NFL Week 4 Picks: Teams That Will Gain Traction with a Big Win

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistSeptember 27, 2013

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 22:  Giovani Bernard #25 of the Cincinnati Bengals scores a touchdown during the NFL game against the Green Bay Packers at Paul Brown Stadium on September 22, 2013 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

After this Sunday, we're going to look back and laugh at how we worried about these NFL teams.

These select NFL teams had a lot of question marks sputtering around them before Week 3. They entered last weekend at 1-1 and each stood a solid chance of losing against high-quality opponents, but they assuaged our fears with impressive victories.

Does momentum exist, or is it just a crafted fabric of our imagination to neatly pack stories into a convenient narrative? Last week's efforts hardly guarantee repeated production (look at what the San Francisco 49ers did Thursday night), but it does provide numbers indicating these teams are on the right track.

By the time Sunday night rolls around and Breaking Bad's finale is set to air, the following three organizations will feel much stronger than Walter White and Jesse Pinkman.


Baltimore Ravens (at Buffalo Bills)

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 22: Wide receiver Marlon Brown #14 of the Baltimore Ravens catches a pass in front of cornerbacks Johnathan Joseph #24 and Kareem Jackson #25 of the Houston Texans during the first half at M&T Bank Stadium on September 22, 2013 i
Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Ravens quickly lost their Super Bowl high when they were destroyed in the Mile-High City, but they're slowly recovering.

Before they can flaunt their rings and recreate memories of that time Rahim Moore forgot how to play deep coverage, the Ravens found themselves on the wrong side of a 49-27 thrashing. Peyton Manning collected seven touchdowns, creating doubt over Baltimore's ability to survive without Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe.

Since that loss, Baltimore has not relinquished a touchdown in its last two games. Beating the Cleveland Browns was one thing, but they avenged a massive 2012 loss to the Houston Texans by claiming a 21-point win.

If anything, the offense is Baltimore's area of concern. Although the Ravens scored 30 points against the Texans, they only managed one offensive touchdown. Joe Flacco has not looked particularly sharp without Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta, and now Jacoby Jones will be unavailable.

Regardless of Ray Rice's availability, look for the Ravens to run often against a Buffalo defense that allowed 149 rushing yards to Bilal Powell last Sunday. A stout front seven should keep C.J. Spiller in line, leading to another Baltimore win. 

Prediction: Ravens 20, Bills 10


Cincinnati Bengals (at Cleveland Browns)

The Bengals entered the cage with Aaron Rodgers and lived to fight another day. But I'm sure Brian Hoyer is much better after that one good start.

Cincinnati faced the grave danger of becoming an unfortunate 1-2 team that simply ran into two great opponents in the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers, but the AFC title hopeful was having none of that.

Rodgers managed just 244 passing yards on 43 attempts while tossing two interceptions in Cincinnati's 34-30 victory. Now that the Packers are out of the way, the Bengals should handily scratch past the Browns.

Let's not anoint Hoyer after one 300-yard, three-touchdown outing. It came against the 0-3 Minnesota Vikings, who were previously shredded by Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler. Hoyer still possesses a career 58 completion percentage, and he nearly offset all his accolades from Sunday by throwing three picks.

Cincinnati should fare much stronger against the former third-stringer.

Prediction: Bengals 17, Browns 9


Indianapolis Colts (at Jacksonville Jaguars)

Baseball fans may see some striking resemblance between the Colts and Baltimore Orioles, who made the postseason last season despite outscoring their opponents by a mere seven runs in a much larger 162-game sampling.

The Orioles won't stick around for the playoffs this October, but they played better baseball and offered more hope for the future behind Chris Davis, Adam Jones and Manny Machado.

Don't count on the Colts winning 11 games this year. A schedule sprinkled with contenders makes another postseason appearance tough, but they're still a much better team than last season's bunch.

This year's rebranded model features a sturdier offensive line that has paved the way for 148 rushing yards per game. Adding LaRon Landry and Vontae Davis to the secondary has bolstered that front, which ranks 11th in the NFL with 212.3 opposing passing yards per game.

Andrew Luck no longer needs to spray pixie dust during the fourth quarter to obtain a victory for his club. The Colts are now talented enough to pound a team like the Jaguars into submission with a dominant performance.

With the Seattle Seahawks waiting, look for the Colts to send a message to the NFL's elite by decimating the NFL's worst.

Prediction: Colts 23, Jaguars 7