Week 4 of the 2022 NFL season kicked off Thursday night with the Cincinnati Bengals (2-2) handing the Miami Dolphins (3-1) their first loss, 27-15. And Sunday features an extended day of games with the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints starting off things early from London and then culminating in a matchup between Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs and Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
But what does all this mean from a betting perspective? And what are the best plays to help you make smart wagering decisions?
Betting analysts Doug Kezirian, Tyler Fulghum, Joe Fortenbaugh, Anita Marks and Erin Dolan, fantasy and sports betting analysts Eric Moody and Andre Snellings, ESPN Stats & Information's Seth Walder and Football Outsiders' Aaron Schatz offer insight into the games with tips and picks.
Note: Lines from Caesars Sportsbook unless otherwise indicated.
What is your biggest betting storyline entering Week 4?
Schatz: Increased parity in the NFL this year, starting with the fact that only one team is undefeated and only Houston is winless. You can see the parity in the Week 4 lines, with eight lines within a field goal and only two (Philadelphia -6.5 and Green Bay -9.5) over six points.
Snellings: I also note the parity, but more as it affects the futures market. The odds in the race to win the various divisions tend to swing wildly on early wins and losses. With all of the teams so bunched up, a win swing in either direction this weekend can completely shift the futures market. The Colts are favored to win at +115, even though they have only one win while the Jaguars are +200 while they are in first place. What happens if, this Sunday, the Jags were to win to move to 3-1 and the Colts lose to the Titans? The Bears are currently in a 3-way tie for first place in the NFC North but are still +1600 to win the division. The action this weekend could have seismic effects on the futures market.
Marks: Jaguars-Eagles is the game of the week, even more so than Bills-Ravens. The Jags have to be the biggest surprise of the season. They beat the Colts and the Chargers, two teams that many predict to win their divisions. Doug Pederson returns to Philadelphia with a team that is clicking on both sides of the ball. The Jags' defense has forced eight turnovers this season and Trevor Lawrence has a 77% completion percentage through three weeks. I'll take the Jags +7.
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The Buffalo Bills off their first loss are still the favorite to win the Super Bowl (+450) and are a 3-point favorite on the road against Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens are 14-2 ATS as an underdog since 2018. Do you see the Bills rebounding or Baltimore's underdog streak continuing?
Fulghum: I like the Ravens' underdog streak to continue in this spot. We chronicled on Wednesday's Daily Wager in our "Sharp Attack" segment that early sharp money was coming in on the Bills -3. I'm not sure I agree. Buffalo is coming off of a wildly exhausting game against Miami in Week 30. The temperatures and humidity had multiple players on both sidelines cramping and gasping for air. Buffalo's offense was on the field for 90 plays! Injury reports will be important to monitor (especially for the defense of both teams), but I like Lamar Jackson and the Ravens catching points at home in a spot where Buffalo might not be at its very best.
Fortenbaugh: I'm backing the underdog here. Weather could be an issue, as the total has already dropped from 53.5 to 51. If that's the case, the Baltimore rushing attack would have the edge in controlling the pace of the game while keeping Bills quarterback Josh Allen on the sideline. Throw in myriad injuries to Buffalo's defense and you'll find me throwing my money on the Ravens.
Dolan: Ravens first-half moneyline. Baltimore is the second-highest scoring team in the first half with an average of 17.3 points scored. This game is being played in Baltimore. The Ravens put up 28 points in the first half against the Dolphins at home in their only home game this season. I expect them to start off hot and win the first half, especially considering the injuries on the Buffalo defense.
Moody: The Ravens' underdog streak is likely to continue. I'm backing them. Baltimore's offense has looked great this season, averaging 380.3 yards. The Ravens also lead the league in scoring with 33 points per game. The Bills are no slouches offensively, averaging 441.3 yards and 30.3 points. The Ravens' offense is strong enough to keep this game close, despite their defensive problems. Baltimore has allowed the most yards (458) and points (25.7 PG) this season. Their defensive woes might be negated by the weather, as winds up to 20 mph are forecast throughout the weekend with light to moderate rain. The Ravens faced the Jets in the rain during their season opener and won 24-9. So far this season, the Ravens have been a pass-heavy team, but they can easily revert back to their run-heavy ways if necessary
The Philadelphia Eagles are 6.5-point favorites over the upstart Jacksonville Jaguars. Are bookmakers still not respecting the Jaguars or do you like Philadelphia to continue to roll?
Schatz: I'm very impressed by what the Jaguars have done this season; they are currently No. 2 in the Football Outsiders DVOA ratings. But it's important to realize that even after three games, our priors from before the season are still a lot more meaningful than the data we have during the season so far. Our DAVE ratings at Football Outsiders, which are designed to be more predictive than raw DVOA, are still 78% based on preseason projections. Because of that, and the fact that we thought the Eagles would be a much better team than the Jaguars before the season began, I do think this line is very accurate. If I had to bet the spread I would still take the Eagles at this point, giving the 6.5 points.
Dolan: Tough for me to say this as a fan, but I think the Jags have a shot at covering. Jacksonville's defense is actually a top-10 unit, allowing 306.7 yards per game. This will be the toughest defense the Eagles have faced, considering the Lions, Vikings and Commanders all rank bottom six in the league in total yards allowed per game. On top of that, the Jags' offense is averaging 28 points. I am not saying Philly won't win this game, but I think the defense is the toughest they have faced ... which is something I would not expect to be writing at the start of the season.
Moody: The Jaguars are still not respected by the bookmakers. New coach Doug Pederson has this team leading the AFC South and firing on all cylinders. The Jaguars have two impressive wins and the 6.5-point spread is a bit large in my opinion. Over the past two games, Jacksonville's defense has allowed just 10 points. The Eagles have the more complete and better overall team, but the Jaguars will put up a valiant effort in Pederson's return to Philadelphia. Jacksonville will cover the spread. The young team trusts Pederson, which is important given how Urban Meyer's regime ended last season. The culture in Jacksonville has changed under his leadership. Additionally, Pederson has coaches who are familiar with this Eagles team. Over its past seven games against the NFC, the Jaguars have gone 0-7 against the spread. This is a different Jacksonville team, however. I like the Jaguars to cover in this one
Sunday night we get Patrick Mahomes (+500 to win MVP) vs. Tom Brady (+3000 to win MVP). Brady is 11-1 ATS in his career as a home underdog. Can he get the Bucs back on track or will Mahomes do the same in Kansas City?
Schatz: This should be a close one, but I do like Kansas City because of the injuries the Buccaneers are dealing with in their receiving corps. They'll get Mike Evans back but I'm not sure who else is going to be able to take the field. The Kansas City defense has been improved, currently ranking ninth in DVOA through three games. That interior pressure from Chris Jones is going to be a problem against the weak Tampa Bay interior offensive line that suffered so many preseason injuries.
Fortenbaugh: I'm playing the Chiefs here for a half unit. What would this line be if Kansas City didn't self-destruct in Indianapolis last week? Because that's what happened from a special teams perspective. A muffed punt that led to an early Colts touchdown, a missed field goal, a missed extra point and a series of awful kick returns. It can't get any worse than that. Harrison Butker has been practicing this week, which is huge news for Kansas City
What are the three most important things that our analytics say?
Walder: I'll throw you two sides from FPI, plus a futures bet.
Buffalo Bills at Baltimore Ravens (+3)
Sunday, 1:05 p.m ET, M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore
FPI prediction: Ravens by 2.3
This is all about injuries -- specifically, injuries to the Bills' secondary. Not only are the Bills missing Tre'Davious White, but they're down Micah Hyde now and Jordan Poyer, and Dane Jackson are both questionable. That's basically an entire secondary that is -- at best -- banged up! Given those issues we make the Bills and Ravens roughly equal strength and make Baltimore favorites by a couple of points with home-field advantage.
FPI prediction: Packers by 14.4
Let's start with this: in a world where Mac Jones was healthy, FPI would not be a big fan of the Patriots. This is a team that is 1-2, but its losses came by double-digits and its win by three. New England ranks 26th in offensive efficiency and 21st in defensive efficiency. And now take out their QB, with FPI presuming Jones out for this game, and replace him with Brian Hoyer. And now face the Packers in Green Bay. I'm not sure why this wouldn't be a blowout, and neither is FPI.
Jacksonville Jaguars to win division (+200)
FPI prediction: 58%
By and large, our new FPI model has held a pretty firm grip on its priors. But on the Jaguars it has been aggressive, seeing that Trevor Lawrence is playing at an entirely different level this season. From the model's standpoint, this is the best team in the division. It makes the Jags the 11th-best team in football going forward -- don't be lulled by the Colts' surprise win over the Chiefs. And the Jaguars have the easiest remaining schedule in the division going forward. So FPI would like their chances even if they didn't already have a half-game lead in the division, but they do!
What is your best bet for Week 4?
Fulghum: Especially if the Bills defense remains as banged up as it was in Week 3, I think we get a shootout in Baltimore. I'd play that total over 51. The Bills defense clearly missed safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer commandeering the back end. Without Ed Oliver and Jordan Phillips up front, the defensive line was not near as suffocating as it had been the first two weeks. Lamar Jackson, meanwhile, has accounted for more touchdowns this season than all but one team in the league. On the other side, Josh Allen gets a Ravens defense that is ranked dead last in yards allowed per game.
Schatz: Give me the Chicago Bears +3.5 at the New York Giants. Close games have the Giants a bit overrated still, despite the loss to Dallas last week. Nobody wants to watch the plodding Chicago offense these days, but the Bears have a higher DVOA than the Giants through three games because of a better defense (11th compared to 28th for the G-Men). The Bears, of course, have an absurdly high run/pass ratio and they are sixth in rushing DVOA, compared to 28th for the Giants defense. I think the Bears can keep it close and I would actually favor them to win outright, but I'll happily take the 3.5 points in a game that will likely be close.
Fortenbaugh: New England at +10 or better at Green Bay. I'm channeling my inner Aaron Schatz here: According to Football Outsiders rush DVOA, the Patriots boast the best ground attack in the league. Conversely, Green Bay's defense ranks dead last in the NFL in rush DVOA. With a total of just 40.5 points, I think Belichick & Co. will grind this game to a halt and keep it tight before the Packers edge out a victory, all while failing to cover the -10.
Moody: I really like the Jaguars +6.5. I discussed why above, but I want to share one additional insight. The Eagles have a robust running game behind their stout offensive line. However, the Jaguars' defensive front could give them trouble. Jacksonville's defense ranks ninth in run stop win rate. Jaguars defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell is familiar with how to plan to defend quarterback Jalen Hurts. Last year, he was part of the defensive staff that orchestrated Hurts' worst game as a pro against the Buccaneers in the Eagles' wild-card game loss. Hurts padded his stats in the fourth quarter. Through three quarters, he was 16-for-32 for 140 yards with two interceptions and no touchdowns
What is your favorite player prop?
Schatz: Trevor Lawrence over 11.5 rushing yards. Lawrence's strong pocket management means he usually doesn't have to tuck and run when he faces pass pressure. He has only 22 rushing yards in three games in 2022. But the Eagles are going to bring a lot more pass rush than he has seen this season. If Carson Wentz and Kirk Cousins can each gain over 20 rushing yards against the Eagles, Lawrence should have a couple of good scrambles in him to hit 12.
Moody: Michael Pittman over 66.5 receiving yards (-131). Pittman has been excellent in both games he has played in this season, averaging 11 targets and 96.5 receiving yards. Pittman should feast on the Titans' inexperienced secondary, which has given up some epic receiving performances to Stefon Diggs, Davante Adams and Sterling Shepard this season. Despite missing one game, Pittman leads the Colts' receivers in targets and receptions.
Fulghum: Josh Allen over 283.5 passing yards. I think the Bills spend a majority of this game chasing the Ravens on the scoreboard. Josh Allen will chuck it as much, or more, than any QB in the league -- 63 attempts last week! Baltimore's pass defense has been dreadful. The worst in the NFL, in fact. Allen is averaging 338 YPG this season and hasn't thrown for less than 297 in any game.
Dolan: Josh Allen over 283.5 passing yards. Great minds think alike, Tyler! Baltimore ranks dead last in passing yards and total yards allowed per game. Allen has gone over this in all three games this season. He should feast through the air
Walder: Curtis Samuel under 45.5 receiving yards (-115). My projections forecast a mean of 35.6 yards for Samuel, but that's just the start here. More alarming to me: Samuel's Open Score -- part of our new suite of receiver metrics unveiled on ESPN.com this week -- is 28 this season. It's a small sample, but that's also the second-worst Open Score among qualifiers. Samuel gets most of his receptions from running back-esque routes, and I do expect he'll get those touches. But when he's running more normal wide receiver routes, he's not getting open.