After Sunday’s action many teams will have four games under their belts. That is a quarter of the season, meaning we are beginning to truly see teams for what they are. After four games you have enough film, trends, and info to determine a lot more about the league, who the true contenders are or who are pretenders. Trying to predict NFL games is not a feat for the sane, which is why GASN‘s own Dalton Loman is here to guide you through Sunday’s 11 contests.
Green Bay @ Chicago:
Packer’s best chances depend on: Aaron Rodgers playing with his hair on fire, days removed from assuredly telling fans to “Relax”. 12 will find likely see when the openings are there for Eddie Lacy and direct his 1-2 team to an important division game.
Bear’s best chances depend on: Their defense that saw much offseason transition to step up and play nearer to the level of Marc Trestman’s offense. Their secondary is as depleted as I ever remember one, scrambling for healthy players to put on the field. Once, not if, Trestman gets the offense into full speed Chicago will have the ability to compete with almost any team in the league.
Dalton’s prediction: Green Bay. I’m calling on a very close game with Green Bay coming out on top in the end, Chicago’s secondary injury issues very much being a factor. If Kyle Fuller has a pick in this game though, I’m calling a Chicago victory.
Buffalo @ Houston:
Bill’s best chances depend on: E.J. Manuel managing a very efficient game and forcing Houston to beat themselves. E.J. needs to improve his deep accuracy so that he can make use of Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods downfield. Being in the plus side on turnovers is how Buffalo wins this game.
Texan’s best chances depend on: J.J. Watt. If Watt weren’t a Texan I would have a hard time watching film of Houston. But Watt is the epitome of blue collar, best effort every play, tough as nails defensive line play. In a season the MAN puts up stats that some d-linemen can only achieve in a career’s worth of play. He will stop Buffalo enough to give the other 21 starters on his team a chance to win.
Dalton’s prediction: Houston. These are two young teams trying to find their identities in 2014 and I wouldn’t depend on much consistency for either team this season. That being said, I think Bill O’Brien will have his squad ready to get it done at home. Even without number 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney this defense has been stout.
Tennessee @ Indianapolis:
Titan’s best chances depend on: After losing their previous two games by a 59-17 score the Titans have shown that this isn’t a roster that can compete with the big dogs every week in 2014. Their best chance to take a win in a divisional road game would be to lean on their offensive line and running backs and run it directly at an overrated Colt’s defense.
Colt’s best chances depend on: Stopping Jurrell Casey at the point of attack. If they can keep Tennessee’s best player at bay for 60 minutes then Andrew Luck will have a great game. Trent Richardson desperately needs to hold onto the ball, if he want’s to continue getting any of the pool of carries doled out between himself and Ahmad Bradshaw.
Dalton’s prediction: Indianapolis. Andrew Luck at home against a reeling divisional opponent on a two game losing streak. I don’t think he’ll have any mercy, if it’s up to him.
Carolina @ Baltimore:
Panther’s best chances depend on: A run game materializing. Surprisingly enough, given Carolina’s past trends and their hefty salaries in their backfield, the Panthers haven’t been able to get it going on the ground. Cam Newton has already been sacked 7 times, so a heavy dose of run plays early wouldn’t surprise. With all of the injuries to their backs Cam might just have to carry the load.
Raven’s best chances depend on: The home crowd giving their defense life to hold off the Panther’s offense. I don’t know that they can let Carolina get momentum early, I wouldn’t count on Baltimore being able to consistently come from behind. Steve Smith Sr. is very much expected to have a giant game against his old team.
Dalton’s prediction: Carolina. I think Riverboat Ron Rivera won’t let his team stumble twice in a row. This defense is special and Kelvin Benjamin has not held this offense back a bit. I was shocked at how quickly he is transitioning to the big leagues.
Detroit @ New York Jets:
Lion’s best chances depend on: Matthew Stafford not falling prey to the tricks and traps that come with playing against a Rex Ryan defense. If Stafford can get the ball out to his playmakers they will have a huge matchup advantage over New York’s secondary.
Jet’s best chances depend on: The weapons around Geno Smith stepping up. Geno has shown marked improvement in year 2. At times he shows willingness to throw the ball up and give his receiver a chance to make a play (a GOOD thing-you want your QB to take some chances, but his trust has been misplaced with this bland receiving corps). Eric Decker being on the field will help, but is far from a solve-all.
Dalton’s prediction: Detroit. I hate to hand the Jets another loss, but Detroit simply has strengths that attack the Jet’s weaknesses.
Tampa Bay @ Pittsburgh:
Buccaneer’s best chances depend on: Forgetting that last Thursday’s 56-14 putrid performance vs. Atlanta ever happened. I’m talking burn the film, trash the newspapers, take the players to therapy, etc. Mike Glennon will get Sunday’s start. If he can get an adequate pocket and decent play from their o-line he could pick up where he left off last year, when he had a very solid rookie campaign.
Steeler’s best chances depend on: Riding the phenom that is 2nd year back Le’Veon Bell. Bell, between his final year in college and now, has shed 15-20 pounds. The result: a much shiftier Bell that still hits holes with power. I’m very guilty of overlooking this Steeler offense. With the ever-steady ‘Big’ Ben Roethlisberger having a trio of Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, and Markus Wheaton this is a group that could explode any given Sunday.
Dalton’s prediction: Pittsburgh. I don’t think Glennon can save this quickly imploding team. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of the younger players on Pittsburgh’s defense get more opportunities late in this game when, I expect, it will be decidedly the Steeler’s game.
Miami @ Oakland (@ London):
Dolphin’s best chances depend on: Ryan Tannehill playing better after being irritated at Joe Philbin’s distracting decision to not name a starting QB to the public all week. I don’t quite understand the ploy, Tannehill hasn’t won games for them but he is far from their most looming problem. If he was going to have a breakout game this season odds are it would be against the Raiders.
Raider’s best chances depend on: Building on momentum from a close loss against New England, where Oakland showed promise. Derek Carr has learned from his mistakes every week so far this season. I think this rag-tag group could rally around Carr’s live arm and be a scrappy team.
Dalton’s prediction: Oakland. Following an 0-3 start Oakland travels to London and find their first win of the season, mate. This should be a tight game but I think the Raiders will take more chances with Carr and travel back to the states victorious.
Jacksonville @ San Diego:
Jaguar’s best chances depend on: Blake Bortle’s great pocket presence being enough to overcome their leaky o-line. If Bortles can stay upright long enough to make plays his arm will force the San Diego defense to spread itself out a little bit, giving his receivers and Toby Gerhart space for once.
Charger’s best chances depend on: Executing Plan C at running back. With starter Ryan Matthews sidelined for another 4 weeks or so, Danny Woodhead lost for 2014 with a broken leg, and rookie Marion Grice being signed by Arizona off of their practice squad the San Diego Charger’s will turn to Donald Brown. You have to applaud Tom Telesco’s foresight to sign Brown via free agency this offseason.
Dalton’s prediction: San Diego. It’s hard to vote for a team starting a rookie QB for the first time. I am a big believer in Blake Bortles, and by the end of the year I think he’ll have this offense clicking. But “Big Blake” being QB1 doesn’t make the Jacksonville interior offensive line any better. Bortles won’t have the necessary time in the pocket to beat San Diego.
Philadelphia @ San Francisco:
Eagle’s best chances depend on: Chip Kelly scheming up ways for his make-shift offensive line to be effective, a line that will be missing center Jason Kelce and right tackle Lane Johnson on Sunday. The Eagles through 3 games have shown backbone, winning them all in dramatic come from behind fashion. If Philly wins Sunday to start 4-0 it will change many’s perception of the hierarchy in the NFL.
49er’s best chances depend on: Colin Kaepernick bouncing back from a rough start to 2014 as a passer. If Kaepernick can continue his development and gain a better grasp on the offense it will be hard to stop them. For now their strengths are power running and hard-nosed defense, not putting the game on the shoulders of Kaepernick.
Dalton’s prediction: San Francisco. If the Eagle’s offensive line was even SLIGHTLY healthier I’d be picking them. San Francisco has exhibited all of the signs of a team with a shaky foundation…push in the wrong place and it all comes crumbling down. But right now I see the 49er’s defense throwing a huge wrench into Philadelphia’s gameplan.
Atlanta @ Minnesota:
Falcon’s best chances depend on: MOMENTUM! After definitively stomping the Buccaneers in prime time, the Falcons should have momentum on their side. Julio Jones is unstoppable and as long as Matt Ryan has enough time to deliver him the ball it should equal success. The Atlanta defense faces a rookie QB making his 1st start that’s without Adrian Peterson and Kyle Rudolph on Sunday.
Viking’s best chances depend on: Teddy Bridgewater being a gamer. When former starter Matt Cassel was spearheading the offense it wasn’t pretty at times. The defense would force a punt or turnover and Cassel couldn’t capitalize, often throwing a head-scratching pick to kill any momentum. Bridgewater is already a lot less turnover prone than Cassel and adds some mobility to the position.
Dalton’s prediction: Minnesota. This would probably be my upset of the week. I am a firm believer that sooner rather than later Norv Turner will have this offense playing at a high level, now that the keys to the franchise have been handed over to Bridgewater. Teddy Bridgewater will give them a shot to compete in the tough NFC-North this season and many more in the future.
New Orleans @ Dallas:
Saint’s best chances depend on: Their (On paper) much improved defensive roster playing even as well as they did last year. Rob Ryan will be very motivated to prove his impact on a defense against his old team. He and Sean Payton will bring everything they have to make a statement in Dallas.
Cowboy’s best chances depend on: Their defense continuing to prove that they aren’t the gaping black hole that everyone thought they would be, and DeMarco Murray continuing his brilliant start to 2014- 75 carries-385 rushing yards-3 touchdowns. On paper if you look at these teams it would point to a Saints victory. BUT if you were to judge solely on 2014 game film, I’d be predicting the Cowboys to win at home.
Dalton’s prediction: New Orleans. I’m expecting a chess-match this game. Jimmy Graham should be in for a big game, knifing his way through the middle of the Cowboy’s defense. For some reason Brees and the Saints have had their struggles on the road so expect this to be a close one throughout.