NFL Betting Guide: Week 4
Do you think you know a lot about NFL football? Try regularly picking five games against the spread.
Even with all the information and advanced stats, elite sports bettors are lucky to get about 53% to 54% of -110 (even probability) bets correct. It's essentially flipping a coin.
That being said, people -- myself included -- try. There are plenty of contests, media personalities, and other casual games at work or with friends that pick five games each week against the spread to see how they fare.
Using NFL odds from FanDuel Sportsbook, here are my five picks against the spread and a couple of totals I like this week. Play or fade as you please.
Week 3 Recap
Last Week: 3-2
Year-to-Date Record: 9-6-0 (60.0%)
Now that was more like it.
However, the other three picks were right on. The Jaguars won outright in a blowout, so forget the line movement that happened on Friday. The Broncos won an ugly home contest, and Miami pushed the Bills at home to the extent they won the game outright.
Can we start 2022 with four winning weeks?
Pick #1: Jets (+3) at Steelers
Personally, books haven't adjusted to how different Pittsburgh's defense is without T.J. Watt. Since his injury, the Steelers have allowed the fourth-most Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) in the NFL, and they've ceded a 50% passing success rate.
Zach Wilson's return is a net positive. Joe Flacco (-0.08 Passing NEP per drop back) wasn't playing well. New York should be a tough matchup since they're loaded on the perimeter with Elijah Moore, Garrett Wilson, and their duo of talented tailbacks.
Homefield is worth roughly three points, so oddsmakers are telling you they see these teams as even on a neutral field.
I feel like I'm getting the better team with points in this spot, but I'd feel way less confident about that if Kenny Pickett were the signal-caller in Pittsburgh. He's not yet.
Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Jets 23-21
Pick #2: Commanders (+3) at Cowboys
No one in their right mind wants to back Carson Wentz after last week's debacle, but there's no doubt the value is with Washington in this one.
Dallas is on a short week where Cooper Rush became a hero in primetime. The Commies were humiliated at home by Wentz's former squad. That's why more than 70% of the bets and the handle are on Dallas in this spot.
This goes back to that magic number of three, and, personally, Washington is still a better squad than the Dak Prescott-less Cowboys for me. Importantly, the Commanders' defense does one thing well -- stop the run.
They've ceded -0.01 Rushing NEP per carry so far. That'll likely force Rush behind the chains more than usual; Dallas is otherwise seventh in total Rushing NEP since Dak went down.
There is absolutely risk here. The Cowboys' pressure rate (36%) is massive, and Wentz was sacked nine times last week by Philadelphia. This one might come down to getting Antonio Gibson going, considering Dallas is allowing the ninth-most Rushing NEP per carry (0.14) in the NFL.
With urgency in Washington's corner, I think the Commanders win outright.
Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Commanders 22-19
Pick #3: Texans (+5.5) vs. Chargers
We're getting to the point in the season where health can dramatically change who these teams are.
It's becoming more and more likely the Chargers won't hit some of their lofty preseason expectations due to injury. They've now lost Joey Bosa and Rashawn Slater for large periods of the season, and this is already a squad dealing with a banged-up Justin Herbert, J.C. Jackson and Keenan Allen.
If you can believe this, Houston (0.05 Offensive NEP per play allowed) has had a better defense this season than Los Angeles (0.10).
The Texans (-0.06 Offensive NEP per play) have struggled to move the ball, but I'd expect that against better-than-forecasted Denver, Indianapolis, and Chicago defenses. This LA defense is a bit of an unknown after getting spanked by the Jags and losing Bosa.
This number isn't the best, but ultimately, if I can fade a shaky public road favorite with a team I can project to play sensible defense, I'm going to do it.
Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Chargers 23-20
I think a handicap on this game comes down to how you view Mac Jones.
Jones has a high-ankle sprain, and that's put him in serious doubt for this contest. However, right now, I don't see Jones as a high-level difference maker for the Patriots, who are averaging exactly 0.00 Passing NEP per drop back with him.
Sure, Brian Hoyer is a downgrade, but this is ultimately a team that'll compete with its strong running game (0.10 Rushing NEP per carry) and defense. Quietly, New England's pass defense did the best job on Miami's explosive passing attack so far.
This Packers team still smells funky. They weren't really able to move the ball outside of their opening drive in Tampa. Coming into the season, we'd have thought they'd be in big trouble if their rushing game wasn't clicking. At a pedestrian 0.01 Rushing NEP per carry, it's not.
I just don't see Green Bay having the firepower to blow out the Pats -- even with a backup quarterback going for New England. The Pack would have been within a score of Chicago if officials could evaluate replay correctly, and the Bears can't complete forward passes. Even with Hoyer, the Pats will be competitive.
Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Packers 19-13
Despite the cover in Minneapolis last week, the primary concern for this Lions team remains -- they can't stop anyone.
They're only 14th-worst against the pass (0.14 Passing NEP per drop back), but they're getting gashed on the ground for a league-worst 0.30 Rushing NEP per carry. Seattle is around the league average doing both.
Detroit is 3-0 against the spread, but they've been doing it by scoring. Their offense may take a significant hit with D'Andre Swift likely out of the lineup, per head coach Dan Campbell. Swift is fourth in the NFL in rushing yards over expectation (25.8 per game). Detroit may also be sans Amon-Ra St. Brown and D.J. Chark.
Bettors have rushed to take the Lions, with more than 70% of the bets and money on the home team. Until Detroit can shut down a single offense, they don't deserve that kind of love against a team that's moved the ball surprisingly well with Geno Smith under center.
I'm happily fading the Hard Knocks heartthrob once more.
Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Lions 28-27
Totals of the Week
Pick #1: Browns at Falcons (Over 47.5)
This is a "Pros vs. Joes" side where the line has moved all over.
Currently, 66% of bets are on the under with these two poor quarterbacks, but 65% of the cash is on the over. After opening at 46.0, this line got up to 50.0 on FanDuel Sportsbook earlier this week, and it's stabilized back here to 47.5.
It's a weird game to handicap because these teams are both bottom five in pass rate over expectation. Normally, that's not good news for an over, but this might be a special exception.
A majority of bets are likely with the under because Marcus Mariota and Jacoby Brissett aren't seen as world-class passers, but they're both in the top-eight spots in terms of Passing NEP per drop back so far this year.
Name value aside, these offenses are humming, and the defenses stink.
Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Browns 31-30
Pick #2: Cardinals at Panthers (Under 43.5)
We'll follow the money on this one, too.
Despite 60% of bets on the over, 78% of the money is on the under. It's likely because the Carolina Panthers are going to be an "under" machine all season.
Baker Mayfield has been predictably worse than even his stint in Cleveland, posting -0.11 Passing NEP per drop back so far. Christian McCaffrey might be good to go, but he's already on injury reports consistently. With an offensive line ceding a 26% pressure rate, it's going to be a struggle all year for Carolina.
As for the Cardinals, they're publically feuding over their slow starts. Kyler Murray is blaming his teammates, but the reality is they've scored just 13 first-half points all year. They haven't been prepared to start games.
Carolina's defense isn't a pushover. They're the 10th-best unit in numberFire's nERD power rankings. If Arizona stumbles to single digits in the first half once again, this under might not even be a second-half sweat.
Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Cardinals 17-16