NFL Week 4 Best Bets: Back undervalued Jaguars to cover short spread overseas

• Trust the Jacksonville Jaguars to bounce back against the Atlanta Falcons: The Jaguars' underlying metrics indicate they have been far better than their record suggests, making them an attractive play as a small favorite in London.

• Buy the Miami Dolphins to win outright against the Buffalo Bills: Miami is here to stay as a top team in the NFL and is mispriced as an underdog against a Bills team that may be due for negative regression.

• Take Tee Higgins to clear 57.5 receiving yards: Higgins' expected numbers have been far better than his actual production, making him an exciting player to back in Week 4.

Estimated Reading Time: 7 minutes

NFL Week 4 brings a few exciting matchups, including the first international game of the season and a potential AFC Championship preview. In this article, we’ll be using our late-down variance angle, in addition to some key matchup factors, to identify valuable plays in these games. Let’s get into it.

Atlanta Falcons @ Jacksonville Jaguars (-3, 43.5)

The Jaguars return to their home away from home in London this week. It’s been a rough start for Jacksonville, who fell to 1-2 after a loss to the Texans in Week 3.

A lot of the blame has been put on Trevor Lawrence, whose EPA+ numbers have significantly regressed to rank 33rd of 35 qualified quarterbacks. However, Lawrence’s tape paints a different picture, as his PFF grade ranks third at the position. This discrepancy can be partially explained by the fact that the Jaguars' offense has been solid on early downs, recording the sixth-highest success rate in the NFL. Unfortunately, the wheels have fallen off on late downs, where they have the second-worst offensive EPA+ figure.

On a per-play basis, this Jaguars offense has performed like the top-tier unit they were projected to be before the season but has been held back by inefficiency on third down, which is bound to even out as the season continues. I’m buying Lawrence and the Jacksonville offense against an Atlanta defense that has had the exact opposite luck in their first three games, allowing offenses to gain positive EPA on early downs before frequently getting key stops on late downs — a trend that is hard to sustain across a large sample size of plays.

The Jaguars' defense also matches up perfectly against an Atlanta offense that needs to run the ball to hide struggling quarterback Desmond Ridder. Jacksonville is very stout up front and has held opponents to the third-lowest EPA per rush in their first three games. Ridder will have to throw the ball efficiently if the Falcons are to score in this game, which is something I am more than happy to bet against.

Ridder is PFF’s lowest-graded quarterback and has not looked the part of a starting-caliber signal-caller. This game may have the biggest discrepancy in terms of quarterback play of any game this week, especially when we look at PFF charting data that accounts for how often a quarterback makes a big-time throw or puts the ball in harm's way with a turnover-worthy play.

Ridder leads the league with seven turnover-worthy plays and is lucky to have thrown only a single interception on the year. Look for a capable Jaguars secondary, featuring three cornerbacks who have graded out in the top 35 at the position, to capitalize on Ridder’s mistakes.

Best Bet: Jaguars -3 (-115, to -4)

The Jaguars are criminally undervalued here because of their offensive struggles on late downs to start the season. Back them to cover against a Falcons team trotting out one of the league’s worst passers.

Miami Dolphins @ Buffalo Bills (-3, 53.5)

The Dolphins' offense is off to a historic start to the season, most recently putting up a 70-piece against the Broncos last week. The genius of Mike McDaniel cannot be overstated, as the young head coach has designed an elite offense around Tua Tagovailoa, Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.

Given their production, you might expect the Dolphins to be enjoying unsustainable success on late downs, but that is not the case. Miami has been by far the best offense in the league on first and second downs, which has caused them to run only 24 late-down offensive plays, easily the fewest of any unit. On those late downs, the Dolphins' success rate has been a below-average 41%, compared to a league-best 60% on early downs. All this is to say that while they won’t be scoring 70 points every game, this offense is absolutely legit and should be regarded as the best in the league going forward.

Buffalo’s coverage metrics look great but are more of a product of their easy schedule to start the season. Playing Zach Wilson, Jimmy Garoppolo and Sam Howell is bound to make any secondary look elite. The Bills face their first real test this week. They will also be without safety Jordan Poyer, a key piece to lose when trying to defend this potent passing offense.

I’m also willing to fade the Bills team because their underlying metrics are indicative of a team due for negative regression. Despite playing three bad teams, Buffalo barely has a positive NET success rate on early downs and has largely been carried by success on third and fourth downs. In fact, Buffalo has the greatest difference between early- and late-down NET success rates. If they are unable to produce positive plays on first and second downs, look for the Bills to underperform relative to expectations as that extreme split evens out over the course of the season.

Another key factor in this game is the recklessness of Josh Allen, who has the second-highest turnover-worthy play rate among all quarterbacks this season. While both offenses should be able to move the ball, Buffalo is more likely to lose a drive or two to Allen’s questionable decision-making. Tagovailoa, on the other hand, has just two turnover-worthy plays through three games, largely because his receivers are running open essentially on every play and just has to make accurate throws into open windows. Despite solid success, life hasn’t been as easy for Allen, and his turnover tendencies could rear their ugly head in a key moment this week.

Defensively, the Dolphins' secondary has looked great to start the year and played a better trio of passers than Buffalo has. Jevon Holland is PFF’s top-graded safety and is a playmaker in the secondary.

Best Bet: Dolphins +125 (down to +100)

I’m buying this Dolphins team as a legitimate Super Bowl contender behind the mind of Mike McDaniel, who will dig deep into his play-calling bag in a huge matchup. Take advantage of the Dolphins being underdogs, which is an opportunity we may not get too often moving forward.

Player Prop Best Bet: Tee Higgins over 57.5 receiving yards

Higgins and the Bengals' passing offense have underperformed early in the season, largely due to Joe Burrow’s lingering calf injury. Burrow and Higgins have been unable to connect on their signature deep balls so far this season despite ample downfield attempts. Because of that, Higgins has averaged only 36.6 yards per game despite totaling 74 PFF expected yards per game, which is the biggest discrepancy in the league.

As Burrow gets healthier, look for this connection to regain its old form and start hitting on these big plays.

The Bengals also get a great matchup against a Titans secondary that has allowed the sixth-highest EPA per dropback figure this season. We’ll also have perfect weather in Nashville, putting Higgins and this aerial attack in optimal conditions to succeed.

The market has come down on Higgins because of his early-season struggles, dropping his line from 65.5 last week to 57.5 this week. Buy low on Higgins’ bounce-back performance and take his over at a discounted price.

Record Tracker: This article went 2-1 last week for 0.9 units, bringing our yearly record to 5-4 with a NET of 0.9 units.

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