By: Arvind Pendurthi
Last Week’s Record: (5-8)
MINNESOTA VIKINGS (2-2) AT GREEN BAY PACKERS (2-2)
Week 4 Results
Vikings: W (41-28) vs. Atlanta Falcons
Packers: W (38-17) at Chicago Bears
The Vikings may very well have the franchise quarterback they’ve been searching for. Teddy Bridgewater’s NFL debut gave fans plenty of hope en route to a huge win over the Atlanta Falcons. He looked poised and confident, displaying tremendous pocket presence for a rookie. In addition to his 317 passing yards (63% completion rate), Bridgewater flashed his athleticism with 27 rushing yards and a touchdown, nearly adding another before being dragged down on the 1 yard line.
The Packers are finally starting to play to their potential, scoring 38 points against the rival Chicago Bears. Aaron Rodgers was lethally accurate, completing 22 of 28 passes for 302 yards, including 2 scores apiece to Jordy Nelson (10 catches, 108 yards) and Randall Cobb (7 catches, 113 yards). Green Bay’s defense was not impressive, allowing just under 500 yards, but they got the job done with 2 interceptions and a sack.
Through 4 games, 2013 Offensive Rookie of the Year Eddie Lacy has 161 rushing yards. Meanwhile, rookie Jerick McKinnon – Minnesota’s backup RB – had 135 yards last week alone. Matt Asiata played admirably as well, punching in touchdowns from 3, 6 and 1 yard out. With Teddy Bridgewater out this week with an ankle injury, the Vikings’ offense will be ineffective with Christian Ponder at the helm. Expect Lacy to burst out of his slump with his first 100-yard game of the season.
Players to Watch: Harrison Smith (S – MIN), Eddie Lacy (RB – GB)
Prediction: Vikings 24, Packers 37
CHICAGO BEARS (2-2) AT CAROLINA PANTHERS (2-2)
Week 4 Results
Bears: L (17-38) vs. Green Bay Packers
Panthers: L (10-38) at Baltimore Ravens
The Bears’ biggest strength was its biggest weakness on Sunday, as the pass offense fell apart. Star receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery were held to just 58 yards combined, although TE Martellus Bennett continues to have a monster season, catching 9 passes for 134 yards. Chicago’s pass defense was subpar, giving Rodgers plenty of time to throw and failing to breakup several passes. The run defense was solid, however, limiting Eddie Lacy to just 48 yards.
After a strong start to their 2014 campaign, the Carolina Panthers were blown out in their last two games by a total of 46 points. Adding injury to insult, the team’s lone healthy running back, DeAngelo Williams hurt his ankle and is doubtful for next week’s contest. With the Panthers’ 4 (four!) starting RBs all injured, UAB product Darrin Reaves will shoulder the load.
Cam Newton (56% completion rate, 197 yards, 1 TD) faced constant pressure in Baltimore, taking just 2 sacks, but numerous hits. Carolina’s matchup with the Bears is largely dependent on the work of the offensive line. They will need to give Newton time to progress through his reads and Reaves room to breathe in his first NFL start. The Panthers have a tall task ahead of them – one that will drop them below .500 for the first time this season.
Players to Watch: Matt Forte (RB – CHI), Darrin Reaves (RB – CAR)
Prediction: Bears 31, Panthers 14
CLEVELAND BROWNS (1-2) AT TENNESSEE TITANS (1-3)
Week 4 Results
Titans: L (17-41) at Indianapolis Colts
Fresh off their bye week, the Browns have a nice matchup with the Titans to get back in the swing of things. Cleveland’s time off was much needed, as playmakers Ben Tate and Jordan Cameron should both return to action in week 5. However, both athletes are alarmingly injury prone and will need to stay healthy to boost an offense that is sorely lacking in talent.
Since week 1, Tennessee has performed increasingly poorly on both offense and defense. With starting QB Jake Locker most likely out for another week, Charlie Whitehurst will need to improve upon his 12-23, 177 yard, 1 TD, 1 INT performance from last week; the receiving corps talent is there, but the execution is not. One positive is the increased use of running back Bishop Sankey over Shonn Greene, a trend that will hopefully continue throughout the season.
Although the Titans have floundered over the last three weeks, many analysts have been too quick to write them off. Although Tennessee’s quarterback situation is rather alarming – with a constantly injured starter and a mediocre backup – there is too much talent on both sides of the ball for them to continue their losing streak. Look for the defense to step up in a close win in Nashville.
Players to Watch: Jordan Cameron (TE – CLE), Bishop Sankey (RB – TEN)
Prediction: Browns 21, Titans 24
ST. LOUIS RAMS (1-2) AT PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (3-1)
Week 4 Results
Eagles: L (21-26) at San Francisco 49ers
After jumping out to a 21-0 lead thanks to a huge first-half performance, the Rams fell apart losing their week 3 matchup in remarkable fashion. However, Austin Davis continued to impress, completing 72% of his passes for 327 yards, 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Zac Stacy had a good outing, averaging 5.58 yards per carry. St. Louis’ bye week gave them time to tweak their offense and defense.
Philadelphia’s offense was largely ineffective, totaling just 235 yards of which LeSean McCoy contributed an appalling 17 on the ground. All 21 of the Eagles’ points came from defense and special teams. A blocked punt, an 82-yard return by Darren Sproles and a Malcolm Jenkins pick-six were Philadelphia’s only touchdowns of the day. Between McCoy, Sproles, Zach Ertz and Jeremy Maclin, Chip Kelly’s offense simply has too much talent to perform the way they did Sunday night.
The source of the Eagles’ problems lies in Nick Foles’ decision-making. He finished with a completion rate of just 48%, throwing 2 interceptions and no touchdowns in the process. Among other mistakes, he failed to step up in the pocket on a 3rd and goal situation late in the game, overthrowing Ertz by passing off his back foot. The Rams’ defense will capitalize on the overrated Eagles’ mistakes.
Players to Watch: Janoris Jenkins (CB – STL), LeSean McCoy (RB – PHI)
Prediction: Rams 30, Eagles 21
ATLANTA FALCONS (2-2) AT NEW YORK GIANTS (2-2)
Week 4 Results
Falcons: L (28-41) at Minnesota Vikings
Giants: W (45-14) at Washington Redskins
The Atlanta Falcons’ roller coaster season continued after a loss to the Vikings, who were starting a rookie quarterback and two backup running backs. In fact, their defense gave up an appalling 558 yards, failing to force a single turnover or sack. Matt Ryan (25-41, 298 yards, 3 TDs) and the offense were not bad, scoring three times through the air and once on the ground. Ryan’s 2 interceptions came from desperate comeback attempts late in the game.
Eli Manning and Kirk Cousins both turned in remarkable performances on Thursday night; the former had 5 touchdowns – 4 passing and 1 rushing – while the latter had 5 turnovers – 4 interceptions and 1 fumble. The Giants’ defense played tenacious football, forcing 6 turnovers en route to a blowout win. Tight end Larry Donnell continues to emerge as Manning’s primary Red Zone target, reeling in 3 TDs and nearly securing a fourth.
While the Giants were able to pressure Cousins into numerous mistakes, it will be difficult for them to do the same with Matt Ryan. Devin Hester’s emergence as a viable receiver (5 catches, 70 yards, 1 TD) – not just a lethal return specialist – adds depth to Atlanta’s elite receiving corps. Rashad Jennings should have a big game against the Falcons’ weak run defense, but New York will still come up short.
Players to Watch: Matt Ryan (QB – ATL), Rashad Jennings (RB – NYG)
Prediction: Falcons 38, Giants 24
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (1-3) AT NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (1-3)
Week 4 Results
Buccaneers: W (27-24) at Pittsburgh Steelers
Saints: L (17-38) at Dallas Cowboys
A week after getting spanked by the Atlanta Falcons, the winless Buccaneers traveled to Pittsburgh and took down the Steelers. Filling in for an injured Josh McCown, Mike Glennon ran the offense effectively, tossing the ball 302 yards for 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. His lone mistake was the result of rookie receiver Mike Evans pulling up with a strained groin that will sideline him for 2-4 weeks.
Surprisingly enough, one team with the same record as Tampa Bay is the New Orleans Saints. With one of the game’s best QB-TE tandems in the league in Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham, they have been underperforming, particularly in last week’s loss to the Cowboys. New Orleans’ secondary struggled to contain Dallas’ receivers, but Mike Evans’ absence will allow them to focus on shutting down Vincent Jackson (3 catches, 32 yards, 1 TD).
While the Saints’ forte has been their spread-the-wealth offense, they may be spreading themselves too thin. Rather than passing to 9 receivers as they did last week, Brees needs to get the ball to his playmakers – namely Graham, Marques Colston and explosive rookie Brandin Cooks. This will not be a tough task against the Buccaneers’ depleted defense.
Players to Watch: Vincent Jackson (WR – TB), Kenny Vaccaro (S – NO)
Prediction: Buccaneers 17, Saints 34
HOUSTON TEXANS (3-1) AT DALLAS COWBOYS (3-1)
Week 4 Results
Texans: W (23-17) vs. Buffalo Bills
Cowboys: W (38-17) vs. New Orleans Saints
The highest-paid defensive player in the league continues to earn every dollar of his $100,000,000 paycheck with yet another touchdown on Sunday. JJ Watt took an interception 80 yards to the house, one of Houston’s two interceptions on the day. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick showed good chemistry with receiver DeAndre Hopkins who pulled down 5 passes for 64 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, the Texans’ rushing attack was pathetic, averaging 1.6 YPC for just 37 yards on the day.
Dallas is finally starting to live up to its preseason billing as an elite offensive threat, led by RB DeMarco Murray who is on pace for a remarkable 2,136 rushing yards on the season. Furthermore, what was referred to by many reporters as a “JV defense” early on in the season came up big against the Saints. The Cowboys’ D racked up 2 sacks, an interception and 2 fumble recoveries. Holding New Orleans’ dangerous to just 17 points is no easy task.
Tony Romo turned in a strong performance, completing 76% of his passes for 262 yards and 3 touchdowns. He connected with sophomore receiver Terrance Williams 6 times for 77 yards and 2 scores. Williams continues to grow into a bigger role, reeling in intermediate passes rather than the deep bombs he was limited to last season. He and Romo should have another big game against a defense of equal caliber as their last opponent.
Players to Watch: Arian Foster (RB – HOU), Terrance Williams (WR – DAL)
Prediction: Texans 17, Cowboys 35
BUFFALO BILLS (2-2) AT DETROIT LIONS (3-1)
Week 4 Results
Bills: L (17-23) at Houston Texans
Lions: W (24-17) at New York Jets
Doug Marrone announced on Tuesday that second-year quarterback EJ Manuel had been benched for explosive backup… Kyle Orton? Don’t sleep on the 10 year veteran, though; Orton already has the support of receiver Sammy Watkins, who will most likely improve upon last week’s 4/30/1 statline. CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson both had nice games, averaging 5.0 and 4.7 YPC respectively. They will most likely see an increase in touches (22) this week to open things up for Orton.
Calvin Johnson finished the Lions’ week 4 matchup with 2 catches for 12 yards. Quarterback Matt Stafford (24-34, 293 yards, 2 TDs) looked instead to Golden Tate and Jeremy Ross to move the ball, proving Johnson is not Detroit’s only viable receiver. That being said, the Bills’ secondary will be more difficult to exploit than New York’s was.
This game will be an uphill battle for Buffalo, as their 27th-ranked offense takes on the number 1 defense in the NFL. Detroit’s terrifying defensive line will cause problems in the backfield, putting pressure on Orton. With a young receiving corps and a quarterback change, the Bills chances of winning this matchup are fairly slim.
Players to Watch: Corey Graham (CB – BUF), Calvin Johnson (WR – DET)
Prediction: Bills 13, Lions 31
BALTIMORE RAVENS (3-1) AT INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (2-2)
Week 4 Results
Ravens: W (38-10) vs. Carolina Panthers
Colts: W (41-17) vs. Tennessee Titans
Through 4 games, 35-year-old Steve Smith Sr. has the 3rd most receiving yards in the league with 429. QB Joe Flacco has helped Smith resurrect his career, throwing him the ball for 100+ yards in all but one game, including last week’s 7 catch, 139 yard, 2 TD performance against his former team. Flacco has been very good so far, throwing for 327 yards and 3 touchdowns against the Panthers.
Andrew Luck is proving, week by week, that he is the NFL’s next elite QB. In fact, his recent displays (393 yards, 4 touchdowns, 1 interception) are making a strong case that he is already elite. His repertoire of throws – from precise bullets (Dwayne Allen TD) to rollouts (Coby Fleener TD) to back-shoulder bombs (Reggie Wayne TD) – is that of a veteran quarterback.
Baltimore has been playing solid football, from the pass game to the tandem rushing attack of Justin Forsett (66 yards, 1 TD) and Lorenzo Taliaferro (58 yards, 1 TD). This is an interesting matchup, as both teams are playing very well. However, with Luck under center, the Colts have a major advantage. Playing with plenty of confidence, Indianapolis is poised to make a playoff run, starting with a win this week.
Players to Watch: Joe Flacco (QB – BAL), Andrew Luck (QB – IND)
Prediction: Ravens 28, Colts 31
PITTSBURGH STEELERS (2-2) AT JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (0-4)
Week 4 Results
Steelers: L (21-27) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jaguars: L (14-33) at San Diego Chargers
The league’s most underrated receiver, Antonio Brown, had yet another monster performance, racking up 131 yards and 2 touchdowns off just 7 receptions. Pittsburgh started strong, putting up 27 points through 3 quarters, but the wheels fell off in the 4th. The Steelers’ defense looked lethargic, allowing 10 points in the last 5 minutes of the game and letting a win slip through their fingers.
Blake Bortles did not disappoint in his highly-anticipated debut, rejuvenating a lackluster Jacksonville offense. Despite a 1:2 TD-INT ratio, there were plenty of positives in his performance, especially with regard to field awareness. Bortles scrambled when necessary, with an elusiveness reminiscent of none other than Ben Roethlisberger, but was also not afraid to step up and deliver accurate throws in the face of a 6-man rush.
While the Jaguars look like an entirely new team with Bortles under center, they still have a lot of work to do to earn their first win. The run game is practically nonexistent, as Toby Gerhart continues to struggle, averaging 2.6 YPC through 4 games. Roethlisberger, Brown and rising star Le’Veon Bell will tear up the league’s worst defense in an easy win.
Players to Watch: Le’Veon Bell (RB – PIT), Blake Bortles (QB – JAC)
Prediction: Steelers 34, Jaguars 17
ARIZONA CARDINALS (3-0) AT DENVER BRONCOS (2-1)
Week 4 Results
Two teams fresh off their bye weeks will go head-to-head in what is sure to be an entertaining matchup. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, QB Carson Palmer may still be sidelined with an injury to a nerve in his shoulder. Drew Stanton has done a decent job of filling in for Palmer, with an average QBR of 83.5 over Arizona’s last two games. However, the Cardinals will need to rely on their 5th-ranked defense to slow down Peyton Manning and co.
Speaking of Manning, the legendary quarterback is in the midst of yet another phenomenal season, completing 67% of his passes for 814 yards, 8 touchdowns and just 1 interception thus far. The Broncos field one of the strongest receiving corps in the league, between Demaryious Thomas, Wes Welker, Emmanuel Sanders and TE Julius Thomas. However, RB Montee Ball needs to improve upon his 3.4 YPC for Denver to make another Super Bowl run.
The Broncos boast one of the league’s most explosive offenses, but the Cardinals have one of the league’s best defenses. If the secondary can clamp down and force Denver to resort to the run, they will have a good shot at winning. Stanton simply needs to limit his mistakes and allow running back Andre Ellington to run the football.
Players to Watch: Patrick Peterson (CB – ARI), Montee Ball (RB – DEN)
Prediction: Cardinals 27, Broncos 21
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (2-2) AT SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (2-2)
Week 4 Results
Chiefs: W (41-14) vs. New England Patriots
49ers: W (26-21) vs. Philadelphia Eagles
The Kansas City Chiefs of the last two weeks have looked nothing like those of the first two. After Monday night’s beatdown of the Patriots, Andy Reid’s team is firing on all cylinders. Jamaal Charles played a crucial role in the win, scoring 3 touchdowns (1 rushing, 2 receiving). However, the Chiefs’ greatest advantage was their rotation of Charles and Knile Davis, who proved to be equally efficient in tearing up New England’s defense with 107 yards on 16 carries.
San Francisco squeaked by the Eagles with a win on Sunday, albeit a messy one. The Niners’ special teams unit alone allowed two of Philadelphia’s three scores; the other was the result of a Colin Kaepernick pick-six. San Francisco’s defense clamped down when it counted, forcing 4 turnovers and holding the Eagles out of the endzone in a late goal-to-go situation.
The Chiefs’ increased usage of athletic, young tight end Travis Kelce (8 catches, 93 yards, 1 TD) is encouraging, as he adds talent and potential to a receiving corps that is sorely lacking both. In addition, Kansas City’s defense looked like the terrorizing force it was in 2013, flustering future Hall-of-Famer Tom Brady into 4 turnovers. However, Kaepernick’s athleticism will cause problems for the Chiefs’ pass rush, allowing the 49ers to scrape by with another close win.
Players to Watch: Travis Kelce (TE – KC), Patrick Willis (LB – SF)
Prediction: Chiefs 28, 49ers 31
NEW YORK JETS (1-3) AT SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (3-1)
Week 4 Results
Jets: L (17-24) vs. Detroit Lions
Chargers: W (33-14) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Geno Smith may still have the support of Jets owner Woody Johnson, but he no longer has New York’s, as fans were heard chanting “We want Vick” during the Jets’ week 4 loss. The 2nd year QB has struggled this season, with 5 touchdowns to go with 7 turnovers. Smith must look to WR Eric Decker and talented, rookie TE Jace Amaro for help if he hopes to keep his job this season.
Philip Rivers, meanwhile, has been outstanding; the 11th year veteran boasts a 114.5 QBR through 4 games, tossing 1,155 yards, 9 touchdowns and just 1 interception in the process. Eddie Royal burst on the scene with a 5 catch, 105 yard, 2 TD performance last week, but it remains to be seen if he can be a consistent, viable option as the team’s WR2.
With a depleted backfield, Donald Brown and the Chargers will struggle to run against one of the league’s best run defenses. However, Rivers should not have trouble picking apart the Jets’ weak secondary. Big games are expected from Keenan Allen, Royal and TE Antonio Gates in a big win that will send New York to a 1-4 record.
Players to Watch: Jace Amaro (TE – NYJ), Philip Rivers (QB – SD)
Prediction: Jets 10, Chargers 35
CINCINNATI BENGALS (3-0) AT NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (2-2)
Week 4 Results
Patriots: L (14-41) at Kansas City Chiefs
The Cincinnati Bengals have quickly emerged as one of the best teams in the NFL, stifling offenses and flustering defenses. Last week’s bye will only make them better, as it allowed time for star receiver AJ Green’s toe injury to heal. Cincinnati has been effective through the air and on the ground, as young RBs Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill provide a nice combination of agility and power, respectively.
New England’s front office spent Monday night regretting their decision to trade away left guard Logan Mankins as they watched the Chiefs’ pass rush harass Tom Brady play after play. The star quarterback simply has not been as effective this season, thanks to poor protection and a lack of receiving talent. The Patriots’ running backs need to be relied upon more heavily to win ballgames.
The Bengals’ offense is very similar to that of Kansas City’s, meaning this week may be 60 minutes of déjà vu for the Patriots. However, Cincinnati also has an advantage in Green and the possible return of Marvin Jones. Bernard and Hill will also have big games, provided OC Hue Jackson shows a bit of creativity in his playcalling. It appears the Patriots’ era of dominance is coming to an end.
Players to Watch: AJ Green (WR – CIN), Nate Solder (LT – NE)
Prediction: Bengals 27, Patriots 21
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (2-1) AT WASHINGTON REDSKINS (1-3)
Week 4 Results
Redskins: L (14-45) vs. New York Giants
Seattle has been just as dominant a force season as it was in last year’s Super Bowl campaign. Behind Marshawn Lynch’s smash-mouth running style, the Seahawks have the 3rd best rush attack in the league. In addition, the defense has played well, as has been expected of them for the past few seasons, with 5 sacks, 2 interceptions and a fumble recovery through 3 games.
Fans and analysts alike were severely disappointed by Kirk Cousins’ appalling Thursday night performance. The 3rd year quarterback had generated plenty of buzz after a strong week 3 outing, but imploded in the 3rd quarter, throwing back-to-back-to-back interceptions in less than 8 minutes. It appears the Redskins still have plenty of question marks on offense.
Until Cousins proves otherwise, the Redskins’ pass offense cannot be relied upon to win games, despite the immense talents of possession receiver Pierre Garcon and speed receiver DeSean Jackson. Alfred Morris has a tall task ahead of him as he will attempt to break down Seattle’s highly-touted run defense. Cousins needs to make better reads and look defenders off if he hopes to finish with fewer than 4 interceptions.
Players to Watch: Marshawn Lynch (RB – SEA), Alfred Morris (RB – WAS)