PHI (1-2) @ GB (3-0) | THU 8:20 PM ET | FOX/NFL Network/Prime
Philadelphia enters Week 4 in dire need of a victory to keep pace in the NFC East, but the franchise has come through with their backs against the wall before, so we’ll see if they can do it again as they take on the undefeated Packers at Lambeau Field. For his career, Doug Pederson is 4-0 in Thursday Night Football games, and the short week will hopefully lead to a simplified offense that features Jordan Howard in the running game to move the chains and keep Aaron Rodgers off the field. However, while the Green Bay offense has struggled to get going this season (Rodgers is throwing for 215.7 yards per game with just four touchdowns), a matchup against the Eagles secondary seems to be the perfect cure for early-season woes, and the combination of Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling will likely present problems for Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones on the outside. We may need to see the playmaking, 2017-version of Carson Wentz come out tonight to get a victory, but I think the Packers will get it together offensively and continue to play opportunistic defense to finish September undefeated.
Winner: Green Bay Packers
TEN (1-2) @ ATL (1-2) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
Tennessee and Atlanta have been two of the most disappointing teams in the league so far this season, and this is a big game for them both. The Titans don’t seem to have the overall structure in place to take the next step as a team (and Delanie Walker’s comments this week seem to suggest that’s true), but if they end up giving up on Marcus Mariota—who Walker credited for always taking accountability no matter what—he could end up competing for championships elsewhere. The Falcons, on the other hand, run hot and cold more than any other team, but they are much more stable at home, so it’s important they take care of business this weekend before two road games (@ HOU, @ ARI) followed by two huge NFC clashes at Mercedes-Benz Stadium (v LAR, v SEA) next month. Perhaps feeding Derrick Henry will be enough keep Matt Ryan and the Atlanta offense from getting in a rhythm, but Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Mohamed Sanu are probably a mismatch for Adoree’ Jackson, Malcolm Butler, and Logan Ryan in coverage.
Winner: Atlanta Falcons
WAS (0-3) @ NYG (1-2) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
Last week, I said the line from my Daniel Jones scouting report “above-average athlete with the ability to makes plays as a runner” was the main reason he replaced Eli Manning as the starter, and he didn’t take long to showcase that talent, rushing for two touchdowns—including the game-winner—in a 32-31 win over Tampa Bay. The rookie also did plenty of damage through the air (336 yards and two touchdowns), and he will be happy to go against a Redskins defense that has looked even more lost on the backend than the Giants have this season. It will be interesting to see if Jones’ success leads to Washington starting Dwayne Haskins this weekend, but I think head coach Jay Gruden will want to give Colt McCoy a shot first if Case Keenum (foot) is inactive, which would be the right move to get a win on the board before the Patriots come to town in Week 5. No matter who is under center, Chris Thompson should become a bigger factor both on the ground and through the air after providing a spark against the Bears on Monday night, but even without Saquon Barkley (ankle), the Giants should have enough on both sides of the ball to get a decisive victory and improve to 2-2.
Winner: New York Giants
LAC (1-2) @ MIA (0-3) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
Melvin Gordon’s holdout has come to an end, but he won’t suit up for Sunday’s game in Miami, and the Chargers probably won’t need him anyway. Through three weeks, the Dolphins have been outscored by 39.0 points per game, and Los Angeles—coming off two losses in a row—isn’t expected to be any more forgiving than Baltimore, New England, or Dallas. To somehow pull off a home upset, Miami should pound the ball with Kalen Ballage against a soft run defense while mixing in Kenyan Drake to potentially hit a home run; and establishing the run will set up play-action passes to DeVante Parker (six-foot-three) and Preston Williams (six-foot-four), which is an area that the Dolphins may actually have an advantage considering the size of LA’s secondary. On the other side of the ball, Brian Flores should double Keenan Allen and allow Xavien Howard to shadow Mike Williams, as aside from the running backs, the Chargers don’t have an established No. 3 option with Hunter Henry (leg) out and Travis Benjamin struggling to make a significant impact. All that said, I don’t anticipate a loss for Los Angeles.
Winner: Los Angeles Chargers
OAK (1-2) @ IND (2-1) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
When these teams met last season, Oakland led 28-21 entering the final quarter, but three touchdowns by the Colts gave them a 42-28 victory. The formula for the Indianapolis—as displayed by their team motto which was most recently featured on Jacoby Brissett’s hat—will be the same as it was in 2018, so the Raiders should expect a heavy dose of Marlon Mack (25 carries for 132 yards and two touchdowns in last year’s game) behind a dominant offensive line. Of course, Andrew Luck won’t be at quarterback this time around, but Brissett has been extremely efficient through three games, and Indy doesn’t look like they will take a step back with him at the controls. Not having T.Y. Hilton (who looks on the wrong side of questionable with a quad injury) would be a big test, but despite a Week 1 win, Oakland seems to be reeling a bit because they don’t have Antonio Brown, and Jon Gruden is 1-8 on the road since his return. I think it will be close, but right now, Frank Reich’s squad is a better all-around team, and the Raiders might not be a true contender until they move to Las Vegas in 2020.
Winner: Indianapolis Colts
CAR (1-2) @ HOU (2-1) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
The matchup in his first start of the year couldn’t have been any better, but Kyle Allen once again proved he can play, and including two appearances (one start) as a rookie, the 23-year-old has completed 68.4% of his passes for 527 yards, six touchdowns, and zero interceptions with a 2-0 record to start his career. Overall, Allen is smooth quarterback that throws with natural anticipation and moves well in the pocket, so until Cam Newton (foot) is 100% healthy—and able to do damage as a runner—the Panthers need to keep rolling with the second-year signal-caller. Houston’s shaky secondary presents another good opportunity for Allen to keep rolling, but winning a shootout against Deshaun Watson will be a tall order, and DeAndre Hopkins has been way too quite over the past two weeks (11 receptions for 107 scoreless yards) for him to not takeover soon. Perhaps No. 1 cornerback James Bradberry will be up for the challenge and can get help from the pass rushers (namely rookie Brian Burns) against a weak offensive line, but the Texans need to win on Sunday before a difficult stretch (v ATL, @ KC, @ IND) to start October.
Winner: Houston Texans
KC (3-0) @ DET (2-0-1) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
I know he’s on pace for better stats this year than he was in his MVP campaign in 2018, but Patrick Mahomes has been far from perfect for the Chiefs, and Andy Reid doesn’t get enough credit for the offensive success in Kansas City over the past 21 games. One bad throw could be the difference between winning or losing in January, so Mahomes needs to clean things up now if he wants to get 33% of Troy Aikman’s Super Bowl rings. I don’t say that to be overly critical of Mahomes—who is clearly on his way to being an all-time great—but a lot of people just watch the highlights and see the stats. However, I wouldn’t expect the numbers to regress in Week 4, as the matchup against the 2-0-1 Lions will actually be Mahomes’ first dome game of his NFL career, which is remarkable. If the Lions are going to defend Ford Field, Kerryon Johnson needs to be given 20-25 touches once again, as the Chiefs have allowed the most yards per rush (6.2) in the league, and the Auburn product is a monster game waiting to happen with less than 50 rushing yards in all three contests to start the season. Also, Matthew Stafford is always up for a potential shootout, but Kansas City just has many weapons to be stopped right now.
Winner: Kansas City Chiefs
CLE (1-2) @ BAL (2-1) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
The Browns simply lack an offensive identity right now, and there’s no reason to believe they will suddenly find it for a road trip against the Ravens. I was worried the personalities wouldn’t mesh for Cleveland, and while Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry and others haven’t gone at each other yet, it’s only a matter of time before guys point fingers if the offense continues to struggle and the team doesn’t turn things around. I feel like a broken record saying Nick Chubb needs the ball, but head coach Freddie Kitchens has gotten away from what they had success doing in 2018, and he doesn’t have time to learn on the job for a team that placed heavy expectations on themselves all offseason. Now, the Browns have to hit the road to face a Ravens defense that will want to bury them, and if Mayfield isn’t better in the fourth quarter—where he is currently completing 46.2% of his passes for 5.5 yards per attempt and five interceptions—the AFC North may be Baltimore’s before Halloween. A win would make Lamar Jackson 9-2 to start his career.
Winner: Baltimore Ravens
NE (3-0) @ BUF (3-0) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
It’s great that the two quarterbacks everyone was so critical about entering the 2018 NFL Draft (Josh Allen and the aforementioned Lamar Jackson) are the only two guys from the class with a winning record so far, and their respective teams look like the only potential playoff contenders right now. Allen needs to cut down on the hero plays, but the unmatched combination of mobility, size, and arm strength allows him to get away with things that other quarterbacks simply can’t, and it should be very encouraging for the Bills that his mistakes have actually come on off-script plays rather than in the natural structure of the offense. Bill Belichick will have his defense ready for Allen and his new weapons (John Brown, Cole Beasley), but the teams New England has faced this season are a combined 0-9, so this will be the real measuring stick for a Patriots machine that can sometimes start slow as the pieces are put together. As for Buffalo’s defense, they have the personnel to slow down Tom Brady (233 yards per game and a 3:4 touchdown-interception ratio in four games against Sean McDermott), so things may run through the backs on Sunday. This is only the second time I’ve ever picked against the Patriots (with Super Bowl LII being the other), but I just feel good about the Bills at home this week behind a fired-up home crowd.
Winner: Buffalo Bills
TB (1-2) @ LAR (3-0) | SUN 4:05 PM ET | FOX
Despite a 3-0 start, we are waiting for all the Rams’ offensive stars to finally shine together, as Jared Goff, Todd Gurley, and Robert Woods have all been quiet relative to expectations (and 2018 numbers), but perhaps the success of Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp will open things up for everyone else. However, Gurley may find running room difficult to come by against the stout Tampa Bay defense, which—even with Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh up front—is admittedly something I didn’t see happening this year. In my opinion, the young secondary isn’t ready to stop Cooks, Woods, and Kupp, though, and a shootout may be impossible to avoid, which would play into LA’s hands by forcing Jameis Winston to press. The health of Chris Godwin (hip) is critical for the Bucs, as Bruce Arians’ offense will need all the firepower it can get, and the receiving corps is very thin behind Godwin and Mike Evans (who will deal with Aqib Talib). I believe the offensive struggles will help Sean McVay’s team focus on the task at hand rather than looking ahead to Thursday night’s matchup against the Seahawks and a Week 6 matchup against the 49ers.
Winner: Los Angeles Rams
SEA (2-1) @ ARI (0-2-1) | SUN 4:05 PM ET | FOX
The final score (33-27) made last week’s loss to the Saints look better than it was, but Seattle had too many unforced errors and will now look to quickly rebound against the struggling Cardinals. Unfortunately, that will be easier said than done, as Arizona has played Seattle tough in recent years (3-2-1 record for the Seahawks over the past three seasons), and the secondary may not be able to contain Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense. I am expecting a high-scoring affair, so taking care of the football will be key for both sides after Kyler Murray tossed two picks for the Cardinals and Chris Carson lost two fumbles for the Seahawks in Week 3. If Rashaad Penny (hamstring) is active, Carson’s play so far in 2019 could give Seattle reason to increase the workload for last year’s first-round pick, as he’s rushed 16 times for 80 yards (5.0 YPC) and a touchdown through two games this season. Either way, the Seahawks have the advantage basically everywhere but running back, and unless Arizona completely goes off on offense (which will likely happen one of these games), Pete Carroll’s team should be 3-1 ahead of a huge game against the Rams.
Winner: Seattle Seahawks
MIN (2-1) @ CHI (2-1) | SUN 4:25 PM ET | CBS
There is less pressure on them because of a 2-1 start, but the two victories came against teams with a combined 0-6 record, and the Bears are a cheap roughing-the-passer penalty away from being 1-2. Similar to Cleveland, Chicago needs to execute better on offense, but the coaching staff hasn’t done the players any favors by getting too creative with different personnel groupings. The biggest change I would make this week is getting Allen Robinson more intermediate/deep targets out of the slot to avoid Xavier Rhodes’ coverage—and making sure Mitchell Trubisky knows he is the primary read; multiple times already this season, Trubisky hasn’t even looked at his No. 1 target when he’s been wide open, which is on coaching as much as it is the quarterback. The Vikings haven’t exactly been an offensive juggernaut in 2019, but at least they have a clear identity (feeding Dalvin Cook), which is more that can be said for much of the league. Still, Kirk Cousins has failed to be a difference-maker in big games before, and I’m taking the home team in a probable one-possession that’s decided with a late stop.
Winner: Chicago Bears
JAX (1-2) @ DEN (0-3) | SUN 4:25 PM ET | CBS
As ESPN’s Jeff Legwold pointed out, this Von Miller press conference feels a lot like Denver’s attitude last season before they went out and destroyed the Cardinals, 45-10:
Von Miller’s very brief press conference today: pic.twitter.com/f9Xajxw9nb
— Nicki Jhabvala (@NickiJhabvala) September 26, 2019
Winner: Denver Broncos
DAL (3-0) @ NO (2-1) | SUN 8:20 PM ET | NBC
The Cowboys’ 13-10 victory over the Saints last November propelled them to an NFC East title, and other than a change of locale to the Superdome, I don’t see a clear advantage for New Orleans in the rematch. The biggest change is obviously Drew Brees (thumb) being out, but I think the new offensive philosophy for Dallas—led by a red-hot Dak Prescott and new OC Kellen Moore—should allow them to have a much easier time putting points on the board compared to last year. Plus, while Prescott was sacked seven times in 2018, that came without left tackle Tyron Smith, left guard Connor Williams, or center Travis Frederick in the lineup, so protection (and run blocking) will be significantly improved for an offense that’s averaging 32.3 points per game this season. To keep up, the Saints will likely need Alvin Kamara to handle a similar workload to last week (25 touches) with similar results (161 yards and two touchdowns), which would allow Teddy Bridgewater to manage the game and pick his spots to challenge the defense vertically. Sean Payton should have a sound game plan to give his guys a shot, but 4-0 should be in the Cowboys’ future.
Winner: Dallas Cowboys
CIN (0-3) @ PIT (0-3) | MON 8:15 PM ET | ESPN
I didn’t think Pittsburgh was done last week and I’m not quite ready to give up on them now, but they need to start featuring James Conner after 13 or fewer carries in all three games to open the year. The offensive line has clearly taken a step back with Mike Munchak now in Denver, but the Steelers have too many good players to be a winless team for much longer, and quarterback Mason Rudolph—who would really be helped by an efficient ground game—should continue to improve as he gains NFL experience. Defense is where Pittsburgh is going to win games, though, and last week was a good start for Minkah Fitzpatrick on his new squad, as they forced five turnovers (including an interception and fumble recovery by the former Alabama standout). For the Bengals, Andy Dalton is just trying to snap his six-game losing streak against the Steelers, but he’s really struggled in primetime with a 6-14 record, and not having A.J. Green (ankle) will make this spot even more difficult.
Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers