Following a slew of upsets and wild finishes in Week 3, the NFL’s first quarter comes to a close with a handful of can’t-miss matchups.
For preseason playoff hopefuls like the New York Giants (0-3), Washington Redskins (0-3) and Pittsburgh Steelers (0-3), Week 4 plays out as a must-win to right the ship and turn the team in the right direction. The surprising upstart Kansas City Chiefs (3-0) and Miami Dolphins (3-0) look to ride their momentum and remain undefeated but face tough tests. All this action and still none of these story lines feature in Week 4’s most enthralling games.
One of the games at 1 p.m. Eastern time pits the NFL’s two best statistical defenses against one another when the Seattle Seahawks (3-0) travel to Reliant Stadium to face the Houston Texans (2-1).
Coming off a sluggish performance in Week 3 against the Baltimore Ravens, Houston’s defense, led by NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt, will look to hunker down against the Russell Wilson-led Seahawk offense that runs heavily to open up the pass. Houston will have to establish a running game early against the NFL’s best secondary, led by cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner. Both teams will look to dominate possession, which figures to be essential to winning in this defensive struggle, a fact Pete Carroll understands.
Carroll reflected on his game strategy telling The News Tribune of Tacoma, “Taking care of the football and getting after it. To us, it’s the biggest factor that determines winning and losing.” While Carroll hopes his team will see more of the ball, you can bet Houston running back Arian Foster will do all he can to keep it in the Texans’ hands.
From defense to offense, the marquee matchup of the 4 p.m. Eastern games features two of the most explosive offenses in the league as the Denver Broncos (3-0) host the Philadelphia Eagles (1-2) at Mile High Stadium.
Three weeks removed from their spectacular unveiling under new head coach Chip Kelly, the Eagles find themselves on the wrong side of .500, facing a Broncos offense that is hotter than any team in recent history. Peyton Manning comes into the game at the top of just about every passing category, leading many to compare Manning’s output this season to that of Tom Brady’s in his record-setting 50 touchdown season of 2007.
After another spectacular performance Monday night against the Oakland Raiders, the Associated Press asked Manning about whether the offense was running at maximum capacity, to which he responded, “You see flashes of good things. When we’re executing and not making mistakes, we can go the distance.”
Manning suggesting that the offense can get better could put fear in the hearts of the Eagles coaching staff and defenders, who have already struggled mightily to stop the likes of Kansas City and San Diego. The Eagles will hope to score virtually every time they touch the ball and outscore the potent Denver offense. Fantasy football owners of Peyton Manning and Michael Vick rejoice.
Sunday’s games are closed out in grand fashion as the undefeated Patriots (3-0) travel to the Georgia Dome in Atlanta to face the Falcons (1-2) at 8:30 p.m. Eastern on NBC's 'Sunday Night Football.'
The Falcons were surprisingly beaten by the Dolphins in Week 3 and will look to rebound in prime time against the Patriots, who were not tested in their first three games against bottom-of-the-league teams.
Tom Brady has seen his offensive output decline this season as the team has moved on without Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez and continues to await the return of key player Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola. So far so good for Brady, but Atlanta’s high-scoring offense will challenge Brady and his makeshift cast to put more points on the board. Meanwhile, the playoff hopeful Falcons won't be happy sitting below .500 and can blame their lack of consistency on both sides of the ball.
The Falcons’ record will not fool Belichick who, when asked by the Providence Journal about the matchup, had high praise for the Falcons. “They have a good football team, they’re well-coached, they have good talent. We know it will be a big challenge down there, no question about that.”
This should be a good battle between two perennial playoff and Super Bowl-hopeful teams.