Opening Lines: Week 4

The Patriots open as 4.5-point favorites as they visit the Oakland Raiders in Week 4.

If you felt a strong breeze as you drowned your sorrows on Sunday evening, that was just me whiffing on all of of my picks in the late games. That happens from time to time. You’re going to run into a random weird week that features a 4-INT game from Brady and scrub teams like Seattle and Kansas City looking somewhat coherent. It’s one more reason you’ll hear me preach against putting too much of your bankroll on the line in any given week. If you manage your bankroll responsibly, you’ll always be in the game.

The key to the Oakland game should be New England’s run defense against the Raiders’ electric running game. The silver and black are coming off of a big win at home against the Jets, and they made it happen almost entirely with the running game (Darren McFadden scored two more TDs since I started writing this sentence). The Raiders have scored eight times on the ground this year; no other team has more than four rushing scores. The Raiders’ offensive line has dominated the line of scrimmage, and Bush and McFadden have made the most of every cavernous hole. New England’s run defense has been mediocre so far this season, as most of the damage has been done through the air. They’re giving up 4.3 yards per carry, which ranks 19th in the league.

I’d expect the Patriots to approach this game the same way they approached the Dolphins game with lots of men in the box and all eyes on the backfield. Oakland QB Jason Campbell is more game manager than gunslinger, so if the Patriots are able to stack the box and make the Raiders beat them through the air, it could be a long day for Oakland. The Patriots typically thrive when playing against one-dimensional teams, so I’m not expecting McFadden to gash New England the way he abused the Jets.

While the offense for Oakland has been electric, the defense has been … well, meh. They’re giving up a league-worst 5.8 yards per carry and 290 passing yards per game. They actually found a way to make Mark Sanchez look like an effective NFL quarterback. So the Pats should have no trouble finding the end zone in this one. That streak of games scoring at least 30 points appears to be very safe for another week.

The Patriots always bounce back strong after a disappointing loss. Look for New England to put up a big point total on offense and limit the Raiders to 20 or fewer points on defense. I expect the Patriots to cover the 4.5-point spread very comfortably.

Other lines I like this week

Dolphins (+8) @ Chargers

Regular readers know that I typically try to find value among favorites, but this will be a notable exception. The Dolphins have played all three of their opponents tough this year. They’re probably the best 0-3 team in the league right now. The Chargers lack consistency on offense. I’ll take 8 points and a tough, desperate team against an inconsistent opponent any day of the week.

Saints (-7.5) @ Jaguars

The Saints have to be licking their chops at the prospect of getting after rookie QB Blaine Gabbert, and nobody in the Jacksonville passing game will scare New Orleans defensive backs. The Jags have played two close games led by an underrated defense, but when the Saints offense is clicking, it’s almost impossible to stop. Look for New Orleans to jump on Jacksonville early and pound them into submission late.

Bills (-3) @ Bengals

The Bills could be due for a bit of a letdown after their emotional win in Week 3, and the public is going to back them hard after watching them beat New England to move to 3-0. All red flags aside, the Bills are more than three points better than a Cincy team that hasn’t played anybody good and still sits at 1-2.

Vikings (-1) @ Chiefs

I hate that I’m backing five road teams this week, but I can’t see the Chiefs winning this game after suffering yet another serious injury setback with CB Brandon Flowers out with an ankle injury. Who is still standing in Kansas City? The Vikings have blown three double-digit halftime leads and will be motivated to play a complete four quarters on Sunday. I think they’ll get it done this week.

2010 Record ATS: 25-17-1

2011 Record ATS: 6-11

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