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NFL picks Week 4

Ravens (2-1) at Bills (1-2)

1 p.m. Ravens by 3, 44

The big question is the health of Ravens RB Ray Rice, who missed last week's 30-9 rout of the Texans, during which Joe Flacco, above, was 16-of-24. The Bills have gotten solid play from rookie EJ Manuel, who has completed 68 percent of his throws in two home games with three touchdowns and one interception. Baltimore chose well in signing Daryl Smith to take Ray Lewis' spot at linebacker. He had a 37-yard interception return for a score last week. Bills TE Scott Chandler (six TDs in 2011 and 2012) is underappreciated.

The pick: Ravens 24, Bills 17

Bengals (2-1) at Browns (1-2)

1 p.m. Bengals by 31/2, 421/2

Bengals QB Andy Dalton has played well against Cleveland with a 3-1 mark and eight touchdowns and four interceptions. Expect to see even more of Cincy rookie RB Giovani Bernard, above, who has gone from five touches to nine to 14 with touchdowns in the past two games. Cleveland surprised with last week's win at Minnesota, but the Bengals have won seven of the past nine meetings. One Brown who isn't going anywhere: OT Joe Thomas, who will make his 100th consecutive start — every game since his rookie year in 2007.

The pick: Bengals, 31, Browns 24

Bears (3-0) at Lions (2-1)

1 p.m. Lions by 3, 471/2

Jay Cutler, above, owns Detroit with a 7-1 mark, 12 touchdowns and one interception since coming to Chicago four years ago. Even at 3-0, don't expect the Bears to take their foot off the gas. They opened 7-1 last year and missed the playoffs, just the second team to do so since the playoffs went to 12 teams in 1990. Lions DE Ziggy Ansah leads all rookies with 2½ sacks. Who can step up with Detroit WR Nate Burleson out after breaking his arm in a car accident? Keep an eye on former Oklahoma star Ryan Broyles.

The pick: Bears, 34, Lions 17

Seahawks (3-0) at Texans (2-1)

1 p.m. Seahawks by 2, 411/2

Seattle continues to dominate, winning eight consecutive regular-season games by an average score of 35-11. By no coincidence, it is tied for second with 10 takeaways. Ex-Bucs DE Michael Bennett has 2½ sacks in his past two games for the Seahawks. Houston's DeAndre Hopkins leads all rookies in catches (18) and yards (243). If anything can keep this close, it's Matt Schaub being strong at home — 7-2 since the start of 2012 with 16 touchdowns and six interceptions. Seattle's Russell Wilson, above, likes AFC teams: 12 touchdowns and one interception.

The pick: Seahawks, 31, Texans 17

Colts (2-1) at Jaguars (0-3)

1 p.m. Colts by 8, 421/2

Somehow, Jaguars QB Blaine Gabbert is 3-1 against the Colts, and he's back as the starter after missing two games with a broken right thumb. Heard of Cecil Shorts? He has 276 receiving yards, and the Jaguars' next closest (rookie Ace Sanders of Bradenton) has 103. Speaking of Jags rookies, Denard Robinson hasn't clicked yet with five carries for minus-1 yard. The Colts will rely more on RB Trent Richardson, above, as Ahmad Bradshaw is out with a neck injury.

The pick: Colts, 31, Jaguars 10

Giants (0-3) at Chiefs (3-0)

1 p.m. Chiefs by 4, 44

Which team will continue its unexpected start? Chiefs coach Andy Reid knows the Giants well from his Eagles days (17-14 record), though Tom Coughlin is 5-1 against Kansas City. To make the contrast more glaring: Giants QB Eli Manning has an NFL-high eight interceptions while the Chiefs' Alex Smith has zero (only Peyton Manning has thrown more passes without an interception). Name to watch is Chiefs LB Justin Houston, above, who has 7½ sacks in three games. The swing stat, as always, is turnovers: Chiefs are minus-9, the Giants are plus-9.

The pick: Chiefs, 27, Giants 24

Steelers (0-3) vs. Vikings (0-3)

1 p.m. London. Steelers by 3, 42

London gets a pair of 0-3 squads for the seventh overseas regular-season game. With Christian Ponder out with a rib injury, Minnesota turns to QB Matt Cassel, who had 16 touchdowns and 21 interceptions over the past two seasons with the Chiefs. Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger, above, will get a boost with the debut of rookie RB Le'Veon Bell, who needs just 72 yards to pass Felix Jones for the team lead. Vikings rookie WR Cordarelle Patterson has the league's only kickoff return for a touchdown this season, a 105-yarder.

The pick: Steelers, 31, Vikings 17

Jets (2-1) at Titans (2-1)

4 p.m. Ch. 10. Titans by 31/2, 40

Tennessee won 14-10 last year thanks to five Mark Sanchez turnovers. New Jets QB Geno Smith has six interceptions. The Titans have won five of the past seven in the series. RB Chris Johnson, above, went for 122 yards last year, but he hasn't scored and is averaging 3.7 yards per carry, down from 4.5 last year. The key to QB Jake Locker's successful start? Zero interceptions among 87 passes. While the Jets offense draws headlines, the defense has allows the NFL's third-fewest yards at 270 per game.

The pick: Titans, 21, Jets 17

Eagles (1-2) at Broncos (3-0)

4:25 p.m. Ch. 13. Broncos by 11, 581/2

The offenses are averaging a combined 949.4 yards per game. With defenses that allow a combined 808.6, this could be very high-scoring. The Eagles haven't been to Denver in eight years. How long can Peyton Manning, above, go without throwing an interception? He's at 122 while hitting 73 percent of his passes for a 134.7 passer rating. By comparison, the Eagles' Michael Vick has done well to throw only two interceptions and needs RB LeSean McCoy to grind out yards to keep Denver's offense off the field.

The pick: Broncos, 35, Eagles 24

Redskins (0-3) at Raiders (1-2)

4:25 p.m. Redskins by 3, 44

In his Denver days, coach Mike Shanahan had Oakland's number with a 21-7 career record. Redskins QB Robert Griffin III, above, has been steady — at least 320 yards and 60 percent completions in all three games — but he has four interceptions against five touchdowns. A year ago at this point, he had 198 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns. This season, 62 and zero. The Raiders' Terrelle Pryor has the NFL rushing lead among QBs with 198 yards. But if his concussion keeps him out, Matt Flynn starts.

The pick: Redskins, 17, Raiders 14

Cowboys (2-1) at Chargers (1-2)

4:25. Cowboys 2, 47

The difference going in is the defenses. San Diego is allowing 129.7 more yards per game, which is why Philip Rivers has eight touchdown passes but one win. Chargers LB Dwight Freeney's sack totals have dropped four years in a row, and he's on pace for a fifth with a half-sack in three games. As well as QB Tony Romo, above, has played, Dallas got 175 yards and a touchdown last week from RB DeMarco Murray. The Cowboys are 11-0 when he gets at least 18 carries.

The pick: Cowboys, 31, Chargers 24

Patriots (3-0) at Falcons (1-2)

8:30 p.m. Ch. 8. Falcons by 2, 491/2

Is this the week the Patriots' underwhelming offense catches up to them? Falcons QB Matt Ryan is a different man in the Georgia Dome, where he has won 10 of 11 and is 34-5 for his career. Same recently for WR Julio Jones, above, who has 364 yards and three touchdowns in his past two home games. Patriots CB Aqib Talib leads the NFL with three interceptions and has two during his career against the Falcons. QB Tom Brady is embracing his rookie receivers — two touchdowns to Kenbrell Thompkins last week.

The pick: Falcons, 28, Patriots 27

Dolphins (3-0) at Saints (3-0)

8:40 Monday. ESPN. Saints by 61/2, 48

Nobody's done Monday more than Miami, which makes its 79th appearance. But Saints QB Drew Brees, above, has won his past eight Monday games, averaging better than 300 yards with 24 touchdowns and five interceptions. He has topped 300 yards in his past eight games overall. Ryan Tannehill has a higher completion percentage (66.4) than 2012 classmates Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson. And Miami's Charles Clay is fourth among tight ends with 203 receiving yards.

The pick: Saints, 28, Dolphins 21

Unit rankings

Bucs offense

Run: 107.3 (16th)

Pass: 174.7 (31st)

Total: 282.0 (31st)

Bucs defense

Run: 107.0 (16th)

Pass: 237.3 (15th)

Total: 344.3 (T15th)

Cardinals offense

Run: 86.3 (23rd)

Pass: 242.0 (19th)

Total: 328.3 (23rd)

Cardinals defense

Run: 73.3 (3rd)

Pass: 297.0 (26th)

Total: 370.3 (T19th)

The Bucs look to break out of their winless start with a big change at quarterback, where rookie Mike Glennon takes over for beleaguered Josh Freeman, who had been the starter since 2009. With a bye week ahead, beating Arizona at home is crucial to the Bucs getting positive momentum going. A year ago, the team got out to a 1-4 start and then hit its stride in midseason after struggling again down the stretch.

What the Cardinals do best

Get big plays from CB Patrick Peterson. Over two-plus seasons, he has nine interceptions (seven in 2012) and four punt returns for touchdowns (all in 2011).

How you beat the Cardinals

Face them in your stadium. Arizona has lost nine straight on the road while averaging just 11.4 points. Big defensive plays help, too. In the last meeting, in 2010, the Bucs needed interception returns for touchdowns from LB Geno Hayes and CB Aqib Talib in a 38-35 win.

Cardinals' top offensive player

Larry Fitzgerald (right) has just three catches of 20-plus yards this season, but he's still Carson Palmer's best option downfield. He caught two touchdowns against the Bucs in 2010.

Cardinals' top defensive player

CB Patrick Peterson, 6 feet 1, 219 pounds, likely will cover WR Vincent Jackson, who was slowed by a rib injury last week. Keep an eye on another young corner from LSU, rookie Tyrann Mathieu, who got his first interception last week.

The Bucs must avoid

Too much pressure being put on rookie QB Mike Glennon. First, limit turnovers. Second, the Cardinals lost three linebackers to season-ending injuries last week, so the Bucs need to control the game with Doug Martin's running.

The pick

Bucs 21, Cardinals 17

Projected starters

Bucs offense

WR: Vincent Jackson 83

LT: Donald Penn 70

LG: Carl Nicks 77

C: Jeremy Zuttah 76

RG: Davin Joseph 75

RT: Demar Dotson 69

TE: Nate Byham 82

WR: Mike Williams 19

QB: Mike Glennon 8

RB: Doug Martin 22

FB: Erik Lorig 41

Cardinals offense

WR: Larry Fitzgerald 11

LT: Levi Brown 75

LG: Daryn Colledge 71

C: Lyle Sendlein 63

RG: Paul Fanaika 74

RT: Eric Winston 73

TE: Jim Dray 81

WR: Michael Floyd 15

QB: Carson Palmer 3

RB: Rashard Mendenhall 28

TE: Rob Housler 84

Special teams

P/KO: Michael Koenen 9

PK: Rian Lindell 4

LS: Andrew Economos 48

KR/PR: Eric Page 17

Special teams

P: Dave Zastudil 9

PK/KO: Jay Feely 4

LS: Mike Leach 82

PR: Patrick Peterson 21

KR: Javier Arenas 35

defense

DE: Daniel Te'o-Nesheim 50

DT: Gerald McCoy 93

DT: Akeem Spence 97

DE: Adrian Clayborn 94

SLB: Dekoda Watson 56

MLB: Mason Foster 59

WLB: Lavonte David 54

LCB: Darrelle Revis 24

RCB: Leonard Johnson 29

SS: Mark Barron 23

FS: Dashon Goldson 38

defense

DE: Calais Campbell 93

NT: Alameda Ta'amu 66

DT: Darnell Dockett 90

OLB: Dontay Moch 50

ILB: Jasper Brinkley 52

ILB: Karlos Dansby 56

OLB: Matt Shaughnessy 91

LCB: Patrick Peterson 21

RCB: Jerraud Powers 25

SS: Yeremiah Bell 37

FS: Rashad Johnson 26

Injury report

BUCS Out: CB Michael Adams (knee), G Gabe Carimi (illness), TE Tom Crabtree (ankle), DT Derek Landri (knee). Questionable: WR Vincent Jackson (ribs), CB Rashaan Melvin (hamstring), WR Mike Williams (hamstring). Probable: S Mark Barron (hamstring), DT Gary Gibson (back), DT Gerald McCoy (ankle)

Cardinals Out: LB Kevin Minter (hamstring), DT Dan Williams (not injury related). Questionable: S Rashad Johnson (finger). Probable: WR Larry Fitzgerald (hamstring), RB Rashard Mendenhall (toe), DE Ronald Talley (wrist)

NFL picks Week 4 09/28/13 [Last modified: Saturday, September 28, 2013 11:10pm]

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