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Week 4 predictions: 49ers, Patriots eye bounce-back road wins

Another week of complete football madness. Lord knows who will fall from grace this week, a la the San Francisco 49ers being toppled over at the Metrodome last Sunday.

One group who we know won't be bludgeoned are the zebras. Has any sport ever been so happy to see the guys in Foot Locker jerseys throwing yellow rags around? Uh, no. If borderline calls ever were to get a free pass, this is the weekend.

In theory that will play well for the road teams, who won't fall victim to potential home team rulings (insert obligatory Packers-Seahawks mention here.) Unfortunately, our first two road teams will need more than help from the refs.

The Falcons keep rolling at home versus Carolina, a place where they capitalized on Cam Newton mistakes last season (0 TD, three picks) en route to a big midseason win. Newton tried to do too much in Week 1 against the Bucs, and last Thursday night showed more frustration than leadership when the going got tough. How will he fare when trying to keep up with Matt Ryan and the Falcons' track-meet offense? #CARvsATL

If you're expecting Buffalo to fall on its face, think again. Believe it or not, Ryan Fitzpatrick has not had as bad a season as his reputation merits. In fact, on third down Fitzmagic has racked up a sterling 115.5 passer rating. The Pats have allowed opposing quarterbacks two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 107.3 rating on the all-important down. That said, I think Wes Welker proves last week was no fluke and makes a big catch when the Aaron Hernandez-less Pats need it. #NEvsBUF

The jury is out on Matt Stafford's return from injury, but irrespective of that, we're calling for the Lions' disappointing season to continue. Christian Ponder continues his smart, if not spectacular play, while the Vikings defense comes up clutch in spots like it did against San Francisco. I feel a disturbance in the Force regarding a key penalty call in this game. #MINvsDET

Yes, we're predicting a safety. But beyond that, look for Ben Tate to get some late work in this game and hammer Tennessee's front in part to make up for his costly fumble that allowed the Broncos to hang around in a game they had no business hanging around in last week. Houston will stay atop our NFL.com Power Rankings for another week. #TENvsHOU

San Diego gets a road win that few are expecting after last week's big loss to the Falcons. While Jamaal Charles should find some running lanes at Arrowhead on Sunday, he's not playing the New Orleans front seven this time around. Give Charles 91 yards and a touch, but it won't be enough. Kansas City still has defensive kinks it must work out, particularly in the secondary. Opposing quarterbacks are posting a 114.3 passer rating with eight touchdowns and just one pick against the Chiefs in 2012. #SDvsKC

Remember in the old "Star Trek" episodes how the actor you never saw on the show before -- who was always wearing a red shirt -- got whacked when they beamed down to the planet? The sacrificial lamb so to speak? Well, that's the Jets this weekend, except they are going to get taken out on their home planet. Jim Harbaugh will have his guys ready to play, while Vernon Davis should have a big day. New York is having trouble stopping the run, while their third-down defense was struggling even before Darrelle Revis got hurt; they're 32nd in the NFL. (There are 32 teams in the league.) #SFvsNYJ

Is Russell Wilson the next great thing? No. He's not even Dave Krieg yet. What he can do is not hurt the Seahawks with an awful play at the worst time. He plays smart. His teammates rally around him. He takes what the defense gives him. Football clichés? Yes, but appropriate in this case. The Hawks' secondary will be too much for Sam Bradford, who has played viably in his third year but lacks playmakers outside. Seattle continues its "win" streak. #SEAvsSTL

This game will be much closer than those who only look at the won-loss records would anticipate. Miami's front seven has played very well -- particularly against the run -- which forces Kevin Kolb to win this game. Or does it? Arizona's defense is the primary reason this club has won 10 of its past 12, specifically its ability to hold quarterbacks in check. The Cards have allowed only 10 touchdown passes and a close-to-horrific 74.8 passer rating to opposing quarterbacks over that stretch. So does Ryan Tannehill pull it out on the road? No. #MIAvsAZ

Peyton Manning is in store for a really good game. For starters, Oakland had big problems with Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers' passing attack last week, and Manning is due. The future Hall-of-Famer has admitted to some rust but at home he should be able to audibilize to favorable matchups, be it to Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker or ancillary parts like tight end Joel Dreessen, who scores this week. Steelers tight end Heath Miller was wide open on several occasions last week in Oakland. On the other side of the ball, the Raiders need a healthy Darren McFadden to run wild like he did last year in Denver. Otherwise, no chance for the Raiders on the road. #OAKvsDEN

Andy Dalton has been red hot lately, but that was against the Browns and Redskins -- the latter is giving up chunk yardage in the passing game at a historic pace. The Jaguars haven't been nearly as bad in the back four as Washington, but the issue here is a lack of pressure. With only two sacks registered so far (worst in the NFL), it's status quo for the fierce Jaguars' pass rush. Maurice Jones-Drew should find plenty of seams in a depleted defense, but it won't keep his own team's defense off the field enough. At least, not with a complementary passing attack that averages just 147.3 yards per game. #CINvsJAC

While I fully anticipate at least 80 passes to be thrown (and that might be low) at Lambeau, the Saints will not be able to keep pace. Green Bay's protection problems will not resurface as New Orleans' pass rush is hit or miss, and Aaron Rodgers will see that he simply held the ball too long in Seattle. Moreover, the Packers should get Cedric Benson involved more so as to make the defense honor the run game. Throw in a couple of Packers takeaways, and it's Green Bay all the way at home. #NOvsGB

Josh Freeman might have only thrown for 110 yards last week in Dallas, but the Redskins don't have corners like Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne. Through three games, they've allowed more than 1,000 yards passing and 10 touchdowns. The saving grace here for Washington is a lack of pure weapons in the Tampa aerial attack. Vincent Jackson was a non-factor in Dallas. That said, my sense is RG3 will try to take on too much, playing right into Greg Schiano's hands. Bucs get to 2-2. #WASvsTB

Don't look for an offensive explosion in this game, although both teams will put some points up. Big Blue will surely utilize the ground game with megastar Andre Brown (not really) and "starter" Ahmad Bradshaw, especially after Kevin Gilbride's offense ran the ball so effectively in Charlotte a week ago. On that note, while the Eagles will be in this game throughout ... and Michael Vick will use his legs more, the 10 days rest will serve the road club in this NFC East battle. This should be one of the best games of Week 4, and I would be shocked by a blowout from either side. #NYGvsPHI

DeMarcus Ware gets a safety in Cowboys Stadium, in case the score catches you off guard. The Bears inability to move the ball consistently combined with poor protection will lead to some short fields for Tony Romo and the offense. Unfortunately, the Cowboys interior offensive line will get destroyed by Henry Melton and Stephen Paea, thus don't expect a barnburner in Dallas either. And yes, we mentioned Stephen Paea in the game predictions. Get excited. #CHIvsDAL

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @Harrison_NFL

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