Week 4 NFL picks, predictions
Last week in the NFL will be remembered for the avalanche of upsets, unexpected individual and team performances and stunning finishes. Or, it would have been had President Donald Trump not called most of the league SOBs out of the blue. Had it not been a week that put the entire nation on the hot seat about handling dissent, the cataclysmic shifts in momentum and direction on the field would have been unforgettable.
Instead, who knows what meant what in the long run? How should, for example, the Jets, Rams, Ravens, Raiders and Bengals be evaluated based on the Week 3 results? Which were bumps in the road, and which were omens of future play?
No game encapsulates that notion better than the doubleheader game, the Raiders at Broncos, who suffered two of the most inexplicable losses of the year, both on the East Coast. Check it out for the answer to the important, relevant question: Whaaaa …?
For now, it’s also safe to presume that Thursday night games like last week’s between the Rams and 49ers are the exception instead of the rule. Trusting the Bears is dangerous, especially when it comes to the Packers rivalry and prime time. The Bears were one Marcus Cooper gaffe from dominating the Steelers last week and possibly not needing overtime to win. The Packers’ defensive flaws were exposed (again) by the Bengals. Aaron Rodgers, though, is the X-factor.
Prediction: Packers, 33-31
It’s a second straight game at London’s Wembley Stadium, and one that the Dolphins tried to have brought home to Miami after the hurricane postponed its opener. The Saints belatedly found their groove last week, albeit without much from Adrian Peterson again. The Dolphins misplaced their groove against the Jets, with their quarterback reverting to Bad Jay Cutler. The Saints’ defense is capable of getting the Dolphins offense healthy.
Prediction: Dolphins, 28-24
Both teams may have found themselves offensively last week, the Rams maxing out against the 49ers and the Cowboys snapping out of their season-long funk in Arizona. Both have vulnerable defenses, but the Rams will keep getting the benefit of the doubt because of Aaron Donald. AT&T Stadium would be a heck of a place for Jared Goff to fully announce his presence.
Prediction: Rams, 34-27
The Ravens got their bums handed to them across the pond by the Jaguars, and they can only take solace in the fact that the rest of the AFC North lost, including the Steelers to a vastly inferior Bears team. In the Steelers’ favor, Le’Veon Bell keeps progressing, and Joe Flacco seriously regressed. The usual psychological boost of beating an archival applies, as always.
Prediction: Steelers, 24-19
It took just three weeks to get down to just two undefeated teams, and it took a fortuitous touchdown review to get the Falcons there. Matt Ryan had appeared to distance himself from his old ways before last week’s three-interception showing. The Bills caught every break possible against the Broncos, but one of them was harassing Trevor Siemian into some wretched mistakes. That might be too much to ask this week.
Prediction: Falcons, 30-26
There’s not much shame in the way the Texans lost to Tom Brady and the Patriots, except in how the Texans let Brady even get the ball one more time. The Texans would love to see Deshaun Watson progress along the same schedule as Marcus Mariota, who was as good as can be against the Seahawks. He might be good enough to replicate what Brady did against the Texans defense.
Prediction: Titans, 23-14
The Patriots’ defense has had issues since the opening loss to the Chiefs. If Cam Newton was what he usually is when fully healthy, that would be a problem for New England. He’s not, so it’s not. The Panthers’ offense has been less than optimal so far. The dramatic comeback notwithstanding, the Patriots still aren’t as sharp as they can be, but this is their window to get closer.
Prediction: Patriots, 30-16
No, nobody saw this Case Keenum renaissance coming (369 yards, three touchdowns against the Buccaneers). No one knows how long it lasts, either. It could end this week against a Lions team with a defense that handled Matt Ryan fairly well and gave Matthew Stafford a chance to win. Jim Caldwell no longer has to answer weekly questions about his job security, which can’t hurt.
Prediction: Lions, 28-20
The continued dominance of the Jaguars’ defense is startling. So is the attitude coach Doug Marrone showed with a fake punt with a 37-0 lead over the Ravens. It’s strange to think of the Jaguars facing a trap game, but the way they’re playing and the Jets’ ineptitude despite their win over the Dolphins makes this dangerous. As things stand, though, the Jaguars should stay on track.
Prediction: Jaguars, 24-10
All the “Battle of Ohi-O” jokes were made within seconds of both teams remaining winless last week. The Bengals and Browns were both teases last week, but Cincinnati was the biggest tease in their overtime loss to the Packers. The Bengals also looked improved after changing offensive coordinators. The move might have saved Andy Dalton’s job.
Prediction: Bengals, 17-13
The Eagles did to the Giants last week what teams have done to the Chargers twice already, winning a game with a late kick. Philadelphia’s win was problematic in how it let a dead Giants offense spring back to life. A defense like that shouldn’t ruin Philip Rivers’ day the way the Chiefs did last week.
Prediction: Chargers, 23-21
The Giants are back in the familiar position of seeing Odell Beckham Jr. be their only chance of scoring, while also being their chief irritant because of how he celebrates his scores. A no-win team in a no-win situation — not ideal. The Bucs clearly are not as good as they looked against the Bears, but not as bad as they did against the Vikings.
Prediction: Buccaneers, 27-23
The 49ers offense and Brian Hoyer went from absentees to explosive against the Rams. Don’t buy it quite yet, at least not against the Cardinals, who are better defensively than they looked at times against the Cowboys. Carson Palmer is capable of being the good version of himself long enough to handle this.
Prediction: Cardinals, 33-16
Who looked more out of character, the Raiders in Washington or the Broncos in Buffalo? It really is the Raiders, hands down; that was a borderline no-show, especially on offense, where they were turnstiles for the Washington pass rush. If they couldn’t handle that, they’re in it deep against the Broncos.
Prediction: Broncos, 26-20
How would this season look for the Colts had Jacoby Brissett, as brand-new as he was at the time, started the opener against the Rams instead of Scott Tolzien? Brissett looks better every week and looked like he belonged against the Browns. The Seahawks’ offense is now putting too much of a burden on the defense, which finally buckled (physically and mentally) in Tennessee. Against a better team this week, this would be a serious problem.
Prediction: Seahawks, 28-23
The week concludes with the other unbeaten team, the Chiefs, who are getting downright scary on both sides of the ball. Kareem Hunt and Tyreek Hill are a major threat on any given snap. However, the Raiders’ offense was full of weapons, and Washington’s defense set the tone against them last week. But the Chiefs offense so far has been unstoppable.