The first month of the NFL season has been surprising to say the least, with many divisions across the league carrying different division leaders than the season before. And some teams panicking already. As we approach week 4, the league is beginning to take shape as teams look to pull away from others and solidify themselves at the top of their conference.
Vikings Vs. Rams: Thursday Night Football
Thursday night games have been overwhelmingly boring in recent years, pitting teams at the bottom of the barrel against each other in hopes they are each bad enough to make it a close game.
This isn’t the case this Thursday, as the talented L.A. Rams take on the rising Minnesota Vikings.
The Rams are clear favorites in this one after the Vikings lost embarrassingly to the rebuilding Buffalo Bills at home last week. But the Vikings are no joke.
They held a talented 49ers offense to just 16 points in a season opening victory, made a comeback to tie against a veteran team in the Green Bay Packers week two, before falling apart against the Bills in week 3.
The Rams, on the other hand, have had no problems to start their season as they remain unbeaten.
Jared Goff has the Rams offense running as a well oiled machine, scoring at least 30 points in each of their first three games. Todd Gurley has continued to impress on the ground, rushing for over 100 yards in weeks one and three, and scoring three times in week two.
The defense also hasn’t been too shabby, giving up a combined 36 points through three weeks, including a shutout win against well, OK against the Cardinals, but still.
The Rams are playing a game at home that they should win, while the Vikings are playing a game they need to win in order to prove they are still capable of taking their division. Its not only Kirk Cousins vs Jared Goff in this one, it’s running backs and defense that will play a major factor in who walks away victorious. Oh, and Rams coach Sean McVay was offensive coordinator in Washington when Cousins was the quarterback.
Prediction: Rams 27 – Vikings 24
Patriots Vs Dolphins: Sunday
This week four divisional matchup has serious playoff implications, as the Miami Dolphins have the opportunity to take a three game lead in the division over the Patriots in New England. The Dolphins have had little success in Foxboro, as the Patriots have gone 15-1 at home against the Fish since Tom Brady became a starter.
The results could change this week, as the Dolphins are off to a red hot start and the Patriots are grasping at straws trying to get a win.
The Patriots need help everywhere. Fortunately for them, the team expects starting defensive lineman Trey Flowers and Safety Patrick Chung back on the field this week. The defense has faltered tremendously in the two players absence, rolling over to average offenses in the Jaguars and Lions.
The offense is still missing wideout Julian Edelman as he serves the last week of his four-game suspension, but newly acquired receiver Josh Gordon is expected to make his debut for the team. The Patriots desperately need a deep threat in the passing game to relieve the stress on the run game and help receivers find open lanes.
The Dolphins not only have the advantage of a better record and a history of putting their best foot forward against division rival New England, but the also have former Patriot Danny Amendola on their roster. The wide receiver won two Super Bowls with the Patriots, scoring touchdowns in each, and was a favorite for Brady to throw to in the post season.
After witnessing what former Patriot coach Matt Patricia was able to get out of the Patriots last week, it is worth noting the Dolphins have an informant on their side.
Prediction: Patriots 35 – Dolphins 34
Bengals Vs Falcons: Sunday
It’s another week where the Atlanta Falcons know they are going to need to put up 30 points or lose to another talented offense in the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Falcons are 1-2 to start the season, losing a so called “growing pains” game against the Eagles opening night and a shoot out to the Saints in week three. The Bengals have taken advantage of the poor start by usual AFC North division leader Pittsburgh and lead the division with at 2-1.
Cincy has been uplifted by the resurgence of all-star wide out A.J. Green this season, racking up four touchdowns in the first two weeks of the season, before settling down in a week three loss.
It would seem that the Bengal offense lives and dies by the duo of Andy Dalton and Green. In their two wins, Dalton has thrown for six touchdowns and one interception, four of those scoring strikes going to Green. But in their one loss, Dalton tossed four picks and failed to find Green in the end zone.
The Falcons have had a rough start to their season, scoring over 30 points in two of their three games but still losing twice to start the season.
The Falcon run game is the first to blame for the rough start. In the absence of injured running back Devonta Freeman, the Falcons have only passed 100 yards once this season, in their only win. Freeman is gaining ground on a return, but won’t suit up this week against the Bengals.
Matt Ryan will have to perform as well as he did last week in a loss against the Saints — where he threw a career high five touchdowns — in order to beat the Bengals this week and move his team in the right direction. If the Bengals can keep possession of the ball and put the ball in Green’s hands, it’ll be a long day for the Falcons defense.
Prediction: Falcons 34 – Bengals 24
Ravens Vs Steelers : Sunday Night Football
This storied rivalry is always a hard hitting, brutal matchup between the division rivals in the AFC North. Both teams have had fairly even beginnings to their 2018 campaigns, with only a half game separating them.
The Ravens began the season explosively, blowing out a pre-Josh Allen Buffalo team 47-3, before stepping back in a week two loss to the Bengals. In week three, the Ravens handled another poorly team in the Denver Broncos. The Ravens are 2-1, but have yet to beat any team of significant talent.
Joe Flacco has been rather pedestrian this year, in the past two weeks he has thrown three touchdowns and two picks. In the games the quarterback threw 40 and and 55 pass times, contributing to his low completion percentage. The Ravens running back by committee has formed a below average run game, failing to reach 80 yards in the past two weeks.
The Steelers have had a circus of a season so far, from tying the Browns to their top two players seemingly wanting to leave. But nonetheless, the team got it together last week to temporarily halt the Fitzmagic and earn a win in Tampa Bay.
Pittsburgh will need young running back James Connor to perform this week, and since the Ravens have given up at least 100 yards in each of the last two weeks, it looks promising. Big Ben and the passing game have done their job throwing for over 330 yards in every game this season.
The biggest question for the Steelers is if their locker room can get past outbursts by Antonio Brown and a hold out by star back Le’veon Bell, who this week was put on the trade block. The Ravens have yet to prove who they are, and will be given the chance Sunday night against a hated rival…this should be a good one.
Prediction: Steelers 42 – Ravens 28
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