NFL Analysis: The Week 4 Undercard

TheSportsNotebook’s NFL analysis has already previewed the four national games of Week 4, starting Thursday night, running through the money game of late Sunday afternoon in Philadelphia-Denver, and then the prime-time games of New England-Atlanta and Miami-New Orleans. Here’s a look at the rest of the games, including picks based on the Las Vegas moneyline.

Chicago (+125) Detroit (-145): The only winning teams in the NFC North go head-to-head in Ford Field. The big question I have is whether the Lions can take care of the football well enough to win against a defense that’s notorious for its ballhawking skill. I like their chances, at least playing at home.

Dallas (-130) San Diego (+110): I like the feistiness the Chargers have shown, even though they only have one win to show for it. Dallas gets another opportunity to come off an impressive home win and sustain some consistency on the road. I’m not ready to bet on that and will take the Bolts.

Seattle (-145) Houston (+125): Houston hasn’t looked good yet this year, with narrow escapes over San Diego and Jacksonville and a lousy showing in Baltimore last week. They haven’t done anything to suggest the ability to beat red-hot Seattle. But this is the NFL and somewhere along the line we’re going to get a big-time effort from the Texans, who do have DeAndre Hopkins emerging as a threat alongside Andre Johnson. I’ll go with Houston to hand Seattle their first loss.

Pittsburgh (-150) Minnesota (+130): This game is being played in London. The fact we would send the Steelers and Vikings across the pond officially makes the United States even for the British burning the White House in the War of 1812. If anything, we’re piling on. In a game between two bad teams, I’ll fall back on the running game and take A.P. and the Vikes.

Baltimore (-155) Buffalo (+135): The health of the running backs is the main question, with Ray Rice and C. J. Spiller both on status uncertain, though Spiller looks more certain than Rice to be on the field. The status of the backs is a bigger question than the question of who will win the game. That will be Baltimore. If the Ravens lose this game, the question marks about them become real, and the Bills have to be taken seriously.

NY Giants (+165) Kansas City (-195): A matchup of an 0-3 team who shouldn’t be in this spot and a 3-0 team who shouldn’t be in this spot. It’s also the third straight week Kansas City plays the NFC East, as the NFL seems committed to making sure Andy Reid starts his Chiefs tenure on familiar terrain. I’m buying on the Chiefs, but I can’t just buy that the Giants are this bad. That’s why I’m taking New York. Again. For the fourth time.

NY Jets (+160) Tennessee (-185): The Jets are easily the least impressive 2-1 team in the league, coming off their 20-penalty atrocity over Buffalo, a game they actually won. And the victory over Tampa in Week 1 was less than inspiring. In the meantime, Jake Locker’s showing some progress for the Titans, they can run the ball with Chris Johnson and they’re playing some defense—at least well enough to defend the rookie Geno Smith.  Playing at home,  Tennessee is worth the price.

Washington (-175) Oakland (+155): Terrelle Pryor is listed as doubtful for this game, and the low opinion of the Raiders can be underscored by the fact that they are this big of a dog playing at home against an 0-3 team. The Redskins played reasonably well in defeat last week, RG3 looks continually stronger each week and they’ll get this win.

Cincinnati (-200) Cleveland (+170): As long as the Bengals put the emotional win over the Packers last week in the rearview mirror and get focused on the game at hand, Cincy will take care of business. I give the Browns great credit for winning in Minnesota last week, but I’m not buying on any Cleveland resurgence.

Indianapolis (-400) Jacksonville (+320): I’m surprised Indy is this cheap a favorite. Now (-400) is a big number in the  NFL, but consider that it’s down from the (-4500) number Seattle got when they played Jacksonville last week. I know the Colts are not the Seahawks, and this game will be in Jacksonville. But it’s tough to find a price good enough to justify a risk on the Jags right now.

Arizona (+110) Tampa Bay (-130): Tampa Bay has the look of a team coming apart at the seams, with Josh Freeman getting benched and head coach Greg Schiano turning to rookie Mike Glennon. It’s always tough for a West Coast team to come across the country, but you get (+110) for your trouble with the Cardinals.