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NFL Week 4 picks and predictions
The Chiefs and Bears are both 3-0, Buffalo’s opening day starting quarterback is now holding a clipboard in Jacksonville and Austin Collie leads the NFL in both receptions and receiving yards. Garrett Hartley, the NFC championship game and Super Bowl hero from just nine months ago, could be out of work with another bad Sunday, and a Purdue quarterback not named Drew Brees ranks second in the league in passing yards. Welcome to the 2010 NFL season, where absolutely anything — you can make a Michael Vick Eagles jersey for your dog on NFLShop.com if you want — is possible.
After three weeks, 18 teams boast a 2-1 record or better. That marks the most teams with a .667 winning percentage or better through Week 3 in NFL history. Also of note, 24 of the league’s 48 games have been decided by seven points or fewer, the second-most such games through three weeks in NFL history. You can expect the unexpected this season. Even the Bills scored 30 points last weekend.
What’s in store for us in Week 4? Let’s dig into the Cheat Sheet and find out.
Last Week’s Record: 8-8
2010 Overall Record: 26-22
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET games
Baltimore at Pittsburgh: Offseason acquisitions Julius Peppers and Brandon Marshall have gotten a lot of pub for their immediate impacts in Chicago and Miami, but the runaway offseason pickup of 2010 has to be Ravens wide-out Anquan Boldin. Finally a No. 1 receiver after years of riding shotgun to Larry Fitzgerald in Arizona, Boldin has caught 20 balls for 287 yards and has scored three touchdowns for the Ravens in three games. But Boldin won’t have it easy on Sunday. With Troy Polamalu back in the lineup and Lawrence Timmons emerging as the league’s next great linebacker to come out of Florida State, the Steelers defense is once again tops in the league. The Ravens have lost their past four and nine of their past 10 games in the Steel City. Heinz Field has been a house of horrors for Joe Flacco. The Charlie Batch Show rolls on with a hard-fought victory this weekend.
The Pick: Steelers 20, Ravens 16
Detroit at Green Bay: In Monday night’s loss in Chicago, the Packers were penalized 18 times for 152 yards, turned the ball over on their final drive and foolishly punted to Devin Hester twice. All the Aaron Rodgers fantasy numbers in the world won’t overcome such undisciplined play. Fortunately, they face a team that hasn’t won a road game since Von Dutch mesh trucker hats were cool. They'll win with ease on Sunday. As for Clay Matthews? Well, he didn’t record a sack on Monday night. He’s now on pace for only 32 sacks this season.
The Pick: Packers 34, Lions 17
Cincinnati at Cleveland: Which nauseates Cleveland sports fans more? A) That sick look on Eric Mangini’s face after defensive coordinator Rob Ryan sent eight men at Joe Flacco on third-and-long and he calmly stood in the pocket and hit Anquan Boldin in the end zone for Sunday’s game-winning touchdown pass or B) LeBron James yukkin’ it up with Bosh and Wade at the Miami Heat media day on Monday? Expect more nausea this weekend. Cincy’s defense is no joke this year.
The Pick: Bengals 23, Browns 13
Denver at Tennessee: The much anticipated start of the Tim Tebow era in Denver may need to be pushed back a bit further than Broncos fans originally expected. Coming off Sunday’s 476-yard passing day, Kyle Orton — yes, that Kyle Orton — is now the second-leading passer in the league and has thrown 13 passes of 25 yards or more, the most in the NFL. Of course, he hasn’t faced a defense like the one he’ll see on Sunday. Tennessee has the fifth-ranked scoring D in the league. It will be awfully hard to beat the Titans in their own building without an effective running game.
The Pick: Titans 24, Broncos 13
Carolina at New Orleans: Three weeks into the season, John Fox’s Farewell Tour in Carolina isn’t going exactly as planned. The Panthers are winless and have nine more turnovers than touchdowns. Fox’s roster on Sunday listed just two receivers other than
The Pick: Saints 38, Panthers 17
New York Jets at Buffalo: Rex Ryan’s “reverse Gatorade shower” on Jason Taylor was the perfect ending to a tumultuous week for the Jets. With a win on Sunday over the hapless Bills, the Jets will have a 3-0 record against their division opponents. Not bad for a team I had finishing third in the division.
The Pick: Jets 17, Bills 12
San Francisco at Atlanta: You could make the argument recently axed offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye was the sacrificial lamb in San Francisco this week. The offense has been underwhelming, sure, but the defense isn’t exactly shutting it down, either. The 49ers D, thought to have been the team's strength, has given up the second-most points in the league through three games. The Falcons went out to San Francisco and beat the Niners, 45-10, last year. They may give the Niners a worse beating on Sunday.
The Pick: Falcons 41, 49ers 20
Seattle at St. Louis: The Seahawks are 2-1 and come into Sunday’s game with the Rams having beaten St. Louis 10 times in a row. For all the love Leon Washington is getting this week for his astounding performance last weekend, 2010 first-round pick Earl Thomas deserves a little glow, too. Thomas — who some thought former USC coach Pete Carroll should have passed on for Trojans great Taylor Mays in April — picked Philip Rivers off twice last week, becoming the first Seattle rookie safety to record two interceptions in a game since 1984. On Red River Rivalry weekend, look for Thomas — a former Texas Longhorn — to get the best of Sam Bradford — a former Sooner — on Sunday.
The Pick: Seahawks 20, Rams 10
4 p.m. ET games
Houston at Oakland: Sebastian Janikowski is getting the lion’s share of the media blame this week in Oakland, but there were 11 penalties for 123 yards, an opening kickoff that was returned for a touchdown and, most importantly, only one touchdown on five trips inside the Arizona 20-yard line on Sunday. The Raiders are tied for the most trips inside the opponent’s 20 this season with 13 but have come away with only three touchdowns. That’s the third-worst percentage in the NFL. Same old, same old in Oakland, then, huh? I sure hope not. I’ve got them pulling the upset at home this weekend, but may need to retire the white-on-white jumpsuit I’ve been sporting to the sports bar on Sundays if they don’t.
The Pick: Raiders 30, Texans 28
Indianapolis at Jacksonville: Two undrafted rookies — left tackle Jeff Linkenbach and wide receiver Blair White — played significant roles in Indy’s 27-13 win over Denver last Sunday. It’s nothing new in Indy. Jeff Saturday was out of football for a year before signing with the Colts in 1998, Dominic Rhodes ran for 1,104 yards as an undrafted rookie a few years back and neither Pierre Garcon nor Austin Collie were first-day draft picks. You could put a bunch of the Joes from Glazer and Strahan’s Pros and Joes show around Peyton Manning and he’d likely still be able to lead the Colts to a division title. They’ll beat Jacksonville on Sunday, regardless of who’s lining up at the other 21 spots on the field.
The Pick: Colts 34, Jaguars 17
Arizona at San Diego: I’ve heard quite enough about the Chargers missing Vincent Jackson this season. The passing game has been just fine without him. The player the Chargers appear to miss more is Kassim Osgood, their special teams ace and Pro Bowl gunner for the past seven years. In their two losses, San Diego has allowed three returns for touchdowns. The Chargers let Osgood, a three-time Pro Bowler in San Diego, walk this offseason when he requested to get some action at wide-out. If Cardinals diminutive return man LaRod Stephens-Howling takes one to the house on Sunday, I don’t want to hear another word about San Diego missing the guy all the “fantasy experts” on ESPN refer to as “V-Jax.” Osgood is the guy A.J. Smith should be losing sleep over. Then again, I’m not certain A.J. Smith even sleeps at all.
The Pick: Chargers 30, Cardinals 20
Washington at Philadelphia: On draft night last April, I saw a guy wearing an old, ratty Heath Shuler No. 5 Redskins jersey with a giant piece of masking tape over “Shuler” and “McNabb” scribbled on the tape in marker. Five months later, I saw a guy wearing an Eagles No. 7 Jeff Garcia jersey with “Vick” written on masking tape over "Garcia." What’s this all mean? That today’s NFL fan is a fiscally wise one. So, how do I explain the record amount of Tim Tebow No. 15 jerseys being sold in Denver? I can’t. But I promise you there are more Brandon Marshall jerseys with masking tape on the backs of them than ever before. As for this game? McNabb returns to Philly, the Eagles win and Michael Vick has another national TV talking head do a “Hey, maybe America is ready to forgive” piece this week. Moving right along …
The Pick: Eagles 28, Redskins 23
Chicago at New York Giants: I recently got into spinning. It’s great. I go to a trendy studio called Soul Cycle, sweat my face off for 45 minutes and leave the joint feeling absolutely drained and out of sorts. I imagine that’s exactly how Giants fans felt walking out of their new stadium after Sunday’s 29-10 loss to Tennessee. Big Blue looked terrible. The Giants better fix things by Sunday night, an evening in which 30 players — including Tiki Barber — will be inducted into the new stadium’s Ring of Honor. It’d be a shame for Frank Gifford and Pete Gogolak to have to sit through a 30-point blowout on a Sunday night. Actually, it’d be a shame for any season-ticket holder to have to sit through that. Especially with what those PSLs cost them this year.
The Pick: Giants 24, Bears 20
New England at Miami: Through three games, the Patriots lead the AFC with 90 points, but the defense ranks third-to-last in the conference with 82 points surrendered. The baby-faced secondary, mostly made up of rookies and second-year guys, could be picked on by Chad Henne, Brandon Marshall and the quietly emerging Brian Hartline on Monday night. That Pats defense gave up 30 points to Buffalo, a team that came into its game last weekend ranked as the 32nd offense in the league. Give me the Dolphins in this one.
The Pick: Dolphins 28, Patriots 24
Cheat Sheet Trivia Question of the Week
Broncos rookie wide receiver Eric Decker is one of just two NFL wide-outs to attend high school in the state of Minnesota and be drafted by an NFL team since 2004. Who’s the other?
Reader E-mail of the Week
With Trent Edwards getting released by the Bills, is it safe to say that the 2007 NFL draft made for the worst quarterback class of all time?
For a while there last year, people were saying the ’06 class — with a struggling Vince Young, an erratic Jay Cutler, stuck-on-the-bench Matt Leinart, Tarvaris Jackson and Kellen Clemens all taken in the first two rounds — was, in fact, the worst draft class of quarterbacks in quite some time. Cutler and Young’s early 2010 success has silenced those critics for now.
As for the ’07 class? It’s hard to find a less bountiful quarterback draft class than one that’s produced JaMarcus Russell (out of football), Brady Quinn (third string), Kevin Kolb (backup), John Beck (third string), Drew Stanton (third string), Trent Edwards (released, resigned as backup in Jacksonville), Isaiah Stanback (out of football), Jeff Rowe (out of football), Jordan Palmer (third string) and Tyler Thigpen (third string). Of the 10 quarterbacks taken in 2007, not one is an NFL starting quarterback. Until Kolb gets back on the field or Russell resurfaces 30 pounds lighter and focused on football, the ’07 crew seems to be the winner here. Or in this case, the loser.
Cheat Sheet Trivia Answer:
Larry Fitzgerald (Minnehana Academy, Minneapolis, and Academy of Holy Angels, Richfield, Minn.)