NFL

NFL Picks Week 4: Picking Games with Most Significance to Postseason Picture

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22:  Charles Tillman #33 of the Chicago Bears tackles Calvin Johnson #81 of the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field on October 22, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Lions 13-7.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Maxwell OgdenCorrespondent IIISeptember 29, 2013

The 2013 NFL regular season has hit the quarter mark. Bye weeks have begun, and the postseason picture is starting to take shape, with numerous Week 4 games potentially having a significant impact on the league's power structure.

Which games will shape the postseason the most in Week 4, and which teams will win? Read on to find out.

 

Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 30:  Matt Forte #22 of the Chicago Bears tries to get around the tackle of Louis Delmas #26 of the Detroit Lions during a fourth quarter run at Ford Field on December 30, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan. Chicago won the game 26-24.(Photo
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Date: Sunday, Sept. 29

Time: 1:00 p.m. ET

TV: Fox

Prediction: 30-21, Bears

The Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions will meet in the most high-stakes game of the week. The Bears and Lions are the top two teams in the NFC North standings, and a win in either direction will determine which team proceeds to No. 1.

With the Green Bay Packers starting at 1-2 and the Minnesota Vikings at 0-3, every game will help to determine the reality of the Bears' and Lions' postseason dreams.

Chicago enters the game at 3-0 and is looking to take a commanding 2.5-game lead over the Packers by earning the win. Head coach Marc Trestman is leading the most balanced Bears offense we've seen in quite some time, and the defense continues to force turnovers at virtual will.

Against a Lions squad that's known to take risks on offense, Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman should have no trouble continuing to make plays defensively.

The Lions have been explosive on offense as well, with Joique Bell and Reggie Bush combining to provide a source of consistency on the ground. Calvin Johnson has back-to-back games with at least 100 yards receiving, and Matthew Stafford has topped 350 yards passing twice in three games.

According to Ed Werder of ESPN, Stafford will be without second-leading receiver Nate Burleson after he underwent surgery on his broken arm.

With Burleson absent, the Lions will be prone to mistakes early, and that's enough for the Bears to force turnovers and get after the quarterback. With Julius Peppers needing his first signature performance of the season, Stafford will be under duress.

Detroit looks good through three weeks, but the defensive advantage is significant in Chicago's favor.

 

Seattle Seahawks at Houston Texans

January 27, 2013; Honolulu, HI, USA; NFC quarterback Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks (3) runs past AFC defensive end J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans (99) in the third quarter during the 2013 Pro Bowl at Aloha Stadium. The NFC defeated the AFC 62-35
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Date: Sunday, Sept. 29

Time: 1:00 p.m. ET

TV: Fox

Prediction: 21-13, Seahawks

The Seattle Seahawks and the Houston Texans are two teams that will be under pressure on a week-by-week basis. Both squads have high-quality teams in their respective divisions that could rise up and top the standings at any given moment.

Whichever team wins this game could go a long way toward preventing that from happening.

Seattle is currently 3-0 with a 1.5-game lead and a tiebreak advantage over the San Francisco 49ers. With consecutive lopsided wins, the proof has been in the numbers, but Seattle did underwhelm in its lone road game against the Carolina Panthers.

Traveling to play Houston, which is 7-2 at home during its past nine games, Seattle has a statement to make—you know, if the Seahawks haven't scared the league already.

Houston is 2-1 but hasn't been too impressive through three weeks of play. After narrowly escaping the San Diego Chargers and Tennessee Titans, Houston was blown out by the Baltimore Ravens during Week 3.

Even still, both Houston and Seattle are the class of their respective divisions.

I pick Seattle with a measure of skepticism, as the Texans have the balanced rushing attack to alleviate the pressure from Matt Schaub. With injuries along Houston's offense, however, the Seahawks will impose their will defensively.

It'll be a low-scoring affair, and when the dust has settled, Seattle will emerge victorious.

 

New England Patriots at Atlanta Falcons

HONOLULU - JANUARY 30:  Devin McCourty, #32 of the New England Patriots, tackles Roddy White, #84 of the Atlanta Falcons, during the 2011 NFL Pro Bowl at Aloha Stadium on January 30, 2011 in Honolulu, Hawaii.  (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)
Kent Nishimura/Getty Images

Date: Sunday, Sept. 29

Time: 8:30 p.m. ET

TV: NBC

Prediction: 28-27, Falcons

The New England Patriots are a 3-0 football team that hasn't done much to quiet the critics. The Atlanta Falcons are a 1-2 squad that has played better football than some of the teams with winning records.

Sunday Night Football will provide the platform for the two sides to meet and determine which squad will take a step in the right direction in the hunt for a postseason berth.

The Patriots narrowly survived games against the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets but pulled away rather easily from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Rookie wide receivers Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins stepped up in a major way as the Patriots offense finally showed signs of life.

With Brandon Bolden amassing 100 yards of total offense and the run game tallying 156 total, New England's by-committee system may just be enough until Shane Vereen returns.

The Falcons are in desperation mode at 1-2, as the New Orleans Saints are 3-0 with a win over Atlanta. If the Falcons lose this game, and the Saints win on Monday Night Football, Atlanta will be a full three games and a tiebreak behind in the NFC South standings.

With Atlanta's back against the wall, look for Matt Ryan to do what he does best: protect his home turf.

The Falcons are 14-3 at home over the past three seasons including 2013 and will continue that run against New England. Tom Brady will make any game interesting, but Atlanta is in dangerous territory just four weeks into the season.

Never underestimate the value of urgency.

 

Miami Dolphins at New Orleans Saints

Aug 29, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (right) shakes hands with Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) after their game at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Date: Monday, Sept. 30

Time: 8:30 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN

Prediction: 34-28, Saints

The Miami Dolphins and New Orleans Saints are two of the biggest surprises of the 2013 NFL regular season. Both teams are 3-0, and each is in control of its own destiny as a contender in its division.

This game will go a long way toward determining which squad maintains postseason momentum.

New Orleans shouldn't be too much of a surprise considering it went 13-3 during its most recent season under head coach Sean Payton. Not much has changed from a personnel perspective, and Drew Brees continues to be one of the top five quarterbacks in the league.

With the Saints defense coming to life, this is a team worth watching.

Miami has picked up two wins over high-quality opponents, the Falcons and Indianapolis Colts, to prove its validity. The offense hasn't been spectacular, but the Dolphins have done an excellent job of stepping up in the red zone and on third-down conversions.

Cameron Wake and company will need a monster performance to shut down New Orleans.

The Saints will take this game, but not by as wide of a margin as they would have in previous seasons. Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham are nightmare matchups for the Dolphins, and Darren Sproles will force Dion Jordan and Wake to cover the pass.

It'll be entertaining, but the Saints have won 10 consecutive home games under Payton. That streak won't end on Monday Night Football.

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