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NFL Match-Up Mania: Week 4

With NFL Week 3 now a memory, we’re starting the see the various tiers of teams clearly form.  We have a decent idea of who the competing candidates for playoffs are, who the spoiler teams may be and the those are spoiled completely rotten.  Despite the limited certainty stated above, there’s still plenty of surprises we’ve seen to get us there.  The success of coaches Andy Reid, Joe Philbin, and Marc Trestman among them.  This intrigue is the reason why they’ve all been or will be featured in Match-up Mania this season.  But who are the next story lines to emerge from the coming week?  Find out here in the Week 4 edition of The Student of the Game’s Match-up Mania.

Seahawks vs. Texans

When it comes to these 2 teams, neither offense has looked particularly good.  While the Texans have at least broken the 30 point mark, it  is more than we can say for the Seahawks (and no, doing it against the Jags doesn’t count).  But Houston having barely snuck by the Titans and Chargers while losing to the Ravens leaves me wanting more from the defending AFC South Champions.  Until I get that, it’s hard for me to see the Texans as a Super Bowl threat — especially when they’re still dependent on a injury-limited S Ed Reed.  JJ (S)Watt and Brain Cushing’s presence aside, the secondary will need more help for that defense to be complete long term.

Looking at the statistics for the Seahawks on offense, it’s reasonable to wonder if the Texans defense has anything to truly panic about in the coming contest.  Russel Wilson has only thrown for 2 TDs in as many games against teams not hailing from Jacksonville.  RB Marshawn Lynch has the same TD count in the same time frame rushing as Wilson does passing.  What could possibly excuse the abysmal performance?  Having a defense that can bail an offense out while playing against defenses that are more intimidating than the Texans.

But let’s not go raising the ‘Hawks’ arms as the victors of the bout quite yet.  Seattle struggled in Week 1 against the Panthers — a game where they only scored 12 points.  The reason was actually citied in Week 2’s Match-Up Mania.  It’s not so much that it was the Panthers as it was Carolina; as in the city of Charlotte; as in not CenturyLink Field, the NFL’s loudest venue.  Houston holds hope in the fact that Seattle is less the Seahawks outside of their home site and more like Chicken of the Sea.

That fact aside, it’s hard for me to believe a team the held San Francisco to 3 points and claimed 5 takeaways won’t find something in the cupboard to subdue QB Matt Schaub and company — especially with WR Andre Johnson fighting injury.  I see the Seahawks coasting to 4-0.

Eagles vs. Broncos

This time 4 weeks ago, I had this game pegged as the first of the lighter part of the 6 week suspension of LB Von Miller.  A game where Eagle Head Coach Chip Kelly’s gimmick offense would be figured out and it would only fall to Bronco QB Peyton Manning to go all “Peyton Manning” on them and chalk up the easy “W”.  However, beyond last week’s Thursday night affair where Philly came out making a ton of mistakes hosting Kansas City, the Eagles offense has done amazing things.  Whether it was a just a bad night or a crumbling against the best defense QB Michael Vick and company faced so far in 2013, there’s no reason that we should expect a similar showing from the Eagles at Mile High.

Another thing that will likely not happen is the Denver defense will provide the same challenge as KC’s defense did in the Eagle loss.  This means that Vick, RB LeSean McCoy and WR DeSean Jackson will all have opportunities to post solid numbers.

While fantasy team owners may be excited by this prospect, the question remains. . . Will it be enough to beat “Marshall” Peyton. Manning in a good ol’ fashion shootout in the wild AFC West? With ammunition to fire away coming from an elite WR corps, Amercia’s favorite new TE, Julius Thomas, and a solid RB committee, it’s hard for me to think so.  Not to mention, Philadelphia’s “D” had trouble keeping Alex Smith and the Chiefs contained, what about a gun-slinger like Manning?  That being said, Denver’s starting LT Ryan Clady out for the year raises concern when protecting a QB with 4 neck surgeries.

Patriots vs. Falcons

This battle between these highly regarded NFL offenses is for the fan that wants to hear air raid sirens during their Sunday football.  Passes fired all over the field like missiles and rockets fired all over both end zones.

QB Tom Brady and the Patriots may not have been the most impressive offense in the past few weeks, but week 4 promises the return of TE Rob Gronkowski.  Should that not happen, WR Kendrell Thompkins has added a presence where injuries have slowed “Gronk” and  WR Danny Amendola.  With both missing last week, Thompkins reeled in 2 TDs to emerge as the last line of defense in preventing Brady and the passing game from falling apart.  The running game for the Pats has also added much needed balance to keep New England from losing games while reeling from roster woes.

As missing new acquisitions goes, Atlanta also suffers in this plight.  RB Steven Jackson missed action to due injury himself this past week.  In the Falcons case, RB Jacquizz Rodgers isn’t a new face, but he has performed nicely to fill the Jackson gap.

While missing major pieces is something these 2 teams have in common, the Patriots have more to fear going into this pairing. The Dirty Birds will still fly high with QB Matt Ryan slinging the ball to WRs Julio Jones and Roddy White, not to mention TE Tony Gonzalez, against a Pats “D” that is less than elite.

The Falcons have lost ground to the New Orleans Saints and the NFC South having fallen to the Dolphins.  That loss also puts pressure on New England to keep Miami at bay in the AFC East.  The fate of the Falcons’ future is tied to the Phins finish with the Saints, but I believe they’ll lose no more ground in toppling the Pats. . . unless Gronkowski and Amendola are back.

Honorable Mention

Niners vs. Rams

This game deserves attention not only because of it’s a divisional pairing.  These teams battled to play nearly 150 minutes of football in 2012.  The Rams only lost 1 game within the NFC West and none to the 49ers against whom St Louis was 1-0-1.

QB Colin Kaepnernick will be looking for his first win as San Francisco’s starter against Head Coach Jeff Fischer.  But after being shown a game plan for the Niners by the Seahawks and Colts in the past 2 weeks, I expect them to provide a similar challenge.

Yet, despite rookie WR Tavon Austin and TE Jared Cook providing Ram QB Sam Bradford and RB Darryl Richardson with support, they will struggle to survive in their own backfield facing the Niners front 7.  And yes, that’s while missing sack sensation Aldon Smith.

Dolphins vs. Saints

Both of these teams came into the season with playoff hopes after missing the postseason in 2012.  They have also both started strong going 3-0.  Though they play in different conferences, this game may represent the difference between either team making the tournament in their respective races come Week 17.

This game is intriguing tactically as well.  With all the weapons the Saints have, it seems like they shouldn’t  be struggling against the likes of the Bucs, but they seemed to return to form against the Cards.  QB Drew Brees will make it so New Orleans will have a shot to win any game, but Miami represents a team that has both solid defense and QB play.  A combination that could prove difficult for the defensively deficient dukes of the “Who Dat Nation”.

However, the biggest question for the Dolphins lies in their ability to compete in a shootout against Brees.  Without a solid running attack to support Ryan Tannehill and WR Mike Wallace, the passing package will need to proliferate profuse production for the ‘Phins to fight off football failure.  In light of Miami’s necessity of passing intensity, I think Brees will breeze to 4-0.


Written By:

Kyle Nash — @TheSoTG on Twitter

Founder and host of The Student of the Game show

VP of Operations and Editor for The National Gridiron Network

NFL Contributor for The Sports Chronicles

Special Contributor for Pro Player Insiders.


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Kyle NashThe Student of the Game
Host of the Student of The Game Podcast Monday @ 7:30pm EST
Writer for NGSC Sports
Narrator of Sport Symposium on NGSC Sports YouTube Channel.

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