Dolphins rise to top of AFC with win vs. Bills
Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins topped the mighty Bills 21-19 in their Week 3 matchup to remain undefeated. Emmanuel Acho, Joy Taylor, LeSean McCoy and David Helman talk AFC Football.
As the first few weeks of the season have shown, you never know what’s going to happen in the NFL. The Dolphins, Eagles and Jaguars are the talk of the league, while the Bengals and Patriots are bottom-feeders.
FOX Sports’ staff of NFL writers has assembled a guide to every game that will be played in Week 4. Make sure to check the site and app throughout the season for previews and predictions each week.
Overview: The Bengals finally showed signs of life with a thorough drubbing of the New York Jets. Until Week 3, there was good reason to doubt Cincinnati’s bounceback after losing in the Super Bowl. But now, I can’t help but wonder whether the Bengals were simply off to a slow start. Either way, they have a chance to establish themselves in a real way against the undefeated Dolphins, who are fresh off wins against the Baltimore Ravens and Buffalo Bills. Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase have finally thawed the ice on their connection. And that defense isn’t quite as slugging as it once was.
Miami seemed like a team that might need some time to get its footing under a new coach and a new offense. Tua Tagovailoa was entering a deal-breaking year, and no one knew if he could make the throws the team needed to make the most out of Tyreek Hill, who cost the Dolphins an insane amount of draft assets to acquire. Of course, all is well in Miami. The Dolphins haven’t lost a game. Tagovailoa has enjoyed an extremely impressive season, thanks to his development — and also to Mike McDaniel, Hill and Jaylen Waddle. It’s strange to think the defense is now an afterthought, but make no mistake, they are extremely impressive, with safety Jevon Holland turning into a breakout star this year.
Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins topped the mighty Bills 21-19 in their Week 3 matchup to remain undefeated. Emmanuel Acho, Joy Taylor, LeSean McCoy and David Helman talk AFC Football.
Matchup to watch: Bengals safety Jessie Bates vs. Dolphins yards after catch
Hill has repeatedly said that the Dolphins are trying to get drunk off the YAC. I’m not exactly sure what that means, but I’m pretty sure they’re doing it. Hill is ninth in the NFL in YAC with 105 yards, and his teammate Waddle sits at No. 2 with 131. Bates and defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo will have to figure out how to do what no defense has done this season so far: keep a lid on the Dolphins’ offense.
If a team can force Tagovailoa to turn into a checkdown warrior, maybe that can slow Miami enough for the Bengals to take and hold the lead. Because you can ask the Ravens (who blew a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter), the Dolphins don’t quit and they can score quickly.
Key stat: With a win, the Dolphins, who are 11-1 in their past 12 games, would be 4-0 for the first time since 1995.
Prediction: The Dolphins are one of the best teams in the NFL. But even the best teams struggle to meet expectations when the hype gets this intense. Something tells me that, coming off a huge win over the Bills and on a short week, Miami will disappoint against a Bengals team that will claw its way back to .500.
Bengals 31, Dolphins 28 — Henry McKenna
Overview: I hope you packed your melatonin, because the Vikings and Saints are in London for Week 4. There’s a six-hour time difference between London and the U.S. Central Time Zone, meaning we’re all getting up early on Sunday to watch this one.
This will be the third time Minnesota has played in the U.K., with its most recent visit coming in 2017. The Vikings also played as the road team then, beating the Cleveland Browns in convincing fashion 33-16.
The last time the Saints played in London was also in 2017, when they beat the Miami Dolphins 20-0. They have also played one other time in the U.K., back in 2008 when they beat the then-San Diego Chargers 37-32.
And while the Saints have had success in London, their quarterback can’t say the same. Jameis Winston played in Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in just the second NFL game played in the building and threw five interceptions. Yes, five. He was sacked seven times. And somehow the Tampa Bay Buccaneers still lost only 37-26. From someone who was at that game, I’m here to tell you it wasn’t that close.
This is a game between two potential NFC playoff contenders. Will Winston be able to turn his British blunders around? Or will Minnesota end up being the first team to go 3-0 in London games?
Matchup to watch: Jameis Winston against the Minnesota secondary
Given Winston’s aforementioned stat line the last time he was across the pond, maybe it’s more fair to account for the defense in general — or at least Winston’s offensive line and the defense. But the Vikings are waiting to see if safety Harrison Smith can clear concussion protocol. He was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice and Minnesota will see how he does with the travel. The Vikings have three interceptions this season and perhaps they can add a couple more in this game.
Key stat: The Saints have the worst turnover differential (-6) and have committed the most turnovers (9) in the NFL. That’s largely due to Winston’s regression. He has thrown five interceptions already this season.
Prediction: Whatever is in the air in London seems to be conducive to scoring. Both of these teams have had high-scoring games there, and I think that continues in this game. Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins and wide receiver Justin Jefferson get back on track with each other. And with the Saints potentially getting running back Alvin Kamara back, they’re able to put more points on the board, too. Ultimately, I think the Vikings gain some points through turnovers, which seem an inevitability for Winston in London.
Vikings 32, Saints 24 — Carmen Vitali
Overview: Two teams that didn’t figure to be very competitive this season have played very well through the first three weeks. The Browns are 2-1 and just a terrible fourth-quarter collapse against the awful Jets away from being undefeated. The Falcons are 1-2, but that includes a one-point loss to the Saints and a four-point loss to the Rams in L.A.
So figure this one to be close. Also, don’t expect a lot of passing. These are both top-five rushing attacks. The Browns (who are No. 1 with 190.7 rushing yards per game) will ride their powerful 1-2 punch of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, while the Falcons will run with Cordarrelle Patterson. This might end up coming down to which quarterback (Atlanta’s Marcus Mariota or Cleveland’s Jacoby Brissett) can make a play through the air.
Cooper is coming off back-to-back huge games for the Browns — seven catches for 101 yards and a touchdown against the Steelers last Thursday and 9-101-1 against the Jets four days earlier. Yes, the Browns live and die with the run, but Cooper has some chemistry with Brissett and clearly still has breakaway skills. Terrell is becoming one of the NFL’s better cornerbacks. He’ll surely be on Cooper the most, which is not an easy task.
Key stat: Cooper is the first Browns player with 100-plus receiving yards in back-to-back games since 2013 (Josh Gordon).
Prediction: What makes the Browns so dangerous is that Chubb and Hunt are so hard to defend, with their ability to run inside and outside and at least the threat of Hunt in the passing game (though he has only nine catches for 54 yards so far). Defenses load up to stop them, and it opens the door for Cooper. So as long as Brissett and Cooper are clicking, the Browns will be tough to stop.
The Falcons just don’t have that kind of offensive diversity. Patterson is basically everything to their offense, and their best passing-game weapons (rookie WR Drake London and TE Kyle Pitts) haven’t done a lot yet. That could change this week against a vulnerable Browns secondary, especially if edge rusher Myles Garrett can’t play after his recent car accident. But in the end, the Browns’ ground game figures to just be too much.
Browns 27, Falcons 23 — Ralph Vacchiano
Overview: The Bills did not get a break from the schedule makers, did they? As much as they were upset to lose to the Dolphins, they have to be happy to be 2-1 after games against the Rams, Titans and Dolphins. Those are all really good football teams. Of course, so are the Ravens. And Lamar Jackson is likely to compete with Josh Allen for the NFL MVP. So the Bills have to figure out how to stop Jackson, and they’ll do it with a depleted secondary. Buffalo signed free-agent cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who is likely to have a substantial role given the injuries at the position. Buffalo has injuries on offense, too. But Allen has a way of making it seem like they’re at full strength.
Last week, the Ravens put a beating on the Patriots. New England tried to hang around, but Baltimore’s defense generated four takeaways (three interceptions, one forced fumble). It was the kind of complementary football that gets teams to the playoffs. Not only is Jackson developing connections with young receivers Devin Duvernay and Rashod Bateman, but tight end Mark Andrews looks unguardable. It’s a truly elite offense and an opportunistic defense.
Matchup to watch: Allen’s rushing abilities vs. Jackson’s rushing abilities
Allen and Jackson are two of the most efficient running quarterbacks in the NFL. While their abilities as pocket passers make them extremely dangerous, their prowess as runners makes them basically unstoppable. I think that’s the X-factor in this game. How much can — and should — each team allow the quarterbacks to make use of their legs? Because you know that, in the clutch, both QBs are entirely unafraid to run for a crucial pickup.
Lamar Jackson made history by becoming the first player in the Super Bowl era with at least three passing touchdowns and 100 rushing yards in back-to-back games. Shannon Sharpe reacts to Jackson’s performance vs. the Patriots.
Key stats: Allen leads the NFL in passing yards (1,014) while the Ravens rank 32nd in passing defense (allowing 353.3 yards per game). Overall, this is a matchup of two of the league’s top three scoring offenses. The Ravens are No. 1 with 33.0 PPG, and the Bills rank third with 30.3 PPG.
Prediction: This couldn’t be tougher. On one hand, the Bills are still dealing with injuries and remain vulnerable. On the other hand, they just took a loss that you can tell they didn’t think they should have taken. So they’ll be out for blood. The Ravens, meanwhile, have played all but one quarter of excellent football this year. They’ve been steady as it gets. Still, I think Buffalo pulls off a close one. It would be the Ravens’ fourth straight home loss, which would be the most in franchise history.
Bills 27, Ravens 20 — Henry McKenna
Overview: Talk about two teams trending in opposite directions. Way back in Week 1, the Cowboys looked like one of a handful of teams you could safely write out of the playoff picture, having lost Dak Prescott to a broken thumb during an abysmal loss to Tampa Bay. It might not have been the prettiest opener, but Washington started the season 1-0 behind the strength of four Carson Wentz touchdown passes.
Not even three full weeks later, Dallas has bumped its record to 2-1 with the best pass rush in the league and a strong showing from backup quarterback Cooper Rush, while Washington has slumped to two straight ugly losses. The Commanders can neither protect Wentz, with 14 sacks given up in the past two weeks, nor has their defense been able to get many stops.
Emmanuel Acho, Joy Taylor, David Helman and LeSean McCoy discuss Cowboys owner and GM Jerry Jones saying that Cooper Rush “has the makeup of a top QB.” Jones’ comments prompted many to wonder if Dak Prescott is under more pressure as he heals from injury.
Every win the Cowboys can steal while Prescott is recovering from surgery is enormous, allowing them to remain in the playoff hunt while they wait for him to return to full strength. On the flip side, with Dallas playing feisty football and Philadelphia looking like the class of the NFC, the Commanders can’t afford to fall too far below .500 if they want this season to go somewhere promising.
Matchup to watch: Cowboys CB Trevon Diggs vs. Commanders QB Carson Wentz
Typically, you’d expect to see corner versus receiver, and that’s something to watch here. Diggs and the rest of the Dallas secondary will have their hands full with Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson. But the matchup is Diggs against Wentz because of the potential for game-swinging plays. Everyone knows Wentz’s tendency to put the ball at risk, and that hasn’t changed in 2022. Through three weeks, he has thrown three picks, and he fumbled twice last week against the Eagles.
Diggs, meanwhile, is a gambler. Last week against the Giants, he twice tried to jump early on Daniel Jones attempts and missed both, before finally getting his first interception of the season at the end of the game.
Expect Diggs to bait Wentz into turnover-worthy throws, and expect the Commanders to try to take advantage of that aggression. It’ll be a shock if Washington doesn’t try a double-move or two to beat the All-Pro corner.
Key stat: The Cowboys’ 13 sacks on the season leads the NFL, while the Commanders’ 14 sacks allowed ties Cincinnati for worst in the league.
Prediction: The Commanders don’t defend the run very well, and they’re even worse at protecting the quarterback. That’s a bad combination, considering the Cowboys run the ball and rush the passer as well as anyone in the league. It probably won’t be easy, because division road games rarely are. But if Dallas can limit the explosive pass plays that Wentz is capable of, then Cooper Rush is capable of guiding the Cowboys to a third straight win.
Cowboys 21, Commanders 17 — David Helman
Overview: The poor Lions. Even when they’re good, they lose. Yes, I just said the Lions are good. They’re averaging the second-most points per game with 31.7 and yet are only 1-2. They sit in last place of a division where the teams in a three-way tie for first place are averaging 19.3, 17.3 and 16.0 PPG. I’ll let you figure out the order there.
The Lions’ top receiver, slot gawd Amon-Ra St. Brown, has at least six receptions in his past nine games, which is the longest active streak in the NFL. Behind the third-best rushing attack in the league, Detroit is averaging the third-most yards per game overall. And yet … the Lions still can’t manage to outscore what their defense is letting up.
The Lions are giving up the fifth-most yards per game at 408. They’re allowing the most first downs per game in the league at 26 and the most points, edging out their offensive scoring average by .3 with an average of 32 points per game.
The good news for Detroit is that the Seattle Seahawks, led by quarterback Geno Smith, aren’t exactly world-beaters this year. They are averaging just 15.7 points per game, even with both receivers DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett at their disposal. Metcalf, who recently became one of the highest-paid receivers in the league, just scored his first receiving touchdown of the season last week. Lockett, who leads the team in receiving yards through three games, hasn’t seen the end zone yet.
D’Andre Swift will likely be out as he nurses a shoulder injury, but Williams picked up the slack last week against Minnesota. Williams finished with 107 total scrimmage yards and two rushing touchdowns. He should be able to have a repeat performance against a Seahawks defense that is struggling this season, unless Brooks has something to say about it.
Key stats: The Lions lead the NFL in yards per rushing attempt (5.9) and rank second in scoring offense (31.7 points per game), while the Seahawks are tied for 30th in rushing defense, allowing 157.0 rushing yards per game.
Prediction: I think this presents an opportunity for Detroit to get to .500 against an NFC opponent, and the Lions do so with a definitive win.
Lions 38, Seahawks 17 — Carmen Vitali
Overview: Both these teams have serious issues. For the Chargers, that’s unexpected. They were supposed to be one of the league’s best teams, with an ascending franchise quarterback in Justin Herbert and the reinforcements made around him, especially on defense. But the bad luck they can never seem to shake has already taken grip in 2022. Herbert (ribs), center Corey Linsley (knee), left tackle Rashawn Slater (biceps), receiver Keenan Allen (hamstring), edge rusher Joey Bosa (groin), cornerback J.C. Jackson (ankle) and receiver Jalen Guyton (ACL) are all battling injuries. Slater and Guyton are out for the rest of the season.
Emmanuel Acho, Joy Taylor, LeSean McCoy and David Helman discuss the lingering effects of Justin Herbert’s rib injury. The crew asks if the Chargers should be concerned about Herbert.
On the flip side, the Texans are one of two winless teams left in the NFL. Their offense struggles across the board, ranking seventh or worse in passing completion percentage, passing touchdowns, yards gained per pass attempt, adjusted yards gained per pass attempt, rushing offense, scoring, third-down efficiency and red zone efficiency. The Texans’ defense ranks in the top half of the NFL in a few categories — including points allowed, third-down efficiency and red zone efficiency — but has been the league’s worst against the run by far, allowing 202.3 rushing yards per game, more than 45 yards more than the next closest team.
Matchup to watch: Texans’ pass rush vs. Chargers’ banged-up offensive line
Priority No. 1 for the Bolts is protecting Herbert — he’s playing with fractured rib cartilage, after all — but with the franchise left tackle (Slater) out and the status of the starting center (Linsley) unclear, Los Angeles is susceptible up front. And the Texans, for all the issues they’ve had, have been strong in the pass-rush department. They rank in the top half of the league in hurries, quarterback knockdowns, sacks and pressures.
Key stat: The Chargers have a -34 point differential in the second half this season, tied for 30th in the NFL.
Prediction: For all the injury issues the Chargers have, it’s hard to see them losing this game. Houston is arguably the NFL’s worst team. The Texans don’t really do anything well offensively — they’ve yet to score in the fourth quarter — so even if Bosa and Jackson don’t play, they may have trouble taking advantage of opportunities. The Chargers could also have Allen back this week, which would provide a major jolt to their offense.
Chargers 27, Texans 17 –– Ben Arthur
Overview: The Titans, the AFC’s top playoff seed last season, are coming off their first win of 2022. Tennessee exploded for 24 points in the first half against the Raiders, and the defense — despite giving up a handful of explosive plays — clamped down in the red zone (with help from Las Vegas’ ineptitude) in the second half to secure the win. Maybe the biggest bright spot? Getting Derrick Henry, Tennessee’s all-everything superstar running back, going for the first time this season. He had 143 yards from scrimmage (85 rushing, 58 receiving).
The Colts also got their first win of 2022 last week. A Chiefs penalty sparked their go-ahead drive late in the fourth quarter and safety Rodney McLeod picked off Patrick Mahomes in the final seconds to ice the victory. While Indianapolis’ defense and special teams shined, the offense left much to be desired until it was needed most.
Matchup to watch: Colts’ offensive line vs. Titans’ defensive front
The Colts have the highest-paid offensive line in the NFL, but the pass protection for quarterback Matt Ryan has been shoddy and the run-blocking hasn’t met expectations for All-Pro tailback Jonathan Taylor. Even without Pro Bowl outside linebacker Harold Landry this season, the Titans’ pass rush has been strong. That could spell trouble for Ryan and the Colts. But Tennessee’s run defense, a big strength last season, has struggled so far in 2022 (the Giants‘ Saquon Barkley rushed for 164 yards on 9.1 yards per carry against the Titans in Week 1). Taylor is primed for a big game.
Key stat: The Titans have a -50 point differential in the second half this season, worst in the NFL, and have been outscored 36-0 in the second half in their past two games.
Prediction: My gut says the Titans, who’ve won the past three meetings with the Colts and three straight in Indianapolis, continue to assert their dominance in this divisional rivalry. Tennessee has cornerback issues, but I don’t think Indianapolis has the personnel to consistently win on the outside. There’s also a matter of Ryan even having enough time to get his pass-catchers the ball. Unless the Colts’ many O-line issues of the first three weeks can instantly get fixed, Ryan figures to be under duress constantly in the pocket.
Titans 26, Colts 24 –– Ben Arthur
Overview: The Giants came back to Earth on Monday night, thanks mostly to their inept offense and their inability to protect QB Daniel Jones. But at 2-1 they’re still in good shape and facing a 2-1 Bears team that has even more flaws than they do.
Both Jones (13 sacks) and Chicago QB Justin Fields (10) have taken a lot of hits this season, but Fields has been more turnover prone. His four interceptions on just 45 pass attempts this season is a remarkable achievement. Of course, he doesn’t have much talent around him — maybe even less with RB David Montgomery likely to miss this game with right knee and ankle injuries. Khalil Herbert did have 157 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries against the Texans after Montgomery got hurt last week, and the Giants have given up more than 200 rushing yards twice already, so maybe there’s an opening there. But this has all the makings of an ugly, offensive war of attrition.
While Brian Daboll has brought a new energy to New York, questions remain about Daniel Jones’ development and if he is the guy to run Daboll’s offense. Hear why Colin Cowherd believes Danny Dimes is holding the Giants back.
The Giants haven’t generated much of a pass rush this season, but part of that was because Thibodeaux (their first-round pick) and Ojulari (their sack leader last season) missed the first two games and were both limited against the Cowboys. They should be full-go for this game, and you can bet defensive coordinator Wink Martindale will have some blitzes dialed up in the hopes he can rattle the mistake-prone Fields.
Key stat: The Giants enter October with a winning record for the first time since 2011. Don’t get too excited, but they won the Super Bowl that season! Actually, that’s just a reminder of how bad it’s been for the Giants the past decade — and a reminder that they still have a long way to go.
Prediction: The Giants may have a lot of issues, but they play hard, don’t turn the ball over a lot, and they have Saquon Barkley, who is always a threat for a big game. That won’t be enough against a lot of teams, but it should be enough to squeak by the Bears, who have the worst offense in the NFL. So far, Fields has been no threat through the air, and the injury to Montgomery is a huge blow, no matter what Herbert did last week. That combination should play right into the hands of an aggressive Giants defense in a game in which the first team to score 10 points probably wins.
Giants 16, Bears 9 — Ralph Vacchiano
Overview: Both of these teams are red hot. For the Jaguars, that’s shocking. Sure, we expected Jacksonville to make strides with new coach Doug Pederson. But not this fast: two straight victories of 20-plus points, drastic improvement from QB Trevor Lawrence and dominant play from its defense, which is tied for the league lead in takeaways and fourth in points allowed. Lawrence was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week after the Jaguars’ 38-10 victory over the Chargers. Jacksonville might actually have a competitive team for the first time in five years.
The undefeated Eagles, meanwhile, have emerged as an early favorite in the NFC. Quarterback Jalen Hurts is on the MVP shortlist entering Week 4 (it’s early, but still), with two No. 1 receivers in DeVonta Smith and A.J. Brown, who was acquired this spring from the Titans. The defense has come alive the past two weeks, too. Philadelphia sacked Carson Wentz nine times in its 24-8 victory over Washington last week. The game prior, it held the Vikings to seven points.
Nick Wright reveals his updated NFL tiers ahead of Week 4, which feature the Eagles on top. Chris Broussard, Eric Mangini and Kevin Wildes react to Nick’s tiers.
Matchup to watch: Jaguars secondary vs. Eagles WRs A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith
For all the strides the Jaguars have made this season, defending the pass has been a weakness. They’re allowing 251.6 passing yards per game, ranked 21st in the league. The back end must be sharp against Brown and Smith, who’ve combined for 35 receptions for 558 yards and two touchdowns in three games.
Key stat: The Jaguars lead the NFL in turnover differential (+7) and rushing defense (allowing 55.0 rushing yards per game).
Prediction: The Jags fall short of getting a victory for Pederson in his old stomping grounds. As good as Jacksonville has been, Philadelphia is a more established team with a legitimate shot of making a deep playoff run. I think that gap shows up Sunday — even if the Jaguars make it interesting and prove that they’re a rising team.
Eagles 28, Jaguars 21 –– Ben Arthur
Overview: It’s hard to take the Jets seriously. If not for a wild set of plot twists against the Cleveland Browns — which included a 14-point swing over the final two minutes of the game — New York would probably be winless. The question is whether the return of Zach Wilson will change anything. In some respects, it’s foolish to think Wilson, who had one of the worst rookie seasons in recent memory, might move the needle. But Wilson was also the second overall pick. He should move the needle. So New York will wait with bated breath to see if he’ll play Sunday.
The Steelers have established their identity this season. It’s just unclear whether they’re talented enough to pull it off. They want to run the ball to set up their passing game. They want to play tough, physical defense to shut down opponents. Against out-of-sorts Bengals and Patriots teams, the Steelers looked good enough. But you could see the cracks forming during the Cleveland win over Pittsburgh. There’s a good chance the Steelers are simply a bad football team.
Colin Cowherd evaluates the Steelers’ offense, then explains why they are in trouble early in the season.
Step aside, Elijah Moore! Wilson has been the Jets’ top receiver. He has 18 catches for 214 yards and two touchdowns. But the rookie will face a tough test in Sutton, who has quietly enjoyed a very strong start to the season. Because Wilson is a rookie and Sutton is an unheralded talent, the NFL world won’t necessarily be watching this matchup. But you should. It’ll be a good one.
Key stat: The Steelers are now 0-6 in the six games T.J. Watt has missed in his career.
Prediction: It’s now or never for both these teams. Neither is likely to make the playoffs. They both appear set to trend their way to the bottom of the NFL and the top of the draft. But if they can pull off a win on Sunday, maybe they build some confidence about competing in the crowded AFC. Either way, it’s going to be ugly — and probably low-scoring.
Jets 17, Steelers 13 — Henry McKenna
Overview: Two former Oklahoma teammates — Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield — face off when the Arizona Cardinals travel east to face the Carolina Panthers this weekend. The two played together with the Sooners in 2017. Murray is 2-0 against Mayfield in the NFL. The Panthers lead the all-time series 14-5 (including postseason) and have won the past six contests, including a 34-10 victory at Arizona last season. Panthers defensive passing game coordinator Steve Wilks was the head coach of the Cardinals during the 2018 season.
Matchup to watch: Panthers QB Baker Mayfield vs. Cardinals DL J.J. Watt
Watt leads Arizona with two sacks and has two quarterback hits this season. He faces a Carolina offensive line that has allowed nine sacks through three games. Mayfield has completed just 52% of his passes and has only three touchdown passes on the year.
Key stat: The Cardinals are 9-1 in their past 10 regular-season road games.
Prediction: Carolina running back Christian McCaffrey has posted 100-plus rushing yards in back-to-back games for the first time since 2019 and is tied for fifth in the NFL with 243 yards. However, McCaffrey’s availability is a question mark this week due to a thigh injury. In the end, I trust Murray over Mayfield to make more plays with the game on the line.
Cardinals 23, Panthers 17 — Eric D. Williams
Overview: The Packers have been experiencing serious growing pains to open the season, but they have also grunted their way to a 2-1 record. There’s something to be said for a developing team finding ways to win early in the season. The Packers are almost certainly going to compete for the No. 1 seed in the NFC, even if Aaron Rodgers has to will them there. And frankly, the Patriots are looking extremely vulnerable.
Why could New England present an easy target? Well, they’re almost definitely not going to have Mac Jones. He suffered a sprained ankle Sunday and is likely to miss multiple weeks. His development was at the center of the Patriots’ 2022 season, with the team needing him to make a substantial leap in his development. Not only was he experiencing growing pains in making that leap, with three touchdowns to his five interceptions, but he is also going to pause that developmental work while he rehabs the injury.
In the meantime, the Patriots will look to veteran Brian Hoyer or rookie Bailey Zappe as their backup. And frankly, neither of those options should scare the Packers. To make things worse in New England, the defense isn’t up to Bill Belichick’s standards. They’re allowing the 11th-most points per game (23.7). That’s the first spot Belichick looks to measure his team’s efficiency.
Matchup to watch: Packers QB Aaron Rodgers vs. Patriots safety Devin McCourty
Both of these players are leading undermanned groups. Rodgers is throwing to a who’s who cast of receivers, with rookie Romeo Doubs starting to emerge as a potential go-to option. But it’s unclear whether a true No. 1 option will emerge in 2022. As for McCourty, the Patriots have actually seen Jonathan Jones, a slot cornerback who has played outside this year, emerge as their best cover corner. But he’s still taking the No. 2 spot behind Jalen Mills. It’s not the most talented group. That’s why Rodgers and McCourty will square off in a battle of football intellect, working to exploit whatever weakness emerges between their two mediocre casts.
Key stat: The Packers have won 14 straight regular-season home games, the longest active home winning streak in the NFL.
Prediction: The Packers should run away with this game. The Patriots’ offense has a plethora of problems even with their starting quarterback. If Jones is out and Hoyer starts, the challenges may be insurmountable. Rodgers should take charge in this game and lead his team to a comfortable victory, even if the Packers continue to play ugly.
Packers 21, Patriots 10 — Henry McKenna
Overview: The only 0-3 NFL team this season, the Raiders host their AFC West rivals in the Broncos, with new coach Josh McDaniels already on the hot seat. The Raiders lead the regular-season series 68-53-2 all time and swept the Broncos last season. However, new Denver quarterback Russell Wilson is 2-0 against the Silver and Black.
Adams finished with five receptions for 36 yards and a score on 10 targets in last week’s road loss to the Tennessee Titans and was unhappy he was not targeted more. He has been held below 50 receiving yards in back-to-back games for the first time since the 2016 season. Expect Derek Carr to target Adams more on Sunday. Surtain, Denver’s top cover corner, returned from a shoulder injury and played all 56 defensive snaps for the Broncos, finishing with a tackle and two pass breakups in a win over San Francisco. He should get the lion’s share of the coverage against Adams.
Key stat: Broncos RB Melvin Gordon has 1,084 scrimmage yards and nine touchdowns in 12 games against the Raiders.
Prediction: The Raiders are desperate, but I believe Wilson will have opportunities to make plays against a Las Vegas defense that has issues in the secondary. Plus, the Raiders have recorded just two sacks this season, tied with the Cardinals for fewest in the NFL. Denver can also run the football against the Raiders, who allow 4.8 rushing yards per play.
Broncos 22, Raiders 20 — Eric D. Williams
Overview: Whew, is there some history here — especially for two teams in different conferences. It’s a rematch of Super Bowl LV, in which the Buccaneers held the high-powered Chiefs‘ offense without a touchdown. That was a dominant defensive performance, the likes of which teams have tried to replicate against Kansas City in the years since.
But this isn’t the same Chiefs team that was down multiple offensive linemen in that game. They also no longer have Tyreek Hill, who had gashed the Bucs earlier that season when he went off for more than 200 yards in the first quarter. And while Tampa Bay won’t have to contend with him, it still has to deal with quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who is an angry Patrick Mahomes after the Chiefs lost to the Colts last week.
Nick Wright discusses his level of concern for his Chiefs.
The Bucs get wide receiver Mike Evans back this week, and his return could provide a spark to an otherwise stagnant offense. Tampa Bay held Green Bay to 14 points last week … and the Bucs lost. The defense is giving up a league-low nine points per game. So they will want to finally get the offensive engine we know they have running. Left tackle Donovan Smith could be back, too, which should hopefully rid the Bucs of their current weaknesses up front.
And if the matchup itself isn’t enough, due to Hurricane Ian, the Bucs have been practicing in Miami this week. There is no word on whether the game will still be played in Tampa, but we do know it will be played on Sunday night, either way. The contingency plan is moving the game to Minneapolis, which would add just another logistical nightmare to an already stressful week for Tampa Bay.
Matchup to watch: Chiefs TE Travis Kelce vs. whoever is guarding Travis Kelce
While Mahomes doesn’t have Hill anymore, he still has his safety net in Kelce, who presents any opponent with matchup nightmares. He’s too big for a corner to guard, he’s too fast for a linebacker to guard and there are very few safeties who have the kind of range it takes to stick with him. The good news is that the Bucs might have one of those safeties in Antoine Winfield Jr. Or Keanu Neal. Or Logan Ryan. Or Mike Edwards. Tampa Bay has been deploying a three-safety look all season in which it puts Winfield Jr. in the slot. That can confuse quarterbacks and should also help combat everything Kelce brings to the table.
Key stat: Mahomes needs 152 passing yards to become the fastest player in NFL history to reach 20,000 passing yards — in just his 67th career game. The current record is held by Matthew Stafford, who did it in 71 games. The Bucs are giving up an average of 209.7 passing yards per game, indicating that Mahomes has a pretty good shot to eclipse the mark on Sunday — unless we get a repeat of Super Bowl LV, I suppose.
Prediction: The Bucs may have had a crazy week, but they have everything to play for. Evans and Smith returning should give the offense the boost it needs to finally put some points on the board. Head coach Todd Bowles figured out Mahomes once, and he can do it again — especially now that the Chiefs’ offense has been knocked down a couple of pegs.
Buccaneers 29, Chiefs 19 — Carmen Vitali
Overview: San Francisco leads the all-time series 75-68-3 (including postseason), and Niners coach Kyle Shanahan has a 7-4 record against Rams coach Sean McVay. However, Los Angeles won the most-recent meeting, 20-17 in the NFC Championship Game last season. The Rams have not won at San Francisco since 2018.
Matchup to watch: Niners WR Deebo Samuel vs. Rams’ defensive line
Samuel has had big games against the Rams, totaling 642 scrimmage yards and six touchdowns in seven games, six of them wins. Aaron Donald, Leonard Floyd and the rest of L.A.’s defense will have to locate where Samuel is on each snap and get all 11 defenders to the football in order to corral the elusive receiver/running back.
Nick Wright joins Colin Cowherd to discuss Niners QB Jimmy Garoppolo after San Francisco’s 11-10 Week 3 loss to the Broncos.
Prediction: History is on the Niners’ side as they have dominated this matchup of late. Still, the 49ers are coming off a humbling road loss to the Broncos in which Jimmy Garoppolo did not play well, and they face one of the best quarterbacks in the game in Matthew Stafford.
Rams 28, Niners 25 — Eric D. Williams
FOX Sports’ Week 4 NFL preview was compiled by:
AFC South reporter Ben Arthur (@benyarthur)
AFC East reporter Henry McKenna (@McKennAnalysis)
NFC West reporter Eric D. Williams (@eric_d_williams)
NFC East reporter Ralph Vacchiano (@RalphVacchiano)
NFC North reporter Carmen Vitali (@CarmieV)
Dallas Cowboys reporter David Helman (@davidhelman_)
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