Week 4 of the 2013 NFL regular season has begun, as the San Francisco 49ers picked up a critical 35-11 win over the St. Louis Rams. With the victory, the Niners moved to .500 on the season and avoided a potentially insurmountable deficit in the race for the NFC West.
The question is, which teams will join the Niners as those who broke out of early season funks?
Week 3: 40-23 loss vs. Chicago Bears
Week 4 Prediction: 23-14 win at Minnesota Vikings
The Pittsburgh Steelers opened the season with three consecutive ugly losses to reach 0-3. After scoring 19 combined points through two weeks, the Steelers finally erupted with 23 points against the Chicago Bears.
Unfortunately, Pittsburgh lost 40-23.
The Steelers will face another 0-3 team when they square off with the Minnesota Vikings at Wembley Stadium in London, England. This international bout will be huge for the NFL but may be even bigger for the Steelers organization.
A loss here would push Pittsburgh to 0-4 and create a potentially insurmountable hill to climb to reach the postseason.
The key for Pittsburgh will be Roethlisberger and wide receiver Antonio Brown, who linked up for 196 yards and two touchdowns on nine completions during Week 3. If the two are able to find that same success and Pittsburgh's defense can continue to play dominant ball against Minnesota, the Steelers will win.
Keep in mind, this is the same Vikings team that lost to the Cleveland Browns during Week 3 after allowing 306 yards through the air.
Week 3: 27-20 loss vs. Detroit Lions
Week 4 Prediction: 35-24 win at Oakland Raiders
The Washington Redskins are the reigning NFC East champions. After winning seven consecutive games in 2012, the 'Skins won the division by downing their rivals late in the season and riding a ferocious run by Rookie of the Year Robert Griffin III.
If the Redskins can't defeat the Oakland Raiders on the road, Washington will be an 0-4 team with a long path to the postseason.
Washington is 0-3, but it is the superior team in this meeting and will prove to be such during Week 4. Terrelle Pryor will counter RG3's production, but during the fourth quarter, Washington will manage to pull out the win.
It'll take every star's best to do so.
Alfred Morris will pace the Redskins through this game and help to alleviate the pressure from RG3 early. Once it comes down to which team can manage a late-game push, the Redskins win in that regard and finally secure their first win.
Just like that, the NFC East gets interesting again.
Week 3: 27-23 loss at Miami Dolphins
Week 4 Prediction: 28-27 win vs. New England Patriots
The Atlanta Falcons were a few plays away from being a 3-0 football team in full control of the NFC South. Instead, the Falcons lost two nail-biters to the Miami Dolphins and New Orleans Saints, respectively, and are now 1-2.
During Week 4, the Falcons will face the New England Patriots in a clash between NFL powers.
The Falcons are led by Matt Ryan, who has 909 passing yards and six touchdowns to two interceptions on a completion percentage of 68.1. He's tossed two touchdown passes in three straight games, despite throwing to a banged up receiving corps.
It doesn't hurt that Julio Jones has 27 receptions for 373 yards and two touchdowns through two games.
Against the Patriots, Ryan will overcome Aqib Talib and New England's balanced pass defense with Jones, Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White all producing together for the first time all season. With Jacquizz Rodgers pacing the running game, Atlanta will earn a necessary win.
If they don't, winning the NFC South division could be out of the question.