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MATT ERICKSON: Back to reality in the NFL
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MATT ERICKSON: Back to reality in the NFL

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Matt Erickson

Matt Erickson

Week 4 was the one that seemed to bring things back to reality in the NFL.

And that reality the past few years seems to surround an abundance of parity. The difference between the league's worst team and its best often just comes down to a few plays. "On any given Sunday ..." has applied more than ever.

So after three weeks of feeling fat and happy from a picking department with fantastic numbers given there was no preseason to work from, Week 4 knocked us down a few pegs and may have shown us that the 2020 reality is the same as it's been, when even sure things aren't so sure.

Look at what the Browns did to the Cowboys in Week 4 on the road and tell me you'll feel safe picking the Cowboys to win the rest of the way. You won't. And then tell me you'll ever be comfortable picking against the Browns the way you used to.

This week, the Browns are back home against the Colts after putting up 49 on the Cowboys. I don't expect them to have those kinds of scoring numbers against Indy, which has allowed an NFL-best 56 total points this year, including utter dominance against the Bears in Week 4. Heck, Indy's kicker, Rodrigo Blankenship, has single-handedly outscored the Colts past three opponents, which is just nanners.

The Browns have some great momentum with Baker Mayfield starting to look like a future star even beyond his Progressive commercials, along with Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham. With standout running back Nick Chubb out, they'll have to rely on Kareem Hunt, but still should be solid. And their defense seems equipped enough to handle what the Colts throw at them and at least keep it a game. The Colts' defense may be really good, but it'll start to come back down to earth.

After bad losses in Week 4, I think the 49ers and Cowboys can rebound — but I don't know that I trust them to cover the spreads thrown at them, particularly Dallas. And that Titans game against the Bills is an interesting one. Because the Titans found a way to become the NFL's first COVID-19 hotspot, they've gotten some early-season rest — but also haven't been able to practice. They'll get some reps in, but will they be enough against a Bills team that is emerging as one of the best in the NFL with Josh Allen tearing it up? I'm not banking on it.

If you're looking for a reasonably safe bet, head to New Orleans, where the Saints are 18-2 in their past 20 October games — including 13 straight during this month. They got down 14-0 to the Lions last week and then went on a tear. At home against a Chargers team giving up 24 points a game feels like a cinch, especially on a Monday night showcase for Drew Brees.

Carolina (2-2) at Atlanta (0-4)

Noon Sunday. Falcons -2 (54)

MattE's pick: Falcons 29, Panthers 23

Las Vegas (2-2) at Kansas City (4-0)

Noon Sunday. Chiefs -13 (56)

MattE's pick: Chiefs 36, Raiders 24

L.A. Rams (3-1) at Washington (1-3)

Noon Sunday. Rams -7 (45)

MattE's pick: Rams 29, Washington 17

Jacksonville (1-3) at Houston (0-4)

Noon Sunday. Texans -6 (54.5)

MattE's pick: Texans 34, Jaguars 30

Arizona (2-2) at N.Y. Jets (0-4)

Noon Sunday. Cardinals -7 (47)

MattE's pick: Cardinals 27, Jets 17

Philadelphia (1-2-1) at Pittsburgh (3-0)

Noon Sunday. Steelers -7 (44)

MattE's pick: Steelers 26, Eagles 20

Cincinnati (1-2-1) at Baltimore (3-1)

Noon Sunday. Ravens -13 (51)

MattE's pick: Ravens 29, Bengals 17

Miami (1-3) at San Francisco (2-2)

3:05 p.m. Sunday. 49ers -8 (46.5)

MattE's pick: 49ers 27, Dolphins 21

COLTS (3-1) at Cleveland (3-1)

3:25 p.m. Sunday. Colts -1.5 (46)

MattE's pick: Browns 26, Colts 23

N.Y. Giants (0-4) at Dallas (1-3)

3:25 p.m. Sunday. Cowboys -9.5 (54)

MattE's pick: Cowboys 31, Giants 24

Minnesota (1-3) at Seattle (4-0)

7:20 p.m. Sunday. Seahawks -7 (57.5)

MattE's pick: Seahawks 37, Vikings 24

Denver (1-3) at New England (2-2)

4 p.m. Monday. Patriots -10 (48.5)

MattE's pick: Patriots 29, Broncos 23

L.A. Chargers (1-3) at New Orleans (2-2)

7:15 p.m. Monday. Saints -7.5 (51)

MattE's pick: Saints 34, Chargers 20

Buffalo (4-0) at Tennessee (3-0)

6 p.m. Tuesday. Bills -1 (49)

MattE's pick: Bills 31, Titans 23

Week 4 Results: 8-7 straight up, 8-7 against the spread

Season: 42-20-1 (.677) straight up, 40-23 (.635) against the spread

Matt Erickson is an award-winning journalist whose NFL picks have appeared in The Times since 2003. He also writes about the Oscars, food and travel for the paper and is an editor in USA Today's Sports Media Group. The opinions are the writer's.

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Matt Erickson is an award-winning journalist whose NFL picks have appeared in The Times since 2003. He also writes about the Oscars, food and travel for the paper and is an editor in USA Today's Sports Media Group. The opinions are the writer's.

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