NFL picks against the spread, Week 4: Off to a questionable start

Week 4 of the 2014 NFL season got underway on Thursday with the New York Giants thrashing Washington, 45-14. This was the third straight blowout on Thursday Night Football, although it was also the first road team to get the victory. The Giants were a 3.5-point underdog, so the year of the underdog potentially continues.

The start of the new football week means we’re back for another five picks in the LVH SuperContest. The contest includes more than 1,400 participants picking games each week to see who can come out on top by the end of the season. I was sitting at 7-8 after Week 3, having put together another 2-3 performance in Week 3. I hit on the Cincinnati Bengals and Seattle Seahawks, but slipped on the Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars. Just looking at those names makes me shake my head.

As always, our partners at OddsShark have staked me and a handful of other participants in the SuperContest. You can track all of us here, and you can follow the standings here. Here are my picks for Week 4, with home team in caps.

WASHINGTON vs. New York Giants (+3.5): Whoops. I picked Washington because of the TNF home performances thus far. I also figured Washington showed some good things against Philadelphia. The Giants managed a home win against a previously unbeaten Houston Texans squad, but I just did not see them building on it. So much for that.

Eli Manning is getting the hang of this new offense.

There were question marks coming into the season about Manning’s ability to adapt to Ben McAdoo’s West Coast scheme. In fact, McAdoo’s scheme is so incongruous with Manning’s methodical, downfield style that some Giants players believed it was designed for the eventual takeover of Ryan Nassib — and they loomed even larger after the offense plodded through a rough couple of games. But after the last two outings, Manning looks as though he’s been running it his entire life.2

New NFL coaches will change the 2015 NFL Draft

The never-ending cycle of front office and coaching staff overhaul continues again this offseason, and seven teams have new head coaches for 2015 — the Jets, Bills, 49ers, Falcons, Raiders, Broncos and Bears. The changes these teams make, schematically and philosophically, will have heavy effects on how they draft and build their rosters for next year.

The draft is a crapshoot no matter what when it comes to predicting picks, but as team needs change based on the new regimes, selections can be surprising as established players are replaced by draft picks and as teams change their style of personnel. Just when you think you’ve got a grasp of where things will go in the first round and a little beyond, these wild card teams come in and screw with everyone, and it creates a kind of butterfly effect. It’s going to be awesome.

Washington has a ton of holes to fill this offseason, but perhaps none is more important than finding a dominant pass rusher, especially with Brian Orakpo set to hit free agency in March. McShay notes that Gregory has “freakish athleticism” for a player his size (6’6, 245 pounds), and would be an excellent guy to pair with Ryan Kerrigan at outside linebacker.

The New York Giants released defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka on Tuesday afternoon, reports NFL.com’s Kimberly Jones. The veteran has spent his entire nine-season career with Big Blue, winning two Super Bowls during that time.

This past season the 31-year-old had a career-low 2.5 sacks and 28 tackles in 11 games before a knee injury ended his campaign in late November. The advanced metrics were not kind to Kiwanuka the past two years. According to Pro Football Focus, he rated as the second-worst 4-3 defensive end in 2013 and the third-worst in 2014.

Kiwanuka was supposed to count $7.45 million against the salary cap next season, the fourth-highest cap charge on the team. The Giants will gain $4.825 million in cap space by cutting him, per Over the Cap.