See which underdogs are barking in Week 4.
Tennessee Titans (-1.5) at Houston Texans
This will be rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson’s first start at home for Houston. He showed promise in his first two road starts, completing over 60 percent of his passes in each contest while proving elusive when he decided to scramble (108 yards on 13 combined carries). The Texans’ O-line is among the worst in the league but the Titans have had little success getting to the quarterback (five sacks in three games), so Watson shouldn’t have to tuck-and-run that often against the Titans’ 26th-ranked pass stoppers.
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The Titans ground game is second by YPG but they’ve faced some of the worst rush defenses in the league this year in Seattle (30th), Jacksonville (28th), and Oakland (20th). The Texans have allowed fewer than 100 YPG on the ground this year, so they can prevent Demarco Murray and Derrick Henry from breaking this game open.
The Texans have enjoyed a definite home-field advantage (8-2 in their last 10 at home) and have done quite well against Tennessee lately (5-1 in their last six meetings). All of this points to trouble for the Titans.
The pick: Texans +1.5
Philadelphia Eagles at Los Angeles Chargers (-1)
This tilt features a dramatic mismatch in time of possession. Philadelphia is the best in the league (34:12), while the Chargers are 30th (27:20). The Eagles should not feel the sting of losing Darren Sproles to injury as their running back tandem (LeGarrette Blount, Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement) is just fine and faces a moribund L.A. run-stopping unit (31st by YPG).
Philly is susceptible to the pass attack (25th by YPG), but they should be able to cheat up with Melvin Gordon likely to be less than 100 percent with a bum knee. Carson Wentz has been better than Philip Rivers by almost every measure through three games, so the Eagles have the advantage in the all-important quarterback battle as well.
This appears to be a generous spread, probably because people will bet the 0-3 Chargers who “need it more.” You can bet the better team and get a point to do it, so take advantage.
The pick: Eagles +1
San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals (-7)
The 49ers (0-3) are still finding their way under new head coach Kyle Shanahan, but they are 2-1 ATS this season. The Cardinals will spot plenty of points to their division opponent on Sunday, and they’ve not been a great bet when favored by six or more (6-9 ATS last 15 times).
Arizona will try to implement a strong aerial attack, but pass defense has been a relative strength for San Francisco (14th by YPG). While the Cardinals are ranked fourth by passing YPG, they’re only averaging seven yards per pass with a passer rating of 76.1, both below league average. The Cardinals simply don’t have the personnel to go after the 49ers’ weak rush defense with David Johnson sidelined either.
Expect Carlos Hyde to grind out some first downs on the ground as the 49ers keep this potentially low-scoring contest close.
The pick: 49ers +7
Best of the rest (picks in bold)
New Orleans Saints (-2.5) at Miami Dolphins (London)
Los Angeles Rams at Dallas Cowboys (-6.5)
Jacksonville Jaguars (-3.5) at New York Jets
Carolina Panthers at New England Patriots (-9)
Cincinnati Bengals (-3) at Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers (-3) at Baltimore Ravens
Buffalo Bills at Atlanta Falcons (-8)
Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings [OFF]
New York Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3)
Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos (-3)
Indianapolis Colts at Seattle Seahawks (-13)
Washington Redskins at Kansas City Chiefs (-7)