Beating the Book: Packers Dominate, Vikings Win in London + Full Week 4 Picks

Beating the Book: Packers Dominate, Vikings Win in London + Full Week 4 Picks

This article is part of our Beating the Book series.

We're coming off of another humbling week in the world of NFL handicapping. While we were able to salvage a semi-respectable 8-7-1 ATS record, I'll be the first to admit we left at least a couple of wins on the boards. But as I made clear last week, this is a no-excuses column. The standard is, quite simply, the standard.

Honestly, I wish I could offer an excuse for not only taking the Chiefs to cover at Indianapolis, but also for making them my best bet of the week. I maintain that the Colts had no business winning that game, but it was a classic letdown spot for Kansas City, and boy did they lean into that narrative. As soon as Skyy Moore muffed a punt inside his own 5-yard-line early in the first quarter, I knew we were in major trouble.

Anyway, we head into Week 4 with a (barely) above-.500 record and our heads held high. Unfortunately, yet another difficult week of games awaits us. If there's one theme thus far, it's that we have about as much parity as possible through three weeks.

With the Giants, Colts and Bucs all going down this past week, only two undefeated teams remain – the fewest in any NFL season since 2017 (honestly more recent than I would've guessed). A season ago, we had five undefeated teams at this stage, while in both 2020 and 2019, seven teams were unbeaten through three weeks.

To me at least, more games

We're coming off of another humbling week in the world of NFL handicapping. While we were able to salvage a semi-respectable 8-7-1 ATS record, I'll be the first to admit we left at least a couple of wins on the boards. But as I made clear last week, this is a no-excuses column. The standard is, quite simply, the standard.

Honestly, I wish I could offer an excuse for not only taking the Chiefs to cover at Indianapolis, but also for making them my best bet of the week. I maintain that the Colts had no business winning that game, but it was a classic letdown spot for Kansas City, and boy did they lean into that narrative. As soon as Skyy Moore muffed a punt inside his own 5-yard-line early in the first quarter, I knew we were in major trouble.

Anyway, we head into Week 4 with a (barely) above-.500 record and our heads held high. Unfortunately, yet another difficult week of games awaits us. If there's one theme thus far, it's that we have about as much parity as possible through three weeks.

With the Giants, Colts and Bucs all going down this past week, only two undefeated teams remain – the fewest in any NFL season since 2017 (honestly more recent than I would've guessed). A season ago, we had five undefeated teams at this stage, while in both 2020 and 2019, seven teams were unbeaten through three weeks.

To me at least, more games than ever feel like true 50/50s, and that's once again the case this week, as eight of 16 games currently feature a spread of 3.0 points or less. Four more games sit at 3.5 points as of Wednesday morning, while only two teams – the Packers (vs. NE) and the Eagles (vs. JAC) – are favored by a touchdown or more.

Before we dive into Week 4, let's take our customary look back at the best and worst calls from my Week 3 picks.

Last week: 8-7-1 ATS; 8-8 straight up; best bet lost (I will not be taking questions at this time)

On the season: 24-23-1 ATS; 28-19-1 straight up; 1-2 best bets

Best calls of Week 3: 

  • Without a doubt, New Orleans is the more talented team, but they've been too sloppy for me to trust. Carolina pulls off the upset and wins outright in a potential job-saving victory for Matt Rhule.
  • As long as Cooper Rush can game-manage and avoid mistakes again, I like Micah Parsons and the defense to limit Saquon Barkley and put the game in Daniel Jones' hands. More often than not, Jones having to make plays on third down is beneficial for the opponent.

Worst calls of Week 3:

  • If Herbert does play, then the Chargers become perhaps the most popular survivor pick in Week 3. For as dominant as the Jaguars were in Week 2, they're not quite ready to win a game like this on the road. Even without Allen, the Chargers' offense is at a significant advantage.
  • As much as I'm ready to jump off of the Raiders – a team I initially liked as a longshot to win the AFC West – how can I do it against a Titans team that's on a short week, lost its starting left tackle, and benched its quarterback before the end of the third quarter Monday night? 

NFL Week 4 Picks: Predictions, Props and Best Bets for Every Game

As will be the case every week throughout the regular season, we'll start with Thursday Night Football and go game-by-game, picking each contest against the spread. My best bet will always be highlighted in gold.

All odds this week via FanDuel, as of Wednesday at Noon ET.

Thursday Night Football

Miami Dolphins (+3.5) at Cincinnati Bengals

One week after pulling off an incredibly unlikely comeback against the Ravens, the Dolphins once again conjured up a logic-defying victory over Buffalo at home.

It's one thing to run 39 total plays and win a game – as Graham notes, that's been done before. But it's infinitely crazier to allow your opponent to run 90 (ninety!) plays in that scenario and still get the victory. Statistically speaking, this Miami mini-run simply is not sustainable, but the Dolphins are very clearly a legitimately good team that should give the Bengals a run for their money on a short week.

Based on the number, the oddsmakers seem to believe the Dolphins' luck will run out sooner than later. That number is also factoring in injuries to Tua Tagovailoa, Jaylen Waddle, Ced Wilson and Terron Armstead. As of Wednesday morning, Tua is "doing everything he can" to play, but his status remains up in the air.

The Bengals' offense – particularly the running game – hasn't been nearly as effective as expected to begin the year, but I'm buying all of the Bengals Offense High-Yield ETF shares I can right now. Much like the Bills last week, the Bengals have struggled to finish off long drives all season – eventually, they'll resolve those issues.

Miami has looked like the better team through three weeks, and the thought of Tyreek Hill already salivating about going up against Eli Apple is certainly scary. But I think Cincinnati is catching the Dolphins at a good time. I'll roll with the Bengals, who will be debuting their all-white alternates, to win and cover at home.

The pick: Bengals 27 – Dolphins 21

💂 Sunday London Game 💂

Minnesota Vikings (-3.0) at New Orleans Saints

Technically, the Vikings qualify as a road favorite, but this is the ultimate neutral-site game in London – perhaps the only venue where all 32 teams' jerseys seem to be equally represented. Nowhere else on earth will you find Tavon Austin, Matt Schaub, Maurice Jones-Drew, Jamarcus Russell, Brandon Marshall and Jake Delhomme jerseys all within a 20-foot radius. As the proud owner of a Byron Leftwich autographed jersey, that photo truly brings a tear to my eye.

Anyway, the football game. Last week, we went out on a (very short) limb and took the Panthers to beat the Saints outright, and it paid off. New Orleans' offense continues to be a far cry from what it once was, and the Saints added three more costly turnovers to bring their total to a league-high nine through three games. To make matters worse, both Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry departed with injuries and could be hampered heading into an unconventional week.

Meanwhile, the Vikings found a way to win at Detroit, but they fell behind by double-digits two separate times and were gifted excellent field position by Dan Campbell late in the game. I'm still not sure what to make of this Vikings team. They're clearly not as good as they looked in Week 1 against the Packers, but they're not nearly as bad as they looked against Philly in Week 2. Dalvin Cook is banged up, which is a concern, but it sounds as though he believes he'll play in this game.

Ultimately, this comes down to matchups, and I like Minnesota's offense more than New Orleans' defense right now. The Saints are among the worst teams in the league when it comes to pressuring the quarterback (13.0% pressure rate; four sacks in three games), which should bode well for Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson.

The pick: Vikings 27 – Saints 17

Sunday Early Games

Cleveland Browns (-1.5) at Atlanta Falcons

Last week's Steelers-Browns game went about as expected, though even in a windy atmosphere, Cleveland was consistently able to move the ball through the air in addition to rushing for 171 yards on 38 carries. Unlike Pittsburgh, the Falcons do not run the drift toward the sideline and throw the ball up for grabs at the last second offense, so they may present a more difficult challenge for the Cleveland defense.

But to me this game is more about the Browns being able to take advantage of Atlanta's defense, which is allowing nearly 5.0 yards per carry to opposing rushers. That's not a recipe for success against a team that leads the NFL in both rushing attempts and yards. Through three weeks, Cleveland has scored on 48.4 percent of its drives – second only to Jacksonville (48.5%).

The one thing that gives me some pause is the possibility that Cleveland could be without both Myles Garrett (car accident) and Jadeveon Clowney (ankle). Garrett, in particular, would be a huge blow, but if he's given the green light – he was discharged from the hospital Monday night – this line could get a nudge in favor of the Browns.

The pick: Browns 24 – Falcons 22

Buffalo Bills (-3.0) at Baltimore Ravens

With sincere apologies to Jags-Eagles, this is pretty easily the game I'm most excited to watch on Sunday. Nowhere else will you find the two players currently holding the lowest MVP odds.

The Bills' air of invincibility is now gone, but they'll be the first to tell you they felt like the better team in Miami last week. They're giving 3.0 points – down from 3.5 earlier in the week – on the road against a very good Ravens team, so the oddsmakers seem to agree.

Both teams have issues in the secondary, but I'm less inclined to worry about the Bills – the secondary was far from the issue against Miami, even with both starting safeties unavailable. Micah Hyde is on IR, but if Jordan Poyer returns this week, he'll go a long way toward limiting the big plays that Baltimore's offense has relied upon in the early going.

On the other side, the Ravens' defense is nowhere near as fearsome as it once was. While Baltimore is still finding ways to force turnovers at the third-highest rate in the NFL, it's allowed the most total yards, passing yards and first downs through three weeks, while ranking 30th in yards per pass attempt (7.2) and 27th in yards per rush attempt (5.0). 

So far, Lamar Jackson has been able to bail out the defense in wins over the Jets and Patriots, but this Bills team is a completely different animal. Give me the Bills to win and cover a close game on the road.

The pick: Bills 35 – Ravens 30

Washington Commanders (+3.5) at Dallas Cowboys

Against the Jaguars and Lions, the Commanders' passing game showed signs of borderline-explosiveness, but the Carson Wentz malaise is beginning to set in. Washington could not move the ball in the first half against Detroit in Week 2, and it failed to generate points on its first 11 drives against Philadelphia. The Commanders didn't even cross midfield until late in the third quarter.

Worst of all, Carson Wentz was sacked nine times by an Eagles defense that had only three sacks in its first two games. Now, Wentz is treated to a matchup against Micah Parsons, DeMarcus Lawrence and a Cowboys pass rush that generated 24 hurries against Daniel Jones on Monday night.

The Commanders have the receiving talent to put up a fight, but it might not matter if Wentz is consistently under siege. I'll take Cooper Rush – one of the transcendent winners of our time – to move to 4-0 as a starter before (likely) handing the reins back to Dak Prescott for a Week 5 showdown with the Rams.

The pick: Cowboys 20 – Commanders 14

Seattle Seahawks (+4.5) at Detroit Lions

This line was sitting at Lions -6.5 on Sunday night but has quickly moved in favor of the Seahawks. Detroit is 3-0 ATS on the year, but there may be some trepidation with D'Andre Swift trending toward inactive status due to a shoulder injury. It's also the Detroit Lions, who haven't exactly built up a ton of trust over the years. 

Even without Swift – and starting safety Tracy Walker – the Lions should be fine with Jamaal Williams stepping into a featured role. I like their chances to move the ball against a poor Seattle defense that ranks 29th in yards per play and last in defensive EPA. The Seahawks are extremely vulnerable against the pass, but they're also hemorrhaging yards on the ground. That's a recipe for disaster against a Lions team that leads the league in yards per attempt (5.9) thus far.

I'll take the Lions to frickin' win and frickin' cover at home, man.

The pick: Lions 29 – Seahawks 21

Los Angeles Chargers (-5.5) at Houston Texans

Things have quickly gone from bad to worse for the Chargers, who not only lost at home by four touchdowns to the Jaguars but also lost Rashawn Slater for the year and Joey Bosa for a good chunk of the season (Bosa was placed on IR on Wednesday). With Justin Herbert still working back from fractured rib cartilage, the Chargers are about as vulnerable as they'll ever be, but luckily the schedule gods have granted them reprieve.

While Herbert and Co. will have to travel to Houston, they run into a team that just found a way to lose to a quarterback who went 8-of-17 for 106 yards and two interceptions. As someone who was subjected to watching that entire game, I am able to confirm that the Texans are maybe the worst tackling team I've ever seen. Don't get me wrong: Khalil Herbert is a high-end backup running back, but Houston made him look like Steve Slaton circa 2006.

Even if Herbert is still limited, this is the perfect get-right matchup for the Chargers, who desperately need to get their ground game working. The Texans have the worst run defense in the league (by a wide margin), while Los Angeles enters Week 4 dead last in the NFL in both rushing yards (177) and yards per carry (2.6). Something has to give, and I think it's going to be the Houston defense.

I'll take the Chargers to bounce back and cover on the road.

The pick: Chargers 26 – Texans 19

Tennessee Titans (+3.5) at Indianapolis Colts

Mercy me. Not a fun game to pick. Both teams were cornered animals in Week 3, and both found a way to beat teams with superior talent. I would love to give myself credit for correctly identifying Raiders-Titans as a just when you thought we were dead game for Mike Vrabel, but of course I did not have the guts to actually take the Titans. That'll go down as one of the great "what if?" moments of the season.

There's an argument to be made that neither team deserved to win in Week 3, but that's especially true for the Colts, who benefited from a number of extremely questionable play-calling decisions by the Chiefs. Indianapolis still hasn't been able to get Jonathan Taylor going (21 carries, 71 yards vs. KC), but Tennessee's run defense is struggling, so this should be an advantageous matchup for the NFL's best running back.

On the other side, Indy's defense, which could get Shaquille Leonard back this week, quietly ranks No. 1 in the league in yards per carry allowed (2.6). In a game that may not be overly watchable, I'll roll with the Colts to pull off a narrow win – and an even narrower cover – at home.

The pick: Colts 24 – Titans 20

Chicago Bears (+3.5) at New York Giants

Without conducting any research, I feel reasonably confident in saying these are the two worst 2-1 teams in NFL history. The Giants' offensive line was completely exposed on Monday against Dallas, while Chicago's passing game is causing people to look up stats like this:

In terms of overall talent, I see the Giants as the slightly better team with the slightly better quarterback. The fact that they utilize the forward pass is a major mark in their favor. But the overall talent gap is narrowed by the Giants' lingering injuries at receiver on top of the loss of Sterling Shepard on Monday night.

Both teams can run the ball and neither team can stop the run, so this could actually be a fairly interesting watch (I already feel like this sentence is going to end up in the "worst calls of the week" section). I'll give the edge to Saquon Barkley and the Giants at home, but it won't be easy.

The pick: Giants 20 – Bears 16

Jacksonville Jaguars (+6.5) at Philadelphia Eagles

Not three weeks ago, the Jaguars blew an early lead to the Washington Commanders and appeared destined for yet another rebuilding season. Fast forward two weeks and they've outscored the Colts and Chargers by a combined 62 to 10.

What is going on in Jacksonville?

For one, we're seeing just how much of a difference competent coaching makes. Or perhaps more accurately, how damaging it is to have Urban Meyer as your head coach. Doug Pederson and his staff deserve a ton of credit for righting the ship and getting Trevor Lawrence's development back on track. 

The Jags aren't asking Lawrence to make mind-bending plays like Patrick Mahomes or Justin Herbert, but he's been masterful in directing an aggressive, well-schemed offense. Over the last two weeks, Lawrence is a combined 53-of-69 for 497 yards and five touchdowns.

Impressive as the Jags' offense has looked, this Eagles team will be easily their toughest test yet. Obviously, there's plenty of history between Pederson and the Eagles, which adds another layer of intrigue. I fully expect Pederson to come out with an even-more-aggressive-than-usual gameplan and continue to roll the dice on fourth downs. 

If this game was being played at The House That Donavin Darius Built, I'd heavily consider taking the Jaguars outright. Frankly, for public safety reasons, it's probably a good thing that this is a road game.

I think we get a really entertaining, back-and-forth game, but in the end I'm not betting against Jalen Hurts. Eagles win at home, but the Jags cover the 6.5.

The pick: Eagles 31 – Jaguars 27

New York Jets (+3.0) at Pittsburgh Steelers

All indications are that Zach Wilson will be back under center for the Jets this week, so pour one out for the Flacco Raid Offense. Defensive coordinators around the league can collectively exhale. The nightmare is over.

In his three starts against Baltimore, Cleveland and Cincinnati, Flacco led the league in pass attempts and ranked 29th in completion percentage. It was truly beautiful to watch. He'll now step aside in favor of last year's No. 2 overall pick, who underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his knee back in mid-August.

For the Steelers, this is excellent news. Not only did Wilson have a shaky camp before the injury, but he'll be seeing his first action in six weeks against one of the better defensive units in the league. Pittsburgh is still without T.J. Watt, and Minkah Fitzpatrick entered concussion protocol Tuesday, but the Steelers should have the advantage here – even if the Jets' offense under Flacco looked much better than what the Steelers have been able to do with Mitch Trubisky.

Pittsburgh's issues on offense are nowhere near being solved, but the defense should make things difficult on Wilson and force a turnover or two. Give me the Steelers to win and cover at home.

The pick: Steelers 17 – Jets 13

Sunday Late Games

Arizona Cardinals (+1.5) at Carolina Panthers

We're only getting three late games this week so now is the time to begin preparing to spend a decent chunk of your evening watching Baker Mayfield and Brian Hoyer. To Mayfield's credit, he was able to lead the Panthers to their first win of the season against New Orleans last week, but it was another underwhelming showing from the Panthers' offense overall. 

Despite winning the time of possession battle for the first time this season, Carolina only managed 59 offensive plays. Entering Week 4, the Panthers (163) rank ahead of only Chicago (159) in total plays run this season, and they're tied for last in the NFL in third-down conversions (10).

On the other side, Arizona has been a difficult team to get a read on. For the most part, they've been outplayed by the Chiefs, Raiders and Rams, but they rallied back from a 20-0 deficit to beat Las Vegas and were able to hang around last week after the Rams jumped out to an early advantage. Arizona has joined Carolina in struggling to extend drives, but they've been remarkably effective in fourth-down scenarios.

As that strikingly handsome Twitter user implies, relying on fourth-down conversions may not be sustainable, but it's a good representation of how this season has gone thus far for Arizona. I'm not a Mayfield supporter, but I think this offense will be able to score on the Cardinals' defense, so it may take some more magic from Kyler Murray for the Cardinals to keep pace. 

Full disclosure: If I had to pick a "worst bet" for the week, this game would be it. But I'll ride with the quarterback who I trust to do more with less. Give me the Cardinals to somehow, someway win outright in Carolina.

The pick: Cardinals 27 – Panthers 25

New England Patriots (+10.0) at Green Bay Packers

This line jumped up from Packers -6.0 after the Pats' loss to the Ravens, coupled with the injury to Mac Jones. It looks like it will be the Brian Hoyer show at Lambeau Field, which is not exactly encouraging for a Pats offense that's struggled to get its passing game off the ground.

In Hoyer's last start, back in October of 2020 at Kansas City (without fans, mind you), he completed 15-of-24 passes for 130 yards and an interception. If that stat line doesn't get you fired up, I don't know what to tell you.

It goes without saying that this is a great spot for Green Bay, which should have considerable wiggle room to continue experimenting with its still-in-beta passing game. The Packers moved the ball with ease in the first half against Tampa Bay before being completely shut down in the second half. Overall, though, the Packers have made tangible progress since struggling in Week 1 at Minnesota. 

Whether Jaire Alexander plays or not, the Packers' defense should be able to control the game against what will almost certainly be a limited Patriots attack. Ultimately, I see this playing out very similarly to Green Bay's Week 2 victory over Chicago.

I like the Packers to win and cover as they begin to see the path toward a potential 6-1 start with their next three games coming against the Giants, Jets and Commanders.

The pick: Packers 27 – Patriots 13

Denver Broncos (+2.5) at Las Vegas Raiders

This is pretty easily the best game in the late window, and I'm especially curious to see whether the Raiders can finally put together a complete game. They're the team I've been most wrong about so far, so personally I have a lot riding on this.

Last week was another discouraging offensive showing for Las Vegas, despite having clear advantages at quarterback, tight end and wide receiver. Turnovers and red zone struggles continue to plague Derek Carr, while Davante Adams has disappeared for long stretches in each of the last two weeks. Getting Hunter Renfrow back would be a big help, but the Raiders simply haven't looked like a playoff-caliber team thus far.

As difficult as the Raiders are to evaluate, Denver might be even more of an aberration. With three total touchdowns in three games, the Broncos have no business being 2-1, but credit the defense for stepping up in a major way on Sunday night against the 49ers. That defense should be able to keep the Broncos in games while they work through their offensive issues, but at some point they'll need to start scoring more than 14 points per game. 

I'm 0-for-3 picking the Raiders so far, but I'm not jumping ship now. In an absolute must-win game, they find a way to get it done at home.

The pick: Raiders 23 – Broncos 20

Sunday Night Football

Kansas City Chiefs (-1.5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Both teams come in 2-1 after suffering close losses in Week 3. The Chiefs shot themselves in the foot over and over in Indianapolis, while the shorthanded Bucs only mustered 12 points at home against Green Bay. Both offenses have struggled to varying degrees thus far, but the Bucs' situation appears more concerning – at least in the short term.

Tampa does get Mike Evans back from his suspension this week, but both Chris Godwin and Julio Jones could remain out. Evans alone is a huge boost for Tom Brady, but he'll need more weapons to keep up with Patrick Mahomes. It's also worth noting that the Bucs are practicing away from home in Miami this week due to Hurricane Ian, and it's even possible that the game could be moved out of Tampa. Brady has already said it's not an excuse, but it's certainly not an advantage.

Update: If the mayor of Tampa has anything to say about it, the game will not be moved:


Coming off of a frustrating week, I think the Chiefs re-focus, simplify the offense, and get back on track. The Bucs' defense is extremely good, however, so I'm not sure we see an offensive explosion from Mahomes.

In the first matchup between Brady and Mahomes since Super Bowl LV, and with the lingering possibility that this ends up being a neutral-site game, I'm riding with Kansas City to win and cover.

The pick: Chiefs 23 – Buccaneers 20

Monday Night Football

Los Angeles Rams (+1.5) at San Francisco 49ers

For the most part, Kyle Shanahan has owned Sean McVay, but that changed in the playoffs when the Rams handed the Niners their first loss in the series since 2018. Three weeks into the season, neither team has looked overly impressive, but I'm especially shook by how unimaginative San Francisco's offense looked in Denver.

After putting together a 75-yard touchdown drive in the first quarter, the 49ers failed to score on 11 of their final 12 possessions to end the game. More concerning: all 12 of those possessions lasted five plays or fewer.

Maybe it can be chalked up to an off night for Jimmy Garoppolo (he was not good), or maybe the Broncos' defense is just that good, but it left a bad taste in my mouth heading into this week. To make matters worse, the Niners also lost Trent Williams to a high-ankle sprain, and left tackle instantly became a liability for the remainder of the night.

While the Rams have responded with a pair of wins after getting punched in the mouth on Opening Night, they haven't exactly looked like a defending Super Bowl champion. Both McVay and Matthew Stafford have a knack for overcomplicating the easy things – the Rams should've had two more touchdowns last week against Arizona – but I think they do just enough to earn a hard-fought victory on the road.

The pick: Rams 24 – 49ers 21


Last week: 8-7-1 ATS; 8-8 straight up; best bet lost

On the season: 24-23-1 ATS; 28-19-1 straight up; 1-2 best bets

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nick Whalen
Now in his 10th year with the company, Nick is RotoWire's Senior Media Analyst, a position he took on after spending several years as the Head of Basketball Content. A two-time FSWA award winner, Nick co-hosts RotoWire's flagship show on Sirius XM alongside Jeff Erickson. He also co-hosts RotoWire's Football and Basketball podcasts. You can catch Nick's NBA and NFL analysis on VSiN and DraftKings, as well as RotoWire's various social and video channels. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @wha1en.
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