Cincinnati @ Atlanta
It’s Week 4, so you know what that means ... Bye weeks are back! I’m a huge fan of bye weeks; such a fan that I might even take one myself this season (“might” meaning I definitely will). Byes allow me to utilize the amount of focus I’d normally allot to 16 games and apply it to (in this week’s case) 15 games. That’s an extra 6.25% of focus to spread across the rest of the schedule. In other words, buckle your seatbelt baby! It’s time to unleash a little bit of that 6.25. Here we go ... Bengals and Falcons ... Uhh ... Let’s see ... Well, they have a common opponent this season in the Panthers. Cincy lost to them by 10 in Carolina, while the Falcons beat them by 7 in Atlanta. So this should be a 17 point win for the Falcons. Or is this like the house-painting equation where you have to divide the sum by the difference? Hmm, yeah that sounds better. Ok, off to a bad start, I promise I’ll put that 6.25% to better use on the rest of these.
Tampa Bay @ Chicago
Alright, it’s time for the weekly Ryan Fitzpatrick MVP status check: is Ryan Fitzpatrick still the NFL MVP? Not quite. He’s probably in the top five, but after throwing three interceptions in his team’s first loss of the season on Monday, FitzMagic regressed towards FitzSurprising. Even with his costly mistakes he still managed to throw for over 400 yards and continued to make a clear and obvious statement that he should remain Tampa’s starting quarterback regardless of whether or not Jameis Winston is available. Case in point, in my MVP rankings Winston is currently third from last, just ahead of Nathan Peterman and Clay Matthews. The Bears are 2-1 on the strength of their defense ensuring that Mitchell Trubisky doesn’t have to do much. Chicago’s offense has put up 16, 17, and 16 points in their three games this season. They’ll most likely need more against Tampa’s bafflingly high-powered offensive attack. Is that possible? Remains to be seen. If I knew that score-picking biz would be a lot easier.
Detroit @ Dallas
Going into the season it seemed clear to pundits and fans alike that the Cowboys had a glaring positional weakness at wide receiver. That became all the more obvious last Sunday when Dak Prescott did not attempt a pass more than 15 yards downfield. Suffice it to say, Dallas needs someone to get open. Either that or they could keep running a boring offense because they don’t have a choice and the rest of us can revel in their ineptitude. Actually, I like that option better, keep doing what you’re doing Boys!
Buffalo @ Green Bay
Last week I marveled at the Packers being undefeated while only outscoring their opponents by 1 point on the season. Well now we’re three games into the season and they’ve managed to go .500, a rare feat that was somehow accomplished by FOUR teams this season. Whatever dark overlord controls these NFL season simulations clearly got bored this year and is trying out some new stuff. How else would you explain the Bills going into Minnesota and trouncing the Vikings? Exactly; an apathetic NFL God is the most logical answer. Those Vikings that Buffalo creamed are the same squad that Green Bay battled to a stalemate in Week 2. So it stands to reason that the Bills will waltz into Lambeau and lambast the Packers, right? If you said yes, then you clearly aren’t familiar with Balthazar the Simulator.
Philadelphia @ Tennessee
The Titans are somehow 2-1 after beating the Jags 9-6 last week. Those 9 points are the lowest total for a winner this season. Marcus Mariota came off the bench for Tennessee and piloted them to that win, which shouldn’t be surprising considering that he’s regularly praised for being an efficient QB. What’s more efficient than scoring as few points as possible in securing a win? No wasted effort! The Eagles also did just enough to win in Week 3, scoring a game-winning touchdown late in the 4th quarter to top the Colts in Carson Wentz’s return. Just like the Titans, it wasn’t pretty but it got the job done. That’s probably what we should expect from this game, a couple of workmanlike efforts; no frills. It will be the equivalent of eating a Clif Bar. Am I excited to eat it? No. Does it taste good? Not really. But it has useful calories damn it! If you want intrigue from your nourishment look elsewhere.
Houston @ Indianapolis
In my season preview I got carried away and picked the Texans to make the AFC title game. They are now one of only three winless teams in the league. I could try to rescind my prediction and edit my original post to insert a more sensible choice, but unfortunately I just have too damn much journalistic integrity to do so. Gah, why do I hold myself to such a high standard?!? Since I’m stuck with Houston they’re going to have to start improving pronto so that people don’t start thinking I could possibly be an idiot who should not be considered an authority nor even a coherent commentator on the subject of the NFL. Now that would be truly dire. So much so, that I’m afraid to even confront it, let’s move on.
Miami @ New England
This game features one of only three undefeated teams in the NFL. Surprisingly that team is the Miami Dolphins. As we discussed in this space a week ago that’s most likely a symptom of a favorable opening schedule, but hey they’re still beating these trash teams, so they deserve some credit. The Dolphins are merely taking advantage of the circumstances presented to them. If that sentence were used to describe a person from Miami, or any of Florida, it would be concerning, but since we’re talking about a football team we shouldn’t be too skeeved out. New England fans, however, should be disgusted by the Patriots’ performance over the last couple weeks, especially their total stinker on Sunday night in Detroit against a winless Lions team. Stinkers in Detroit are nothing new, but for the Pats it’s troubling to say the least. I imagine this game will act as a collective anomaly correction, tempering both the Dolphins’ expectations, and New England’s consternation.
New York Jets @ Jacksonville
Well it happened, on Sunday Blake Bortles fell back to earth like so many of his errant passes. Like I said last week, it was only a matter of time, I just didn’t think it was going to happen so quickly. But it makes sense, the larger the sample size becomes, the more likely it is that Bortles will regress to the mean ... and then keep going right past that to below average. It’s like those videos of a toddler sinking shots on his/her Fisher Price hoop; sure they made them all in this edited video, but if we kept the camera rolling all day, I’d be willing to bet that they end up shooting sub 40% from the field. I’m guessing Bortles will make enough throws/shots into his plastic hoop to get Jacksonville this win.
Cleveland @ Oakland
The Browns won a game last week. That might seem like a dry, uninspired sentence, but really just the fact that it’s factual makes it amazing. It’s the first time anyone’s been able to say that since Week 17 of 2016. And you have to go back another 17 games to find their last win before that. So the sheer magnitude of its mere occurrence should not be overlooked. And it certainly wasn’t in Cleveland, where the fans celebrated as if ... well as if their football team had finally won a football game for the first time in 21 months. The Browns will have had a full 10 days to bask in this foreign afterglow when they step on to the infield/shallow outfield at the Oakland coliseum. Will they be jaded by their newfound success? Or will they be just as hungry to get another W and ensure the highest win total for a Browns season since 2015? I think Oakland gets the win, because they're at home, and they need it more.
Seattle @ Arizona
In their three games thus far the Cardinals have faced the top two scoring defenses (Rams and Washington) in the NFL (Going into Week 4). Tough luck one might assume, but I would argue that in such a small sample size those teams have given up so few points because they faced the Cardinals. Case in point, those teams have given up an average of 19 points to non-Cardinal opponents, while surrendering 1.5 per game to Arizona. Of course, the Cardinals figure to improve offensively for a couple reasons: first off, it would be hard for them not to, and secondly they decided to move on from Sam Bradford as their starting quarterback, opting to go with rookie Josh Rosen for Week 4. Will Rosen be any better? The fact that he isn’t Sam Bradford suggests that he will be. He’ll need to be careful though, because he’s facing a Seahawks defense that’s tied for the league lead with 7 interceptions. I expect Arizona to top a point and a half, but still not amass enough for a win.
New Orleans @ New York Giants
Saints continue to be the most entertaining team in the league. Shootouts, wild finishes, unpredictability. The Full House theme song scribe would be disgusted, but I’m loving it. What’s more is, the last time these teams met in 2015, it resulted in a mind-boggling 52-49 melee that featured 13 touchdown passes (Ok, they actually played again in 2016, but the final in that game was 16-13, so let’s just pretend it never happened). So surely this game will be of the must-watch variety. At this point though, you could say that about any game involving Eli Manning, there’s no telling what he might do ... Which of course means that he’ll now throw 2 TDs and an interception in a ho hum loss, and you’ll all be pissed at me. But come on, if you’ve been reading for this long and you’re not already upset is this really what’s going to push you over the edge?
San Francisco @ Los Angeles Chargers
Female viewership between the ages of 18-49 declined sharply for the 49ers with just under 6 minutes left in their loss to the Chiefs on Sunday. This seemed to coincide with Jimmy Garoppolo’s exit from the game due to a knee injury. Advertisers be advised, those numbers are expected to stay near that nadir with the confirmation that Garoppolo will indeed miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL. Though there will be more shots of him on the sideline without his helmet obscuring his face, so who knows, maybe this was a blessing in disguise for that aforementioned demographic. As for San Francisco’s actual on-field product, their season may has well have been riding shotgun on the medical cart with Garoppolo as he left the field. It’s not as if his play had been out-of-this-world, but Garoppolo is at least an average starter in the league, and he’s been replaced with an average starter at Iowa.
Baltimore @ Pittsburgh
As always this is a pivotal match-up in the AFC North, and who better to provide us with analysis than Sunday Night Football color commentator Cris Collinsworth:
A lot to digest there CC, but I'll side with you on your pick.
Kansas City @ Denver
Pat Mahomes has started the season, and pretty much his NFL career (if we’re not counting his lone start at the end of last season) by throwing for 13 TDs and 0 interceptions. That puts him on track for 69 TDs on the season. With a stat like that, it’s clear that this guy has it all figured out. The Chiefs defense, on the other hand, is still trying to get a handle on things. They’ve given up an average of about 31 points per game, good for third worst in the league. Of course, they’re getting by because the KC offense has scored the most points in the NFL entering Week 4. Basically the Chiefs’ defense is the coaster in a group project. They know that their class mate is such an over-achiever that they only have to do so much on their end to get an A. And sure, that’s all well and good for now, but what’s going to happen to the KC defense when they’re on their own in the real world and they have to rely on themselves? Then we’ll see how cool and laid back they are. They make me sick, and they'll win again this week.