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Bob Christ’s NFL picks: Can Foles retain his magic?


Chicago Bears quarterback Nick Foles (9) works against the Atlanta Falcons during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Here are some fun facts and forecasts for Week 4 of the NFL season.
The schedule already has been reduced by two games because of COVID-19 concerns. Pittsburgh’s game at Tennessee was pushed back to Week 7 and New England’s game scheduled for Sunday will be delayed at least a day after QB Cam Newton and a Kansas City practice squad player tested positive. Thus, neither matchup will be examined here.
As for the weather across the map, it appears the only venue that could get rain will be in Tampa, Florida, when the Bucs play host to the LA Chargers.
Now here are this week’s games. Odds are courtesy of Westgate Las Vegas:
SUNDAY
Indianapolis Colts (2-1) at Chicago Bears (3-0)
Time: 11 a.m.
Odds: Colts by 3
Facts: Five times this season a team managed 20 or more points in one quarter, with Chicago doing it twice — both times in the fourth to rally from double-digit deficits. The Bears outscored Detroit 21-0 in the final period of their 27-23 Week 1 win, and last week 20-0 in Atlanta to prevail 30-26. … Since Indy was a 27-20 loser at Jacksonville in its opener, it has has defeated the Vikings and Jets by a cumulative 64-18 in their dome. … Ex-Super Bowl hero Nick Foles is the new Bears QB after pitching three TDs in the final seven minutes last week.
Analysis: Indy is allowing foes 225.3 yards per game, by far the lowest yield in the league. But since those opponents have a cumulative 1-9 record, it’s not so impressive. If Foles can stay upright and not keep taking head-on shots from defenders, like he did in Week 1 last season, the Bears should have success and probably not have to wait till the closing minutes to win.
Forecast: Bears 29, Colts 21
New Orleans Saints (1-2) at Detroit Lions (1-2)
Time: 11 a.m.
Odds: Saints by 3
Facts: The Saints have lost two in a row without star receiver Michael Thomas, who set an NFL record with 149 catches last season. Yet New Orleans still averaged 27 points in defeats to Las Vegas and Green Bay. … In Detroit’s two losses, it blew double-digit leads to the unbeaten Bears and Packers, which has been an ongoing problem. Last season the Lions squandered such a lead in a loss an NFL-high four times.
Analysis: Saints QB Drew Brees has been catching a lot of flak this year for his relatively slow start, but as long as he can hand the ball off to RB Alvin Kamara and flip dump-off passes to him, all should be OK against a Detroit defense that started unloading key DBs in trades last season and now some of the replacements aren’t up to snuff.
Forecast: Saints 31, Lions 23
Arizona Cardinals (2-1) at Carolina Panthers (1-2)
Time: 11 a.m.
Odds: Cardinals by 3
Facts: This marks the third straight game the Cardinals have been listed as a favorite. Arizona was an underdog in 22 of 23 games previously, dating to 2018. … Flashback: In the 2015 wild-card round, Carolina routed visiting Arizona 49-15, holding the Cardinals to a playoff-record low of 78 yards of total offense. … In the Cardinals’ 26-23 home loss to Detroit last week, their average starting field position was their 19, whereas the Lions were at the 36. Plus Detroit had a plus-3 turnover edge. Teams are 0-6 this year when the normal launch point is inside the 20. Analysis: It’s probably not a great idea to put too much weight on Carolina’s 21-16 road victory against the LA Chargers last week. The Panthers had a plus-4 turnover edge and three times the offense opened drives in enemy territory, but wound up with only three field goals. And star RB Christian McCaffrey won’t be back any time soon. Plus, last season Arizona was 4-0 against the spread (2-2 straight up) in Eastern time zone games.
Forecast: Cardinals 28, Panthers 14
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2) at Cincinnati Bengals (0-2-1)
Time: 11 a.m.
Odds: Bengals by 2.5
Facts: Cincinnati’s defense was on the field for 86 snaps in last week’s 23-23 tie at Philadelphia. The only defense this year to have more work was Cleveland’s in its 35-30 win over the Bengals a week earlier, when Cincinnati ran 88 plays. … The Jaguars have allowed Tennessee and Miami to have their highest-scoring games of the season the past two weeks. … The Bengals are off to their second-fastest start the past four seasons after their Week 3 tie, which snapped a 13-game road losing streak — make it 14 counting a loss in London last year.
Analysis: The Jaguars have the benefit of an extended break off their 31-13 home loss to Miami last Thursday in their effort to end the one-game unbeaten streak of Cincinnati and rookie QB Joe Burrow. Last week, Cincinnati had such an advantage and that resulted in it covering the spread.
Forecast: Jaguars 20, Bengals 17
Cleveland Browns (2-1) at Dallas Cowboys (1-2)
Time: 11 a.m.
Odds: Cowboys by 3.5
Facts: The Cowboys have had more than 500 yards total offense in their past two games, a 40-39 home win over Atlanta and last week’s 38-31 loss in Seattle. The last team to have 500-plus in back-to-back games was Tampa Bay midway in 2018. … The Browns benefited from a plus-5 turnover margin in their 34-20 comeback home win last week vs. Washington. Twenty-four points came off short fields. … Dallas QB Dak Prescott averages 396 passing yards a game, 50 more than anyone else, yet has only five TD throws, which is nine behind leader Russell Wilson.
Analysis: The Cowboys’ secondary looked vulnerable all last game in yielding five TD throws to Wilson a week after Atlanta’s Matt Ryan had four without an INT. Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield, the league’s 21st-rated QB, shouldn’t be able to muster similar numbers. And Dallas RB Zeke Elliott should be able to help the Cowboys dominate possession against a defense that couldn’t get off the field two weeks ago in Cincinnati.
Forecast: Cowboys 35, Browns 20
Minnesota Vikings (0-3) at Houston Texans (0-3)
Time: 11 a.m.
Odds: Texans by 3.5
Facts: These are the only two teams in the league that haven’t started a drive in enemy territory. It’s been especially bad for the Vikings and QB Kirk Cousins, whose best starting point was the 35 on 33 possessions. … This is the week’s second matchup of winless teams, after Denver beat the NY Jets on Thursday night, 37-28. … The Texans opened with games against Kansas City and New England, the two squads that were tied for the highest win expectancy (11.5 each), followed by Pittsburgh (9.5). No foe has a number higher than 9 the rest of the way.
Analysis: The Vikings rate an edge thanks to RB Dalvin Cook, who had a league season-high 181 rush yards last week in a come-from-ahead loss to Tennessee, 31-30. Houston, meanwhile, is yielding 188.3 yards a game on the ground. Over a full season, that hasn’t been done since the 1980 New Orleans Ain’ts (194.1)
Forecast: Vikings 24, Texans 20
Seattle Seahawks (3-0) at Miami Dolphins (1-2)
Time: 11 a.m.
Odds: Seahawks by 5.5
Facts: Over the past three seasons the Seahawks are 9-0 playing games three time zones from home, 7-1-1 vs. the spread. That includes their 38-25 victory at Atlanta in Week 1. … Miami is coming off a 31-13 Thursday night win at Jacksonville. … Seattle is yielding 497.3 yards a game. FYI: The worst rate in history for a season occurred 70 years ago when the Baltimore Colts gave up 450.1 an outing. That team folded after the season.
Analysis: Wilson is the leader in the clubhouse for MVP honors, so you know what you’re getting. As for Miami QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, that’s not nearly the case. In the season opener, he had three INTs in a 21-11 loss in New England, yet last week only Patrick Mahomes had a better passer rating than Fitz’s (133.3). The choice here is for the steady guy’s team.
Forecast: Seahawks 31, Dolphins 17
LA Chargers (1-2) at Tampa Bay Bucs (2-1)
Time: 11 a.m.
Odds: Bucs by 7
Facts: Tampa Bay has rebounded from its 34-23 loss at New Orleans in the season opener to win its next two and take charge in the NFC South. In that opener the Saints had a 24-yard edge in average starting field position, the second biggest margin for any team this year. In the Bucs’ victories they had edges of 37-26 vs. Carolina and 37-21 in Denver. … Rookie QB Justin Herbert will be getting his third start for LA. He threw for 300-plus yards in each of his previous game, both losses.
Analysis: Herbert also has four turnovers in those outings, which won’t play well against a Bucs defense that averages four sacks a game. Plus, the Chargers have been ravaged by injuries all over. The Bucs should do fine even without injured RB Leonard Fournette and WR Chris Godwin.
Forecast: Bucs 30, Chargers 10
Baltimore Ravens (2-1) at Washington (1-2)
Time: 11 a.m.
Odds: Ravens by 14
Facts: Baltimore is the heaviest road favorite since New Orleans was a 14-point pick at Carolina last season in Week 17. Dating to 2018, such heavy away choices are 5-0 ATS. … FYI: The biggest upset in league history occurred in 1968 when the visiting Broncos beat Joe Namath and the Jets 21-13 as a 22-point underdog. … Washington QB Dwayne Haskins is on high alert after coach Ron Rivera bemoaned his four turnovers in last week’s loss at Cleveland, in which Football Team blew a 20-17 fourth-quarter lead and fell 34-20.
Analysis: This will be the first of a league-high four times Washington will face a team coming off a Monday night game. Plus, will the Ravens be able to rebound successfully after last week’s beatdown by KC, 34-20? Last year after a loss to Patrick Mahomes and KC, the Ravens returned to action with their worst outing of the regular season, falling at home in a 40-25 loss to Cleveland. It won’t be that bad this week for Baltimore, but the Redskins’ defense should keep the outcome relatively close.
Forecast: Ravens 27, Football Team 17
NY Giants (0-3) at LA Rams (2-1)
Time: 2:05 p.m.
Odds: Rams by 13
Facts: Since second-year Giants QB Daniel Jones debuted last year as a starter with consecutive victories in place of now-retired Eli Manning, he’s gone 1-12 since.  … The Rams are home after back-to-back games on the East Coast, beating Philadelphia 37-19 and falling at Buffalo 35-32 after having rallied from a 28-3 hole. No team had come back from such a deficit since the Patriots stunned Atlanta in the Super Bowl four seasons ago.
Analysis: The Giants have marched to a TD only once in their past 18 possessions, which won’t cut it against a team that had four straight touchdown drives in the second-half surge against Buffalo.
Forecast: Rams 28, Giants 13
Buffalo Bills (3-0) at Las Vegas Raiders (2-1)
Time: 2:25 p.m.
Odds: Bills by 3.5
Facts: The Bills haven’t played a game this far out West since losing 54-24 to the Chargers in LA in 2017. That’s the infamous Nathan Peterman game, in which he threw five interceptions in the first half before getting the hook. … This game could be a strip-sack fest: QBs Derek Carr of the Raiders and Josh Allen are tied for the league lead with three fumbles lost this season. Last season, they totaled only seven between them. … Buffalo has gone 4-2 on the road dating to midseason last year, including a 26-15 win at Dallas as a 6.5-point dog.
Analysis: Allen showed a lot of poise in the game-winning drive to close out the Bills’ win over the Rams. The Raiders, meanwhile, were pulverized by the Patriots’ ground game, which generated 250 rushing yards, the second-highest total for any team this year. And if Vegas’ defense comes up tight, Buffalo should be able to take advantage of a troubled secondary.
Forecast: Bills 24, Raiders 19
Philadelphia Eagles (0-2-1) at San Francisco 49ers (2-1)
Time: 6:20 p.m.
Odds: 49ers by 7.5
Facts: San Francisco QB Nick Mullens will get his second straight start in relief of injured Jimmy Garoppolo. Mullens is 4-5 as a starter in his career, including a 36-9 win in the Meadowlands against the Giants last week. … Philadelphia is at the bottom of the turnover differential chart at minus 7. … The Eagles, already thin on the offensive line, put veteran OT Jason Peters (toe) in IR. Earlier in the week, the team had only one healthy wide receiver available to practice.
Analysis: This game could be the surprise of the weekend, with the 49ers returning home after two games on the East Coast and the Eagles desperate after coming off their humiliating tie at home with Cincinnati. The ground game will be the difference.
Forecast: Eagles 19, 49ers 17
MONDAY
Atlanta Falcons (0-3) at Green Bay Packers (3-0)
Time: 6:15 p.m.
Odds: Packers by 7
Facts: There have been three games in which a team blew a lead of 15 or more points in the fourth quarter and lost this year. Atlanta’s done it the past two weeks, squandering a 29-10 edge in Dallas in Week 2 (losing 40-39) and then last week falling at home to Chicago 30-26 after leading 26-10 with less than 7 minutes to play. … Six years ago at Lambeau Field, the Packers were 13-point favorites over the Falcons but needed OT to win, 43-37. Double-digit underdogs were 1-22 straight up that season. Atlanta WR Julio Jones had 259 receiving yards that game, but he’s questionable here (hamstring). As is Packers standout receiver Davante Adams (hamstring).
Analysis: Twice in league history a 5-0 team lost to a 0-5 team, so an upset here in Week 4 wouldn’t be unprecedented. But it sure would be a surprise considering the fragile psyche of the Falcons.
Forecast: Packers 28, Falcons 17

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