NFL: Previewing the Week 4 matchups


Two teams will clash at the Superdome on Monday night, and only one will leave with an unblemished record — save for an unsightly tie. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
September 27, 2013
TV games
Dolphins (3-0) at Saints (3-0)

Time, TV: 8:40 p.m. Monday, ESPN.

Line: Saints by 6.5.

Notable: Since 1990, just over three quarters of NFL teams that have started off 3-0 have made it to the playoffs. So the only sane question to ask about this matchup is: Which team will have the edge when they inevitably meet in the Meadowlands Super Bowl? Let’s see, the Dolphins would be obviously be used to warmer weather in Miami, but the Saints play in a dome, so . . . oh, right, we’re probably getting a little too far ahead of ourselves here. Especially since both of these teams missed the playoffs last season (and, in Miami’s case, the season before that, and the season before that, and the season before that), so they’d simply like to get back to the postseason, then worry later about how cold New Jersey in February might be.

Fantasy scout: The Saints gave Khiry Robinson his first four carries of the season last week, and, sure, they came in garbage time, but the fact that they produced 38 yards should provide some incentive to give him more work. After all, that works out to a 9.5 yards-per-carry average, which compares nicely to the 3.2 YPC for which all other Saints ball-carriers have combined. Then there are the rumors that Mark Ingram is on the trading block; if he should make his way (slowly, of course) to another team, that would almost certainly open up even more playing time for Robinson.

The Post Sports Live crew offers bold predictions for Sunday's game against the Oakland Raiders. (Post Sports Live/The Washington Post)
Giants (0-3) at Chiefs (3-0)

Time (TV): 1 p.m., Ch. 5 (Fox).

Line: Chiefs by 4.5.

Notable: Eli Manning was sacked almost as many times in Carolina than “The Book of Manning” has been shown on ESPN’s family of networks, so the last thing he needs is to be fed to the buzzsaw that is this year’s Kansas City defense. The sharpest tooth in that saw belongs to linebacker Justin Houston, who already has 7.5 sacks and needs two more to set a record for the most by one player through the first four games of the season. If the Giants’ offensive line doesn’t improve, Houston will get there by halftime.

Fantasy scout: It hasn’t gotten better yet for David Wilson, but the Chiefs’ run defense (25th in the NFL) does provide a glimmer of hope. Should Wilson have another poor day, however, his talent and situation would still make him one of the better buy-low targets out there, and his owners would figure to be that much more eager to get him out of their miserable lives.

Ravens (2-1) at Bills (1-2)

Time (TV): 1 p.m., Ch. 9, 13 (CBS).

Line: Ravens by 3.

Notable:Bills stars C.J. Spiller and Mario Williams are insisting that their various ailments will not keep them off the field, which sounds about right. They’re just quadriceps and ankle injuries, respectively, which don’t sound nearly as bad as getting cracked in the head by a champagne bottle, right, Jacoby Jones? In fairness to Jones (who was already out with a knee injury), it is unclear what exactly happened to him, but fairness won’t matter much to opposing fans who won’t soon let him forget the name “Sweet Pea.”

Fantasy scout: Speaking of Spiller, he remains a fairly obvious buy-low condidate, but there is legitimate cause for concern that he won’t be a top-12, let alone top-five, back this year. Fred Jackson continues to look spry, E.J. Manuel continues to look like a rookie QB, and that schedule will continue to feature run-unfriendly defenses such as as Baltimore’s.

Patriots (3-0) at Falcons (1-2)

Time (TV): 8:30 p.m., Ch. 4, 11 (NBC).

Line: Falcons by 2.

Notable:This game features the two active quarterbacks with the best starting records (minimum 50 starts). The only difference is that New England’s Tom Brady has made a ton more starts than Atlanta’s Matt Ryan (178 to 81) and has a remarkably better winning percentage (.781 to .704). But even Brady conceded this week that “Matty Ice” Ryan has it all over him in moniker, suggesting he could go by “TB12.” Or we could just keep calling Brady “That Lucky &$#%@ Who Married Gisele Bundchen.”

Fantasy scout:The Patriots are a somewhat shocking dead last in red-zone touchdown percentage, so saying they need Rob Gronkowski back is a, well, Gronk-sized understatement. The tight end may return tonight. Whenever he does, he will be a huge help to the Pats’ passing game.

Other games
Steelers (0-3) at Vikings (0-3)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Steelers by 3.

Notable: Wait, didn’t this game happen, like, five hours ago? Man, that time difference with England really makes things confusing. Also confused are poor Londoners, who must be wondering what they’ve done to deserve having this matchup — a right lorry-full of rubbish, guv’nor — dumped on them. The NFL blew a chance at major goodwill by not arranging to give attendees royal baby bobbleheads.

Fantasy scout: In the shadow of Buckingham Palace, could there be a changing of the guard at Vikings quarterback? Backup Matt Cassel will get a chance to play in place of Christian Ponder, who has a rib injury and has generally been ineffective. If Cassel can move the offense, he might keep the job.

Bengals (2-1) at Browns (1-2)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Bengals by 4.

Notable: Both teams are coming off of crazy, eye-opening wins. But only Cincinnati really wants to use that as a springboard to a hugely successful season. So the Bengals need to nip the Browns’ good feeling about themselves in the bud and take care of divisional business. It would help if Cincy held onto the ball better, as it has had fumbled seven times already, losing four.

Fantasy scout: Brian Hoyer became the first player since Otto Graham to toss at least three touchdown passes in his first NFL game with Cleveland. So book his ticket to the Hall of Fame! Or at least consider adding him in deep leagues if he can show that last week’s success wasn’t just a fluke.

Bears (3-0) at Lions (2-1)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Lions by 3.

Notable: Unlike the Bengals, the Bears generally cause opponents to lose the ball, forcing seven fumbles thus far, recovering six and snaring five interceptions. But Chicago’s defense lost tackle Henry Melton with a knee injury and now star cornerback Charles “Peanut” Tillman is dealing with a groin problem, this in addition to the pain in the groin that is Calvin Johnson.

Fantasy scout: So Nate Burleson broke his arm, in one of your typical car crashes caused by an attempt to keep a pizza box from sliding onto the floor. No word on whether Burleson was driving in the anchovy lane, but his injury does render Ryan Broyles pickup-worthy, particularly in PPR.

Cardinals (1-2) at Buccaneers (0-3)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Buccaneers by 2.5.

Notable: If a guy just left the Wolfpack, can he then be thrown to the wolves? Mull that deep existential question as Mike Glennon, fresh out of N.C. State, takes over as Tampa Bay quarterback. Josh Freeman has been thrown under the bus, and Bucs Coach Greg Schiano can only hope Glennon is good for a few wins, or else Schiano will be the next one sent packing.

Fantasy scout: Glennon, who went to Westfield High, is touted as having a big arm, and he might actually be good for deep threat Vincent Jackson. But it could take a couple of games for the pair to form a connection, giving you time to find out how uneasy the Jackson owner is about this situation.

Colts (2-1) at Jaguars (0-3)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Colts by 8.

Notable: Indianapolis comes in riding the momentum of a huge win at San Francisco, which came after a big trade for Trent Richardson. Jacksonville is countering with the return of . . . Blaine Gabbert. The Jags QB justified all the criticism in Week 1, but that was against what we now know is a very good Chiefs defense, and Gabbert did play well in the preseason.

Fantasy scout: It’s all well and good that the Colts want to run the ball all the time with Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw, but that doesn’t do much for Andrew Luck’s stats. Bradshaw is injury-prone, and, in fact, he will miss this game with neck discomfort; however, Luck owners need to consider an upgrade.

Seahawks (3-0) at Texans (2-1)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Seahawks by 2.5.

Notable: For a team with a 2-1 record, Houston has looked fairly shaky, but now it really needs to get its act together. Seattle has won eight straight regular season games, by an average score of about 35-11, and is gunning for the first 4-0 start in franchise history. However, there’s always the chance that Russell Wilson will get swallowed up by J.J. Watt. I mean, literally swallowed.

Fantasy scout: This game probably won’t get out of hand, but if it does, watch out for Seattle’s Christine Michael. The rookie back, whose name is pronounced “Kristin” (not that that helps a ton), has looked uber-talented, and he, not Robert Turbin, could be Marshawn Lynch’s handcuff.

Jets (2-1) at Titans (2-1)

Time: 4:05 p.m.

Line: Titans by 3.5.

Notable: World leaders have been gathering in New York at the United Nations, so it’s only fitting that the Jets have made a point of accumulating as many flags as possible. An NFL-high 34 of them, to be exact, including a ridiculous 20 last week. But the Titans are a worthy adversary, picking up 26 penalties themselves. The refs might get repetitive motion syndrome.

Fantasy scout: If you were able to grab Bilal Powell off waivers, congrats, he will be useful. But probably only for a couple of weeks, so the rest of us shouldn’t go crazy trying to get him. Mike Goodson comes off suspension next week, and Chris Ivory will return later to reclaim carries.

Eagles (1-2) at Broncos (3-0)

Time: 4:25 p.m.

Line: Broncos by 10.5.

Notable: Since Denver seems intent on going ahead with a three-way committee at running back, it’s nice that the members thereof inadvertently gave themselves the perfect nickname last week: “Rock, Paper, Scissors.” Clearly, Knowshon Moreno is Rock (steadiest player), Montee Ball is Paper (best back — on paper) and Ronnie Hillman is Scissors (most able to cut through defenses).

Fantasy scout: Riley Cooper is proving to be as bad at football as he is at not saying the N-word, so there’s a decent chance the Eagles will send more passes in the direction of Jason Avant. Reliability is Avant’s calling card, and that could be enough to get him into the WR4/5 zone.

Cowboys (2-1) at Chargers (1-2)

Time: 4:25 p.m.

Line: Cowboys by 2.

Notable: Dallas lost defensive end Anthony Spencer to knee surgery, but at least it has DeMarcus Ware, who just set a new team record with his 115th sack. Ware had two last week, has four on the season, and has 15 sacks in 13 games against AFC opponents since 2010. What does San Diego have? An offensive line beset by injury, and a growing sense of dread.

Fantasy scout: The Chargers rank last in fantasy points allowed to opposing QBs, and now Tony Romo and Co. come to town. All of which is to say that Philip Rivers will likely have to keep throwing, and considering how well he’s been playing, we could see an unlikely push into consistent QB1 territory.

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