The calendar has changed and the leaves are beginning their free fall. Yes the NFL is in full swing. My picks are also in free fall. After a terrific Week 2 I fell back to earth a bit, going 11-5 with my picks. Pretty good, but I could be better. So with that being said, here are my picks for Week 4.
Carolina at Chicago.
Both teams are 1-2 but both are feeling quite different about where they are. The Panthers are feeling pretty good about things. While Cam Newton struggled last week, the defence stepped up its game and shut down Jacksonville in monsoon-like Charlotte. The Bears have looked rather ordinary and losing to Green Bay always causes hand wringing in the Windy City. The Offensive Line has been brutal and must do a better job at protecting Jay Cutler. This game also features Bears DE Julius Peppers versus is former team. Should be close but I have a feeling the Bears win with defence and special teams.
Buffalo at Cincinnati.
The Buffalo Bills are one of if not the biggest story in the NFL so far this season. The Bills are 3-0 and have won their last two games in heart stopping fashion. Last week’s win over New England was the biggest win this franchise has seen since the early 90s when Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas were strutting their stuff. The Bengals on the other hand are a mess and the fans have let them know by not showing up at Paul Brown Stadium, With the legal troubles of running back Cedric Benson being a major distraction the Bengals are quickly reverting to the Bungles of the 1990s. Buffalo wins easily.
Tennessee at Cleveland.
Two somewhat surprising teams. Both are 2-1 and both have raised expectations. The Titans are benefiting from a revitalized Matt Hasselbeck and are now threats in the AFC South. The Browns are being led by second year pivot Colt McCoy who has given the Browns stability at the quarterback spot. The key will be the running game for both teams. Chris Johnson has struggled since coming back from his holdout while Peyton Hillis missed last week due to injury but is expected to play. It’s a toss-up but I still don’t trust Cleveland enough to be 3-1. Tennessee wins.
Detroit at Dallas.
The Lions are another great story this season. The Honolulu blue and silver are 3-0 for the first time since 1980 and have looked very impressive in doing so. Matthew Stafford is looking like the franchise quarterback the Lions hoped he would be when they drafted him first overall in 2009. Calvin Johnson is almost impossible to cover one-on-one and the defence is stout. The Cowboys are team drama right now winning back-to-back thrillers over San Francisco and Washington while losing a heartbreaker to the New York Jets. Both teams are struggling with their offensive lines so the key will be who can protect their quarterback the best. Since I’m a huge Lions fan and I’m very biased, I’m picking the Lions to win but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cowboys sneak away with a win here.
Pittsburgh at Houston.
Very interesting matchup. Both teams are 2-1 and both teams have question marks. The Steelers barely beat lowly Indianapolis last week with the offence committing turnovers all over the place. The offensive line is a major concern forcing quarterback Ben Roethlisberger into hurried throws or sacks. Big Ben has been hit a lot and while he’s strong and tough, he can take only so much. The Texans defence looked shaky in a loss to high-powered New Orleans last week with the secondary being shredded by Drew Brees. However the offence has been sharp with Matt Schaub on pace for a career year and Arian Foster now recovered from a hamstring injury. I see Houston winning this week.
New Orleans at Jacksonville.
The Saints explosive offence invades northern Florida this week with a rare trip to Jacksonville. Drew Brees and company have lit up opposing secondaries with deadly efficiency with a penchant for the big play. Jacksonville meanwhile are struggling to find their game since releasing quarterback David Garrard. I don’t see them doing it this week. New Orleans wins.
Minnesota at Kansas City.
The less said about this game the better. Both are 0-3 and have looked awful so far. I’ll take Kansas City to win only because the game is at Arrowhead Stadium. The only reason to watch this game is because Gus Johnson will be calling it for FOX.
San Francisco at Philadelphia.
The Eagles are an early disappointment so far, going 1-2 and battling injuries. Michael Vick should start despite a bruised non throwing hand but who knows how much that will affect him. Receiver Jeremy Maclin is a game time decision with a hamstring injury and even if he plays, his speed will be negated. The Niners are 2-1 and leading the porous NFC West. Many questions remain about whether Alex Smith can lead the 49ers to the playoffs but the defence and special teams are solid. However I see the Eagles needing this win to come out strong and exert their dominance. Philly wins.
Washington at St Louis.
The Redskins lost a heartbreaker to Dallas last week as Rex Grossman reverted to his turnover prone self that led to his dismissal in Chicago. The Redskins will rely on the running of Tim Hightower who has been impressive so far for Washington. The defence doesn’t give up many points, but did let the Cowboys convert a 3rd and 21 which hurt Mike Shanahan’s crew last week. The Rams are a disappointing 0-3 with Sam Bradford virtually getting no help at all. However receiver Danny Amendola should return to the lineup this week after dislocating his elbow. These teams have played close games the last two seasons so expect more of the same. Gut feeling but St Louis gets off the mat and wins its first game of the season.
New York Giants at Arizona.
Despite battling numerous injuries the G-Men are 2-1 and are tied atop the NFC East standings. Despite 5 defensive starters and their top receiver all injured, the Giants are coming off consecutive wins over St Louis and Philadelphia, the latter established the Giants as contenders in the NFC East. The Cardinals are a disappointing 1-2 and new quarterback Kevin Kolb has yet to find his groove despite high expectations. I’ve underestimated the Giants the last two weeks and I won’t make that mistake this week. Giants win.
Atlanta at Seattle.
A couple of 1-2 teams set to do battle in the Emerald City. The Falcons have been a letdown to their fans so far. Matt Ryan has yet to find last year’s form and the defence has struggled out of the gate. The Seahawks won at home last week after two bad road losses. Seattle will have a raucous home crowd supporting them and Atlanta will have to deal with that. However the Seahawks shortcomings at quarterback will come back to bite them. Ryan will find his game and Atlanta win escape the Pacific Northwest with a victory.
Denver at Green Bay.
Mismatch. The Broncos are 1-2 and the residents of the Mile High City feel that Tim Tebow not Kyle Orton should be the starting quarterback. The Packers are 3-0 and there is no quarterback controversy in the land of the cheesseheads. Aaron Rodgers has been sensational so far and is a strong MVP candidate. Lambeau Field will be rocking and I smell a blowout. Green Bay wins big.
New England at Oakland.
I really like this game. The Patriots are angry after losing to Buffalo, blowing a 21-3 lead in the process. Tom Brady threw 4 interceptions and is looking for a bounce back performance this week. The Raiders are 2-1 coming off an impressive win over the New York Jets. The running game led by Darren McFadden has been terrific and is showing no signs of slowing down. My upset special. I think the Patriots’ confidence is shaken and the Raiders are better than people think. Oakland wins.
Miami at San Diego.
The Dolphins could very well be the worst team in the NFL. Chad Henne is not an NFL caliber quarterback and coach Tony Sparrano could very well be headed to the unemployment line if things don’t turn around in South Florida. The Chargers haven’t been impressive either. However they are 2-1 and for these notorious slow starters it’s a good sign for the Lightning Bolts. San Diego wins this one.
New York Jets at Baltimore.
Good Sunday night matchup. Both teams are 2-1. Both teams have menacing defences. Both teams are loud. Both teams are brash. Both teams have something to prove. The Jets are coming off a loss to Oakland in which their run defence was shredded by the silver and black. The Ravens trounced St Louis after a bad loss to Tenneessee in which the pass defence struggled. Jets head coach Rex Ryan added fuel to the fire suggesting that the Jets are better than the Ravens because they played in consecutive AFC Championship games which is further than the Ravens went. Ray Lewis responded to that by saying unless you win a Super Bowl, it doesn’t mean anything. With all the talk, this should be good. I like Baltimore because I like Joe Flacco more than Mark Sanchez and the Ravens defence is more consistent than the Jets defence. Ravens win.
Indianapolis at Tampa Bay.
The Colts came close to winning last week. But close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Indy is 0-3 and still searching for answers. Kerry Collins is battling a concussion so Curtis Painter may get the start this week. No, Peyton Manning isn’t coming back this week. The Colts defence will have to be heroic and that won’t be an easy task against a good young Bucs squad. Josh Freeman is a budding superstar at quarterback and Mike Williams is an imposing target at receiver. Tampa Bay wins this one.