I wanted to be bullish on the New York Jets this week. Was planning to buy into the notion that Joe Flacco, with his Super Bowl MVP calm and experience, could be the right man at the right time to help Adam Gase get the offense on track.
But I’ve been disavowed of that notion by the injury report. It’s the one weekly publication that never changes: The news is always bad. If a player ends up on this list, he doesn’t come back, at least not on time. Hoping for Mekhi Becton and Breshad Perriman to come back and give Flacco some assistance? Not likely. Denzel Mims? Oh, the second-round receiver from Baylor? Um, no. Le’Veon Bell and his 3.2 yards per carry are back, so at least there’s that.
Meanwhile, the Arizona Cardinals have DeAndre Hopkins and Larry Fitzgerald to go against a Jets secondary that got Ryp-ed apart by the Broncos, and who exactly is going to track down Kyler Murray? Plus the Cardinals will be coming in angry off losses to the Detroit Lions and Carolina Panthers.
The pick: Cardinals, -7.
(Home team in Caps)
New York Giants (+8.5) over DALLAS COWBOYS
This finally could be the matchup that gets Daniel Jones going in the right direction and fuels his confidence. The Cowboys come in ranked No. 30 in total yards, No. 31 against the run and No. 32 in total points allowed. Dallas is 1-3, one miracle comeback from being winless. Even if the Giants fall well behind in this one, the backdoor cover could be there for the taking.
Carolina Panthers (+1.5) over ATLANTA FALCONS
The 0-4 Falcons could get three defensive starters back, but now top WRs Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley are hurting. Even without Christian McCaffrey, Carolina’s doing fine with Teddy Bridgewater, Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore.
Las Vegas Raiders (+12) over KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
I get killed by this matchup twice a year, it seems, and keep coming back to the Raiders. This time it’s because they’re expecting OT Trent Brown and field-stretching WR Henry Ruggs III back, and the offense was pretty good when they had those two. The Chiefs come in off a gift-wrapped Monday night win over the Patriots and have a condensed schedule upcoming.
Philadelphia Eagles (+7) over PITTSBURGH STEELERS
Doug Pederson showed everyone (OK … Adam Gase) Sunday night you can still call innovative plays even without your top four receivers and several key linemen. The Steelers come in rested after last week’s game with the Titans was KO’d by COVID, and it’s a tough travel turnaround for the Eagles. But Philly could be getting back some wide receivers and is still in crisis mode at 1-2-1.
Los Angeles Rams (-7) over WASHINGTON
Jared Goff and the Rams already have a win at Philadelphia and a near-miracle comeback loss at Buffalo, so I’m not so worried about the 10 a.m. body-clock angle here. OK with Ron Rivera’s decision to replace Dwayne Haskins with Kyle Allen. The coach and QB won five of their first six games together in Carolina last season before losing Allen’s final six starts. It is a signal to the other players that the WFT is trying to compete in a winnable NFC East. But this team is just not good.
Cincinnati Bengals (+13) over BALTIMORE RAVENS
Bengals and Joe Burrow have put up 30, 23 and 33 points the past three weeks — the kind of output you like to see when getting nearly two touchdowns. Cincy also had covered five in a row in this series prior to a 49-13 Ravens laugher last November.
Jacksonville Jaguars (+6.5) over HOUSTON TEXANS
Can Romeo Crennel get more out of the 0-4 Texans than Bill O’Brien did, or is there really not much there? Will take a shot with the Jaguars, who have edges here in points for and against, and yards per carry for and against.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (-9.5) over Miami Dolphins
The 49ers are starting to put the band back together, with Jimmy Garoppolo possibly rejoining Deebo Samuel and George Kittle. Sunday night’s loss to the Eagles will dial up the urgency. And though Ryan Fitzpatrick is a lot of fun and the Dolphins are a pain in the neck to play, the talent discrepancy is larger than this point spread.
CLEVELAND BROWNS (+1.5) over Indianapolis Colts
Both teams are on three-game winning streaks. The Browns have done it with offense (35, 34, 49 scored), the Colts with defense (11, 7, 11 allowed). Colts won in Chicago, and it’s a tough ask for a team to win back-to-back road games vs. competitive foes.
Minnesota Vikings (+7) over SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
The Vikings were maligned early this season but have scored 30 or more points in three of their four games. Kirk Cousins can have success against a Seattle D that is ranked last in yardage allowed (by a wide margin) and again will be without Jamal Adams.
Monday Night Football
Denver Broncos (+10) over NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
It took about a half dozen head-shaking mistakes — including a pick-six Julian Edelman just about handed to Tyrann Mathieu — for the Patriots not to cover in Kansas City. Still, the COVID-19 that’s sidelined Cam Newton and now Stephon Gilmore has to be weighing on the minds of everyone else. It’s another week with a rescheduling for the Pats, and Denver comes in with extra rest and Phillip Lindsay returning.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (-7.5) over Los Angeles Chargers
Justin Herbert is off to a good start statistically, but is 0-3 in the standings and now loses his dual-threat security blanket, Austin Ekeler. Figures to be a hard night in the Big Easy for the kid.
Buffalo Bills (-1) over TENNESSEE TITANS
If this game does get played during Week 5, having already been moved from Sunday to Tuesday, I’d have to think the Titans would be affected negatively in some way by the COVID outbreak on their team and the attendant distractions. The arrival of Stefon Diggs has made a huge difference for Josh Allen.
Best bets: Rams, Cardinals, Saints.
Lock of the week: Rams (Locks 0-3-1 in 2020).
Last week: 9-5-1 overall, 1-2 Best Bets.
Thursday: Bears (W).