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NFL Week 4 picks: Patriots in a must-win situation

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It’s usually an easy win whenever the Dolphins visit New England. That might not be the case this time.

New England Patriots v Detroit Lions Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

I understand that I’m not very good at making NFL predictions, but even a genius like Dr. Spencer Reid couldn’t have predicted that in Week 4, the Patriots would be playing the Dolphins in a game with stakes like this: if the Patriots lose, they go to 1-3 while the first-place Dolphins go to 4-0.

Luckily, this game is happening at Gillette Stadium, where New England has absolutely owned Miami during the Brady-Belichick era. Any other year, there would be nothing to worry about. A home game against the Dolphins is usually one of the closest things to a guaranteed win.

However, we can’t be sure of anything right now. The Patriots just suffered brutal defeats in back-to-back weeks, which never happens. They also just lost 26-10 to a very lowly Detroit Lions team, which is a team that got blown by the Jets 48-17 in Week 1, and then the Jets gave the Browns their first win in almost two years just last week.

Also, the Dolphins are coming into this game at 3-0. How often do you get to say, “The Patriots are playing against the undefeated Miami Dolphins?” Everything is completely out of place this year. The Dolphins haven’t lost, the Patriots are 1-2, this Pats team has holes in just about every aspect of the game, and even Tom Brady seems a little unsure of things right now. During that entire Detroit game, he didn’t look comfortable for a single play. Even when he was on the sideline, he just looked like he had no idea what to do. That might be the most unsettling thing of all.

If you ask me, Sunday’s game against Miami is very far from a guaranteed win.

But it’s a game the Patriots need to win. If they fall to 1-3 while the Dolphins go to 4-0, then what? Looking at the AFC East standings and seeing the Pats three games behind the Dolphins would be nothing short of bizarre.

If they are going to win this game, something – or somebody – has to give this offense a spark. I think it needs to be Josh Gordon.

Brady needs an offensive weapon, and not counting Rob Gronkowski (whom we barely saw at all against Detroit), Gordon is the best one he’s got even though he has yet to play a snap in a Patriots uniform. This offense was next to lifeless against the Lions last week, but add a motivated Gordon to this unit and he could turn it around.

Hey, it’s worth a shot, right? What do the Pats have to lose?

Time to make some picks for Week 4…

(Home teams are in caps and, as always, lines are courtesy of OddsShark.com.)

Bills (+9.5) over PACKERS

What the Bills did last week – dominating Minnesota 27-6 on the road when they were 16.5-point underdogs – was like the United States upsetting the Soviets at Lake Placid in 1980. It was unreal. It was unbelievable. It was a miracle.

There’s absolutely no way Buffalo can pull something like that off again. But while I don’t think they will beat the Packers this week, that doesn’t mean I don’t think they can cover 9.5 points. After all, this is Josh Allen’s team now, not Nathan Peterman’s. Not to mention the Packers are all kinds of vulnerable right now after that disappointing loss in Washington last week, and especially with a not-quite-100-percent Aaron Rodgers.

(By the way, I probably just locked in a 25-point Green Bay win. Sorry, Bills fans.)

FALCONS (-4) over Bengals

There are so many injuries on both of these rosters. Both teams are straddling the good/not good border. I recommend not actually betting any money on this game. If you do, you’re just asking for trouble.

For the sake of making picks, give me the home team and the former MVP quarterback over the Marvin Lewis team.

COWBOYS (-3) over Lions

For over a year now, I’ve been picking the Cowboys week and after week, and more times than not, I keep getting let down. I don’t really see the point in stopping now.

Dallas just really needs to get Zeke Elliott going. He can win ballgames for them. They just have to keep giving him the ball, and he just needs to eat yardage for breakfast, lunch and dinner. That’s all it takes.

Texans (+1) over COLTS

I’m just as stunned by Houston’s 0-3 start as anyone. With that roster, and especially that defense, they should be a top four or five team in the AFC. But the past isn’t speaking too kindly about them as they head into Lucas Oil Stadium. In their last 16 games against the Colts in Indianapolis, the Texans are 2-14. To add to that, they are 0-8 against the spread in their last eight games.

I feel like I should pick the Colts given the history, but as soon as I do that, then all of a sudden the Texans are going to play a fantastic game and win by like 20 points. I’m not confident, but I have to take Houston here.

PATRIOTS (-6.5) over Dolphins

I’m taking the Pats only because their backs are against the wall, they desperately need to win this game, and the Dolphins are 2-15 in Foxboro in their last 17 tries. I’m hoping Josh Gordon plays and I’m hoping Brady utilizes the heck out of him. I think the Dolphins will exploit New England’s sketchy defense and keep the game close, but in the end the Pats will pull away for roughly a 10-point win.

My prediction: Patriots 27, Dolphins 17.

It takes an awful lot of bad football for me to lose faith in the Patriots, and I’m keeping it up for one more week. But if they fail to defeat the Dolphins at home (something that hasn’t happened since 2008), it’s safe to say my faith in the Pats will be significantly shaken.

JAGUARS (-7.5) over Jets

Here’s my reasoning for taking the Jags: they are 7-2 against the spread in their last nine games after an against-the-spread defeat, the Jets are 3-7 against the spread in their last 10 games against the Jags, and Sam Darnold really hasn’t been all that great so far.

I could see trash-talking Jalen Ramsey having some fun with Darnold this week.

Eagles (-3.5) over TITANS

It’s only his second game back, but eventually Carson Wentz just has to absolutely hit his stride. Could happen as soon as this week. I’m taking Philly as road favorites in this one.

BEARS (-3) over Buccaneers

On Monday night, “FitzMagic” flamed out against the Steelers in the first half, then nearly brought the Bucs back to win in the second half. That makes it next to impossible to know what to expect from this roller-coaster Tampa Bay offense as they head to Soldier Field.

Now, nobody should be sold on this Chicago offense as it basically crapped the bed against a crummy Cardinals team last week. But at home, I have a feeling the Bears’ defense can find a way to win this game for them.

Browns (+2.5) over RAIDERS

Just to be clear, I’m not betting on the Browns. I’m betting on Baker Mayfield.

I’m also betting against Jon Gruden’s awful team. There are all kinds of factors at work here.

Seahawks (-3) over CARDINALS

Sorry, but we saw Josh Rosen make his NFL debut in the fourth quarter against the Bears last week, and he didn’t do a single thing to give me even the slightest bit of reason to think that it would be even moderately OK to pick him this week. He looked completely nervous and out of place in those final few minutes on Sunday. Plain and simple, he looked like a rookie making his first ever appearance in an NFL game.

Rosen is very much a work in progress. If you’re gambling, it’s probably best to stay away from him right now.

Saints (-3.5) over GIANTS

Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, and Michael Thomas against Eli Manning, Saquon Barkley, and Odell Beckham Jr. We could see some pretty nice offensive plays in this game.

Ultimately, I’m bringing this down to the quarterback matchup, and Brees is a mile or two ahead of Manning. Thus, I’m taking New Orleans as road favorites. On the flip side though, my fantasy team sure could use a big game from Barkley.

CHARGERS (-10.5) over 49ers

As painful as it is to admit, Jimmy Garoppolo’s season is over, and therefore so is San Francisco’s. Backup quarterback C.J. Beathard started five games last season before Jimmy G. arrived on the scene, and in that span, the Niners went 1-4 while Beathard posted a QBR of 69.2, throwing just four touchdowns to six interceptions.

Tough luck, Niners fans. Hopefully better luck next year.

STEELERS (-3) over Ravens

Here’s an interesting stat: the Steelers have won 13 straight prime time games. Pair that with the fact that they are playing at home, are still riding high from last week’s prime time win, and are facing a not overly convincing Ravens team, and it’s almost like picking the Steelers in this game makes sense.

Chiefs (-4.5) over BRONCOS

Monday is my 25th birthday and I get to spend it watching my fantasy team’s starting quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, play against his real life team’s hated rival, the Denver Broncos. Mahomes has already given me a six-touchdown game so far this season. Is there any way he can top that for my birthday? I feel like a 10-touchdown game would be acceptable.

PS: I also have Kansas City running back Kareem Hunt on my fantasy team too. So if he could throw in like an extra four or five touchdowns as the Chiefs win the game by roughly 58 points, that would be a pretty solid birthday.

Last week: 5-11

This week: 0-0-1

Season record: 25-22-2