NFL Tipsheet Week Four: Falcons can take flight against Bengals

Julio Jones of Atlanta Falcons
Will Julio Jones (in red above) fire for Atlanta this week?
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Following last week's upsets, Mike Carlson selects his bets for week four of the NFL season and explains why he's backing Atlanta, Philadelphia and Chicago...

"You'd expect a shootout of sorts, but I'm not convinced about the Bengals being able to up their totals hugely, even against the Falcon D that gave up 41 to New Orleans. Since Cincy is on the road again this week, and Atlanta home for the third week in a row, I like the Falcons to cover the handicap."

Any given Sunday in the NFL that begins with a 16.5 point dog winning on the road by 21 has to be one for reflection. Or celebration, if you were daring enough to take the points. Wins like that don't happen very often.

Not since 1995, when the Skins were 17 point dogs to Dallas, but even they won only by seven. But looking beyond the reports that highlighted that, recall that last season the Giants were 14 point dogs to the Broncos in Denver, the biggest home field advantage in the NFL, and won 23-10. So this isn't a signal that the universe is about to explode.

You may recall that I shy away from big spreads, mostly because I have watched enough teams remove their feet from the gas pedal (accelerator to you Brits) to worry. But there are a couple of games this week that look attractive, although in fairness their spreads have shrunk since the people smarter than I am noticed.

Last week the best bets (Baltimore and Miami) looked good. The rest not so much. Two home dogs (Detroit and Washington) really spoiled the party. I had suggested the under 40.5 in the Bills-Vikings game, and when Buffalo jumped off to an early lead I was already counting my chickens.

But eggs come before chickens, or maybe after. Either way I cleared egg off my face as the Vikes could put only six on the board in a 27-6 loss. Like 14 was out of the question, Kirk?

Falcons can cover handicap in shootout with Bengals

Best Bet: Atlanta (-4 at evens) vs Cincinnati

I make this pick even guessing that AJ Green, Gio Bernard and Dre Kirkpatrick all play. I assume Joe Mixon won't, and Billy Price their center, is already out. We know about the Falcons' injury woes, but Devonta Freeman was back practising, and while I'd be surprised to see him play, I also expect Julio Jones there.

You'd expect a shootout of sorts here, but I'm not convinced about the Bengals being able to up their totals hugely, even against the Falcon D that gave up 41 to New Orleans. Carolina ran up 31 against the Bengals last week, and since Cincy is on the road again this week, and Atlanta home for the third week in a row I like the Falcons to cover.

Eagles will be too strong for Titans

Value Bet: Philadelphia (-3.5 at evens) at Tennessee

Yes, the Titans won in Jacksonville last week. Yes, they held the Jags to two field goals. But the Eagle offense isn't as awkward as Jacksonville's, neither is a rusty Carson Wentz as inconsistent as Blake Bortles.

The Eagle defense may not be as good as the Jags', but there is no real reason to think that a team whose best offensive weapon is Marcus Mariota running the ball will be able to put up a big increase over the nine they scored in Jacksonville. I might even be able to take the unders (41.5 at evens) in this one.

Bears defence can keep FitzMagic in check

Outside Bet: Chicago (-3 at 9/10) vs Tampa Bay

FitzMagic has the Bucs scoring lots of points, but Chicago's defense is looking very good at the moment, sparked by the addition of Khalil Mack. The big question is whether Mitch Trubisky is going to continue to be as inconsistent as he has been in the first three weeks -- contrast the way he's played with the way Jared Goff reacted to his second year, Pat Mahomes his, or Nick Foles in his run in Philly late last year.

In all three cases the symbiosis between coaches and players was evident, and thus far Matt Nagy and Trubisky just aren't there. If the Bears win, they might well hold Fitz in check in which case under 46.5 might be a play, though you might like better than 19/20 odds.

I'd be happier taking a flutter on the Dolphins +7 at 17/20 at New England or the Saints at Giants going over 50 at 17/20.

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