NFL GAME-BY-GAME PREDICTIONS – WEEK 4

By: Arvind Pendurthi

NEW YORK GIANTS (1-2) AT WASHINGTON REDSKINS (1-2)

Week 3 Results
Giants: W (30-17) vs. Houston Texans
Redskins: L (34-37) at Philadelphia Eagles

For the first time this season, the New York Giants looked like a team that belongs in the National Football League. Offensively, they performed well and defensively they got the job done. Eli Manning showed major improvement, completing 75% of his passes for 234 yards, 2 touchdowns and no turnovers. On defense, the Giants’ intercepted 3 passes and forced a fumble; they weren’t perfect, but they played well enough to secure the win.

With RGIII out, Kirk Cousins stepped into the starting QB role and ran the offense well. He passed for an impressive 427 yards and 3 touchdowns, throwing just 1 interception. DeSean Jackson had a huge game against his former team but Pierre Garcon stole the show with 138 yards and a touchdown off of 11 receptions. With Cousins under center, Washington is beginning to tap into its potential offensively.

Both teams are starting to show potential after slow starts. Rashad Jennings broke out for 176 rushing yards and a touchdown, but he and Victor Cruz are the Giants’ only big-time playmakers. Washington’s receiving corps is far more dangerous and its running backs are far more consistent. The Redskins will outpace New York in this matchup.

Players to Watch: Rashad Jennings (RB – NYG), Kirk Cousins (QB – WAS)

Prediction: Giants: 17, Redskins 28


GREEN BAY PACKERS (1-2) AT CHICAGO BEARS (2-1)

Week 3 Results
Packers: L (7-19) at Detroit Lions
Bears: W (27-19) at New York Jets

While the Bears are slowly beginning to piece together the components of their offensive attack, the Packers appear to be stuck in reverse. An offense highlighted by Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy, Jordy Nelson, and Randall Cobb put up a whopping 7 points last week. The run game is the most alarming aspect of the team as Lacy has been unable to get anything going this season. The Bears’ weak run defense will be a good measure of whether Lacy is at fault or Green Bay’s schedule is to blame.

Rookie CB Kyle Fuller followed up his breakout performance two weeks ago with another impressive outing. The current, league interceptions leader grabbed his 3rd pick last week, while the rest of the defense helped fluster Geno Smith. Meanwhile, Jay Cutler commanded the offense well, tossing two TD passes. Both of those went to tight end Martellus Bennett, who is having a fantastic start to the season.

The Packers and Bears possess very similar playing styles – both have potent aerial attacks with game-breaking running backs in Lacy and Matt Forte. The two had uninspiring performances in week 3, but will look to change that on Sunday. Expect a major offensive shootout, with nearly 1000 cumulative yards gained.

Players to Watch: Eddie Lacy (RB – GB), Martellus Bennett (TE – CHI)

Prediction: Packers 35, Bears 38


BUFFALO BILLS (2-1) AT HOUSTON TEXANS (2-1)

Week 3 Results
Bills: L (10-22) vs. San Diego Chargers
Texans: L (17-30) vs. New York Giants

Over the last three games, EJ Manuel has quietly begun to look like the franchise quarterback the Bills drafted him to be. He has plenty of work to do, but he is on the right path, with an average QB rating of 90.8 this season. Meanwhile, Fred Jackson continues to look brilliant, gaining 112 all-purpose yards with a receiving touchdown.

After a strong showing in week 2, Houston took a huge step back against the Giants. Ryan Fitzpatrick finished the first half with a horrendous QBR of 0.6, completing 4 of 13 passes for 89 yards and 2 interceptions. The Texans have a pair of bright spots, however, in star defensive lineman JJ Watt (1 sack, 5 tackles) and receiver DeAndre Hopkins (6 catches, 116 yards), who showcased his athleticism on a ridiculous one-handed grab.

For the first time in years, the Bills look like a legitimate playoff threat; the Texans do not. If Buffalo can limit its mistakes and the defense continues to dominate as they did in the first two weeks of the season, they will finish the season above .500. Houston has to play more consistent football to win games. A healthy Arian Foster wouldn’t hurt either.

Players to Watch: Mario Williams (DE – BUF), DeAndre Hopkins (WR – HOU)

Prediction: Bills 21, Texans 13


TENNESSEE TITANS (1-2) AT INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (1-2)

Week 3 Results
Titans: L (7-33) at Cincinnati Bengals
Colts: W (44 – 17) at Jacksonville Jaguars

Tennessee was dominated last week on offense, defense and even special teams, allowing a safety thanks to a holding penalty in the endzone.  It took the Titans’ offense 56:43 to put their first points on the board. The defense was no better, even giving up a receiving touchdown to quarterback Andy Dalton after a strange missed tackle by Blidi Wreh-Wilson. The Titans have a lot to work on this week.

Indianapolis dominated Jacksonville last week, scoring 3 touchdowns and 3 Adam Vinatieri field goals in the first half alone. Andrew Luck was phenomenal, reading the defense well and completing 31 of 39 passes for 370 yards and 4 touchdowns. Ahmad Bradshaw continues to impress racking up 7.22 yards per carry and a receiving TD, making a case for more carries.

Much of Tennessee’s success is determined by Jake Locker’s health. The fifth-year quarterback has shown plenty of potential when he isn’t injured; suffering a strained wrist last week does not bode well for the Titans. The Colts will coast to another win this week.

Players to Watch: Justin Hunter (WR – TEN), Ahmad Bradshaw (RB – IND) 

Prediction: Titans 14, Colts 35


CAROLINA PANTHERS (2-1) AT BALTIMORE RAVENS (2-1) 

Week 3 Results
Panthers: L (19-37) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Ravens: W (23-21) at Cleveland Browns

A team that prides itself on its defense, the Panthers were gashed by Pittsburgh’s run game, allowing 264 yards on the ground alone. Carolina’s backfield, on the other hand, was bit hard by the injury bug. Although DeAngelo Williams is likely to return this week, Jonathan Stewart sprained his knee last week and Mike Tolbert suffered a patellar hairline fracture, landing him on the short-term IR.

Baltimore squeaked by Cleveland with a last-second Justin Tucker field goal, Tucker’s 7th game-winner of his three year career. Rookie running back Lorenzo Taliaferro totaled 91 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries, while Justin Forsett had 11 rushes for 63. Had the Ravens’ red-zone efficiency (40%) been better, the game may not have been as close as it was.

The wide receivers will be fun to watch this game, as Steve Smith is returning to play his former team and replacement, rookie standout Kelvin Benjamin. Smith (5 catches, 101 yards) has eclipsed 100 receiving yards in two of Baltimore’s three games. Carolina safeties Thomas DeCoud and Roman Harper will need to bring their A-game to shut him down.

Players to Watch: DeAngelo Williams (RB – CAR), Steve Smith (WR – BAL)

Prediction: Panthers 27, Ravens 17


DETROIT LIONS (2-1) AT NEW YORK JETS (1-2)

Week 3 Results
Lions: W (19-7) vs. Green Bay Packers
Jets: L (19-27) vs. Chicago Bears

Detroit’s defense stole the show on Sunday, scoring 9 of the team’s 19 points by running a fumble back for a touchdown and dragging Eddie Lacy down for a safety. The Lions’ offense was disappointing, failing to convert on two separate goal-to-go situations. Matthew Stafford and Co. should rebound against a weak Jets secondary.

The Jets’ offense struggled against Chicago last week, as Geno Smith threw two interceptions and several players fumbled. New York’s running back tandem of Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson totaled just 114 yards. Furthermore, the Jets had a dismal Red Zone efficiency of 16%. Muhammad Wilkerson and the rest of the Jets front seven continued to shine, however, with 4 sacks and a forced fumble.

New York has shown some promise to start the season, but will need better play from its pass offense to be successful. While the Jets have an excuse in the lack of talent available, the Lions do not. Stafford needs to make the most of a receiving corps that includes Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, Eric Ebron, Red Zone specialist Joseph Fauria, and Reggie Bush out of the back field. This is as good of a matchup as any to get the offense rolling.

Players to Watch: Calvin Johnson (WR – DET), Geno Smith (QB – NYJ)

Prediction: Lions 34, Jets 21


TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (0-3) AT PITTSBURGH STEELERS (1-2)

Week 3 Results
Buccaneers: L (14-56) at Atlanta Falcons
Steelers: W (37-19) at Carolina Panthers

There is very little to be said about Tampa Bay’s atrocious Thursday night performance against the Falcons. To put the game into perspective, the Buccaneers’ defense allowed 35 points in the first half, while the offense did not even manage a single first down in that time. With starting QB Josh McCown most likely out (torn thumb ligament), the pressure is on Mike Glennon to breathe some life into Tampa Bay’s pathetic offense.

Pittsburgh is coming off a huge win against the Panthers after starting the season on the wrong foot. Running backs Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount both had big games, rushing for 147 and 118 yards respectively, including an 81 yard burst from the former. Antonio Brown had a great outing as well, snagging 10 passes for 90 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Steelers offense is rolling.

If the Buccaneers have any hope of righting their ship (pun intended), they will need to count on their offense rather than their defense. The return of Doug Martin should give the team a boost, but Glennon will need to do a better job of connecting with receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans. With key players Ike Taylor, Jarvis Jones, and Ryan Shazier all out for Pittsburgh, I’m not giving up on Tampa Bay just yet. I’m predicting a major upset in this one.

Players to Watch: Mike Glennon (QB – TB), Markus Wheaton (WR – PIT)

Prediction: Buccaneers 27, Steelers 21


MIAMI DOLPHINS (1-2) AT OAKLAND RAIDERS (0-3)

Week 3 Results
Dolphins: L (15-34) vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Raiders: L (9-16) at New England Patriots

Miami had a very up-and-down performance against Kansas City, playing well one possession, then playing terribly the next. The defense forced 3 fumbles and sacked Alex Smith 5 times, including once for a safety, yet also allowed 34 points. Several players attributed the loss to poor play-calling by defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle.

Oakland, on the other hand, nearly mounted a comeback in Foxborough until a Vince Wilfork interception off a dropped pass sealed the loss. Derek Carr (21-34, 174 yards) has played well so far, but the Raiders simply do not have the talent to keep up with most NFL teams.

The Dolphins’ second, stagnant offensive performance was heavily critiqued by fans and the coaching staff, leading to rumors of Ryan Tannehill being benched. However it appears he will remain under center in London. Miami’s week 1 success came from the run game, which they have mysteriously abandoned since. Coming off a 15 carry, 108 yard game (7.2 YPC), look for Lamar Miller to be a big contributor in a Dolphins win.

Players to Watch: Lamar Miller (RB – MIA), Derek Carr (QB – OAK)

Prediction: Dolphins 28, Raiders 14


JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (0-3) AT SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (2-1)

Week 3 Results
Jaguars: L (17-44) vs. Indianapolis Colts
Chargers: W (22-10) at Buffalo Bills

Jacksonville’s struggles continued in yet another blowout, this time at the hands of the Colts. The defense struggled and the offense failed to put points on the board, going into the 2nd half down 30 points. The bright side of the Jaguars’ losses is the announcement of rookie Blake Bortles (14-24, 223 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs) as the starting quarterback in week 4.

Philip Rivers led his squad to another victory, completing 72% of his passes for 256 yards and 2 touchdowns. However, San Diego’s backfield suffered another blow, losing Danny Woodhead for the year with a broken ankle. Donald Brown, who plodded his way to 62 yards on 31 carries, will need to play far better as the Chargers’ sole option at running back.

Although Jacksonville’s offense should see a big step forward with Bortles at the helm, there is still of plenty of work to be done, especially in the backfield and defense. San Diego will have an opportunity to give Brown and backup Brandon Oliver some carries while Rivers gets them ahead early.

Players to Watch: Blake Bortles (QB – JAC), Keenan Allen (WR – SD)

Prediction: Jaguars 21, Chargers 31


PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (3-0) AT SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (1-2)

Week 3 Results
Eagles: W (37-34) vs. Washington Redskins
49ers: L (14-23) vs. Arizona Cardinals

Philadelphia scraped by with another close win on Sunday, starting the season 3-0 for the first time in 10 years. Though LeSean McCoy was dismally ineffective (22 yards on 19 carries), and the Eagles handed Darren Sproles the ball just twice. Nick Foles picked up the slack, however, with 325 yards and 3 touchdowns, no sacks and no turnovers.

San Francisco disappointed once again, with a loss to the Cardinals. The Niners’ defense was remarkably complacent, forcing just one fumble and allowing 23 points. To make matters worse, they were defeated by a backup quarterback whose touchdowns both went to a rookie receiver. QB Colin Kaepernick played well, on the other hand, throwing for 245 yards and rushing for 54 more.

The Eagles’ win was highlighted by big performances by receivers Jeremy Maclin (8 catches, 154 yards, 1 TD) and rookie Jordan Matthews (8 catches, 59 yards, 2 TDs). Foles will need to build on last week’s performance and Philly’s run defense will need to step up in order to defeat San Francisco.

Players to Watch: LeSean McCoy (RB – PHI), Eric Reid (S – SF)

Prediction: Eagles 35, 49ers 27


ATLANTA FALCONS (2-1) AT MINNESOTA VIKINGS (1-2)

Week 3 Results
Falcons: W (56-14) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Vikings: L (9-20) at New Orleans Saints

Atlanta’s win over Tampa Bay was arguably the most dominant victory in the NFL since last year’s Super Bowl. Matt Ryan connected with Julio Jones 9 times for 161 yards and 2 touchdowns, and did so with ease. The quarterback would finish with an 87% completion percentage, 286 yards and 3 scores. The Falcons’ defense also played very well, recovering 3 fumbles and returning an interception for a TD.

The Minnesota Vikings have struggled since their big win in the season-opener. With Adrian Peterson still out, Matt Asiata had a rough week, rushing for less than 3 yards per carry. Quarterback Matt Cassel left the game with a broken foot and was placed on IR, meaning rookie Teddy Bridgewater will run the offense in the coming weeks. Bridgewater had a decent showing, completing 60% of his passes for 150 yards.

Spurred by a huge game from receiver and return specialist Devin Hester, the Falcons were on cruise control within the first 5 minutes of the matchup. Having set the NFL record for return touchdowns, Hester gives Atlanta a big special teams advantage. The Falcons will spoil Bridgewater’s debut as a starting quarterback in another big win.

Players to Watch: Julio Jones (WR – ATL), Teddy Bridgewater (QB – MIN)

Prediction: Falcons 38, Vikings 17


NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (1-2) AT DALLAS COWBOYS (2-1) 

Week 3 Results
Saints: W (26-9) vs. Minnesota Vikings
Cowboys: W (34-31) vs. Dallas Cowboys

New Orleans had a big win over the Vikings, led by Drew Brees’ 293 yards and 2 touchdowns. With Mark Ingram out, Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson stepped up, rushing for 99 yards and a touchdown collectively. The Saints defense was rock solid, particularly on 3rd down (40% conversion rate) and in the Red Zone, keeping the Vikings out of the endzone twice.

Dallas had an abysmal start to its game, going down by 21 points early thanks to yet another DeMarco Murray fumble and a Tony Romo pick-six. However, they burst onto the scoreboard with 4 minutes left in the first half and never looked back. Murray rushed for 100 yards for the 3rd consecutive game and Dez Bryant reeled in 6 catches for 89 yards and a touchdown.

While the Cowboys’ defense was eventually able to fluster Austin Davis and the Rams into turnovers late in the game, they will not be able to do the same with Brees and the Saints. Unless Romo and Murray can start the game on the right foot, Dallas will not win this matchup.

Players to Watch: Brandin Cooks (WR – NO), DeMarco Murray (RB – DAL)

Prediction: Saints 30, Cowboys 24


NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (2-1) AT KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (1-2)

Week 3 Results
Patriots: W (16-9) vs. Oakland Raiders
Chiefs: W (34-15) at Miami Dolphins

Although they got the win, New England was surprisingly ineffective against a bad Raiders team. Tom Brady threw for 234 yards and a score, but the Patriots converted on just 1 of their 4 Red Zone possessions. The defense was disappointing as well, saved by a dropped pass tipped into the hands of Vince Wilfork on Oakland’s last drive of the game.

Kansas City looked like the Chiefs that started last season 9-0, trouncing the Dolphins by 19 points. Alex Smith was very efficient, completing 76% of his passes for 186 yards and 3 scores. In Jamaal Charles’ absence, Knile Davis and Joe McKnight played very well, rushing for 132 yards and a touchdown and catching 6 passes for 64 yards and 2 touchdowns respectively.

While the Chiefs were able to contain the Dolphins with ease, the same cannot be said for this week’s matchup with the Patriots. If Jamaal Charles returns for Monday night’s matchup, Kansas City will be able to put at least a few points on the board. However, look for Tom Brady to connect with Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski for a touchdown apiece in a Patriots win.

Players to Watch: Vince Wilfork (DL – NE), Jamaal Charles (RB – KC)

Prediction: Patriots 24, Chiefs 14

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