NFL Predictions Week 4: Final Scores for Each Game
Week 4 has a lot to live up to.
The craziness of Week 3 cannot be understated.
Every single one of the early games on Sunday featured a fourth-quarter comeback victory.
12 of the week's 16 games were decided by seven points or less, and the Giants scored 15 unanswered fourth-quarter points en route to a 13-point win.
There's a three-way tie to break atop the NFC East that doesn't include the Philadelphia Eagles.
Carolina Panthers at Chicago Bears
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Despite the poor conditions and posting the worst numbers of his short career, Newton was able to lead the Panthers to a victory for the first time.
Newton has undoubtedly been the league's breakout star so far this season, but it's defensive end Charles Johnson who will be the key to beating the Chicago Bears.
Johnson has three sacks in three games this season, and the Bears have allowed quarterback Jay Cutler to be sacked 14 times in their first three contests.
Mike Martz's offense can be explosive, but it often leaves the quarterback exposed to big hits if he doesn't get rid of the ball quickly.
The Bears are usually one of the top defensive units in the NFL, but they have allowed 69 points in the first three games of the year and have been absolutely shredded through the air to the tune of 277 yards per game.
Newton will have another big day, Cutler gets sacked four more times—twice by Johnson—and the Panthers suddenly look like the real deal while Chicago is in a 1-3 hole.
Prediction: Panthers 23, Bears 14
Buffalo Bills at Cincinnati Bengals
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Like I said last week, the Buffalo Bills have the Fitz-magic this season.
How else could the Bills have possibly beaten the mighty New England Patriots?
Well, head coach Chan Gailey has devised an offense that plays to the strengths of his Ivy League quarterback.
It's mostly predicated on spreading the defense and giving Fitzpatrick quick reads to make, while trusting he'll deliver the ball on time to the right man.
Pass-catching crew Stevie Johnson, David Nelson and Scott Chandler have been finding holes in defenses, and Fred Jackson is second in the NFL in total yards.
The Bengals' defense has allowed just 188 yards per game through the air this year, but they've also faced Colt McCoy, Kyle Orton and Alex Smith in their three games.
The playmakers the Bills have on offense will be too much for Cincinnati's D to handle, and Buffalo runs away with this one.
Yep, the Buffalo Bills are moving to 4-0.
Prediction: Bills 27, Bengals 10
Tennessee Titans at Cleveland Browns
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Tennessee lost a key player in Week 3 in Kenny Britt.
Britt likely tore his ACL and MCL and is done for the season, after he had already racked up 17 catches and three touchdowns in a little more than two games.
Matt Hasselbeck is enjoying a quiet resurgence for the Titans—and it's a good thing, because Chris Johnson is nowhere to be found.
Johnson has a measly 98 rushing yards on the year after holding out for a new contract and missing much of an already-shortened training camp.
The Browns really have no playmakers on offense with the exception of Peyton Hillis, but they stepped it up this week and they found a way to win without their star tailback, who was out with strep throat.
The Browns will be at home and will get a slight emotional lift from the return of the no-longer contagious Hillis, while Tennessee will be reeling from the loss of Britt and the search for the old Chris Johnson.
Prediction: Browns 17, Titans 14
Minnesota Vikings at Kansas City Chiefs
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Leslie Frazier's Minnesota Vikings have outscored their opponents 57-7 in the first half of games this season.
Unfortunately, they've been outscored 67-6 in the second half of games so far.
As Grantland.com's Bill Barnwell noted Monday, this probably has a lot to do with their sack rate.
According to Barnwell, the Vikings sack the quarterback on 10.3 percent of drop backs in the first half—a figure which would have led the league last season.
However, in the second half, they register a sack on just 4.0 percent of drop backs, which would have been good for dead last in the league in 2010.
The Chiefs have yet to hold a lead so far this year, and the Vikings are already experts at blowing them.
The Chiefs get the win here, comeback style—Dexter McCluster with a late touchdown catch from Matt Cassel.
Prediction: Chiefs 17, Vikings 13
Washington Redskins at St. Louis Rams
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Rex Grossman fumbled late in the game to seal the Washington Redkins' first loss of the season on Monday night, but there's no arguing he's looked much better this year for Washington than he ever has anywhere else.
Tim Hightower had another solid game against Dallas, running for 41 yards while catching five passes for 39 yards and the game's only touchdown.
The Rams, on the other hand, were embarrassed by the Ravens on Sunday, falling 37-7 to move to 0-3 on the season.
St. Louis looked like a team that could win the NFC West coming into the year, but injuries to Stephen Jackson, Danny Amendola and Ronald Bartel have sapped them of key contributors.
Sam Bradford is going to be a star some day, but the rest of his roster isn't quite up to the same caliber.
Grossman will be able to throw on a depleted St. Louis secondary and Bradford will be subjected to multiple sacks by pass-rushing dynamos Bryan Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan.
Predictions: Redskins 21, Rams 14
San Francisco 49ers at Philadelphia Eagles
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The big question this week will be whether or not Michael Vick will play on Sunday, that much is obvious.
Vick suffered a bruised non-throwing hand, contrary to X-rays that at first signified a fracture.
If Vick can play through the pain, the Eagles will likely take this one in a cake walk.
But if he can't go, the Eagles could be in some trouble this week.
Vince Young would likely start if Vick couldn't go, and he's not nearly the same threat through the air or on the ground as Vick.
Then again—the 49ers are really, really bad and Alex Smith will probably get picked off at least a couple of times in this one.
Whether Vick plays or not, I'm rolling with Philly, for one reason—LeSean McCoy.
The man cannot be tackled. He fights for extra yards and dances his way out of tackles on nearly every play.
He's got 394 total yards through three games, and he'll tear up the 49ers on Sunday, too. He is a flat-out stud.
Prediction: Eagles 31, 49ers 14
New Orleans Saints at Jacksonville Jaguars
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Drew Brees should have a fun time tearing up the Jacksonville Jaguars this week.
Even without top target Marques Colston, Brees continues rolling along.
He already has more than 1,000 passing yards and nine touchdowns through three weeks.
Lance Moore, Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles have excelled in Colston's absence, and that should continue this week.
Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will throw the kitchen sink at Jags rookie Blaine Gabbert, who will be making his second career start (and first not in a monsoon).
Maurice Jones-Drew has been good so far, but the way to beat this Saints defense is through the air, and Gabbert doesn't have the experience or ability to do that yet.
Saints take this game in a landslide with a touchdown each from Graham, Sproles and rookie Mark Ingram.
Prediction: Saints 27, Jaguars 7
Pittsburgh Steelers at Houston Texans
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Which version of the Pittsburgh Steelers will show up this week?
The 2010 AFC Champions version?
Or the 2011 version that looked terrible in a Week 1 loss to Baltimore and barely squeaked by the under-manned Colts in Week 3?
For the Texans, the question is whether this is just the seemingly annual early-season mirage or if this team can finally make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
Houston, unsurprisingly, has had no trouble putting up points this year, but Sunday against New Orleans was the first time this year that Wade Phillips' defense has failed them.
Houston's defense came into that game having allowed just 20 points in their first two contests.
They'll face a similarly tough test in Ben Roethlisberger, Mike Wallace and the Steelers, so covering the deep ball will have to be a priority for Houston.
Ultimately, the Steelers' No. 1 ranked pass defense will force Matt Schaub into a couple of turnovers, and Pittsburgh will sneak out of Houston with a road victory.
Prediction: Steelers 30, Texans 21
Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys
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The Detroit Lions are the toast of the town.
Matthew Stafford has thrown for 977 yards and nine touchdowns, sporting a 66.9 completion percentage and a 110.7 quarterback rating through three games.
Calvin Johnson has two touchdowns in every game this year. He catches everything thrown within 10 yards of him and has a shot at the single-season receiving touchdowns record if he keeps this up.
The Lions also come in with the league's fourth-ranked passing defense, allowing just 188 yards per game through the air.
This Lions bout with the Dallas Cowboys is a matchup of the No. 3 and No. 4 passing offenses in the league.
The Cowboys, meanwhile, quietly have a second-ranked rushing defense, allowing just 61.3 yards per game on the ground.
DeMarcus Ware is a premier pass rusher, and Anthony Spencer and Victor Butler both sacked Rex Grossman Monday night.
In the marquee matchup of the week, Ware gets two more sacks, Calvin Johnson catches two more touchdowns and Tony Romo leads the Cowboys to their third straight comeback victory, this time finding Jason Witten for the win.
Predictions: Cowboys 27, Lions 23
New York Giants at Arizona Cardinals
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Just when people were counting the New York Giants out after a Week 1 loss to the Washington Redskins, Tom Coughlin's team comes back with victories over the St. Louis Rams and Philadelphia Eagles despite their injury-ravaged defense.
Eli Manning played a nearly-perfect game against the Eagles on Sunday, and his good play should continue against an abysmal Arizona secondary.
The Cardinals were lit up by the likes of Cam Newton and Rex Grossman in their first two games of the season before finally running into a quarterback they could—kind of—handle in Seattle's Tarvaris Jackson.
Kevin Kolb hasn't exactly lit the world on fire in the early goings for the Cards, and he should be under siege from an excellent Giants pass rush on Sunday.
Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka and Jason Pierre-Paul will make enough plays on defense to put Eli and the offense in good position to score, and the Giants will get the win.
Prediction: Giants 20, Cardinals 14
Atlanta Falcons at Seattle Seahawks
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The Atlanta Falcons have to get back to playing Atlanta Falcons football if they want to win some games.
They seem to have taken Roddy White's proclamation that they would be the next "Greatest Show on Turf" way too seriously, and have abandoned Michael Turner and the running game in favor of an average of more than 40 throws per game by Matt Ryan.
Despite Ryan's star power and early success, the Falcons have been much more of a ground-and-pound team the last few seasons—and that's what they should be.
Running Turner allows them to control the clock and the flow of the game, and beat the defense up before hitting them with a play-action to White or rookie Julio Jones.
Luckily, they'll be facing an awful Seahawks team this week, which will help them rediscover their rhythm.
The Falcons have been an early disappointment in starting 1-2, but they'll even their record this week against Seattle.
Prediction: Falcons 28, Seahawks 13
Denver Broncos at Green Bay Packers
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Nothing to see here—the Packers will rout the Denver Broncos on Sunday.
Aaron Rodgers will continue his prolonged series of excellence.
Jermichael Finley will find the end zone again.
Either James Starks or Ryan Grant will have a big game (angering fantasy owners everywhere).
Clay Matthews will have a sack.
Charles Woodson will have a pick.
Five Lambeau Leaps.
Easy victory for the Pack.
Prediction: Packers 38, Broncos 7
New Englad Patriots at Oakland Raiders
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Tom Brady threw four interceptions in the entire 2010 season.
He threw four on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills.
Brady was slightly off on Sunday, but you don't see him have back-to-back off games very often—if ever.
This week, he goes pick-less in a flawless dissection of the Oakland Raiders, who are riding high after a good win against New England's division rival, the New York Jets.
Wes Welker will continue to find soft spots in the defense, as he always does. Rob Gronkowski will find the end zone yet again, and even Chad Ochocinco may get in on the action.
Oakland running back Darren McFadden will get his, and the Patriots can be had through the air, but Jason Campbell isn't the guy to do it.
Prediction: Patriots 34, Raiders 20
Miami Dolphins at San Diego Chargers
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The San Diego Chargers came out flat in a game that looked to be a sure-blowout win against Kansas City last week.
Antonio Gates didn't suit up, Philip Rivers barely showed up—luckily, Ryan Mathews stepped up.
Mathews had 149 total yards and two touchdowns to get the Chargers a victory over the lowly Chiefs.
Rivers will bounce back this week against a Miami Dolphins team that has gotten off to a horrendous start.
Chad Henne looks improved, and Daniel Thomas seems to be a legitimate running back, but Reggie Bush has fizzled after a hot start and the Dolphins' red-zone woes of 2010 are back.
Miami has the league's third-worst passing defense so far this year, so Rivers should get back into a nice groove here.
He'll find Mathews on a check-down for a touchdown and Vincent Jackson for two more.
Wes Welker and Andre Johnson combined for 15 catches for 260 yards against Miami, so expect Jackson to have a big day as well.
San Diego walks away with an easy victory at home.
Prediction: Chargers 24, Dolphins 10
New York Jets at Baltimore Ravens
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If the New York Jets allowed Darren McFadden to run wild on Sunday, what's going to happen when they head to Baltimore to take on Ray Rice and the Ravens?
Rice looks like the best running back in the league through three weeks, and he'll be able to get some separation in coverage against the Jets' linebackers as well.
Torrey Smith looks like he may finally give Joe Flacco the deep threat he needs to take the top off the defense and open up the underneath routes for Anquan Boldin and tight end Ed Dickson.
Mark Sanchez has had two good games throwing the ball for the Jets and one bad one, and this week he goes up against interception-master Ed Reed, who will pick him off at least once.
Sanchez threw the ball 43 times against the Raiders and only found star wideout Santonio Holmes for one catch. Shutting down Holmes will be a key for the Ravens on Sunday.
Shonn Greene struggled running the football until Sunday against the Raiders, but I expect his struggles to resurface against Baltimore's stingy defense.
If Baltimore can keep Holmes and LaDainian Tomlinson off the scoreboard, they'll come away with a win.
Prediction: Ravens 17, Jets 14
Indianapolis Colts at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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The Indianapolis Colts finally put up a respectable showing on Sunday—against defending AFC Champions Pittsburgh, of all teams.
The Buccaneers have struggled on offense early in games because they aren't putting Josh Freeman in a good position to succeed.
Freeman had a terrific season last year and has all the makings of a franchise quarterback, but the Bucs offense was predicated on running the football last year, and this year that hasn't been the case.
Surprise 1,000-yard back LeGarrette Blount has just 42 carries through three games, and 24 of those came in this week's game. Less than half of his carries have come in the first half.
Look for the Bucs to get Blount involved early and often against the Colts' suspect run defense.
That will make them susceptible to play-action passes, which will get Mike Williams going for his first big game of the year.
Prediction: Buccaneers 24, Colts 14