Week 4 NFL Picks: Predictions and X-Factors for Biggest Games
Let's get back to the game of football, shall we?
It certainly isn't an easy thing to do, with the Monday Night Football fiasco still looming large, but on Thursday, the NFL will move on as Week 4 will kick off with the Cleveland Browns traveling to Baltimore to face the Ravens.
Here are predictions for Week 4's biggest games and the x-factors who'll play major roles in deciding the outcomes of each contest.
New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills
Mitch Stringer-US PRESSWIRE
Last year, Buffalo's comeback win over the Patriots snapped a ridiculous 15-game losing streak that dated back to the season opener in 2003, which marks the last time Tom Brady's squad had a losing record until now.
In Week 3 against a mighty Ravens team in Baltimore, New England looked to have command of the game, up nine in the fourth quarter.
But poor defensive play led to the Patriots relinquishing their lead, and the Ravens won on a last-second field goal.
For the Bills, they've rebounded nicely after being destroyed by the Jets on the road in Week 1. The offensive line has dominated and the defensive line has nine sacks in two games.
The availability of injured running backs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller will have a drastic effect on this AFC East showdown, as will the consistency of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
According to the team's official Twitter account, a return for Jackson is 70-75 percent likely. Spiller, though less likely to play, has yet to be ruled out.
This one will be another highly entertaining, competitive game.
But coming off two losses, Brady and Co. get back on track with a spirited and gritty win in Buffalo.
Patriots 31 Bills 27
X-Factor: Wes Welker
A week ago, many believed Welker was on his way to being phased out of the Patriots' offense. He then snagged eight passes for 142 yards against Baltimore. In the loss to the Bills last year, Welker had 16 receptions for 217 yards and two touchdowns.
San Francisco 49ers at New York Jets
Benny Sieu-US PRESSWIRE
The Jets' first experience without Darrelle Revis will be the main storyline in this game, something certainly worth monitoring.
But how will New York's offense function against San Francisco's defense, a unit fresh off an embarrassing loss at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings?
At 2-1, the Jets have silenced most of their critics and have a prime opportunity to make a huge statement against a team many believe is the most complete squad in the NFC.
The loss of Revis will be devastating and could lead to another efficient outing from revitalized signal-caller Alex Smith.
In a low-scoring, defensive battle, San Francisco has more talent on its roster and will head home with a "W."
49ers 21 Jets 17
X-Factor: Kendall Hunter
The Jets have one of the more stout defenses in the league, but they struggled containing the speedy C.J. Spiller in Week 1. As Frank Gore's fleet-footed complement, Hunter will have his first big game of the year en route to victory.
New Orleans Saints at Green Bay Packers
Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE
You know what's so weird about this game?
Just like we all predicted, right?
The Saints defense has taken a step back from last year, and that's saying something. Only the Cincinnati Bengals have allowed more yards per drive. New Orleans' defense allowed nearly 275 yards rushing to the Kansas City Chiefs, and they've yet to intercept a pass.
Brees hasn't been his typical self, but surrendering 34 points per game certainly makes it hard to get it done in the NFL.
Coming off the crushing loss to the Seahawks, expect Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the Packers squad to play inspired football at home.
Packers 38 Saints 28
X-Factor: Randall Cobb
Cobb only received two targets against the Seahawks, as Mike McCarthy used a great deal of jumbo tight end sets in the second half to pound the rock against an ultra aggressive Seattle front seven. The second-year dynamo will be utilized more against New Orleans.
New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles
Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE
The Eagles are 2-1, but it feels more like 1-2 or 0-3, doesn't it?
Michael Vick has taken an abundance of shots through the first three weeks, and the turnover bug finally led to defeat against the Cardinals in Arizona.
As resilient as Vick has been to keep his team afloat, the solution is simple—LeSean McCoy needs more touches.
The defense has the potential be an elite unit, but when the offense is putting the ball on the turf and Vick is throwing interceptions, there's not much the defense can do.
As for the Giants, they've been fabulous for the last five quarters, as Eli Manning looks to have settled in, even with some of his playmakers injured.
This may be an unpopular pick, but at home, to counter New York's ferocious pass rush, Andy Reid will give his All-Pro running back ample carries, and the Eagles will come out with a huge statement win to stay atop the NFC East.
Eagles 27 Giants 21
X-Factor: Brent Celek
Though McCoy will carry the team to victory, the skilled but often overlooked tight end will outplay Martellus Bennett and will finish with the most receptions for Philly.
Chicago Bears at Dallas Cowboys
The Bears are the league's most schizophrenic club, led by up-and-down quarterback Jay Cutler. They've handled two relatively weak opponents thus far, and were thrashed by the rival Packers in prime time.
Dallas was terrific on the road in Week 1, but has been out of sync ever since.
This will be a battle between two solid and fundamentally sound defenses with vast similarities.
Chicago will get off to a fast start, and the 'Boys will respond.
But in the end, Brandon Marshall and Co. will give Lovie Smith's group its biggest win of the year to date.
Bears 24 Cowboys 20
X-Factor: Julius Peppers
The defensive end is now 32 and doesn't receive the amount of publicity he used to. But he has 2.5 sacks on the year and will wreak havoc on the Cowboys' backfield all night.