Photo credit: Erik Drost
Author: Joey Carr
After four weeks of play in the 2015 Regular Season, it’s safe to say that it has been a pretty perplexing start to the year. There are an astounding six undefeated teams, which is an NFL record, but there are just nine teams total that have a winning record. Nine. That is unprecedented. To be fair, there are a fair amount of teams that are 2-2, but the fact still remains that there just aren’t that many above average teams this year. With that being said, it makes it extremely difficult to make predictions for the games. Upsets are bound to happen every week and you never know which teams will crack under the pressure. Can the Seahawks finally turn the corner and prove to everyone they’re legitimate by beating undefeated Cincinnati? Is the NFC South for real with 2 unbeaten squads? Which NFC East team will emerge as the frontrunner? All these questions could be answered this week with some marque matchups on the docket for Sunday.
Bills vs. Titans
In what looks like an underwhelming game on paper, this matchup could turn into an exciting thriller. The Bills are not what everyone expected them to be, as Rex Ryan’s team haven’t turned in consecutive consistent games all year. While they have a top 10 defense, they will be without their top two running backs, which could prove costly come Sunday. The Titans on the other hand are coming off a bye, and have looked decent thus far. Marcus Mariota is turning out to be exactly what Tennessee was looking for when they drafted him, and he’s going to have really be on his game when he faces that hard-hitting Bills defense.
Prediction: Bills 22 Titans 20
Browns vs. Ravens
It’s no secret; these two AFC North rivals have been nothing more than woeful. Cleveland has shown glimmers of improvement, but are still an average team at best. Their offense has talent, but not enough of it at this point. They still have Josh McCown at quarterback, and with him there they’re always going to be prone to losing football games. Baltimore has been a major disappointment this season, and they’re not going to be improving much in the coming weeks. Joe Flacco has been anything but elite thus far and the run game has been almost nonexistent. I see this game as a toss up that will come down to who commits less turnovers.
Prediction: Ravens 24 Browns 18
Bears vs. Chiefs
Before the season started, this looked like a better matchup than what it is now. Both teams have been an utter disappointment, as they are a combined 2-6. The Chiefs at 1-3 is a surprise, as they have tons of talent on both sides of the ball but have failed to put that talent to good use. However, they are seeming to figure out
how to execute on offense but they are still struggling tremendously on defense, which could prove to be an issue when they face the formidable Matt Forte.
Prediction: Chiefs 31 Bears 20
Seahawks vs. Bengals
Easily one of the more intriguing games of the afternoon, Seattle and Cincy are set to duel it out as one of the premier defenses in the league takes on one of the top offenses. Andy Dalton and company have been a huge surprise this year, taking a huge leap from last season and emerging as a legitimate threat in the AFC. The defense has some issues in the secondary but the Seahawks offense isn’t what you would call “pass-oriented”. Yes, they have been passing the ball more than previous years but they are producing the most points through the run game, which is where Cincy will be tested on Sunday. However, Marshawn Lynch will be out for the second straight week, making the Bengals job a lot easier. This game is going to come down to if Seattle can stop the Cincinnati offense, and with so many weapons for the Bengals, it might be harder than some people think.
Prediction: Bengals 27 Seahawks 24
Rams vs. Packers
After a coming-out game for Todd Gurley last week, this game becomes much more noteworthy. The Packers don’t have the best run defense, so Gurley could spell trouble for the Pack. However, Green Bay does possess possibly the best offense in the NFL. Aaron Rodgers is having another MVP-type season and has all the weapons he needs to beat this Rams team. However, this has all the makings of an upset game, so don’t be surprised if St. Louis comes out of Lambeau with a W.
Prediction: Packers 28 Rams 21
Jaguars vs. Buccaneers
By the far the most underwhelming game of the day, no one knows what to expect from these two Florida teams. It could be a high scoring output where the two lackluster defenses stay lackluster, or turnovers could rule the game. It’s really a toss up at this point, but the Jags have shown more enthusiasm and ability on the season, as they were a field goal away from beating the Colts last week.
Prediction: Jaguars 17 Buccaneers 13
Saints vs. Eagles
In a battle of preseason Super Bowl picks, Sam Bradford looks to get the Eagles back on track. They still have a shot to win the mediocre NFC East if they can get the run and pass game going on a consistent basis. Demarco Murray has been flustered so far, but this could be a breakout week for him against a run-of-the-mill Saints defense.
Prediction: Eagles 28 Saints 19
Redskins vs. Falcons
This game could be one of the better clashes of the day. The Falcons are 4-0, a record no one thought they would have. Granted, they haven’t played the best teams, but the fact still remains that they have shown vast improvement from last year and are undefeated. The main aspect of this game to keep an eye on would be the Falcons newfound run game against the surprisingly respectable Redskins run defense. If the Skins can keep Devonta Freeman in check and limit the damage Julio Jones can cause, they will be sitting pretty atop the NFC East. However, the offense needs to step up tremendously, which might be a tough task with Desmond Trufant and Vic Beasley on the other side of the ball.
Prediction: Falcons 27 Redskins 23
Cardinals vs. Lions
The Detroit Lions were a penalty away from advancing to the NFC Divisional game last year. This year, they’re 0-4 and on the brink of fighting for a top 5 draft pick. I don’t think anyone would’ve guessed that the loss of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley would impact them this much. Their offense, on paper, looks like it should be one of the best in the NFL, but they’ve underachieved vastly so far. The Cardinals defense should be able to lock down Matthew Stafford and company and the offense should give the Motor City defense a handful to deal with.
Prediction: Cardinals 31 Lions 20
Broncos vs. Raiders
This divisional matchup might prove to be closer than most people are predicting. The Raiders are easily the most improved team from last year, with the AC/DC (Amari Cooper, Derek Carr) connection going strong and Latavius Murray leading the run game. Khalil Mack is a monster on defense, and should help make the Broncos rushing attack irrelevant for the fifth straight week. But Denver has other great weapons on offense and the best defense in the NFL, which should give them the upper hand in this divisional bout.
Prediction: Broncos 24 Raiders 17
Patriots vs. Cowboys
Definitely the Game of the Week, the two richest NFL franchises are set to go head to head under the lights in AT&T Stadium. The Cowboys are, in a word, depleted. They are without Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, and Lance Dunbar on offense and have a banged up Sean Lee on defense. Their secondary is suspect, something Tom Brady will most definitely take full advantage of, but Dallas does get Greg Hardy and Ronaldo McClain back. Hardy is one of the best pass rushers in the league, and is set to give Brady all sorts of problems, but Number 12 should be up to the task. The Patriot offense is on an absolute tear as of late, and that trend should continue.
Prediction: Patriots 34 Cowboys 21
49ers vs. Giants
The Sunday Night game of the week is a bit of a let down, but should still be a competitive game nonetheless. The Niners have been exactly what everyone thought they would be: a basement team. Colin Kaepernick is a mess, plain and simple. If he keeps going the way he is, he will be benched by week 10. The only bright spot on offense for the Niners is Carlos Hyde, who should have a decent game on the ground. It might not be enough though, as Eli Manning and the Football Giants have looked like a contender as of late. They dismantled the Bills last week, and should do the same to San Fran this week on Sunday Night.
Prediction: Giants 26 49ers 13
Steelers vs. Chargers
A battle between two contenders in San Diego and Pittsburgh should produce a fourth quarter thriller. Phillip Rivers and Co. have been a bit inconsistent recently, but with Antonio Gates back in the mix, the Bolts offense should improve against a weak Steelers secondary. The Charger defense on the other hand has the impossible job of stopping Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, but with Mike Vick at quarterback, you never know what you’ll get. In the end, this game will come down to which Antonio (Gates or Brown) has the better game.
Prediction: Steelers 28 Chargers 27