Week 4 is already upon us and as usual, the schedule is full of intriguing storylines and matchups. By the end of today, some will probably be calling it “Right The Ship Week” (more on that later).
The biggest news of all this week is that the refs are back. The NFLRA holdout reached its tipping point with the Seattle-Green Bay debacle on Monday night and props to the owners for reacting quickly and getting a deal done (though they swear it had nothing to do with MNF).
Will your favorite team shake off their slow start now that the real refs are back? Not necessarily. But there are a few changes that we can expect to see right away:
More Penalties – On Both Sides
The analogy of the replacement refs as substitute teachers was a brilliant one. Since the real teacher has been sick for three weeks, they return to students who are used to bending the rules.
I mean, how many pass interference and holding calls have we seen completely ignored with the replacement refs on board. The game was just too fast for them to notice a lot of the basic infractions. I’m not saying that there will be a penalty called on every play, but when I go back and compare the flags from Weeks 1-3 and 4-6, I expect to see a sizable increase as the players return to their normal order.
This is especially true for the secondary. Corners and safeties were holding and interfering with star receivers way past the five-yard buffer zone. Unless they immediately disguise it better, they’ll give up plenty of first downs.
Better Passing Numbers
This is largely dependent on the first one, but pretty likely if you ask me. There have been around eight or nine 300-yard passers a week so far this season. But with the DBs going back to their normal ways, 10-15 wouldn’t surprise me today.
Now back to what I meant by “Right The Ship Week”. 13 teams are 1-2 at the moment and in could really use a win to get back to .500 on the season. This is the most 1-2 teams that we’ve had coming into Week 4 in the last ten years. They all need a win this week, but these four need one the most:
Denver: Peyton and company haven’t started the way they’d hoped, but they’re only a game behind San Diego for the lead in the AFC West.
Detroit and Green Bay: The NFC North’s playoff teams of last year are looking up at Minnesota and Chicago at the moment. They have to have this one, especially the Lions who are hosting Minnesota.
New England: Starting 1-2 with the easiest schedule in the league isn’t good, but their “easy teams” have improved from last season. Traveling to Buffalo won’t be a gimme, either.
A few teams will look back on Week 4 as the turning point in their season. I’m putting my money on this group.
Now let’s pick. I finally went above .500 last week (9-7), putting me at 25-23 for the season. I should get easier from here on out, but who knows?
Baltimore over Cleveland
A game that was much closer than we all expected, but the Ravens still came away with a W.
New England over Buffalo
I’m excited to see Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller on the field for Buffalo. It should open their offense up a bit, but with both still nursing injuries, I’m going with New England.
Detroit over Minnesota
As noted above, Detroit needs this one. Christian Ponder is coming off the best game of his career and Minnesota would need something similar to win this week.
Atlanta over Carolina
The pundits have been ripping Cam Newton for doing the same thing he’s been doing since coming into the league (where have they been?). The “turmoil” between him and Steve Smith is exaggerated, but it won’t matter against this Falcons team – they’ll score at will.
Kansas City over San Diego
This pick was solely reliant on Dwayne Bowe and Steve Breaston being active for Kansas City. They are, so I’ll take them to surprise San Diego.
Seattle over St. Louis
Seattle is still riding high after whatever you want to call last week’s result (win or loss, you’re still right). Russell Wilson just needs to be decent and his defense will do the rest.
San Francisco over New York Jets
This is a great chance for Alex Smith to do something he rarely does – take chances down the field and succeed. No Revis, should be no problem.
Houston over Tennessee
Houston will remain undefeated, but that’s also what I said about San Francisco last week.
Denver over Oakland
Analysts are claiming that Peyton “can’t throw the ball anymore”, but I’m still taking him over most of the QBs in the league.
Arizona over Miami
Arizona will remain undefeated. No seriously, they’re undefeated with Kevin Kolb under center. But as with the last three games, the defense will be key.
Cincinnati over Jacksonville
Jacksonville has been in two of their three games until the end and Maurice Jones-Drew is starting to put it together again. They’ll make a game out of it, at least.
Green Bay over New Orleans
Eye-popping stat of the week: New Orleans is 0-3. Their three opponents’ record when not playing the Saints: 0-6. The wheels may be coming off.
Tampa Bay over Washington
Neither team has looked spectacular this season (despite what Redskins fans will say). One of them will probably win though.
Philadelphia over New York Giants
When will I stop standing by Philadelphia? When Vick is throwing interceptions into my living room?
Chicago over Dallas
Another good Monday Night matchup. This one could really go either way, but I think that Chicago is the better team overall.
Record (Week): 11-4
Record (Season): 36-27