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NFL’s biggest betting mismatches: Week 4
By Jason Logan

Each week, Jason Logan breaks down some of the underlying mismatches in the NFL, hoping to give you an inside edge when handicapping the schedule and setting your daily fantasy lineup. Here are four of the biggest betting mismatches from Week 4:

Oakland Raiders at Chicago Bears (+3, 45)

Raiders’ TE troubles vs. Bears’ TE Martellus Bennett

It’s no secret that Oakland has been punished by opposing tight ends this season. The Silver and Black have been left black and blue by these burly pass catchers, allowing an NFL-worst 305 yards and five touchdowns on 21 catches to rival TEs through the first three games of the year. Last week, Oakland was stung by Cleveland tight end Gary Barnidge – hardly an elite TE – for 105 yards and a score on six catches.

Chicago limps into this home stand off a shutout loss to the Seahawks in Seattle last weekend. Their tight end, Martellus Bennett, had a quiet game in Week 3, with just 15 yards on four catches. However, Bennett – who stands 6-foot-6 and is cut from the similar basketball cloth as Jimmy Graham – leads Chicago in receiving with 118 yards on 13 catches, for more than nine yards per reception. Regardless of who starts under center for the Bears, Jay Cutler or Jimmy Clausen, expect the majority of throws to come Bennett’s way.

Daily fantasy watch: TE Martellus Bennett

Cleveland Browns at San Diego Chargers (-7.5, 44.5)

Browns’ punter Andy Lee vs. Chargers’ poor punt returns

The Browns don’t usually get to be No. 1 in something, at least not a positive category. But, entering Week 4, Cleveland can hang its hat on punter Andy Lee, who tops the AFC in average punt yardage. Lee, who was acquired in a deal with San Francisco this summer, is kicking the snot out of the ball for an average of 54.3 yards per punt (second in the NFL behind Falcons P Matt Bosher with 54.5 ypp). Cleveland’s punt coverage has given up an average of 6.7 yards per return – 11th lowest – which is handing opponents an average starting field position just beyond their own 29-yard line.

The Chargers, in a startling stat, have zero punt return yards through three games. San Diego has returned only two punts on the year but hasn’t been able to generate any gains, calling for a fair catch four times and fumbling one attempt. Returner Jacoby Jones has been out with an ankle injury and didn’t participate in practice this week, leaving the Bolts without a real home-run threat on special teams. The Chargers have an average starting field position of the 23.31-yard line, fourth lowest in the league, and face a lofty spread with that half-point hook on the touchdown.

Daily fantasy watch: Cleveland D/ST

St. Louis Rams at Arizona Cardinals (-7, 42)

Rams’ third-down defense vs. Cardinals’ third-down offense

The Rams have leaned heavily on their defense that past three seasons, but the stop unit just hasn’t been holding that weight in 2015. St. Louis has been bullied on the ground, allowing 122.7 yards rushing per game, and hasn’t been able to get opposing offenses off the field. Heading into Week 4, the Rams defense has turned away foes just 53.19 percent of the time on third downs – fourth worst in the NFL. St. Louis watched the Steelers go 6 for 12 on third downs last Sunday. This is a far cry from the Rams’ stingy defense of 2014, which allowed opponents to convert on only 38.68 percent of their third down tries.

The Cardinals offense is blowing away the opposition, totaling 126 points through three games thanks in large part to its ability to move the chains and stay on the field. Arizona has converted on half of its third down opportunities, going 16 for 32 in those situations, and honestly hasn’t put itself in too many of those sticky situations. The Cardinals have only faced two third downs of nine or more yards. But when the sticks show that ominous No. 3, Arizona has it’s go to guy in WR Larry Fitzgerald, who has reeled in seven catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns on third down in three games, accounting for 41 percent of his total gains this season.

Daily fantasy watch: WR Larry Fitzgerald

Dallas Cowboys at New Orleans Saints (-4.5, 46.5)

Cowboys’ drained defense vs. Saints’ clock-eating offense

Dallas’ defense got the benefit of a run-heavy playbook that dominated time of possession last season, keeping a shoddy stop unit from being exposed. Now that QB Tony Romo is sidelined and backup QB Brandon Weeden can’t seem to throw the ball more than five yards, the Cowboys offense is quickly handing the ball back to opponents. Dallas touched the ball for only 25:47 in the loss to the Falcons last Sunday, leaving a short-handed defense on the field for extended periods. Atlanta chipped away at the Cowboys’ D with RB Devonta Freeman and then when they were gassed, hit WR Julio Jones for big gains.

The Saints have flipped the script in the Big Easy, even with or without QB Drew Brees under center. New Orleans is being much more methodical with the football, and comes into Week 4 with an average TOP of 32:32 – sixth most in the NFL, just behind Atlanta – which is a major bump from 2014, when the Saints controlled the clock for only 29:48 per game. New Orleans defense has been burned most by big plays over top this season, allowing seven passing plays of 25 or more yards. But, with Weeden making the throws, the Saints can worry less about the deep threat and stack the box against his dumbed-down, dink-and-dunk playbook.

Daily fantasy watch: RB Mark Ingram, New Orleans D/ST