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NFL Betting: What We Learned from Week 4 (2021)

by October 4, 2021
Patrick Mahomes

This is a betting column. Specifically, it’s a column about how to take what we learned from one week of action and apply it to the future. Essentially every one of last week’s bullet points in this series highlighted how people would react to what just happened and what to do about it. Specifically, how people would overreact.

They did.

The Jets were written off in Week 3. They won outright in Week 4. The “AFC West was Upside Down” because the Broncos were undefeated and the Chiefs were 1-2. Denver lost and Kansas City won. A similar comment was made about Seattle. The Seahawks were 1-2 and facing a tough division opponent. The Seahawks are now 2-2 and 1-0 in the division.

We won’t always get such perfect setups, but the point remains the same. Pay attention to not only what we’ve learned, but to what others think they now know about the National Football League.

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The Kansas City Chiefs are Back

This isn’t news, but it is. Basically everyone understood that, while the Chiefs might have been 1-2, they were not built to be a sub-.500 team. Instead, this was just a hurdle along the path.

What if that isn’t the truth?

The Chiefs did eventually pull away from the Eagles in Week 4, but they were given a surprisingly tough fight in the first half. That, coupled with the prior two losses are further reminders that there are flaws with Kansas City. The defense isn’t stellar and, if quarterback Patrick Mahomes isn’t performing to a heroic level, the Chiefs can be beaten.

Kansas City is back, and the team is certainly going to win plenty of games. Just don’t expect it to happen smoothly.

The Dallas Cowboys are Sliding up the Standings

The Cowboys closed out Week 3 with a nationally-televised ‘statement win’ in which they looked flawless. This got attention. Experts and analysts were trying to rank Dallas among the rest of the NFC. Where was the consensus? Near the top.

Beating the Panthers in Week 4 and holding a solid lead throughout the fourth quarter will only push Dallas’ stock higher.

The knock on the Cowboys had been the team’s defense, but it continues to create turnovers, even if it is bleeding yards.

There’s a play to be made here. Not only are turnovers at a high rate unsustainable in the long run, but teams that allow a high average of yards per game eventually also allow a high number of points per game. It’s a regression we should be watching because, with the Cowboys undoubtedly gaining in the power rankings, there will be a premium associated with them. We can sell at a high point.

Opportunities for Justin Fields, Trey Lance, and Zach Wilson

Whether due to injury or a favorable matchup, Justin Fields, Trey Lance, and Zach Wilson each had their respective time to shine. While maybe they didn’t shine per se, the next wave of quarterbacks saw extended action that helped provide an opportunity that was not previously there.

For Trey Lance, it was in the form of extended play. He had seen the field to spell starter Jimmy Garoppolo at times prior to Week 4, but an actual injury to Garoppolo forced Lance to finish the game. We will now wait and see how the 49ers handle the situation — and, of course, if Garoppolo can even play — but we finally have some extended game action from which we can judge Lance for the future.

For Fields and Wilson, Week 4 brought their first two wins as starting quarterbacks. Fields’ Bears took the lead early in their game and never looked back, while Wilson gave away a bad interception in his game and then transformed into a different quarterback en route to an overtime victory. Perhaps just as important as the wins, Fields, and Wilson helped to erase a largely negative narrative surrounding them.

The football-watching world will probably still have a difficult time fully buying into Fields or Wilson, while the anticipation surrounding Lance is going to drive his popularity. I would be aggressive in the opposite direction with all three — avoiding Fields and cautiously leaning on Fields and Wilson.

The Denver Broncos were Exposed

Shame on me. I argued against the Broncos for weeks but felt that they would step up and deliver when tested for the first time all season. They didn’t, and we can now hear a collective “told you so” from football fans around the world.

Perfect.

The Broncos were exposed. They were out of their element and caught in a game for which they hadn’t prepared. The general theory for the Broncos will likely be that they will now crumble with the increase in competition, but I wouldn’t be so quick to bail on Denver. The NFL does not give back wins. The Broncos already have three of them.

There will be more to come and until they prove that a 3-1 record is a complete aberration — maybe it is! — then we can look for value with the Broncos.

Buffalo Bills Dominate Again

The Buffalo Bills lost to the Steelers on Opening Day and have since pummeled every team in their path. This is, however, what the Bills do. They are relentless, they extend leads, and they win convincingly.

It doesn’t last forever.

Buffalo has now scored at least 35 points in three consecutive games. It’s quite unsustainable, but even by their own standards. The Bills were 13-3 last year with the second-most points-per-game scored in the league. They tallied at least 35 points in three straight contests only once last year: to close out the season. And what followed? An average of 22.7 points per game.

Remember the numbers and remember the trends.

Remember that Buffalo just won at home against a punchless Texans team on its third-string quarterback.

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Mario Mergola is a featured writer at FantasyPros and BettingPros, as well as the creator and content-editor of Sporfolio. For more from Mario, check out his archive and follow him @MarioMergola. He has also been one of the industry leaders in NFL against-the-spread picks over the last 7 years.

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