The game plan: Good luck with Week 4

Rob Carr - Getty Images

Week 4 in the NFL could feature a few upsets ... or just some really bad games.

It's hardly fair to rank NFL games based on simple matchups alone, not with replacement referees on the field doling out extra timeouts, twisting geography and letting games descend into all out cage matches. In reality, those replacement refs might be the only thing keeping it interesting in Week 4. The schedule is filled with mismatches, many of which lacked possibility in April.

And now comes news that we might not even have replacement referees to kick around anymore. Good thing our weekly game rankings are here to help you plan accordingly.

1. New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS

The first time these teams met last season, the Bills picked off Tom Brady four times and scored 17 points in the fourth quarter to beat the Pats for the first time since 2003. Which Bills team will we see in this one? The one that dominated Cleveland and Kansas City, not exactly quality opponents, in their last two games or the Bills that allowed the Jets to think Mark Sanchez might be in for an MVP season in Week 1?

2. Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions

Sunday, 1 p.m., Fox

We knew the NFC North would be interesting; we just never imagined that it would be the Vikings, who knocked off the 49ers last week, making it that way. Detroit gave up almost 400 passing yards last week to Jake Locker, which makes you wonder what Christian Ponder might do to its secondary. How the Vikings defend Calvin Johnson is the key to this game.

3. New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles

Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC

The Giants got off to a shaky start with a season-opening loss to the Cowboys. Then they had two scrimmages against the NFC South to fine tune the operation. Philadelphia's 2-0 start to the season led many to believe that the dream might be real this year. Lost in the details was that it nearly lost its season opener to the Browns, and ran head long into the Desert Miracle for a thrashing last week.

4. Chicago Bears at Dallas Cowboys

Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Dallas is 2-1, and it feels like the most underwhelming 2-1 record in the NFL right now. Why is that? Turnovers and an Texas-sized dose of offseason expectations, I guess. Jason Campbell might want to brush up on the Bears' playbook if Dallas' defense does what it's capable of doing to Jay Cutler. The Bears' defense will make it a game.


5. Washington Redskins at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox

If you're looking for wacky coaching hi-jinx, this is the game for you. The wild card is what triggers the explosion. By the end of the season, I expect to see Greg Schiano running onto the field and battering through victory formations with his Kevlar flattop, bile leaking from his ears. Mike Shanahan's emotions will be tougher to read since his red face will look like just another German tourist swinging up the coast.

6. San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS

The soothing sounds of a CBS broadcast make for the perfect accompaniment to an AFC West showdown between two teams still trying to find their identity. Kansas City is riding high after a road win in the Superdome last week. Norv Turner is high on life, comforted by the fact that he continues to have a coaching job in spite of his perennially disappointing teams.

7. Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos

Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET, CBS

Two AFC West matchups in the middle of the rankings? Yep, that ought to tell you everything you need to know about the Week 4 schedule in the NFL. Oakland showed a real knack for picking on old people, putting the Steelers back on the senior center shuttle with an upset loss. Wealthy old person Peyton Manning is still trying to inch past average.

8. New Orleans Saints at Green Bay Packers

Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox

Remember way back to 2011 when this matchup promised all kinds of excitement? Not anymore. Green Bay, which has been poked in the eye with a stick, could very well set a new record for points scored in a single game.


9. Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens

Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET, NFL Network

The NFL's new Thursday night games have been terrible so far this season. In fairness, the Giants-Panthers game from Week 3 looked much better on paper than the actual game, but this is the Browns and the Ravens, a game that was a mismatch in April.

10. Miami Dolphins at Arizona Cardinals

Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET, CBS

I am officially setting aside my cynicism about the Cardinals. That 3-0 record is no fluke. Arizona has a +2 turnover ratio, and will eventually come out on the wrong side of that category. Not this week, not against the Miami Dolphins.

11. San Francisco 49ers at New York Jets

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Fox

Life without Darrelle Revis begins. It probably will turn out exactly like you expect it to for the Jets. New York's season is now about Rex Ryan and how he holds his team together without its best player. That starts this week against a Jim Harbaugh that has been wronged, or at least defeated.

12. Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Fox

This is one of those games that could wind up being much better than it looks. Until then, we only have precedent, and that says one of the league's best teams should cruise past a team that has scored more than 10 points just once in three games this year.


13. Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Fox

Tennessee played pretty well last week, beating the Lions in one of the strangest games this season. The Texans' defense is another matter entirely, and this AFC South showdown suggests nothing other than a 4-0 Texans team.

14. Cincinnati Bengals at Jacksonville Jaguars

Sunday, 4:05 p.m ET, CBS

What might save this game from being a total turd is a pretty good Jaguars' pass defense. On the other hand, Jacksonville's run defense could make BenJarvus Green-Ellis look like a viable starting running back (did you hear that fantasy football people?). The battle of second-year quarterbacks tops the fight card. Andy Dalton, a second-round pick, is off to a great start with 867 passing yards and six touchdowns. Blaine Gabbert, the first-round pick, isn't doing so bad himself, having yet to throw an interception this season.

15. Seattle Seahawks at St. Louis Rams

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Fox

Lost in the hub bub from Seattle's Monday night "win" is a defense that sacked Aaron Rodgers eight times in two quarters. Imagine what it could do to the St. Louis Rams, who have Barry Richardson and Wayne Hunter as their starting offensive tackles. In keeping with the trend, the Rams' best hope lies with their secondary, but we've already seen a special immunity to interceptions for rookie surprise Russell Wilson.

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