You hate to “call” a season this early, but the NFL in 2019 looks a lot like an NBA season at this point where only a few teams are even worth mentioning as serious title contenders. The Patriots and Chiefs stand above the pack, but the Patriots still look more balanced and have home-field advantage for the Week 14 meeting. The NFC is looking for an elite team, and while that could be Dallas this year, let’s see how the next four games go after three weeks of beating up on the Little Sisters of the Poor.
So when I look at the Week 4 schedule, I immediately focus on the two games between unbeaten teams: Patriots at Bills, Chiefs at Lions (2-0-1 is technically unbeaten).
Chiefs at Lions (+7.5)
Vegas doesn’t show much faith in Detroit even at home, but it’s understandable. No team this year has probably walked a finer line between 0-3 and 3-0 than the Lions. They’ve gotten sacks (3 per game), but not much overall pressure at all, and the defense has been gifted drops in Philly and an inexplicable interception thrown by Philip Rivers in Week 2. Patrick Mahomes got away with some dangerous throws against Baltimore last week, but he still made incredible plays in that game to rack up another huge stat line. Now there’s hype over his first indoor NFL game that matters and the Lions could be with a limited Darius Slay (or without him at all) at corner. Throw in the fact that Detroit almost never beats the best teams in the NFL and it’s not a good recipe for an upset here.
Maybe this has jinx written all over it, but I compiled a chart of the top scoring streaks in NFL history. The Chiefs have scored at least 26 points in every Mahomes start, which is an NFL record, but they also have the most consecutive 20-point games in NFL history with 27. When it comes to scoring at least 22 points, the Chiefs are currently tied with the 1997-98 Vikings at 21 games.
Patriots at Bills (+7.5)
Just like the Chiefs, the Patriots are 7.5 point road favorites this week. Tom Brady is famously 30-3 against Buffalo in his career, and that’s 30-2 if you exclude the 2014 Week 17 game he left early for playoff rest. That’s why I always say Buffalo’s only method of beating him has been a four INT pick parade (2003 and 2011). The Patriots have hardly been challenged this year while Buffalo has already needed a 16-point comeback against the Jets and to pull one out late against the lowly Bengals just to get to 3-0.
But hey, this is a chance for Buffalo to make a huge statement in the young Josh Allen era. We’ve seen 3-0 teams crash and burn before. In fact it’s happened almost 80 times where a team started 3-0 and didn’t make the playoffs, including Buffalo in 2008 and 2011. Since 1990, 104 out of 141 teams to start 3-0 made the playoffs (73.8%), so more than a quarter still miss. Buffalo might still have a good shot at a wild card just because of the dysfunction in the AFC, but any thoughts of dethroning the Patriots this year have to start with a win at home on Sunday.
While the Chiefs are doing historic things on the scoring front, the Patriots are also on a historic run defensively, which we know is harder to sustain but still very impressive in this era. Going back to the 13-3 Super Bowl win in February, the Patriots have not allowed an offensive touchdown in four straight games. They are the first team to do this since the 2000 Steelers and it’s something that has only been done eight times since the 1970 merger. The only touchdowns against NE this year were returns against the offense and ST. Meanwhile the defense also scored on two pick 6’s in Miami, so their net defensive points allowed is still at minus-11 through three games and -8 since the Super Bowl.
A lot can happen between now and December 8, but we could see a historic offense going up against a historic defense in New England.
NFL Week 4 Predictions
For the love of God could we retire the Ricardo Lockette play at the goal line? I loved the Eagles to cover on TNF, but thought Green Bay would win by a field goal. Instead of getting to overtime where that could have happened the Packers seemed content to follow 2014 Seattle’s miserable plan of running the clock down and trying to throw into a tight area short of the goal line. The pass was tipped and intercepted, the first time Aaron Rodgers, who had one of his best games in the last five seasons, has done that in the red zone in crunch time since 2015 Carolina.
The Eagles covering on the road means road teams are 34-14-1 (.704) ATS this season. Every week has seen 11 road teams cover so far. That seems crazy to me but I need to do the research before a Saturday to see where that really stacks up historically. I do know that road teams are also 24-23-1 (.510) SU thru three weeks. Odd? Absolutely. I had to dig back to 2006 to find a season where road teams didn’t start with a losing record through three weeks:
- 2019: 24-23-1 (.510)
- 2018: 17-29-2 (.375)
- 2017: 20-27 (.426)
- 2016: 22-26 (.458)
- 2015: 21-27 (.438)
- 2014: 20-28 (.417)
- 2013: 16-32 (.333)
- 2012: 17-31 (.354)
- 2011: 17-31 (.354)
- 2010: 20-28 (.417)
- 2009: 23-25 (.479)
- 2008: 19-28 (.404)
- 2007: 18-30 (.375)
- 2006: 25-21 (.543)
If you think about home teams making a comeback in Week 4, then how can you not entertain the thought of the banged up Chargers losing to pathetic Miami? I wouldn’t go that far, but I actually think they give them enough of a scare to cover the spread finally.