Brady’s back. The Rams are back in the Coliseum. The Vikings get another test in their building. The Panthers and Cardinals try to get right. Let’s get to the picks.
Week 4 record: 7-8
2016 record: 37-26
Cheat Sheet trivia question of the week
Texans rookie wide receiver Will Fuller is on pace for 1,292 receiving yards this season. Who are the only three rookie receivers to finish a season with more than 1,200 receiving yards? (Answer below the picks.)
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY SportsKevin Jairaj
Thursday night: Cardinals at 49ers
It’s do-or-die time for the Cardinals, and Bruce Arians knows it more than anyone. You can’t start the season 0-2 in the division with losses to the Rams and 49ers. I don’t see the Cardinals coming out and lighting it up on a short week on the road with injuries everywhere. But I think they’ll find a way. With Drew Stanton filling in for Carson Palmer, I still like Arizona to at least right the ship. Won’t be pretty, but what from Arizona’s first few games has been?
The pick: Cardinals 20, 49ers 9
Sunday: Patriots at Browns
Once upon a time, Bill Belichick was the head coach of the Cleveland Browns, the Patriots were an up-and-coming team trying to find its way, and this was a matchup. That time is not now. Tom Brady returns from his Amalfi Coast-Ann Arbor-Hollywood-wherever four-game vacation and should come back with a vengeance. But how much more vengeance can there really be? He was pissed off after being a sixth-round pick, he was pissed off after SpyGate, he was pissed off after the Super Bowl losses to the Giants, and he was pissed off last year after the initial deflated football stuff. He’s going to be more pissed off now? Yeah, yeah he will be.
The pick: Patriots 30, Browns 16
Getty ImagesMike Ehrmann
Sunday: Eagles at Lions
I’ll be on the sideline for this one, and I have to be honest — I’m straight-up giddy to see Carson Wentz in the flesh. The stuff you hear about him almost seems too good to be true. Beloved by veteran teammates, spent his bye week in North Dakota hanging out on campus with his buddies, 4.0 GPA — is this dude for real? He is. Underrated fact: Philadelphia’s average starting field position this year? Its own 35-yard line. Their opponents? Their own 23-yard line. That stuff matters. A lot. Wentz is the conductor, but the wagon is loaded on all three facets.
The pick: Eagles 34, Lions 23
Getty ImagesRich Schultz
Sunday: Bears at Colts
Two teams who really need a win here. I don’t think the NFL is doing the Colts any favors with a trans-continental flight and no bye week. The Bears are feeling good and have a rookie running back in Jordan Howard who can be a “thing.” The Bears are the only NFL team that hasn’t scored 17 points in a game this season. I think it gets going this weekend. If there’s a defense that can cure their offensive ills, it’s Indy’s.
The pick: Bears 34, Colts 24
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY SportsMike Dinovo
Sunday: Titans at Dolphins
I was super-high on DeMarco Murray and the Titans before the season and am not jumping ship just yet. Why? Their schedule gets a lot easier from here on out. Consider their competition thus far. Their first four opponents are a combined 11-5. Their next four, including the Dolphins? A combined 4-16. The Dolphins have no identity. I’m not sure what they are. Tennessee, meanwhile, wants to shove the ball down your throat and win at the line of scrimmage. I’ll take the latter.
The pick: Titans 24, Dolphins 20
USA TODAY SportsRaj Mehta
Sunday: Redskins at Ravens
Ravens fans are still feeling the awful hangover effects of that Baltimore Orioles loss Tuesday night. Joe Flacco threw as many pitches as Zach Britton. Okay, enough. Baltimore lost a game it should have had at home Sunday to the Raiders. Teams coached as well as the Ravens don’t lose back-to-back games in their own building. The Ravens have the best defense in the league (256 yards per game), and should be able to produce enough points to get back on track. It’ll be close. It always is.
The pick: Ravens 23, Redskins 21
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY SportsKen Blaze
Sunday: Texans at Vikings
This one has the look and feel of an upset special, with Minnesota getting so much national attention following its Monday night win. But I don’t see a team built on defense and special teams, as Minnesota is, getting too high on itself or the headlines and adulation it’s receiving. We’re four weeks into the season, and Minnesota’s numbers are eerily similar across the board to a team’s from a season ago. That’d be the Super Bowl-winning Broncos.
The pick: Vikings 20, Texans 17
Sunday: Jets at Steelers
How long until the Jets pull the plug on Ryan Fitzpatrick and go to Geno Smith? Brandon Marshall showed his support of Fitzpatrick on Tuesday, but that can only go so far when you’ve thrown nine interceptions the past two games. The Jets roster is loaded with veterans. They’re built to win now. If Fitzy struggles early as I can see him doing — it might be time to go to the bullpen.
The pick: Steelers 34, Jets 24
USA TODAY SportsWilliam Hauser
Sunday: Falcons at Broncos
If you go by the yards per play, this is the NFL’s top offense and the NFL’s top defense squaring off. And I can’t pick against the league’s most dominant D. Not at home, at least. Julio Jones went to town on those poor Panthers cornerbacks. Chris Harris and Aqib Talib are anything but poor.
The pick: Broncos 31, Falcons 20
Sunday: Bengals at Cowboys
Say what you want about the Bengals against the NFL’s top quarterbacks, but they do not lose against rookie QBs. The last four rookie signal callers to go up against Cincinnati — Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles, Geno Smith and Nick Foles — all lost. Dak Prescott has been incredible, but this Bengals team is built to travel and win games like this up front. The Zeke & Dak Show will hit a wall Sunday.
The pick: Bengals 24, Cowboys 16
Sunday: Bills at Rams
I can’t bet against these Rams. Not yet, at least. What a throwback team. They’re supposed to be Hollywood’s team, but their biggest star is a defensive tackle (Aaron Donald), and their quarterback is Case Keenum. The latter gets a lot of crap online and in the football media world, but he’s 6-2 in his past eight starts and is a blocked field goal in San Francisco last season away from being 7-1. The Rams have something going on. It’s ugly, it’s gritty, it’s somewhat anti-Hollywood. I’m into it.
The pick: Rams 22, Bills 17
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY SportsMatt Kartozian
Sunday: Chargers at Raiders
How about Joey Bosa? He still hasn’t played an NFL snap. What a disaster that whole thing has turned out to be for both sides. The Chargers now have squandered two huge leads — one at home, one on the road — in four weeks. They’re all banged up and trending downward. The Raiders are healthy and headed the other way. Two AFC West ships passing in the late window Sunday.
The pick: Raiders 38, Chargers 24
Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY SportsMitch Stringer
Sunday night: Giants at Packers
The New York papers have had a field day with Odell Beckham. The New York Post had a photo of Beckham in OshKosh B’Goshes, sucking a pacifier and sitting in a crib this week. Relentless. I think OBJ answers in a huge way against a depleted Packers defensive backfield, but it won’t be enough. Green Bay — coming off the bye — puts up enough points to combat a very angry, very motivated Giants offense.
The pick: Packers 34, Giants 30
APPhelan M. Ebenhack
Monday night: Buccaneers at Panthers
The Panthers can’t lose this one, can they? I know the Super Bowl hangover is a thing, but c’mon. Cam Newton has been sacked more than 30 other teams’ quarterbacks this season. Monday night. Under the lights. At home. Lose this one and pack it up for the season.
The pick: Panthers 28, Buccaneers 21
Jason Getz-USA TODAY SportsJason Getz
Cheat Sheet trivia answer
Randy Moss, Anquan Boldin and Odell Beckham (13) are the only rookie wide receivers to finish a season with more than 1,200 receiving yards.