It's Week 4 of the 2013 NFL season, and for everything that's gone according to script there have been a few surprises.
The Seattle Seahawks, as expected, are rolling right along at 3-0.
However, few people thought that Thursday night's matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and St. Louis Rams would be a must-win game for the defending NFC champs.
The 49ers righted the ship, at least for now, with a 35-11 victory.
Raise your hand if you thought the Miami Dolphins would be 3-0, while the Pittsburgh Steelers, Minnesota Vikings, New York Giants and Washington Redskins would all be floundering at 0-3.
Now put your hand down, you liar.
As we get ready for another week where the only thing for sure is that nothing's for sure, here's a look at how experts from around the web expect Week 4 to play out.
Before we move on to Week 4's games, let's take a look at our panel of experts.
ESPN: ESPN's picks are a combination of the selections of 13 experts. Those experts include writers like Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter, as well as former players such as Ron Jaworski and Tom Jackson.
CBS Sports: The CBS Sports picks feature eight writers, including senior NFL columnist Pete Prisco and NFL insider Jason La Canfora.
USA Today: As with the other sites on our panel, USA Today uses a committee approach, with seven writers offering their picks for this week's games.
Bleacher Report: I would be remiss not to include the prognostications of my esteemed colleagues here at Bleacher Report. This year's starting lineup for the Bleacher Report picks team features each of the national lead writers, as well as the lead writers covering the NFL's divisions.
There you have it. Over 40 NFL experts (plus one computer), all making picks for this week's games.
Last week, the experts faltered a bit, barely escaping with a "winning" record. That hurt their season totals quite a bit, but they've still been right a lot more than they've been wrong.
Last Week: 8-7
Final Verdict: Do you believe now?
For the second straight week, the Cleveland Browns were given no chance to win by the experts.
For the second straight week, the Browns proved them wrong.
The Cleveland defense stymied Cincinnati all day long, Brian Hoyer threw two touchdown passes, and the Browns notched their second straight win with a 17-6 victory over the Bengals.
ESPN: Bengals (13-0)
CBS Sports: Bengals (8-0)
Fox Sports: Bengals (5-0)
USA Today: Bengals (7-0)
Bleacher Report: Bengals (12-0)
Overall: Bengals (45-0)
The Cleveland Browns didn't get much love from the experts last week after trading running back Trent Richardson away, but the Browns exacted a measure of revenge by upsetting the Minnesota Vikings.
This week, the experts are unanimous in their belief that the Browns won't be able to pull off two wins in a row when they face a Cincinnati Bengals team coming off a huge win against the Green Bay Packers.
Since this is an AFC North showdown, it's only fitting we turn to Bleacher Report AFC North Lead Writer Andrea Hangst for her take on this week's "Battle of Ohio":
The Bengals are flying high off two straight wins against tough teams, besting first the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 2 and the Green Bay Packers in Week 3. Though the Browns finally notched their first win last Sunday, they won't be much of a match for the vastly superior Bengals. As long as the Bengals don't overlook the Browns with the New England Patriots looming, they'll win this one.
Final Verdict: Well you see, what had happened was.
The Buffalo Bills, a team that looked completely discombobulated in last week's loss to the New York Jets, outplayed the Super Bowl champions in every facet of Sunday's game.
The Ravens tried to mount a late comeback, but five Joe Flacco interceptions were just too much for the Ravens to overcome.
Bills win 23-20.
ESPN: Ravens (13-0)
CBS Sports: Ravens (8-0)
Fox Sports: Ravens (5-0)
USA Today: Ravens (6-1)
Bleacher Report: Ravens (11-1)
Overall: Ravens (43-2)
The Baltimore Ravens sent a message to the rest of the NFL last week that they aren't giving up their title without a fight, blasting the Houston Texans 30-9.
Things didn't go nearly as well for the Bills. An injury-ravaged Buffalo secondary was torched by rookie quarterback Geno Smith and the New York Jets.
The experts don't give that secondary and the Bills much of a chance at home against the Ravens in Week 4. In fact, only two of the panel's pundits picked the Bills. Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Ty Schalter was one of them.
Final Verdict: The Detroit Lions sent a message in Motown on Sunday.
Reggie Bush ran for 139 yards in his return to action, The Lions intercepted Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler three times, and Detroit laid 40 points on the vaunted Bears defense.
Our panel is off to a bumpy start this week.
ESPN: Bears (9-4)
CBS Sports: Lions (6-2)
Fox Sports: Bears (3-2)
USA Today: Lions (4-3)
Bleacher Report: Bears (10-2)
Overall: Bears (27-18)
One of the biggest games of Week 4 features a battle for first place in the NFC North.
If the Detroit Lions can prevail over the Chicago Bears at home, the Lions move into a tie with Chicago. A Bears win, on the other hand, would give Chicago a commanding two-game lead (at least) over every other team in the division.
The Bears are the consensus pick here. However, it's hardly a landslide, with the majority of pundits at two of the five sites picking Detroit to come away with the win.
Since the opinions of the human experts vary greatly on this game, we'll look to the computerized simulation at WhatIfSports for some insight. WhatIfSports predicts a three-point Chicago win, with quarterback Jay Cutler and wide receiver Brandon Marshall being the difference-makers for the Bears.
Final Verdict: Just when fans of the New York Giants thought things couldn't get any worse.
Oh, but they can.
Quarterback Eli Manning turned the ball over three more times, his counterpart (Alex Smith of the Chiefs) threw three touchdown passes, and for the second straight game the Giants were blown out on the road.
The 4-0 Chiefs have now doubled last year's win total.
ESPN: Chiefs (13-0)
CBS Sports: Chiefs (8-0)
FOX Sports: Chiefs (4-1)
USA Today: Chiefs (6-1)
Bleacher Report: Chiefs (10-2)
Overall: Chiefs (41-4)
The Kansas City Chiefs and New York Giants are two teams rocketing in opposite directions.
After downing the Eagles in Andy Reid's return to Philadelphia, the Chiefs sit at 3-0, with more wins already this year than they had in all of 2012.
Meanwhile, the New York Giants are in absolute free-fall, coming off a 38-0 drubbing at the hands of the Carolina Panthers that was the worst loss of the Tom Coughlin era.
The experts expect those trends to continue. Over 90 percent picked the Chiefs.
Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Michael Schottey said of the matchup: "The Chiefs have one of the best defenses that no one talks about, and it's been that way for too long. Think Eli Manning and Co. have looked bad so far? You ain't seen nothin' yet."
Final Verdict: Christian Ponder may want to buy himself a Chillow.
He may be chilling on the bench for a while.
Matt Cassel, subbing for the injured Ponder, posted a passer rating of over 120 Sunday in London, finding wideout Greg Jennings for a pair of scores.
Throw in two touchdown rumbles by Adrian Peterson, and you have the recipe for a 34-27 Vikings win that drops the free-falling Steelers to 0-4.
ESPN: Steelers (9-4)
CBS Sports: Steelers (8-0)
Fox Sports: Steelers (4-1)
USA Today: Steelers (4-3)
Bleacher Report: Steelers (10-2)
Overall: Steelers (35-10)
The first of two games that will be played in London in 2013 takes place in Week 4, and it's a titanic struggle between two of the NFL's best teams.
Actually, the game features a pair of winless clubs, with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Minnesota Vikings each trying to notch their first win of the 2013 season in Merry Olde England.
More than 75 percent of the experts feel it will be Pittsburgh who gets victory No. 1, including Bleacher Report NFC East Lead Writer Brad Gagnon:
The Steelers have lost a lot, but they're still much better than Minnesota. They should be able to contain [Adrian] Peterson, they still have the better quarterback and they still have more playmakers. At a neutral site, it's a narrow victory.
Final Verdict: Sunday's matchup between the Arizona Cardinals and Tampa Bay Buccaneeers was a tale of two halves.
Neither of those halves were pretty.
Rookie quarterback Mike Glennon was able to stake the Buccaneers to a 10-0 halftime lead. However, it's a lead the team was unable to hang onto, and the floundering Bucs head into their bye week at 0-4 after falling 13-10.
ESPN: Cardinals (8-5)
CBS Sports: Buccaneers (5-3)
Fox Sports: Cardinals (4-1)
USA Today: Cardinals (4-3)
Bleacher Report: Cardinals (8-4)
Overall: Cardinals (27-18)
it's the dawn of a new era in Tampa Bay.
As Adam Schefter and Ed Werder of ESPN reported, head coach Greg Schiano has pulled the plug on Mike Freeman, installing rookie Mike Glennon as the starting quarterback for the Buccaneers.
60 percent of the experts agree that the change under center isn't going to stop Tampa's losing streak. However, there are dissenting voices, including Bleacher Report NFC West Lead Writer Tyson Langland:
Will Mike Glennon be the one to finally get the Buccaneers offense headed in the right direction? I say yes, yet the rookie signal-caller won't be able to do it alone. He will need to lean on Doug Martin late in the game to put the Cardinals away.
Final Verdict: There were any number of surprises in Week 4.
Sunday's tilt between the Indianapolis Colts and Jacksonville Jaguars featured Blaine Gabbert's return to the Jaguars lineup.
Gabbert did his part to make sure that Jacksonville will land the first overall pick, as the Jaguars were pummeled by the Colts 37-3.
ESPN: Colts (13-0)
CBS Sports: Colts (8-0)
Fox Sports: Colts (5-0)
USA Today: Colts (7-0)
Bleacher Report: Colts (12-0)
Overall: Colts (45-0)
The Indianapolis Colts are fresh off a signature win, a 27-7 victory over the San Francisco 49ers that vaulted the team into consideration as a legitimate contender in the AFC.
Things haven't gone, um, quite as well for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Jacksonville is 0-3 and is reeling from a 45-17 thumping at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks.
It's hardly a surprise that not a single expert picked the Jaguars to win this game.
Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Mike Freeman didn't mince words when giving his assessment of this game: "Colts get their turn at the punching bag known as Jacksonville."
Final Verdict: For most of Sunday's matchup between the Houston Texans and Seattle Seahawks, the home team appeared to be in complete control, with Houston's defense making Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson miserable in the first half.
However, the Seahawks hung around, a Richard Sherman interception return pulled the Seahawks within three, and a late Steven Hauschka field goal sent the game to overtime.
Hauschka was the hero again in the extra frame, and the Seahawks escaped Reliant Stadium with an unlikely 23-20 victory.
ESPN: Seahawks (7-6)
CBS Sports: Seahawks (6-2)
Fox Sports: Seahawks (3-2)
USA Today: Seahawks (5-2)
Bleacher Report: Seahawks (10-2)
Overall: Seahawks (31-14)
One of Week 4's signature games features a pair of Super Bowl contenders locking horns in the Lone Star State.
The Houston Texans will be looking to bounce back from last week's loss to the Baltimore Ravens, but that isn't going to be an easy task against a Seattle Seahawks squad that's arguably the NFL's best team.
For a matchup this big, we'll get some thoughts from both sides of the argument.
Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Michael Schottey believes the visitors will win big:
The Texans just don't have the killer instinct that great teams should have. The Seahawks do and are about to put on a clinic. Quarterback Matt Schaub is going to be seeing out of his earhole for a week as the Seahawks continue to roll.
However, NFC East Lead Writer Brad Gagnon thinks the home team will prevail:
This Seattle team is playing so well, but it's dominant at home. It lost in Detroit and Miami last year, and that Houston defensive front could have a big day against an offensive line that is missing Russell Okung.
Final Verdict: Don't look now, but 25 percent of the way into the season the Tennessee Titans are tied for first place.
Not only did the Titans defeat the New York Jets in Week 4, they did it in emphatic fashion, dominating on both sides of the ball en route to a 38-13 blowout.
ESPN: Titans (12-1)
CBS Sports: Titans (5-3)
Fox Sports: Titans (4-1)
USA Today: Titans (6-1)
Bleacher Report: Titans (9-3)
Overall: Titans (36-9)
Not a lot was expected from either the New York Jets or Tennessee Titans in 2013.
The Jets haven't racked up many style points, but two wins is two wins. Meanwhile, the Tennessee Titans also sit at 2-1, and were it not for an overtime loss to the Texans the Titans would be undefeated and sitting in first place in the AFC South.
This week, 80 percent of the experts feel that it's the Titans who will continue their hot start, including Bleacher Report NFC North Lead Writer Zach Kruse.
"The Titans continue their feel-good story with a third win in four weeks," Kruse wrote. "That Tennessee front seven should give [Geno] Smith all he can handle."
Final Verdict: There are blowouts, and then there are beatdowns. After that comes what the Denver Broncos did to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday afternoon.
Peyton Manning finished the month of September with a ridiculous 16 touchdown passes, and the Broncos set a franchise record by dropping 52 points on the now 1-3 Eagles.
That's gonna leave a mark.
ESPN: Broncos (13-0)
CBS Sports: Broncos (8-0)
Fox Sports: Broncos (5-0)
USA Today: Broncos (7-0)
Bleacher Report: Broncos (12-0)
Overall: Broncos (45-0)
The bloom has come off the rose a bit for the Philadelphia Eagles. After an incredibly hot start with a Week 1 win over the Washington Redskins, the Eagles' high-flying offense has been grounded, and a leaky defense has become a big problem.
The Denver Broncos have no such problems right now. They are humming right along at 3-0, propelled by the brutal efficiency and record-setting pace of quarterback Peyton Manning.
As such, it's a unanimous vote among our experts, with all 45 picking Denver to get the win.
According to Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Michael Schottey, "Both teams want to score early and often, but it's going to come down to mistakes—Peyton Manning avoiding them and Michael Vick making them."
Final Verdict: It wasn't especially pretty, but the Redskins ended their losing skid with a 24-14 win over Oakland in Week 4.
It didn't hurt that the Raiders were essentially playing with their "JV" team on offense. Not only did quarterback Terrelle Pryor miss the game due to a concussion, but the Raiders also lost running back Darren McFadden to a hamstring injury.
McFadden hurt. There's a stunner.
ESPN: Redskins (12-1)
CBS Sports: Redskins (5-3)
Fox Sports: Redskins (5-0)
USA Today: Redskins (6-1)
Bleacher Report: Raiders (7-5)
Overall: Redskins (33-12)
After winning their last seven games to capture the NFC East in 2012, the Washington Redskins are floundering this year. They sit at 0-3, largely due to a porous defense that's allowing nearly 500 yards per game.
But with the playing status of Oakland Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor very iffy this week, the majority of the pundits at most sites expect the Redskins to notch their first win of the season.
The voters at Bleacher Report disagree, however. AFC North Lead Writer Andrea Hangst explains:
Washington has yet to win a game, which is a bad situation to be in when traveling to Oakland. The Raiders, regardless of their record, are always good at taking advantage of weak teams visiting their West Coast home. This looks like a classic Raiders win.
Final Verdict: You know, it really shouldn't surprise anyone that the Dallas Cowboys followed up their huge win over the Rams with something of a stinker.
After all, it's what the Cowboys do. They look like gangbusters one week, then lay an egg the next. It's been their M.O. for years.
However, even after Sunday's 30-21 setback, Dallas still sits in first place in the NFC East, which is quickly shaping up to be the worst division in the NFL this year.
ESPN: Cowboys (9-4)
CBS Sports: Cowboys (7-1)
Fox Sports: Cowboys (4-1)
USA Today: Cowboys (5-2)
Bleacher Report: Cowboys (8-4)
Overall: Cowboys (33-12)
The Dallas Cowboys are riding high as they head west to face the San Diego Chargers in Week 4, fresh off a beatdown of the St. Louis Rams that left the Cowboys all by themselves in first place in the NFC East.
The Chargers, meanwhile, are trying to recover from their second heartbreaking defeat in three games, a last-second loss to the Tennessee Titans that left the Chargers at 1-2 on the season.
It's the visitors who are the experts' pick this week, with Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Mike Freeman stating, "Dallas has quietly become one of the best teams in the league."
Final Verdict: Sunday's final game certainly lived up to the billing.
It appeared that the New England Patriots had the Atlanta Falcons salted away with a 30-13 fourth quarter lead, but Matt Ryan and the Falcons came storming back.
A fourth-down play at the New England 10 with less than a minute left came up short, the Patriots prevailed 30-23, and the Falcons have now lost as many games as they did during the entire 2012 regular season.
ESPN: Falcons (11-2)
CBS Sports: Falcons (5-3)
Fox Sports: Falcons (4-1)
USA Today: Falcons (6-1)
Bleacher Report: Falcons (7-5)
Overall: Falcons (33-12)
The New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons are a pair of Super Bowl contenders who have been beset by injuries in 2013. To this point, those injuries have yet to cost the Patriots, but the 1-2 Falcons can ill-afford another loss.
Sunday night's showdown also features two of the NFL's top quarterbacks in Tom Brady and Matt Ryan.
Bleacher Report AFC North Lead Writer Andrea Hangst believes the Falcons will emerge with a badly-needed win:
The Falcons are dealing with numerous injuries, but the Patriots aren't exactly the picture of perfection they once were. Heading into Atlanta on a Sunday night is never an easy time. Matt Ryan will propel the Falcons to a much-needed win.
However, AFC East Lead Writer Erik Frenz thinks the Patriots will come out on top:
The Falcons pass defense has not been good this year, and the Patriots offense finally found its rhythm in Week 3. On the other side, the Patriots secondary may be one of the few in the NFL that can match up with the Falcons' potent offense. Gonzalez could have a field day, but the big plays will be kept to a minimum.
ESPN: Saints (13-0)
CBS Sports: Saints (8-0)
Fox Sports: Saints (5-0)
USA Today: Saints (7-0)
Bleacher Report: Saints (10-2)
Overall: Saints (43-2)
The best was saved for last in Week 4, as this week's Monday night game features a battle of unbeatens in the Big Easy.
The Miami Dolphins are one of the big surprises of the early part of the 2013 season. Not only are they perfect at 3-0, but their last two wins have come against teams that made the playoffs last year.
However, the Dolphins are going to be tested again in the Superdome, and Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Matt Bowen is among the overwhelming majority of voters who feels Miami's win streak will end Monday night.
"The Dolphins are a solid 3-0 football team," Bowen wrote, "but the Saints are too tough at home. Look for another big game from Jimmy Graham."