It's usually around Week 5 when we identify the quality teams and learn which matchups are most important. My Week 4? Always stinks. Having done the NFL.com picks for the last three years, I can tell you that this week is usually the time of the season when your friendly writer starts to get an idea of what he's talking about ... although, like the picks below, that is up for debate.
Speaking of ...
Some guy selling memberships at my gym was wearing a white Cleveland Browns Tim Couch jersey with khakis ... in Los Angeles. So when he was telling a potential client that by signing up to be a member he could look just as he did 13 years ago, the guy was living proof.
On that note, I think Cleveland QB Brian Hoyer will have an efficient day down in Nashville. That's just one of the many predictions below. You can share your thoughts on Browns-Titans or any other matchup -- @HarrisonNFL is the place. And don't forget to check out the latest edition of the Dave Dameshek Football Program, in which Dave, Handsome Hank and myself discuss our predictions.
Now, let's get to it ...
Elliot Harrison went 6-7 on his predictions for Week 4, giving him a record of 36-25 so far this season. How will he fare in Week 5? His picks are below.
Detroit must get the run game going to soften up the pass rush, and to keep Matthew Stafford in a position where he can take fewer chances and make high-percentage throws. The vertical shot will be there off of play-action or in anticipated run sequences. Of course, Jeremy Ross' long touchdown reception for the Lions last week against the Jets did come on third-and-10. So forget what I just said. Or not. After all, the Bills' secondary is better than its counterpart in New York. So is their quarterback ... right? #BUFvsDET
Can Joe Flacco stay with Luck in Indy? He'll have to, if a) some combination of Bernard Pierce, Justin Forsett, Lorenzo Taliaferro and Earnest Byner can't get it done on the ground, or b) Baltimore's pass defense -- which ranks 24th in the NFL (260.2 passing yards allowed per game) -- falters against the league's top-ranked passing attack. #BALvsIND
OK, so as for that Jags pass rush: Did you know Jacksonville is tied for second in the NFL with 12 sacks? The last time the Jags finished in the top two in sacks was 1999, when they were winning playoff games by the score of 62-7. Don't expect huge numbers for Pittsburgh's running game -- Chargers back Donald Brown was stuffed against Jacksonville last week -- but 25 carries certainly makes sense. #PITvsJAX
Speaking of sleepy, Mike Glennon woke up the Buccaneers last week in Pittsburgh during Tampa Bay's upset victory. Can he at least match that performance in New Orleans? If not, the Bucs' secondary will have to step up -- the unit is allowing opposing quarterbacks to post a passer rating of 118.4 this season, worst in the league. #TBvsNO
Oh, how that Rams club was loaded. Flash forward, and the 2014 version has slightly less offensive firepower, unless you consider Austin Davis the second coming of Kurt Warner. Either way, I don't trust these Rams on the road against an Eagles offense that you know will be fired up to prove nothing ails it after being held without a touchdown in San Francisco. St. Louis needs defensive end Chris Long to get healthy. Every team could use a Jeremy Maclin, who is on pace to break Mike Quick's Eagles record (set in 1983) for receiving yards in a season (1,409). Quick, by the way, had a mustache that year that Lionel Richie could have been proud of. #STLvsPHI
*The feeling is electric at FirstEnergy Stadium* ... said no one ever.
Still, the Titans haven't been much better at their home, giving up more than 200 rushing yards to the Cowboys in the process of losing their only date in Nashville thus far. Tennessee's defense has been a mess since the Week 1 win over Kansas City, allowing 498 yards to Indy last week and 100 points over the past three games. Now the Titans are hoping Jake Locker is healthy enough to play. As for injured Browns, tight end Jordan Cameron hasn't been 100 percent, either -- but he will be a factor. #CLEvsTEN
One interesting facet that could really hurt the Cardinals in this matchup: their ineffectiveness in the red zone, where they rank 29th. The Broncos' defense, meanwhile, is tied for seventh in red-zone D. Drew Stanton has to find a way to locate the open guy in the end zone ... and put the ball on his numbers. #AZvsDEN
Then again, stretching back to 2012 -- when the Seahawks really arrived as a quality outfit -- they've gone 9-8 on the road, where they average 22 points per game, and 17-1 in front of the nutso home crowd, where they average 29.9 points per game. Scaring up 22 in D.C. should be enough, as the Redskins' receivers will have some trouble getting separation. Kirk Cousins must be patient -- take what the defense gives, and give Alfred Morris the rock 30 times. #SEAvsWAS