Here is a closer look at Sunday’s late-afternoon games. Odds courtesy of DraftKings. As of Friday morning, there no issues are on the upcoming weather front.
Arizona Cardinals (3-0) at LA Rams (3-0)
- Time: 4:05 p.m.
- Line: Rams by 4 (54.5)
The skinny: This is the sole matchup in Week 4 of undefeated teams, both of which are scoring more than 30 points a game.
Facts: Rams coach Sean McVay is 8-0 vs. the Cardinals since taking over the LA helm in 2017 (8-0 ATS, too). And that was with Jared Goff at QB. Now he has Matt Stafford, the league’s second-rated passer. The last time Arizona beat the Rams was in the season finale in 2016, 44-6. That came three weeks after LA coach Jeff Fisher was fired midseason. Arizona’s most lopsided loss in each of the past two seasons was against the Rams, including last year’s season-ending 18-7 defeat in LA.
Analysis: QB Kyler Murray and the Cardinals are much improved over previous years, including the 38-13 whipping of the Titans in Nashville in Week 1, with Chandler Jones getting five sacks. But Murray still has trouble throwing to his own guys, with four INTs. By contrast, Stafford has tossed only one interception and has a magical receving corps in Cooper Kupp, who has league highs with 367 yards and five TDs. He’s complemented by mega-speed vet receiver DeSean Jackson. And this week, with regular RB Darrell Henderson nursing a rib injury, ex-Patriots Sony Michel likely will get the bulk of the carries. And never overlook Rams DT Aaron Donald, which almost happened in this analysis.
Forecast: Rams 34, Cardinals 27
Seattle Seahawks (1-2) at San Francisco 49ers (2-1)
- Time: 4:05 p.m.
- Line: 49ers by 3 (51.5)
The skinny: These NFC West rivals, both coming off losses, will look to keep pace in the divsion with the Rams/Cardinals, who both enter the weekend undefeated.
Facts: The Seahawks and QB Russell Wilson are on a two-game losing streak, the 10th time that’s happened since he joined the team in 2012. Each previous time they’ve rebounded with a victory their next outing, going 7-1-1 ATS. Seattle swept the 49es last year en route to the division title, but that was with backup QB Nick Mullens operating for the 49ers in place of then-injured Jimmy Garappolo. Seattle had the third-worst play differential last year, with its foes having 90 more offensive snaps. This season Seahawks opponents already having a 70-play edge.
Analysis: One of the biggest problems for the Seahawks is that their cornerbacks are beat up, contributing mightily to their status as the league’s worst-rated defensive unit — just like it was at this stage last year before a remarkable turnabout at midseason. But San Francisco, off its cruel last-second 30-28 loss to Green Bay on Sunday night after overcoming a 17-0 deficit, has problems of its own on offense with a severely depleted running back contingent. Thus, Seattle is the pick based on being more desperate for a win, the veteran savvy of coach Pete Carroll (despite that goal-line pass in the Super Bowl) and of course, the three-point spread is nice if the game goes to OT.
Forecast: Seahawks 27, 49ers 24
Baltimore Ravens (2-1) at Denver Broncos (3-0)
- Time: 4:25 p.m.
- Line: Ravens by 1 (44.5)
The skinny: The Broncos, who are playing host to AFC North power Baltimore, are one of four unbeaten teams listed as an underdog this week, but the only one playing at home.
Facts: Baltimore QB Lamar Jackson has four rushes of 20-plus yards to lead the league’s top rushing team at 185.3 yards per game. No whole team has more such long runs. But now is the question of whether Jackson (questionable, back) will play to his standards, if he plays at all. He sat out multiple midweek practices. The last time Denver started 3-0 it went on to win the Super Bowl despite having the worst-rated passer in the league, Peyton Manning. This year, new signal caller Teddy Bridgewater is the fifth-rated passer, is second in completion percentage, and has no INTs.
Analysis: Denver lost another top-rate receiver when KJ Hamler (knee, IR) joined fleet Jerry Jeudy (leg) on the sideline. And although RB Melvin Gordon is listed as only probable, he’ll be playing with tender ribs. Meanwhile, Baltimore will be getting back its top draft choice, WR Rashod Bateman, who hasn’t played this season. And if fellow breakaway receiver Marquis Brown quits playing like Edward Scissorhands, the Broncos will be hard-pressed to cover both — no matter who’s at QB for the Ravens. Just in case Baltimore’s second-year backup QB, Tyler Huntley, maybe should be getting little extra throwing this weekend before the game.
Forecast: Ravens 21, Broncos 16
Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2) at Green Bay Packers (2-1)
- Time: 4:25 p.m.
- Line: Packers by 6.5 (45.5)
The skinny: QB Aaron Rodgers and the Pack got their third win in a row against a Steelers team that’s taken a plunge in two straight home games since their stunning Week 1 win at Buffalo.
Facts: This will be the first matchup between Rodgers and the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger since Super XLV 11 seasons ago in the JerryDome, won by Green Bay 31-25. In 2013, Matt Flynn filled for injured Rodgers in a 38-31 defeat. Four years later, Brett Hundley was the QB in a 31-28 loss. Since Pittsburgh opened the 2020 season with five consecutive 100-yard-plus rushing games, they have averaged only 58.5 yards on the ground its past 15 games, including last week’s 45 vs. Cincinnati. At that pace, even in the new 17-game schedule, the Steeler would become first team since the 1963 Jets not to reach 1,000 for a full season.
Analysis: Roethlisberger again is on the injury chart, questionable with a pec injury, and judging by his limited mobility and tendency to go down with a lot less fight that in his youth, that’s big-time trouble for a team that has a historically horrible running game that not even first-round draft choice Najee Harris (3.1 a carry) has been able to help. Although Pittsburgh OLB T.J. Watt is likely to return this week after sitting out last week’s dismal 24-10 loss to Cincinnati, it probably won’t be enough to throw Rodgers off his game. Especially since it appears RB Aaron Jones (ankle) will play after missing midweek practice.
Forecast: Packers 29, Steelers 17
Last week: 11-5 ATS, 11-5 SU
Season total: 30-17-1 (.638) ATS; 33-15 (.688) SU