The undefeated Rams, Cowboys and Packers have bested the closing number in all three games thus far this season, while just two teams have been perfect fade material.
You probably guessed that the Dolphins, outscored 133-16, haven’t been able to cover a spread. Miami is so committed to finishing with the NFL’s worst record that Tank Carradine remains on the roster despite being inactive last week and Cordrea Tankersley resides on the PUP list, sidelined by a torn ACL. Only playing the Jets twice makes it remotely possible that the tanking Fins avoid going 0-16 in their pursuit of Tua Tagovailoa.
The Eagles are the other team that has failed to cash for bettors in all three games thus far — the Chargers managed to at least push in Week 1 — disappointing despite being favored each time out. Carson Wentz hasn’t gotten sufficient help and a defense that was supposed to be better than its looked hasn’t aided the cause.
We’re entering the portion of the season where teams face added pressure from their place in the standings, but the Eagles are the perfect vehicle to leave you with a Week 4 warning. Desperation can be a great motivator, but it’s more important to be wary of who comes into a game healthier than worrying about who needs the game more. Besides Miami, everyone is trying to win.
Aaron Rodgers commenting that his jersey hasn’t looked as clean as it did after Sunday’s home win over the Broncos in years due to terrific offensive line play is more important than the Eagles being in an underdog role for the first time on Thursday night and under pressure to avoid a 1-3 start. The availability of receivers Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson, tackle Jason Peters and pass rusher Derek Barnett overrides Philadelphia’s desire to not let Dallas pick up to good a head start in the NFC East.
Avoid getting lost in the narrative. There’s no such thing as a “must-win” in September.
Eagles at Packers -4.5: Getting Jeffery and Jackson back isn’t just essential to winning, but to Wentz maintaining his sanity given all the drops he’s been victimized by. Jackson returning looks like a reach, but the team is optimistic Jeffery can return from a calf issue.
A short week doesn’t aid their cause, especially since the Eagles are stuck traveling and won’t have top corner Ronald Darby (hamstring). PACKERS
Panthers at Texans -4.5: University of Houston product Kyle Allen hopes this homecoming can be as fruitful as last week’s start in Arizona, where the Scottsdale native eased concerns over how Carolina was going to replace Cam Newton by throwing four touchdown passes.
The Texans come off an impressive win over the Chargers and would be undefeated if not for a 58-yard field goal at the death of their Week 1 loss to the Saints. Look for Deshaun Watson to outduel Allen and the wear of playing a second straight road game to take its toll down the stretch as the Panthers fade in falling to 1-3. TEXANS
Raiders at Colts -7: Derek Carr has struggled on the road the past two seasons, throwing 15 picks while leading the Raiders to a 3-13 mark, so it wasn’t a great sign to see him start so slowly in Minnesota last week. Colts QB Jacoby Brissett comes off the best game of his career and gets an Oakland defense facing a linebacker shortage.
Check and see if WR T.Y. Hilton is healthy enough to start before pulling the trigger. COLTS
Buccaneers at Rams -9.5: Jameis Winston found top receiver Mike Evans eight times for 190 yards and three scores after hooking up with him just six times for 89 yards over Tampa Bay’s first two games and still couldn’t get a win over the Giants last week. The Rams’ secondary managed to shut down Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry in beating the Browns and has seen the defense emerge as the driving force.
Between Winston’s penchant for mistakes and the Bucs’ inability to get stops, this one should get out of hand since L.A.’s slumping offense will be looking to build confidence against a suspect secondary. RAMS
Seahawks -5 at Cardinals: Despite losing to the Drew Brees-less Saints at home, the Seahawks remain dangerous due to Russell Wilson’s form. They dodged a bullet with top tackle Duane Brown’s bicep injury unlikely to force him to miss any time.
The Cardinals look extremely vulnerable without Patrick Peterson patrolling the secondary, and he’s served only half of his six-game suspension. The education of Kyler Murray hasn’t been pretty. More lumps await here. SEAHAWKS
Vikings at Bears -3: My lone upset pick in this column likes Minnesota to ride into Soldier Field and disrupt the good vibes currently being felt after Chicago’s offense finally showed signs of life in a Monday night win at Washington.
The Vikings’ secondary can feast on Mitchell Trubisky’s mistakes and the offense is capable of being versatile enough to keep the Bears from feasting through sacks and turnovers. RB Dalvin Cook is running it better than anyone Chicago has seen to date. VIKINGS
Last week: 4-2