The NFL’s Week 4 lineup has an early Game of the Year candidate in Dolphins-Bills, but we also have our eyes on the matchups featuring Steelers-Texans and 49ers-Cardinals.
Steelers Humbled in Houston?
For as bad as the Steelers (2-1) have looked at times this year, they would be the No. 2 seed if the playoffs started today. But the Steelers go on the road to Houston as a favorite for the first time this season. The Texans are coming off a great upset win, 37-17 over the Jaguars.
The Texans are a 3-point home underdog with a total of 41 points. We are looking at that total.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Houston Texans
Sunday, October 01, 2023 – 01:00 PM EDT at NRG Stadium
Matt Canada’s Consistency
If the Steelers are anything these days, they are offensively consistent. Offensive coordinator Matt Canada has gone all 38 games of his tenure without his offense breaking 400 yards. Every other team has done it at least 3 times in that span.
The Steelers have gone 28 straight games without scoring more than 30 points, which is the longest active streak in the league. When betting on the total, you just do not expect the Steelers to have a big game these days. This has been the case since late in the 2020 season if we are being honest.
At least Kenny Pickett finally threw multiple touchdown passes for the first time in his career in Las Vegas last week. It only took him 15 starts to do so. But the running game has struggled, and Pickett’s protection is poor.
The Jaguars were held to 17 points against Houston last week. DeMeco Ryans is starting to make an impact on his young team, but the most surprising part about this team has been rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud.
T.J. Watt Meets C.J. Stroud
The Steelers are consistently underwhelming on offense, but the other side of the ball is the volatile matchup that should dictate if this game goes over or under the total. The Texans just scored 37 points on Jacksonville in a shocking upset win.
C.J. Stroud is taking an early lead among the 2023 rookie quarterbacks. He has yet to throw an interception on 121 attempts, and he is averaging a solid 7.5 yards per attempt despite not having any household names at receiver.
But the main reason to be impressed with Stroud last week is that he got the job done with 4 offensive line starters out. The problem is if they remain out this week, the Steelers are going to eat with T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith coming off the edges.
If the quarterback has time to throw, we see the success as Brandon Aiyuk (49ers), Amari Cooper (Browns), and Davante Adams (Raiders) have all torn up this secondary so far. But when you factor in the pass rush and the plays where Watt and company cause havoc, then you start to see the turnovers and sacks.
It will be an interesting matchup to see if Houston can keep the rookie from turning it over against a talented defense.
This feels like a classic spot for the Steelers to play down to the competition on the road and make this game a grind all the way through. In fact, both offenses should take a step back from what they did last week. The Texans are playing with fire with the offensive line situation, and Watt is on a tear right now with 6 sacks and 2 forced fumbles to lead the NFL.
Trust both offenses to struggle and take the under. The only hope in a matchup like this is the turnovers do not create easy scoring for the over to hit like they did when the Steelers and Browns played in Week 2.
Score Prediction: Steelers 21 – Texans 19
NFL Pick: Under 41 (-108) at Heritage Sports
The Cardinals Are Competitive and Competent?
The Arizona Cardinals are coming off the upset of the year after beating Dallas 28-16 as a 12.5-point underdog. Arizona has looked way better than anyone expected so far. The 49ers still look like the best overall team in the league during their 3-0 start, though are there some cracks starting to show with Brock Purdy?
The 49ers are a 14-point home favorite with a total of 44 points. That is a big spread, but we want to focus on the over.
Arizona Cardinals vs. San Francisco 49ers
Sunday, October 1, 2023 – 04:25 PM EDT at Levi’s Stadium
Purdy Is Consistently Inconsistent and It Doesn’t Matter
We are reaching weird levels with Brock Purdy, who is 10-0 as a starter in games where he does not get injured on the opening drive. Some people want to praise him as a future Hall of Famer, and some think he is trash in the best situation in the NFL.
The truth should be somewhere in the vast middle there, but this is a strange case. No matter how good the situation, NFL quarterbacks simply do not lead their team to 30 points in 8-of-11 starts if they are trash.
Purdy’s efficiency numbers through Week 3 are almost identical (or better) to what he did last season too. Maybe that speaks to the consistency of Kyle Shanahan’s system, which is enhanced by having some of the best YAC creators in NFL history in Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, and Christian McCaffrey.
The story of Purdy will continue to be a fascinating one for as long as the success is there. But despite what Arizona just did to Dallas, let’s not forget that the Giants scored 31 points in one half against this defense the week before. The Cowboys also had a lot of long drives that stalled in the red zone as they only scored a single touchdown in that game.
The 49ers are likely going to score 30-plus points again this matchup. People are likely going to lose their minds over the next Purdy throw that should have been intercepted that wasn’t. This is the state of San Francisco right now.
Is Joshua Dobbs Really Doing This?
Arizona is middle of the road in most statistics on both sides of the ball. But given this team was expected to be the worst overall team in the NFL, this is still impressive stuff. The Cardinals have had a 4th-quarter lead in every game and were not far off from starting 3-0 themselves. Crazy to think.
But the offense is probably overachieving the most right now given Joshua Dobb’s low expectations and limited experience as a starting quarterback. The team only signed him in late August after thinking Colt McCoy would be starting games while Kyler Murray recovered.
Dobbs is ranked No. 10 in QBR (61.2), which is not something anyone expected. It helps that he has ran the ball well, which factors heavily into that rating. The Cardinals have a league-low 82 pass attempts, so they are limiting how much Dobbs has to drop back and throw. But after scoring 28 points in back-to-back games without a turnover, this offense is thriving right now thanks to a strong running game and careful passing game.
If the Cardinals can continue these things against the 49ers while putting some pressure on Purdy, they have a chance to stick around in this game for 60 minutes. This is not something we expected to be saying a month ago.
The Cardinals beating the Cowboys and 49ers in back-to-back weeks would be hands down the craziest outcome of the 2023 season. But instead of expecting anything absurd like that, you just have to consider if the Cardinals can score at least 15 points in this matchup. We feel confident the 49ers get to 30 again, so the over only needs a marginal contribution from the Cardinals, who have scored at least 16 in every game so far.
Last year, the 49ers beat the Cardinals twice in games that ended 38-10 and 38-13. Those would hit the over too, so a blowout is probably going to be fine as well. We’ll take the over 44 for this suddenly interesting NFC West battle.
Score Prediction: 49ers 31 – Cardinals 17
NFL Pick: Over 44 (-110) at BetOnline
Bills Meet Dolphins in Early Game of the Year
The Bills and Dolphins met in 3 games decided by a total of 8 points last year. They meet again in Week 4’s biggest game and arguably the biggest game of the early NFL season. Miami comes in scorching hot after dropping 70 points on the Broncos. But the Bills have scored 75 points the last 2 weeks too after that ugly turnover-filled loss to the Jets on opening night.
The Bills are a 2.5-point home favorite with a total of 53.5 points. We are eyeing that over.
Miami Dolphins vs. Buffalo Bills
Sunday, October 1, 2023 – 01:00 PM EDT at Highmark Stadium
Miami Offense vs. Buffalo Defense
This should be an incredible matchup as the Dolphins look like the fastest offense in NFL history. Just ask Denver after allowing 70 points. That was even without Jaylen Waddle, who could return from the concussion protocol this week.
The Buffalo defense has looked great, but there is no comparison in facing Zach Wilson and the Jets, Jimmy Garoppolo and the Raiders, and Sam Howell and the Commanders. The Dolphins present a much tougher challenge all around, and we know Tyreek Hill has had some big moments in big games against the Bills when he was in Kansas City.
But Mike McDaniel was already getting the best of this matchup in Buffalo last season. Even in snowy Buffalo in Week 15, the team from Miami ran the ball well and scored 29 points on this defense. In the playoff rematch, despite having a 3rd-string rookie at quarterback (Skylar Thompson), the Dolphins scored 31 points and nearly pulled off a huge upset.
The Bills are going to have their hands full, and they still do not have Von Miller at edge rusher, a big miss for a game like this.
Don’t Forget About Buffalo’s Offense
The focus is going to be on Miami’s offense after 70 points and 726 yards, but let’s not forget what the Bills did to this Miami defense last season:
- Buffalo had 497 yards in the Miami heat to just 212 for the Dolphins in a 21-19 loss where the Bills messed up the end of each half.
- Josh Allen was nearly flawless in leading his offense to 32 points and 446 yards in snowy conditions for a 32-29 win.
- Despite the 3 turnovers in the wild card round, the Bills finished with 423 yards in the 34-31 win.
Miami made some upgrades on defense, especially by hiring Vic Fangio to be the coordinator. But it’s not like this defense wasn’t ran over by the Chargers in Week 1 where they had 0 takeaways and allowed 34 points. The Dolphins also saw Russell Wilson have a strong half for Denver on Sunday, but it did not matter with the ease at which Miami scored.
Allen and his offense can move the ball well and score on this defense with ease. Allen has 30 touchdown passes in 11 games against Miami, always throwing multiple touchdowns in every game. He was over 300 yards passing in every game last season against Miami.
The Bills are plus-7 in turnovers the last 2 games with Allen only throwing a pick on a 3rd-and-20 against Washington that effectively served as a punt. If the Bills can control their turnovers, they should score over 28 points in this game.
This season could really use a classic shootout between Super Bowl contenders. This game is set up well for that to happen with all the offensive talent and speed involved.
Forget how good the Buffalo defense has been lately. That will help in keeping Miami under 42 points this week, but this is going to be a high-scoring game that comes down to thin margins and situational football (red one, 3rd downs, turnovers).
Take the over and enjoy the fireworks.
Score Prediction: Bills 29 – Dolphins 26
*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.