By Geoff Schwartz
FOX Sports NFL Analyst
NFL Week 3 ended up being full of surprises.
The Dolphins staged a miraculous fourth-quarter comeback against the Bills, Matt Ryan rallied the Colts to topple the Chiefs, and the Panthers got their first win with Baker Mayfield as their quarterback.
Well, the teams I’m focusing my wagers on this week shouldn’t have too many surprises up their sleeves. I say that because, after three weeks of playing ball, we have a good idea of what each of these NFL teams is made of.
So let’s dive into my best bets for NFL Week 4 as I’m highlighting wagers that should hopefully get us all some extra cash. With odds via FOX Bet, of course.
If this contest was being played on a Sunday, I might lean toward taking the points with the road team. The Dolphins have surprised us with their start this season. They are 3-0 and had a 21-point comeback win at Baltimore and a hard-fought victory against the Bills on Sunday. That hard-fought victory is the reason why the Dolphins will struggle on Thursday Night Football.
Their defense played 90 snaps against the Buffalo offense, allowing over 500 yards but doing just enough to keep Josh Allen out of the end zone. Turning around to play a Thursday game after that output on Sunday will be extremely tough on their bodies. Trust me on this one.
The Bengals’ offense has had some issues this season. They are ranked 31st in DVOA, but we saw improvement last weekend against that poor Jets defense. The Bengals have the weapons to attack the Dolphins’ cover-zero defensive schemes. While I have some worry about the Bengals being prepared for the zero pressure, if they do hit one or two of those, they will score plenty of points to cover.
The Bengals’ offense has struggled, but their defense has not. Cincy’s defense is ranked seventh in DVOA. Defensive end Trey Hendrickson was just named AFC player of the week after he had 2.5 sacks on Sunday.
The Dolphins’ offense can be potent. But outside their 28-point fourth quarter in Baltimore, they’ve scored 55 points in 11 quarters. I think the Bengals’ secondary, a unit that has proven it can shut down Tyreek Hill, will do enough on Thursday to slow down the Dolphins’ offense which will help them cover in the end.
When the NFL schedule dropped in the middle of May, I doubt many of us had this game marked as a marquee matchup between two teams on the rise. The Eagles are 3-0 and look like the team to beat in the NFC. They are powered by their trench play, including a defensive line that sacked Carson Wentz nine times on Sunday. Quarterback Jalen Hurts has continued to improve his play, and this offense appears unstoppable, especially when scoring 48 first-half points in the last two weeks.
Jacksonville smoked the Colts and Chargers over the last two weeks. This Jaguars squad, led by former Eagles coach Doug Pederson, is built like the Eagles. The offensive line is opening up running lanes and protecting Trevor Lawrence, while the defensive line has gotten after opponents. Rookie linebacker Devin Lloyd continues on his path toward the rookie defensive player of the year with 24 tackles and two interceptions.
With both teams having the same blueprint for success, you have to grab the points early in the week with the Jaguars. This line will drop as we get closer to kickoff when everyone realizes the Jaguars are actually good.
Also, worth noting the Eagles could jump out to a big lead as they have the first three games. Do not fret. The Eagles were up 38-21 late in the third quarter but only finished with a three-point win. The Eagles did not score a second-half point against the Vikings or Commanders. The Jaguars are a team that will not quit and will continue to battle even if they get down. This means a live bet if Jacksonville gets down might be another spot to look at.
Who would have thought a matchup between the best quarterback of all time and the best current quarterback in the league would be about defense? But that’s exactly what we will see on Sunday — a low-scoring defensive matchup.
For the Chiefs, we are seeing the effects of having no Tyreek Hill on the roster. It’s not that the Chiefs can’t generate explosive passing plays. It’s just that Mahomes doesn’t have a receiver he trusts when he breaks the pocket. On third down, he doesn’t have a go-to weapon yet. The Chiefs’ offense scored 20 points against both the Chargers and Colts in the last two weeks while looking sluggish at times. The Bucs’ defense is ranked first in defensive DVOA after three weeks, and I fear they will turn the Chiefs into a one-dimensional team by taking away their ability to run. That allows the pass rush to heat up, and just like most quarterbacks, Mahomes will not be as crisp with pressure in his face.
Tampa Bay’s offense is ranked 27th in DVOA and has only scored 44 points on offense through three weeks. The Bucs’ injuries, along with Mike Evans’ single-game suspension, have halted their offensive production. It feels that simple. When you’re down multiple offensive linemen and missing three of your top receiving options, you will score 12 points against a good Packers defense.
Well, the Chiefs’ defense might be the most improved single unit this season. They are ranked ninth in efficiency through three weeks. They’ve finally found a pass rush and are so active in the back end with their speed and length. Mike Evans is back for the Bucs, but their offensive line will still feature at least two backups. Is Godwin or Jones back? There are still too many unknowns for the Bucs offense.
I’m taking the under here.
This game is difficult to handicap since the Lions’ injury report features half of their starting offense as of Thursday morning. And I don’t feel comfortable blindly wagering on the Seahawks because they are stinky. So I believe the play is taking Geno Smith under 252.5 passing yards.
This is a high total and an overreaction to Smith throwing for 325 yards last weekend. Previously, Smith had thrown for under 200 yards in his first two starts. In his three starts last season, Smith did not throw for more than 209 yards. The Lions’ defense has not allowed more than 252 yards throwing in two of their first three games. Also, Detroit has issues with stopping the run, and Pete Carroll will be more than happy to run the football the entire game.
This number is just way too high. Give me Smith under passing yards.
As a road underdog, Kliff Kingsbury is 14-3 against the spread as the Cardinals head coach. Carolina’s head coach Matt Rhule is only 3-10 against the spread when his Panthers are the favorite. You know what’s even worse than Rhule’s record in that category? It’s quarterback Baker Mayfield’s record as the favorite. He’s 33% against the spread, and that’s just brutal. So yes, the trends point toward Arizona. However, the Cardinals have played terribly this season and are just so not trustworthy as a team. They are poorly coached and often need quarterback Kyler Murray to save the team.
That’s not reliable each week.
While Baker Mayfield has not been crisp this season, I do think this weekend he will play well. He must play well because it appears the Panthers will be without Christian McCaffrey, and the offense will need to run through Mayfield’s arm. He’s facing a Cardinals defense that has allowed 281 yards passing per game through the first three weeks of the season.
The number of 205.5 is too low for what Mayfield will do on Sunday.
Geoff Schwartz played eight seasons in the NFL for five different teams. He started at right tackle for the University of Oregon for three seasons and was a second-team All-Pac-12 selection his senior year. He is an NFL analyst for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter @GeoffSchwartz.
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