Nearly all NFL teams have played their first four games of the 2020 regular season. Steelers and Titans are the only teams to have a game in hand. The Chiefs and the Patriots were on that list too. But after playing their game on Monday, it appears the NFL will continue despite positive COVID-19 cases.
If you’re a sport bettor, you probably learned a few crucial things from the games in Week 4. You know where to place your future bets, players to watch, and teams with outstanding offenses or defenses. If you need some help, here’s an analysis of the week.
1) The Browns are playing like a playoff team
Oh, yeah, everyone has been saying the same thing about Cleveland. “This is the season they finally get back to the playoffs.” But each year, the Browns end up disappointing everyone. Why is this season different?
The team is well-coordinated, better coached and heads to Week 5 having won three of their first four games. This is the first time since 2001 the Browns are 3-1. What’s more, it’s a three-game winning streak—only their sixth such record since 2010. When performing at their best, the Browns have taken double-digit leads with no signs of getting caught.
Against that backdrop, something drastic would have to happen for Cleveland to miss out on one of the seven AFC playoff spots. And we don’t mean injuries. The team has a squad deep enough to keep triumphing even when a few top guns are out.
2) The Cardinals are too frail
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What’s so wrong with the Cardinals? They might have won their first two games comfortably. But they have since conceded 57 points against the Carolina Panthers and the Detroit Lions.
Arizona’s biggest problem is defense, from Chandler Jones and Byron Murphy Jr. to Isaiah Simons and Patrick Peterson. In all fairness, the offense hasn’t been flawless either. Quarterback Kyler Murray had three interceptions against Detroit. On the flip side, running back Kenyan Drake barely hit 40 yards against the Panthers.
Surprisingly, the Cardinals haven’t faced their toughest opponents yet. The Lions are 1-3 while the Panthers are third in NFC South. So, what happens when Arizona faces New England, Los Angeles, or Seattle?
3) Approach Houston carefully
Some people think Houston is toast and that it’s too late to bounce back into playoff contention. And sure enough, firing head coach Bill O’Brien won’t turn their tides immediately. It could take one more month before they become a winning side. And by then, we’ll be halfway into the season.
So, what’s really Houston’s problem? For starters, it was the coach. Now he’s gone. And that means the pressure will be on the $250M roster the Texans thought would make a difference. It’s a star-studded team designed to be fighting for the Super Bowl alongside the Chiefs.
But now, it’s a team whose hopes of recording a winning season are shattered. For bettors, this is the team to avoid. Of course, unless you like betting exchanges, and then you can lay bets on Houston losing most of its matches.
4) The Colts’ defense is spectacular
One of sports betting’s worst kept secrets is to judge teams based on their defensive capabilities. If the defense is good, winning is easier. If it’s terrible, great offensive work might not always mean a lot.
That’s the case with Indianapolis. The Colts have conceded 14 points per game so far and ranked highly when it comes to defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA). Precisely, they rank first on Football Outsiders, leading heavyweights like Pittsburgh Tampa Bay, Kansas, and San Francisco.
Of course, Indianapolis’ offense isn’t too shabby. It’s an often-reliable line. And that means they only need the defense to be reliable and Philip Rivers could lead the Colts to a playoff berth earlier than most people think.
5) Rookie quarterbacks are proving their worth
This year’s group of young quarterbacks is proving they deserve to be in the NFL. On Sunday, Joe Burrow made a statement by becoming the first rookie to record 300 passing yards in three straight games.
On the flip side, Chargers’ Justin Herbert had his moment again Tom Brady. And although his side lost, he showed he can withstand pressure against the best teams. Miami’s fifth pick Tua Tagovailoa is yet to play. But there are rumors he will get playing time sooner rather than later.
6) Running backs are fragile and overpaid
Let’s cut to the chase. Running backs are overpaid. So, it’s surprising that 11 out of the 12 best-paid running backs in the league are on teams with losing records. The Panthers are even proving that a world-class RB isn’t necessary to win.
A case in point is that Carolina is 2-0 without star RB Christian McCaffrey and 0-2 when he’s playing. On the flip side, Dallas, home to the best paid RB, Ezekiel Elliott, is 1-3 after their latest loss to Cleveland.
Things aren’t better in New York. Le’Veon Bell is injured and no one in the Jets’ backfield is doing anything significant this season. In Houston, the Texans are 0-4 despite having David Johnson.
So, what’s the deal about running backs? They are injury-prone and do not impact games as most people imagine. Additionally, their shelf lives are short. So, instead of predicting NFL games based on their RB star power, consider other positions.
7) The Lions can’t hold a lead
NFL in-play better know the pain of backing a leading team only to lose afterward. It’s frustrating because any team that takes a double-digit team should be able to hold a lead. Not the Lions, though. They’re a special breed.
They have had double-digit leads in three out of four games. But in all of them, they choked in the end. On Sunday, it was New Orleans’ time. Detroit led 14-0. But by the final whistle, it had conceded 35 straight points.