- Winless Houston and Arizona teams eye winnable matchups against the Colts and Seahawks, respectively, while the Falcons and Chargers look to cover as sizeable favorites.
Week 3 in the NFL saw a slew of major upsets take place, including the largest, Bills +17 over the Vikings, in 23 years. So what does Week 4 have in store? Let's check in with our betting experts.
Cincinnati Bengals at Atlanta Falcons (-5.5)
Sun. 9/30, 1:00 p.m. ET
Pick: Atlanta -5.5
While only Kansas City has turned the ball over less than the two times Atlanta has over this season, no NFL quarterback has thrown more interceptions than the five Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton has racked up through Sunday—and all but one of those interceptions came in this past Sunday’s 31-21 loss to the Panthers. With the Falcons coming off a clean game against New Orleans, one in which they didn’t turn the ball over during a 43-37 overtime loss, the following betting system is in play: Home favorites of between 3.5 and 10 points are 24-5 against the spread since the start of the 2009 season when a) coming off a game with no turnovers and b) facing an opponent coming off a game with a turnover margin of -3 or worse. The average point differential over those 29 games has been 13.9 despite the fact that the average point spread has been 6.6.
It’s possible that neither of Cincinnati’s two best offensive players will be at full strength against Atlanta: Running back Joe Mixon missed the Carolina game after undergoing minor knee surgery and wideout A.J. Green left the game against the Panthers in the third quarter with a groin injury. Regardless, this shapes up to be a far easier matchup for the Falcons defense than it faced in the Saints, and Atlanta is 6-1 against the spread (7-0 straight up) since the start of 2016 when coming off a game in which it allowed 30 or more points. The Bengals, meanwhile, are 0-6 against the spread on the road since the start of the 2016 when facing an opponent that’s averaging at least 5.65 yards per play, and they’ve been outscored by an average margin of more than 12.5 points over those six games. — Scott Gramling
Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts (-1.5)
Sun. 9/30, 1:00 p.m. ET
Pick: Houston +1.5
The Colts played the Eagles tightly last weekend, ultimately losing 20-16 on the road in Carson Wentz's long-awaited return to action. But a look at the box score reveals a game that should not have been so close: Indy mustered a mere 209 total yards, 33 of which came on an Andrew Luck scramble and 35 more of which came against a prevent defense on the game's final drive. "Noodle-armed" has become an unfortunately common descriptor for Luck, who appears to still be suffering the effects of a shoulder injury that kept him sidelined all of last season. He's averaging only 5.3 yards per attempt—his full-season career low is 6.4—and the Colts subbed him out for Jacoby Brissett to attempt a Hail Mary at the end of the game. His arm strength simply is not there.
The Colts will see their first AFC South opponent of the season this Sunday when Houston comes to town. The Texans are 0-3, but all three of those losses have been one-score games. Like Luck, Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson is playing his way back into form from a serious injury. Unlike Luck, he seems to be making actual progress—he had his best game of the year last Sunday, throwing for 385 yards against a stiff Giants pass defense. With a quarterback mismatch this significant, it's an easy call to take Houston as an underdog. — Sam Chase
Seattle Seahawks (-3.5) at Arizona Cardinals
Sun. 9/30, 4:05 p.m. ET
Pick: Arizona +3.5
In the last three meetings between the Cardinals and Seahawks, Arizona has gone 2-1 straight up and 2-0-1 against the spread. The Cardinals simply show up when they’re facing their division rival. Arizona has also historically shown an impressive ability to bounce back in Glendale. The Cardinals are 44-22 against the spread in home games after two or more consecutive losses since 1992. And things are setting up for that trend to continue next week.
Most importantly for Arizona, rookie QB Josh Rosen is ready to inject some life into what has been a miserable Cardinals offense this season. Rosen was inexplicably put in with four minutes left against the Bears last week, and he threw a bad interception on what could have been the game-winning drive for Arizona. But that was as tough of a spot as there is for a rookie signal-caller. The Bears have one of the best defenses in football, and Rosen wasn't given adequate time to find a rhythm. With a full week of reps and the confidence of knowing that this is now his job, look for him to give this Arizona crowd something to get excited about against a mediocre Seahawks defense. As for Arizona’s defense, the unit was more than good enough to escape with a win against Chicago last week, but the offense did little to help them out. The offense isn’t going to let them down again here, and this matchup actually favors them significantly. With Seattle’s porous offensive line, DE Chandler Jones and the rest of this Arizona defensive line should have its way with Russell Wilson. Arizona is entering the win column on Sunday. — Zachary Cohen
San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Chargers (-10)
Sun. 9/30, 4:25 p.m. ET
Pick: Los Angeles -10
Not all 1-2 records are created equal—the line of this game proves it. But the Chargers, who played two of the four remaining unbeaten teams in the season’s first three weeks, should be favored by even more than 10 points against a 49ers team that just lost its starting quarterback to injury and will rely on C.J. Beathard for the foreseeable future. San Francisco will spend all week coping with the loss of Jimmy Garoppolo and restructuring its offense accordingly, which is imperative: Beathard has never thrown for more than 300 yards in a game, and in only one of six career starts has he tossed more than one touchdown.
Meanwhile, Philip Rivers and the Chargers offense will keep humming along. Rivers, who has thrown for eight touchdowns and over 900 yards in three games, helped put up 23 points against a vaunted Rams defense. He also realizes that his team has been victim of circumstance. “I know you all know I’m the ultimate optimist, but I leave this game encouraged,” said Rivers afterward.
Rivers said this knowing that the Chargers have a favorable stretch of games beginning with San Francisco. Rivers is 3-0 against the Niners in his career with nine touchdowns, three interceptions and 321 yards per game the air. Rivers has also won his last three games coming off a loss.
The 49ers offense is an obvious concern after Week 3, but so is the team's defense. Cornerback Richard Sherman will undergo an MRI for a left calf injury, and the lack of a pass rush against a potent Chiefs offense could be a preview of what to expect against the Chargers. Get in on this line while you can, since Los Angeles appears primed to win by two touchdowns. — Ed McGrogan