Week 4 NFL Game Previews: Early Games


Photo courtesy of Robert Robinson @badasskidsent

New York Jets (1-2) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-1)


Preview

The Jets are coming off a two-game skid while the Jaguars are looking for a bounce-back win after a disappointing Week 3 loss to the Titans. Jacksonville will be looking to get their offense back on track against an above-average defense. The Jets offense will have a big task ahead of them as their rookie quarterback will be going against one of the best defenses in the NFL. It’s still early, but this game could have some implications on end of season standings.


Players to watch

After a letdown game, Blake Bortles will need to step up his play to avoid being stuck in a close game. It will be interesting to see if Sam Darnold will test Jalen Ramsey throughout the afternoon or if he will shy away from him. The Jets will depend on the legs of Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell to help wear down the Jaguars defense. Jamal Adams will need to try to be a headache to Jacksonville’s offense and get New York’s defense off the field as much as possible.


Keys to the game

New York Jets

  • Wear down Jacksonville’s defense

  • No costly turnovers

  • Force Bortles into mistakes

Jacksonville Jaguars

  • Frustrate Darnold

  • Get running game going

  • Get off to a fast start on offense


Injury list

New York Jets

  • Neal Sterling, TE - Concussion (Out)

  • Charone Peake, WR - Hamstring (Out)

  • Buster Skrine, CB - Knee (Questionable)

  • Doug Middleton, S - Knee/Finger (Questionable)

  • Marcus Maye, S - Ankle/Foot (Questionable)

Jacksonville Jaguars

  • D.J. Hayden, CB - Toe (Out)

  • Leonard Fournette, RB - Hamstring (Questionable)

  • A.J. Cann, OG - Triceps (Out)


Top 5 Fantasy Players

  • Leonard Fournette, RB (JAX)

  • Isaiah Crowell, RB (NYJ)

  • Keelan Cole, WR (JAX)

  • Quincy Enunwa, WR (NYJ)

  • Jaguars D/ST (JAX)


Prediction

The Jets are going to have to play a near perfect game if they want to leave Duval County with a win. They will be facing an angry team in Jacksonville and I expect the Jaguars to come out swinging early. Their defense will confuse and get into Darnold’s face all day long. This game is setting up to be a perfect situation for the Jags to get everything back on track for their season. I think they handle the Jets pretty well all Sunday afternoon.


Final Score: Jaguars 24, Jets 6


Written by Cody Manning


Miami Dolphins (3-0) vs. New England Patriots (1-2)


Preview

If I told you just 1 month ago that there would be an 3-0 team and a 1-2 team in the Dolphins vs. Patriots week 4 matchup, 99.99% of you would have picked the Patriots as the 3-0 team. Well, fast forward one month and that’s clearly not the case. New England has struggled in its last two outings to score, lacking an outside threat to open up the offense. On defense, the lack of a pass rush and slow linebackers have allowed opponents to control possession and keep the ball away from Brady and company. On the other sideline, Adam Gase has found creative ways to spark the Dolphins offense, while the Suh-less defense has used its myriad of pass rushers to get after every quarterback they have faced this season. This could be the best team that Miami has marched into Gillette in years.


Players to watch

You obviously have to keep your eyes out for Tom Brady every week, but look for the newly acquired Josh Gordon to attempt to open up against a very tough Xavier Howard. He isn’t the only one with a tough day ahead of him, as Minkah Fitzpatrick will have his hands full with Rob Gronkowski, potentially his toughest matchup of the year. If defensive end Trey Flowers manages a return from injury, then staying upright might become a hell of a lot tougher for Ryan Tannehill. He will need help from his stable of wide receivers, especially Kenny Stills, to beat the McCourty brothers and Stephon Gilmore. But if passing doesn’t work, Kenyan Drake should have a field day against a beaten up Patriots LB corps, which just lost Ja’Whaun Bentley.


Keys to the game

Miami Dolphins

  • Get after Brady

  • Control the Clock

  • Run the ball consistently and effectively

  • Don’t get behind early

New England Patriots

  • Get ahead early

  • Force three-and-outs

  • Convert third downs

  • Get open on the outside


Injury list

Miami Dolphins

  • Chase Allen, LB - Foot (Out)

  • Andre Branch, DE - Knee (Out)

  • A.J. Derby, TE - Foot (Out)

  • Davon Godchaux, DT - Ankle (Questionable)

  • Reshad Jones, S - Shoulder (Questionable)

  • DeVante Parker, WR - Quadricep (Questionable)

  • Cameron Wake, DE - Knee (Questionable)

  • Sam Young, OT - Shoulder (Questionable)

New England Patriots

  • Marcus Cannon, OT - Calf (Questionable)

  • Patrick Chung, S - Concussion (Questionable)

  • Keion Crossen, DB- Hamstring (Questionable)

  • Nate Ebner, DB - Hip (Questionable)

  • Trey Flowers, DL- Concussion (Questionable)

  • Josh Gordon, WR - Hamstring (Questionable)

  • Geneo Grissom, DL - Ankle (Questionable)

  • Rob Gronkowski, TE - Ankle (Questionable)

  • Jacob Hollister, TE - Chest (Questionable)

  • Brandon King, LB - Foot (Questionable)

  • Eric Rowe, CB - Groin (Questionable)

Top 5 Fantasy Players

  • Tom Brady, QB (NE)

  • James White, RB (NE)

  • Kenyan Drake, RB (MIA)

  • Ryan Tannehill, QB (MIA)

  • Rob Gronkowski, TE (NE)

Prediction

While there is clearly a lot working against the Patriots here, I do not believe the Dolphins are who we thought they were. They have played three mediocre teams and now come into Foxboro, where they have not had great success, to play Tom Brady and Bill Belichick who are coming off two straight losses. The Patriots offense will finally get their head on straight in this matchup and the defense will expose the gadgety dependent offense that is Gase’s.


Final Score: Patriots 31, Dolphins 17


Written by: George Haraktsis


Philadelphia Eagles (2-1) vs. Tennessee Titans (2-1)


Preview

The Eagles and Titans are both coming off big week 3 wins that helped them avoid falling into a 1-2 hole. Philadelphia will be looking to work out some of the kinks in their offense as they should be getting some of their skill position players back. Tennessee also has to work on their offense as they have struggled early, but like Philly, that could be blamed on injuries to the unit. This could end up as a slugfest as each defense has played well thus far.


Players to watch

The biggest key to this game for the Titans is the health of Marcus Mariota. While he will be playing, it will be interesting to see if he will have his full arsenal of weapons, or if Tennessee will have to lean more on his legs over his arm. Carson Wentz showed flashes of his 2017 version in his first game back, and after shaking off some rust, Doug Pederson may want to open up the playbook this week. The 1-2 punch of Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis has been underwhelming. The Titans need them to help control the clock and wear down Philly’s defense as much as possible.


Keys to the game

Philadelphia Eagles

  • Don’t let Mariota beat you with his legs

  • Feed your tight ends (Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert)

  • Get Wentz going early

Tennessee Titans

  • Protect Mariota

  • Get running game going

  • Pressure Wentz


Injury list

Philadelphia Eagles

  • Rodney McLeod, S - Knee (Out)

  • Darren Sproles, RB - Hamstring (Out)

  • Alshon Jeffery, WR - Shoulder/Illness (Questionable)

  • Corey Clement, RB - Quad (Questionable)

  • Nathan Gerry, LB - Groin (Questionable)

Tennessee Titans

  • Dennis Kelly, OT - Illness (Out)

  • David Fluellen, RB - Groin (Out)

  • Blaine Gabbert, QB - Concussion (Questionable)


Top 5 Fantasy Players

  • Zach Ertz, TE (PHI)

  • Derrick Henry, RB (TEN)

  • Jay Ajayi, RB (PHI)

  • Dion Lewis, RB (TEN)

  • Carson Wentz, QB (PHI)


Prediction

Both teams have been in close battles in all three of their games and this will more than likely be the fourth. Their defenses will help keep their teams within a score of each other throughout the game, and this will come down to who makes a play in the 4th quarter. I think Wentz ends up finding a way to help lead the Eagles to a win, and they head back to some happy fans back in Philly.


Final Score: Eagles 21, Titans 17


Written by: Cody Manning



Houston Texans (0-3) vs. Indianapolis Colts (1-2)


Preview

The Texans and Colts find themselves in a crucial matchup that could determine playoff seeding. Neither can afford to fall too far behind this early in the season. Indianapolis will be looking to work out everything that is wrong with their offense. Houston needs to find a way to play a complete game and not fall into an early deficit. This should be a fun and competitive AFC South matchup to tune in to.


Players to watch

T.Y. Hilton has lit up the Texans defense plenty of times in the past and this could be the game that his connection with Andrew Luck finally flourishes. Quenton Nelson has been impressive, but the rookie will have his hands full dealing with the talented Texans front that includes J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. Deshaun Watson has been up and down this season. He has a chance to rebound in this game but the young Colts defense has been surprising, so he will need to play his best to give Houston a chance to win.


Keys to the game

Houston Texans

  • Protect the ball

  • Don’t let T.Y. beat you

  • Feed Hopkins

Indianapolis Colts

  • Protect Luck

  • Feed T.Y.

  • Force turnovers


Injury list

Houston Texans

  • DeAndre Hopkins, WR - Thumb/Ankle/Hamstring (Questionable)

  • Kayvon Webster, CB - Achilles (Questionable)

  • Shareece Webster, CB - Shoulder (Questionable)

Indianapolis Colts

  • Jack Doyle, TE - Hip (Out)

  • Joe Haeg, OT - Ankle (Out)

  • Quincy Wilson, CB - Concussion (Out)

  • Hassan Ridgeway, DT - Calf (Out)

  • Anthony Castonzo, OT - Hamstring (Out)

  • Marlon Mack, RB - Hamstring/Foot (Questionable)

  • Clayton Geathers, S - Knee (Questionable)

  • Anthony Walker, LB - Groin (Questionable)


Top 5 Fantasy Players

  • DeAndre Hopkins, WR (HOU)

  • T.Y. Hilton, WR (IND)

  • Lamar Miller, RB (HOU)

  • Will Fuller, WR (HOU)

  • Deshaun Watson, QB (HOU)


Prediction

This game is going to come down to the trenches. Houston’s offensive line hasn’t protected Watson, and they have the defensive front to be a problem for Luck. Indianapolis surprisingly has been one of the better teams at getting pressure on quarterbacks, and their offensive line has been solid at protecting their own. Frank Reich will make sure to get the ball out of Luck’s hands quickly, and it will be his gameplanning that helps lead the Colts to victory.


Final Score: Colts 24, Texans 17


Written by Cody Manning



Buffalo Bills (1-2) vs. Green Bay Packers (1-1-1)


Preview

The Buffalo Bills travel to Green Bay to face the Packers after upsetting the Vikings and shocking the world with a 27-6 victory. The Bills will look to build off the momentum and hope to upset the Packers who are 10pt favorites in this matchup. The Packers will point to the Buffalo’s upset over the Vikings all week as to why the Bills should not be overlooked, and they will need to find a way to make up ground on the Bears, who currently lead the division by a game and half. They won't take this matchup lightly.


Players to watch

Aaron Rodgers, for the first time since injuring his knee, was able to practice on Thursday, and teammates are excited that it could be a sign he is doing better. Josh Allen, after beating the Vikings, has Buffalo fans excited for the future as he showed flashes of his potential. He hopefully continues the trend Sunday. It seems Allen will have another weapon with Lesean McCoy making progress to return to the lineup. With Davon House being placed on the injured reserve list this week, young rookie corners Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson will see much more playing time for Green Bay.


Keys to the game

Buffalo Bills

  • Make Rodgers uncomfortable

  • Convert on 3rd downs

  • Run the ball

Green Bay Packers

  • Keep Rodgers upright

  • Get out to an early lead

  • Win the battle upfront


Injury list

Buffalo Bills

  • Charles Clay, TE - Shoulder/Hip (Questionable)

  • Jason Croom, TE - Knee (Questionable)

  • LeSean McCoy, RB - Rib (Questionable)

  • Marcus Murphy, RB - Rib (Questionable)

Green Bay Packers

  • Muhammed Wilkerson, DT - Ankle (Out)

  • Justin McCray, OG - Shoulder (Doubtful)

  • Randall Cobb, WR - Hamstring (Questionable)

  • Josh Jones, S - Ankle (Questionable)

  • Kevin King, CB - Groin (Questionable)

  • Nick Perry, OLB - Concussion (Questionable)

  • Aaron Rodgers, QB - Knee (Questionable)


Top 5 Fantasy Players

  • Aaron Rodgers, QB (GB)

  • Aaron Jones, RB (GB)

  • Josh Allen, QB (BUF)

  • Lesean McCoy, RB (BUF)

  • Geronimo Allison, WR (GB)


Prediction

In the last three years the Packers have gone 1-2 when wearing their alternate blue and gold jerseys. Come Sunday, they will get that record to .500. This Buffalo team has a defense that is underrated but unfortunately lacks playmakers on offense to outlast the Packers. With a healthier Aaron Rodgers and this game being played in Lambeau, the Packers will make this a “get right” game after an uninspiring performance against the Redskins last week.


Final Score: Packers 27, Bills 13


Written by: James Davis



Detroit Lions (0-2) vs. Dallas Cowboys (1-2)


Preview

Quite the turnaround these two teams had this past weekend, as Dallas seemed unable to win a game against a beatable Seahawks team and the Lions found a way to beat the Patriots without breaking a sweat. Most fans thought that after their solid performance against the Giants that Dallas had figured some things out offensively, but instead it was more mistakes, turnovers, and missed opportunities. The Lions, whom many considered to be among the worst teams in the league, found a way to contain the Pats offense and control the game with balance on offense. With both teams sitting at 1-2, this game should not be taken lightly. Neither side can afford to fall to the bottom of their respective divisions with a loss.


Players to watch

Everyone will be continuing to watch Dak Prescott, as his play last week was subpar. Maybe the return of Brice Butler can help the pass attack. Ezekiel Elliott needs to rebound from the two critical errors he had that basically nullified two scores for the team. Dallas’ first round pick, Leighton Vander Esch, will likely be making his first start at weakside linebacker due to another injury to Sean Lee. This is where we’ll get a sneak peak into the future and whether the team made a correct choice in its draft strategy. Matthew Stafford seems to have historically passed the ball 50+ times every game, but after rookie Kerryon Johnson’s success last week, they might find ways to keep feeding this guy. Another rookie to watch is Detroit lineman Frank Ragnow as he faces a solid Cowboys inside pass rush.


Keys to the game

Detroit Lions

  • Establish the run

  • Keep Stafford upright

  • Defend the RPO

  • Make Dak Prescott scan the field

Dallas Cowboys

  • Take advantage of the favorable run mismatch

  • Don’t let Stafford get the ball out quickly

  • Avoid beating yourselves

  • Do a better job on third down (3 of 13 last week).


Injury list

Detroit Lions

  • Ezekiel Ansah, DE - Shoulder (Out)

  • Michael Roberts, TE - Knee (Out)

  • Golden Tate, WR - Hip (Questionable)

  • Jarrad Davis, LB - Knee (Questionable)

Dallas Cowboys

  • Cole Beasley, WR - Ankle (Questionable)

  • Maliek Collins, DT - Knee (Out)

  • Travis Frederick, C - Illness (Out)

  • Sean Lee, LB - Hamstring (Out)

  • Antwaun Woods, DT - Groin (Questionable)


Top 5 Fantasy Players

  • Ezekiel Elliott, RB (DAL)

  • Matthew Stafford, QB (DET)

  • Golden Tate, WR (DET)

  • Dak Prescott, QB (DAL)

  • Kenny Golladay, WR (DET)


Prediction

I don’t know what to think of these two teams as they have had a sort of “Jekyll and Hyde” showing the past three games. I think early on, this game will be won by whichever team establishes the run and keeps the chains moving. Dallas will be without Lee, but their defense is still strong. Even though the Lions have a decent pass defense it really has been because teams have been able to run at will against them. While I think Dallas has a better matchup, they have yet to perform consistently. It’s hard for me to trust them.


Final Score: Lions 20, Cowboys 17

Written by: Will Heiges II


Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-0) vs. Chicago Bears (2-1)


Preview

For some odd reason, the NFL schedule makers love this matchup so much that they’ve made it happen the last four years in a row. The now 5-year series is tied at 2-2, with the Bears winning in 2014 and 2015 and Tampa prevailing in the more recent two. This matchup will be quite different from years past, as the Bears have Khalil Mack on defense and the Bucs currently have the league’s number one offense. This game will be determined in the trenches; if the Bucs can’t slow down Khalil Mack, they don’t stand a chance, but the same can be said for the stagnant Bears offense. This will be a matchup of an elite offense vs an elite defense, and a mediocre offense facing the worst secondary in the league. It’s a coin toss as to who has the advantage.


Players to watch

There are obviously two names that will determine the outcome of this game: Ryan Fitzmagic and Khalil Mack. Arguably the league’s most talented receiving corps consisting of Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, and Chris Godwin will be facing a secondary lead by Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara; advantage Tampa Bay. Mitchell Trubisky will need to show up this week for his team to have a chance — his 2018 36.8 QBR won’t be enough to beat such a high powered offense. The Bucs linebackers Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander will have their hands full with Jordan Howard, who’s expected to have quite the workload this weekend. It’s worth noting that Tampa has yet to establish the run and should look to get Peyton Barber going, but against Danny Trevathan, Roquan Smith, and Leonard Floyd, that will be easier said than done.


Keys to the game

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • Protect the football

  • Keep pressure off Fitz w/ chip blocks and quick passes

  • Establish the run, set up the play-action

  • Disguise looks & blitzes

Chicago Bears

  • Pressure the quarterback

  • Exploit the Tampa secondary

  • Play sound defense

  • Play small ball on offense


Injury list

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • Beau Allen, DT - Foot (Out)

  • Carlton Davis, CB - Groin (Questionable)

  • Vita Vea, DT - Calf (Questionable)

  • Jordan Whitehead, S - Shoulder/Hamstring (Questionable)

  • Marcus Williams, CB - Hamstring (Questionable)

Chicago Bears

  • Prince Amukamara, CB - Hamstring (Out)

  • Marcus Cooper, CB - Hamstring (Out)

  • Anthony Miller, WR - Shoulder (Out)

Top 5 Fantasy Players

  • Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB (TB)

  • Mike Evans, WR (TB)

  • Jordan Howard, RB (CHI)

  • Allen Robinson, WR (CHI)

  • DeSean Jackson, WR (TB)


Prediction

The Bears offense is averaging just over 16 points per game, while the Buccaneers offense has averaged nearly double that mark with just over 31 points per game. The Bears rank 28th in passing offense, averaging just 178 yards through the air, so it’s hard to imagine that Chicago will be able to keep up with the Buccaneers in a shootout. If the Bears have a chance to win, it’ll be on defense by creating turnovers and returning them for points, or at the very least setting up their offense with great field position. I just think the Tampa offense is just too potent to be held under 20 points. Matt Nagy will have to use some creative gadget plays to help spark the offense, and Mack and the rest of the D-line must have a monster performance. If not, the Buccaneers offense will be too much to overcome.


Final Score: Buccaneers 27, Bears 23


Written By: Jack Bourgeois



Cincinnati Bengals (2-1) vs. Atlanta Falcons (1-2)


Preview

Two top 10 offenses square off in a week 4 battle, when the Falcons and Bengals meet in Atlanta. The Falcons are coming off of a week 3 shootout loss against the Saints while the Bengals will try to rebound after losing to Carolina. The Falcons will need to find a way to stop a Bengals offense that’s averaging 29 points a game, with a defense that’s been decimated by injuries. The Bengals will need to stop a high powered Falcons offense on 3rd down, where they’re allowing 52% conversions, the highest in the league.


Players to watch

While Julio Jones and Matt Ryan have yet to connect for a touchdown this season, Calvin Ridley is finding success as defenses focus on trying to stop Jones. Ridley exploded last week for 3 touchdowns. The Bengals have their own breakout receiver in Tyler Boyd, who shined in the absence of AJ Green, who went out in the 2nd half of last week’s game with a groin injury. Giovani Bernard could also have a huge game (if he’s 100% after a thigh injury). The Falcons defense is giving up 5.2 yards per carry and Joe Mixon is out again this week, making Bernard the feature back.


Keys to the game

Cincinnati Bengals

  • Stop 3rd down conversions

  • Establish the run early

  • Exploit thin secondary

Atlanta Falcons

  • Red Zone defense

  • Pressure Andy Dalton

  • Get Julio Jones involved in the red zone


Injury list

Cincinnati Bengals

  • Joe Mixon, RB - Knee (Out)

  • Billy Price, C - Foot (Out)

Atlanta Falcons

  • Devonta Freeman, RB - Knee (Out)

  • Derrick Shelby, DE - Groin (Out)

  • Justin Bethel, CB - Knee (Out)


Top 5 Fantasy Players

  • Julio Jones, WR (ATL)

  • AJ Green, WR (CIN)

  • Giovani Bernard, RB (CIN)

  • Calvin Ridley, WR (ATL)

  • Andy Dalton, QB (CIN)


Prediction

This will be another high scoring game. The Bengals have a slight advantage with a stronger run defense than the Falcons. This game will heavily depend on which injured players are available to play on Sunday. AJ Green, Giovani Bernard, Devonta Freeman, and Joe Mixon are offensive weapons that were either limited in practice or did not practice this week. I expect Green and Bernard to play, while Freeman and Mixon are sitting out. I’ll give the Bengals offense the edge to win the game, as they exploit a thin secondary and poor run defense.


Final Score: Bengals 27, Falcons 23


Written By: Blake Hymel

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