Week 4 Preview
Week 3 was full of upsets and surprises, with the ongoing lockout of referees continuing to be an issue. Week 4 finds the first byes of the regular season, with Indianapolis and Pittsburgh idle.
The Browns take on division rival Baltimore, which is coming off a big win over New England. This could be prime upset material, since the Ravens will be swaggering. QB Brandon Weeden continues to improve, but he and RB Trent Richardson are in for a rude awakening versus Ray Lewis and Co. Joe Flacco’s star keeps rising.
The Texans are looking like the cream of the AFC crop, but they’re going against a Titans team that found their offense against Detroit last week, winning a shootout, 44-41. Not sure if that speaks volumes about the undisciplined Lions defense or Tennessee’s explosiveness.
The Kansas City Chiefs, behind six FGs by Ryan Succop, dropped New Orleans to 0-3, and now square off against division rival San Diego, which had their lightning bolts handed to them by Atlanta last week. RB Jamaal Charles showed the Saints he still can be an elite RB, while the Chargers and Philip Rivers are still trying to find some deep threats.
Regardless of the legitimacy of Seattle’s “win” over Green Bay, the Seahawk defense is for real, and expect Rams QB Sam Bradford to learn that fact personally this Sunday. Russell Wilson’s maturity and poise for a rookie QB is almost unheard of, while Marshawn Lynch requires multiple tacklers to bring him down.
Under .500 for just the second time in the Bill Belichick Era, the Patriots will be breathing fire against the Bills. With RB C.J. Spiller sidelined, Buffalo’s offense is severely hamstrung and predictable. Fred Jackson, although far from being 100%, may have to suck it up for the Bills to have a chance.
Coming off a shocking upset over the 49ers, Minnesota now tries their luck against the pass-happy Lions. Matthew Stafford is questionable, which can’t hurt the Vikings chances. Christian Ponder continues to surprise at QB, while second-year TE Kyle Rudolph is not far from being mentioned along the lines of Gates, Graham, Gronkowski, etc.
After their pitiful showing against the Giants, Cam Newton and the Panthers travel to Atlanta for an NFC South battle. Carolina has a tendency to over-achieve after disappointing losses, and this week should follow suit. The Falcon pass defense is opportunistic, so look for a lot of rushes from Newton, Williams and Stewart.
It’s bad timing for the Jets, who host the 49ers after they were upset in Week 3. Look for Sanchez to be in full-blown escape mode from the ‘Niners pass rush. It might finally be Tebow Time. Randy Moss will benefit from Darrelle Revis being out for the season.
The Dolphins head to the desert to take on the league’s biggest surprise, the Arizona Cardinals. The Cards haven’t had this much momentum in several seasons, and Larry Fitzgerald hasn’t really been a factor yet. Week 3 might be his coming-out party.
Two long-time rivals renew their series in Denver this Sunday when the Raiders take on the still-struggling Broncos. Darren McFadden may be the key in this matchup, although Peyton Manning is due for a big performance, and he may find the Raiders patchwork secondary to his liking.
One of the AFC’s teams-to-watch (the Bengals) goes against one of the league’s weakest (the Jaguars) this week, and even though the Jags dealt Andrew Luck and the Colts a defeat last week, it’s difficult to imagine them shutting down the Andy Dalton Gang. The Jags are still looking for support for Jones-Drew.
If there was ever two more desperate-for-a-win teams than the Packers and the Saints, we’ve not found them yet. A combined 1-5 W-L mark would have been laughable at season’s start, but the facts don’t lie. If anything, these two may set some offensive records since neither team’s defense has shown up consistently in 2012.
This matchup could determine each opponent’s remainder of the season. RGIII has encountered the grim reality of NFL defenses after a sparkling debut with the ‘Skins, while the Bucs are in the top position for the league’s most unpredictable team so far.
Philadelphia’s luck finally ran out against the Cards last week, and Michael Vick’s astonishing turnover rate increased. Eli Manning’s status as one of the league’s elite QBs wasn’t affected in the Giants romp over Carolina, and the smart money is on that not changing after the Eagles game. This IS the NFC East however, so nothing comes as a surprise.
Two teams wanting desperately to be among the elite clash Monday night in Dallas as the Bears come calling to face the often-baffling Cowboys. Tony Romo’s “Jekyll and Hyde” performances make for good post-game chatter, while Jay Cutler may be the most-scrutinized signal-caller in the league, which is no small statement.
About the Author: Don Phan is a full time marketing analyst with Fanatics Inc. His company sells licensed sports merchandise and runs several brands including FansEdge. Be sure to visit their pro football store for all your NFL gear needs.