LOS ANGELES: “Any Given Sunday” is more than just a great Al Pacino football movie about the Miami Sharks. It is the reason we love football. Shocking upsets are the norm. David does beat Goliath. Critics call it parity, but the better term that the late NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle strived for is competitive balance. The NFL still has dynasties, with the New England Patriots being the newest one. It still has its futile franchises, with the Browns and Lions frequently being bottom feeders. The Week 4 NFL Preview helps to understand the games, and the anticipation for this Any Given Sunday contests.
Yet no other league has as many stunning results.
A terrible team goes on the road and stuns a heavily favored home team. As ESPN uber-announcer Chris Berman frequently said,
“And that’s why they play the game!”
Last week, the Minnesota Vikings were 17 point favorites over the Buffalo Bills.
The Bills fell behind 40-0 in their opener and lost 47-3. The Vikings looked like a legitimate Super Bowl contender. The Bills were such a laughingstock that cornerback Vontae Davis quit at halftime of their second loss. He retired from football in the middle of the game.
The Bills game against the Vikings was expected to be a blowout, and it was. It also shocked the world and stunned the casinos. It was the Bills who stormed to a 27-0 halftime lead and coasted to a 27-6 victory.
Any given Sunday happens every Sunday. This is football.
Any columnist can over-analyze and predict football games. We still have to watch football. In politics, people can read a transcription of what happened. In music or theatre, we can download the concert later or read the Cliff’s Notes of the play.
Football needs to be watched in real time. It is the original must-see TV. On Any given Sunday, we will see games that we will talk about and remember forever.
With that, here is the Week 4 NFL Preview and Bettor’s Guide, with point spreads provided by OddsShark and all times Eastern.
Thursday, September 27, 2018, 8:20 p.m.
This initially looked like a possible NFC Title Game preview, but then the 17 point favorites were shellacked at home by Buffalo. This week will tell if the Vikings get angry or encounter self-doubt. Their problem is that the Rams are a real Super Bowl contender. The spread is high, and this week will tell us whether last week was a fluke. Rams win but fail to cover.
Sunday, September 30, 1:00 p.m.
The Dolphins are 3-0 by beating up on patsies. The Patriots for decades were known as The Patsies before becoming a dynasty. This year new England is only 1-2. Miami can finish off the Brady-Belichick dynasty forever. Oddsmakers think this will not happen, and that order will be restored in the AFC East. The spread could be doubled and the oddsmakers would still be right. Patriots cover.
The Eagles have looked ugly but last week was Carson Wentz’s first week back. The Titans won a big victory last week at Jacksonville, and this has letdown all over it. The Eagles are still the better team. Eagles cover.
Last week Cincinnati stayed with Carolina for three quarters but faded in the fourth quarter. Atlanta has more offensive firepower than Carolina. Falcons cover.
Ryan Fitzpatrick finally had a somewhat bad game, but he still threw for over 400 yards. Assuming he starts and not Jameis Winston, this could make for an exciting matchup. Khalil Mack is wrecking everything in his path, but give Fitzpatrick and his magic beard one more week to prove the start of the season was no fluke. Upset special, Buccaneers win outright.
The Lions shocked New England as the teacher was beaten by the student. The Lions are begging for a letdown. Cowboys cover.
Yes, Buffalo shocked the world and defeated Minnesota as 17 point underdogs. The Packers will not take them lightly. The spread is high, but Aaron Rodgers is ready to explode. This week he will. Packers cover.
Neither team has established an identity. Give the Colts the nod at home with Andrew Luck. Colts cover.
The Jaguars lost a stunner at home to Tennessee, but that could be from the hangover effect of throttling New England two weeks ago. This is their third straight home game, and they will not be napping again. After a 31 point road win to start the season, the Jets have regressed. Jaguars win but fail to cover.
Neither of these teams are what they were in recent years past, but the Seahawks got a confidence booster in a home win over Dallas. Seahawks cover.
The Browns finally got a win. The Raiders find ways to lose. The only reason to take the Raiders is that they are desperate. Some teams lack talent. The Raiders lack heart. At home, against a giddy Cleveland team, the Raiders talent on offense will finally be enough after blowing two straight games.
Hue Jackson would love to beat the team that fired him, but not this time. Baker Mayfield can play, but so can Derek Carr. Raiders cover.
The Chargers are consistently underachieving, but the 49ers are finished. Jimmy Garoppollo is done for the year with a torn ACL. The spread is high, but the 49ers are demoralized. Chargers cover.
The Giants finally won a game, but the Saints pinball machine offense is rolling. Drew Brees has the weapons. Eli Manning does not.
The Giants do not have the defense or the offensive firepower to keep up. Saints cover.
Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers (-3) —
The Steelers saved their season with a road win on Monday Night Football. These teams always play physical games, and home-field advantage does not exist. The Steelers have offensive talent, but Baltimore knows how to go into Pittsburgh and win. Upset special, Ravens win outright.
Monday, October 1, 8:20 p.m.
Can anyone stop the Chiefs? Patrick Mahomes is leading a juggernaut. A loss here could pretty much end the AFC West race with 12 games to go. Last year the Chiefs started 5-0 before crashing to 6-6, but this team is much better. Denver’s defense did not figure out Mahomes last year in his very first game. Chiefs win but fail to cover.