There are so many good NFL matchups this week, I didn't even get to break down the Baltimore Ravens facing the Miami Dolphins or the Denver Broncos facing the Dallas Cowboys (the Ravens and Broncos will win).
But the five games I did get to examine closely promise to be fantastic contests between a group of teams sure to be in the playoff picture all season long. It's going to be a fantastic weekend, folks.
New Orleans Saints (4-0) at Chicago Bears (3-1)
The Saints have started brilliantly, going 4-0 with wins over the Atlanta Falcons and Miami Dolphins. Drew Brees has been as dangerous as ever, Jimmy Graham has been the most dangerous receiving threat in the NFL at any position, and the defense has been surprisingly good.
But the Bears are 7-3 in their last 10 home games—with all three losses in that time by one possession—and coming off a disappointing performance against the Detroit Lions, you can bet the defense will be fired up.
Add in the fact that Jay Cutler can't possibly be worse than he was on Sunday, and I'm leaning toward the Bears at home.
Prediction: Chicago wins, 28-24
New England Patriots (4-0) at Cincinnati Bengals (2-2)
Thus far in 2013, the Patriots have won because the defense has been excellent, and Tom Brady has willed just enough out of a young receiving corps for the Pats to win (though he was up to his old tricks against the Atlanta Falcons).
But in a game against a tough Cincinnati defense, a Patriots team that has started 4-0 in a rather tumultuous fashion will be put to the test.
The Bengals are wildly inconsistent thus far, but it's important to remember that this is still a pretty young team. The team's best players—Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, Giovani Bernard, Michael Johnson, Vontaze Burfict, Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap—are all 26 or younger.
But Green is due for a big week—even with a tough matchup against Aqib Talib—and Bernard continues to prove how valuable he is to this offense. The Bengals have a habit of playing to the level of their competition, while the Patriots aren't quite as good as their record suggests.
Prediction: Cincinnati wins, 24-21
Detroit Lions (3-1) at Green Bay Packers (1-2)
Did you know that the Detroit Lions have lost 22 straight games versus the Packers in Wisconsin?
Not that such a streak should cloud your prediction for this game: After all, the Lions already won in Washington for the first time in 74 years—yes, 74 years—earlier this season. And given how well this Lions team is playing, it is more than capable of breaking another streak.
But it won't. The Packers aren't just good against the Lions at home; they're good against everyone at home, having won 30 of their last 35 games at Lambeau Field. Add in the fact that they've had an extra week to prepare for this game—and that the team will be desperate to avoid a 1-3 start—and it's hard to see the Lions getting a win in Green Bay.
Prediction: Packers win, 31-27
Seattle Seahawks (4-0) at Indianapolis Colts (3-1)
There are two teams in the NFL that you would be pretty crazy to bet against. The first is the Denver Broncos, led by Peyton Manning and his unstoppable offense. The second is this Seahawks team, led by an unmovable defense, a running game that gashes and wears down opposing defenses and the wily Russell Wilson, who seems to always have a trick or two up his sleeve late in the game.
The Seahawks win by controlling the line of scrimmage on offense (fifth in rushing yards) and stifling their opponent's passing attack (fourth in pass defense). They tend to dominate at home and win ugly on the road, so this game will certainly be close.
Add in the NFL's third-best turnover differential at plus-seven, and you can see how the Seahawks let opponents beat themselves.
The Colts are no pushovers, and Andrew Luck has a few tricks up his sleeve as well. They won the line of scrimmage against the San Francisco 49ers and have the best passing attack Seattle has seen thus far.
No matter—in a game that will turn ugly, the Seahawks will once again prove that's just how they like it.
Prediction: Seattle wins, 20-17
Houston Texans (2-2) at San Francisco 49ers (2-2)
The Texans are a hard team to pin down. They nearly lost to two inferior teams, only to come back and win late, then nearly beat a superior team before blowing a late lead and losing in overtime. And let's not even talk about the 30-9 thrashing at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens.
They have a ton of talent on both sides of the ball, but Matt Schaub continues to underwhelm. And much like they did at the end of last season, the Texans seem to be regressing and underachieving.
Now they travel to San Francisco to face a 49ers team that seemed to remember last week that they win games by playing sound defense and pounding the rock. The Niners are 16-4-1 at home since 2011, and they are stout enough in the front seven to stifle the Texans running game and force Schaub to beat them in the air.
That's bad news for the Texans.
Prediction: San Francisco wins, 27-17
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