NFL Week 4 game picks: Packers top Bears; Saints get to 2-2

Ah ... the byes are here.

Who doesn't love bye weeks, which have been giving your favorite team a week off since 1990? Fans of the Bengals, Broncos, Browns, Cardinals, Rams and Seahawks all will have to watch someone else play in Week 4 -- or they can catch "Movies for Guys Who Like Movies" Sunday on TBS, featuring "Tango and Cash", "Commando" and Ben Affleck in "Daredevil" ... OK, maybe not the latter. Or maybe they can just stress out over having to play Cecil Shorts and Trent Richardson in their fantasy lineup because A.J. Green and Marshawn Lynch are off.


Speaking of those, we had to make quite a few regarding the slate of games below. And, of course, we'd love to hear about the ones you've made about this week's matchups and our picks ... @HarrisonNFL is the place.

Oh, and before we get going, we have to ask: Can you believe that in 1993, teams each had two bye weeks?

Alright. Let's get to it ...

Elliot Harrison went 11-5 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. And listen to the latest edition of the Dave Dameshek Football Program for additional analysis on this week's picks.

Not sure if you're aware of this, but Ravens receiver Steve Smith Sr. used to play for the Panthers. Just wanted to let you know, as I doubt you'll hear much about that in pregame programming or during the broadcast.

So Smith will say the right things, maybe get in a few scraps, catch eight balls for 99 yards and a touchdown, play two more years for Baltimore, then sign a one-day "contract" to retire as a Carolina Panther. Of course, that's in the future. Sadly for the host Ravens, they'll have to deal with the absence of another pass catcher in the here and now, as tight end Dennis Pitta is out for the rest of the season. With some mixture of Justin Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro running the ball, it's safe to say Baltimore won't put up 264 rushing yards on the Panthers' defense like Pittsburgh did last week. The question is, can Cam Newton make his throws in the intermediate passing game for Carolina? That offense has been abysmal on third down (it ranks 29th in the NFL). #CARvsBAL

Am I calling a Green Bay "upset"? Seriously, it'll be an "upset"? Well, that's how the dynamic sure seems to shake out, given the fact that the Packers are 1-2 and coming off a blah performance in Detroit in which the offense was decrepit, the passing was putrid and the running game was a non-entity. Essentially, there was no pass to set up the run, because there was no run to set up the ... Well, it all spells offensive ineffectiveness, anyway.

Now, neither team is good at run defense, starting with the Bears, who rank 26th. At least they make up for it by allowing 5.05 yards per carry. Green Bay, meanwhile, ranks 30th in said department, which means Chicago running back Matt Forte should shine in this one. Still, all things being even, I think Aaron Rodgers will rebound -- he's 5-2 in games at Soldier Field, including that 2010 NFC Championship Game. #GBvsCHI

Someone should tell Ryan Fitzpatrick it's OK to play better for the Texans. He made a couple of doozy throws in New York last week -- and not the good kind. Over his past 12 career starts, Fitzpatrick has thrown for less than 200 yards five times (it was almost seven -- he reached 201 yards in one game last year and had 206 in the opener this year). While he's never been as ineffective as people make him out to be, it's difficult to ask the defense to go out and win it every week.

Speaking of Houston's defense, we'd like to see EJ Manuel take some early shots against the home team, even if said shots don't connect. Love Fred Jackson (who was outstanding for the Bills last week) and C.J. Spiller, but they would be much more effective if safeties and linebackers weren't going unchallenged by Buffalo and compressing the field. #BUFvsHOU

Thinking the Titans will right their ship -- to a degree -- in Indianapolis. It won't be easy, considering Tennessee tends to get bogged down on its opponents' side of the field. Jake Locker and Co. are the worst in the NFL at passing inside the other guys' 30-yard line -- that is, when they even make it that far. The Titans also can't convert on third down (they rank 31st in the league in that category) and have scored just 17 points over the past two weeks. Meanwhile, Andrew Luck was on fire for the Colts last week (31 of 39 for 370 yards and four touchdowns), and with young tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener coming on, Indy's offense is beginning to look formidable. Just wait until T.Y. Hilton turns it up a notch. #TENvsIND

Matthew Stafford has not exactly been smooth as silk for the Lions thus far -- and yet, their defense has certainly upped its game enough for this team to be able to threaten in the NFC North. The great elixir for what ails Detroit's passing attack could come in the form of Jets defensive back Antonio Allen, whom I suspect the Lions will try to isolate in coverage, either with Calvin Johnson or Golden Tate. While getting Chris Ivory more carries (he received just 10 against the Bears on Monday) should be a priority for New York, it will be tough sledding against the NFL's stingiest defense in terms of yards allowed; oh, and Detroit is also ranked second against the run. The best run defense, of course, belongs to the Jets, who are allowing a scant 55 yards per game on the ground. We should be in for a slugfest at MetLife. #DETvsNYJ

You know when you get going on your Playstation, maybe hitting an older title like "Twisted Metal: Black" or "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City," and you speed through a fun three hours like it was nothing? Yeah ... that wasn't Chiefs-Dolphins last week.

Things have gotten ugly with Miami's defense -- and apparently, the starting quarterback was ready to tell us he was the starting quarterback before the coach was. Maybe Joe Philbin was trying to keep that Oakland defense on its heels with his top secret -- or "Top Secret!" -- plan. Having to prepare for both Ryan Tannehill and Matt Moore must have induced serious worry ... or not. As for the "host" Raiders -- a designation that won't mean as much as it usually does, given that this game will be played in London -- they're getting decent football from Derek Carr, but all the drives that stall in opponents' territory have to, uh, unstall. #lesskowski #MIAvsOAK

Tampa Bay simply must get something from the quarterback position at this point. The Buccaneers are dead last in the NFL in passing yards, averaging a measly 163.3 per game. That hasn't been considered "good" since, like, 1955 -- they need to add 100 to that figure. At least they make up for it by giving up the most points off turnovers and allowing the highest opponent passer rating (117.2).

That's where Ben Roethlisberger, who played brilliantly in Carolina on Sunday (73 percent completion rate, two scores, no picks), comes in for the host Steelers. If the Bucs can't stop Pittsburgh's ground game -- which topped two bills last week -- the Steelers will repeatedly hit Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton on play-action ... and Tampa Bay will remain winless. #TBvsPIT

Bortlesmania! Let's say the third overall pick from the 2014 NFL Draft confirms everyone's apparent confidence (which, by the way, stems from the preseason) that he's the real deal and ready to play by going 24 of 35 for 265 yards and two touchdowns. It still won't be enough. At this point, the Jags' best strategy is to run the football, limit their opponents' possessions and hope to eke out more points than the other guys. Too bad for them that the output of Toby Gerhart, with his Jim Kleinsasser-esque wiggle, is being measured in feet per carry right now. Oh, and in case you were wondering, the host Chargers are tied for ninth in rushing defense.

Then there's this: Jacksonville is allowing quarterbacks to compile a passer rating of 110.3 -- and Philip Rivers' rating this season is 108.3. So that averages out well for one team. #JAXvsSD

How will Matt Ryan fare on the road in Minnesota? That -- not whether rookie Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater can hold his own in his first career start -- will determine who wins this game. In two home games at the Georgia Dome this season, Ryan has posted a Tecmo Bowl-like 734 yards and six touchdowns against zero interceptions. But in the Falcons' Week 2 loss in Cincinnati, Ryan tossed three interceptions. Of course, the Bengals' defense > the Vikings' defense.

That said, can Minnesota get enough pressure on Ryan to keep this from becoming a track meet? Or can the ground game -- behind Matt Asiata and rookie Jerick McKinnon -- produce enough to slow things down? Either way, I anticipate the Falcons moving Julio Jones around in the formation, in order to create big plays, of which he should have a few against this Vikings secondary. Taking the visitors here. #ATLvsMIN

Oh, how I wanted to pick the 49ers; this just seems like the kind of game San Francisco will rally to win. And yet, until I see someone stop Philadelphia's offense, well, no can do.

This is simply a bad matchup for the Niners' secondary, which struggled in the second half last week against the Drew Stanton-led Cardinals and didn't fare much better against the Bears the week before. The key to San Francisco's Week 1 victory -- the team's only win thus far -- was an ability to force turnovers (four total that day). Since then, the 49ers have one takeaway. Not that it's all kittens and rainbows for the Eagles, either; their defense has struggled mightily. Getting LeSean McCoy -- who was completely stifled by the Washington front seven last week -- going in San Francisco to take some time off the clock would help with that matter. #PHIvsSF

This matchup has "shootout" written all over it -- so let me tell you how the defenses are going to rule the day. Just kidding; they're not. Both Drew Brees and Tony Romo should put up solid if not superb numbers. That said, the sudden interest by Dallas play-caller Scott Linehan -- or Bill Callahan or Jason Garrett -- in the run game might keep the scoring down a little, as that approach uses up more time than throwing every down.

On that note, the Saints' run defense has probably been the brightest spot for coordinator Rob Ryan's unit heading into his triumphant return to Dallas, where he can reminisce about fielding a mediocre Cowboys D (although it was a few million ranch acres better than the current iteration). Still, DeMarco Murray will rush for 90-something yards against New Orleans. #NOvsDAL

The visiting Patriots will go up 24-10 in the fourth quarter on the strength of the running game, only to see the Chiefs come roaring back to nearly tie it up -- before Cairo Santos misses the extra point. I usually try to get really specific on these predictions, but that's as far as I'll go on this one. ...

Here's your stat of the day, and it's a big reason New England will have to run the rock: Tom Brady has attempted 17 passes that have traveled more than 20 yards in the air -- and he's completed one. Wow. Kansas City's defense, meanwhile, has given up just five passing plays of 20-plus yards, tied for least in the NFL. So if you like 5-yard ins and none-yard outs, this is the game for YOU.

Oh, and hey, Alex Smith: Myself -- and 49er fans -- heart you. Way to play your butt off the past two weeks. #NEvsKC


This NFC East matchup is more than just a tale of two quarterbacks -- and by the way, we would never stoop to using such silly sports clichés. No, this one will come down to whoever makes fewer mistakes and takes it one play at a time.

After leading the Giants to their first win of the season, can Eli Manning do it -- that is, play efficiently -- two weeks in a row? As for the host Redskins, can Kirk Cousins shake off the fourth-quarter interception to Malcolm Jenkins and the late incompletion to Pierre Garcon and realize he played really well in Washington's Week 3 loss to the Eagles? Interesting note on Manning: He's only had one career start in Washington in which he topped 280 passing yards -- and only once has he thrown more than one touchdown. And that's out of 10 tries there. Expecting Alfred Morris to get plenty of run Thursday night -- and beyond -- with opponents now respecting the Redskins' passing game. #NYGvsWAS

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.

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