For most coaches, the NFL season can be broken down into four quarters. 16 games breaks down neatly into four four game blocks that can ultimately define a season. If you can win each quarter of your season by going 3-1 or even 4-0, you’re in prime playoff position – especially if you win the first quarter of the year.
So needless to say Week 4 is a pivotal week for lots of teams. If you’re 2-1, pushing your record to 3-1 for the first quarter of the season is a big deal. Whereas if you’re 1-2, avoiding a 1-3 start and getting back to playing .500 is a tremendous achievement.
Week 4 might not have an extremely salacious game like a Seattle vs. Green Bay matchup, but there are still plenty of good ones to tune into this week. Here are the five best games this week and a few reasons why you’re going to want to tune in to them.
1. Minnesota Vikings (2-1) @ Denver Broncos (3-0) – Sun. 4:25 p.m. ET
The best matchup of the week is Adrian Peterson, who seems to have found his game again, against the ferocious Denver Broncos defense. Minnesota will try and control the clock with Peterson while Denver will surely stack the box and make Teddy Bridgewater beat their secondary, composed of a group that can pull off one-on-one coverage as well as any team in the league.
On the other side, we have Minnesota’s terrifying pass rush lead by Everson Griffen. If the Vikings can get to Peyton Manning, who hasn’t looked stellar yet this season, and run the ball, it could spell a rousing road win for a Vikings team many experts pegged as real contenders in the NFC North this year.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (1-2) @ Cincinnati Bengals (3-0) – Sun. 1:00 p.m. ET
Sometimes the schedule makers really don’t do you any favors, and that’s been the story behind the story of the Kansas City Chiefs’ season thus far. Sure, they could have easily had that game against Denver in Week 2, but starting off with a tough Texans team on the road, followed by the Broncos and the Packers is pretty brutal. The Chiefs are better than a 1-2 team but they have another huge test on the road against the high-flying Cincinnati Bengals.
Andy Dalton is in full ‘regular season’ Andy Dalton mode and as long as he keeps feeding A.J. Green and as long as the calendar doesn’t read ‘January’ he should continue to thrive. Their wins over San Diego, Baltimore and Oakland (combined 3-6 record) don’t look too impressive, but 3-0 is 3-0. Aaron Rodgers gashed the Chiefs on Monday night, and if the Chiefs don’t adjust their film study sessions might be an uncut A.J. Green highlight reel.
Still, this is a litmus test game for the Bengals, and a gut check game for the Chiefs. It’s nice to be close in these games, but as they say, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. They need a W here.
3. Baltimore Ravens (0-3) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1) – Thurs. 8:25 p.m. ET
The Baltimore Ravens look bad. Take Steve Smith off this team and there’s nothing really there to like. However, they may have caught a break by running into the vaunted Pittsburgh Steeler offense without Big Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger, who is out 4-6 weeks with a knee injury, will be replaced by Michael Vick, who traded starts much of the year with Geno Smith on the Jets.
But regardless of record and who is and isn’t playing, this is a divisional matchup between two teams that really don’t like each other. It’s going to be fierce, hard hitting, and as usual with these two teams, really fun to watch.
Plus, it’s a huge game for both teams. The Steelers need to keep pace with the Bengals and on top of that have a chance to really put the nail in the coffin of the 0-3 Ravens. Meanwhile, the Ravens have a chance to get off the mat and dust themselves off against the Steelers, proving they’re not dead yet.
4. St. Louis Rams (1-2) @ Arizona Cardinals (3-0) – Sun. 4:25 p.m. ET
Will the real St. Louis Rams please stand up? Call me crazy, but I still think the Rams’ final form at the end of the season will be closer to that of the team that beat the Seahawks opening week and not the one that got blindsided by the Redskins and lost a hideous game to the Steelers this past weekend. No better time than this weekend for them to prove me right.
But, that’s a might tall task against a Cardinals team that looks like they’re going to be the favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl if they keep playing the way they’ve played thus far. Carson Palmer’s return has rejuvenated Larry Fitzgerald, Chris Johnson is running like CJ2K and not the slower version we saw with the Jets in 2014. And that defense has some serious teeth. This should be a great game, you have to imagine St. Louis comes to play to show they’re up to snuff in the NFC West against a fantastic looking Cardinals team.
5. Philadelphia Eagles (1-2) @ Washington Redskins (1-2) – Sun. 1:00 p.m. ET
Don’t laugh – one of these two teams might be tied for the lead in the NFC South by the end of the day on Sunday. With the Cowboys in flux missing Romo and Bryant and the Giants looking mediocre at best the door is wide open for either of these teams to walk in and take the NFC South crown. Ok, fine, not buying the whole ‘one of these two teams can win the division’ angle? How about the fact that if the NFL were a soap opera (which it definitely feels like sometimes), these two teams are unquestionably two of its biggest stars.
There’s no team more interesting than Chip Kelly’s Eagles and there’s no team more divisive and despised for a multitude of reasons than the Redskins. Put the two of them together on a football field and throw in the fact that they’re division rivals and you’ve got yourself some must-see TV. Maybe we can get the Browns to show up at halftime and really turn this into a soap-style football love triangle. One can only hope.
Honorable Mention. Green Bay Packers (3-0) @ San Francisco 49ers (1-2) – Sun. 4:25 p.m. ET
This isn’t a great matchup by any means, and most likely won’t even be a great game, but have you see Aaron Rodgers play football? He’s playing the game on a completely different level than anybody else right now. Sure, Tom Brady is doing his usual thing, but the wow factor that Rodgers brings to the table with his laser arm, pinpoint accuracy and fancy footwork is unrivaled. Watch this game just to watch this man throw a ball around – it’ll absolutely be worth your time.
Bryan Altman is, for some reason, an unabashed fan of the Rangers, Jets and Mets. If he absolutely had to pick a basketball team it would be the Knicks, but he’d gladly trade them for just one championship for either of his other three teams.