Week 4 brings a few unofficial must-win games for some of the top teams in the league.
Following the chaos of the first few weeks, we're about to kick off divisional play in many cases. As a result, wins on Sunday could go a long way toward enhancing some teams' playoff hopes, even though it's still early in the season.
Here are some of the top games to watch on Sunday. You can see a complete Week 4 schedule here.
New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills
1 p.m. ET, CBS
There weren't a lot of people who expected New England to come into Week 4 with a record of 1-2, but that's the way the cards have fallen for last year's Super Bowl losers. The Patriots have been hit with a few key injuries and their defense hasn't been able to hold on at the most critical times. As a result, they enter Sunday's matchup in dire need of a win.
The Bills, alternately, are exactly where they want to be. They are 2-1 and tied for first in the AFC East. Needless to say, a win over New England could do wonders for their hopes of making this a season in which they defy expectations and emerge as the top dog in this division, especially given that they already have one division loss to the Jets.
In that sense, Sunday's game will tell us a lot about the identity of both teams. The Bills have been able to beat up on Kansas City and Cleveland, but what will happen when they face the toughest team they've seen since that brutal 48-28 loss to the New York Jets in Week 1?
And similarly, were the Patriots' last two losses—to Arizona and Baltimore, by a combined three points—just flukes, or are mistakes in the final minutes going to be a theme for New England this year?
San Francisco 49ers at New York Jets
1 p.m. ET, FOX
Like the Patriots and the Bills, each of these teams has a lot to prove, especially San Francisco. The team that topped every power ranking until last week, thanks to huge wins over Green Bay and Detroit, suffered a massive 24-13 letdown at Minnesota in Week 3.
An offense that looked excellent in the first two weeks looked completely dead against the Vikings, and even more troubling is that this 49ers defense—which ranked as the fourth-best in the league in 2011—has allowed no fewer than 19 points in any of its first three games.
The Jets, too, have been up and down. They destroyed the Bills in Week 1 only to fall victim to the Steelers a week later. And their lethargic offense needed a late comeback in order to take down the Dolphins in overtime last week.
The Jets could use a win to kick off a critical four-game stretch in which they face San Francisco, Houston, Indianapolis and New England. But offensive woes have been a theme for New York over the last two weeks, and facing one of the NFC's top teams—even at home—may not present the best opportunity for a resurgence.
Or maybe, once again, the 49ers will unexpectedly flounder.
New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles
8:20 p.m. ET, NBC
This is perhaps the biggest divisional matchup of the week, given that many expect one of these teams to win the NFC East. It should be quite a spectacle, given that we will see the league's second-best pass offense take on the league's third-best pass defense.
So who will win? Even though both teams are 2-1, we really have no idea how good either of them is yet. The Eagles escaped the first two weeks with a couple of one-point victories—including a huge one over the Ravens—but then stumbled badly at Arizona last weekend, falling 27-6.
The Giants, meanwhile, laid an egg in the season opener, losing to the Cowboys. But ever since, this injury-riddled offense has kept bouncing back, despite the odds. But shredding the Panthers' secondary without the help of your top wide receiver is one thing; doing that to the Eagles is another.
New York won't have Hakeem Nicks again in Week 4, so this pass offense is coming at the Eagles without its top target. This could be the week that it hurts the Giants.