Week 4 Predictions

Posted Sep 29, 2017

Who are you picking to win the week 4 games?

THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Chicago (1-2) at Green Bay (2-1): Josh Sitton Bowl!

The Packers are coming off an unconvincing win in OT at Lambeau over the sudenly plucky Bengals, while the Bears won on the road in Pittsburg, making big Ben look decidedly closed for repair like his namesake, and pounding the Pitts for 216 yards rushing on 35 carries by big Jordan Howard and little Tarik Cohen. Howard and Cohen were also their leading receivers, with 9 catches for 48 yards between them. If Mike Daniels is still out, they ought to be able to run against the Pack. But with Mike Glennon restrained to only 22 pases (15 complete for only 101 yards) look for the Pack to stack the box, play big nickle with rookie Josh Jones and hope that works. The Bears are very strong up front, and both of Green Bay's starting tackles are questionable with guards Jason Springgs and Don Barclay already out. Aaron Rodgers could be running for his life, and Mike McCarthy doesn't seem willing to give anyone but Ty Montgomery a carry. One wonders why he drafted three running backs in the first place. This will not be easy, but at Lambeau it's hard to argue against Aaron arranging another assay into aerial artistry at the appropriate point. Pick (made Thursday): Pack

THURSDAY NIGHT NOTE: The Packers win puts them ahead 95-94-6 in the series against the Bears, which began in 1923. It's the first time since 1933 that they've been in front.

LONDON GAME: New Orleans (1-2) 'at' Miami (1-2) at Wembley: Both teams come off Week 3 surprises, the Saints winning big at Carolina and the Dolphins losing ditto at the Jets. It sounds like a cliché, but establishing the run is crucial here. For the Saints because the Jets' front is their strong point, and if they take pressure off Drew Brees, the fact that Ted Ginn is not Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead is not playing becomes less telling. Their troika of Ingram, AP, and rookie Kamara ran 25 times for 126 yards against the Panthers, but of course that was with the lead. Although everyone thinks of Adam Gase as a 'quarterback whisperer', the reality is his short-passing attack runs off a strong run game, which means Jay Ajayi is crucial. Because he relies on breaking initial contact, Ajayi is always a boom or bust runner, and the Saints' D is not so strong that we can't expect some boom here. Jay Cutler needs a 'quarterback shouter' but again, the Saints won't put as much pressure on him as the Jets did. This is a finely balanced match-up, but pick: Saints

Carolina (2-1) at New England (2-1): There clearly seems to be something wrong with Cam Newton, which Carolina's short-passing game plan (minus Kelvin Benjamin) seemed to reflect. They got a lot out of Christian McCaffrey against the Saints, but that was short stuff, and without Greg Olsen they may not be able to stretch the Pats' seams, which is where their pass D has looked awful. If the Saints can sack Cam four times, the Pats, whose rush hasn't been overwhelming, ought to be able to as well. Carolina is not Houston up front, but they can force Brady into being one-dimensional, and Luke Kucheley, Thomas Davis, and Shaq Thompson make the Panthers one of the best teams in the league against Tes (Keuchley this week admitted he was holding Gronk in the infamous 2013 game) and RBs. The Pats cannot keep expecting Brady to pull off wins (or opponents to keep leaving him time to do it—bad on Bill O'Brien) but even so, pick: Pats

Jacksonville (2-1) at New York Jets (1-2): Chris Ivory Bowl! The Jest are coming off a somewhat unexpected win, and are like the Ravens' in the sense that their defensive front is their strength, and unlike the Ravens', it will be at full strength Sunday. It marks a second road game in a row for the Jags, so they won't be as well prepared as the Jets who were at home last week too. But Josh McCown is not known for following a big game with another one; if he did that he'd have been a regular starter somewhere. Course you might say the same about Blake Bortles, even though he has been a regular starter. Even so, pick: Jags

Buffalo (2-1) at Atlanta (3-0): Patrick DiMarco Bowl! The Bills are coming off a big win over Denver, but that was at home, and the Falcons, having scraped one out in Detroit, will breathe a sigh of relief and leave it to their offense to do better what Denver wanted to do, and to their defense to be quicker and give up fewer big plays. Pick: Falcons

Pittsburgh (2-1) at Baltimore (2-1): Steelers/Ravens Bowl! Every game like a bowl game! Both teams coming off bad losses, though the Ravens' in London was something much worse than bad. You might write that one off to body clocks or not doing a walk through at Wembley, but they not only looked flat, their D, without Brandon Williams and Brent Urban, who got rolled from behind early in the game, looked unable to stop anything. Williams is doubtful this week as well, and though Big Ben is one of a number of passers around the league who is not listed as injured but doesn't look 100%, so is Joe Flacco, whose back problems still linger. Good thing they didn't sign Colin Kaepernick, who would give the Steelers more to worry about. How different would the Ravens' loss be if Jalen Ramsey doesn't get away from pulling Mike Wallace back when he was beaten down the sidelines early? Not a whole lot. Pick: Steelers

Cincinnati (0-3) at Cleveland (0-3): Kevin Zeitler Bowl! The Bengals showed signs of life in Green Bay last week, taking the Pack to OT, while the Browns did the same before treating Indy to a 28-12 halftime lead and losing 31-28. If ever there were a game both teams could lose in OT, this would be it; this is part of the reason why I wish the NFL would abolish OT and go back to letting tie games be tie games. Andy Dalton and the Bengals' O finally seemed to get in gear last week, letting Joe Mixon have the bulk of the carries helped, while getting Vontaze Burfict back could energize the Bengals D. Pick: Bengals

Detroit (2-1) at Minnesota (2-1): Case Keenum is Elite! He lit up the Bucs for 369 yards and three TDs, while Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen looked like Jerry Rice and Dwight Clark. The Bucs were chasing a 21-3 halftime deficit, so Jameis racked up some yards but also threw three picks. This will be interesting, because Matt Stafford is capable of running up Keenum-like numbers on a good day. But the NFL Rule Book contains a special codicil about Lions' receivers making potential game-winning catches in the fourth quarter, namely that they should never count. Golden Tate's knee down call last Sunday came five years to the day after he lost the Fail Mary decision to Seattle. Go figure. Pick: Lions

LA Rams (2-1) at Dallas (2-1): Air Goff arrives to face a Cowboys' D which will be missing Sean Lee, who was their leading tackler, but with DeMarcus Lawrence, who is the league's sack leader, and will be testing Goff's ability to get rid of the ball quickly in Sean McVay's quick-release offense. Todd Gurley had a big game in the Rams' 41-39 Thursday win in San Francisco but the Cowboys are better offensively than the Niners, which makes you wonder if Wade Phillips might like to find a run-stopping inside backer somewhere. Dallas played on the road Monday night, so it's a short week for them, but I still like them to disrupt Goff. Pick: Cowboys

Tennessee (2-1) at Houston (1-2): Despite losing 36-33 in New England, the Texans will have taken a lot of positives from the game, especially their ability to get to Tom Brady and the poise under pressure of DeShaun Watson. Marcus Mariota is a tougher target, with a better O line and more manoeuvrability, but the Titans' pass D might be almost as shaky as the Pats'. The Titans looked to be the best team in the AFC South, but if the Jags' creativity at Wembley last week is for real, and if Watson can survive the rookie yips, this could turn into a three-way. But Houston do need to win this one. Pick: Titans

San Francisco (0-3) at Arizona (1-2): Mike Iupati Bowl! The Cards can still make big defensive plays, and Larry Fitzgerald came to life in their loss to the Cowboys Monday night, but Carson Palmer was sacked six times and without David Johnson they still can't find a running game. The Niners don't have much pass rush, and though they look strong up front, the Rams ran well against them, which probably won't be a worry against Arizona. I think a couple of big plays in the Cards secondary might be the difference, though Bruce Arians' really seems to make some bad decisions. Pick: Cards

New Jersey Giants (0-3) at Tampa (1-1): Speaking of when is a catch not a catch, Sterling Sheppard managed to catch a ball, have both feet down to complete the catch, then move the ball to make a move and get both feet inbounds again just in case, then fall out of bounds and lose the ball. He was never a runner, according to the current interpretation of what being a runner means. I'd say go figure, only you can't. The Giants' weak point is their O line, but Gerald McCoy is playing hurt, and Lavonte David is out for the Bucs. And the Giants' pass D, which is their strong point, may be able to keep the Bucs' receivers in check. This could be where they join the ranks of the winning, even though they're on the road again. Pick: Giants

Philadelphia (2-1) at Carson Chargers (0-3): Darren Sproles Bowl! Only Sproles is out for the season and Wendell Smallwood needs to step up. You'd think this would the Chargers' best chance to get that first win on the board (BTW: after three weeks, the league has only two undefeated teams, but boasts five without a win) and that the Eagles were lucky to pull one out at home against the Giants. But the Chargers did very little right against the Chiefs at home last week; there probably won't be an ocean of green jerseys in the stands at Dominguez Hills, but even so the move from San Diego is looking worse and worse. Doug Pederson knows the Chargers from his time at KC, but this is still an uphill row to hoe. Can LaGarrette Blunt row uphill? Pick: Chargers

Oakland (2-1) at Denver (2-1): Menelik Watson Grudge Match! Both teams got beat in the East last week, as Washington turned the Raiders' offense into a dink and dunk nightmare, and the Raiders' D turned the Skins' O into Air Cousins. The Broncos turned it over against the Bills, but at home at altitude against a team coming back from Sunday night in DC and going on the road again I don't think that happens. Plus they have Greg Manusky's defensive game plan to study. Pick: Broncos

SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Indianapolis (1-2) at Seattle (1-2): You know that scene in Fort Apache where Henry Fonda and Ward Bond and a handful of troopers get rolled over by the Apaches and all you see is a dust cloud? Imagine there were 68,000 more Chiricahua screaming their lungs out in an amphitheatre designed to magnify the noise, and instead of Henry Fonda, who was bad enough, you have a virtual rookie in command. I know the Seahawks have offensive problems, which could be worse if Doug Baldwin's groin is worse than he says. Russell Wilson hasn't looked like his old self so far this season, and that's not all down to the O line, while Eddie Lacy has looked like his old self and hasn't seen the field lately. Even so, pick: Seahawks

MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Washington (2-1) at Kansas City (3-0): The Game of the Week, without doubt, especially after the Skins' performance against the Raiders. The Skins got to Derek Carr four times, shut down Beast Mode, and shut off Oakland's wideouts. But the wideouts are not the major weapons for the Chiefs, so the onus will be on linebackers and safeties this week, which won't be the strong point for Washington. The Skins need to keep Alex Smith in the pocket and stepping forward, which is where his accuracy falters, and bottle up one of Kareem Hunt or Tyreek Hill and make someone (other than Travis Kelce) beat you. I'd guess Charcandrick West gets more carries, but maybe Andy Reid will do a little trickeration, using Akeem Hunt with Kareem Hunt like the Killer Bees, wearing masks to confuse the opposition and officials about which one is actually in the game. It would've worked in the XFL. Pick: Chiefs

LAST WEEK: 10-6 SEASON: 28-19

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