It’s already Week Four, and the bye-weeks are upon us, with Arizona, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Denver, Seattle, and St. Louis enjoying the week off.
As for the teams playing, some of the top matchups include the 187th meeting of two storied NFL franchises, the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears, a possible shootout between New Orleans and Dallas, and the “Steve Smith Bowl,” as the Carolina Panthers travel to Baltimore.
Let’s take a closer look at this week’s slate of NFL action . . .
Carolina Panthers (2-1) at Baltimore Ravens (2-1)
On March 13, the Carolina Panthers released wide receiver Steve Smith, perhaps the most iconic player in the history of their franchise. The Baltimore Ravens didn’t waste any time bringing him on board, signing him to a three-year deal a day later. Smith has had this match-up circled since the schedule came out on April 23.
“You think I can’t play, you are going to find out Week Four,” Smith said.
Signing Smith has turned into a masterstroke by Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome, as the veteran wideout leads the Panthers in receptions with 18.
But one potential problem for the Ravens passing game this week is that Joe Flacco’s blindside protector, left tackle Eugene Monroe, is out with a knee injury. He will be replaced by undrafted rookie free agent James Hurst, and this could be a big problem against a talented Panthers front.
Green Bay Packers (1-2) at Chicago Bears (2-1)
Since the Bears opening day debacle against the Buffalo Bills, QB Jay Cutler has been on fire, throwing six touchdown passes in the last two games.
The Bears have been somewhat pass happy this year, in part due to Cutler’s howitzer arm and their outstanding receivers, but also because they can’t run the ball, with the NFL’s 32nd-ranked ground attack.
The Bears injury-ravaged secondary held up last week against the developing Jets quarterback Geno Smith. That might not the case against Aaron Rodgers.
Rodgers will likely rip apart the patchwork Bears secondary.
Considering the state of the Bears secondary, this match-up favors Green Bay.
Buffalo Bills (2-1) at Houston Texans (2-1)
The Houston Texans have the NFL’s fifth-ranked rushing offense, so they should try and stay on the ground as much as possible.
Because it’s not a good idea to get pass-happy with their journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, as we saw last week in his three-interception performance in a loss to the New York Giants.
The Texans keep their fingers crossed that their franchise back, Arian Foster, who is questionable with a hamstring injury, will be able to play.
Speaking of staying on the ground, no team in the league likes to run more than the Buffalo Bills, which is smart with a young quarterback in E.J. Manuel. With that being said, they need a little more from their passing offense, ranked 28th in the league.
This matchup favors the Texans who play at home.
Tennessee Titans (1-2) at Indianapolis Colts (1-2)
It’s unclear if Titans starting quarterback Jake Locker, and his injured right wrist, will play. If he can’t go, veteran backup Charlie Whitehurst will start.
A good matchup in this game is the Titans #2-ranked pass defense vs. Colts QB Andrew Luck, who is coming off one of the best games of his career in a blowout of Jacksonville.
If the Titans aren’t careful, they could be the victims of another blowout, considering Luck’s diversity of weapons, including receivers Reggie Wayne, T.Y, Hilton, two good tight ends in Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, and RB Ahmad Bradshaw, who caught three touchdowns out of the backfield last week. They are loaded!
It’s hard seeing Indy losing this game.
Detroit Lions (2-1) at New York Jets (1-2)
If the Jets are going to take this game, winning the turnover battle will be a big help.
And that is quite possible considering the Lions have turned the ball over six times in the last two games.
And one way the Jets can force turnovers is doing what they do well—putting a lot of pressure on the quarterback. Look for them to exploit the Lions reserve right tackle Garrett Reynolds, with starter LaAdrian Waddle out, along with his regular backup, Corey Hilliard.
This is a much-win game for the Jets, with San Diego, Denver, and New England to follow, and they will likely find a way.
Written by DAN LEBERFELD
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