Slow down, NFL, this thing is going by way too fast. With the first month of the season in the rearview mirror, survivor-pool fields begin to shrink to the real contenders as the days get shorter and the leaves change colors.
Week 1 indicated that we might be in for a year of complete madness. Jacksonville stunned Indianapolis, Washington pulled away from Philadelphia and Arizona upset San Francisco as many survivor entries were eliminated before dinner on the first Sunday of the season. Since then, however, the sea of upsets has settled, and it has left us to wonder if the empty stadiums were a bigger advantage to favorites than we first imagined. No crowd noise means fewer false starts and negative plays, allowing the superior offenses to operate unencumbered, giving the better quarterbacks and teams a huge advantage.
Weeks 2 and 3 gave us a couple of minor surprises but no real stunners.
Week 4, like the previous two weeks, was littered with chalk as well. The afternoon games provided no major upsets, with Cleveland beating Dallas and Minnesota knocking off Houston, both as 3.5-point underdogs. The biggest spreads of the year to date came Sunday as Baltimore and the Los Angeles Rams went off the board as two-touchdown favorites. Both held serve, despite the Rams making it interesting and leading by only one point very late against the New York Giants. One game, however, wiped out a significant portion of entries in many contests as reeling Philadelphia limped into San Francisco to face the heavily favored NFC champion. A late flurry by the home team was not enough, and Philadelphia held on as a double-digit dog.
Will Week 5 be the time the big dogs start to bark? Let’s take a look.
Games under consideration
Seattle Seahawks (-7.5) over Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota is coming off its first win, but having watched the Vikings play defense the first four games, Russell Wilson would have to throw left-handed for Minnesota to have a chance to stop him. Wilson is less than + 200 odds in some shops to win the MVP, and he has been sensational. He will undoubtedly have success vs. a Minnesota defense that is a bad combination of too young and too injured. However, Seattle has only two victories since the start of ’19 by two scores or more. The Seahawks win often but tend to keep everyone in the game, and this Vikings offense still has a trio of playmakers any team would want in Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson. Let’s look for a surer thing.
Kansas City Chiefs (-12) over Las Vegas Raiders
No quibbles from me if the defending champs are your pick. You can pencil them in as worthy selections almost any week. They are off a short week but should have no trouble dispatching Las Vegas and its poor secondary. Yet I’d look elsewhere because the night is still young in terms of the season, and there’s another team I’d like to use and get out of the way because of a favorable matchup this week.
New Orleans Saints (-7.5) over Los Angeles Chargers
For all the concerns over Drew Brees’ diminished arm strength, New Orleans has used Alvin Kamara’s exceptional running ability and Sean Payton’s play-calling prowess to keep the scoreboard operator busy. Still, the Chargers came as close as anyone to beating Kansas City, losing a heartbreaker in overtime. They possess the formula necessary to compete with the best teams. They run the ball and play defense effectively, all at a snail’s pace. They could hang with a New Orleans team that still doesn’t look quite the same as it has the last three years. Brees’ squad is not to be fully trusted, so buyer beware.
Dallas Cowboys (-9) over New York Giants
How ’bout them Cowboys ... stopping somebody? Anybody. If Dallas can’t win this week, it will have to finally move on from coach Jason Garett. Wait, he’s not the coach anymore? I couldn’t tell. Well, bookmakers will be up all hours of the night this season trying to make totals high enough to deter bettors from hammering the Over on Cowboys games. Their offense is elite and they’re fun to watch — but so is any offense Dallas comes across because the other side of the ball makes the “D” in Dallas seem misplaced. However, at 1-3, the schedule eases up, starting with a home date vs. a Giants team the Cowboys have dominated in recent years and one that will be drafting in the top 10 for the sixth time in seven years. New York is near the bottom of the league in many offensive categories and will be unable to exploit Dallas’ porous defense. The ’Boys finally get back on track.