Week 4 of the NFL season brings an end to the first month of the season. Sept. 29 is the last Sunday of the opening month, although the biggest game of the week may be on Monday night between the unbeaten Miami Dolphins and New Orleans Saints. However, for this particular Sunday, the game of the week is another primetime battle between the weaker than usual New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons.
The Patriots and Falcons were both one win away from facing each other in last season’s Super Bowl. Yet 2013 has gotten off to an iffy start for both clubs, although the Patriots have a 3-0 record while the Falcons are at 1-2. Nevertheless, New England hasn’t always looked good in beating three mediocre or worse teams, while Atlanta has already stumbled against both Miami and New Orleans.
But the Falcons are hosting the Patriots at the Georgia Dome, where they almost never lose in the regular season. If Atlanta is going to prove it is still in the NFC elite, this is the right stage to do it. As for New England, its first game against a potential contender will prove if Tom Brady and his shaky receiving core are still enough.
Before the Patriots and Falcons square off against each other, countless TV premieres and the Breaking Bad finale, here is a list of the best and worst games of Week 4 during the day.
No. 1: New England Patriots vs Atlanta Falcons: 8:25 p.m. est
It is a weird time when the Patriots are the most unproven and shaky 3-0 team in the NFL. Perhaps beating a mere 1-2 Falcons team won’t answer all their questions, but it will do a better job than struggling against the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
No. 2: Seattle Seahawks vs Houston Texans – 1 p.m. est
The Seahawks and Russell Wilson have two straight blow out wins at home, but that is nothing new. Beating a contender on the road is something Seattle has less practice in, however. In addition, statement wins over contenders haven’t always come the Texans’ way either.
No. 3: Philadelphia Eagles vs Denver Broncos – 4:25 p.m. est
Virtually no one expects the Eagles to hold the Broncos under 30 points, and maybe not under 40 or 50 either. But if Peyton Manning finally makes a mistake, can the Eagles’ own video-game style offense take advantage against a still shorthanded Broncos defense?
Bears vs Lions
No. 4: Chicago Bears vs Detroit Lions – 1 p.m. est
The last time the Bears went to Detroit was for coach Lovie Smith’s last game, where they got their 10’th win of 2012 and it still wasn’t enough for the playoffs. As such, new coach Marc Trestman knows he and the Bears can’t coast with a 3-0 start, especially against a 2-1 Lions squad looking for a revival.
No. 5: New York Giants vs Kansas City Chiefs – 1 p.m. est
The Giants were destroyed by a then-winless Carolina Panthers team last week, so facing the undefeated Chiefs doesn’t look like the best tonic. It certainly doesn’t look good against a coach in Andy Reid who’s used to beating the Giants, even if he lost to them in his final game with the Eagles.
No. 6: Dallas Cowboys vs San Diego Chargers – 4:25 p.m. est
DeMarco Murray and the Cowboys are leading the NFC East almost by default — and also thanks in part to the Chargers’ win over the Eagles two weeks ago. But a loss to San Diego would make Dallas’s divisional frontrunner status look pretty hollow.
No. 7: New York Jets vs Tennessee Titans – 4:05 p.m. est
Somehow, someway, the winner of this game will have a 3-1 record after a quarter of the season, which would be even more shocking for the Jets.
No. 8: Indianapolis Colts vs Jacksonville Jaguars – 1 p.m. est
The Colts made a huge statement by blowing out the San Francisco 49ers on the road last Sunday. As such, this visit to Jacksonville is either the ultimate reward, or the ultimate trap game.
No. 9: Cincinnati Bengals vs Cleveland Browns – 1 p.m. est
BenJarvis Green-Ellis and the Bengals proved their mettle by rallying over the Green Bay Packers last week, while the Browns proved they haven’t completely tanked by keeping the Minnesota Vikings winless. Now Cincinnati has to avoid a trap, as Cleveland hopes Brian Hoyer can really replace Brandon Weeden for more than a week.
RG III 0-3
No. 10: Washington Redskins vs Oakland Raiders – 4:25 p.m. est
Three weeks of Robert Griffin III stumbling back into form is more than Washington can afford. With another loss to the Raiders, the Redskins will really need another seven-game winning streak like in 2012 to have any hope left.
No. 11: Baltimore Ravens vs Buffalo Bills – 1 p.m. est
The Ravens returned to Super Bowl form in throttling the Texans on Sept. 22. But Super Bowl champions and threats also handle teams they are supposed to beat, although E.J. Manuel and the Bills have been a tough out so far.
No. 12: Pittsburgh Steelers vs Minnesota Vikings in London – 1 p.m. est
The NFL is going overseas and giving Europe a much uglier matchup than expected. No one expected both the Steelers and Vikings to be 0-3 by now, yet now that they are, this is practically an elimination game — if not the only one these two teams will have in 2013.
No. 13: Arizona Cardinals vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 1 p.m. est
The Mike Glennon era begins in Tampa Bay, as the Buccaneers need it to start 1-0, instead of adding to the 0-3 end of the Josh Freeman era.