The All-Important NFL Picks- Week 4
Now that we're entering the fourth week of the NFL, most teams are finally entering regular season mode after experiencing full contact and real action. For multiple safety reasons, training camp and preseason isn't what it used to be, so it usually takes time for some teams and players to adjust in September.
As for last week, we experienced some key season-ending injuries (Matt Cassel, Danny Woodhead, and Stephen Tulloch) teams that were finally able to hit their stride (New Orleans Saints, Indianapolis Colts, and Kansas City Chiefs), and others that others that weren't able to capitalize on their week two wins (Green Bay Packers, Cleveland Browns, and Carolina Panthers). However, we must keep moving, so here is a preview of next week's games:
Last week's picks: 12-4
Total regular season picks: 25-23
New York Giants (1-2) @ Washington Redskins (1-2): Thursday, 7:25 PM
Could these teams be on the rise? You can certainly make a case for both New York and Washington: The Giants finally caught steam after earning their first win against the Houston Texans (thanks to Eli Manning's 234 passing yards and Rashad Jennings's 174 rushing yards), and although the Redskins lost to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, Kirk Cousins played extremely proficient and proved that he can start under center. If Rashad Jennings can have the same kind of game he did last week, the Giants have a fantastic shot at winning this one and going .500. Still, I think that would be unlikely, so I'll take "Captain Kirk" and the Washington Redskins at home.
Green Bay Packers (1-2) @ Chicago Bears (1-2): Sunday, 12:00 PM
The Packers a currently on a three-week tour of the NFC North, in which they began last Sunday by losing to the Detroit Lions, 19-7. The Bears, on the other hand, continued to feature their "Big Three" of over-sized receivers (Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, and Tight End Martellus Bennett) after defeating the New York Jets on Monday night. The most surprising part of the Packers' loss was that their offense, not defense, struggled to produce. Aaron Rodgers vs. Chicago's defense is an intriguing matchup because the Bears have so far only faced new-era quarterbacks that are known for running the ball themselves.
Now, newcomers and rookies like Willie Young and Kyle Fuller will have to play opposite of Rodgers, who played the hero in last season's regular season finale, which was the last time the Packers were in Chicago. Even though Green Bay lost to Detroit, they were able to keep Calvin Johnson in-check for most of the game (six receptions, 82 yards), which is exactly what they need to do against both Marshall and Jeffery. I'll take the Packers to get back to their normal selves and win. Also, keep an eye on Julius Peppers, who will be making his homecoming to Soldier Field.
Atlanta Falcons (2-1) @ Minnesota Vikings (1-2): Sunday, 3:25 PM
This game will be closely-watched by many of the quarterback aficionados out there (Jon Gruden, anyone?) due to rookie Teddy Bridgewater making his first career start with the Minnesota Vikings. Many believed that Teddy would end up starting sometime around late September, but not because of Matt Cassel's season-ending foot injury. If Bridgewater plays well and ends up defeating Atlanta, he'll quickly be regarded as the Vikings' franchise quarterback for the next several years to come. However, if he loses, not much will be made of it because the Falcons have been playing excellent football as of late. This game may have been different if Teddy had Adrian Peterson in his backfield, but he clearly isn't and won't be, so the Atlanta Falcons are the obvious favorites and my pick to win this game.
Philadelphia Eagles (3-0) @ San Francisco 49ers (1-2): Sunday, 3:25 PM
The Philadelphia Eagles have been able to go undefeated by continuing to get off as much offensive plays as possible and by finishing strong, which is one of the best competencies to have in today's NFL. Meanwhile, the 49ers have struggled to remain the great defense that Vic Fangio has constructed without stars Navarro Bowman and Aldon Smith. Also, Colin Kaepernick is clearly trying to become more of a prototypical quarterback in order to avoid injury, which although it may help him in the future, it isn't in the present. I'm sure that Jim Harbaugh could rally this team to upset the high-flying Eagles, but Philly has too many chips on the table and a pair of aces with LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles. Add Nick Foles, who played fantastic against Washington on Sunday, and I think the Philadelphia Eagles will drag San Francisco down to 1-3.
New Orleans Saints (1-2) @ Dallas Cowboys (2-1): Sunday, 7:30 PM
Are the Saints the same team they were last season? Better yet, are the Cowboys the team that they were last season? Yes, both teams may be going through small transition phases, and while New Orleans' arrow is beginning to point down, Dallas' is surprisingly up. As I stated in the beginning of this article, New Orleans just may be getting used to full contact and the regular season, especially Drew Brees. Still, that doesn't discount the Cowboys' second-half comeback against the St. Louis Rams, which was very promising for both Jason Garrett and Tony Romo. The past three weeks say that the Cowboys should win this one, but the New Orleans Saints hopefully have gotten all of their kinks out of the way and are ready to win on Sunday night.
OK, lightning round! Here are the rest of my picks (predicted winners are in bold and underlined):
Buffalo Bills (2-1) @ Houston Texans (2-1): Sunday, 12:00 PM
Carolina Panthers (2-1) @ Baltimore Ravens (2-1): Sunday, 12:00 PM
Detroit Lions (2-1) @ New York Jets (1-2): Sunday, 12:00 PM
Tennessee Titans (1-2) @ Indianapolis Colts (1-2): Sunday, 12:00 PM
Miami Dolphins (1-2) @ Oakland Raiders (0-3) (Game Played in London): Sunday, 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-3) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1): Sunday, 12:00 PM
Jacksonville Jaguars (0-3) @ San Diego Chargers (2-1): Sunday, 3:05 PM
New England Patriots (2-1) @ Kansas City Chiefs (1-2): Monday, 7:30 PM