NFL: Week 4 Picks

5 undefeated teams remain as we head into week 4 of the NFL season.  I went 9-7 a week ago, bringing my season total to 26-22.

Bye Week: Philadelphia and Green Bay

Thursday Night Football

  • Dolphins @ Bengals: Miami barely squeaked by the Browns last week, while the Bengals were beat down by the defending champs at home.  The Dolphins got a big day from Jarvis Landry, but inconsistency continues to plague Ryan Tannehill, who threw a pick six in the win. Cincinnati got their running game going, but still lost to 1-2 for the first time in five years.  After two very good weeks, Andy Dalton couldn’t do much against the Broncos defense. I like the Bengals at home with another good rushing game to get their second win of the season. CINCINNATI WINS

Sunday Morning Football 

  • Colts @ Jaguars: London here they come! Indianapolis got their first win of the season last week, while Jacksonville is still looking for theirs.  Andrew Luck has the uncanny ability to turn a bad day into a big day passing the ball, but the Jaguars defense isn’t the problem so far, so he’ll need help.  Blake Bortles on the other hand, has been pretty awful for Jacksonville in his third year under center. So what happens this weekend across the pond? Give me a cleaner day from Luck to lift the Colts. INDIANAPOLIS WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Bills @ Patriots: Three different quarterbacks have started for New England, but that hasn’t stopped the winning.  And as for the Bills, they got their first win over a team many think, myself included, are a playoff team destined for a deep run.  Both teams got big two-touchdown games out of their number 1 running backs, so look for another day of running the clock. The Patriots have to get through one more week without Tom Brady, and while they’ve done a great job doing so, and are very, very good at home, I’m taking the road team in this one. BUFFALO WINS
  • Titans @ Texans: It was a very bad week for Houston, who not only lost their Thursday game versus New England 27-0, they learned that JJ Watt re-injured his back and will be out the rest of the year.  Tennessee’s week wasn’t much better, as they scored just 10 points in their loss to Oakland. Both teams enter action having scored the same amount of points through 3 games, but of course that’s skewed with the Texans O-fer last weekend. Marcus Mariota and Brock Osweiler have both thrown 4 interceptions so far this season, so whoever can limit mistakes has the edge. A Titans win puts them in a tie for the division early.  But I don’t think they get it, because I like the Texans skill position players better. HOUSTON WINS
  • Lions @ Bears: The Lions are 1-2, but haven’t struggled in the passing game, as Matthew Stafford has found a new weapon in Marvin Jones after Calvin Johnson called it a career in the off-season.   The silver lining there for the 0-3 Bears is that their defense has actually done okay against the pass so far this season.  Chicago got a pretty good game out of Brandon Hoyer, who finished 30-49 for 317 yards, though most of that came with the game out of hand already. Both teams have the ability to get the points in the air, and with two middling defenses, that shouldn’t be a problem.  So this game will be won in the trenches, and the edge there lies with the Lions. DETROIT WINS
  • Panthers @ Falcons: Carolina is another team I thought would have a great season, but has disappointed so far.  Thanks to the struggles of the Panthers and the rest of the NFC South, Atlanta finds themself atop the division early on in the season.  This dispite allowing 31, 28 and 32 points in their first three games.  The Falcons may not be getting sustained success in their ground game early, they are getting it when it counts.  Tevin Coleman has just 110 yards on the ground, but has 4 rushing touchdowns, including 3 on Sunday in New Orleans. Carolina entered action red-hot at home dating back to 2014, but we shut down by a red-hot Vikings defense a week ago.  I still believe in the Panthers defense, and as hot as Atlanta has been, I think Carolina gets the win on the road. CAROLINA WINS
  • Seahawks @ Jets: The good news for Jets fans? Ryan Fitzpatrick can only be better than he was a week ago. The bad news? He has to be a lot better against the top defense in the league. After scoring just 3 points against L.A. in week 2, the Seahawks exercised some demons putting up 37 against the Niners.  Russell Wilson was hobbled in the game, but still managed to leave with a nice lead.  Big games from Christine Michael and Doug Baldwin helped get the offense back on track.  New York can solace in the fact that they have had a pretty good run game all season, and while some of it came in garbage time, Seattle did allow the Niners to get over 130 yards on the ground, finding pay dirt twice.  This shouldnt be as ugly for the Jets as it was last week, but it will still be a loss. SEATTLE WINS
  • Raiders @ Ravens: Baltimore finds itself among the undefeated teams heading into week 4, in large part thanks to their defense and a good day from kicker Justin Tucker.  The Ravens are second in total defense through 3 weeks of play.  Their opponents won their 2nd game by  forcing three turnovers, with a sack after entering week 3 having allowed the Saints and Falcons to walk all over them.  So based on defenses, Baltimore should have an easy win.  But I actually like Oakland’s offense a lot more, and as someone who thinks this is a playoff team, I’ll take the Raiders in the upset. OAKLAND WINS
  • Browns @ Redskins: Cleveland should’ve gotten their first win of the season in Miami a week ago, but an inability to stop the air attack, and three missed field goals left them at 0-3. They gave themselves a shot, but couldn’t take it.  Cody Kessler’s first career start wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t very good for Cleveland, though at this point, coming out healthy is huge for the Browns. Washington did get their first win, taking down the Giants on the road. After a couple lackluster offensive weeks, Kirk Cousins let it loose and got a number of big plays in the passing game to help get that first win and move back in the right direction to defend their NFC East title.  So can the Browns get their first win this week? Yes. Will they? I don’t think so. They stayed in last week thanks to mistakes by Tannehill, but Cousins won’t make those same mistakes. WASHINGTON WINS

Sunday 4/425PM Games

  • Broncos @ Buccaneers: The Superbowl Champs are showing no signs of slowing down as they look to start the season 4-0.  Denver got off to a slow start last week against the Bengals, but came on strong late thanks to a big day from rookie quarterback Trevor Siemian.  Siemian threw four touchdown passes, including two in the fourth quarter for the win.  Not to be outdone, the Broncos are a top flight defense that held down Andy Dalton and their rushing attack.  They’ve got another tough test when they take on Jameis Winston this weekend.  The Bucs 2nd year quarterback is tied for the league lead in touchdown passes so far with 8, though he has thrown six picks to.  It won’t be a blowout, none of Denver’s games really have been, but it will be another win for the Broncos. DENVER WINS
  • Rams @ Cardinals: I’m shocked at the start the Cardinals are having at just 1-2. Carson Palmer has had a bad TD-turnover ratio through 3 weeks.   Arizona isn’t getting quite out of David Johnson on the ground, while their defense is allowing the 5th most rushing yards per game.  This is as good a week as any to get back to what they want to do in all phases as they take on their division rival Rams, who find themselves tied atop the division at 2-1.  Los Angeles has rebounded nicely from a shutout on opening day, winning their last two games.  The Rams tend to play up or down to their opponents, evident by a 9-3 home win over Seattle and a 37-32 shootout on the road in Tampa Bay.  Going off those results,  I’ll take the Cardinals at home in what should be a close game throughout between these two West foes. ARIZONA WINS
  • Cowboys @ Niners: Dallas couldn’t have asked for more from rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot through three weeks.  The Tony Romo-less Cowboys were a game-winning field-goal away from being 3-0 right now. Dez Bryant has a hairline fracture in his knee but is still expected to play this weekend.  San Francisco was manhandled in week 3, and still isn’t making a change back to Colin Kaepernick.  The biggest thing the Niners have going for them is Carlos Hyde has looked pretty good.  I like what the Caowboys have done this season, but I have a feeling about San Fran this week. It might be a bad feeling, but I’m rolling with it. SAN FRANCISCO WINS
  • Saints @ Chargers: It’s still early, but the Saints need to start picking up some wins quickly if they want to make the playoffs as I predicted they would as a wildcard team in the NFC.  The offense hasn’t been the problem.  Drew Brees is already over a 1,000 yards passing, with an 8-1 touchdown to interception ratio, though that one interception last week was a fourth quarter pick six for Brees.  New Orleans defense hasn’t been been able to stop anyone, as they’ve allowed the 2nd most total yards.  Worst at stopping the run, that’s where the Chargers will need to take advantage this week.  But without Danny Woodhead, San Diego needs Melvin Gordon to get going, so this is the perfect opportunity for that.  I like Philip Rivers, but I like Drew Brees more.  Give me the road team to get win number 1 this week. NEW ORLEANS WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Chiefs @ Steelers: What a defensive performance put on by the Chiefs this past week! Two defensive touchdowns and six interceptions helped Kansas City get the easy win over the Jets.  The offense wasn’t great, but they didn’t need to be with that showing on defense.  Alex Smith continued to show his game management skills, and why Travis Kelce is one of the better tight ends in the league right now. They’ve got a desperate Steelers team thsi week, who didn’t score a touchdown in a week 3 beatdown by the Eagles.  After two very good weeks, DeAngelo Williams was stymied on the ground, so the rushing attack will gladly welcome back Le’Veon Bell from suspension this week. The biggest test for the Kansas City defense will be stopping Antonio Brown, but I don’t think it will matter much even if he does have a big day. KANSAS CITY WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Giants @ Vikings: This should be a battle of two unbeatens, but a late game collapse left the Giants at 2-1 heading into today.  Too many penalties, a couple late turnovers and allowing Washington to open up the field multiple times led to the home loss for New York.  They lost Shane Vereen to a triceps injury as well.  Eli Manning and company need to do more in the passing game, and they have the capability with three wide receivers.  The bad news for New York is that the Vikings are running on all cylinders right now.  Their defense has been relentless through three weeks, and despite losing starting QB Teddy Bridgewater before the season started, the offense has been very good.  Sam Bradford has come in and fit in better in two weeks then he’s done in the first few seasons of his career.  It’s going to be tough for the Giants on the road, but I like New York will figure things out and get back in the win column.  NEW YORK WINS
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NFL: Week 6 Picks

Week 5 was nothing short of interesting with it’s blowouts and come-from-behind victories.  We still aren’t at the point where too many teams have separated themselves from the pack as the league’s best and worst, but we are getting there.

We’ve got another nearly full slate with just two teams on byes this week in the Kansas City Chiefs and the New Orleans Saints.

I had a good week 5, going 12-3 to improve to 48-28 on the season (not to shabby if I do say so myself).  Now here are my week 6 picks.

Thursday Night Football

  • Colts @ Texans: How about a close Thursday Night game for once? I do think we finally get one with this AFC South match-up.  It’s an early battle for the division.  The Colts have been led by their offense this season, the Texans by their defense.  Which wins out?  I think Andrew Luck does. INDIANAPOLIS WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Steelers @ Browns: Ben Tate is back and looked good in week 5.  The Browns are finding ways to win, even when they don’t make it easy for themselves.  But it’s hard to win in the NFL, and they’re already half way to their 2013 win total.  As for the Steelers, they moved above .500 last week, but it wasn’t a pretty 17-9 game against the 0-5 Jaguars.  So I think Cleveland finds a way to get themselves above .500 at home. CLEVELAND WINS
  • Patriots @ Bills: It’s the final regular season match-up between the AFC East rivals, and New England is in Buffalo looking for revenge.  It’s also a game that could very well determine the division.  The Pats had their best game of the season last week against a very good team in Cincinnati.  But the Bills are also coming off a good road win over Detroit.  So which team keeps the good feelings going and stays above .500?  I think Tom Brady and company find a way to build off their drubbing of the Bengals and get a big road victory. NEW ENGLAND WINS
  • Panthers @ Bengals: The Bengals didn’t come out of their bye week like a team that had been previously undefeated and making other teams look silly.  They came out and let a struggling Patriots team walk all over them. As for the Panthers, they eked out a good win over a strong Ravens squad.  If this were a home game for Carolina, I might choose them, but I think Cincy rights the ship in front of their fans to improve to 4-1. (though they could be without AJ Green along with Marvin Jones, meaning the run game MUST step up for my prediction to come true) CINCINNATI WINS
  • Jaguars @ Titans: The Jaguars are bad enough to continue their 0-fer of a season.  But this might be one of their only good chances for a win. Tennessee blew a 25-point lead to the Browns last week.  And Jacksonville should feel good about holding Pittsburgh to 17 points in week 5.  Let’s see what Blake Bortles can do against a porous Titans defense on the road. JACKSONVILLE WINS
  • Packers @ Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill has started to show Miami fans what they’ve wanted to see for a few years now. But with the pats and bills having strong years, it’s going to be hard to make noise in the AFC East. As for the Packers, they are starting to round into shape after a shaky start. I like Aaron Rodgers on the road here. GREEN BAY WINS
  • Lions @ Vikings: Detroit was less than impressive at home a week ago, and continue to get little from the injured Calvin Johnson.  But the defense was still solid, and I think they can continue this on the road against the overachieving Vikings. DETROIT WINS
  • Broncos @ Jets: Rex Ryan’s team is in shambles. And now they have the defending AFC Champs coming to MetLife. Yikes. No cornerbacks against Peyton Manning, a struggling quarterback and an improperly used running game. Triple yikes. I though New York would be good this season, but unless a lot goes wrong fro a Denver, I just don’t see them breaking their skid. >DENVER WINS
  • Ravens @ Buccaneers: Baltimore is coming off a tough loss to Indianapolis, but it’s not as bad a loss as Tampa suffered to the Saints. There are just too many questions on defense for this Bucs team. BALTIMORE WINS

Sunday 4/4:25PM Games

  • Chargers @ Raiders: Sure there is a chance Oakland upsets the streaking Chargers at home, I just don’t see it happening. SAN DIEGO WINS
  • Bears @ Falcons: This might be the most intriguing matchup outside of Giants-Eagles for me. Two high powered offenses with questions on defenses that need to get back on track. Both squads surrendered 30-plus points on the road in week 5, so expect a shootout. I’m taking the home team here behind a big performance by Matt Ryan. ATLANTA WINS
  • Cowboys @ Seahawks: The Boys passed their first real test a week ago against Houston. Tony Romo and Dez Bryant found a way around the ferocious JJ Watt. But now they’re in 12th man territory taking on the still hungry and explosive Super Bowl Champions. DeMarco Murray is on pace for a record season on the ground, and Dallas will need a huge day from him if they’re to have any chance in Seattle. And even that might not be enough. SEATTLE WINS
  • Redskins @ Cardinals: Washington gave themselves a chance against the Seahawks, but couldn’t convert. Things don’t get any Easter on the road this week. Arizona has been a surprise after losing Carson Palmer, mostly on the strength of their defense. Until Kirk Cousins can get better on 3rd down, and until the Skins can stop the run, I can’t pick them consistently. ARIZONA WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Giants @ Eagles: Talk about a big game! Philly has been atop the division all season, while the Giants are making a surge after an 0-2 start.  I haven’t been too impressed with Philly of late, especially when they almost blew a big lead to the lowly rams a week ago.  Their run game isn’t as potent as we thought going into the season.  But they are still a 4-1 football team.  That being said, I think Eli Manning and the offense are clicking and the defense has been stout in the 2nd half f games.  To me, this might come down to special teams.  The Eagles have been forcing turnovers galore, and New York has been having issues in the return game.  NEW YORK WINS

Monday Night Football

  • 49ers @ Rams: An NFC West clash caps off Week 6. While The Niners haven’t been nearly as impressive as I thought they’d be this year, they’re better than the Rams on both sides of the football. And that’s why I think they pick up their 4th win of the season.
    SAN FRANCISCO WINS

NFL: Week 5 Picks

Just two teams on bye this week, Miami and Oakland after their trip across the pond.

Week 4 finished 8 and 5 for me, bringing my season total to 35-26.  Here are my week 5 predictions.

Thursday Night Football

  • Vikings @ Packers: Both teams are coming off impressive wins of the blowout variety. No Matt Cassel.  No Teddy Bridgewater.  No Adrian Peterson.  So yeah, I like Aaron Rodgers to get above .500 in a big way. GREEN BAY WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Bears @ Panthers: Chicago was manhandled a week ago by a hungry Packers team.  Carolina’s defense hasn’t been what we all thought coming into the season.  So what gives? While I have more confidence in the offensive weapons of the Bears, I’ve see the Panthers D rise to the occasion.  And in front of their home crowd, this is the perfect time to do just that. CAROLINA WINS
  • Browns @ Titans: Fresh off a bye, the Browns get a rested Jordan Cameron back, and should have running back Ben Tate ready to get the majority of the carries.  Tennessee hasn’t put up much of a fight this season, while Cleveland has.  While I don’t see many wins in the Browns future, I see them competing hard, and that is why I am taking them to win this game. CLEVELAND WINS
  • Rams @ Eagles: I am going to regret this one, but sometimes you have to go out on a limb.  St. Louis’ defense is where I thought they’d take a step forward.  And with how bad Philly’s run game has looked the past couple weeks, look for Nick Foles to feel the pressure of the Rams front 7.  So give me a close road win. ST LOUIS WINS 
  • Falcons @ Giants: The Giants look like a contender the past two plus games, while Atlanta has been inconsistent.  Matt Ryan’s offense has been potent, but the defense hasn’t been up to the task.  And that is why I think a red hot Eli Manning gets the home win and moves his G-Men above .500. NEW YORK WINS
  • Buccaneers @ Saints: Tampa should be riding high off their first win of the season, a comeback victory over Pittsburgh.  This while the Saints have to try and figure out how to right the ship defensively and pull themselves out of a 1-3 hole.  Luckily for New Orleans, Tampa’s defense hasn’t been holding many down, so it’s a good team to face at home. NEW ORLEANS WINS
  • Texans @ Cowboys: Never thought this would be a match-up of two 3-1 teams.  Houston has been carried by their defense, while the run game and a better-than-previously thought defense has lifted Dallas. Jerry World has been surprisingly unkind to the boys, and I think it continues to be. HOUSTON WINS
  • Bills @ Lions: A good defense versus a very good defense.  Kyle Orton versus Matthew Stafford.  A road game for Buffalo.  I think you know where I am going with this. DETROIT WINS
  • Ravens @ Colts: This might be my favorite match-up of the week.  Andrew Luck has looked every bit as good as you’d have thought he should the past two weeks.  Baltimore has put up huge numbers despite being without Ray Rice.  Both squads are on win streaks coming in.  Indy’s defense is a concern, so I’m thinking this will be a high scoring affair, with the edge going to the home team.  INDIANAPOLIS WINS
  • Steelers @ Jaguars: Pitt is coming off a stunning loss to the Bucs, while Jacksonville just looks to make strides as they march towards a top pick. PITTSBURGH WINS

Sunday 4/4:25PM Games

  • Cardinals @ Broncos: The only game featuring two teams coming off byes, so in that respect they’re even.  With a combined 5-1 record, we also get to see two teams looking to push themselves above the rest in their respective conferences.  But let’s be honest, a home game for the Broncos, coming off a tough loss to Seattle.  Of course I am going with Peyton Manning. DENVER WINS
  • Chiefs @ 49ers: Kansas City did some things against New England.  Jamal Charles looked healthy and Alex Smith did a good job milking the clock with short completion passes.  It’s hard to trust Colin Kaepernick right now, but I think if Frank Gore continues to play well, this team can grind out a home win. SAN FRANCISCO WINS
  • Jets @ Chargers: I really thought New York would be better.  They upgraded the skill positions, bu the secondary has looked paper thin, and Geno Smith hasn’t proven to be the answer at quarterback yet. The Chargers are 3-1, including a big win over Seattle.  Philip Rivers has looked like the 2nd half quarterback that helped lead San Diego into the playoffs last season.  So to me, it’s a simple game to pick. SAN DIEGO WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Bengals @ Patriots: Tom Brady is 4-1 in his career against the Bengals.  But Tom Brady also has a struggling offense that couldn’t stop the Chiefs defense.  And Cincinnati’s defense so far has been a lot better than the Chiefs.  Give me the road team to be the only 4-0 team in the league. CINCINNATI WINS 

Monday Night Football

  • Seahawks @ Redskins: The defending champs are rested following a bye, while the Skins are rested after playing on Thursday Night in week 4.  Washington is in a shambles, while Seattle looks like a team poised to make a serious run at repeating.  SEATTLE WINS

NFL: What We Know at the Season’s Quarter Pole

4 weeks down.  Time flies when we’re having fun watching games doesn’t it?

So what do we know?  Here is a breakdown by division of how all 32 teams look one month in.

AFC EAST

  1. New England Patriots (2-2): So this team hasn’t been good at all, with Monday Night being the ugly icing on the early season cake.  Sure they’ve won 2, but they weren’t impressive wins.  Tom Brady and the offense have not looked good at all.  The only receiver that has looked good has been Julian Edelman, and that ended Monday as well.  Not to mention how terrible the defense looked on the road in Kansas City.  They couldn’t defend the run or pass.  Makes it kind of hard to win when you can’t do much in any phase of the game. They’re lucky to be tied for first.
  2. Buffalo Bills (2-2): Kyle Orton is in at quarter, E.J. Manuel is out despite the .500 record.  This team got off to a fast start, mostly on the strength of their run game and defense.  And while neither of those phases has dropped off much in weeks 3 and 4, Manuel hasn’t helped, hence the change.  That being said, I don’t think Orton makes this team any better.  But hey, with how even these teams seem early on, maybe the run game and defense can keep them in the race for the long haul.
  3. Miami Dolphins (2-2): Joe Philbin has been reluctant to name Ryan Tannehill the starting quarterback early in the week.  And this week, Tannehill showed him why it shouldn’t even be a question. Sure they played the Raiders, but if you simply look at Tannehill’s decision making and throws, you saw the guy Miami has been waiting for; completing 23-of-31 passes for 278 yards and 2 touchdowns.
  4. New York Jets (1-3): Could it be time for a quarterback change? I don’t think so, but it’s not long off.  Geno Smith has had moments of greatest, but this team continues to shoot themselves in the foot.  New York should really be no worse than 2-2.  But between poorly called timeouts, 2nd year QB growing pains, no secondary and not using their running backs properly, they sit at the bottom of the East.

AFC NORTH

  1. Cincinnati Bengals (3-0): Talk about a team that got the bye way too early. They’ve made the start of their season look easy.  Andy Dalton is earning his new contract, even catching a TD pass in their week 3 victory.  This is a team that has made the playoffs each of the last 3 seasons, but were knocked out in the first round every time.  If they continue to play like this all season, and can stay relatively healthy, Cincy is poised to not only challenge for a first round bye, but make a deep playoff run.
  2. Baltimore Ravens (3-1): A perennial playoff team, this week they put everything together to look like a playoff contender once again.  What a game for veteran wide-receiver Steve Smith against his former Panthers team! Not to mention how well the defense kept down Cam Newton.  And to be succeeding despite all the off-the-field drama revolving around Ray Rice, shows the strength of the guys in the locker room to put all outside issues out of their mind between the lines.
  3. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2): This team has been hard to figure out for a few years now, and the start to this season is no different.  Blowing leads to bad teams left and right, the steel curtain looked more like a bead curtain as they allowed the win-less Bucs comeback in grand fashion.  They have the running back and they have the quarterback to get back in this.
  4. Cleveland Browns (1-2): They’ve had their bye, and get two of their injured stars back thanks to it.  Jordan Cameron and Ben Tate will play Sunday, and that should help their struggling offense.  The defense was the highlight to start the season, and Brian Hoyer has shown he can lead this team to victory.  Improvement is what this team is looking for, not a playoff berth this season.

AFC SOUTH

  1. Houston Texans (3-1): Remember when this team finished 2013-14 on a 14-game losing streak?  Well talk about a turnaround!  The defense was pretty good last season, and this year is no different.  Other than laying an egg against the Giants in week 3, they’ve been stout, led by early MVP candidate JJ Watt.  A former Defensive Player of the Year, Watt has scored on a pick 6, continues to sack at will, as well lined up at tight-end more than once. It also helps that Ryan Fitzpatrick has brought stability to the quarterback position.
  2. Indianapolis Colts (2-2): The first two weeks were very different than the next two.  But that isn’t something to be too happy about, as  they’ve shown they can beat the bad teams, not the good teams.  Last season Andrew Luck was able to lead this team to big wins over the Seahawks and Broncos.  So we know he can lead this team, now we just need to see it this season.  Their first test comes against the red-hot Ravens in week 5.
  3. Tennessee Titans (1-3): Defense has been an issue, offense has been an issue.  Only two teams have allowed more points than the Titans, while only three others have scored fewer.  Not the recipe for success.  Tight-end Delanie Walker, despite an injury, has been a bright spot.  The good news, they’ve played just one home game, so there’s room for improvement.
  4. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-4): They’re heading straight for another number 1 pick in the draft.  It’s a young team that I think made a mistake not starting QB Blake Bortles out of the gate.  Jacksonville had to know that they weren’t going to compete for a playoff spot, and needs to get their young pieces as many reps together as possible.  At this rate, you’re looking for some sort of improvement as the season wears on.

AFC WEST

  1. San Diego Chargers (3-1): They snuck into the playoffs a season ago thanks to a 2nd half surge.  The way they’re playing so far suggests there will be no sneaking necessary.  Only 3 teams have allowed fewer points, while QB Philip Rivers is 6th in passing yards, 1st in completion percentage and has thrown just 1 interception.  The only negative was the loss of Danny Woodhead, leading to a running back by committee situation.
  2. Denver Broncos (2-1): The 2013 runner-ups have had two weeks to think about their first loss of the season, an OT loss to the Seahawks in week 3.  The time should have helped Wes Welker get back on track, after a pre-season injury and two game suspension limited him.  The defense has been solid, but they need more out of the run game in order to be a balanced team.  If Peyton Manning continues to be Peyton Manning, and stays healthy, a deep postseason run is in the cards again.
  3. Kansas City Chiefs (2-2): Just when you thought this team might take a step back from last season, they completely dominate the Patriots on Monday Night Football. Jamaal Charles was impossible to stop. Alex Smith helped eat clock with short completion passes.  And the defense was relentless.  They’re in a tough division, but they can definitely make some noise if they play close to how they looked in week 4 on a consistent basis.
  4. Oakland Raiders (0-4): Head coach Dennis Allen barely survived the flight back from London.  Charles Woodson called out the team early on.  The worst scoring team in the league, Maruice Jones-Drew has been a serious downgrade at running back from Rashad Jennings.  Derek Carr has taken over at QB and is showing rookie growing pains. New Head Coach Tony Sparano thinks the team can turn things around, I just think he’s spouting lines you say when you get a new job.

NFC EAST 

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (3-1): Despite the run game not being what we thought it would be, this team finds itself amongst the NFL’s best through the first quarter of the season.  Nick Foles has done a good job making last season not look like a fluke.  The defense has been pretty good, and they were one of the 3 teams to start the season 3-0.  But they have shown vulnerability, and with the Boys and Giants looking stronger than a year ago, a repeat as East champs isn’t a given.
  2. Dallas Cowboys (3-1): Remember when we all thought this team was going to have a historically bad defense? Well, that hasn’t been the case.  They aren’t the leagues best either, but the offense is starting fire on all cylinders after a rocky start.  DeMarco Murray is getting back to being an elite back, leading the league by more than a 100 rushing yardsm while Tony Romo continues to look horrible one day, spectacular the next.  They’re in good shape to at least give themselves a good shot at breaking a 3-year string of finishing the season at 808.
  3. New York Giants (2-2): For as bad as this offense looked the first 6 quarters of the season, this team could be 3-1.  Eli Manning has never been a high completion percentage guy, but the past two weeks he has been on point like few others.  Much like his postseason stats, in wins, he has a 6-1 touchdown to interception ratio.  Add to that a good defensive effort all year, a run game that’s coming on and a breakout from tight-end Larry Donnell, this team looks poised to prove some people wrong.
  4. Washington Redskins (1-3): Their point differential doesn’t tell the whole story.  Kirk Cousins has looked out-of-sorts at times, especially in week 4 against the Giants.  DeSean Jackson hasn’t been the play-maker they thought they were getting.  They put up a good fight against the Eagles, but the defense couldn’t make the stops needed.  RGIII continues to be hurt, and if they can’t get production from the former Rookie of the Year, they’re not going far, no matter how adequate Cousins can be.

NFC NORTH

  1. Detroit Lions (3-1): Boy is this team putting something together! They’ve had the talent for years, but now everyone is living up to it, particularly on defense.  I mean they’ve already made the Packers offense look terrible. The offense has always been sharp, led by Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson.  This could be the year they get to, and advance in the playoffs.
  2. Green Bay Packers (2-2): I laughed when people said Olivia Munn was why Aaron Rodgers and offense have looked off early.  If completing nearly 67% of your passes for 9 touchdowns to 1 interception is off, than I think he’ll be okay.  They haven’t looked good on the road, but still have 7 home games to come, meaning many of them will be in the cold, adding to the home field advantage that is Lambeau Field.
  3. Minnesota Vikings (2-2): Adrian Peterson and his off-the-field issues have left a gaping hole on offense.  But Teddy Bridgewater got off to quite the start.  The defense has been pretty good, and to be 2-2 without Peterson, in a balanced division, is pretty impressive.  I don’t know how long it can last, but you’ve gotta be happy with how the on-the-field product has looked.
  4. Chicago Bears (2-2): It’s not easy to go 2-0 on the road.  It’s also not easy to go 0-2 at home.  The up-and-down Bears have a fairly even points allowed to points scored ratio.  Jay Cutler has been pretty good getting his team into the endzone, but as a whole the offense is in the middle of the pack.  As is the defense, hence the 2-2 record putting them at the bottom of the division early.

NFC SOUTH

  1. Atlanta Falcons (2-2): Their best game came in week 1 when they took down the Saints at home.  They’ve been a different team on the road.  Good teams win at home, great ones win everywhere.  Matt Ryan has the weapons but the defense has been too inconsistent.  A road win would boost this teams confidence, but heading to New York in Week 5 to take on an invigorated Giants team might be too much to overcome.
  2. Carolina Panthers (2-2): If you asked me if the defense would be the problem early on, I’d think you were crazy.  If anything, I’d have thought Cam Newton’s injury concerns would slow down Carolina.  It has, but allowing nearly 20 more points than you’ve scored doesn’t help.  This team got a taste of success last season, so look for them to look to that feeling to help propel them going forward.
  3. New Orleans Saints (1-3): I did not see this start coming for Drew Brees and company.  The defense has looked awful, the offense not much better.  They’re first two losses were late game collapses, their 3rd an ugly blowout from the Cowboys on Sunday Night.  If there’s anyone who can get his team turned around it’s Brees, but in a conference that has seen the NFC East get off to a better start overall than expected, coupled with a tough Western division, you’re only guaranteed one spot coming out of the South.
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3): A change back to Mike Glennon under center, and a porous Steelers defense helped them avoid an 0-4 start.  But if they want to be success going forward, the run game needs to get involved, as well as more consistency from their defense.  Many thought they’d be good this season because of their defense, and there’s still time for them to be respectable thanks to it.

NFC WEST

  1. Arizona Cardinals (3-0): Carlson Palmer goes down, and Drew Stanton picks up the slack.  The defense has been the best in the league through 4 games, allowing just 11 points a game.  They’re not the most impressive undefeated team ever, but it’s hard to win games in the National Football League, and they’ve managed to win all 3 this season.  If they can find a way to split with the Seahawks and 49ers, they could steal a Wild Card spot, or even the division.  To me, it all hinges on the quarterback play.  We know the team can play defense.
  2. Seattle Seahawks (2-1): Despite a loss to San Diego, this team looks like one ready to repeat.  They’ve had their bye, so it will be interesting to see if conditioning comes into play late.  You could be concerned about blowing a big lead late to the Broncos in week 3, or you can focus on the championship type drive Russell Wilson orchestrated in overtime.  Marshawn Lynch is still a beast.  Richard Sherman doesn’t get challenged.  This team is good. Simple as that.
  3. San Francisco 49ers: (2-2)  Colin Kaepernick’s TD to interception ratio is nothing to write home about at 6 to 4. They’re playing close games, leaving no room for error.  A loss in division puts them behind the 8 ball, but of course they have 5 more chances to get back on track. The Niners defense is in the top half in points allowed per game.  If they want to get past the Cards and Hawks, they need to get more consistent on both sides of the football.
  4. St. Louis Rams (1-2): Losing Sam Bradford before the season began put this team back.  I thought they’d make improvements this season, and of course they still can.  Their defense is pretty good, something I am not surprised about.  Hard to place the offense, as they’ve only played three games, but I can say it’s not a competitive offense, and therefore not a competitive team.  Another top pick in the draft awaits St. Louis.

NFL: Week 4 Thoughts

The quarter pole of the season is here, and there are still 4 winless teams and 5 perfect teams.

Green Bay and Carolina were both on bye weeks, and enter week 5 at 1-2.

Let’s start with the have-nots (0-4)

  • Jaguars: Not surprised by this.  The Colts are a better team, and Jacksonville just doesn’t have any weapons outside of MJD to get them going on offense.  And Jones-Drew only carried for 23 yards.  They held a rare lead in this one, 3-0 after 1.  That’s where the positives ended.
  • Giants: I actually thought this was the type of game that would wake New York up.  I was wrong.  The offense continued to look lost, penalties killed their actual good drives and the defense wore down once again in the 2nd half.  Now they head into division play with a high-powered Eagles offense.
  • Steelers: A trip to London couldn’t help, so another perennial playoff team that finds themselves in the cellar.  It’s their first 0-4 start since 1968.  Ben Roethlisberger had a good day throwing the ball, but 2 turnovers in a 7-point loss was the difference.
  • Buccaneers: They led 10-0 in the first half, but allowed the Cardinals to score 13 unanswered in the 4th quarter to leave Tampa winless.  Rookie QB Mike Glennon couldn’t do any better than the benched Josh Freeman did.

Now for the big time haves (4-0)

  • Chiefs: They made easy work of the Giants, despite a bad 1st half from Alex Smith.  Jamaal Charles had a big day, and the defense was great again.
  • Saints: They made it look easy against another undefeated team in the dolphins.  They took their first possession and marched easily down the field for a TD, and a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. This after starting last year 0-4 last season.  Drew Brees had his 10th game of over 400 passing yards, good for 2nd all-time behind Dan Marino’s 13.
  • Seahawks: It looked like Seattle would take their loss, until their defense shutdown Houston, allowing Russell Wilson to lead his team to 20 unanswered 2nd half points to take the 23-20 win in overtime.  It’s the first 4-0 start in Seahawks history.
  • Broncos: Peyton Manning is a machine, starting off the season throwing for 16 touchdowns, and no interceptions.  It was close early against Philly, but then the offense put up 31 in the 2nd half to complete another laugher, 52-20.
  • Patriots: This team continues to find ways to win.  Win number 4 was costly, losing Pro-Bowler Vince Wilfork to a torn Achilles.

More teams feeling pretty good about themselves (3-1)

  • Colts: They won 37-3, but it wasn’t their best performance, getting off to a slow start in the first half.  Trent Richardson scored his 2nd touchdown since coming over to Indianapolis, and combined for 125 yards on the ground with Donald Brown.  Reggie Wayne and Coby Fleener had good days on the receiving end of Andrew Luck.  The wide-out and tight-end combined for 177 yards and 2 touchdowns on 10 receptions.
  • Dolphins: They couldn’t keep pace with New England, losing big to Miami.  Ryan Tannehill was picked off 3 times.  The Saints offense was just too much for a good Miami defense.
  • Lions: I said I thought Detroit could hand Chicago their first loss, but I never thought it would be to the tune of a 40 spot.  I thought it would be close late, with the home-field advantage tipping the scales for the Lions, but the usually stout Bears defense looked anything but.  The game wasn’t as close as the 8-point win suggests.
  • Titans: Up 24-6, QB Jake Locker was carted off the field with a hip injury in the 3rd quarter.  He left having thrown a career high 3 TDs.  Cornerback Alterraun Verner had a big day, picking off 2 Geno Smith passes, as well as recovering a fumble.
  • Bears: 3-1 in the NFC North is a good place to be, but after a poor showing against Detroit, Chicago needs a big bounce back in week 5.  The defense couldn’t stop Matt Stafford, and Jay Cutler was turnover prone.

.500 records at this point- good or bad? (2-2)

  • Bengals:  The Browns have a good defense, but you have to score more than 6 points against a 1 win team.  Giovani Bernard and BenJarvis Green-Ellis combined for just 50 yards on the ground.  Andy Dalton threw a pick on a drive that could’ve given them the lead.  He also fumbled twice, losing one.
  • Cardinals: They were lucky to play a bad bucs team, who let them come back from an early 10-point deficit.   Cornerback Patrick Peterson was the star, with two interceptions.  Larry Fitzgerald with his 80th TD reception.
  • 49ers: San Fran bounced back in a big way on Thursday Night Football, easily taking down St Louis 35-11. Frank Gore picked up his 1st 100-yard rushing game of the season (finished with 153 and a TD) and the defense picked up 5 sacks and two turnovers.
  • Jets: They didn’t look good at home against the now 3-1 Titans, but 2-2 under a rookie QB is nothing to scoff at.  Smith was picked off twice, and fumbled twice.
  • Bills: EJ Manuel didn’t look good, throwing 2 interceptions and a lost fumble but he was helped out by his defense and a big day on the ground.  Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller combined for 164 yards and a TD on 39 carries.
  • Chargers: A Richard Marshall fumble recovery in the endzone with 2:42 to go in regulation helped seal the win for San Diego.  The defense is woke up in the 2nd half, pitching a zero, allowing for the comeback victory.
  • Cowboys: They’re still in first place in the East, but that’s not saying much for the leagues worst division through week 4.  Dez Bryant had a huge 1st half for Dallas, but the wide-out and the rest of the offense were shut out in the 2nd half.
  • Browns; Don’t look now but Cleveland is on a win streak.  Brian Hoyer looked good in his 2nd start in the place of the injured Brandon Weedon, and Jordan Cameron is emerging as a top tight-end in the NFL.  And the defense was huge, limiting the Cincy to just 269 total yards.
  • Ravens: Baltimore couldn’t complete a 2nd half comeback, thanks in large part to 5 Joe Flacco turnovers.  It was another bad day on the ground, with Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce combining for just 24 yards on 9 carries.  Torrey Smith had a big day, 166 yards and a TD.

And finally the 1 win teams (1-3)

  • Vikings:  They’re the happiest of this group, picking up their first win of the year.  Sure it was against the winless Steelers, but Adrian Peterson got going again, and Matt Cassel looked good in place of the injured Christian Ponder.
  • Falcons: A team I thought needed to make a serious Superbowl run looks bad early.  They are having trouble closing out games.  And with a much improved Saints team in the South, Atlanta needs to right the ship quick.
  • Redskins:  The only NFC East team to win on Sunday, the skins found away to rally back from a 14-0 1st quarter deficit to the Raiders.  A big defensive TD helped Washington get their first win of the year.  RG3 was held under 300 yards passing for the first time of the year, but it didn’t matter.
  • Eagles: They found a way to stay close to Denver in the 1st half, but then the Broncos turned it on in the 2nd.  They had a good day on the ground, and Michael Vick had an okay day throwing the ball, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
  • Rams: St Louis got absolutely nothing on the ground, forcing Sam Bradford to throw the ball 41 times.  The Rams QB threw 1 touchdown, but also threw an interception and lost a fumble in the blowout loss to

Early Notes and Stats:

  • The NFC East has the worst combined record at 4-12, while the AFC West boasts 2 4-0 teams and an 11-5 record.
  • Peyton Manning leads the league with 16 TDs, giving Denver the leagues best total offense.
  • The Eagles rushing attack is getting them nearly 200 yards a game on the ground.
  • Atlanta’s Julio Jones leads the league with 481 receiving yards.
  • Houston’s 3rd year Linebacker Justin Houston has 7.5 sacks, tops in the NFL.
  • Buffalo’s Kiko Alonso, New England’s Aquib Talib and Tennessee’s Alterraun Verner lead with 4 interceptions apiece.
  • 3 playoff teams from a year ago are 4-0.

Another fun week in the NFL, with week 5 kicking off Thursday Night in a battle of 2-2 teams, as the Buffalo Bills head to Cleveland to take on the Browns.