There’s a big difference between a 3-1 record and a 2-2 record. Week 4 is where we begin to see who will compete for a prime position as we complete one-quarter of the season and who got lucky and will fall to the middle of the pack. Join me as I breakdown two games and give you my best bets for this edition of Week 4 NFL Spreads. Make sure you keep up with all of the betting team’s Week 4 plays throughout the week.
Indianapolis Colts (-2.5) at Chicago Bears, Over/Under 44
Strength versus strength
The Indianapolis Colts picked up where they left off last year and have held onto their top-five overall offensive line status in 2020. The Chicago Bears, on the other hand, boast a top-five pass protection line this year. We have two offensive line strengths for both teams, which should allow both quarterbacks plenty of time to dissect their opposing defenses. The Bears are allowing 2.3 sacks per game on offense, whereas the Colts are allowing only one sack per game.
Concerning the defensive side of the ball, both the Colts and Bears field above average but not top-tier defensive lines, which should be neutralized by the superior offensive lines of both teams. They each have an elite playmaker with DeForest Buckner for the Colts and Khalil Mack for the Bears, but each team lacks the depth needed at multiple positions for an elite line.
The major anomaly between these two teams comes down to the opponents they have faced so far. The Colts have played the Jacksonville Jaguars, Minnesota Vikings, and New York Jets during the first three weeks while the Bears have faced the Detroit Lions, New York Giants, and Atlanta Falcons. The Jaguars, Vikings, and Jets all rank in the bottom half of the league in scoring, whereas the Bears have faced slightly more difficult opponents, with the Lions and Falcons.
Long story short, the Colts have not been challenged to this point in the season and are boasting great defensive statistics due to the subpar opponents they have faced. They lead the league with six interceptions from Gardner Minshew, Kirk Cousins, and Sam Darnold. The Bears, on the other hand, have held every opponent they have faced under 26 points, which includes Matthew Stafford, Daniel Jones, and Matt Ryan (who is the quarterback for the sixth-highest scoring team in the NFL, the Atlanta Falcons).
The Bears made the appropriate move by committing to Nick Foles as their starting quarterback for the foreseeable future. He allows the Bears to become a more balanced offense due to his propensity to throw the ball down the field more often than Mitch Trubisky did.
The Bears currently sit 11th in rush yards per game, and they should move higher up in the ranks now that opposing defenses cannot stack the box and dare the Bears to throw the ball. This balanced attack will allow for more open lanes for running back David Montgomery as well as allowing their receivers to create more separation on designed play-action calls.
Colts quarterback, Philip Rivers, is a 39-year-old aging gunslinger who is being relegated to a game manager role on a team with a run-first mentality. Through three games in 2020, Rivers is on pace to throw the fewest number of total passes, passing yards, and passing touchdowns that he has thrown for in the last eight years of his career. As a reminder, these pedestrian numbers came against the likes of the Jaguars, Vikings, and Jets. None of which possess a remotely threatening defense.
Both the Bears and Colts have above average weapons but no absolute game-changers. On the Bears side of the ball, they have a reliable second year running back in Montgomery, who has improved his yards per carry average from 3.8 in 2019 to 4.4 this year. He is also on pace to break 1,000 rushing yards for the first time in his career at his current rate.
The Bears also field an above-average receiving unit with lead pass-catcher Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, and now Jimmy Graham (who is clearly a Foles’ favorite).
The Colts did a stellar job drafting Jonathan Taylor in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Their starting running back, Marlon Mack, tore his Achilles the first game of the season, and the Colts would be looking at an extremely weak backfield had they not drafted Taylor.
Indianapolis’ receiving core is just as thin as their running back unit. Behind top wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, the Colts have Zach Pascal, who has topped out at 600 yards in a season, and unproven receivers in Michael Pittman Jr. and Parris Campbell (who is currently on injured reserve). Tight end Jack Doyle is a slight improvement, but his best season was three years ago when perennial superstar Andrew Luck was still the Colts quarterback.
Jessica’s Pick: Bears +3 (-130) for 3 units: A Week 4 NFL spread featuring a home underdog getting +3 points versus a Colts team that hasn’t truly been challenged yet in 2020. An aging Rivers who gets flustered when under duress and has been prone to untimely turnovers when facing said pressure. A fierce champion and motivated quarterback in Foles, who is trying to secure the starting quarterback position on the team. This game boasts plenty of head-to-head strengths for both teams. Give me the home team and plus points in a tight game, most likely determined by a field goal.
Arizona Cardinals (-3.5) at Carolina Panthers, Over/Under 51.5
The Arizona Cardinals are proving the fact that their defense is much improved from one season ago. They have allowed the seventh-fewest total yards (primarily in their ability to limit the pass) and have allowed the fewest rushing touchdowns in the league this year – just one. The one area they need to improve on, which would elevate them from above-average to elite, is their turnover margin. They have zero interceptions and only two forced fumbles on the year. If they can improve that area of their defense, they could turn into a serious contender towards the end of the year.
The Panthers, on the other hand, have given up the 11th most total yards in 2020 while allowing most rushing touchdowns in the NFL with seven. They are allowing 4.9 yards per carry, which is the ninth-worst average in the league. They do boast a better turnover margin than the Cardinals since they have forced four fumbles and intercepted the ball twice this year. However, going against a dangerous rushing attack featuring Kyler Murray, Kenyan Drake, and Chase Edmonds could be brutal for this young and inexperienced Panthers defense.
The Cardinals are a top 10 offense in regard to total yards at 406.3 per game. They excel at rushing the ball, where they are ranked in the top-seven overall. With a dangerous and mobile quarterback and the elusiveness of Drake, the Cardinals should have no issues against a defense in the Panthers that have allowed Josh Jacobs and Leonard Fournette to score multiple rushing touchdowns each this season.
Lethal Weapon 4
Drake, Murray, DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, and Larry Fitzgerald – The Cardinals have their fair share of explosive weapons that can change the game in an instant. Being able to account for each of these individuals during every snap of a game is impossible, especially if you are known to be a leaky defense, to begin with.
The Panthers are still without the best running back in the NFL (Christian McCaffrey) and now have to rely on new quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to lead them to victory in a new offense against a much-improved defense. If the Cardinals can get out to an early lead and force the Panthers into a passing game, they should be able to sit in coverage with ease and create havoc for Bridgewater.
Jessica’s Pick: Cardinals -3 (-130) for 3 units: This calls out as a bounce-back game for the Cardinals after the horrendous game they endured last week at the hands of the Detroit Lions. Murray will not throw another three interceptions, and the offense, the running game especially, should be able to control this game from the very beginning. The Cardinals improved defense should be able to limit the big plays and keep Bridgewater under pressure early and often. I see the Cardinals winning by seven to ten points in this game, which should cover this Week 4 NFL spread easily.
NFL Week 4 spread analysis from other writers
Drew Haynes’ Best Bet: Cardinals -3.5 l -110 for 4u
Yes, the Cardinals lost a close game to a Detroit Lions teams that had lost their prior 12 games in a row, but this line feels like a major overreaction. They still have the electric Kyler Murray and the best receiver in football in DeAndre Hopkins, who I expect to feast on a Panthers secondary that has shown no ability to stop opposing teams top receivers. The Panthers allowed Mike Evans to go for 104 yards in Week 2 and Keenan Allen go for 132 yards in Week 3, so I expect Hopkins to have a day.
On the other side of the ball, the Panthers are averaging just 22.7 points per game, 24th in the league. Two of the three of these games came with Christian McCaffrey, the most important non-quarterback to his respective offense in all of football. Without him, I do not see how they keep up without some scores on defense or special teams. I’ll bet against that any day, Cardinals -3.5 is the play.
George Templeton’s Best Bet: moneyline parlay Jaguars-Raiders | +476 for 1u
Jacksonville is back in the role that suits them best: being an underdog. While Cincinnati played a full game and a full overtime, the Jaguars got three days extra rest. In addition to that, I expect Gardner Minshew to bounce back especially against a struggling Bengals secondary.
The Raiders were fairly competitive in the game at New England until the avalanche of turnovers starting late in the third quarter. They come home to face a Buffalo team that’s 3-0 but was fortunate in their last two games. The L.A. Rams huge rally shows the Bills defense can be vulnerable and I think Derek Carr will find Darren Waller for some big plays.
James Aguirre’s Best Bet: Colts -2.5
I gave my initial thoughts on this game in our betting article released earlier in the week, but now will elaborate, from a numbers standpoint, why I like the Colts this week.
To date, the Colts have averaged 6.0 yards per play (YPP) on offense and have given up 4.4 YPP on defense (1st in the league. Chicago has averaged 5.3 and surrendered 5.5. Those YPP differentials say the Colts are eight points better than an average team on a neutral field, while the Bears have been one point worse**. That equates to a projected spread of IND (-9). So why is there such a big discrepancy?
**Take the differential of YPP averaged on offense and subtract from it defensive YPP surrendered, then divide by 0.2 to get a spread value for a team. IE: 6.0 – 4.4 = 1.6, divide by 0.2=8.**
Well, for one, it’s only three weeks’ worth of data. Sportsbooks are still probably going off of their priors at this point in time, which is understandable. Another reason could be the Colts’ low quality of opponent up to this point, which includes a loss to the Jaguars. Football Outsiders DVOA ranks teams AFTER adjust for their opponents, and it has the Colts as the #1 overall team (Chicago ranks 17th). You could argue their impressive metrics are due to playing three bad teams thus far, and part of that is true. To that, I’ll say: good teams dominate the inferior competition, and that is what the Colts’ YPP differential suggests they have done so far.
Another reason why this spread is still available at less than a field goal is the quarterback change to Nick Foles. Foles is perceived to be far superior to Mitchell Trubisky. While he is probably better, that doesn’t say much for him. We have seen Foles without the likes of Chip Kelly and Frank Reich: it’s a 5.87 adjusted net yards/attempt figure without them, compared to a 6.87 mark with. The 5.87 mark would rank 23rd among qualified passers in 2020 (Phillip Rivers ranks 11th with a 7.53 mark himself).
Two more factors that go in the Colts’ favor: Reich is a better coach than Matt Nagy, and the Colts have an advantage in the trenches on both sides of the ball. While they are missing two starting receivers, they have the skill players to run 22 personnel (two running backs and two tight ends) and take advantage of the Bears defense. Chicago has done well against the pass, but Rivers will enjoy a clean pocket more often than not in this game and should have success moving the ball through the air.
I have the Colts at three different price points: -2 -110 for 1.1U, -2.5 -110 for 1.1U, and -2.5 -120 for 1.2U. I am also adding an alternate spread of Colts -5.5, +140 for 1 unit. I really like what the advanced metrics say for this Colts team, and don’t believe in the Bears in the slightest.
Bets: Colts -2 -110 1.1U
Colts -2.5 -110 1.1U
Colts -2.5 -120 1.2U
Colts -5.5 +140 1U
Buffalo Bills (-3) at Las Vegas Raiders
I wasn’t a fan of this game initially, but as we received practice reports, it started to grow on me. Let’s start there. I liked this Raiders offense coming into the year due to their robust offensive line, young and explosive receivers, and dynamic RB. Two of those three elements won’t be present in this game. Bryan Edwards is already ruled out and Henry Ruggs is listed as doubtful. As for the offensive line, they will be without preseason starters Trent Brown and Richie Incognito.
The Buffalo defense has been bad, surrendering the 23rd most yards per play in the league (6.0). Given the Raiders’ injuries, however, I don’t envision them being able to take advantage of this unit.
Josh Allen, however, had been phenomenal, completing 3.7% more passes over expectation, ranking 2nd in QB rating (124.8), and 3rd in adjusted net yards per attempt (9.39). Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll is doing a fantastic job of calling +EV plays, using an exuberant amount of pre-snap motions and play-action passes. All of this is to say, I expect Allen to continue his MVP type season, especially against a putrid Raiders defense that has surrendered 6.4 YPP, 27th in the league. He shouldn’t face much pressure either, as the Raiders rank 31st in defensive line adjusted sack rate.
The Bills own a YPP differential of +3, while the Raiders differential is (-3): this game should be Buffalo (-6) based off of that. I’m not sure why we’re being asked to lay just three with Buffalo. It is a bad travel spot and the Bills defense is overrated, but as I said above, Las Vegas won’t be able to capitalize on it. I prefer to take an alternate spread for a better price as opposed to laying (-120) for (-3), so that’s what I’m doing here. If your book doesn’t allow you to bet alternate spreads, then I’m also fine with taking the juiced three.
Bets: Bills -5.5 +120 for 1.5U