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2014 NFL Top 5 Week 4 Matchups
The slate is a bit thin this week due to the start of bye week. Six teams are off this week, including four studs in the Bengals, Broncos, Cardinals and Seahawks. Due to this, the games are a bit watered down, but we should still expect some good football as we continue to identify who teams really are.
New England (2-1) at Kansas City (1-2)
Although New England has won two of their first three games, they have been very unimpressive this season. Managing just a seven point victory over the awful Raiders last weekend was a bit of a surprise, but something just doesn't seem to be clicking for them. Kansas City has also been a bit of a disappointment, as I'm sure many of their fans were expecting another strong season to follow up last year's campaign. They've gotten off to a slow start, but after last week's win over Miami and star running back Jamaal Charles getting healthy, things could be looking up.
I keep thinking that each week will be the week that the Patriots get their act together and establish themselves as a contender in the AFC. Tom Brady finally has all of his weapons healthy, but it hasn't amounted to much so far this year. I think the biggest key to this game on either side will be whether or not the Chiefs can successfully establish their running game early on. New England's defense is much improved this year, and if they can shut the running game down early it will be a painful day for KC QB Alex Smith. In the end I think the Patriots take a small step forward and begin to resemble the team we expected.
Prediction: Patriots 24 Chiefs 17
Carolina (2-1) at Baltimore (2-1)
Both of these teams are off to solid starts so far this season and sit at or near the top of their divisions. Interestingly enough, both teams have faced the Steelers so far this season, with much different outcomes. The Ravens pounded the Steelers 26-6 on opening weekend, while the Steelers beat up on the Panthers last weekend by a score of 37-19. I wouldn't put much stock in either of these games, especially because I haven't figured out Pittsburgh yet, but it's worth noting.
I see this as a matchup between two hard-nosed, grind it out teams and expect this contest to be no different. Neither team has looked great so far this year, but one of these teams will emerge at 3-1 which is a great way to start any season. These teams aren't typically quick-striking, so I expect both to attempt to control the clock with the run and short passing games. Both teams will look to their defenses to provide the key turnover that sparks the win, and I think the team that forces that turnover around the midway point in the fourth quarter pulls out the W. Since former Carolina WR Steve Smith is returning to play his old team he'll be extra fired up, and I think a big play or two from him make the difference in this one.
Prediction: Ravens 23 Panthers 20
New Orleans (1-2) at Dallas (2-1)
New Orleans finally steered their season back on course last weekend with a 20-9 victory over Minnesota and are now only a game back in the division. Drew Brees and company haven't been as crisp as we're used to, but I expect them to get there soon enough, and what better way to do that then a matchup against one of the worst defenses in the league. Meanwhile, Dallas comes into this contest at 2-1, and after a whooping at home against the Niners on opening weekend, have quietly put together two straight wins.
I expect this game to be a shootout because when you get down to it, neither team is really that great on defense (although the Saints cover it up a little better). Both offenses will put effort into running the ball and establishing control, but it will eventually give way to dropback city. These teams typically win or lose based on the day that their QBs have, and I expect this one to be no different. I'll never take Tony Romo over Drew Brees and on the surface this one looks like the Saints could roll big, but I have a feeling that at home, the Cowboys stick around and make this one interesting. Maybe we will even get to see Tony Romo run a two minute drill in the fourth quarter? Maybe he comes through, but I see Drew Brees taking a knee to end this one.
Prediction: Saints 31 Cowboys 27
Green Bay (1-2) at Chicago (2-1)
Green Bay comes into this game after a surprisingly poor showing against a Detroit team that didn't appear to play be playing their best game last weekend. The Packers have gotten off to a bit of a slow start and will be looking to turn it around in this one. The Bears enter this game after two straight eight point victories over the 49ers and the Jets.
This is one of the better divisional rivalries in football and I expect this one to be no different. Chicago would love to be able to come away with a victory at home and bury the Packers even deeper in the standings. While Green Bay's offense has been out of sync this year, I expect that to start to turn around in this game. Running back Eddie Lacy hasn't been able to get on track this year, but the Bears are 26th in stopping the run, so this needs to be his coming out party and I believe it will be. If Lacy gets going it will loosen up the defense and allow QB Aaron Rodgers to work his magic. I expect the Bears to put up a good fight, but I think a costly Jay Cutler turnover will sting and open the door for a Packers victory.
Prediction: Packers 23 Bears 17
Philadelphia (3-0) at San Francisco (1-2)
Here is my top game of the weekend. Philadelphia strolls into this game with a perfect record, but have had second half double digit come-from-behind wins in all of their games this year. This trend can't continue if they want to move to 4-0. San Francisco comes into this game after stumbling in their past two games and will be looking to get back to .500 in the NFL's toughest division.
The Eagles' offense has gotten off to a slow start in every game this year, but I think that stops today. On the road, the Eagles can't afford to start slow against a Niners team that needs this win badly. I expect Philadelphia to come out and run the ball to get running back LeSean McCoy in a groove early. He was bottled up against the Redskins last weekend and the Eagles were lucky that it didn't cost them the game. I expect them to try to get utility knife Darren Sproles involved early as well.
I think the game comes down to the Eagles offense against the Niners defense. The San Francisco offense is going to move the ball on Philadelphia and score points. If the Eagles are going to win this game I feel they need to at least score in the mid 20s. I think this happens, but I don't think it will be quite enough. If this game was in Philadelphia I think the Eagles take it, but cross country trips concern me and San Francisco needs this one badly.
Prediction: Niners 27 Eagles 24
Enjoy the games!
Last Week: 3-2