Last Week: 11-4
Overall: 40-23

After a mediocre slate of Week 3 predictions, I was back in the winning spirit for Week 4. However, this week is peppered with a good share of coin toss games, and we don’t know how good or bad some teams truly are yet. I hate week-to-week rankings because everything changes so rapidly. The NFL landscape is starting to become clearer 1/4 of the way into the season, but I’m not very confident this week.

If you must gamble on NFL games this early, I’d advise sticking to teams you know what to expect from week in and week out: Denver is good and Jacksonville is ungood.

Bills @ Browns

I don’t know what to think of the Browns. Cleveland showed some vim and vigor upsetting Cincinnati last week with Brian Hoyer at the helm. In the Sloppy Night Football match-up, I go with the better coaching staff—especially if they’re at home and have momentum. As a result, I was horrified when Hoyer went down early with a particularly ugly injury against the Bills. Oh my god, that’s Brandon Weeden’s music! Enter Weeden and immediately the Browns offense sucked for the majority of the game. Luckily for the Browns and my prediction, E.J. Manuel also went out with a knee injury and Buffalo inexplicably never cared enough to pick-up an actual backup QB so undrafted free agent Jeff Tuel was forced into action and promptly proved he should be nowhere near an NFL field. The lesson here is that the Thursday Night Football match-up can never be a good game.

Win: Cleveland Browns

Saints @ Bears

There are some really interesting early games this Sunday, and the differing styles between New Orleans and Chicago could make for the best match-up. The Saints are not a perfect team by any standard, but the addition of Rob Ryan to their coaching staff has really reinvigorated New Orleans’ defense with a pressure-packed, blitz-heavy approach. That does not bode well for Chicago’s offensive line and Jay Cutler’s decision-making. Let’s face it, Smokin’ Jay Cutler will never fully understand what it takes to be a great quarterback. I still like the Bears and their chances of becoming a playoff team, but their coaching can do only so much to protect Cutler and keep him upright. When you watch Peyton Manning, he anticipates pressure and has ”Spidey sense” whenever anyone comes near him so he can fall down if there’s not a throw available. Jay Cutler holds onto the ball very loosely and always seems shocked when someone clobbers him. Unless Cutler gets bitten by a radioactive spider before this game, then I’ll go with Brees and New Orleans’ ability to bring pressure on defense even if the Saints really aren’t that good.

Win: New Orleans Saints

Patriots @ Bengals

If I’ve been right about something this year, it’s that you never trust a Ginger. People are finally starting to realize that the Bengals aren’t that good. Cincinnati has a stout front line on defense, but they’re remarkably unremarkable everywhere else. Adversely, New England isn’t elite either and they were dealt a huge blow when Vince Wilfork’s ankle blew up last week. Without a McMansion on the defensive line, Cincinnati could run the ball rather effectively. But with so many question marks, I am going to put my faith in Tom Brady—particularly with Danny Amendola ready to return. I think New England will throw the ball against Cincinnati’s injured secondary enough to control this close game.

Win: New England Patriots

Lions @ Packers

Football is more interesting when the Lions are at least a competent football team. I shouldn’t have been so surprised with how Detroit manhandled the Bears last week, but they also failed to slam the door shut after pulling out to a commanding lead. With the Packers rested coming off their bye week, Green Bay should ready to go for this physical match-up. In today’s NFL landscape, I feel like you almost always side with an elite quarterback. While I think Matt Stafford will have a good game against Green Bay’s beleaguered defense, Rodgers is still an elite QB and he should prove his worth today—especially since the Packers don’t have anyone healthy and truly capable of running all over the Lions. Detroit is a capable playoff contender, but I think NFL parity peaks out in this match-up.

Win: Green Bay Packers

Chiefs @ Titans

It’s such a fucking shame that Jake “The Snake” Locker suffered a hip injury last week just when the Titans were starting to look interesting. Needless to say, Tennessee is not the same team with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback. Fitzpatrick aspires to be Alex Smith. He is no Alex Smith. If Chris Johnson remotely resembled anything close to his former self, then I’d be tempted to take Tennessee at home in this match-up because Kansas City isn’t very good on the road. Even with the Harvard QB playing for the Titans, I think this will be a close game, but I have to go with Planet Mars (Andy Reid).

Win: Kansas City Chiefs

Seahawks @ Colts

As a Colts fan, my heart is with Indianapolis. But my head is with Seattle. The Seahawks have proven to be very mediocre away from their immense home-field advantage, and I’m still not sure if Russell Wilson is a really good quarterback or merely better than average. If the Oil Drum in Indianapolis actually gave the Colts a home-field advantage, then I’d be more tempted to buy into Andrew Luck leading a game-winning drive, but Miami already went into Indianapolis to expose the Colts. Trent Richardson still hasn’t found his footing and this will be a tough match-up to establish Indy’s new running back. I foresee more issues on the offensive line for the Colts, and I just can’t trust them against one of the NFL’s better teams. The Colts aren’t there yet, but I think they could be a great team by the end of the year.

Win: Seattle Seahawks

Jaguars @ Rams

Jacksonville is historically awful and I’d be surprised if they win one or more games this season. If you’re a conspiracy theorist, then this is the master plan of Shahid Khan to officially put the nail in the coffin of the NFL in Jacksonville so the franchise can be moved to London. I imagine Khan twirling his handlebar mustache and laughing maniacally every time Blaine Gabbert looks like a deer in headlights. It would make Jacksonville’s games much more interesting if there’s a stipulation that they’re immediately moved to London if they go 0-16. I’m riding St. Louis hard in Fantasy Football this week by starting Sam Bradford (RGIII is on a bye week) as well as their defense and kicker.

Win: St. Louis Rams

Ravens @ Dolphins

Not much talk anymore about how Joe Flacco is an elite quarterback. Baltimore did everything they could to give away the game last week against Buffalo, but the game was still close at the end. The Dolphins were exposed against New Orleans, and I think their inability to protect Ryan Tannehill will eventually lead to an injury for him later this season. Miami showed some life early in the season, but I think they have too many issues to be a playoff contender. If Baltimore is any good and has any hope of being a playoff team, then the Ravens need to win and limit Joe Flacco’s opportunity to lose the game. Without a receiver that can consistently gain separation, Flacco looks awful because he’s not an accurate QB that can pinpoint throws. I would run and run and run Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce early and often with little drop-off passes coming out of the flat and screen passes to RBs and WRs. If not, then it will be another day of Flacco launching bombs blindly into heavy coverage.

Win: Baltimore Ravens

Eagles @ Giants

How about that Chip Kelly? I’m feeling vindicated calling all those people morons who thought Kelly would revolutionize the NFL. As expected last week, Peyton Manning gave Chip Kelly a 60-min crash course on how to efficiently run the best offense possible in the NFL. I’ll never understand the motivation behind Kelly’s philosophy to run the most plays possible in the 60-min timeframe of a football game. How many plays you run is not important because that’s not the most influential factor of tiring out a defense. As Manning has shown time and time again, you keep the no-huddle going so defenses cannot substitute players, but you take as much time as necessary to read the defensive scheme in front of you and anticipate the possibilities of what will happen when the ball is snapped. More often than not, Peyton knows when he’s facing a soft front or when and where a blitz is coming from so he can audible into a new call or adjust on the fly. Unfortunately, Eli is not at the same level as Peyton and the Giants are struggling mightily this season. With a ton of problems on the offensive line and all over the defense, I think this could be the year that the Giants fire Coughlin and draft in the Top 5. This should be a better match-up for the Eagles as compared to last week so I’ll favor Philly to get some of their mojo back, but I also wouldn’t be the least bit shocked if Eli puts the Giants in the win column all by himself—I just can’t count on that.

Win: Philadelphia Eagles

Panthers @ Cardinals

The Arizona Cardinals should not have won that game last week against Tampa Bay. Fortunately for Arizona, Greg Schiano shit himself on national television and allowed his overmatched rookie quarterback to play a pivotal role. I saw nothing from that game to suggest Mike Glennon is currently capable of being a good QB. However, I have seen hints from Cam Newton that he could become a very good signal-caller instead of being simply mediocre. This Panthers-Cardinals match-up comes down to the defenses for me, and I think that has to favor Carolina. Arizona hasn’t been the same without Ray Horton calling the plays and creating the schemes on defense. While Carolina’s secondary is laughably bad, the bulk of the Panthers defense is very good on the line and in the next level. Carson Palmer always has one or two mind-blowing decisions in the winding moments of the game so this match-up could come down to whether or not Carolina’s secondary can hold onto the ball and make the interception. With no one showing up to run the ball for Arizona, I think the Cardinals will struggle to be balanced offensively whereas Cam Newton can be a balanced offense all by himself.

Win: Carolina Panthers

Broncos @ Cowboys

Dungy Caldwell

Peyton Manning is the greatest quarterback of all-time. People can make their case for Joe Montana or Tom Brady, but I’m not going to be swayed by any argument. If all things are equal, Peyton Manning is going to put your team in the best possible position to win. Watching the Colts slap together a shitty defense every year (notably with almost no one over 300 pounds on the defensive line at any point) really makes me long for an alternate universe where Tony Dungy wasn’t a giant pussy that loved vests and the Jim “Black Mannequin” Caldwell never existed. At least John Fox seems to have a pair of testicles swinging between his legs. The same can’t be said for Jason Garrett. As I predicted last week, the Cowboys telegraphed one of their staple road losses where they completed butchered the end of the game. I can’t imagine Garrett will have a head coach gig much longer. At this point, we know the Cowboys are a mediocre team with mediocre talent, coaching, and player development.

If the Cowboys want an opportunity to return to respectability, they need to throw all the money in the world at Jon Gruden. I love Gruden and his knowledge in the Monday Night Football is a welcome change of pace compared to the shitty announcers calling most games. Jerry Jones needs to be saved from himself since he’s become so delusional that he thinks he can own the team and scout their talent. Bill Parcells actually started to turn around the fortunes of Dallas, and the Cowboys are still coasting by on the talent he hand-picked when he was still there. It’s no secret why the Cowboys suck. Dallas could still eek by as a playoff team in their crappy division, but their long-term chances for success are rapidly dwindling with every passing day as Tony Romo gets older. Look for the Cowboys to put up a fight early before Peyton Manning breaks their will like Ivan Drago.

Win: Denver Broncos

Texans @ 49ers

Matt Schaub showed last week why I have never and no one ever should trust him. Houston clutched defeat from the jaws of victory against Seattle when Schaub lofted an interception that was returned for a touchdown. The Texans-49ers match-up seems like a coin toss to me because both teams are equally matched and essentially mirror images of one another. Both have a quarterback you can’t completely trust and an aging running back with a strong defense that’s the main reason they win games. I’ve long been a Frank Gore supporter so it was fantastic to see San Francisco re-establish him last week, but Arian Foster also showed some agility and burst last week. At this point, Houston’s defense is better than San Francisco without Aldon Smith, but I think the 49ers need to win this game at home to keep in the same stratosphere as Seattle. It will be interesting to see how Schaub responds after single-handedly costing the Texans an important home victory. I don’t think he’ll respond well.

Win: San Francisco 49ers

Chargers @ Raiders

In an odd maneuver, the NFL pushed back the start of the Chargers-Raiders match-up to give us a late late Sunday Night Football game because of the MLB playoff game at Oakland on Saturday. Apparently, they need more than 24 hours to turn the stadium from a baseball to football venue. I’ve seen the Raiders play at home before, and it does not look like it takes even 3 hours to convert to a football stadium—which is one of the shittiest venues in baseball and football, quite the accomplishment. The Raiders are much better with Terrelle Pryor healthy, and I think they’ll have a legitimate shot in this one. However, Oakland has virtually no running backs that are healthy and San Diego has shown some promise this year despite still being the same flaky offense under pressure in the final moments. Sadly, I will have to go with the Chargers since they seem to be more healthy, but I’m intrigued at what Terrelle Pryor can show if given enough time to throw downfield. As is, Pryor plays like the typical person in Madden with Michael Vick—running around for his life and heaving throws blindly downfield.

Win: San Diego Chargers

Jets @ Falcons

Just when Tony Gonzalez might have been re-thinking his retirement decision, he gets pulled back in. Atlanta is not the same caliber of team as last year, but I don’t think that matters much against the Jets because they should still be better than New York. I think the main problem for the Falcons is the Stephen Jackson injury and potential looming breakdown. Without a consistent running game and the persistent injury problems for Roddy White and Julio Jones, Atlanta could be weak enough to leave the door open for the Jets. But I will continue to underestimate the Jets because of my vitriol for Rex Ryan combined with Geno Smith’s puzzling decision-making ability. Atlanta needs to be good enough to win this one at home.

Win: Atlanta Falcons

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