NFL Betting: Week 4 Tips

Sure thing: Jacksonville v Cincinnati (-1.0) at 1.80.

It's always risky to pick a road team as a lock, and it's always risky to pick the Bengals for anything, but the more I look at this match-up, the more I think Cincy would have to really try hard to mess it up. They have weapons, their defence is able to put pressure on a quarterback (Blaine Gabbert) who doesn't react well to it, and they do have playmakers in the secondary who aren't going to be intimidated by the Jags' receivers. The best bet might be on whether Benjarvus Green-Ellis (aka Law Firm), who had never fumbled in his NFL career until last week, might fumble again. I'd bet against it, but maybe that's the effect becoming a Bengal has on people. Recall what the journey in the opposite direction did for Corey Dillon.

Underdog: Atlanta v Carolina (+7.0) at 1.88.

Last year the Falcons handled Carolina and Cam Newton pretty well, and while it's optimistic to expert Newton to have another stinker like he did against the Giants, the Falcons' D has been much improved this season. They've shown the ability to shut down decent offensive teams on the road. At home, in the Bubbadome, they should be able to keep Cam under control. Their own offence, which has placed more responsibility on Matt Ryan's shoulders to lead from the front, has been better too. As the Ravens have discovered with Joe Flacco, sometimes letting the quarterback make the play decisions at the line of scrimmage helps him focus, not only on what he's supposed to be doing, but what he will see from the defence. So far it's worked for the Falcons and it ought to work again this week. I hesitate only because the Panthers have the ability to keep it close.

Value bet: New York Jets v San Francisco (-4.0) at 1.95.

On paper, you'd think the Jest were just the sort of team that can beat the Niners, especially at home. Control the ball with the run game, pass effectively, play good D that keeps SF in check, and then blitz them to distraction once you have a lead. But the Jets run game has been plodding, Mark Sanchez struggles to get a deep pass game working, and their D hasn't dominated the way you'd expect. They are also now is without their best defensive player, Darrelle Revis, whose ability to lock out another team's receiver means the Jets are able to commit more rushers. Without him, they have to think about providing help. The Niners want to play that same kind of game, even when they're behind, which is their weakness. But they have the targets to stretch the field, they have depth in running, and their D isn't likely to allow the Jets too much running room. They won't win by much, but they ought to cover four.

One to avoid: Denver v Oakland.

I actually think Denver will cover the spread on this one; they're at home, their passing game came back to life in the second half, and Oakland's defence is vulnerable. But Denver's defense isn't much better, especially inside, and that could be where the Raiders manage to keep it tight. Of course they're more likely to run out of gas, which is one of those things to keep in mind whenever you see the John Elway 4th quarter comeback statistics reeled out at you. So if you insist on taking Denver, be my guest, but avoid the Packers giving 9 to the Saints, OK?