We’re on to Betting the Spread Week 4. We’re seeing gradual improvement week to week; 7-8 is a solid record. But we can do better. Definitely better than the 17-28 record against the spread we’ve accumulated so far this season. I say that begins this week. Week 4’s slate is loaded with a bunch of exciting matchups that could lead to really fun and explosive games. Let’s dig in and nibble on some picks and fantasy nuggets then, shall we?
(Lines are courtesy of PlayerProfiler EDGE)
Minnesota Vikings (-3) vs New Orleans Saints
Pick ATS: Minnesota Vikings
Dalvin Cook sustained yet another injury to his shoulder that has bothered him for years. Backup Alexander Mattison has risen to the occasion in Cook’s absence in the last three seasons. In the five full games Cook has missed since 2020, Mattison has averaged 21.4 carries, 90.2 yards, and 0.6 touchdowns per game while adding five targets per game and 0.4 touchdowns through the air. The Saints’ run defense has not been as stout this season as we’ve been accustomed to them being. They stifled Leonard Fournette (24 carries-65 yards), but Cordarrelle Patterson (22 carries-120 yards-1 touchdown) and Christian McCaffrey (25 carries-108 yards) had their share of success. The Saints’ defense skews closer to the Tampa matchup than the other two, but we’ll see. Mattison is a fine RB2 this week if Dalvin misses.
On the other side, Chris Olave is happening. He is far and away the leader in air yards through three weeks and has registered a 32-percent target share the last two weeks. Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry both got injured in Week 3; Thomas has already been ruled out for this matchup. Christian Watson should’ve housed a 75-yard bomb against Minnesota in Week 1. Quez Watkins capitalized on a 53-yard shot against the Vikings in Week 2. Olave looks destined for the moon this week.
Cleveland Browns vs Atlanta Falcons (+1)
Pick ATS: Atlanta Falcons
I was stunned to see this game boast the third-highest over/under of the week. I was also shocked these two both currently rank inside the top ten of Football Outsiders’ offensive DVOA metric. They’re both in the bottom ten of their defensive DVOA metric, so I guess the line makes sense. These two are the No. 6 and No. 7 worst run defenses in the NFL. The Browns rank No. 1 in rush attempts; the Falcons rank No. 5. Nick Chubb leads the NFL in rush yards; Cordarrelle Patterson is No. 3. Are you picking up what I’m putting down here?
Washington Commanders vs Dallas Cowboys (-3)
Pick ATS: Dallas Cowboys
The Commanders rank No. 28 in Football Outsiders’ pass DVOA metric. They’ve bled fantasy points to wide receivers. Christian Kirk and Zay Jones combined for a 21-12-182 line in Week 1. In Week 2, Amon-Ra St. Brown exploded to 12-9-116-2 with an additional 68 rushing yards. Josh Reynolds even added 38 yards and a touchdown. In Week 3, A.J. Brown went for a mere 85 yards and a touchdown on five receptions and ten targets.
I say mere because DeVonta Smith lit Washington up with a 12–8-169-1 game too. The Tom Savage corollary is indeed lifting CeeDee Lamb despite Dak Prescott‘s absence; his 32-percent target share says as such. Lamb only had a 12-8-87-1 line on Monday Night but it should’ve been a much bigger game had he hauled in this very catchable ball. Wheels are up for Lamb (and Noah Brown) in this one.
Seattle Seahawks (+3.5) vs Detroit Lions
Pick ATS: Seattle Seahawks
I want to get pieces of this game, and there are a lot of opportunities to do so. First off, running back. D’Andre Swift suffered a shoulder injury that doesn’t seem major but could be held out until Detroit’s Week 6 bye. Jamaal Williams filled in for a majority of a game Swift exited last year and handled the bulk of the workload in two other games. In those three games, Williams averaged 17 carries and 71 yards per game while adding three targets.
He’s handled 12 red zone touches this year, ranking first among running backs in that stat according to playerprofiler.com. Jamaal Williams is a really strong start against a Seattle run defense that sits in the bottom third of Football Outsiders’ run defense DVOA. Don’t forget about Craig Reynolds either; he impressed last year and could very well fill the role Williams occupied while Swift was healthy.
This might not be a week to be overly optimistic about DK Metcalf, however. That’s because of the resurgence of Lions corner Jeff Okudah. Okudah has slain three giants the first three weeks of the season, shutting down DeVonta Smith, Terry McLaurin, and Justin Jefferson. Metcalf has lined up in the slot only 18 times this season, according to PlayerProfiler.com. He should see plenty of Okudah. We’ll see if Okudah keeps up his stellar play.
Tennessee Titans vs Indianapolis Colts (-3.5)
Pick ATS: Indianapolis Colts
Treylon Burks‘ two targets and one reception for 13 yards last week may not seem like much, but look closer and there are plenty of reasons for excitement. He ran the most routes of any Titan in Week 3. He finally out-snapped Nick Westbrook-Ikhine. His target rate is right on par with Robert Woods.
Now that he’s on the field and involved in the offense, it’s only a matter of time before he takes off as his fellow first-round receiver contemporaries have already. Playing against the NFL’s sixth-worst pass defense according to Football Outsiders’ pass defense DVOA metric is a good place to start. I’m calling this week the Treylon Burks breakout game. Get ready.
(sidenote: make sure fellow Titans rookie receiver Kyle Philips isn’t on your waiver wire either. He’s essentially played one game and he’s still been Tennessee’s third-most productive pass catcher on the season)
Chicago Bears (+3) vs New York Giants
Pick ATS: Chicago Bears
I’m not even kidding when I say the next best fantasy starts from this game after each team’s starting running backs (Khalil Herbert if David Montgomery misses and Saquon Barkley) are each team’s defenses. But it’s true. There’s going to be a lot of hype around Khalil Herbert this week and rightfully so. So I want to shine a spotlight on Kadarius Toney again. Here’s a note from JJ Zachariason’s newsletter back before Week 1 on Toney: ‘Since 2011, we’ve seen over 100 wide receivers hit 50-plus targets during their first year in the league.
Among those players, Toney’s targets per route run rate ranked second-best behind only Tyreek Hill.’ Toney is hurt right now with a hamstring injury but so is rookie second-round pick Wan’Dale Robinson. Kenny Golladay is either dust or in the doghouse or both. Sterling Shepard sadly tore his ACL strolling through a route on a play he wasn’t involved in. Someone has to emerge from this receiver room and do *something.* Toney is still the best bet. Hold him and Robinson if you can.
Jacksonville Jaguars (+6.5) vs Philadelphia Eagles
Pick ATS: Jacksonville Jaguars
Ok. I’m doing it. I’m taking the L on Travis Etienne. Clearly, the Jacksonville Jaguars are better than I thought, and James Robinson is the man. But, let’s talk about Robinson for a second. It’s amazing what he’s done to this point off the torn Achilles, but there are plenty of stats to indicate he’s over his head from a fantasy standpoint. If you take out his 50-yard touchdown run in Week 3 where he went untouched, he’s averaging just 3.6 yards per rush.
His true yards per carry according to PlayerProfiler.com is 3.8, No. 44 among running backs (Travis Etienne‘s isn’t much better at 4.1). According to JJ Zachariason’s newsletter, 62.7-percent of Robinson’s rushes have netted two yards or fewer. He’s also exceeded his expected fantasy output at the No. 6 highest rate among running backs according to PFF, and the seventh-highest rate according to Mike Clay of ESPN.
In fact, Robinson’s expected fantasy point total (44) according to Mike Clay is only eight points higher than Etienne’s (36). The Jaguars are a touchdown underdog on the road against a menacing Eagles front seven that’s stymied every running back but D’Andre Swift. If ever there was a week the Jaguars needed to rely on Travis Etienne over James Robinson, it would be this week. But I also thought that last week. And the week before that. And the week before that.
New York Jets (+3) vs Pittsburgh Steelers
Pick ATS: New York Jets
I’m calling it now: this is the Breece Hall breakout game. He finally overtook Michael Carter in snaps last week and has been better the last two weeks. He has a lot working for him: he’s No. 8 in weighted opportunities according to PlayerProfiler.com. He’s in the top 15 among running backs in many receiving statistics, such as target share, routes run, and yards per route run. He’s No. 9 in true yards per carry (5.1) and No. 7 in yards per touch (6.3) and yards created per touch (3.97). His expected fantasy points, according to Mike Clay, are No. 8 among running backs, sandwiched in between Saquon Barkley and Austin Ekeler. The Steelers rank middle of the pack in run defense but have been gashed since TJ Watt got hurt. Watch out.
Buffalo Bills vs Baltimore Ravens (+3)
Pick ATS: Baltimore Ravens
Jordan Poyer, Dane Jackson, Christian Benford, Micah Hyde, Tre’Davious White. All of them either missed last week’s game for Buffalo’s secondary or will miss this game or both. Rashod Bateman. That’s all.
Los Angeles Chargers (-6) vs Houston Texans
Pick ATS: Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers can’t ever have nice things. Joey Bosa and Rashawn Slater are out for a while; Slater is out for the season. The Texans could easily cover this game with the wreckage in Los Angeles, but they still have Justin Herbert whose ribs should be fine after he played through the pain last week. Michael Pittman (13-9-121-1) and Courtland Sutton (11-7-122) both demolished this secondary on the outside the first two weeks of the season. Luckily, this secondary was spared by playing the Chicago Bears last week who only threw the ball 17 times. This is shaping up for another explosive Mike Williams week.
Arizona Cardinals (+1) vs Carolina Panthers
Pick ATS: Arizona Cardinals
Free DJ Moore! The supposed upgrade at quarterback to Baker Mayfield has sadly been anything but. Moore has managed six targets in each of his first three games this season; he hadn’t been below seven targets in a game since Week 9 of the *2020* season. To make things worse, he should see a lot of Byron Murphy. The Cardinals relinquished a total of 13 targets and six targets for 56 yards and a touchdown to Davante Adams and Cooper Kupp the last two weeks (Kupp did add a rushing touchdown, however). Unless you drafted a rookie breakout later on in your drafts, you’re starting DJ Moore this week. But I hate that I feel bad about it.
Also, a reminder: add Rondale Moore if he’s available in your league. Greg Dortch has been really good these first three weeks, but Rondale Moore is a far superior talent. Moore could return as soon as this week. If he plays this week, I’d wait to plug him in your lineup to see how the snaps shake out between him and Dortch. I *think* Rondale will assume his role but we need to wait and see. Dortch has been a top 20 receiver in PPR through three weeks. But if Rondale gets that role, hubba hubba.
New England Patriots vs Green Bay Packers (-9)
Pick ATS: Green Bay Packers
It was just about time for Rhamondre Stevenszn. The good news is that his utilization was that of an RB1 last week. The bad news is that he lost his quarterback Mac Jones to a high ankle sprain and the Patriots were already without number one receiver Jakobi Meyers last week. The utilization is what we were hoping for with Rhamondre, but the offense was already lackluster with Jones at the helm. Brian Hoyer the Destroyer can keep the ship afloat but it does sink the excitement for Rhamondre Stevenson. He’s a fine RB2 play; hopefully, the offense allows for more.
Denver Broncos (+2.5) vs Las Vegas Raiders
Pick ATS: Denver Broncos
You would think before the season started that this would be one of many AFC West shootouts. But holy hell have these teams underwhelmed offensively. Denver looks as if they lost their remote on every offensive possession so far this season. And yet they rank more favorably in DVOA than the Raiders do. I could be wrong, but Denver has sapped fantasy football fireworks from all three of their opponents so far this season, and with its offense looking as constipated as it has and their defense (No. 5 in DVOA) compensating for it, I think this is going to be another slog of a game.
That could bode well for Josh Jacobs. He ranks No. 5 in opportunity share among running backs. The only ones ahead of him? Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, Leonard Fournette, and Joe Mixon. His six targets last week could very well be a product of Hunter Renfrow missing the game, but he ranks No. 13 in routes run (57) and No. 19 in route participation (47.1-percent). If the passing game usage is here to stay, Jacobs looks like he can emerge from the dead zone as a low-end RB1. He is a great buy low at the position right now.
Kansas City Chiefs (-1) vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Pick ATS: Kansas City Chiefs
Something has to give with Skyy Moore, right? Kansas City isn’t getting enough from Mecole Hardman and Marquez Valdes-Scantling to warrant Moore riding the pine. Hardman has provided 67 yards and a touchdown on 11 targets and seven receptions. Valdes-Scantling has added 105 yards on 10 receptions and 18 targets. Offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy planned to get Moore more involved in the offense last week, but it only resulted in eight snaps. There’s a path to major playing time and targets in a Patrick Mahomes-led offense for Skyy Moore. His college profile is a very clean one and one that compares to Davante Adams. I have to believe in him getting a shot at some point because he’s a much better talent than either Hardman or Valdes-Scantling. It’s hard to believe he’d disappoint once that happens. Hold him.
Something also has to give with Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Jerick McKinnon has out-snapped him the last two weeks and has been on the field more this season in total than Edwards-Helaire. Yet Edwards-Helaire keeps scoring fantasy points. If you take Edwards-Helaire 52-yard run at the end of Week 2 out, he’s averaging 3.04 yards per carry this season. He’s No. 4 in PPR Points among running backs. Sell him if you can because this won’t last. But I’d rather add Jerick McKinnon and see what he looks like if something happens to Edwards-Helaire rather than trade for Edwards-Helaire.
Los Angeles Rams (+1.5) vs San Francisco 49ers
Pick ATS: Los Angeles Rams
Is Cam Akers happening? He took a back seat in the first half of Week 3, but he flipped the script in the second. He ended the game with 12 carries for 61 yards and a touchdown (he could’ve had a second score but fumbled on a goal-line carry after getting stopped short). He’s owned the backfield carries the last two weeks. The Rams still aren’t throwing to running backs, however.
They were last in target share to running backs last year, and have tossed nine to Akers or Henderson through three weeks. Akers ranks outside the top 60 among running backs in routes run and route participation, while Henderson sits at 17 and 13 in those respective categories. I think that’s how this backfield will shake out going forward. Akers is essentially a Damien Harris-esque touchdown-dependent RB2, while Henderson is the receiving back on a team that doesn’t throw to running backs. Akers is startable but both are tough sells at the moment.