Nearing the middle of the 2012 NFL season, Week 4 is a turning point for any team.
Separation really begins to unfold among the true playoff contenders, and some of those expected to be in the postseason race may gradually veer off. In turn, we enter with some questions.
Will the Houston Texans, Atlanta Falcons and Arizona Cardinals remain undefeated?
Can the Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions and San Francisco 49ers bounce back? Are the New England Patriots going to remain in their slump?
So many other questions in addition to these will get answered; therefore, let's check out winners for Week 4.
Cleveland at Baltimore
Sure it's a shortened week, but the Ravens simply have far too much talent to get upset by Cleveland.
The Browns lack a consistent passing game and aren't nearly as healthy by comparison.
Not to mention, Brandon Weeden is a rookie and will see Ed Reed patrolling Baltimore's secondary.
Ravens over Browns
Carolina at Atlanta
The Panthers are coming off a dismal performance at home and face an even greater challenge on the road. The Atlanta Falcons are confident and on fire after rolling the San Diego Chargers last week, whereas Carolina has issues on both sides of the ball. Expect the Falcons to push the pace, because the Cats aren't nearly as explosive as 2011.
Falcons over Panthers
New England at Buffalo
This game is gut check time for the Patriots. On the flip side, the Buffalo Bills have hit a rhythm with two straight wins and did beat New England at home last fall. By comparison the Pats have the more potent attack; however, the Bills present a more consistent pass rush and running game.
Bills over Patriots
Minnesota at Detroit
This is quite the interesting matchup with the Vikings upsetting San Francisco and Detroit losing to Tennessee.
The Lions have improved on the ground, although Minnesota is much better at stopping the run.
In turn, this NFC North showdown will be determined by the more effective ground game that sets up play-action.
Vikings over Lions
San Diego at Kansas City
Coming off a win over the Saints in New Orleans, the Kansas City Chiefs are easily the more confident team this week. And after getting blasted at home against the Falcons, the Chargers have yet to beat a legit team. We know that Jamaal Charles is back, but K.C. still has to slow down San Diego's passing game. In short, the winner emphatically controls the time of possession battle.
Chiefs over Chargers
Seattle at St. Louis
The Seattle Seahawks were given a win but that won't affect them in Week 4. This defense is for real, and the St. Louis Rams don't field an offense quite like the Green Bay Packers. Now St. Louis has improved defensively, so it won't be too high-scoring of a game. Nonetheless, the Seahawks are more complete across the board.
Seahawks over Rams
San Francisco at NY Jets
Don't look now but the New York Jets are 2-1 and in position to really enhance their confidence for 2012.
The San Francisco 49ers are vulnerable after losing in Week 3, so responding must happen to avoid any skeptics.
To that end, the Niners have the better defense and more consistently reliable ground game.
49ers over Jets
Tennessee at Houston
All the odds are against the Tennessee Titans here. Houston has the stronger running game, passing game, defense and special teams. So with virtually everything stacked against Tennessee, shouldn't the Texans be on upset alert? No, because unlike the Detroit Lions the Texans can play defense.
Texans over Titans
Cincinnati at Jacksonville
The key factor in this game will be Maurice Jones-Drew. If Jacksonville can run the ball effectively throughout, Cincinnati's explosive offense won't have the time or number of opportunities on the field to exploits the Jaguars defense. So, anticipate the Bengals stacking the box and forcing Jacksonville to throw. Still, the Jags also have fast receivers and the Bengals defense has been susceptible each week.
Jaguars over Bengals
Miami at Arizona
Whichever front seven gets more consistent quarterback pressure wins this game.
Both Miami and Arizona have signal-callers that will get easily flustered if under constant duress, and the ground games aren't elite enough to take over late.
So, the advantage comes down to the better receiving corps capable of making plays.
Cardinals over Dolphins
Oakland at Denver
The Denver Broncos desperately need a win and the Oakland Raiders are feeling confident. Both teams bested the Pittsburgh Steelers at home, so it will be a close battle. Denver is better at passing, whereas Oakland is far better at running the rock. Therefore, the difference will be the Raiders' pass defense vs. the Broncos' rush defense. Denver stacks the box against Darren McFadden and Peyton Manning shreds.
Broncos over Raiders
New Orleans at Green Bay
Both teams are hungry for a win, and each quarterback is capable of slicing up the opposing pass defense. Unfortunately, the pass defenses are vastly different with the Packers being more opportunistic and presenting a stronger pass rush.
Packers over Saints
Washington at Tampa Bay
For as high-powered as the Washington Redskins offense has been, the defense hasn't matched in dominance.
Through three games the Redskins have scored more points than any team but sit at 1-2.
Well, last week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers shut down the Dallas Cowboys, who are just as explosive as Washington. Combine that with a balanced enough offense and the Redskins are in trouble.
Buccaneers over Redskins
NY Giants at Philadelphia
Anything can happen when the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles square off. Week 4 of the 2012 season, though, won't be as unpredictable. The Eagles turn the rock over way too much offensively and New York bulldozed the Carolina Panthers after a short week. Despite being familiar opponents, Philadelphia's passing game isn't reliable and Eli Manning knows how to win.
Giants over Eagles
Chicago at Dallas
Defense will be the ultimate decider of the Bears-Cowboys on Monday night. Both sides can get solid pressure on the quarterback and are well-versed against the run. That then takes pressure off the secondary and we all know how Jay Cutler and Tony Romo can be turnover-prone. Unfortunately for Chicago, Cutler's pass protection isn't as reliable and DeMarcus Ware is the NFL's best pass-rusher.
Cowboys over Bears
Follow John Rozum on Twitter.