Parity and Week 4 picks

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Parity and Week 4 picks

Heading into this season, there was significant chatter about the chances of last year’s Super Bowl participants making runs at undefeated campaigns. Yet three weeks in, both the Broncos and Seahawks have already lost, and there are just three unbeaten teams still standing. Parity has indeed ruled through the first month, but bettors should be careful not to draw greater conclusions on the basis of such a small sample size.

At this moment, the major storylines are centered around the punchless offenses of the Packers and Patriots, the futility of the Saints defense and the spectacular second-half struggles of the 49ers. Those are four of the top eight odds-on Super Bowl favorites, which is to say their cumulative 5-7 record probably isn’t a fair representation of where they will end it up when all is said and done. So as always, bettors must balance what they’re seeing with the reality that teams can’t always be handicapped based on their September performances.

Bills (+3) at Texans

In a matchup of 2-1 teams, the formulation of this line indicates that with Houston getting three points for being home, this game would be a pickem on a neutral field. In that scenario, bettors would be extremely hard-pressed to take the Texans, whose two wins (over Washington and Oakland) are looking more and more like they came against a pair of the league’s bottom-feeders. The Bills, on the other hand, went into Chicago in Week 1 and knocked off a Bears team that has subsequently downed the 49ers and Jets – both on the road in primetime. Buffalo then tuned up the Dolphins (jury still out) before running into a brick wall in the form of the Chargers, who are a tick away from occupying Arizona’s status as one of the three remaining unbeaten teams. To get a full field goal with Buffalo is an example of solid line value, and when factoring in the Bills’ familiarity with Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (who started for the Bills from 2009-12) and his general propensity to turn the ball over, that +3 suddenly jumps off the page.

Lions vs. Jets – under 45

The presence of Matthew Stafford and his array of game-changing weapons like Calvin Johnson, Joique Bell and Reggie Bush is always going to make bettors think “over.” But what’s overlooked in Detroit’s 2-1 start is that the D has actually led the way, ranking No. 1 in total defense and rush defense while tied for second in scoring at 15 points per game. While the numbers aren’t yet bearing it out scoring-wise for the Jets (they’re allowing 24 points per game), a lot of that has had to do with the turnover woes of the offense and the resulting short fields for the Jets D. As a unit, they rank second overall in total defense and are allowing a league-low 55 rushing yards per game. If Geno Smith can hold onto the ball (which should be a focal point after New York’s loss to the Bears on Monday night), the Jets defense should be able to make its presence felt. Stafford doesn’t always deal well with pressure, which is Rex Ryan’s calling card. The Jets’ 10 sacks are tied for second in the league.

Saints (-3) at Cowboys

This game sets up very well for the Saints, who are both desperate not to fall into the dreaded 1-3 hole, but also know they are two plays away from being 3-0. This may be a road game for the Saints, but any time they can play indoors, the advantage swings to their offense. Coupled with the Cowboys’ continued lack of home-field advantage (they’re 2-0 on the road and 0-1 at home this year and have never gone better than 5-3 at AT&T Stadium), the venue is not a major factor. The lean in primetime games should usually be toward the quarterback, and particularly in this matchup, as Drew Brees has torched the Cowboys in each of their last two meetings, throwing for a combined 838 yards with seven touchdowns, no interceptions and a 75.5 percent completion rate. Looking at those numbers and considering the Cowboys’ two wins have come over the Titans and Rams makes it a bit easier to hop on the side of the short road favorite.

Last week: 0-3
Overall: 2-6-1

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