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Phinsider Week 4 Game Previews and Predictions

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It’s time for another run of Justin Hier’s weekly Game Previews and Predictions!

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Los Angeles Chargers Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Week 3 was upset week in the NFL. Plenty of teams that were heavily favored to bring home a W severely disappointed their fans, including the Oakland Raiders, Pittsburgh Steelers, and our very own Miami Dolphins. Week 3 was also a week full of wild finishes, with the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots finding clutch plays to win in the final seconds of their respective matches.

Each week of the NFL season, I’ll be giving you a sneak peak of the action ahead, as well as my own forecast for the outcome of each contest. Feel free to leave your own predictions and opinions in the comments below!

Week 3 prediction record: 9-7

2017 season prediction record: 33-14

Thursday

Chicago Bears (1-2) at Green Bay Packers (2-1) - 8:25 PM ET on CBS

Week 4 kicks of with the first of a biannual rematch featuring one of the most time worn rivalries in all of sports. The Bears, coming off an impressive win over the high powered, yet sputtering Steelers, will travel to Lambeau Field to take on Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, who themselves are coming off of a win. The Packers have been hot and cold so far this season, and although they hold a massive talent advantage over the Mike Glennon led Bears, coach Mike McCarthy better preach to his team to not get too comfortable. The Bears almost took down the NFC defending champion Atlanta Falcons just a few weeks back, a team that steamrolled the Packers in week 2.

Score prediction: Green Bay 30 - Chicago 23

Sunday

New Orleans Saints (1-2) at Miami Dolphins (1-1) - 9:30 AM ET on FOX

I don’t feel I need to reiterate just how poorly the Dolphins played up in the Meadowlands last week. I’ll admit, that game stung. Jay Cutler and the entire offense came out flat, forcing Miami’s defense to stay on the field for an unreasonable amount of time, allowing Josh McCown to pick apart the secondary.

The Saints, on the other hand, are flying across the pond following their beatdown of their division rival Panthers. Drew Brees is still playing at an unbelievably high level, so the Dolphins’ corners better learn how to cover quick if the Fins are going to stop New Orleans’ high powered offense. For Miami to win this contest, Adam Gase will have to keep Brees off of the field by letting Jay Ajayi loose, something he was unable to do last weekend.

Score prediction: Miami 24 - New Orleans 23

Buffalo Bills (2-1) at Atlanta Falcons (3-0) - 1:00 PM ET on CBS

Sean McDermott is finally fielding the caliber of defense that Bills fans have been expecting from a unit that has had talent, but was unable to put that talent to use during the Rex Ryan era. Unfortunately for the Buffalo faithful, Atlanta’s high flying offense has shredded just about everyone who’s dared to step in their way over the past few weeks.

The Bills may not be the team to be taken lightly that many thought they’d be entering the season, but there is no way Tyrod Taylor and his lackluster receiving corps is going to be able to keep up with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and co.

Score prediction: Atlanta 31 - Buffalo 21

Cincinnati Bengals (1-2) at Cleveland Browns (0-3) - 1:00 PM ET on CBS

The Bengals played the Packers hard last week, and likely would have won had they not been facing the magician himself in Aaron Rodgers. Somehow, promoting Bill Lazor, a man who Dolphins fans know well, to offensive coordinator is what Andy Dalton needed to unlock his offense. Now facing a rather week Browns defense, Dalton and rookie runner Joe Mixon will have an even better opportunity to put up points.

Hue Jackson’s Browns have fought admirably until the final whistle each week thus far, losing two of their three games by just three points apiece. Facing a division rival at home may be just what this team requires to notch a W in the win column. With Joe Haden now departed to the Steelers though, matching up with A.J. Green will be a problem.

Score prediction: Cincinnati 20 - Cleveland 17

Los Angeles Rams (2-1) at Dallas Cowboys (2-1) - 1:00 PM ET on FOX

Jared Goff has impressed even the most serious doubters of the former Cal product over three weeks leading a Sean McVay run offense. He places third in the league in overall passer rating and has finally clicked with a revamped receiving corps. Watching Todd Gurley turn himself around hasn’t hurt either, as teems can no longer solely focus on barraging Goff with blitzes off the edge.

Going up against a fellow draft mate in Dak Prescott will give this match an under-the-radar storyline to follow. Prescott may have enjoyed more success in his rookie season last year, but watching the two go head-to-head will give pundits an early look at who was the better selection, a debate that may continue well into the future if Goff continues to progress.

Score prediction: Dallas 24 - Los Angeles 20

Detroit Lions (2-1) at Minnesota Vikings (2-1) - 1:00 PM ET on FOX

The Lions were robbed of a victory last week when Golden Tate’s knee went down just a fraction of a second too early on a last-ditch goaline catch with eight seconds left to play against Atlanta. The Vikings, on the other hand, had a far better week. Case Keenum was surprisingly stellar against an underrated Tampa Bay defense, connecting with wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen to the tune of over 250 yards combined between the two pass catchers. Keenum’s final stat line was even more impressive, as the backup went 25/33 for 369 yards and three touchdowns.

With Sam Bradford still gimpy from a nagging knee injury, Minnesota’s leaders know they’re in capable hands should their starter miss any time. Let’s not forget, Teddy Bridgewater is waiting in the wings too. This quarterback conundrum could be very interesting by midseason.

Score prediction: Minnesota 28 - Detroit 24

Carolina Panthers (2-1) at New England Patriots (2-1) - 1:00 PM ET on FOX

In a way that only Tom Brady and the Patriots could, Bill Belichick’s unit broke the hearts of Houston Texans fans everywhere (and Deshaun Watson), with the kind of comeback drive that Brady might as well trademark at this point. The Brady-Brandin Cooks connection was hyped up plenty throughout the offseason, and it seems as though the duo isn’t looking to disappoint those with high expectations. Through three games, Cooks has corralled 10 catches for an astounding 256 yards and two touchdowns. That’s 25.6 yards per reception! To put that into context, DeSean Jackson led the league last season with 17.9 yards per catch.

On the other end of the football stands Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. Despite this team’s 2-1 record, the Panthers looked anemic against a very vulnerable Saints defense last week. Carolina has the veteran talent to compete in the NFC South, but Newton will need to play better to give his squad a shot.

Score prediction: New England 34 - Carolina 20

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-1) at New York Jets (1-2) - 1:00 PM ET on CBS

Doesn’t this matchup just leave you salivating with excitement? Blake Bortles and Josh McCown don’t exactly lead you to expect a great deal of scoring is coming in this contest, but hey, last week’s DeShone Kizer v Jacoby Brissett matchup was far more entertaining than anyone could have forseen. The Jaguars defense seems to finally be running smoothly, and the Jets are without one of their only reliable offensive weapons in Matt Forte, but with Bortles’ propensity for turning the football over, this is anyone’s game. Expect a heavy dose of Leonard Fournette from Doug Marrone’s offense.

Score prediction: Jacksonville 26 - New York 14

Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1) at Baltimore Ravens (2-1) - 1:00 PM ET on CBS

Both of these AFC North squads disappointed fans with poor offensive showings (and an absolutely abysmal defensive showing from Baltimore) against relatively lackluster football teams. The Steelers supported the stereotype that they play down to their opponents’ level on the road, while the Ravens turned away any and all possibility of building a London fan base.

The winner of this contest will be the unit whose quarterback bounces back first. Both Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger seem to have lost a step, but savvy Super Bowl winning veterans like them are always given some leeway to get back on track. For the sake of keeping this always-entertaining rivalry alive, let’s hope they do just that on Sunday.

Score prediction: Baltimore 24 - Pittsburgh 20

Tennessee Titans (2-1) at Houston Texans (1-2) - 1:00 PM ET on CBS

Should this game prove to be competitive, we could be witnessing the birth a new NFL rivalry in a division that has been quite stale over the past decade. Both the Titans and the Texans are employing exciting, athletic, and young quarterbacks who still have room to grow and develop. Both squads are also sporting defenses that have the ability to get to the quarterback, meaning we should see that athletic ability from Marcus Mariota and Deshaun Watson put to good use this weekend.

Score prediction: Tennessee 28 - Houston 23

San Francisco 49ers (0-3) at Arizona Cardinals (1-2) - 4:05 PM ET on FOX

The 49ers offense put up an impressive showing against a tough Rams defense last week, and will be facing a similarly imposing unit down in the desert this Sunday. Kyle Shanahan is starting to live up to his reputation as an offensive guru even now that he’s the head coach of one of the weakest offensive units in the league. However, asking Brian Hoyer to continually put up points without many playmakers at his disposal is a recipe for disaster. I wouldn’t be surprised if this team regressed back to their low scoring ways of weeks 1 and 2 against Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu.

Carson Palmer, the league’s third place quarterback in passing yards, will simply need to continue to connect with Larry Fitzgerald over the middle and J.J. Nelson on the boundary to overcome their foes from the Bay.

Score prediction: Arizona 23 - San Francisco 16

Philadelphia Eagles (2-1) at Los Angeles Chargers (0-3) - 4:05 PM ET on FOX

Poor Chargers fans. Not only does your team skip town against your will because they can’t finance a stadium, but they start the year 0-3 after a pair of special teams gaffes and shellacking at the hands of a division rival.

The Eagles, however, are riding high following a special teams miracle executed by a brand new kicker. I’m not sure you’ll find two teams on more polar opposite tracks to start the season. If Carson Wentz can continue to develop surrounded by a retooled offense, this Eagles team can be dangerous well into the autumn months.

Score prediction: Philadelphia 27 - Los Angeles 21

New York Giants (0-3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1) - 4:05 PM ET on FOX

On the opposite end of that special teams miracle sat the heavily spotlighted New York Giants. The Giants have been in the news for all the wrong reasons this year. Odell Beckham Jr. continues to laugh at the idea of growing up, Eli Manning and his offensive line can’t move the ball downfield, and fans are already calling for Ben McAdoo’s head now that the offensive minded head coach seems to have forgotten how to call pays.

If the Giants want to have any chance at saving their season, they must know that they are heading into a must win matchup against a Tampa Bay team that is fuming following a difficult loss to the Vikings. New York’s defense will need to come up big time here to give Big Blue a shot.

Score prediction: Tampa Bay 21 - New York 17

Oakland Raiders (2-1) at Denver Broncos (2-1) - 4:25 PM ET on CBS

Tough week for both of these AFC West teams. Oakland’s offense sputtered against the Redskins out east while Trevor Siemian had similar problems up north in Buffalo, all while their rival Chiefs continued to roll through competition on the back of first year tailback Kareem Hunt and a career renaissance from Alex Smith. Although the Raiders have been a trendy pick to dethrone the reigning Super Bowl champs in the AFC, it has become clear that Oakland can’t win without Derek Carr having a good game. That will be a tough ask considering the talent in Denver’s secondary, but a quality game from the Raiders’ vaunted offensive line might just give Carr enough time to make some magic happen downfield.

Score prediction: Oakland 24 - Denver 21

Indianapolis Colts (1-2) at Seattle Seahawks (1-2) - 8:30 PM ET on NBC

Both of these teams are 1-2, but they are very different teams indeed. The Seahawks have been plagued by their usual slow start to the season that has only been made worse by an offensive line that refuses to block for its franchise quarterback, while the Colts are just barely clinging to life while they pray for their own franchise quarterback to come back from a shoulder injury. Jacoby Brissett may have been able to put up points against Cleveland, but I doubt he’ll have an easy time against Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, and the rest of Seattle’s imposing defense. With Doug Baldwin not running at 100%, I expect Seattle running back Chris Carson to steal the show in this one.

Score prediction: Seattle 21 - Indianapolis 13

Monday

Washington Redskins (2-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (3-0) - 8:30 PM ET on ESPN

Washington impressed just about the entire NFL with their win against Oakland last weekend, but interestingly enough, it wasn’t Kirk Cousins or Jordan Reed who exceeded expectations. Linebacker Zach Brown led the way to a dominant performance by the Redskins’ defense, a unit that wasn’t expected to blow anyone away this year. They’ll face another stiff test against a very diverse Andy Reid offense with weapons all over the field come Monday. This contest looks to be a great way to finish off the first quarter of the NFL season, and it should be close all the way through. I’ll give the Chiefs the edge playing at home in Arrowhead Stadium.

Score prediction: Kansas City 30 - Washington 28