After a very unimpressive showing in week 3, in which I only went 8-8, I am looking to rebound in a big way this week. This is the first week of byes meaning we have only 14 games to run through instead of the usual 16. Away we go.
San Francisco @ Atlanta - In the discussion of teams that have been the most disappointing, the 49ers would have to top that list. This is a team that was finally supposed to take over the NFC West. Instead, they are getting steamrolled by teams like the Seahawks and the Chiefs. The Falcons, on the other hand, have looked impressive after a tough week 1 loss. They handily beat the Cardinals, then took overtime to knock off the defending Super Bowl Champion Saints. Before the season started, if you looked at this game, you would have thought it had the potential to be a good one. That doesn't seem to be the case anymore. It's really hard to pick an 0-3 road team. Falcons 27-13.
NY Jets @ Buffalo - The Jets are playing in their third straight divisional game. Having won the first two, they get what should seemingly be their easiest opponent of the three. The Bills were surprisingly very competitive last weekend in a game against the Patriots, but I don't think that will be enough this week. The Jets defense is far superior to the Patriots, and with the lack of firepower on the Bills offense, don't expect too many points out of Buffalo. As long as a rejuvenated LaDainian Tomlinson keeps running like he has been, the Jets may be the team that many experts expected them to be this year. As for this one, most people figured it would be a long season for the Bills, this game is no exception. Jets 16-6.
Baltimore @ Pittsburgh - This is the game of the week, and it has potential to be the game of the year. When the Steelers and Ravens get together, you can expect nothing less than a hard hitting and physical showdown. The Ravens come into this one having the number one ranked defense in the league. The Steelers are not far behind at number six. The Ravens are ranked number four in points allowed, while the Steelers are number one in that category. It's safe to say that this will not be a great day for either offense. Joe Flacco has had a struggle thus far in the season. He has completed only 54 percent of his throws and has more interceptions than touchdown passes. The Steelers quarterbacks, whether Dixon or Batch, have seemingly gotten better with each week. So, while neither team is expected to light it up offensively, the logical choice is to go with the team with the better playing quarterback. Steelers 14-10.
Carolina @ New Orleans - Right behind the 49ers on the list of disappointments, are the Carolina Panthers. While there was no expectation of the Panthers doing anything of great significance, I thought they would be better than 0-3, with at least some signs of life. Their great tandem backfield of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are only averaging 83 yards per game combined, and between them have only one rushing touchdown. The Saints are coming off a disappointing overtime loss to the Falcons in which Garrett Hartley missed a 29 yard game winner. On paper, this game looks like a mismatch. On the field, it will probably still look like a mismatch. Saints 35-16.
Denver @ Tennessee - A week after being benched for ineffectiveness, Vince Young bounced back with an efficient game against the Giants. Young was sacked only one time, and did not turn the ball over. The Broncos are coming off a home loss to the Colts in which Kyle Orton threw for a career high 476 yards, but the ground game was non-existent. The Broncos as a team averaged a paltry 2.5 yards per carry against the Colts. With starting running back, Knowshon Moreno out for a second consecutive week, Orton may be asked to repeat his performance from a week ago. While the Broncos defense managed to shut down the Colts ground game, it will be a lot harder to contain Chris Johnson. While Young will have another solid game, Johnson will be the difference maker. Titans 27-14.
Cincinnati @ Cleveland - The games between the Bengals and Browns have a tendency to get way out of hand. This year could be a lot lower scoring than some of their more recent showings. Both teams rank in the bottom half of the league in scoring. For the Browns to have a chance, they are going to continue having success on the ground. And for the Bengals, sooner or later, Carson Palmer has to show some signs that he is still capable of being a top notch quarterback. While I don't expect this one to be a shootout like has occasionally been the case, it could still be entertaining. Bengals 24-21.
Detroit @ Green Bay - There is no reason that the Packers should not be 3-0. After a Monday night loss that saw the Packers commit 18 penalties, I would fully expect them to be much more disciplined this week. Aaron Rodgers continues to play at the highest possible level, and the defense is ranked second in the league. This is another game, that on paper looks to be a big mismatch. If Detroit has any chance of hanging with Green Bay, Jahvid Best needs to have the greatest game of his young career. While that may happen, it won't be enough. Packers 34-14.
Seattle @ St. Louis - At a combined record of 3-3, some people would say that both of these teams have over achieved already this season. Both teams are coming off wins last week. The Seahawks were lead by Leon Washington and his two kick returns for touchdowns, as they pulled off the upset over the Chargers. The Rams, meanwhile, continue to show signs of improving as they scored a season high 30 points in their win over Washington. Sam Bradford is quickly showing that he has the potential to be a great quarterback someday, and even when Steven Jackson left with an injury, the offense continued to play well with Kenneth Darby running the ball. No matter which teams comes out of this one with the win, they will have more wins at this point in the season than anyone would have predicted. They were my upset pick of the week last week, I might as well stick with them. Rams 21-17.
Indianapolis @ Jacksonville - The Colts, and namely Peyton Manning are firing on all cylinders. The Jaguars, are coming off back to back ugly losses. Manning comes into this one third in the league in passing yards against a Jaguar defense that is fourth from the bottom against the pass. There really isn't too much else to analyze. While these two usually play some pretty close games, this one could get very ugly for Jacksonville. Colts 35-13.
Houston @ Oakland - After coming off a heartbreaking loss to the Cardinals, in which Sebastian Janikowski missed a game winning 32 yard field goal, the Raiders return home to face Matt Schaub and the Houston Texans. At first glance, this one looks one-sided. But when you look again, you see that the Raiders come into this one with the second ranked pass defense, lead by Nnamdi Asomugha. The run defense, however, is ranked toward the bottom, so the Texans may be relying heavily on Arian Foster. The Raiders offense, behind running back Darren McFadden, showed a little life, but against the second ranked run defense it may be short lived. I like the road team, but I think it will be closer than you might expect. Texans 27-21.
Arizona @ San Diego - The Cardinals come in at 2-1, but it hasn't been pretty. It took a late touchdown to beat St. Louis in the opener, and a missed field goal to beat the Raiders last week. The Chargers come in at 1-2, and it hasn't been pretty for them either. As is customary with them, the Chargers are off to a slow start. Already two games out in the division, this could be an important game to get back on track. While Philip Rivers has yet again been putting up some big numbers, it's the numbers in the win column that are most important. Arizona has gotten off to a nice start record wise, but I don't believe they are as good as it would indicate. Chargers 28-14.
Washington @ Philadelphia - Donovan McNabb makes his return to Philadelphia. While that is the main headline, it is Michael Vick that has been the rest of the talk. Vick has regained the form that made him a number one overall pick. Through three weeks, Vick has yet to turn the ball over and is averaging over 50 yards a game on the ground. His work through the air may be the most impressive. He is completing a career high 60.7 percent of his passes, averaging 250 yards a game, and has thrown six touchdown passes. The Redskins are coming off an embarrassing loss to the Rams, and now travel to one of the toughest venues in the league. Playing against the seventh ranked pass defense in the league, it could be a rough home coming for McNabb. Eagles 24-13.
Chicago @ NY Giants - The Bears are 3-0 but could just as easily have the opposite record. Jay Cutler, for his career, has always been an up and down quarterback. Last Monday he showed glimpses of both. Some of his passes were crisp and right on target, while other times his decision making was very suspect, and he had to be bailed out by Packer penalties. This week they get the Giants, who last week, had penalty problems of their own. Eli Manning is coming off a 386 yard effort, but like Cutler made some very questionable decisions. This game could come down to which quarterback makes the least amount of mistakes. While the talent of Cutler has always been there, he is too much of a roller coaster. Bears get their first loss of the season. Giants 20-13.
New England @ Miami - This game could be fun. The Patriots are coming off a win over Buffalo, in which they had to work a lot harder than most people expected. The Dolphins are coming off a tough loss to the Jets. This division is looking like it could be a three team slugfest all season long. Tom Brady always seems to be at his best on the biggest stage. So, a prime time Monday nighter, I would expect a big game from Brady, presumably to his favorite target, Wes Welker. I also have this weird feeling that Ricky Williams, not Ronnie Brown, is going to have a big game. So, if it comes down to a big game by Brady, and a big game by Williams, which one has a good enough game to get the win? It's usually pretty hard to bet against the Patriots. This one will be close. Patriots 31-27.
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