Week 4 NFL Picks Against the Spread (Hanson)
Here are my Week 4 NFL picks against the spread:
Pittsburgh Steelers -3 (over Minnesota Vikings)
While this is technically a home game for the Vikings, it would surprise me to see more purple in the Wembley Stadium stands than black and gold as Steelers' fans travel as well as any team in the league.
Both of these teams have had their share of problems as they are both 0-3 to start the year. The Steelers are tied for the league's worst turnover differential (-9), have no takeaways, are tied for last in the league in sacks (three) and have struggled to run the ball (51.7 yards per game, 3.0 yards per carry).
So, why am I picking the Steelers to cover this week?
Even though the Steelers have not created any turnovers and have struggled to get to the quarterback, they currently rank fifth in total defense (only 298.0 YPG allowed). In addition, the Vikings are one of only two teams to turn the ball over 10-plus times this year.
On offense, the Steelers get back rookie running back Le'Veon Bell, which should help improve their struggles running the ball and give the offense more balance. And Heath Miller, one of Ben Roethlisberger's favorite targets, returned last week and that is good news for the Steelers considering the Vikings have allowed six touchdowns to tight ends through three games.
Plus, it would seem inappropriate to pick against Big Ben in London.
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Baltimore Ravens -3 (over Buffalo Bills)
Many believe that the Ravens have upgraded their defense this offseason despite the losses of Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and others. It certainly didn't look that way in Week 1 as Peyton Manning threw an NFL record-tying seven touchdowns.
Two weeks later, however, the Ravens have allowed no touchdowns and only five field goals in wins over the Browns and Texans.
While the Bills will try to rely heavily on their backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, the Ravens have held their opponents to only 74.7 rushing YPG, which ranks fourth in the NFL, and no rushing touchdowns.
Even though Ray Rice is a game-time decision, the Bills have allowed 155.0 rushing YPG — only the Jaguars have allowed more. In other words, I expect a big game for Bernard Pierce and/or Rice this week as the Bills allowed Bilal Powell to rush for a career-high 149 yards last week. In addition to allowing two 100-yard rushers this year, they have allowed three 100-yard receivers as well.
I expect the Ravens to continue to build momentum and extend their two-game winning streak.
New Orleans Saints -7 (over Miami Dolphins)
Leading one of the league's most high-powered offenses, Saints quarterback Drew Brees has back-to-back seasons with 5,000-plus passing yards and 40-plus touchdowns. Not only does Brees have his playcaller back this year, but he has thrown 54 touchdowns in his past 16 games at home.
One of the league's biggest mismatches, Jimmy Graham has been tough to stop this season with 23 catches for 358 yards and four touchdowns in three games. That puts him on pace for a ridiculous stat line of 123/1,909/21.
As the offense continued to fire on all cylinders last year, it was their historically bad defense that let them down. But things are much better this year as the Saints rank fifth in the league in scoring defense (12.7 PPG allowed) and fourth in total defense (295.7 YPG allowed).
Meanwhile, the Dolphins have allowed a league-high 14 sacks. If the Saints get out to an early lead, the Superdome will be rocking and it could be a long day for Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins.
Five of our contributors make three weekly picks ATS every week and they will be posted here.
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