(9-6 against the spread this season)
By Danny Picard
BOSTON — In case you’re wondering, yes, Kirk Cousins’ red-zone interception with the game on the line last Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers is the reason I haven’t slept well all week.
I’m exaggerating, of course. But the sentiment is real. I should’ve known better than to bet on Cousins in a must-win game for his Minnesota Vikings. Because of my stupidity, I went 2-3 against the spread in Week 3.
Let’s be smarter in Week 4. Time for a bounce-back Sunday:
CINCINNATI BENGALS (-2.5) over Tennessee Titans
-Joe Burrow’s calf injury isn’t stopping me from jumping all over the 1-2 Bengals on Sunday in Tennessee. I realize that Cincinnati’s offense doesn’t look right, but how many times will Burrow be only a 2.5-point favorite over that stiff Ryan Tannehill? This is a no-brainer. Burrow is 2-0 in his career against the Titans, with three touchdowns and zero interceptions. Tannehill is 2-4 against the Bengals, with four touchdowns and four interceptions, while being sacked 15 times in those six games. Speaking of sacks, Tannehill has already been sacked 13 times in three games this season, which is the third most in the NFL. The 1-2 Titans are coming off a bad loss in Cleveland, while the Bengals are fresh off a much-needed win over the Rams at home on Monday Night Football. Burrow has thrown a touchdown in just one game this season, but he now goes up against a Tennessee pass defense that’s allowing 275 pass yards per game. So he should be able to find his groove with this matchup. Bengals win by a touchdown on the road.
BUFFALO BILLS (-3) over Miami Dolphins
-Only three teams in the NFL remain undefeated at 3-0. Miami is one of those teams. Buffalo is 2-1 and has won two straight after losing the season opener to the Jets. The only thing I needed to see this week was an ESPN.com headline that read, “Stephen A.: Josh Allen is slipping out of the elite QB tier.” Oh ok, Stephen A. What a horrible take. Allen’s start to the 2023 season hasn’t been perfect, but he certainly hasn’t slipped out of the NFL’s elite QB tier. Not even close. And for this matchup specifically, Allen owns the Dolphins, going 8-2 against Miami in his career, with 27 touchdowns, four rushing touchdowns, and just five interceptions. The Bills are 9-1 against the Dolphins in their last 10 games. This one is in Buffalo. And as obvious a pick as I’m making this sound, I’m willing to bet I’m in the very small minority of bettors who aren’t taking the electrifying Dolphins as an underdog. Tua Tagovailoa just put up 70 points against the Broncos, and his eight touchdown passes this season are the second most in the NFL. I told you a few weeks ago that the Dolphins are a problem this year. But if there’s a game they’re going to lose, this is it. Tua is 1-4 against Buffalo, and the Bills have a top-three defense with the most takeaways in the league so far. Allen leads the charge in a hard-fought win and cover for the Bills at home.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (+3.5) over New Orleans Saints
-This NFC South dogfight has the lowest scoring total of the week, at 39.5. So I love the points here, especially with Derek Carr most likely missing this game with a shoulder injury. Jameis Winston is expected to be the Saints’ quarterback in his place. I’ll take Baker Mayfield as an underdog over Winston any day of the week. Both teams are 2-1 and are each coming off a loss. Tampa Bay’s schedule has been a little more difficult though, having won in Minnesota, but losing to the Eagles at home this past Monday night. New Orleans has beaten Tennessee and Carolina, but lost in Green Bay last Sunday. Overall, this is a fairly even — and somewhat boring — matchup. Alvin Kamara’s return from a suspension could give the Saints the type of boost that might scare you away from this game altogether. But I expect it to still be close enough to where the half-point is huge, especially as I envision Winston throwing an idiotic interception with the game on the line. Even if the Saints win this one at home on Sunday afternoon, I don’t think they’ll win by more than a field goal. Give me Tampa Bay to cover at the Superdome.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (-5.5) over Las Vegas Raiders
-Justin Herbert and the 1-2 Chargers are trending in the right direction after a big win in Minnesota last Sunday. Herbert threw for 405 yards with three touchdowns, and completed 40 of his 47 pass attempts in the win. He ranks third in the NFL averaging 313 pass yards per game, and he has yet to throw an interception. So I expect Herbert to keep it rolling at home on Sunday against a Raiders defense that allows 26 points per game. Las Vegas is 1-2 and has lost two straight to Buffalo and Pittsburgh. Jimmy Garoppolo is banged up, so if for some reason he can’t play, expect veteran Brian Hoyer to make the start. But even if it is Garoppolo under center, I don’t know how you could feel comfortable betting on him here, with his six interceptions through the first three games. Herbert owns this matchup, as he’s thrown 14 touchdown passes and just one interception in six career games against the Raiders. Mike Williams tore his ACL last week, which is a serious blow to the Chargers’ offense, but there seems to be a chance that Austin Ekeler could return from his ankle injury. Either way, I’m taking the Chargers to win big in LA to get back to .500.
NEW YORK JETS (+9.5) over Kansas City Chiefs
-That’s right, I’m doing it. I’m taking the 1-2 Jets to cover at home against the 2-1 Chiefs on Sunday Night Football. Why, you ask? Well, because I don’t believe the Jets’ situation is as much of a disaster as everyone’s making it out to be. Is Zach Wilson a confident quarterback right now? Not at all. But please take a look at the bigger picture. The Jets have gone up against three of the league’s best defenses in the Bills, Cowboys, and Patriots. Dallas and Buffalo rank No. 2 and 3 in the NFL, in both pass defense and points per game. And Bill Belichick owns the Jets. Still, with all that and having lost Aaron Rodgers on the first offensive possession of the season, here’s New York at 1-2, having beaten the Bills with a dominant defensive performance of their own. The Chiefs enter MetLife on a two-game win streak, having beaten the Jaguars and Bears after losing to the Lions at home in Week 1. Not exactly a murder’s row of opponents for the defending Super Bowl champs. The Chiefs have plenty of swagger right now. Heck they even have Taylor Swift at their games, thanks to Travis Kelce. He’ll soon regret handing his life over to the paparazzi, but for now, he’s got a road game against a very tough defense. I’m not saying the Jets are going to shock the football world with a win. But I am telling you that their defense is more than capable of keeping it close enough at home for a cover.
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