Few expected the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints to have only one win between them coming into their Week 4 matchup, but the 2012 NFL season has already delivered its share of surprises.
The Falcons, Texans and Cardinals – the league’s lone unbeaten teams – are all heavy favorites this week. The most intriguing contest on paper is Sunday night’s NFC East clash between the Giants and Eagles.
Here’s a run-down of the full slate of games.
New England (1-2) at Buffalo (2-1) – 1 p.m., CBS
Patriots have gone 53-15 in the AFC East since 2001, best divisional record in that time. They have lost two straight for only the fourth time since 2003, and are below .500 for the first time since opening the 2003 season with a 31-0 loss at Buffalo. Bills’ nine sacks in their first three games are the most since they had 11 to open the 2006 season. Bills have allowed just one sack.
- Fred Jackson, recovering from knee injury, expected to play
- Struggling Patriots look to get back in the win column
- Bill Belichick fined $50,000
Carolina (1-2) at Atlanta (3-0) – 1 p.m., FOX
Falcons QB Matt Ryan leads the NFL in passer rating, completion percentage, first downs and touchdowns. Carolina’s offense ranks No. 17 in third-down efficiency and 29th in scoring.
Minnesota (2-1) at Detroit (1-2) – 1 p.m., FOX
Minnesota QB Christian Ponder has attempted 97 passes without an interception, and his 70.1 completion percentage ranks second in the NFL. Lions RB Mikel Leshoure had 100 yards rushing and a TD in debut last week.
Tennessee (1-2) at Houston (3-0) – 1 p.m., CBS
Houston leads the NFL in average possession time (36 minutes 34 seconds); Tennessee ranks last (23 minutes 18 seconds). Texans WR Andre Johnson needs 132 yards receiving to reach 10,000 for his career.
- No Finnegan means Titans must share defensive duties on Andre Johnson
- Titans can’t run the ball, but offensive line is protecting Locker
- Texans’ QB Matt Schaub shows toughness in team’s 3-0 start
San Diego (2-1) at Kansas City (1-2) – 1 p.m., CBS
Chargers QB Philip Rivers needs 27 yards passing to surpass 25,000 for his career. TE Antonio Gates has 77 catches for 952 yards and 12 TDs in 14 games against K.C. Chiefs have won two straight at home vs. San Diego.
- Back from injury, Jamaal Charles is back up to speed
- Late rally, overtime win over Saints sparks Chiefs
- Norv Turner not pleased with blowout loss to Falcons
San Francisco (2-1) at New York Jets (2-1) – 1 p.m., FOX
49ers QB Alex Smith ranks third in the NFL with a 69.6 completion percentage. His franchise-record interception-free streak ended at 249 passes when Vikings rookie Josh Robinson picked him off last Sunday. Last Sunday’s OT win marked the 11th time QB Mark Sanchez has led the Jets to a fourth-quarter comeback or OT victory, seven of them on the road.
- 49ers defense wary of Jets’ multifaceted offense
- Tebow time? Backup QB remains small contributor on struggling offense
Seattle (2-1) at St. Louis (1-2) – 1 p.m., FOX
Seattle is allowing 13 points per game, best in the NFL. Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch leads the NFC with 305 yards rushing. Rams CB Cortland Finnegan has an interception in each of the first three games.
- Rams rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein is perfect so far
- Golden Tate stands his ground after Monday night push-off
Cincinnati (2-1) at Jacksonville (1-2) – 4:05 p.m., CBS
Bengals QB Andy Dalton ranks second in the AFC in passer rating and leads the NFL with a 158.3 mark in the fourth quarter. Jaguars QB Blaine Gabbert has yet to throw a TD pass in the first quarter in two seasons.
Oakland (1-2) vs. Denver (1-2) – 4:05 p.m., CBS
Raiders RB Darren McFadden has rushed for 508 yards and three TDs in Oakland’s last four games against Denver. The Raiders have won last four meetings in Denver, outscoring Broncos 133-63.
- Broncos insist they’re not NFL’s new renegades
- Raiders sign DE Andre Carter to bolster pass rush
- NFL fines John Fox, Jack Del Rio for criticizing refs
Miami (1-2) at Arizona (3-0) - 4:05 p.m., CBS
Miami RB Reggie Bush averages 6 yards per carry, fourth-best in the NFL. The Dolphins average 5 yards per carry. Their six rushing TDs are tied with Redskins for most in league. Cardinals have allowed two TDs, fewest in NFL.
- Dolphins offense bracing for huge test against unbeaten Cardinals
- Skelton’s return will require QB decision in Arizona
New Orleans (0-3) at Green Bay (1-2) – 4:05 p.m., FOX
In teams’ last meeting, Saints RB Darren Sproles had 250 yards combined with a 72-yard punt return for a TD. Since 2011, Sproles leads NFL RBs with 104 receptions. Packers’ pass defense leads NFL with 125.3 ypg.
- Rodgers, Packers look to move past refereeing debacle
- Rodgers on NFL statement: “That’s garbage, obviously.”
- Saints say their defense is improving, despite 0-3 start
Washington (1-2) at Tampa Bay (1-2) – 4:25 p.m., FOX
The Redskins are averaging a league-best 33 points per game and have NFL’s second-ranked rushing attack at 180.7 yards per game. But the Bucs have league’s No. 1 rushing defense, yielding 47.3 yards per game. Conversely, they’ve allowed league-high 353.3 per game passing, which puts them just behind the struggling Washington defense, which has allowed 337.3 yards per game through the air.
- Robert Griffin III is learning the hard way
- Redskins sign RB Ryan Grant to replace injured Roy Helu
- Josh Freeman is Bucs’ offensive player to watch
- Redskins pass defense is NFL’s worst
New York Giants (2-1) at Philadelphia (2-1) - 8:20 p.m., NBC
Giants QB Eli Manning will make his 123rd consecutive regular season start. The Eagles have started eight QBs in that span. Eagles have won seven of last eight meetings between the two teams. Philadelphia is the only NFL team ranked in the top five in offense and defense. Eagles QB Michael Vick has twice rushed for more than 100 yards against New York.
- Victor Cruz returns to the city that kickstarted his career
- Banged up Giants secondary heads to Philly
- Andy Reid on Vick as starting QB: “We’ll evaluate it as we go.”
Chicago (2-1) at Dallas (2-1) - 8:30 p.m., ESPN
The Bears have nine takeaways (six interceptions, three fumble recoveries) and an NFL-leading 14 sacks. The Cowboys have 12 false start penalties, six by left tackle Tyron Smith, four by right tackle Doug Free and two by tight end Jason Witten. Dallas is trying for its first 3-1 start since 2008.