Tuesday, September 27, 2016

NFL 2016-17 Season Week 4 Predictions & Review of MNF Week 3

Atlanta 45, New Orleans 32 - Wow! Here I thought Atlanta was well on their way towards another mediocre season, and they have played like killers in the last couple of weeks. The Falcons scored on six straight possessions, as they showed their offensive capabilities and explosiveness. The Saints defense was clearly overwhelmed and outmatched, and could do nothing to stop or even slow the Falcons down last night. The Falcons have pulled off two straight road wins in Oakland and New Orleans, although they now have a stretch of three straight games that are going to be very tough for them. Still, this 2-1 start is solid, and for right now, they are in sole possession of first place in the NFC South. Who would have thought that Carolina would be struggling to the degree that they are at this point? Not as much of a surprise for the 1-2 Bucs, although for New Orleans, this loss stung especially, coming as it did on the ten-year anniversary of what had been the huge game against Atlanta, in what was the first home game for the Saints since Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans won that game, and went on to the NFC title game that season, although they would go on to win the Super Bowl following the 2009-10 season. This edition of the Saints, however, are now 0-3, and there are no teams since the NFL revised their current playoff format who have ever overcome an 0-3 start to qualify for the playoffs. That said, the 1992 San Diego Chargers overcame a dismal 0-4 start to not only qualify for the playoffs, but to win the AFC West with an 11-5 record, and won a playoff game before losing to Miami. Also, Kansas City overcame a 1-5 start last season to finish the season at 11-5, and also won a playoff game (on the road, and by shutout!), before losing to New England. History is not on the side of the New Orleans Saints, although hope is not completely dead in the Big Easy, although last night's loss certainly had to be discouraging. 

NFL Week 4 Preview and Predictions:

Thursday Night - Miami at Cincinnati - The Bengals are reeling after two stinging losses in a row now, although those two defeats came against two very tough teams in Pittsburgh and Denver. The Bengals are still a solid team, and especially tough at home. They host the Miami Dolphins, who finally earned their first victory, even though it was against Cleveland. The Browns gave the Fins all that they could handle, although Miami did pull it out finally in overtime. Still, the Dolphins look a bit overmatched in this one against a Cincinnati team ready to end this losing streak and get back to winning. It is hard to imagine them not doing so. My pick: Cincinnati

Indianapolis versus Jacksonville from Wembley Stadium, London, UK - Another big match in Jolly Old England, the first since the Brexit vote. The Colts finally notched a hard earned win against the tough Chargers last weekend, and they now take on a Jacksonville team that is in danger of watching their season spiral out of control after dropping their first three games. The Jaguars came painfully close to beating the Ravens last week, and are obviously hungry for a win. Can they do it against Indianapolis? It will be a tall order, although I will go ahead and predict that the Jaguars pull off a mild surprise and upset the Colts in London. My pick: Jacksonville

Tennessee at Houston - The Titans are getting better, slowly but surely. They are more competitive than most people would have given them credit for. However, that does not mean that they are not going to suffer close losses, or perhaps even not so close losses. After all, this team still has a long way to go before they start to seriously look like contenders. Heading into Houston to face a Texans team that will try and erase the bitter memory of a blowout loss in New England, by shutout no less, will be a tall order. The Texans are a good team that happened to look bad against the Patriots, but at home against Tennessee, Houston should be primed and ready to go. Hard to go against the Texans in this one. My pick: Houston

Detroit at Chicago - The Bears will try to avoid what would be almost an assured last place finish should they lose this game at home to Detroit. It would sink them to 0-4, and drop them to a full two games behind even the third place team. However, the main problem is that Chicago just is not that good. Detroit has looked competitive in every game so far, despite two straight losses. But the Lions should be able to get in top form at Soldier Field, against a team that certainly appears to be in disarray. The offense has been hitting a good stride, the defense has looked solid at times, and that should be enough to allow Detroit to pull this one off. My pick: Detroit

Oakland at Baltimore - This is a tough game to call. The Raiders definitely appear to be improving, as they steadily close in on the traditional powerhouse teams in the AFC West in Denver and Kansas City. However, they also show quite a bit of inconsistency. As for the Ravens, they already managed to win some tight games to avoid anything like the disastrous start that they had last year. Still, they need to play at their defensive best and contain the Raiders, or else they are staring at their first loss. That said, the Ravens are a careful team, and playing at home is when they are at their best, while Oakland traditionally struggles when they have to travel east. My pick Baltimore

Carolina at Atlanta - The Panthers really lost both of the games that they lost so far because the opposing defenses were tough and physical and kept getting to Cam Newton. However, the Falcons do not have that caliber defense, and will thus have to try and win in a shootout against Carolina's normally explosive offense. True, the Falcons have looked good so far this season, and with a win, they can really take a solid lead within the division. However, it is hard to imagine Carolina struggling that mightily this early, and digging themselves in that deep of a hole. I expect Carolina to put it all together both defensively and offensively this weekend, and to win the kind of statement game that puts their season back on the right track. They need this one. My pick: Carolina

Seattle at NY Jets - The Jets lost pretty badly at Kansas City last weekend, but at least they are returning home. The problem is that they are facing the Seahawks, one of the most talented teams in the league right now. Seattle looked surprisingly sluggish through the first two weeks, and there are definitely still questions regarding the health of starting quarterback Wilson. However, Seattle finally showed what they were capable of in crushing the 49ers last weekend, and their defense finally started to resemble the "Legion of Boom." In the meanwhile, the Jets are reeling after that loss to KC, in which they shot themselves in the foot time and time again. It will be difficult to straighten themselves out against a team of Seattle's caliber, although New York would have a shot if they somehow manage to exploit the potential weakness of a Seahawk offense either minus Wilson, or with a limited Wilson. Still, it is hard to go against the Seahawks in this one. My pick: Seattle

Cleveland at Washington - The Browns keep coming close but, at least so far, no cigar. Washington finally clinched their first victory on the road at the Giants last weekend, and return home fully expecting to beat a weak Cleveland team. I would love to say that the Browns will pull off an upset, and even think that they do have a chance at it, as I still am a bit skeptical about Washington. However, logic suggests that Washington should win this one, and it is hard to actually predict against them. My pick: Washington

Buffalo at New England - The questions that were raised by the suspension of Tom Brady for the first month have so far been answered, and there is now only one game left for a team to take advantage of Brady's absence and steal a win. Yes, Buffalo will bring Ryan's trademark tough defense into Foxboro to try and hand the Patriots their first loss. If you are trying to remain optimistic that New England can indeed be beaten, keep in mind that the Bills played the Pats tough in both games last season, and that was with Brady at the helm. Plus, the Bills finally won a solid game this season, and against a good club in Arizona. This would definitely be a huge boost for their momentum. However, Belichik always seems to have some strategies in place to make playing in Foxboro a very daunting task, and you can bet that he will have something solid in place for this one, as well. For anyone else in the AFC East to have anything like a realistic chance to catch New England before they can manage to run away with it, then the Bills need to find a way to take this one, especially since both New York and Miami have very tough games that are not sure bets by any stretch. However, a likely Buffalo loss in this contest would indeed allow New England to survive the suspension with an undefeated 4-0 record, and a huge, and all too comfortable, three game lead against everyone else in the division, if everything works the way that most people probably expect it. My pick: New England

Denver at Tampa Bay - Like some other teams, the Bucs are pretty clearly showing improvement, even if it is not reflected too strongly in their record yet. They are getting better, and are a tough team. However, they might just be facing the toughest team in the league right now in the Broncos, with that nasty defense, and that is a very tall order for a Tampa team that was overmatched by the Rams last weekend. Denver will likely grind out a victory, doing enough on offense, and allowing their defense to rough the Bucs up a bit. Hard to see how the Bucs can win this one. My pick: Denver

Los Angeles at Arizona - The Rams have played the last two games as well as you could ask them to play. Despite getting blown out in Week 1 at SF, and then not scoring any touchdowns during the first two weeks, LA absolutely exploded last weekend against Tampa, earning a hard road win in the process. In the meanwhile, the Cardinals are probably just happy not to have to play an AFC East team, as they cannot seem to beat any so far. This was supposed to be one of the real favorites to make the Super Bowl, but we have yet to see those Cardinals emerge. This team went 13-3 during the regular season last year, but they are only 1-2 so far this season, and have looked surprisingly vulnerable. Still, they are at home, and they need this far more than the Rams do. If the Cardinals were to drop this, and Seattle wins, then they would find themselves trailing not one, but two teams within the division by a full two games. My guess is that they will not allow this, and will come away with a big and timely win. My pick: Arizona

Dallas at San Francisco - Remember when this was the biggest rivalry in sports? These two teams gave us some classic contests between their numerous playoff clashes, dating back to the early 1970's, and peaking in the 1990's, when these two teams were, far and away, the two best teams in the league. Well, both of these teams have fallen a bit since then, and they combined for a total of 9 wins and 23 loss last season. The 49ers are hosting, but they also got their butt handed to them for two games in a row now. Dallas, in the meantime, lost their first contest, but have won two big games in a row, and need this win to keep within range of the Philadelphia Eagles, who could threaten to run away with it if they keep going on this pace. The Cowboys are feeling hot right now, and if they play the way that they are capable of playing, they should win this. Not by a blowout, but they should indeed come out on top. My pick: Dallas

New Orleans at San Diego - The Chargers have played surprisingly well, while the Saints are treading dangerously close to traditional "Aints" territory right now. Having to go on the road to take on a Chargers team that has played well, yet is feeling angry after dropping to 1-2, will make the Saints task much more difficult. San Diego has some momentum right now, while the Saints simply do not. This one should be all Chargers. My pick: San Diego

Sunday Night - Kansas City at Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh looked very strong this year, until they got absolutely slammed by Philadelphia last weekend. They will be angry and looking to avoid dropping a second straight game. In the meantime, the Chiefs seemed to have kicked off some of the rust with a convincing drubbing of the Jets last weekend, but their task in Pittsburgh is significantly tougher. If the Chiefs play as well as they did last weekend, they really have a chance. However, Pittsburgh is always a tough place to play, and so it is hard to go against the Steelers. My pick: Pittsburgh

Monday Night - NY Giants at Minnesota - As a Giants fan, I really wish I could say that the Giants are going to win this one. However, the Vikings are off to a 3-0 start, and already defeated some of the better teams in the conference. They handed the Packers their first loss, and then shocked the Panthers in Carolina! By contrast, the Giants barely edged out the Cowboys in Dallas, then basically outlasted the winless Saints, probably getting lucky in the process, before losing to Washington. The Giants are tied for second in the NFC East, but this is their toughest game yet, and the way that they have been playing, it is very difficult to see them go on the road and beat one of the truly elite teams. My pick: Minnesota

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