It's still early in the season but trends are becoming a little firmer and mismatches more clear as we march into October. My best bets are 6-3 this season after going 3-0 last week, finally momentum in the right direction. Here are the Week 4 matchups on my radar and subsequent picks this weekend.
Josh Allen vs. Ravens secondary
Sunday's QB matchup between Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson should be an early MVP showcase. I hope they both continue putting up video game numbers, but the Bills defense has been playing significantly better than the Ravens, whose defensive troubles have spilled over into 2022. I don't think you can blame Baltimore's slump on injuries anymore after they gave up over 450 pass yards and six touchdown passes to Tua Tagovailoa while blowing a 21-point fourth-quarter lead in Week 2. Here's a few troubling numbers:
The Ravens rank dead last in total defense this season
They are the only team to allow a 300-yard passer in every game
They've allowed five of the 18 400-yard passers league-wide since 2021 and five more 30-yard TDs than any other team over that span
Let's face it, this isn't your father's impenetrable Ravens defense. Ray Lewis isn't walking through that door anytime soon. I don't trust a team against Josh Allen that has been giving up this many points, yards and big plays. This week Allen and his rocket arm could have a field day with his deep ball. He has completed a whopping 70% (7-10) of his passes on throws 20-plus yards downfield this season. That's the best rate in the league. Guess what defense is the worst in the league on those deep passes? The Ravens. QBs are 10-15 (67%) 20-plus yards downfield against them.
Jimmy Garoppolo vs. Rams pressure
I'm surprised to see the 49ers are favored against the Rams on Monday Night Football, even if they are at home and have given Los Angeles fits in recent years. San Francisco had won six straight against the Rams prior to the 2021 NFC Championship game where they coughed up a double-digit fourth-quarter lead. That game was sealed on a Jimmy Garoppolo interception as he was being slung down by Aaron Donald.
I expect more of the latter on Monday, especially considering how Garoppolo and the 49ers looked in Denver, and the loss of the best tackle in the league, Trent Williams. Garoppolo leads the NFL with 10 interceptions when pressured since the start of last season (including playoffs), and they often come at inopportune times like his fourth-quarter interception against the Broncos in Week 3 – and the aforementioned pick against the Rams.
San Francisco could counter this mismatch by committing to the ground game like they did against the Rams last year on Monday Night Football, when they won 31-10 and ran the ball 44 times. I don't expect a repeat with their top running back Elijah Mitchell out, and the way they scripted plays last week. The 49ers ran it 37% of the time in Week 3 (23rd in NFL) despite a close game where their passing attack was struggling.
Cowboys D-line vs. Commanders O-line
Perhaps the biggest mismatch of the week is the Cowboys pass rush against the Commanders offensive line. Entering Week 4, the Cowboys led the NFL in sacks and the Commanders were tied for the most sacks allowed. Both are coming off polar opposite performances in Week 3. Dallas sacked Daniel Jones five times on Monday Night Football, and pressured him 22 times. Carson Wentz was sacked a career-high nine times against the Eagles.
ESPN's pass blocking metrics shed more light on just how big the gap is between these units. The Cowboys rank fourth in pass rush win rate, which measures how often at least one player on their line breaks through within 2.5 seconds. The Commanders have the fifth-worst pass block win rate in the league. In other words, the Cowboys pass rush should create havoc again. With Cooper Rush holding down the fort without Dak Prescott, I expect Dallas' pass rush to make the difference on Sunday.