Here is a look at the NFL matchups for Week Four.
Green Bay at Chicago
The weekend will kick off with what many expect to be a great NFC North matchup when the Packers visit the Bears. There is certainly a bit of irony with this one, especially with where both teams currently find themselves.
The Bears, whose season ended last year when Aaron Rodgers returned and clinched a playoff birth for the Packers, now have a 2-1 record. Green Bay, on the other hand, sits at 1-2. Chicago has won its last two games by 8 points each, last weekend against New York and two weekends ago against San Francisco, though they lost in Week One against the Bills. During their Monday night matchup against the Jets, the Bears came out strong, allowed New York to sneak back, and then closed them out. A lot of that had to do with the play of Jay Cutler and Martellus Bennett. Of Cutler’s 8 touchdowns on the season, 4 of them have gone to Bennett.
Despite the slow start, Aaron Rodgers delivered a message to Packers fans to let them know not to panic. They lost their first game of the season against the defending Super Bowl Champion Seahawks, and then were edged out last weekend against the Lions. However, they did have a win in Week Two against the Jets. They’ll be hoping to get a big divisional win in this one against their NFC rival.
The Bears noticed a boost in odds as they jumped to 25/1 to win the Super Bowl, while the Packers slow start has resulted in them falling to 20/1.
Buffalo at Houston
Both the Buffalo Bills and Houston Texans started their season with impressive back-to-back wins in Week One and Two, before they both were brought back to reality last weekend. The Texans lost to a New York Giants squad that had yet to win a game on the season, while the Bills lost to a tough San Diego squad.
The Texans, who were thought to have one of the better defenses in the league when the season first started and before rookie Jadaveon Clowney went down, are ranked fifth with an average of 140.7 rushing yards per game. That’s thanks due in large part to Arian Foster, who has 241 yards in three games, and Alfred Blue, who has 118. However, Arian Fosters status is still listed as questionable, so more will be expected of Blue if he can’t play.
The Bills will hope that EJ Manuel can be much more effective this weekend, as he was just 23/39 last weekend. Sammy Watkins, the fourth overall pick in this past year’s draft, will also hope to be more productive. After a coming out party in Week Two, Watkins caught just two balls on eight targets last weekend against the Chargers.
Houston will be hoping desperately to avoid another loss that would start to make this season look a lot like last year, when the Texans won their first two games but then failed to win again in the following 14 contests.
Tennessee at Indianapolis
The matchup between Tennessee and Indianapolis will pit two 1-2 AFC South teams against one another. The Colts are likely not where many expected them to be. After an impressive season last year, Indy dropped the first two games of their season against Denver and Philadelphia, before finally getting a win against Jacksonville last weekend. The good news for the Colts is that, thanks to Andrew Luck, they rank third in the league with 303.7 passing yards per game. However, he’ll have his work cut out for him, as the Titans have the second-least passing yards against average at just 170 per.
On offense, the Titans have had a hard time getting things going. They racked up 26 points in their Week One win against Kansas City, but they then had a hard time getting the ball moving in their losses against Dallas and Cincinnati. This is likely a make-or-break year for Jake Locker, and so far things haven’t been going great. He’s started off with just a 56.4% completion percentage, and he’s thrown three interceptions during the first three weeks.
The Titans are far back in the pack at 250/1 odds to win the Super Bowl this year, while the Colts are right in the middle of the pack at 40/1.
Carolina at Baltimore
Both Carolina and Baltimore will enter their matchup this weekend hoping to get their third win on the season. You have to give the Ravens credit, especially with everything that has been going on with their organization. Even more so, they currently rank 8th in the league with 137 rushing yards per game, and that’s without the help of Ray Rice. In place of Rice, Justin Forsett and Bernard Pierce have both been splitting carries and looking efficient in the offensive scheme.
In a poll that was released before the season by ESPN, the Panthers were considered to be the team that would most likely go from first-to-worst in their respective division. However, they’ve gotten off to a quick 2-1 start and find themselves tied with Atlanta at the top of the NFC South. The Panthers did lose last weekend to Pittsburgh, so they’ll hope to avoid back-to-back losses.
Despite what the polls said before the season, the Panthers currently sit at 45/1 odds to win the Super Bowl, and the Ravens are just ahead of them at 35/1. Don’t forget to check back with sportspicks.com handicappers for insight into this game and throughout the rest of the season. And if you haven’t made your picks yet, it’s not too late to get in on the Million Dollar Challenge, where you can play for your chance to win cash prizes.
Detroit at New York Jets
The Jets tried their hardest to keep up with Chicago last weekend, but their banged up defense hurt them late. They won’t have a much easier time this weekend, as Matt Stafford, Calvin Johnson, and the rest of an offense that ranks 6th in the league with 277 passing yards per game comes to town.
This game may not jump out at people right away, but we could be in for a really great matchup. Not only are the Lions ranked 6th with passing, but their defense is also really pulling together. They are averaging just 180.7 passing yards and 63.7 rushing yards per game, which is good enough for 3rd and 2nd best in the league. The only team that allows less rushing yards per game is, ironically, the Jets. They are giving up just 55 yards on the ground against.
All eyes will be on Geno Smith this weekend. There hasn’t been much of an indication that he should fear for his starting position, but Michael Vick is waiting in the wings and a third loss in a row could result in Jets’ fans clamoring for him to get a chance.
The Lions currently have 30/1 odds to win the Super Bowl, while the Jets are at 80/1.
Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh
Things haven’t looked good for Tampa Bay at all this season, but last weekend was certainly the worst of it all. When they matched up against Atlanta on Thursday Night Football, they were embarrassed in front of the entire nation with a 56-14 defeat. With a new quarterback in Josh McCown and Bobby Rainey being in his third season, there were high hopes for the Bucs this season. However, things are quickly looking as if they are going to have just as poor of a campaign as they did last year.
The Steelers, who has didn’t have the best 2013-2014 season, look to finally be getting on track. At 2-1 they are tied in the AFC North with Baltimore and Cincinnati, so they’ll be hoping to get another win to keep them in the running. Speaking of running, they certainly did a lot of that last weekend. Both Le’Veon Bell and LeGarette Blount rushed for over 100 yards against Cleveland, becoming the first Steelers duo since 1986 to accomplish that feat. Thanks to Bell and Blount, the Steelers have the highest rushing average in the league at 163.3 yard per game.
The Steelers have edged their way up to 25/1 odds. The Bucs are at 500/1, which puts them only ahead of Jacksonville and Oakland, both of whom are at 1500/1.
Miami at Oakland
As for the Raiders, they’ll hope to get their first win of the season when they meet the Dolphins in London this weekend. The Raiders were hopeful when they named Derek Carr the starter for their squad to start the season, but those dreams have quickly started to evaporate. The Raiders have one of the worst offenses in the league, rankings 29th with 190 passing yards per game, and only 64.3 rushing yards through three weeks.
Things looked great for the Dolphins when they pushed around New England in Week One, but things have quickly changed after losing back-to-back games against Buffalo and Kansas City. What may be even more concerning for the Dolphins is the fact that they haven’t been able to put much up on the board. A lot of that may have to do with Ryan Tannehill, as the Dolphins rank 30th in the league with just 190 passing yards per game. Lamar Miller and Knowshon Moreno have both been effective running the ball, and the Dolphins ranked 7th in rushing yards. The lack of production from Tannehill made for plenty of talk around Dolphins camp this weekend. If the Fins have trouble with Oakland on Sunday in London, it’ll be worth looking to see if Matt Moore gets any playing time.
As mentioned, the Raiders are at the bottom of the tank with 1500/1 Super Bowl odds, and the Dolphins are at 125/1.
Jacksonville at San Diego
It didn’t take long for the Jags to make the change from Chad Henne to Blake Bortles, and latter will be getting his first start for Jacksonville this weekend. Unfortunately for him, it’ll be against a Chargers team that has looked impressive in the first three weeks of the season.
After a close 18-17 loss on Monday Night Football in Week One, the Chargers have won two games in a row. One of those wins was even against the Seahawks, which really goes to show just how well Phillip Rivers and company are playing early on. With the Broncos having a bye this weekend, the Chargers would love to get a win and take the lead in the AFC West.
If there is one person who would love to stun the Chargers, it’s certainly Bortles. There was much talk about him before the draft back in April, and now will be his chance to show why he was the first quarterback taken off the board. He won’t have much help, as the Jags rank 30th in the league with just 64.7 rushing yards per game. They also rank dead last in passing yards and rushing yards allowed.
While it may be no surprise that the Jags are still rebuilding and at 1500/1 odds to win the Super Bowl, the Chargers have crept up to 18/1 odds and another win could surely increase those numbers.
Atlanta at Minnesota
The Minnesota Vikings started the season with Matt Cassel and Adrian Peterson as the two leaders in their backfield. This weekend, they’ll take the field against Atlanta with neither. While Peterson still deals with off the field issues, Cassel was injured last weekend and he’ll be out the remainder of the year. In his place will be rookie Teddy Bridgewater, who went 12-20 for 150 yards last weekend in a loss to New Orleans.
The Falcons are coming off a monstrous win over Tampa, and it looks as if this is a team that is still trying to make up for a disappointing campaign last season. Matt Ryan leads an offense that ranks 1st in the league with 333.7 passing yards per game, but he isn’t getting much help in the running department. Steven Jackson has run for just 152 yards in three games, and the Falcons rank in the middle of the pack at 121.3 yards on the ground per.
The Falcons, who currently have 40/1 odds, will hope to make another impressive statement against a Vikings (150/1) team that still looks to be finding its identity.
Philadelphia at San Francisco
Nick Foles currently leads the league with 978 passing yards, and he’s led his Eagles to a 3-0 record to start the season. There wins have come against Jacksonville, Indianapolis and Washington, three teams with a combined record of 2-8. Unfortunately for the 49ers, they haven’t gotten off to quite the start that they would’ve liked as they sit at just 1-2.
This game could likely show a few different things for both of these teams. Are the 49ers struggling as bad as it look, or have they just had a tough schedule to start their season? They’ve had losses against the Bears and Cardinals, two teams that have a combined record of 5-1. However, the Eagles are looking to show that they are as legit as they appear to be, which would certainly be the case if they could notch a “W” on Sunday. Another key question for the 49ers is how Colin Kaepernick will perform, as he has looked shaky in each of the first three games.
The Eagles win streak and impressive play has taken them to 16/1 odds to win the Super Bowl. However, despite the slow start for San Francisco, they are still up there at 20/1.
New Orleans at Dallas
The games on Sunday will conclude with a matchup between the Saints and the Cowboys down in Dallas. The surprise in this on may be the fact that the Saints are coming in at 1-2, while the Cowboys are at 2-1.
New Orleans lost in overtime against Atlanta in Week One, and then stumbled and lost 26-24 against Cleveland in Week Two. However, they followed it up last weekend with their first win on the year against Minnesota. The good news is that the Saints have one of the best overall offenses in the league, as Drew Brees leads a passing attack that ranks 5th with 281.3 yards per game, and Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson split carries for a rushing game that ranks 6th at 140.3 per.
As for Dallas, they started the season with an embarrassing loss against the 49ers, but followed it up with wins against Tennessee and St. Louis. Granted, neither the Titans nor the Rams have looked impressive this season, so it might be a bit early before people start thinking the Cowboys are for real. However, a win this weekend would certainly work in their favor. The highlight for the Cowboys this season has been DeMarco Murray, who leads the league with 385 rushing yards through three weeks.
With the Saints still at 12/1 odds to win the Super Bowl, it doesn’t look like there should be too much concern for them just yet. As for the Cowboys, they are at 60/1, despite a 2-1 start.