Saturday, October 2, 2010

NFL Week 4 Picks: Donovan McNabb Will Be Triumphant in Return to Philadelphia

AP Photo/Rob Carr

Only three unbeatens remain: Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Kansas City. If you predicted that, raise your hand. You deserve a pat on the back. No one expected that from any of these teams. But as the cliché goes, that is why they play the game.

Which of these teams will be able to continue their success? Who is a real contender?

We know that Kansas City will stay undefeated for another week, as they are one of four teams that has the first bye week in the NFL.

The biggest storyline in Week 4 though will be Donovan McNabb’s return to Philadelphia. After 11 seasons with the Eagles, McNabb will enter Lincoln Financial Field, but this time as a Washington Redskin.

There have been a lot of discussions on TV about how McNabb will and should be greeted by the fans. He is on a rival team, so when the whistle blows, anything that he has done will be forgotten, but McNabb never demanded a trade. He was forced out.

He has done so much for the Eagles, if he is booed by the majority during introductions then Philadelphia fans should be ashamed of themselves for not appreciating everything he has done.

Give him a warm welcome, and then try to rattle him when he’s attempting to throw touchdown passes against your team.

Who do you think will win?

San Francisco (0-3) at Atlanta (2-1)

The Falcons played well last week, beating the defending champions. This season Atlanta is second in the league in rushing yards, have turned the ball over three times, and have a plus-four turnover differential, good enough for a tie for third best in the entire league, first in the NFC.

San Francisco fired offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye, thanks to scoring the second fewest points in the league (38).

They seem out of whack, and while a weak division could keep them in contention, it’s difficult to imagine that they beat a well put together team like the Falcons right now.

Atlanta wins.

Cincinnati (2-1) at Cleveland (0-3)

With Chad Ochocinco, Terrell Owens, Jordan Shipley and Jermaine Gresham at his disposal, Carson Palmer is catching some flack for an underachieving offense in Cincinnati.

He’s only completed 56.6 percent of his passes this season—a career low—5.8 yards per pass, second lowest in his career, a 71.3 passer rating, also the second lowest of his career, and has just as many interceptions as touchdowns.

There’s hope against the Browns defense however.

Cleveland was torched by Joe Flacco last weekend, when he went 22-31 for 262 yards and three touchdowns.

If the Bengals can get Cedric Benson and the running game going against a team that ranks 21st in rushing yards allowed per game, things can open up for Palmer and the passing game.

Cincinnati wins.

New York Jets (2-1) at Buffalo (0-3)

The Jets will be going for three straight divisional wins, and while Buffalo put forth a nice effort against the Patriots last week, it won’t be enough.

Mark Sanchez, Braylon Edwards, Dustin Keller, and LaDanian Tomlinson were all in top form last weekend against the Dolphins.

The Jets defense is stingier than the Patriots defense Buffalo was able to put 30 points up against last weekend, and they added former Pro Bowler Trevor Pryce.

The real question here is while the Patriots, Jets, and Dolphins will all compete for the division crown, will the Bills win any game within the division?

New York Jets win.

Seattle (2-1) at St. Louis (1-2)

Seattle need to kickoffs returned for touchdowns by Leon Washington to win last week. They won’t be able to rely on that every week.

The running game specifically needs to step up, managing only 68 yards last week against San Diego.

While the Rams had a big home victory last weekend, Steve Jackson is now questionable and the outlook on him participating in the game does not look good.

Without Jackson, the Rams offense, still trying to find its way, may not have the spark to get going.

Seattle wins.

Denver (1-2) at Tennessee (2-1)

Both teams strengths on offense (Tennessee’s rushing game, and Denver’s passing game) will be somewhat neutralized here by the other team’s strengths on defense.

The problem is Denver cannot run the ball at all. Tennessee’s passing game is not sharp in any way, but it doesn’t need to be with Chris Johnson—fifth in the NFL in rushing yards, tied for first in rushing touchdowns—running around and controlling the clock.

Denver will be without Knowshon Moreno once again, and Tennessee should be able to just sit back on the pass, making it harder for Kyle Orton to do any real damage.

Tennessee is also fourth in the league in sacks, so it could be a long day for Orton.

Tennessee wins.

Detroit (0-3) at Green Bay (2-1)

The Packers had an astonishing 18 penalties last week for 152 yards. They also had two turnovers. They only lost by three points. They beat themselves.

It was an ugly performance, but it should only be a bump in the road for the Packers. A matchup with the winless Lions should be the proper cure.

Detroit can’t run the ball efficiently and they can’t stop the run or pass. They have some talented players, but they are going through a lot of growing pains, literally. Rookie running back Jahvid Best is questionable with a toe injury, and second-year quarterback Matthew Stafford is still out with a shoulder injury.

Green Bay wins.

Baltimore (2-1) at Pittsburgh (3-0)

The Steelers are (sort of) surprisingly undefeated right now. No one thought they would be this good without Ben Roethlisberger, but they are playing good defense and are strong running the ball.

Where they are weak is the passing game. Now down to Charlie Batch, who until last week hadn’t started a game since 2006, they are last in the league in passing yards per game. And surprisingly, the Ravens are best in passing yards allowed per game.

The Ravens’ defense was embarrassed last week giving up 173 rushing yards to Cleveland, but that isn’t the norm, although Rashard Mendenhall will make things difficult.

Baltimore needs to win the turnover battle. That won’t be easy since the Steelers have the best turnover difference while the Ravens have the worst. Still, it can be done, and Baltimore will rely on Ray Rice in order to cut down on their turnovers.

Joe Flacco and Anquan Boldin had a huge day last week, and if that is any sign of the “improved” offense finally clicking, they could be turning the corner.

Baltimore wins.

Carolina (0-3) at New Orleans (2-1)

Drew Brees threw two interceptions last week and Garret Heartley missed another field goal—in overtime. The running game isn’t helping, ranking last in the league in yards per game. Yet the Saints still lost by only a field goal.

It was not a pretty game. None of them have been thus far for New Orleans. Things will need to be improved for the Carolina game, but they should be ok.

The Saints are known for a high-powered offense, led by Brees, that can strike at any time from any spot on the field.

Carolina and rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen, who had an awful 53.6 passer rating in his first career start, will not be able to match the Saints score for score, as they rank last in the league in total points.

New Orleans wins.

Indianapolis (2-1) at Jacksonville (1-2)

Peyton Manning looks fantastic so far. He has 1013 passing yards, a 69 percent completion percentage, nine touchdowns, and zero interceptions to go along with a league-leading 116.9 passer rating.

David Garrard’s first game was promising, but he owns a 59.5 completion percentage, 448 yards, five interceptions compared to four touchdowns, and has been sacked 10 times, third most in the NFL.

No reason to think Peyton’s roll will be ending, or even temporarily stopped, in this game.

Indianapolis wins.

Houston (2-1) at Oakland (1-2)

Houston’s offense put up good numbers in last week’s loss to Dallas, they just couldn’t put the ball in the end zone, going 1-3 in the red zone on the day. Add three turnovers—two picks and one fumble—and they were doomed to blemish their unbeaten record.

Oakland has a good pass defense, which could make things difficult for the Texans passing-heavy offense. However, their run defense is pretty weak while Houston’s run offense is pretty good.

And while the Texans have a league-worst pass defense, the Raiders passing game isn’t nearly dangerous enough to make a difference.

The Texans will get back on track against the Raiders.

Houston wins.

Washington (1-2) at Philadelphia (2-1)

Donovan McNabb, the Eagles’ all-time leader in games for a quarterback, yards, passing touchdowns, and playoffs starts, returns to Philadelphia after the team traded him this offseason. He isn’t remembered for throwing four touchdowns on a broken ankle in the 2002 playoffs, but for throwing up in the 2004 Super Bowl.

He was criticized by Rush Limbaugh, Eagles’ fans, and the Philadelphia press. Yet he still was the Eagles’ greatest quarterback of all-time and he did it all with a smile on his face.

Washington hasn’t gotten off to the best start, but McNabb is in the top ten in passing yards (833), ahead of Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and the guy that has taken over his position in Philly, Mike Vick.

Vick’s resurgence to the top of the league has been possibly the biggest story of the season thus far, with a feel-good-ring to it. McNabb has praised him, and said nothing much about returning to Philly, but after 11 seasons there has to be a sense of urgency, a want to prove that he is the top guy.

His team has said they want to play their best game for him.

McNabb will be inspired and he will lead his team to victory.

Washington wins.

Arizona (2-1) at San Diego (1-2)

San Diego has the second most passing yards per game, and are sixth and ninth best in the league in passing yards allowed per game and rushing yards allowed per game respectively.

Their one win has come at home and their latest loss was due in part to terrible special teams coverage allowing two kickoff returns for touchdowns (and losing by seven points despite Philip Rivers’ 455 passing yards).

Arizona squeaked by last week when the Raiders missed a field goal with time expiring.

The Chargers are a pass-first team, but if they could expose a rather weak run defense, then they could be in business.

San Diego wins.

Chicago (3-0) at New York Giants (1-2)

Both quarterbacks are in the top ten in passing yards. However the Bears pass defense is not playing nearly as well as the Giants. Maybe that’s because they’ve played Aaron Rodgers and Tony Romo, but the Giants still had to matchup with Peyton Manning.

The Bears run defense is tough, but they can’t run the ball either.

The key for the Giants will be for Eli Manning to cut back on his turnovers (he leads the league with six interceptions) and make Jay Cutler turn into the turnover machine that people expect him to be.

At home and becoming a very undervalued team, the Giants can pull off an upset in this game.

New York Giants win.

New England (2-1) at Miami (2-1)

Last year the Patriots were miserable on the road, and they did nothing against the New York Jets in Week 2 to prove those days are behind them. They also, historically, play poorly in Miami.

Last week against the Jets, Chad Henne threw for 363 yards, 166 of which were to Brandon Marshall. The two’s connection has really developed early in the season, and there is no reason to believe that the Patriots porous secondary that allowed Ryan Fitzpatrick to complete 71 percent of his passes for 247 yards last week will stop them.

Miami wins.

Bye week: Dallas, Kansas City, Minnesota, Tampa Bay

Last Week: 9-7

Season: 29-19

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