Game Picks  

Duracell  

Week 4 predictions: Bears edge Lions; Saints over Dolphins

From 0-3 to the playoffs? It doesn't happen much.

In fact, since the NFL expanded its postseason format to six teams per conference in 1990, just three squads that started the season 0-3 have recovered to hit the playoffs: the 1998 Buffalo Bills (Flutie Flakes), 1995 Detroit Lions (Scott Mitchell, baby) and the 1992 San Diego Chargers (the best of the bunch). That '92 Bolts team actually started 0-4 but made it the farthest, ultimately losing in the divisional round. Head coach Bobby Ross had San Diego in the Super Bowl two years later.

The Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings both made the playoffs last season but find themselves winless thus far. One will be a sparkling 1-3 after this weekend. Speaking of records ...

Know the feeling. My colleague at NFL Network is not the only guy who had a tough week picking games. Several contests came down to the bitter end in Week 3, resulting in my worst one-week record in memory (8-8). Don't worry, we'll rock like Whitesnake in Budapest this week. By the way, who saw the New York Giants drop to 0-3 in a 38-0 pasting courtesy of the Carolina Panthers? Holy cow.

As for the other 0-3 teams -- and the 3-0's, for that matter -- the results are below. Hit us up with your thoughts ... @Harrison_NFL is the place for such matters.

Elliot Harrison went 8-8 on his predictions for Week 3, giving him a record of 30-18 so far this season. How will he fare in Week 4? His picks are below, with home teams listed second.

Prediction? Pain. Well, for the Bills' offensive line, anyway. That group had a tough time last weekend and won't get a reprieve in the Ravens' defense. The Baltimore offense should have some opportunities versus a wounded Buffalo secondary, a group playing without Stephon Gilmore, Jairus Byrd and Leodis McKelvin. Justin Rogers has a bull's-eye on him. Aaron Williams is a safety being asked to cover more than roam. Call it "less than optimal" for Doug Marrone and crew. The Ravens' offense -- which was conservative last week, despite what the final score might lead you to believe -- should take shots this week, even if the vertical game has been lacking. Jägerbombs for everyone! #BALvsBUF

This game might not even feature this many total points. I'm seeing another Andy Dalton turnover that leads to a score for the other guys here. Still, without Trent Richardson, will Cleveland be able to run the football effectively enough to keep the Bengals' pass rush at bay? Even if Dalton fumbles or throws a pick-six, Brian Hoyer cannot afford to give up another three interceptions, as he did last week in Minnesota. Dalton has a defense AND a running game to back him up, which means he'll have a chance to recover from any mistakes. The Bengals are more talented than the Vikings on both sides of the ball. So I pose the question again: Can the Browns run the football against Cincinnati like the Green Bay Packers (182 rushing yards) did in Week 3? Chris Ogbonnaya, come on down! #CINvsCLE

This solid NFC North matchup doesn't just offer tasty divisional implications; it also could have a real effect on the wild-card race later in the season. Given the putrid nature of the NFC East and the San Francisco 49ers' struggles, it's quite plausible to think that at least one wild-card squad could come out of this division. While Henry Melton's season-ending injury hurts the Bears, Zach Minter and Nate Collins should rotate to cover his loss on the defensive line. And the Lions are not a great running team, so Chicago should be OK. If the Bears don't pressure Matt Stafford, however, he could light 'em up. Stafford will miss Nate Burleson; before his season was interrupted by a car accident, the veteran receiver was averaging over six catches and 79.7 yards per game as Detroit's clear No. 2. #CHIvsDET

Seattle is not going to win 45-0, so calm down, 12th Man. The Seahawks struggled on the road in Carolina in Week 1; meanwhile, you know the Texans were chewed out after their dreadful performance against the Ravens (although even Kenny Rogers looks like he'd be more of a yeller than Kubes). Matt Schaub has gotten off to very poor starts thus far. He can't afford to do that versus Seattle; if the Seahawks get a lead, they'll simply run Marshawn Lynch and neutralize Arian Foster. In the first halves of games, Schaub has thrown two touchdown passes and coughed up three interceptions while averaging a meager 5.9 yards per attempt. Oh, and the Seattle pass rush will get to the Texans quarterback. Houston's best bet would be to get Andre Johnson involved early, while also building Schaub's confidence with short throws to Owen Daniels and Foster. Then the Texans need to run the football. #SEAvsHOU

The toughest prediction here is whether Jacksonville's offense will score three, six or 13 points. The Jaguars have struggled mightily in this young season, posting just 26 points on offense -- and much of that awful total was built up during fourth-quarter garbage time. In the first halves of games, when things presumably are up for grabs (except for when they aren't), Jacksonville has been outscored 55-5. Blaine Gabbert will get the call for the Jags against a Colts secondary that was outstanding on the road versus the San Francisco 49ers last week. For Jacksonville to win, the special teams or defense has to do something; the Jags currently have just three takeaways. As for Indianapolis, this should provide a good test run for the Colts' newest mate, Trent Richardson. Curious to see what No. 34 does after another week with the playbook -- and more time sitting next to Andrew Luck on the plane. #INDvsJAX

On the surface, this seems like the kind of game the Giants would steal in typical "We're never out of it!" fashion. Unfortunately, the horses just aren't there right now. The offensive line isn't protecting Eli Manning much; maybe that's a good thing, as it cuts down on his opportunities to throw even more interceptions. Not sure about the Book of Manning, but Eli has been dropped 11 times and has thrown eight interceptions. All that talk about Giants running back David Wilson's upside? It's subsided. Kansas City's defense should be more than up to snuff, while Jamaal Charles will again be a focal point on offense. The Giants have to play numbers in the secondary, which of course means having fewer men in the box. Hopefully, Andy Reid refrains from outsmarting himself and gives Charles at least 20 touches. #NYGvsKC

I originally was thinking another prideful organization would fall to 0-4 here, but Ben Roethlisberger will refuse to let it happen. He'll have to win it in the end, with Minnesota Vikings pass rushers draped all over him, but it's not like we haven't seen that before. Le'Veon Bell should make his NFL debut for the Steelers in London, although it's unclear how many carries he'll get right out of the gate. After seeing the kinds of holes Bears back Matt Forte had to run through against Pittsburgh last Sunday night, you'd think Adrian Peterson would be primed to take over this game. However, given Christian Ponder's tremendous struggles in the passing game, why would Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau not run-blitz? Close call, but we're taking Pittsburgh. Editor's note: Matt Cassel was named the Vikings' starting quarterback for the game in London, however, @Harrison_NFL isn't scared. #PITvsMIN

The Buccaneers will get their first win of the season on the strength of the home crowd and a secondary that shouldn't have too much trouble with the Cardinals' passing game -- unless, of course, Larry Fitzgerald takes over. But it's doubtful that will happen, at least when Darrelle Revis lines up over him. Arizona's run game, meanwhile, is averaging just 86.3 yards per contest. ("Have you been the victim of a mediocre rushing attack? Call the law office of Smith, Ellington and Mendenhall; they'll fight for your rights.") Through three games, Josh Freeman ranked 33rd among quarterbacks with a 59.3 passer rating -- even Brandon Weeden (62.0) is wasting him in that category. That's why the Mike Glennon Era is starting Sunday for Tampa Bay; surely he can best Freeman's completion percentage of 45.7. Expect some serious Doug Martin (and maybe a defensive touchdown by Adrian Clayborn). #AZvsTB

These teams played one ugly football game last December. When Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez wasn't turning over the ball, the Titans were desperately trying to give the game away. Here's the thing: Geno Smith probably won't throw three or four interceptions, because Rex Ryan won't let him. Why should he? Tennessee is giving up 4.4 yards per carry to opposing rushers; there is no reason for New York not to run the football 30 times. Not to mention (but we'll mention) the fact that Jake Locker is not threatening to put up 30 points any time soon. The worry for the Jets is their penchant for imploding. They've had 34 penalties called against them in just three games, and they cannot afford incurring 10 to 15 more on the road. Both squads have trouble scoring: They're tied (along with the Redskins) for 24th in offensive points. #NYJvsTEN

Two major issues exist for the Eagles in this game:

1) They aren't good enough on offense.

2) They aren't good enough on defense.

At least they make up for that by screwing up on special teams.

Oh, you want "real" analysis? How's this: Speeding up the tempo will prove difficult in Denver, while the secondary will be completely overmatched by the Broncos' passing attack. The thing Philadelphia needs the most is for its quarterback to protect the football, thus keeping the NFL's top-ranked offense (topping 20 major and sub categories) from getting short fields. No, Nick Foles is not starting. #PHIvsDEN

Oakland will lean on Sebastian Janikowski a lot, at least if Matt Flynn ends up starting for Terrelle Pryor, who likely will be a game-time decision after suffering a concussion Monday night. Flynn has neither the mobility nor the improvisational ability to seriously take advantage of the fact that the Redskins are giving up more yards per game (488.0) than anyone in the league. Alfred Morris should get 25 carries for Washington, as there's no reason for a struggling Robert Griffin III to chuck it up 50 times against a Raiders defense that Denver was able to run on. Forget the overall numbers; most of Griffin's production is coming in garbage time. In the first halves of games, the Redskins' franchise quarterback has thrown zero touchdowns and three picks, compiling a passer rating of 46.5. #WASvsOAK

Dallas is coming off a game in which the pass rush dumped Rams quarterback Sam Bradford six times and knocked him down almost 20 more. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers' protection, however, has held up so far. King Dunlap has played OK, surrendering two sacks. On Sunday, though, he'll face DeMarcus Ware, who is coming off a nice two-sack effort from his right defensive end position. Meanwhile, ol' George Selvie has quietly played very well for the Cowboys on the other side. San Diego simply cannot afford to get into a track meet and let the whole game be put on Rivers. The most reliable running back at Rivers' disposal, believe it or not, is Danny Woodhead. Meanwhile, no one on the Chargers can lock up on Dez Bryant; if Eric Weddle is busy with Bryant and the other Cowboys receivers, Jason Witten will catch seven balls. #DALvsSD

Despite a late flurry from Tom Brady, New England will take its first loss of the season in Atlanta. The Falcons simply cannot afford to fall to 1-3. Matt Ryan and Co. should challenge the Patriots' secondary in a way that EJ Manuel-to-Stevie Johnson, Geno Smith-to-Santonio Holmes and Josh Freeman-to-Vincent Jackson simply couldn't. The Falcons' defense, however, has to do a better job of getting off the field on third down -- overall, Mike Smith's group ranks 28th in opponents' third-down conversion rate.

UPDATE: Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola will not be playing Sunday, NFL Media's Albert Breer reported Saturday, further reducing the chances of the Patriots taking their second road win of the season. #NEvsATL

The most attractive game this week is the Monday nighter down in New Orleans, with the 3-0 Dolphins visiting the 3-0 Saints. If they can pull off a win, the Dolphins will have beaten the two best teams in the NFC South ... a big part of their schedule. Unfortunately for them, I don't see it happening. Yes, I picked them to upset the Falcons last Sunday, but I can't pull the trigger here, not with Cameron Wake out. The Dolphins must pressure Brees, who has been lights out early in games but also already has been sacked 10 times. That's why having Wake would have been so important. Advantage: lost. New Orleans struggles against the run, but Miami averages just 3.25 yards per carry. Advantage: lost. This is a tough road assignment for the 'Fins. Saints win. #MIAvsNO

Yes, we are aware the Rams beat and tied the 49ers last season. Too bad St. Louis sucked against the Dallas Cowboys last week, when the offensive line failed to protect Sam Bradford. The Rams' running game, meanwhile, has yet to really get going. Through three contests, the ground attack has been more like a grounded teenager, averaging 57 yards per game and a scrumptious 3.17 yards per carry. The 49ers haven't been much better. Frank Gore, who had just 11 carries in Sunday's loss, didn't hide his frustration; perhaps San Francisco's coaching staff should get him more involved. Colin Kaepernick has little outside help, yet the team abandoned the run in spots against the Colts. Given what DeMarco Murray did against the Rams in Week 3, Gore should get 20 carries in St. Louis. Why such a paltry final? That's a reflection of the low scoring we tend to see on Thursdays ( Denver Broncos excepted). #SFvsSTL

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @Harrison_NFL.

Headlines

The previous element was an advertisement.

NFL Shop

NFL News
CONTENT
15