Week 4 NFL Line Movement

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Each week during the 2021 NFL season, we will examine how the coming week’s NFL lines have changed relative to preseason or prior expectations. Often, early lines can give an objective look at teams’ relative talent levels, absent week-to-week recency bias when the weekend results take hold. Let’s take a look at NFL Week 4 spreads and see which numbers have changed and, potentially, why


Lions At Bears

One NFL Week 4 spread move stood out above all the rest. The market appears to have made a massive downward adjustment on the Chicago Bears.

In his two games quarterbacking the team, Justin Fields has looked terrifyingly overmatched by NFL defenses. He’s gone 12-for-33 for 128 yards and 1 interception. Worse yet, he absorbed 11 sacks. And he hasn’t done any damage on the ground, rushing 13 times for a mere 43 yards.

The hoped-for savior has been nothing but awful, not showing a single reason for optimism so far.

Putrid offensive line play hasn’t helped. LT Jason Peters made Twitter highlights for all the wrong reasons on Sunday as Myles Garrett made him look silly.

There’s just nothing going right for the Bears offense right now. The team has posted the worst net yards per play figure (-2.84) in the league by a wide margin.

Meanwhile, the Lions have looked downright competitive this year. Even in convincing losses to the Packers and 49ers they avoided embarrassing themselves. They followed up by nearly beating the Ravens, although it was a letdown spot for them and they still outgained Dan Campbell’s bunch easily in yards per play, 7.7 to 5.8.

So, this line likely reflects increased respect for them as well.

And yet, the Bears are still favored with a price of -2.5 available in the market.


Meanwhile, several NFL Week 4 spreads have been moving around and through the key number of 7. Let’s take a look and see why.

Jaguars At Bengals

Even a 109-yard touchdown return off a missed field goal couldn’t save the Jaguars from slipping to 0-3 both straight up and against the spread. The adjustments appear inevitable with this team, and something you don’t see often has happened. The Bengals are more than touchdown favorites in a football game.

As for the Bengals, they dominated the Steelers in a game in which they barely had to do anything on offense. They have been surprisingly competent on defense. They rank fourth in both yards per play allowed and defensive DVOA.

How much of that is real and how much comes from playing two QBs — Ben Roethlisberger and Fields — who frankly don’t belong on NFL fields?

That’s for bettors to parse, but it will be interesting to see how the Bengals coaching staff approaches this game on offense. They have utilized a run-heavy approach so far, but the Jags actually shut down the Cards on the ground this week. They’re horrific against the pass and just dealt away a competent corner in CJ Henderson.

If the Jags get worked again, expect them to remain on the wrong side of +7 for the foreseeable future.

Titans At Jets

The Jets’ performance thus far makes them another team everyone is running to the window to fade. A shutout in Mile High does nothing to change that. If anything, people are lacing up the track shoes instead of the sneaks now.

And that’s probably the only reason for this line move through 7. Certainly, the Titans have done little to inspire confidence aside from storming back against Seattle in Week 2.

The Jets have simply been abhorrent so far. QB Zach Wilson has fired 2 TDs and 7 INTs.

The one caveat here is the Jets have faced a rather imposing group of defenses. All three of their opponents rank in the top eight although how much of that comes from playing the Jets is the real question.

The Titans should offer a more comfortable spot what with having a poor pass rush and beatable corners.

Giants At Saints

The Saints were on the other side of 7 as well for their Week 4 homecoming game against the Giants. Again, the market decided the underdog needed a larger handicap, moving it through the key number following Week 3 action.

The Saints have had maybe the most interesting set of results so far in the NFL this season. They have two dominant pastings of solid teams — Green Bay and New England — but those sandwich around a drubbing at the hands of the Panthers in which the Saints did zero on offense.

What’s most striking about those two wins is that the Saints totaled 261 net passing yards. Their defense essentially did all the work.

In a world where offense rules, that likely won’t sustain going forward.

The Giants sit 0-3 but have had two wins slip through their fingers in consecutive weeks. First, they gave up a two-minute game-winning drive to Taylor Heinicke of all people — after a likely game-sealing TD was dropped — then they allowed Atlanta to steal the game late as well. First-half failures in the red zone proved costly for the G-Men.

Has the market overreacted here to a team that could easily be 2-1 dropping three straight?

Steelers At Packers

Possibly no fanbase walked away from Sunday’s Week 3 action more disgusted than that of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Ben Roethlisberger looked incredibly toasted. It was just a sad sight for those who have watched the Steelers the past 15 years, as Big Ben struggled to even move around the poorly constructed pockets he had. When he did get rid of the ball, Bengals players often had as good a chance as Steelers to get their hands on it. The longtime standout has managed just 5.55 net yards per attempt so far.

Exacerbating the offensive struggles, the Steelers might miss top WRs JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson.

Meanwhile, the Packers showed out Sunday night in a game where the final score did not reflect their level of dominance. After struggling some through the first two weeks, they completely outplayed the 49ers on the road (6 YPP to 4.6), with Aaron Rodgers recapturing his MVP form for the first time this season.

If the Pack can keep up this improved form, the move up to -7 seems warranted.

Buccaneers At Patriots

In one lone spot on the NFL Week 4 card, a team that lost in Week 3 actually got a significant bump as favorites.

The Bucs failed to impress in their first big test of the season as Tom Brady scuffled against a strong Rams defense. Furthermore, the Bucs sustained some more injuries. Rob Gronkowski got banged up, CB Jamel Dean might miss the game (with Sean-Murphy-Bunting already out), and Jason Pierre-Paul sat.

Despite all that, things looked even worse for the Patriots. They managed to lose a game in which the opposition passed for 110 net yards, not easy to do in today’s NFL. That owed heavily to Mac Jones tossing 3 INTs, one returned to the house and another very nearly.

Perhaps the market has lost confidence in this Patriots team. They have posted three straight blah offensive games. The Jets’ own mistakes in Week 2 obscured the fact they actually had a more efficient offensive day than New England.


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