Week three is now in the books and week four is fast approaching for NFL fans, with a number of must-watch games on the docket. While some teams look to continue their strong starts to the season, others look to regroup and find their groove after starting the season off on the wrong foot. Here are my predictions for week four.
Minnesota Vikings at Los Angeles Rams on TNF
Make no mistake, this game should be a barn burner. I know critics will say that the Rams have this game in the bag, given that the Vikings are 1-1-1 and are coming off of a blowout loss to the Buffalo Bills in week three. I believe Mike Zimmer summed up the Vikings-Bills game the best saying, “just because somebody says you’re going to win, doesn’t mean that’s going to happen”. Well said, and as far as I am concerned, that game was just a blip on the radar for the Vikings, who still have one of the strongest rosters in the game and are talented on both sides of the football. And yes, the Rams are without a doubt the best team in the NFL at this point and also have a ridiculously talented squad both offensively and defensively. However, Rams star cornerbacks, Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, are both on the injury report and early reports indicate that they could both miss a couple weeks. These are two players you don’t want to be missing when going up against the likes of Stephon Diggs and Adam Thielen. This is a tough one, but I say Vikings get back on track and hand the Rams their first loss of the season.
Result: Vikings 27 – Rams 24
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots
No, you are not living in a parallel universe. The Dolphins are in fact atop the AFC East at 3-0 and the Patriots are searching for answers after starting 1-2 (not to mention a tough loss against the Detroit Lions last week). We should have seen this coming. After all, the Patriots couldn’t ride the Belichick-Brady-Gronk trio forever without needing to build a stronger supporting cast. New England’s defense is among the league’s worst, while the offense has been underwhelming to the say the least. The Pats will be without wideout Julian Edelman for one more week as he continues to serve a four-game suspension. To make matters worse, the Patriots announced that they are placing running back Rex Burkhead on the IR this week, further thinning out their offensive options. Meanwhile, Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins are riding a three-game win streak. This season is far from over for the Patriots, but week four belongs to the Dolphins.
Result: Dolphins 20 – Patriots 13.
Philadelphia Eagles at Tennessee Titans
With the Titans less-than-impressive win on Sunday against the Jags, they currently sit on top of the AFC South. After a week one loss against the Dolphins, they subsequently managed to squeak out wins against two division rivals (Texans and Jags). Despite the mini winning streak, their are major questions regarding the Titans offense. The running game has under-performed. On top of that, QB Blaine Gabbert suffered a concussion in Sunday’s game against Jacksonville and Marcus Mariota is nursing an elbow injury on his throwing arm. Not to mention, star tight end Delanie Walker is sidelined indefinitely after having ankle surgery. Meanwhile in the City of Brotherly Love, the Eagles only loss came at the hands of Ryan Fitz-magic and the somewhat surprising Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But now, Carson Wentz has returned from injury and should give the Eagles a much needed boost on offense. The defense is still something fierce and will give Mariota and company are hard time. Without an answer from Tennessee’s offense, the reigning champs run away with this one.
Result: Eagles 34 – Titans 10
Cincinnati Bengals at Atlanta Falcons
If you would have asked me at the beginning of the season, I would have said that the Bengals would be sitting at 1-2 and the Falcons would be sitting at 2-1 by the end of week three. But the roles have reversed and now it seems like this game has the potential to be a pretty interesting one. Cincinnati had a pretty promising start to the season until the Panthers brought them back down to earth last week. RB Joe Mixon’s injury certainly didn’t help. It is uncertain when he will return, although some reports indicate he could make the start this week. If not, Giovanni Bernard will get the starting gig and try to give Andy Dalton some support from the backfield. On the other side of the ball, Atlanta is 1-2 and looking to earn a much needed win. In defense of the Falcons, they have arguably had the hardest schedule in the first three weeks, facing off against the Eagles, Panthers, and Saints. Atlanta’s defense is mediocre, especially without LB Deion Jones and S Keanu Neal, who are both sidelined with injuries for a while. But this offense is among the best in the league and I see Matt Ryan getting better as the season progresses. This game will be a quarterback shootout, with Julio Jones and the Falcons coming out on top.
Result: Falcons 30 – Bengals 24
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Chicago Bears
Who would have thought that this game would be one of the most intriguing ones after three weeks of play. Both teams are 2-1 and are showing the rest of the NFL that they can win. One of the biggest surprises of 2018 is the play of Ryan Fitzpatrick (along with his choice of post-game fashion). He has thrown 11 touchdown passes in three games and threw for over 400 yards in each of the first three weeks. Those numbers are impressive, though he did revert to some of his old ways last week against the Steelers by throwing three picks. Meanwhile, the Bears have been a pleasant surprise this year. The addition of Khalil Mack definitely helped. Their only loss this season was against the Green Bay Packers in week 1 and have since gone on to beat the Seahawks and Cardinals. The defense looks very impressive, while their offense is still trying to find its identity with second-year QB Mitchell Trubisky as a signal-caller. Both teams are trending upwards right now, but Tampa Bay pulls out the win here. Even with a tougher schedule, the Bucs have been the superior team out of the two. Also, look for WR Mike Evans to have a huge game this week.
Result: Buccaneers 37 – Bears 20
Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys
It wasn’t that the Lions beat the Patriots last week, it’s how the Lions beat the Patriots last week. After getting massacred by the Jets in week one and beaten in week two by the 49ers, I was expecting the Pats to score a decisive win over Matt Patricia’s Lions. But that didn’t happen. Instead, the Lions beat the Patriots rather easily and now the Lions have an opportunity to make their way back to .500. The Cowboys meanwhile, have been quite the disappointment. While Dallas’ defense has been absolutely solid this year, their offense has been…not so much. In three games, the Cowboys offense has averaged just over 13 points per game. Yikes! And it’s not going to get any better with Dallas having the leagues worst passing game. “They are going to continue to have a hard time beating good teams until that part of the game gets better”, declared Hall of Famer and former Cowboys QB Troy Aikman. In other words, get ready for a low scoring affair in this one. Lions barely get by the Cowboys for the ‘W’.
Result: Lions 16 – Cowboys 14
Buffalo Bills at Green Bay Packers
Don’t expect the Bills to repeat last week’s performance against the Vikings. The Vikings just had a bad week. Aaron Rodgers will be at the top of his game against Buffalo. The only question in this one: how many roughing-the-passer penalties will be called on Clay Matthews?
Result: Packers 31 – Bills 7
Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts
The Texans are a bit of an enigma. Despite having loads of talent on both sides of the football, it just hasn’t translated into wins. With that in mind, Houston is notorious for starting slow. In Indianapolis, the Colts are hoping that the Andrew Luck of 2014 will re-emerge at some point this season. However, I expect that the Texans ‘D’ will find its form against Indy, meaning Andrew Luck will have to wait another week for that breakout game the Colts so desperately need. The Texans earn their first victory of the season this week.
Result: Texans 27 – Colts 20
New York Jets at Jacksonville Jaguars
On paper, you’d think this would be an easy win for the Jaguars. But football is a game of match-ups. We saw that last week when the Titans pulled off a 9-6 upset against the Jags. While the Jags defense was as solid as usual, aside from a few too many missed tackles, the offense struggled against a Titans defense that excels in pressuring opposing QBs. As we know, Blake Bortles doesn’t exactly play his best when he is under pressure. The Jets are built fairly similar to the Titans. The offense struggles, particularly against a strong defense, but the defense has been pretty impressive over the first few weeks and has the capability of putting pressure on QBs. This game could end up being similar to the Jags-Titans affair from last week. With this in mind, I think the Jags will get back on track and survive a hard-fought, low-scoring battle.
Result: Jaguars 13 – Jets 9
Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals
If there is one stand-out candidate to go 0-16 this year, it’s the Arizona Cardinals, which should make us all feel terrible for Larry Fitzgerald. They don’t seem to have any answer offensively or defensively for their woes. The Cards have been outscored 20-74 by opponents, with no sign of a turnaround in sight. The Seahawks have been slightly better, but are having an identity crisis of their own. After purging their defense in the offseason, they were left with Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, and a disgruntled Earl Thomas, who is not exactly on the best terms with the Seahawks organization at the moment. And Seattle’s offense doesn’t seem to be doing a successful job of picking up the slack. Thanks to another lackluster Arizona performance, Seattle ends week four at 2-2.
Result: Seahawks 23 – Cardinals 14
Cleveland Browns at Oakland Raiders
Derek Carr is easily the best quarterback to be at 0-3 right now and in fairness to the Silver and Black, they lost to the Rams, Broncos, and Dolphins, who have a combined record of 8-1. The Browns are likely to be the easiest team they have played by the end of week four. For their part, the Browns have faced some pretty good teams themselves. They kept Ben Roethlisberger, Juju Smith-Schuster, and Antonio Brown in check on their way to a tie in week one. In week two, they suffered a last minute loss to the Saints after doing a good job in keeping their high-octane offense from running up the score. And lest we forget the big win last week against the Jets. This is going to be a close, hard-fought game and it is going to come down to the final drive. Baker Mayfield gets his second career win against a weak Oakland defense.
Result: Browns 18 – Raiders 17
San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Chargers
No Jimmy Garoppolo. Enough Said. An easy win for the Chargers.
Result: Chargers 30 – 49ers 6
New Orleans Saints at New York Giants
At the beginning of this season, I had high hopes for both of these squads. The Saints were supposed to be a top-five team, with top-tier talent on both sides of the football. The Giants were to experience an offensive breakthrough with having Odell Beckham Jr. back from injury and adding RB Saquon Barkley in the draft. The Saints defense looks downright awful through the first three weeks, giving up a total of 97 points to opposing offenses, good for league’s worst. If it weren’t for a Drew Brees led offense, this team would certainly not be 2-1 at this point. And while the Giants are certainly better than they were last year, they are sitting at 1-2 and simply aren’t playing at the level that a playoff contender should. This will be a pass-happy, no-defense game. Drew Brees and co. get the ‘W’.
Result: Saints 41 – 38
Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers
It’s always a good game when the Ravens meet the Steelers. These division rivals love going toe-to-toe with each other and its always a battle to say the least. This game will be no different. A stout Baltimore defense goes up against the Steelers dangerous passing game. When it’s all said and done, I see the Steelers overpowering the Ravens. Flacco should help put some points on the board against the Steelers porous defense though. Close game.
Result: Steelers 30 – Ravens 26
Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos on MNF
I’ve got two words for you. Patrick and Mahomes. This kid has established himself as the real deal after throwing 13 touchdowns with no interceptions in three games, breaking numerous records along the way. Andy Reid went so far this week to compare him to Brett Favre. He is surrounded by talent, making this Chiefs offense look downright scary and it’s going to need to continue to perform if the Chiefs are going to continue to win games, because the defense is among the league’s worst. The Broncos have pretty much met my expectations. An average offense and above-average defense has the Broncos winning games, but not exactly blowing out opponents. I am going to go out on a limb here and say the Broncos offense exploits a poor Chiefs defense, handing the Chiefs their first loss of the season.
Result: Broncos 27 – Chiefs 24