Just passed the quarter pole and what do we know?
We just passed the quarter pole of the 2018 NFL season and some of the cream is rising to the top. Clearly the Rams and Chiefs are the best teams in the league although neither defense is in a good place right now. The moral of the story so far though is that no lead is safe and that the middle is very tightly bunched up. The defending Super Bowl Champs are 2-2 while their cross-state rival Pittsburgh is 1-2-1 and struggling on and off the field. We'll see if those issues continue again this week against quality opponents.
Record: 12-8-1 (53-32-3 last year)
Note: All times are ET and all games are on Sunday, Oct. 6 unless indicated.
Here are this week's best NFL picks against the spread:
Indianapolis Colts (1-3) at New England Patriots (2-2), 8:20 p.m. (Thurs.)
This feels like another Patriots blowout on Thursday night as they host the Colts. New England is coming off a 38-7 win over the Dolphins at home last week. The Pats got solid work from Sony Michel and James White out of the backfield while Tom Brady was efficient as usual. The defense ate up Miami and could do the same against the Colts. Indianapolis is playing its third road game over the last four weeks. The Colts lost a tough one to the Texans last time out 37-34 at home in a game that saw Frank Reich go for it on 4th down in overtime in their own territory. Andrew Luck was great as he always is at home. The problem is his road splits as he's thrown for 177 and 141 yards against the Redskins and Eagles. Injuries will be a huge issue for Indianapolis as well. Seven players have already been ruled out including wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and tight end Jack Doyle. Heck, Adam Vinatieri is dealing with a groin injury and isn't guaranteed to play. Yes, Rob Gronkowski is questionable for New England, but Julian Edelman should return from suspension. The last time the Patriots played at home on Thursday night was Week 3 of the 2016 season when they shut out the Texans 27-0. For short turn arounds like this, the edge has to go to the better coach. New England has covered 30 of its last 42 games overall. This one should be a romp on Thursday. SELECTION: Patriots -10
Baltimore Ravens (3-1) at Cleveland Browns (1-2-1), 1 p.m.
The Browns are 1-0-1 so far this season at home and are coming off a tough loss at Oakland in overtime. They arguably had that game won after several bad calls from the officials. The offense was very balanced with ground and air success. I'll admit that I've undersold the Ravens all season, especially last week in Pittsburgh. Their WR group is good enough and the myriad of tight ends are effective as well. I like the home team in this one. I think Cleveland is a very live underdog. SELECTION: Browns +3
New York Giants (1-3) at Carolina Panthers (2-1), 1 p.m.
The Giants are going to be healthier on defense for this matchup on Sunday. It looks like Eli Apple and Olivier Vernon will be ready and the front line will add Josh Mauro, who can help an anemic pass rush. Carolina is 2-1 and are coming off one of those early bye weeks. The Panthers really have yet to put it all together on offense with two games in which they featured a solid run game and one (at Atlanta) in which they were successful through the air. Carolina's secondary is suspect so if New York's offensive line can give Eli Manning enough time, he should be able to find Odell Beckham Jr. or Sterling Shepard downfield. I am by no means saying that the Giants are a good team, but I think this is a lot of points for a Panthers team that does a lot of things good, but nothing spectacularly. I'd like to see New York feed Saquon Barkley more, but that will depend on game flow. Carolina has covered just nine of its last 22 games as a favorite. As long as this stays at a touchdown or more, I'm taking the underdog. SELECTION: Giants +7
Denver Broncos (2-2) at New York Jets (1-3), 1 p.m.
On paper this looks like a bit of a mismatch, but the line says that it's not. New York's defense is actually allowing fewer total yards per game then the Broncos' much more heralded group. The Jets have lost three straight since beating the Lions in Week 1. They've struggled to get much going offensively with Sam Darnold under center. The defense has been able to keep the Jets in games and has done a decent job of creating takeaways. Denver has now lost two straight including a tough one at home Monday night to the Chiefs. Case Keenum has had his issues, especially missing a wide-open Demaryius Thomas late in that game that could have been the game winner. At first I really wanted to take the Jets, but I think both teams will struggle to score. Denver has gone under in 10 of its last 12 games against teams with a losing record and in eight of its last 10 October matchups. SELECTION: Under 43
Dallas Cowboys (2-2) at Houston Texans (1-3), 8:20 p.m.
The Cowboys are coming off a 26-24 home win over the Lions in which they were able to run the ball a ton and get just enough from Dak Prescott. The defense did its part although it has allowed 24 points in each of the last two games. Houston picked up its first win of the season, beating the Colts 37-34 in overtime at their place. Deshaun Watson has come alive the last two games and has flashed the potential we saw last year. The Texans' D has had its issues this season against the pass although the secondary doesn't figure to be challenged by Allen Hurns and Michael Gallup. I don't think Dallas' issues are fixed because of one victory. I think Houston's crowd will be pumped up to be home for just the second time this season. The Texans are by far the better team in this game. SELECTION: Texans -3
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.