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Week 4 NFL Picks: Brilliant Disguise

Four undefeated teams are in action on Sunday, but all four teams continue to have legitimate question marks entering Week 4.

Each week Zac Hirschbeck will look at the betting odds for each NFL game and then share his pick for each matchup. While hopefully it goes without saying, please don’t hold him accountable if you gamble away your retirement savings or child’s college fund based on his picks.

After correctly picking Cincinnati (-7.5) on Thursday night, Zac’s season-long record stands at 25-23-1.

Here are the rest of his picks for Week 4:

Tennessee Titans (+5) at Houston Texans

Between the meltdown they suffered against the Patriots on national television last Thursday, and the loss of superstar defensive lineman J.J. Watt to a season-ending back injury, it’s been a rough week and a half for the Texans. Fortunately, a matchup with the Titans will provide a momentary remedy. While the Titans have quietly been good on defense thus far under defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, their offense has unsurprisingly sputtered under former Bills head coach Mike Mularkey. With Houston head coach Bill O’Brien now set to call the plays for the Texans offense, Brock Osweiler will bounce back from his horrid showing against New England.

Pick: Houston (-5)

Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots (-5.5)

The fan in me certainly wants to believe that Buffalo’s performance against Arizona will carry into Week 4, but Bill Belichick’s ownership of the Bills is certainly difficult to look past. The creativity of the coaching staff against the Cardinals was certainly encouraging, and a matchup against a banged up quarterback should enable the Bills defense to put forth another strong performance. However, despite the offense’s rediscovery of 2015’s No. 1 ranked running game in Week 3, I think Belichick crafts a game plan that limits Buffalo’s ability to establish the running game. With that in mind, Tyrod Taylor will be forced to beat the Pats through the air with a receiving group that will now be without Sammy Watkins for the foreseeable future. While I have faith that Tyrod could come through with a solid performance and lead the Bills to victory, it’s difficult to expect that considering his performance through three games this season. I think the Bills lose a close one.

Pick: Buffalo (+5.5)

Seattle Seahawks (-3) at New York Jets

The Bills sure were a week early when it came to matching up with Ryan Fitzpatrick. After a performance that would surely rank among the best of his career, the Jets quarterback followed that up a six-interception effort on the road in Kansas City. It won’t get any easier for Fitzpatrick in Week 4, as he matches up against one of the best secondaries in football without Eric Decker. While the Seahawks certainly have concerns of their own offensively, I like Seattle to build off their dominant performance in Week 3 to win a low-scoring game in New York.

Pick: Seattle (-3)

Cleveland Browns at Washington Redskins (-7.5)

For two consecutive weeks Cleveland has covered after being heavy underdogs, and I think that trend continues here. Although Washington’s division victory on the road against the Giants might look impressive on paper, the on-field performance wasn’t inspiring. It’s hard to ever predict an outright win for Cody Kessler and the Browns considering their general lack of talent, but I think they keep things close against Washington.

Pick: Cleveland (+7.5)

Detroit Lions (-3) at Chicago Bears

Although the Lions have faltered after their opening-week win over the Colts with back-to-back losses, the Bears have been far more unimpressive with three consecutive double-digit defeats to begin 2016. Despite continued injury troubles on the defense side of the ball for Detroit (Ezekiel Ansah and DeAndre Levy will sit out a second consecutive week), it’s difficult to imagine a Brian Hoyer-led Chicago offense taking advantage of the Lions’ medical woes. Unlike last week, Matt Stafford might have to play well with the game still in the balance, and I think he’s up to the task.

Pick: Detroit (-3)

Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons (+3)

While I’ve incorrectly picked Carolina two out of the season’s first three weeks, I like them again here against the current NFC South leaders. The Panthers have faced two of the league’s best defenses (Denver and Minnesota) and the Falcons have faced far lesser competition. Carolina’s defense has yet to look as dominant as it did in 2015, but they’re far better than the defenses (Oakland and New Orleans) that Matt Ryan and his supporting cast have rolled over the last two weeks. All things considered, I think Carolina is better than they’ve showed thus far, and I think the Falcons aren’t as good as they’ve showed. This Week 4 matchup serves as a bit of a reality check.

Pick: Carolina (-3)

Oakland Raiders (+3.5) at Baltimore Ravens

It’s difficult to know whether or not the Ravens are a good football team so far this season. With close wins over Buffalo, Cleveland, and Jacksonville, Baltimore will have a tougher test on their hands against an up-and-coming Raiders team. I like Oakland’s chances on both sides of the ball on Sunday. Baltimore’s lacking run game will likely see Joe Flacco air it out quite a bit, and the Raiders secondary had a bounce-back effort against Tennessee in Week 3 after struggling against Drew Brees and Matt Ryan to start the season. Likewise, the Ravens have yet to face a quality offense, and Derek Carr should be able to effectively distribute the ball to a talented collection of skill players.

Pick: Oakland (+3.5)

Denver Broncos at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+3.5)

Although the Bucs put forth an impressive performance in a Week 1 win over the Falcons, Jameis Winston and his teammates come into Week 4 looking to avoid a three-game losing streak. While I believe in Winston’s ability as an NFL quarterback, it’s difficult to imagine him carving up one of the best defense’s in the NFL at this point in the season. Denver’s defense has picked up right where it left off in 2015, and Trevor Siemian had the best week (23 for 35 for 312 yards and four touchdowns) of his young career last week in Cincinnati. I think Denver’s undefeated start to the season continues with a comfortable win over the Bucs.

Pick: Denver (-3.5)

Los Angeles Rams (+8) at Arizona Cardinals

Both of these teams are difficult to get a read on in 2016. After coming within a win of the Super Bowl in 2015, the Cardinals have stumbled to a 1-2 start this season. Meanwhile, after a pitiful 28-0 road defeat to the 49ers in Week 1, the Rams have strung together consecutive wins against the Seahawks and Bucs. This line reflects a far stronger belief in Arizona turning things around after a slow start as compared to Los Angeles being a competent team. I tend to understand that belief. After losing a close game to the Patriots in Week 1, the Cardinals beat the Bucs by 33 at home in Week 2. Now coming off an extremely disappointing performance against the Bills in Week 3, I think the Cardinals win comfortably against Case Keenum and the Rams in Week 4.

Pick: Arizona (-8)

Dallas Cowboys at San Francisco 49ers (+3)

The 49ers continue to be one of the least talented teams in the league, and despite likely being without Dez Bryant, the Cowboys should win comfortably in San Francisco. While he’s only thrown for a single touchdown through three games, Dak Prescott continues to look like a long-term answer at quarterback for Dallas. Behind the best offensive line in football, Prescott and fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliott will have every opportunity to have a big week against a 49ers defense that’s surrendered several big plays over the last two weeks.

Pick: Dallas (-3)

New Orleans Saints (+4) at San Diego Chargers

In a matchup of two of the more injury-depleted teams in the league, I like the home team in this one. The Chargers should be 3-0 this season. While their lone win over the Jaguars was a straightforward result, San Diego choked away what looked like sure victories over the Chiefs and Colts. You can make a similar case for the Saints in some respects. New Orleans lost on a late two-point conversion to Oakland in Week 1, and then lost an ugly three-point game to the Giants in Week 2. However, they were outclassed by Atlanta in Week 3, and I think we see a similar result in Week 4. Even without Rob Ryan, New Orleans’ defense remains among the leagues worst. Drew Brees will certainly get his customary big numbers through the air, but Philip Rivers and the Chargers offense will manage to outperform him.

Pick: San Diego (-4)

Kansas City Chiefs at Pittsburgh Steelers (-5.5)

With Le’Veon Bell back in the fold, the Steelers offense should return to prominence after a lackluster showing against the Eagles in Week 3. Although DeAngelo Williams has certainly done an admirable job filling in for the suspended running back, Bell remains one of the best backs in football when on the field. His presence should help Pittsburgh bounce back from the organization’s worst loss in 27 years. The Chiefs are the Chiefs. They avoid mistakes and allow their opponents to beat themselves. While Jamaal Charles’ return will be welcomed by Kansas City’s offense, the Chiefs won’t benefit from another eight-turnover performance from their opponents.

Pick: Pittsburgh (-5.5)

New York Giants (+5.5) at Minnesota Vikings

After betting against the Vikings and losing in consecutive weeks, and after betting on the Giants and losing in consecutive weeks, I’m going with Minnesota in Week 4. I’ve certainly been guilty of underestimating the Vikings defense, which has been dominant through three games. The Broncos won the Super Bowl last season in spite of its quarterback, and Minnesota sure looks like it might be capable of achieving a similar feat.

Pick: Minnesota (-5.5)