It’s not hard to find the best game on the NFL Week 4 schedule.
The Dolphins and Bills are clashing for the first time this season, with the AFC East lead on the line.
For Miami, a win here puts the Dolphins in a fantastic position. They would be two games ahead of Buffalo (and at least two games in front of the Patriots and Jets) while having a road victory over the Bills. Furthermore, Miami only has four true road games remaining on the schedule after Sunday, with a neutral site tilt mixed in as well.
Elsewhere, there are a host of intriguing games, including one that could set the sport back 100 years with the Broncos and Bears meeting at Soldier Field. Both teams are 0-3, and for the loser of this one, it’s tough to see a road back to respectability in 2023.
1. Miami Dolphins vs. Buffalo Bills
Game info: Sunday, Oct. 1 | 1 p.m. ET | CBS
Location: Highmark Stadium | Orchard Park, NY
Spread: Dolphins +2.5 (-110) | Bills -2.5 (-118)
Moneyline: MIA (+125) | BUF (-152)
Total: 54.5 Over (-110) | Under (-110)
Miami has only beat Buffalo once in its last 10 tries. But this is a different Dolphins team. They lead the NFL in scoring at 43.3 points per game — the Bills are a distant second at 30.3. Their 550.3 yards per game also leads the league and is more than 100 more on average than the second-place team.
Naturally, those numbers are inflated by last week’s historic 70–20 shellacking of the Broncos. But Miami won a tough road game at New England the week prior and got past the Chargers in a season-opening shootout. Tua Tagovailoa is the betting favorite to win MVP. This offense is legit, so much so that the Dolphins shot up to the top spot in SI’s latest power rankings.
Buffalo is no slouch on offense, either. Since an overtime loss to the Jets in Week 1, the Bills outscored the Raiders and Commanders 75–10 in back-to-back blowouts. After accounting for one touchdown and four turnovers against New York, Josh Allen has five total touchdowns and just one turnover since.
Although Buffalo has dominated the recent series history, it’s worth noting that all three meetings last year were decided by three points or fewer, including a 34–31 Bills win in the wild card round without Tagovailoa. You won’t want to miss this Sunday afternoon showdown.
Verderame’s pick: Bills -2.5, Over 54.5 (Buffalo 30, Miami 27)
Manzano’s pick: Dolphins +2.5, Over 54.5 (Miami 33, Buffalo 30)
Wood’s pick: Dolphins +2.5, Under 54.5 (Miami 27, Buffalo 24)
2. Baltimore Ravens vs. Cleveland Browns
Game info: Sunday, Oct. 1 | 1 p.m. ET | CBS
Location: Cleveland Browns Stadium | Cleveland, OH
Spread: Ravens +2.5 (-110) | Browns -2.5 (-125)
Moneyline: BAL (+130) | CLE (-158)
Total: 40.5 Over (-110) | Under (-118)
A banged up Baltimore team has a tough task on the road in Cleveland this week against the best defense in football. The Browns allow 163 yards and 10.7 points per game, both NFL lows. Their defense has allowed just one touchdown in three games, which is one fewer than its offense has surrendered to opposing defenses via a pick-six and a fumble recovery. Jim Schwartz’s defense is working wonders.
The Ravens just endured an upset overtime loss to the Colts at home with backup Gardner Minshew at quarterback, no less. Lamar Jackson can only hope to have center Tyler Linderbaum (ankle) and tackle Ronnie Stanley (knee) back this week to help fend off Myles Garrett, who already has 4.5 sacks.
Cleveland has dealt with its own injuries on offense having lost running back Nick Chubb (knee) and tackle Jack Conklin (knee) for the year. The team has generally been able to weather those losses thanks to its league-best defense. However, in the first full game without Chubb last week against the Titans, Deshaun Watson had perhaps his best game with the Browns, a far cry from his pedestrian performance in a 13–3 win against Baltimore last season.
Jackson has historically performed well against Cleveland, having won his last five starts against the AFC North rival in which he didn’t exit early with an injury. Still, the Browns have taken two of the last three games against the Ravens, one that Jackson missed in 2022 and another he didn’t finish in 2021, and Baltimore hasn’t won in Cleveland since 2020.
Verderame’s pick: Ravens +2.5, Under 40.5 (Baltimore 20, Cleveland 19)
Manzano’s pick: Ravens +2.5, Over 40.5 (Baltimore 23, Cleveland 20)
Wood’s pick: Browns -2.5, Under 40.5 (Cleveland 20, Baltimore 17)
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New Orleans Saints
Game info: Sunday, Oct. 1 | 1 p.m. ET | Fox
Location: Caesars Superdome | New Orleans, LA
Spread: Buccaneers +3.5 (-118) | Saints -3.5 (-110)
Moneyline: TB (+145) | NO (-175)
Total: 40.5 Over (-110) | Under (-110)
There’s no love lost between Tampa Bay and New Orleans. Receiver Mike Evans and cornerback Marshon Lattimore are at the center of the rivalry and both were ejected the last time they matched up. To add fuel to the fire, this is also a revenge game for Jameis Winston, who’s starting in place of the injured Derek Carr (shoulder). Winston, who was drafted No. 1 overall by the Buccaneers in 2015, has spent his last four seasons with the Saints.
The New Orleans offense has still not scored more than 20 points in a game this season and will now be without its starting quarterback for at least one game against a sound defense. Running back Alvin Kamara’s return from suspension should help breathe life into a Saints running game that has struggled mightily.
The Buccaneers’ offense, led by Baker Mayfield, has not been all that much better to date. Their ground game is even less efficient than that of their opponent, but Mayfield and Evans’s downfield connection has buoyed the aerial attack.
After 2–0 starts for Tampa Bay and New Orleans, both teams lost last week; the Bucs fell to Philadelphia and the Saints lost to Green Bay. Now they each have a chance to rebound against a division rival. These defenses have been two of the best units in the league at turning the ball over and in a game with such a low over/under, this contest might come down to which defense is able to flip the field.
Verderame’s pick: Buccaneers +3.5, Under 40.5 (New Orleans 19, Tampa Bay 16)
Manzano’s pick: Buccaneers +3.5, Under 40.5 (Tampa Bay 17, New Orleans 16)
Wood’s pick: Buccaneers +3.5, Under 40.5 (Tampa Bay 17, New Orleans 13)
4. Las Vegas Raiders vs. Los Angeles Chargers
Game info: Sunday, Oct. 1 | 4:05 p.m. ET | CBS
Location: SoFi Stadium | Inglewood, CA
Spread: Raiders +5.5 (-118) | Chargers -5.5 (-110)
Moneyline: LVR (+200) | LAC (-250)
Total: 47.5 Over (-118) | Under (-110)
Las Vegas and Los Angeles have had their fair share of exciting games in recent years. Four of the last five have been decided by seven points or fewer and two of those went to overtime. Putting aside the back-and-forth nature in recent rivalry history, the Chargers need a win in the worst way this weekend.
L.A. narrowly avoided the 0–3 deathknell last week in Minnesota, escaping with a 28–24 win. Now, in their first game of the year against a divisional opponent, the Chargers have a chance to improve to .500. The oddsmakers like their chances of doing so, in large part due to their overwhelming offensive success. They rank second in total yards, third in passing yards and fifth in scoring at 28.7 points per game. Even with injuries to Austin Ekeler (ankle) and now Mike Williams (ACL) out for the year, Justin Herbert leads an elite unit.
Unfortunately for Herbert, L.A.’s defense is far from elite. It allows the second-most total yards, most passing yards and fifth-most points at 29 per game. The duo of Davante Adams and Jakobi Meyers could have a big day against this secondary, but that largely depends on the availability of Jimmy Garoppolo (concussion), who is currently questionable for Sunday.
After starting the season with a 17–16 win in Denver, the Raiders were blown out by the Bills and saw a fourth-quarter rally fall short against the Steelers. So far, their defense has held up better than the Chargers’, but that’s not saying a whole lot.
There’s typically not a ton of must-win games in September. Los Angeles played one last week in Minnesota and with games against the Cowboys and Chiefs after the bye, this contest might count as well considering a loss would open up the door to a potential 1–5 start.
Verderame’s pick: Chargers -5.5, Over 47.5 (Los Angeles 31, Las Vegas 23)
Manzano’s pick: Chargers -5.5, Under 47.5 (Los Angeles 27, Las Vegas 17)
Wood’s pick: Chargers -5.5, Over 47.5 (Los Angeles 30, Las Vegas 20)
5. Denver Broncos vs. Chicago Bears
What happens when a stoppable force meets a movable object? Get ready to find out Sunday in Chicago. Denver lost 70–20 to Miami last week and is still more than a field-goal favorite on the road. That might have something to do with the fact that the Bears just lost their 13th straight game, a 41–10 blowout in Kansas City.
Denver and Chicago are two of the four remaining winless teams in the NFL. (In a strange twist, the other two 0–3 teams, Minnesota and Carolina, also play this week. Something’s gotta give.) Both teams had reason for renewed hope when the season began, and that hope has already dissipated before the end of September. Sean Payton has not yet turned things around in the Mile High City and DJ Moore and an expensive free-agent class hasn’t changed the fortunes in the Windy City, either.
The Bears are the second-worst scoring defense in the league, only better than… the Broncos, who now allow over 40 points per game. The Dolphins game saw that average shoot up considerably, but Denver did blow a lead and allow 35 points to Washington the week before. At least the Broncos played the Raiders and Commanders tight before suffering an all-time loss; Chicago’s closest margin of defeat was a 10-point loss to Tampa Bay — this team has not been competitive.
It probably won’t be pretty; this game has all the makings of a true slogfest, but that’s exactly why we can’t look away.
Verderame’s pick: Broncos -3.5, Over 45.5 (Denver 26, Chicago 21)
Manzano’s pick: Bears +3.5, Over 45.5 (Chicago 27, Denver 24)
Wood’s pick: Broncos -3.5, Over 45.5 (Denver 27, Chicago 20)
Verderame: The Broncos-Bears game threatens to set football back 500 years. It’s one of the worst games in years, and yet somehow is one of the most fascinating matchups of the year. Whoever loses is 0-4 and their season is completely off the proverbial rails. The winner actually feels relief, thinking it has a chance of getting back into the race. Just fantastic theater.
Manzano: It’s a bit surprising that the Saints are favored by more than three points with Jameis Winston possibly starting. The Buccaneers had one bad game against a very good Eagles team. Look for Tampa Bay’s fierce defense to force Winston into many mistakes. As for the matchup between 0–3 teams, give me the home team (the Bears) that didn’t lose by 50 points last week.
Wood: The dichotomy between the level of football being played in the 1 o'clock slate in Buffalo between the Dolphins and Bills and Chicago between the Broncos and Bears will be a sight to see. I like Miami to stay undefeated, the Chargers to win again and the Browns’ defense to carry Cleveland to a key divisional win.