NFL Week 4 early odds: Vikings open as big underdogs, hope to end NFL's odd Thursday hex

Although we've heard plenty of NFL players complain about Thursday Night Football over the past few years, what they really should be complaining about is any Thursday game where they have to fly more than two times zones to the west. 

Now, that might not sound like much, but apparently, that's the difference between a win and loss in the NFL. The reason we're bringing that up this week is because the Vikings are about to become the 11th team to make a two time zone trip out west since the return of Thursday Night Football in 2006.

The bad news for the Vikings is that if the past is any indication, they're a lock to lose this week, and here's why: No team flying from the Central time zone to the Pacific time zone for a Thursday game has ever won or covered a game over the past 12 years. 

The same rule applies for teams flying from the Eastern time zone to the Mountain or Pacific time zone (Remember, you have to fly at least two time zones west). Since 2006, this has happened a total of 10 times and the Central/Eastern time zone team has gone 0-10 both straight-up and ATS. 

Basically, teams are already on a short week and flying 4-6 hours across the country doesn't help things. Here's a quick look at the 10 games that have been played over the past 12 years: 

Week 10, 2009: 49ers 10-6 over Bears (+3)
Week 12, 2009: Broncos 26-6 over Giants (-4.5)
Week 11, 2011: Broncos 17-13 over Jets (-6.5)
Week 13, 2011: Seahawks 31-14 over Eagles (-3)
Week 9, 2012: Chargers 31-13 over Chiefs (+7)
Week 1, 2013: Broncos 49-27 over Ravens (+7.5)
Week 1, 2014: Seahawks 36-16 over Packers (+8.5)
Week 12, 2014: Raiders 24-20 over Chiefs (-7.5)
Week 1, 2016: Broncos 21-20 over Panthers (-3)
Week 7, 2017: Raiders 31-30 over Chiefs (-3)

That's 10 games and 10 losers for the Eastern or Central time zone. 

Does all of this mean the Vikings are going to lose? Not necessarily, but it might help explain why the Vikings opened as a seven-point underdog, one of the biggest point spreads the team has ever faced under Mike Zimmer. Since 2014, the Vikings have been an underdog of seven or more points a total of seven times, and although they've gone 0-7 in those games, they've gone 4-3 against the spread (ATS). 

Let's take a look at all the other early point spreads for Week 4. 

NFL Week 4 early odds

(All lines from Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, all games on Sunday unless noted. Keep in mind, the point spreads you see below represent the opening odds for Week 4. For the most up-to-date line on each game, you can click here)

Vikings (1-1-1) at Rams (3-0), Thursday

Opening line: Rams -7

Since Mike Zimmer took over in 2014, the Vikings are 20-9 ATS as an underdog, which is the third-best mark of any NFL team over that span (only the Patriots and Saints are better). The Vikings are also 17-8 ATS after a loss under Zimmer, which is the third-best mark of any NFL team in that time frame. Of course, they're going to have to overcome that whole flying west thing, so maybe betting on the Vikings isn't the best move. One reason to like the Rams is that they're one of just four teams that are 3-0 ATS this year. These two teams played in 2017, with the Vikings covering as a one-point favorite in a 24-7 win. 

Bengals (2-1) at Falcons (1-2)

Opening line: Falcons -5.5

If there's one time you want to avoid betting on the Falcons, it's when they're favored by five or more points. Since Dan Quinn was hired in 2015, the Falcons have gone 5-12 ATS when favored by five or more points (11-6 straight-up). You also probably don't want to bet the Falcons when they play an AFC team. In their past six games against the AFC, the Falcons have gone 1-5 straight-up and 0-6 ATS. The fact that the Falcons are just 1-5 in that span is even more surprising when you consider that they were favored to win in five of the six games. Of course, the Bengals haven't been much better in inter-conference games. Since the beginning of the 2016 season, Cincy is 2-5-1 straight-up and 3-5 ATS against the NFC. One thing to keep an eye in this game is the running back situation: There's a chance that both Joe Mixon and Devonta Freeman could end up returning. 

Buccaneers (2-1) at Bears (2-1)

Opening line: Bears -1.5 

This game will mark the first time this season that Jameis Winston will be eligible to play, which is only worth noting because we could see a QB controversy start to fester in Tampa if Ryan Fitzpatrick has an ugly game against the Steelers on Monday. It could also get interesting if Fitzpatrick were to have an ugly half against the Bears. The Bucs have been a horrible road team lately, going 2-8 straight-up in their past 10 games and 3-6-1 ATS. These two teams played in 2017, with the Buccaneers covering as a seven-point home favorite in a 29-7 win. 

Lions (1-2) at Cowboys (1-2)

Opening line: Cowboys -3.5

The fact that the Cowboys are favored by 3.5 points is somewhat surprising and that's only because we don't even know if they can score three points. In their past five regular season games dating back to last season, the Cowboys have averaged just 11.8 points per game.  On the other hand, the one time the Cowboys do show up for a game is when they're favored by three or more points at home. Since Dak Prescott became the team's starting quarterback in 2016, the Cowboys are 8-2 straight-up and 6-4 ATS in games where they're favored by three or more. 

Bills (1-2) at Packers (1-1-1)

Opening line: Packers -10.5

No one's ever going to bet against the Bills again after the upset they pulled on Sunday. With their win over the Vikings, the Bills became the first team since 1995 to win a game where they were an underdog of 17 or more points. However, this might be the game where you want to jump off the Bills bandwagon. Since Aaron Rodgers took over as starter in 2008, the Packers have been a favorite of 10 or more points a total of 23 times and in those games they've gone 21-2 straight-up and 12-10 ATS. Also, the Bills haven't won at Green Bay since 1991. Of course, if you want to bet the Bills, here's a reason: The Packers are just 1-4 ATS in their past five home games against AFC teams. 

Eagles (2-1) at Titans (2-1)

Opening line: Eagles -3

When it comes to the point spread, this is actually going to be a rare game for the Eagles. This will mark only the ninth time since 2014 that they've been favored on the road by three or more points, and generally, things get ugly for the Eagles when that happens. In those nine games, they've gone 3-6 straight-up and 2-7 ATS. Two of those six losses have come under Doug Pederson, including Week 2, when the Eagles lost as a three-point favorite in Tampa. Of course, before you bet this game, you might want to double-check the quarterback situation in Tennessee. Marcus Mariota is still battling an elbow injury and Blaine Gabbert got knocked out of Sunday's game with an undisclosed injury. This game will be played in Nashville, where the Eagles are 0-2 all-time. 

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

Opening line: Pick'em 

If there's one team you probably want to stay far away from this week, it's the Texans. Now that the Browns have a win under their belt, the Texans have the longest winless streak in the NFL and it's been an ugly streak. Dating back to Week 12 of the 2017 season, the Texans have gone 0-9 straight-up and 1-8 ATS. In their past 12 games, they've gone just 1-11 ATS. They've also struggled against the Colts, losing eight of their past 11. 

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

Opening line: Patriots -9.5

If the Dolphins are going to stay undefeated, they're going to have to do something they haven't done since the 2005 season: Beat Tom Brady in New England. Over the past 12 seasons with Brady, the Patriots have gone 11-0 straight-up and 7-4 ATS at home against the Dolphins. (The Dolphins did beat the Patriots in 2008, but Brady didn't play.) One reason you might want to think about betting the Dolphins is because they're surprisingly good when they're a huge underdog. Since the beginning of the 2015 season, the Dolphins have gone 3-3 straight-up and 4-2 ATS in the six games where they've been an underdog of nine or more points. One of those three wins came last season in Miami, when the Dolphins beat the Patriots 27-20 as a 10.5-point underdog in Week 14.  

Jets (1-2) at Jaguars (2-1)

Opening line: Jaguars -9

If there's one time you want to bet on the Jaguars, it's when they're favored big. Last season, the Jaguars played in three games where they were favored by a touchdown or more and they went 3-0 both ATS and straight-up. Of course, if there's one team the Jaguars can't figure out, it's the Jets. The Jets have won every game these teams have played since 2010 (4-0), including a game last season, when the Jets covered as a four-point underdog in a 23-20 win. Overall, the Jets are 4-5-1 ATS in their past 10 games as an underdog of 10 points or more (0-10 straight-up). 

Browns (1-1-1) at Raiders (0-3)

Opening line: Pick'em

The fact that the Raiders aren't favored in this game is somewhat notable, and that's mostly because they're playing a team that has lost 22 road games in a row. That is not a typo: the Browns haven't won a road game since the 2015 season. Not only have the Browns gone 0-22 on the road in that span, but they've also gone just 6-15-1 ATS. When you're not favored against the Browns in a home game, that's basically the NFL's version of hitting rock bottom. Not only have the Browns lost 22 road games in a row, but they'll also be starting a rookie quarterback who happened to be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, which generally means bad news. Over the past 15 years, a total of 10 quarterbacks have been taken with the top pick in the draft and those QBs have combined to go 0-10 both straight-up and ATS in their first career start. 

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

Opening line: Seahawks -3

If there's a good time to bet the Seahawks, it's when they're playing on the road against a divisional opponent. In their past 11 divisional road games, the Seahawks have gone 8-2-1 straight-up and 7-3-1 ATS. That total includes a 22-16 game last season where the Seahawks pushed in a win over Arizona as a six-point favorite. The 0-3 Cardinals have been one of the NFL's worst teams. They've scored only 20 points on the season, which is an incredibly low number when you consider the fact that every other team has scored at least 40 points. One thing to keep an eye on in this game is Arizona's quarterback situation. Josh Rosen is going to be making his first start this week and it will be coming against a Seahawks defense that embarrassed Dak Prescott in Week 3.  

Saints (2-1) at Giants (1-2)

Opening line: Saints -3

The Saints will be heading into this game coming off a Week 3 win, which is good news for anyone hoping to see them cover the spread this week. Since 2016, the Saints are 13-6-1 ATS following a win, which is the best mark of any team in the NFC over that span. For the Giants, hosting a home game in September has actually been a pretty ugly experience over the past few years. Since 2012, the Giants have hosted 11 games in September and they've gone just 4-7 straight-up and 2-9 ATS. The Giants are also just 4-16 straight-up in their past 20 games as a home underdog. 

49ers (1-2) at Chargers (1-2)

Opening line: Chargers -9.5

With Jimmy Garoppolo out for the season, don't be surprised if this number moves in the Chargers' direction as the week goes on. Of course, that might not actually be a good thing for the Chargers. Over the past five years, the Chargers have been favored by nine or more points a total of five times and they're just 2-3 ATS (5-0 straight-up). As for the 49ers, they have played without Garoppolo before. Just last season, there were four games without Jimmy where the 49ers were an underdog of nine or more points and they went 3-1 ATS in those games (0-4 straight-up). 

Ravens (2-1) at Steelers (1-1-1)

Opening line: Steelers -3 

If the Steelers beat the Buccaneers on Monday night, you might want to go ahead and bet them in this game, and that's mainly because a MNF win would prove that the Steelers are unbeatable in primetime. The Steelers are currently on a 10-game winning streak in night games that dates back to Week 5 in 2015. In that span, the Steelers have gone 7-3 ATS. The Steelers have also won three games in a row against Baltimore, including a primetime game last season where they didn't cover as a six-point favorite in a 39-38 win.  

Chiefs (3-0) at Broncos (2-1), Monday

Opening line: Chiefs -4.5 

One of the safest bets in sports over the past few years has been betting on the Chiefs in divisional games. Not only are they 17-1 straight-up in their past 18 divisional games, but they're 21-10 ATS all-time against the AFC West under Andy Reid, which is the best ATS record against divisional opponents over that span (since 2013). The Chiefs are also 8-1 both straight-up and ATS in their past nine primetime games. 

Oh, and the Chiefs have won five straight against the Broncos while averaging 29.6 points per game in those wins, and that was with Alex Smith, so who knows what might happen with Patrick Mahomes under center. The Chiefs are also just one of four teams that's 3-0 ATS this year. Although the Broncos are usually tough at home in primetime, they're just 1-3 straight-up in their past four night games. Of course, the Broncos are also 6-2 ATS as a home underdog since 2015, so maybe it's not a great idea to bet against them. 

BYE: Panthers, Redskins

CBS Sports Writer

John Breech has been at CBS Sports since July 2011 and currently spends most of his time writing about the NFL. He's believed to be one of only three people in the world who thinks that Andy Dalton will... Full Bio

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