Gregg Rosenthal went 8-7-1 on his predictions for Week 3 of the 2020 NFL season, bringing his total record to 29-18-1. How will he fare in Week 4? His picks are below.
Sunday, Oct. 4
Baltimore Ravens 33, Washington Football Team 13
The Washington defensive line was the team's identity. After losing underrated defensive tackle Matthew Ioannidis for the season and Chase Young possibly for this week, what's left? Quarterback Dwayne Haskins is coming off the worst game by any quarterback this season, and it's not all on his surroundings. Play-caller Scott Turner is quietly getting receivers open, but Haskins is too often a beat late finding them. That's a huge concern facing a humbled Ravens team coming off a Monday night meltdown. Expect Baltimore to start blitzing and running the ball off the bus in this rare battle of I-95.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23, Los Angeles Chargers 17
Chargers coach Anthony Lynn would ideally win with the run game and defense, which will be harder to do after the defense lost its fifth starter in cornerback Chris Harris. To Lynn's credit, the Bolts let rookie quarterback Justin Herbert wing it in catch-up mode against Carolina and he responded well. I've never seen a 6-foot-6 quarterback move as well as Herbert, and his smooth pocket presence while evading the rush bodes well for his long-term success. In the short-term, the Bucs' defense may be the toughest matchup possible for a young QB. It has a catalog of blitzes thicker than the TB12 cookbook. Todd Bowles' crew is playing so well that Tom Brady doesn't need to do that much for a Tampa offense missing Chris Godwin and still looking for rhythm. Perhaps Brady didn't have many choices in free agency, but he sure chose well.
Seattle Seahawks 34, Miami Dolphins 24
Russell Wilson reminds me of a more athletic Ben Roethlisberger in his early 30s. Already a Hall of Famer in talent and production, Wilson's mastery of his position has caught up with his physical traits. He's never been calmer in the pocket, seeing two moves ahead. Ryan Fitzpatrick is another quarterback who got better with age, allowing him to make this lackluster Dolphins group around him look feisty. I don't envision Miami's defense forcing many long-yardage situations, and that's the only way coach Brian Flores is able to generate a pass rush with this group.
Houston Texans 27, Minnesota Vikings 24
Deshaun Watson finally gets to face a pass rush unable to blitz his offense into submission. The Vikings' improvements in a tight loss last week were modest -- especially in the secondary and in the middle of both of their lines. The Texans have similar pass-rush and protection issues, but only one of these teams has Watson. He played an excellent game in Pittsburgh this past Sunday before a fourth-quarter pick. After starting the season against a murderer's row of opponents (at Chiefs, vs. Ravens, at Steelers), Watson should enter this matchup feeling like he just shook that heavy donut off the baseball bat -- the QB will be able to swing freely again.
Detroit Lions 26, New Orleans Saints 23
It's understandable that the focus has been on Drew Brees' arm as his ADOT (average depth of target) creeps below sea level. But the Saints also need more production out of their defense, which will be tougher in this game with Marshon Lattimore and Janoris Jenkins surprisingly listed as out in the secondary. The Lions are no pushovers, good enough to have blown leads in all three games before last week's recovery in Arizona. Matthew Stafford has the arm, and perhaps another week of recovery will give Kenny Golladay more juice in his legs to expose the Saints' issues in coverage. In the original published version of this piece, I picked the Saints to win this game by three, but I'm flipping my choice after learning that the Saints cornerbacks mentioned above are out in addition to starters Michael Thomas, Marcus Davenport, Andrus Peat and Jared Cook.
Dallas Cowboys 35, Cleveland Browns 28
Baker Mayfield's play this season has been like his postgame interviews: buttoned-up and seemingly hiding the real Baker underneath. The Browns have thrown 46 passes in the last two games combined, which makes sense against Cincinnati and Washington but does not compute against a remedial Dallas defense trying to run Mike Nolan's graduate-level play calls. I trust Dak Prescott and sneaky star Michael Gallup far more in a shootout, and I trust that every Cowboys game will be a shootout until proven otherwise.
Jacksonville Jaguars 30, Cincinnati Bengals 28
The Bengals are starting to turn the page. Tee Higgins played the most snaps at wideout for the team last week, while John Ross was a healthy scratch. Joe Burrow played his best game yet in Philadelphia and finally gets a matchup this week where he should be protected. Expect plenty of points on both sides, with a rested Jaguars team facing a Bengals defense that played 70 snaps in an overtime tie. The Jaguars' offense is my pick as the best unit in this game, especially with the expected return of receiver D.J. Chark.
Arizona Cardinals 29, Carolina Panthers 28
It's early, but the Cardinals' passing attack has taken a step back this season. The offense is relying heavily on Kyler Murray's scrambling ability, and the QB's throws to anyone other than DeAndre Hopkins haven't been efficient. The Panthers' offense is far more respectable under Matt Rhule than it was a year ago, and their defense showed signs of life last week with youngsters Brian Burns and Jeremy Chinn shining. This game is close to a toss-up, but Kliff Kingsbury's program is still a year ahead of Rhule's. This can be Kingsbury's revenge for Rhule ending his collegiate coaching tenure 22 months ago when they were at Texas Tech and Baylor.
Los Angeles Rams 30, New York Giants 14
I wasn't prepared for the Giants to be this bad. Their defense couldn't get a single stop against Nick Mullens, and Daniel Jones is coming off one of the worst games of his career. It shouldn't remain that bad each week, but it's discouraging that the team's hand-picked tackle (Andrew Thomas) is struggling more than the other three 2020 first-round picks at the position. All the resources general manager Dave Gettleman has poured into the defense haven't helped, either. That's bad news with a long road trip to the league's most efficient offense on tap. The Rams are suddenly skewing run-heavy, with second-year pro Darrell Henderson adding major juice to an offense that already had plenty of dimensions. They aren't the Chiefs, but Jared Goff is very much back into 2018 top-10-quarterback mode.
Indianapolis Colts 24, Chicago Bears 19
It's way too early to call the Colts the league's No. 1 defense because their stats look great after playing the winless Vikings and Jets. Facing the Bears, however, may not be that big a step up in class. Nick Foles' comeback win against the Falcons had its share of Folesian moments, good and bad. Philip Rivers knows what it's like to live on the razor's edge, but he's suddenly playing for a team where he doesn't need to do that much. Indy's offensive line can neutralize Chicago up front, and the Colts' DeForest Buckner-led defensive line may be playing better than the Bears' big-name pass-rushing group anyhow.
Buffalo Bills 30, Las Vegas Raiders 24
The Raiders could be without their rookie starters at wide receiver (Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards) and will be without their rookie starter at cornerback (Damon Arnette). The cumulative impact of Vegas' injuries, especially on the offensive line, started to show up last week. The Bills may be without receiver John Brown this week, but with their own rookie speedster (Gabe Davis) making plays, they might not even miss him.
San Francisco 49ers 29, Philadelphia Eagles 24
The ridiculous avalanche of injuries in Philadelphia would be a useful excuse for the team's winless start if not for show-offs like Kyle Shanahan proving what's possible with a team of backups. Perhaps it's not fair to compare Doug Pederson to Shanahan. Despite the difference in hardware, no one would take Pederson over Shanahan as a play-caller. The Eagles are 29th in yards per play and dead last in turnovers and net passing yards per attempt. Shanahan wouldn't approach that even if he had a full season of Nick Mullens at quarterback, Mohamed Sanu as his No. 1 receiver and Jacob Tamme out of retirement to start at tight end.
Monday, Oct. 5
Kansas City Chiefs 31, New England Patriots 23
(UPDATE: The NFL announced Sunday that the New England-Kansas City game has been rescheduled for Monday night due to positive COVID-19 tests on both teams. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport and NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported that Patriots QB Cam Newton and Chiefs practice squad QB Jordan Ta'amu both tested positive and have been added to the reserve/COVID list. In Newton's absence, the Patriots are expected to start veteran QB Brian Hoyer, per Rapoport.)
This is the fourth time Patrick Mahomes has faced the Pats in his young career. His PFF grade is 63.8 against New England, compared to 95.0 vs. the rest of the league, but this is not the Patriots' defense of yesteryear. Stephon Gilmore's late-season slump in 2019 has continued into this season. Beyond Chase Winovich, the Patriots don't have much of a pass rush. New England has the cornerbacks to limit some of Kansas City's outside routes, but the Chiefs simply have more counters up the seams.
It's not the Patriots' offense of yesteryear either, but that may be a good thing for this matchup. Cam Newton has led the most efficient rushing attack in football through three weeks, according to Football Outsiders. That matches up well against the Chiefs' defense (fifth vs. the pass, 30th vs. the run), making the Patriots the perfect team to employ the "keep the ball away from Mahomes" gambit. That could lead to a fun study of contrasts, but it's always seemed like a sucker's move to me. Losing faster is still losing.
Green Bay Packers 34, Atlanta Falcons 30
The Falcons are not your normal 0-3 team. They've scored more points than any 0-3 team since the 1985 Bengals, behind the mostly sparkling play of Matt Ryan and Calvin Ridley. They finally fixed their decade-long O-line issue, and it hasn't mattered. They have suffered the most painful collapse in the history of human civilization in back-to-back weeks, a new NFL record. There is little reason to think Dan Quinn's Falcons defense, bereft of any edge rushing presence, will be able to bother Aaron Rodgers. There is also little reason to believe Atlanta will stop putting up points against a mediocre Green Bay defense, especially if Julio Jones returns. The Falcons seemingly only know how to lose heartbreakers.
Denver Broncos 20, New York Jets 17
The Broncos will start second-year undrafted quarterback Brett Rypien in prime time because they've already reached the "why not?" portion of their season. Decimated by injuries on both sides of the ball -- they lost at least two more starters last week -- the Broncos' defense has competed well. The Jets' offense has not, continuing to run when trailing by three scores. This should be a Greggggg Williams special with Denver's offensive line struggling to identify blitzes, yet I lean toward picking the better coach in a matchup of the two worst teams in football. A loss here would be Adam Gase's rock bottom.