagles
Straight Pick: 49ers

New Orleans Saints (1-2) at Dallas Cowboys (2-1)
Sunday, September 28 at 8:30 pm ET on NBC

*Line:: Cowboys (+3.5)

This has all the makings of a shoot-out and anybody that knows anything about the Cowboys, is that in the end, you can never trust Tony Romo in a shoot-out. Ultimately, Romo is prone to making that game-swinging turnover or mistake that will turn the game against the Cowboys. The Saints are better than their record indicates, but one wonders if this is going to be another year like 2012, where they lose a lot of early games they have no business losing for various, flukey reasons.

Spread Pick: Saints
Straight Pick: Saints

New England Patriots (2-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-2)
Monday, September 29 at 8:30 pm ET on ESPN

*Line:: Chiefs (+3.5)

The Chiefs should be welcoming back Jamaal Charles this week, which should provide a boost for them. The Patriots simply have not played well at all this year, and are essentially only 2-1 because their defense has performed so well. Even against a struggling Chiefs team, there is something distasteful about picking a team as awful as the Patriots have been. And maybe I’m overly harsh on the Patriots because they were my preseason Super Bowl pick, and I’m especially disappointed, but they really need to get their offense in gear this week against an injury-depleted Chiefs defense.

Spread Pick: Chiefs
Straight Pick: Patriots

About the Author

Aaron Freeman
Founder of FalcFans.com