National Football League predictions, week four

Patriots hope to continue strong over Bills after two losses and coach Belichick fine

New England Patriots @ Buffalo Bills

Sunday, Sept. 30, 1 p.m.

The Patriots are in unfamiliar territory. They’ve lost two consecutive games and are seriously flirting with the possibility of losing a third to a sneaky-good Buffalo team. The Bills always play the Pats tough, and Sunday should be no exception. However, if Buffalo is without C.J. Spiller it will make their task much more difficult. They will have to rely heavily on former Cowboy Tashard Choice and they may need to resort to passing more than they normally would. With that said, New England still has the offensive firepower to beat any team, and they should pull this one out.

Prediction: 31-17 Patriots

San Francisco 49ers @ New York Jets

Sunday, Sept. 30, 1 p.m.

Even though San Francisco shockingly lost to the Vikings last week, they are still one of the elite NFL teams and they can be expected to play as such. They have a dominant defense and should be able to hold Mark Sanchez and the Jets for the majority of the game. Also of note: 49ers QB Alex Smith threw his first interception in 250 attempts. The Jets will have major problems stopping Frank Gore this week, as they are 28th in rushing defense. The loss of All-Pro CB Darrelle Revis to an ACL tear will also greatly hamper their previously dangerous secondary.

Prediction: 24-10 49ers

Seattle Seahawks @ St. Louis Rams

Sunday, Sept. 30, 1 p.m.

Even at 1-2, St. Louis is one of the most underrated teams in the NFL. They’ve played three great games thus far, and QB Sam Bradford is beginning to show the qualities that made him a No. 1 overall pick in 2010. Seattle had a great defensive showing against Green Bay Monday night, sacking Aaron Rodgers eight times in the first half alone. They also held the explosive Packers offense to a mere 12 points. This should be a good divisional matchup.

Prediction: 17-13 Seahawks

Carolina Panthers @ Atlanta Falcons

Sunday, Sept. 30, 1 p.m.

Cam Newton is struggling this season. After his impressive rookie season, Newton is floundering under the high expectations that were placed on his Panthers team. He has five interceptions compared to two touchdowns, which will not cut it on a playoff team. Atlanta, on the other hand, is firing on all cylinders. They are known to be one of the better regular season teams, so no judgment should be passed on them until they can prove themselves in the playoffs. For now though, they are the NFC’s best team.

Prediction: 34-20 Falcons

Minnesota Vikings @ Detroit Lions

Sunday, Sept. 30, 1 p.m.

Minnesota beat the 49ers at their own game last week. They jumped out to an early lead, took care of the ball, and played great defense. In fact, Christian Ponder and Alex Smith had eerily similar games with both throwing for about 200 yards on 25 attempts. The Vikings succeeded mainly because they kept Ponder off his back. The devastating 49ers defensive line couldn’t get to Ponder and he was able to pick them apart. Detroit needs to get better defensively if they want to get back into the playoffs this season. Allowing 44 points to the Titans is unacceptable, and no matter how good their offense may be, they need to slow down offenses like Green Bay if they want to be successful this year.

Prediction: 28-17 Lions

San Diego Chargers @ Kansas City Chiefs

Sunday, Sept. 30, 1 p.m.

Philip Rivers has not looked himself so far this season. He hasn’t looked bad, by any stretch — he just does not look like the Pro Bowler that he is. His Charger offense looked lost against Atlanta, and he threw two bad interceptions. The Chiefs were impressive in their victory over the Saints last week. Jamaal Charles showed why he was considered one of the best RBs in the league last season before his ACL injury, rushing for over 200 yards.

Prediction: 21-17 Chiefs

Tennessee Titans @ Houston Texans

Sunday, Sept. 30, 1 p.m.

The Houston Texans have the most dangerous team in the NFL. With Arian Foster on the ground, and with Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson through the air, they have one of the most dynamic offenses in the league. J.J. Watt is also having an outstanding sophomore campaign on the defensive line, racking up 5.5 sacks in just three games. Tennessee barely won a shootout last week with Detroit, but they showed that their offense can be incredibly explosive against the right team. Houston is not that team, however, and they should be able to stop the Titans’ attack and cruise to their fourth victory.

Prediction: 27-10 Texans

Cincinnati Bengals @ Jacksonville Jaguars

Sunday, Sept. 30, 1 p.m.

Andy Dalton was terrific last week against the Redskins, and if he plays anywhere close to how he did then, the Bengals will be incredibly tough to beat. It would help if they could find a consistent running back, but thus far it hasn’t really hurt them. Their defense, however, needs some work. They are 31st in the NFL in rushing yards allowed, and with Maurice Jones-Drew on the other side of the field, that is bad news for the Bengals. Cincinnati should still win, but it may be closer than they prefer.

Prediction: 27-23 Bengals

Oakland Raiders @ Denver Broncos

Sunday, Sept. 30, 1 p.m.

Even after taking a year off, Peyton Manning still shows flashes of his former MVP self. He appears to be less accurate on deep throws though, most likely due to lost velocity after his neck injury. However, as well as Manning has played, Denver is still 1-2 and their great rushing game from last year appears to have disappeared. Oakland impressed in their win against the Steelers last week, with Carson Palmer having his best game yet. Darren McFadden also had a great game, rushing for over 100 yards against the always tough Steelers defense. Last week the Raiders were picked apart by Ben Roethlisberger, and the same should happen when they play Manning and the Broncos.

Prediction: 24-14 Broncos

Miami Dolphins @ Arizona Cardinals

Sunday, Sept. 30, 4:05 p.m.

Arizona cannot be looked over anymore. After two consecutive impressive defensive showings against New England and Philadelphia, they look as though they may be a serious force in the NFC going forward. Miami comes into this game sporting one of the best rush defenses in the NFL, but luckily for Arizona, their offense does not rely heavily on their ground game. Ryan Tannehill will be pressured all game and forced into mistakes throwing into Arizona’s talented secondary.

Prediction: 20-7 Cardinals

Washington Redskins @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Sunday, Sept. 30, 4:05 p.m.

Robert Griffin III continues to impress as the Redskins lost in a shootout to the Cincinnati Bengals. Their defense must improve, however, if they expect to make a run in the very talented NFC East. The Buccaneers (Josh Freeman in particular) have been very inconsistent this season. Freeman had an awful game against Dallas, only completing roughly 30 percent of his passes and amassing only 100 yards. Rookie RB Doug Martin still looks promising and should be a cornerstone of the Bucs franchise going forward.

Prediction: 20-7 Redskins

New Orleans Saints vs. Green Bay Packers

Sunday, Sept. 30, 4:25 p.m.

The Saints are in a tail spin. After giving up over 200 rushing yards to Jamaal Charles, they suffered their third straight loss to the Chiefs and it’s evident that the loss of head coach Sean Payton is having a bigger effect than previously expected. Their defense is a mess and the Packers will absolutely dominate this game, especially after their questionable, heart-breaking loss Monday night.

Prediction: 38-20 Packers

New York Giants @ Philadelphia Eagles

Sunday, Sept. 30, 4:25 p.m.

This should be a great game between two of the NFC’s biggest rivals. Philadelphia was very disappointing last week against Arizona, once again failing to cut down on their turnovers. They need to play almost perfectly against the Giants if they want a chance to win. New York’s defensive line should feast on Philadelphia’s blocking. QB Michael Vick leads the league in hits taken on pass attempts, partially due to an inexperienced offensive line and partially due to his tendency to hold the ball too long. After an impressive win over Carolina, the Giants will look to continue their momentum after a long 10-day break.

Prediction: 24-21 Giants

Chicago Bears @ Dallas Cowboys

Monday, Sept. 31, 8:30 p.m.

The Bears had an outstanding defensive play against the Rams last week, helping Chicago win comfortably even though Jay Cutler had his second consecutive sub-par game. If he wants to beat Dallas, Cutler will have to return to his normal form, especially against Dallas’ greatly improved secondary. The Cowboys enter the game second in the NFL in pass yards allowed, so the Bears will have to utilize Michael Bush for the majority of the game.

Prediction: 27-14 Bears