By Dan Durkin
(CBS) After a wild Week 3, seven undefeated teams remain. Of those seven, four didn’t make the playoffs last year: Chicago, Kansas City, Miami, and New Orleans. Two of those undefeated teams – Miami and New Orleans – square off in Week 4’s Game of the Week.
Here’s my take on how Week 4 will play out:
(Home team in all CAPS)
Game of the Week: SAINTS 31, Dolphins 23 – 7:40 PM Monday Night
Finally, an intriguing Monday night matchup. With another 300-yard performance, Drew Brees can tie an NFL record he currently owns of nine straight games. Seeing how the Dolphins have struggled to defend tight ends this season, it could be yet another dominant performance from Jimmy Graham. These teams share a common opponent – the Atlanta Falcons – and of the two, the Saints handled the Falcons. Ryan Tannehill is emerging as a franchise quarterback, but Rob Ryan and a noisy atmosphere will be too much to overcome.
Steelers 30, VIKINGS (At London) 20 – Noon
Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the point of playing games in London to build a larger overseas following? Obviously, the NFL doesn’t have a crystal ball when they plan these games, but I feel bad for the 80,000 who will be on hand at Wembley Stadium to witness a game between two winless, listless teams. Every week, the Vikings young secondary has had a costly collapse and now they’re banged up. The Steelers passing game came to life last week against the Bears and will lead them to their first win of the season.
Ravens 27, BILLS 20 – Noon
The Ravens offense already has limited with weapons in the passing game and couldn’t get much going on the ground last week without Ray Rice. Their special teams and defense picked up the slack, which the Ravens will need more of if they want a chance at returning to the playoffs. The Bills offensive line is struggling to protect EJ Manuel and face a stiff test from the Ravens. Complicating matters, the Bills secondary is banged up, which will be a shot in the arm for Joe Flacco.
Bengals 27, BROWNS 23 – Noon
It’s the Battle of Ohio, part 80, where the Bengals hold the series edge 42-37. Both of these teams won thrilling games last week. The Browns win was on the heels of a white flag trade week, yet they won. Proving, they can’t do anything right this season. The Bengals did their best to give a game away to the Packers, turning the ball over four times, allowing 30 unanswered points, yet responded with 20 of their own for the win. Close game, but the Bengals defensive line will be the difference.
Colts 24, JAGUARS 10 – Noon
My favorite stat of the young 2013 career is this: the Chicago Bears defense scores at a higher rate than the Jaguars offense. Let that bake your noodle for a while. More fun with Jaguars ineptitude? Through three games, the Broncos have gained more yards in one half than the Jaguars have in four quarters. After manhandling the 49ers with a bruising rushing attack, expect more of the same from the Colts.
Seahawks 23, TEXANS 17 – Noon
Heavyweight matchup in Houston, between the top two defenses in the NFL. Despite their stingy defense, I’m not sold on the Texans. They’ve eked out two wins against mediocre-at-best teams, and were blasted last week in Baltimore. Their offensive philosophy is backwards, putting the onus on quarterback Matt Schaub, instead of feeding their running backs. The Seahawks, on the other hand, have won eight straight regular-season games and Russell Wilson has dominated AFC opponents. For the first time in franchise history, the Seahawks will be 4-0.
Cardinals 20, BUCS 16 – Noon
Ready or not, Bucs fans, the Mike Glennon era is upon you. As I’ve been talking about for weeks, the game of chicken between head coach Greg Schiano and Josh Freeman mercifully came to an end. Freeman lost. No surprises, as Freeman’s been awful. He’s played timid and his poor mechanics have rendered him wildly inaccurate. I was down on Glennon during the draft process, as other than his strong arm, he’s also inaccurate and makes poor decisions under pressure.
Bears 31, LIONS 27 – Noon
First place in the NFC North is on the line in Detroit. For years, the Bears offense has prevented them from being able to compete in a shootout, but times have changed. Both of these teams have holes in their back seven on defense for different reasons. The Lions lack the personnel, the Bears lack a pass rush. Both running backs will be huge factors in the game, working the underneath voids. It’s a potential track meet on turf, but the Bears are the better team.
CHIEFS 24, Giants 20 – Noon
So, the Chiefs are undefeated and the Giants are defeated. Just like everyone predicted. The Chiefs defense has trouble against the run, but they get after the quarterback. Offensively, I’m not impressed. Alex Smith is a caretaker who refuses to throw the ball any inkling of traffic. I’m not advocating careless play – as the Chiefs have yet to turn the ball over (+9 turnover margin) – but eventually you have to push the ball down the field. Closer game than expected, but the Giants secondary is in shambles and their offensive line is awful.
TITANS 20, Jets 17 – 3:05 PM
Two of the bigger surprises of the young season square off in Nashville. Both of these teams are winning games the old school way, by running the ball and playing defense. Even though one of them will end up 3-1, it’s a misnomer. Don’t fall prey to playoff talk, as they’re both BlackBerries in a league of iPhones. I anticipate a heavy workload for Chris Johnson and a few turnovers from Geno Smith will lead to a Titans victory.
Cowboys 27, CHARGERS 24 – 3:25 PM
Both of these quarterbacks are off to efficient starts, completing 70% of their passes against only one interception each. The difference between these two teams lies in the fact that the Cowboys can run the ball and put pressure on the quarterback, where the Chargers can’t. The Chargers have blown fourth-quarter leads in each of their games. DeMarco Murray carries the load and the Cowboys to a win out west.
Redskins 24, RAIDERS 17 – 3:25 PM
Finally, the Redskins will get off the schnide, right? Maybe? Yes, they will. The Raiders aren’t a very good football team in general, but they’re even worse with Matt Flynn at quarterback, a weak-armed game manager. The Redskins defense is porous, but they’ll be able to stifle the Raiders. I anticipate the Redskins will deploy a run-heavy game plan as Robert Griffin knocks off the rust against the Raiders.
BRONCOS 41, Eagles 23 – 3:25 PM
Chip Kelly will have a chance to view a well-oiled NFL offense this weekend. Unfortunately for Kelly, said offense will be on the opposing sideline. Peyton Manning is simply unconscious, dissecting every defense he’s faced. Bad news for an Eagles defense that’s the fifth worst in the league against the pass. Offensively, the Eagles have regressed every week, Last week, they surrendered five sacks and five turnovers. The Broncos will put them in catch-up mode early, which will lead to even more turnovers in a Broncos rout.
Patriots 27, FALCONS 24 – 7:30 PM
Both of these teams came close to glory last season, but fell short. Tom Brady and Matt Ryan have the best winning percentage among active quarterbacks with a minimum of 50 starts. Atlanta is a tough place for opponents to play, but there’s something amiss with the Falcons this season, particularly in the red zone on both sides of the ball. The Patriots are 3-0, but they’ve done it against three terrible teams. Big test on the road in a hostile environment against a desperate Falcons team, but I’m taking the Pats.
Season Record (30-19)
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