BOSTON -- Baseball would be better if rain didn't exist. Football would be better if injuries didn't exist.
Imagining a world where neither exists is some fantastical, pie-in-the-sky type stuff. Injuries have always been a problem in contact sports, and they'll always be a problem. It just feels like a larger issue this week and this year. Off the top of my head, let's do a quick run-through of the injury issues across the league, rolling through each division one at a time:
In Miami, Tua Tagovailoa has ... back and ankle injuries. And definitely not a head injury. He uh ... just slipped or forgot how to walk, ever so briefly. The Buffalo secondary has been decimated by injuries, with Micah Hyde out for the year, Jordan Poyer dealing with a foot injury, Dane Jackson lucky to have survived a gruesome hit on Monday Night Football, Tre'Davious White still out, and Christian Benford breaking his hand. In New England, despite Bill Belichick's dog and pony show, Mac Jones is set to miss some time. Commence Brian Hoyer Time. The Patriots also played without top receiver Jakobi Meyers and play-making safety Kyle Dugger last week, too. The Jets lost Mekhi Becton in the summer and are finally ready for Zach Wilson to make his season debut.
OK, that was one division. Let's move things along more quickly here.
Justin Herbert played through torn rib cartilage last week and was absorbing big hits at the end of a blowout loss, which was really nice. J.C. Jackson has played just one game as he works his way back from summer ankle surgery. Jalen Guyton is done for the year. Rashawn Slater is also done for the year.Joey Bosa is undergoing groin surgery (possibly as you are reading this). The Chargers' Super Bowl hopes are teetering.
Dallas has been without Dak Prescott since Week 1. Trey Lance is out for the year. Sterling Shepard tore his ACL while lightly jogging on the backside of a play. Wan'Dale Robinson and Kadarius Toney also got hurt for the Giants. Jameis Winston is ... playing with a broken back? Michael Thomas has a hurt toe. Detroit has lost Tracy Walker (Achilles tear), Amon-Ra St. Brown (ankle) and D'Andre Swift (shoulder/ankle) this week. The Bucs have lost half of their O-line and most of their receiving corps already. Three Ravens left due to injury on Sunday. Trent Williams suffered a high ankle sprain. Jaire Alexander hurt his groin. A.J. Green hurt his knee. Shaquille Leonard hasn't played yet. Stephon Gilmore hurt his hammy. Minkah Fitzpatrick's in concussion protocol, and T.J. Watt's obviously been on IR for two weeks. Even the Chiefs' kicker has been injured.
It feels like a lot.
Now, would you be able to do that for any given week in NFL history? Yeah, probably. At least at midseason or so. But just speaking anecdotally, it's been an avalanche of injuries in a very short span.
It's always a next man up mentality in the world of professional sports, and that will remain the case. The show must go on. But when it's this bad ... the show is notably worse.
On that cheery note, let's make some Week 4 picks. Try not to get hurt.
(Home team in CAPS; Wednesday lines)
CINCINNATI (-4) on Miami
The Dolphins have overperformed thus far. The Bengals have underperformed. A short week, a "whiteout" or whatever they've got going on in Cincy, an injured Tua ... it's the exact recipe for a market correction.
Minnesota (-3) over New Orleans (in London)
Look, we all love some morning football. But this game might smell. Just treacherously so.
ATLANTA (+1.5) over Cleveland
DALLAS (-3.5) over Washington
Tennessee (-3.5) over INDIANAPOLIS
Chicago (+3) over NEW YORK GIANTS
New York Jets (+3.5) over PITTSBURGH
Los Angeles Chargers (-5.5) over HOUSTON
Seattle (+4.5) over DETROIT
Jacksonville (+6.5) over PHILADELPHIA
Are things much better stateside in the 1 p.m. window? Many folks are asking the question.
The only thing I have to say about these games is that Brandon Staley should have spent Sunday night in jail for keeping Justin Herbert and his fractured rib cartilage in the game until the bitter end when trailing by 28 points. That was negligence.
BALTIMORE (+3) over Buffalo
I don't like going against Buffalo, even after last week's loss, which I ascribe more to the heat and the cramping and exhaustion than anything else. BUT! The injuries in the Buffalo secondary are kind of overwhelming. There's always the fear/possibility that Josh Allen and crew can overcome it ... but Lamar Jackson is playing at an MVP level right now. Give him some points at home against a seriously banged-up D, and I'm hopping aboard.
(Also, that goal line incompletion from Allen? That was kind of year one/year two Josh Allen. He had some real misfires in Week 2, too. Might some of that early inaccuracy have crept into his game? Something to keep your peepers on, people.)
Arizona (+1.5) over CAROLINA
One of these teams will be 1-3. One of these teams will be 2-2. Very few will care one way or another.
We probably still overrate the Cardinals a little. But that's against good teams. Fortunately for the Cardinals, the Panthers are not one of those.
GREEN BAY (-9.5) over New England
Would probably like the Packers here even with a fully healthy Mac Jones. I get that the Packers aren't really the Packers just yet, but this feels like a get-right week for them. Plus, Aaron Rodgers is still Aaron Rodgers. Plus, even though New England's defense is fine, it's still a unit that's prone to mistakes. Facing the Patriots' D in Green Bay after playing the Bucs' D in Tampa is going to be a welcome change for the Packers.
LAS VEGAS (-2.5) over Denver
It really is incredible that the Raiders will likely be either 0-5 or 1-4 at their bye week. I know there's a lot of ha-ha laughing at Josh McDaniels for this reason or that, but their current predicament is legitimately stunning.
Yet as bad as it's been ... I don't think last week's "win" proved anything about the fitness of Nathaniel Hackett as a head coach. Assuming the Raiders fans are rowdy -- always a safe assumption -- life will be hard once again for Hackett.
Kansas City (-2) over TAMPA BAY
Lots of uncertainty with this one, weather-wise obviously. Maybe it will get moved. Maybe it won't. (UPDATE: It won't.) Either way, from a football standpoint, a disruptive week isn't what the Bucs needed. And that's just football-wise. Life-wise, in terms of evacuating the state and worrying about what's left behind, what a tough week to try to have to play an NFL game.
Los Angeles Rams (+2) over SAN FRANCISCO
What's this line all about? Is it a divisional thing? An assumption that these teams go swippy-swappy with their wins every time they play? I get it. But I don't like it. Jimmy Garoppolo stepping out of the end zone made all the talk shows this week, but he was much worse than just that one play. Not seeing open receivers, not delivering the ball where it needs to be delivered, taking too many sacks, I don't like it.
I also don't like my season record, but, well, you know, you see, it is early.
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