NFL 2012 Season Week Four Preview
Bye weeks begin as the NFL enters its fourth week of the 2012 season. Here’s a preview of all of this week’s action:
Thursday, September 27
Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens — 8:20 P.M.
M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore
Winless Cleveland (0-3) has lost its last eight meetings with Baltimore (2-1). The Browns could be without receiver Mohamed Massaquoi and tight end Alex Smith against the intimidating Ravens’ defense. Baltimore has scored an AFC-best 98 points, many of them as a result of quarterback Joe Flacco’s 913 passing yards, the second best total in the NFL. The Cleveland defense must rise to the challenge.
Sunday, September 30
Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons — 1 P.M.
Georgia Dome, Atlanta
After a severe beating at the hands of the Giants last Thursday, Carolina (1-2) has had extra time to prepare for the unbeaten Falcons, whose 31.3 points scored per game is tied for third-best in the NFL. The Panthers’ defense must get better pressure on Matt Ryan than it did on Eli Manning. Atlanta (3-0) will look to stuff the Panthers’ running attack and force Carolina quarterback Cam Newton into turnovers.
New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills — 1 P.M.
Ralph Wilson Stadium, Buffalo, N.Y.
Consecutive, last-minute defeats to Arizona and Baltimore make this game extra important for New England (1-2). Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and receiver Wes Welker have looked sharp, but they could be challenged by the Bills’ revamped defense. Buffalo (2-1) will be without injured running back C.J. Spiller, but they could see the return of running back Fred Jackson. Reserve back Tashard Choice gained 91 yards last week after Spiller was hurt. The success of the Buffalo running attack is key in keeping Brady off the field.
Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions — 1 P.M.
Ford Field, Detroit
After a surprising win over the 49ers last week, Minnesota (2-1) finds itself tied with the Bears atop the NFC North. To beat the Lions, the Vikings could use another solid game from quarterback Christian Ponder, who had a part in all three touchdowns against San Francisco. Detroit (1-2) allowed three return touchdowns in the 44-41 overtime loss to the Titans. Lions’ quarterback Matthew Stafford expects to play despite suffering a leg injury near the end of regulation on Sunday. The Vikings’ defense must be as aggressive and opportunistic as it was against the 49ers.
San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs — 1 P.M.
Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Mo.
After mustering just three points in last week’s loss to the Falcons, San Diego (2-1) must get a more productive game from quarterback Philip Rivers, whose QB rating was just 45.2 last Sunday. The Chiefs’ pass defense could provide opportunities for Rivers. Kansas City (1-2) has the league’s best running game courtesy of running back Jamaal Charles, the NFL’s leading rusher with 323 yards. The Chargers’ defense must contain Charles to stop Kansas City from sustaining long drives.
Seattle Seahawks at St. Louis Rams — 1 P.M.
Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis
After one of the most controversial officiating decisions in NFL history gave them a Monday night win, Seattle (2-1) travels east to face an NFC West foe. The Seahawks have the league’s best scoring defense, allowing just 13 points per game. After sacking Aaron Rodgers of the Packers eight times on Monday, they’ll look to apply pressure to Sam Bradford of the Rams. St. Louis (1-2) must contain Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch and force rookie quarterback Russell WIlson to beat them.
San Francisco 49ers at N.Y. Jets — 1 P.M.
MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
It’s always a challenge for West Coast teams to win in the Eastern time zone. San Francisco (2-1) looks to get back to dominating games by pitting their fierce defense against the inconsistent Jets’ offense. New York (1-2) may struggle to achieve any positive rushing yardage. The Jets’ defense aims to force 49ers’ quarterback Alex Smith into the kind of mistakes he made in last week’s loss to the Vikings. New York will be without star cornerback Darrelle Revis, who suffered a torn knee ligament in last week’s overtime win over the Dolphins and is lost for the season.
Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans — 1 P.M.
Reliant Stadium, Houston
Quarterback Jake Locker was spectacular in leading Tennessee (1-2) to a thrilling 44-41 overtime win over the Lions last week. Locker will face a bigger challenge from a Texans’ defense that ranks second-best in the league. Because of the ineffectiveness of star running back Chris Johnson, the Titans’ running game ranks last in the NFL at 39 yards per game. Houston (3-0) has the league’s fifth-best running game, with Arian Foster and Ben Tate eating up yardage and controlling the clock. Tennessee’s defense will look to force turnovers.
Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos — 4:05 P.M.
Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver
Quarterback Peyton Manning steps into one of the NFL’s traditional rivalries. As Manning has struggled over the past two weeks, Denver (1-2) has suffered consecutive defeats. A Raiders’ defense that yielded nearly 400 yards passing to the Steelers last Sunday could have a rejuvenating effect on Manning’s skills. Oakland (1-2) finally established a ground game with Darren McFadden against Pittsburgh. Denver will defend without linebacker Joe Mays, who was suspended for one game after a vicious hit on Houston’s Matt Schaub last week. The Raiders will be without receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, who sustained a concussion and strained neck against the Steelers.
Miami Dolphins at Arizona Cardinals — 4:05 P.M.
University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.
The league’s most surprising unbeaten team, Arizona (3-0) is winning games with its defense, ranking second at 13.3 points allowed per game. The Cardinals will challenge the inconsistent Dolphins’ offense, which could be without running back Reggie Bush, who sustained a knee injury in last Sunday’s overtime victory over the Jets. Miami (1-2) has not had much of a pass rush, compiling just three sacks in three games. Arizona quarterback Kevin Kolb is expected to once again start in place of the injured John Skelton. The Dolphins must put some pressure on Kolb, who has yet to throw an interception this season.
Cincinnati Bengals at Jacksonville Jaguars — 4:05 P.M.
EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Fla.
With the league’s fourth-ranked passing offense, Cincinnati (2-1) is capable of putting pressure on teams. Quarterback Andy Dalton has thrown for 300 yards in three straight games. He could have another big day against the Jaguars. Though Jacksonville (1-2) pulled off a win against the Colts with an 80-yard bomb, the Jaguars’ sputtering passing attack is unlikely to duplicate that success against the Bengals.
Washington Redskins at Tampa Bay Buccaneers — 4:25 P.M.
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.
Redskins’ quarterback Robert Griffin III is quickly becoming a must-see player in the NFL. He’ll lead Washington (1-2) against a suspect Buccaneers’ defense that is the league’s worst against the pass. The Redskins’ defense is second-worst against the pass, so there’s significant potential for a high-scoring game. Tampa (1-2) will rely on quarterback Josh Freeman, who must do better than the 110 passing yards he had last week.
New Orleans Saints at Green Bay Packers — 4:25 P.M.
Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wis.
Winless New Orleans (0-3) has struggled to make plays this season. To get their first win, the Saints will have to beat a Packers’ team still angry over a disputed call that resulted in a loss to the Seahawks on Monday night. With the NFL’s second-best pass rush, the Packers’ defense will look to pressure New Orleans’ quarterback Drew Brees. Green Bay (1-2) will rely on quarterback Aaron Rodgers to pick apart a Saints’ defense that has just two takeaways in three games.
N.Y. Giants at Philadelphia Eagles — 8:20 P.M.
Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia
The latest installment of this intense NFC East rivalry takes place in prime time on Sunday night, as Philadelphia (2-1) looks to shake off last week’s dreadful loss to Arizona. Eagles quarterback Michael Vick had little time to pass behind a patchwork offensive line, a trend that could continue against the Giants fierce pass rush. New York (2-1) can be unbeatable when quarterback Eli Manning gets comfortable and has time to make his throws. The Eagles’ defense will attempt to create pressure and force the Giants to play from behind.
Monday, Oct. 1
Chicago Bears at Dallas Cowboys — 8:30 P.M.
Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Tex.
Though inconsistent thus far, Chicago (2-1) still finds itself tied for the NFC North lead. The Bears will need to protect quarterback Jay Cutler against the Cowboys’ top-ranked defense. Dallas (2-1) struggled on offense for the second straight week. The Cowboys’ offense has generated just 15.7 points per game thus far, tied with Philadelphia for last in the NFL. The Bears’ defense is stingy enough to turn this matchup into a battle of field possession.
Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers