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NFL Match-Up Mania: Week 4

Welcome to Week 4 of the NFL Season and the Student of the Game’s Match-Up Mania. With three games logged into the 16-game 2014 campaign, it’s only logical that we, the football public, start declaring the demise of post season posterity for some 0-3 organizations. This pretty much eliminates any team from being featured here. Included are the Jacksonville Jaguars, Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Oakland Raiders in this population. While it has occurred that I made a “zombie” pick to feature a team I declared dead in the past, I wanted to give these franchises some run on this space because now their respective fans can’t claim I didn’t ever write about them this season. So now enough with the dubious honors, on to some quality pigskin.

Packers v. Bears

There’s something about this rivalry that is special. Sure, it’s the oldest in the NFL that dates back to when the Chicago Bears were still the Decatur Staleys, but I think for me it has more to do with recent history where the Packers and Bears are regularly representatives in the NFC postseason picture.

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After a slow start in Week 1 losing to Buffalo, Chicago has managed to keep pace with Green Bay who was served a loss by the defending World Champion Seattle Seahawks to open the season. A loss in this Week 4 game puts greater pressure on outlook to ascend to the top of the NFC North.

The key in this one is for the Bears defense to neutralize Aaron Rodgers ability to hit wide receivers Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson. If the team becomes one dimensional in having to rely on Eddie Lacy, they’ll be unable to outscore Jay Cutler and the Bear offense thanks to the weak Green Bay defense. Unless the Packers have a perfect night on ‘D’ forcing Cutler into mistakes, the Bears will take this one.

Panthers v. Ravens

I’m sure there are better reasons to follow this game. The improved Ravens offense and how it will play against that Carolina defense. . . Baltimore’s ability (or potential lack thereof) to shut down tight end Greg Olson and rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin. Quarterback Cam Newton and the running backs battling against the Baltimore front seven on the ground. But the truth is simple — I want to see this game to watch what Steve Smith does against his former team.

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Smith had been a Panther for 14 NFL seasons, a face of the Panther franchise and a crucial member of the roster during their only Super Bowl appearance in 2004. Yet for reasons I still don’t get (whether football is a business or not), Smith was sent packing to catch passes filling the Ravens’ void for Anquan Boldin’s departure at the beginning of last season.

The Panthers defense is good, but Steve Smith is the kind if player that can make the difference opening up offenses by drawing the attention of the defense.  The question is will that be enough to help his quarterback, Joe Flacco, lead his team down the field? Or will it be Benjamin who shines as he continues to prove that he is indeed the next “best receiver” in Carolina rather than the “next best receiver” in this contest.

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As much as these wide receivers are potential game changers, this game will still come down to quarterback play. If I’m forced to pick Newton over Flacco, I got Cam. If it’s between Flacco and Newton’s back up, Derek Anderson. . . I pick Anderson.

Honorable Mention

Bills v. Texans

Both these teams seem to have shocked the world at 2-1. Neither team has a win against an impressive team this season, true, but these teams are going to need this win as they are both in divisions with clear divisional front runners. This leaves their best chance to make post season as sneaking into the wildcard spot.

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This game will be close, but at the end of the day JJ Watt crushes EJ Manual into sacks or turnovers for the Texans to step closer returning to contender status within the league.

Titans v. Colts

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I know a division rivalry in the pitiful AFC South is hardly a reason to draw attention to a game, but 3 of Andrew Luck’s 11 comeback wins came against Tennessee. With Vic Ballard no longer a member of the squad, the Titans might breathe easier. But with their inability to stop the run, even Colts running backs Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw should be able move the ball to support Luck. Jake Locker may have a good game slinging the ball against Indy’s mediocre defense, but unless the Colts’ Luck is bad, the Titans luck will be worse as the Colts start to build up some steam to win the division.

Author Profile

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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