Atlanta Falcons vs Carolina Panthers – This one shapes up today as a far better match up in week four than I originally anticipated. Both teams enter the game with a two and one record, but the strength of schedule clearly favors the Panthers. The Falcons Michael Turner leads the league in rushing with 366 yards, place kicker Jason Elam has yet to miss in six attempts and rookie Matt Ryan has done an excellent job given his lack of practical playing experience. The Panthers on the other hand need to show more consistency offensively; particularly in the red zone, but through the first three games of the season, I really liked what I have seen from this John Fox lead club. The return of little-big man Stephen Smith, the experience and guile of veterans QB Jake Delhomme, kicker John Kasay and a defense led by John Beason should be the difference in this one.
Panthers 27 – Falcons 16
Cleveland Browns vs Cincinnati Bengals – The Bengals came within an eyelash of defeating the Super Bowl Champion Giants on the road, while the Browns were pummeled vs the Ravens on the road. The only thing one can be sure of in this one is that one club will taste victory while the other will finish the month of September winless. Carson Palmer looked a lot better versus the Giants' than he did in his previous two outings, and I believe he will be the difference in this one. Browns QB, Derek Anderson is on a very short leash and is not likely to enter the month of October as the leader of the Browns.
Bengals 31 – Browns 27
Houston Texans vs Jacksonville Jaguars – Last week on the road versus Indianapolis, this undermanned Jaguars squad showed the viewing public what they were made of, pulling off one of the best come-from-behind victories of the season. The Texans on the other hand appeared rather flat on both sides of the ball in their loss to the Titans. Based on what I've seen over the last year and a quarter, I would have to say I am particularly disappointed in the play of the Texans' QB Matt Schaub, a player I really felt would flourish after being dealt to the Texans by the Falcons. Look for the Jaguars to shut down Houston's improved but inconsistent running game and put the football into the hands of their inconsistent signal caller.
Jaguars 23 – Texans 13
Denver Broncos vs Kansas City Chiefs – The Chiefs quarterback situation has gone from bad to pure awful in a matter of two short weeks, but that might be the least of their problems. The Broncos on the other hand have had many things go their way and surprisingly are among the six undefeated clubs through week three. A few years back, I watched a little known receiver literally take over both of the Hula Bowl practices. My glowing report fell on deaf ears and that little known receiver, Brandon Marshall, is three years later quite possibly the most dominant player at the wideout position in the country. Even on the road, I give the Chiefs little chance of de-railing the Cutler, Marshall and Royal express.
Broncos 34 – Chiefs 10
San Francisco 49ers vs New Orleans Saints – The underachieving Saints led by the NFL's statistical leading passer Drew Brees, return home the loser of two straight games to face a 49ers club coming off two very impressive victories. The Niners, by year's end could factor in a very weak NFC West division, but if the last place Saints' are to make any noise in a very competitive NFC South, the time has come for them to play with far more consistency on both sides of the football. Injuries at the WR and TE positions and an ineffective running game are major concerns, but good football teams overcome adversity and win football games. It's time for the Saints to make a statement.
Saints 27 – 49ers 20
Arizona Cardinals vs New York Jets – I'm not a big fan of either franchise and was totally disappointed in the Jets defensive efforts last Monday night versus the Chargers. The Cardinals, probably don't have the offensive balance of the San Diego bunch, but they do have a very experienced and business-like Kurt Warner at the throttle and the absolute top receiving combo in football with Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald. You can be sure of one thing in this one, Brett Favre who is listed as questionable will start at quarterback. I see a low scoring affair, but even at home, I don't see this Jets club as having either the offensive firepower or consistency on the defensive side of the ball to win this football game.
Cardinals 20 – Jets 13
Green Bay Packers vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers – This battle of the Bays figures to be closer than I had originally expected. The Packers took a drubbing last week at the hands of the Cowboys while the Buccaneers, attempted an Arena League-like 67 passes, and were the only winning club in week three not to out-rush their opponents in their come from behind victory with the Bears in Chicago. Aaron Rodgers has been both steady and efficient in his management of the Packers offense, but the difference maker for the Packers offense has to be the outstanding play of receiver Greg Jennings. He hasn't put the football into the end zone to this point of the season, but he has made some very big plays in critical situations. If the Packers can avoid critical offensive turnovers, I like the Packers' balance and superior running game to be the difference.
Packers 24 – Buccaneers 20
Minnesota Vikings vs Tennessee Titans – Both clubs will feature in week four, two quarterbacks who were not in the starting line-up at the start of the regular season. The Titans haven't missed a beat with Kerry Collins under center and Gus Frerotte fared well in his first start of the 2008 season, but a more consistent defense and home field advantage will be the difference in this battle. If you are looking for the game within the game, then check out the head to head battle between Adrian Petersen and Titans rookie sensation Chris Johnson.
Titans 30 – Vikings 16
San Diego Chargers vs Oakland Raiders – The Chargers picked up their first victory of the season in week three, but in spite of the disappointing start, I believe they are still the team to beat in not only the AFC West, but also in the entire American Football Conference. Philip Rivers, currently ranked fourth in the NFL in passing, finally looks comfortable functioning in the Chargers offense and LaDainian Tomlinson is well, LaDainian Tomlinson. The Raiders seemingly got every break in last week's nail-biting loss to the Bills, but based on last Monday's showing against the Jets, they are going to need more than some favorable calls to defeat this Chargers squad.
Chargers 34 – Raiders 10
Buffalo Bills vs St. Louis Rams – Quarterback Trent Edwards is without a doubt the main reason the Bills are undefeated and on top of the AFC East and unless he is stopped due to injuries, appears headed for his first of many Pro Bowl appearances. Sunday's game versus the Rams could be the last for the disastrous Scott Linehan coaching era. The winless Rams are currently battling their cross-state rival Chiefs for the title of worst franchise in the NFL, a battle that should go down to game sixteen. Yeah Scott, it's all Marc Bulger's fault!
Bills 34 – Rams 13
Washington Redskins vs Dallas Cowboys –The Redskins are in my opinion a very sound veteran football club, but simply don't have the weapons to combat the high-flying Cowboys Super Bowl express. The Cowboys, particularly on offense have so many weapons in their arsenal, it's scary! Owens, Romo, Witten, Barber, Jones, Folk, Crayton and now Miles Austin makes one ask the question; where does it all end? The Redskins Jason Campbell has yet to throw an interception in 2008, but they will need more than another turnover free effort if they are to defeat what I believe to be the top team within the NFL.
Cowboys 30 – Redskins 17
Philadelphia Eagles vs Chicago Bears – The Bears have not only lost two games in a row but have also blown fourth quarter leads in both contests. Add to this fact that Tommy Harris injured his left knee and that spells further trouble for the boys from the "Windy City". The Eagles on the other hand, in spite of losing their best player in Brian Westbrook early in the contest, totally destroyed a formerly undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers squad. If the Eagles offensive line, can keep people off of QB Donovan McNabb (chest contusions) and continue to play well defensively, this is going to be a real dog-fight in the NFL's most balanced division, the NFC East. For the game, I have to go with the high-flying visitors.
Eagles 18 – Bears 9
Baltimore Ravens vs Pittsburgh Steelers – The Steelers offensive line were totally over matched by an Eagles defensive front that took no prisoners last Sunday evening. Things won't get any easier this week against a Ravens defense that is one of the most physical, hard charging units in the NFL. A knee injury will keep star RB Willie Parker out of action and a bruised and battered Ben Roethlinberger will not make this thing any easier. By the same token, rookie Joe Flacco did not face near the defensive pressure he will face from the Steelers in his first two pro starts, and on Monday evening he is going to break the huddle and face one of the most hostile environments in all of professional football.
Steelers 17 – Ravens 9