Baltimore Ravens CB Cary Williams: MVP of Thursday night
Week 4 features the return of the “official” officials, and hopefully some normalcy will return to the NFL. What will not change are the competitive juices of the players and coaches, as the NFL is founded on star power. Only three teams are undefeated heading into this weekend.
A majority of the matchups in Week 4 are divisional games; so much is at stake in these contests. The New Orleans Saints need a victory in the worst way to avoid joining the Cleveland Browns, who lost on Thursday Night Football, at 0-4. Historically, 0-4 teams have almost zero chance of making the playoffs.
Here are my predictions of the MVP for each game this coming week. The MVP has to come from the winning team.
Michael Turner has not put up huge numbers this season due in large part to the growth of wide receiver Julio Jones and the maturity of quarterback Matt Ryan. But the Falcons are 3-0 and are facing a division foe in Carolina. The Panthers are ranked 27th in the NFL versus the run.
Turner had his best game of the 2012 season last week versus the San Diego Chargers, rushing for 80 yards and a score. The Panthers are allowing an average of 139.3 rushing yards a game.
The Panther defense listed seven players on the injury list heading into the game. Most notably, linebackers Jon Beason and Thomas Davis should play, but taking on a tough Falcons offense all game long makes even the smallest of injuries seem large. Turner will gain over 100 yards in the game for the first time this season to propel the Falcons to the win.
Brandon Lloyd is back in an offense like the one he enjoyed in 2010 in Denver. Lloyd had a Pro Bowl season that year with Josh McDaniels as his head coach. McDaniels is now the Patriots offensive coordinator, and Lloyd is reaping the benefits.
Lloyd is coming off a season-best 108-yard receiving game versus the Baltimore Ravens in Week 3. The Bills are young at cornerback with Stephon Gilmore and Aaron Williams. The secondary of the Bills has been susceptible to the big play, giving up 12 receptions of over 20 yards.
Lloyd and quarterback Tom Brady will have a big-play day as well and should be able to take advantage of the Bills defense. Look for Lloyd to eclipse the century mark again, as well as get into the end zone this week.
The Lions actually have a very solid rush defense after the first three weeks of the season. Detroit is only giving up 3.9 yards a carry and has not allowed a run over 40 yards.
All of that changes in Week 4 versus Adrian Peterson. The former Oklahoma Sooner is starting to show signs of the “old” A.D., and after an 86-yard performance last week, he will top the 100-yard mark for the first time in 2012.
Peterson has had five 100-yard rushing games versus the Lions in his career and will get his sixth in Detroit this Sunday.
The Chargers defense is a top-10 unit after the first three weeks of the 2012 season, and the rush defense is fourth in the NFL. Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles had a huge game versus the worst rushing defense in the NFL last week in New Orleans.
Assuming the Chargers can bottle up Charles, the onus will be on Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel to lead his team to the win. Behind a banged-up offensive line that lost starting center Rodney Hudson for the year, Cassel may be running for his life.
Shaun Phillips has 2.5 sacks on the season and brings constant pressure off the edge. Phillips will be in the backfield all game long and will add to his sack total as the Chargers get the win.
With the injuries along the Rams offensive line, the easy pick would be any of the Seahawks defensive linemen. But Marshawn Lynch has a good history of rushing versus the Rams, gaining 203 yards and two touchdowns last season.
Lynch already has rushed for 305 yards this season. The Rams are 22nd in the NFL in stopping the run and have allowed 120.7 yards a game thus far in 2012. The Rams have also allowed five rushing touchdowns.
With the struggles of the Rams offense, St. Louis’ defense will be on the field too much. This will allow Lynch to have an MVP-type day.
The New York Jets are supposed to be one of the best defenses in the NFL but are ranked 28th in the NFL versus the run. The Jets have allowed an average of 148.7 yards a game on the ground as well as four touchdowns.
Frank Gore started the season with a huge game versus the Green Bay Packers, but his touches have been limited the past two weeks. Look for the former Miami Hurricane to carry the offense this week. The Jets are banged up at the cornerback position, so this will force safeties LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell to help more in coverage.
Gore can score some large gains if the Jets cannot bring a safety into the tackle box.
The only defense worse than the Titans in the NFL is the New Orleans Saints. The Titans are ranked 29th at stopping the run and 30th at defending the pass.
The beneficiary of this porous defense will be Matt Schaub. The quarterback threw for four touchdowns last week, and though Schaub has yet to throw for 300 yards in a game this season, the Titans offer the perfect remedy.
Schaub has 13 career passing touchdowns versus the Titans in his career. Against a defense that allows 312.7 yards a game through the air, Schaub will have an MVP performance and help his team stay undefeated.
Larry Fitzgerald is one of the best in the NFL and has helped his squad to a 3-0 record. Fitzgerald is coming off his best game of the year. In Week 3 versus the Philadelphia Eagles, the former Pittsburgh Panther caught nine passes for 114 yards and a touchdown.
The Cardinals offense is facing one of the worst passing defenses in the NFL. The Dolphins give up an average of 307.3 yards a game. The Dolphins defense, which has only produced four sacks, has given up 12 passes of over 20 yards and two passes over 40 yards.
Look for Fitzgerald to add to this total as the Cardinals beat the Dolphins in Arizona.
Laurent Robinson is coming off a Week 3 concussion but has passed all the tests and looks to get his year on track. The Bengals have all four of their top cornerbacks on the injury report, and three will not play. Nate Clements, Leon Hall, Jason Allen and Dre Kirkpatrick all didn't practice on Friday.
Jaguar quarterback Blaine Gabbert can take advantage of the backup players in the secondary of the Bengals and connect with Robinson for some big gains. Robinson is waiting on a breakout game with the Jaguars, and against a weakened secondary of the Bengals, no time is better than Week 4.
Look for Robinson to top the century mark for the first time in his Jacksonville career.
The Raiders defense is going through some growing pains under first-year head coach Dennis Allen. Oakland is 26th in the NFL in points allowed and has allowed four rushing scores in the first three games.
Willis McGahee is coming off a tough week versus the Houston Texans defense, but in Week 2 he rushed for 113 yards on 22 carries versus the Atlanta Falcons. In his last meeting against the Raiders in 2011, McGahee rushed for 163 yards and two touchdowns. Expect the same type of results in Week 4 of 2012.
The New Orleans Saints have the worst defense in the NFL, and no doubt Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is chomping at the bit to get this game under way. While the Packers have worked in recent weeks to get the running attack going with Cedric Benson, the Packers are still a pass-first team.
Jordy Nelson is a physical receiver who has sneaky fast speed. Nelson was shut down last week versus the Seattle Seahawks, only making two grabs.
Rodgers knows Nelson has been held out of the end zone this season and will be looking to rectify that issue versus the Saints. Look for Nelson to have at least one touchdown and maybe more.
These teams have the two worst passing defenses in the NFL, so expect both Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman and Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III to have solid statistical days. But the Redskins have given up the most passing touchdowns in the NFL with 10 and have allowed 16 passes over 20 yards.
Freeman is working under a new offensive system and has really struggled this season. He is just starting to look like he is getting comfortable with new receiver Vincent Jackson. Look for Freeman to attack cornerbacks Josh Wilson and DeAngelo Hall to get his season going.
The Buccaneers will need Freeman to have an MVP performance to win the game.
Eli Manning is playing some of the best football of his career, and the Eagles defense is just another bump in the road. While the Eagles defense is one of the best in the NFL, Manning is just playing too well to handle.
Manning is completing 66.9 percent of his passes and has five touchdowns on the season. Manning makes stars out of any of his receivers and makes even the backups look like Pro Bowlers. After Week 4, the Eagles will no longer have the third-best passing defense in the NFL thanks to the play of Eli Manning.
The Cowboys offensive line has struggled to keep quarterback Tony Romo upright all season. According to profootballfocus.com, right tackle Doug Free is rated as the 59th-best offensive tackle in the NFL. To make matters worse, left tackle Tyron Smith is ranked No. 65.
Julius Peppers would love to see those numbers as well. The defensive end has 2.5 sacks on the season and continually presses the pocket. Look for Peppers to have an MVP performance versus a below-average offensive line unit and help lead the Bears to a victory on Monday night.