sistaff
Thursday September 29th, 2011

Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bills' offense have been humming, but they face a stiff test in the Bengals' defense. (Richard Mackson/US Presswire)

Last week: 1-6-1; Season: 11-12-1

What can I say about last week? It was awful. If not for the Rams' utter incompetence in the red zone and Antonio Gates voiding one of my best bets by not playing, I would have put up the goose egg.

If last week's picks were an NFL quarterback, they'd be Ryan Leaf. Maybe Joey Harrington.

Either way, there's nothing to do about it now but move on and try to regroup. On the plus side, Week 3 of the NFL season was enthralling, with Buffalo and Detroit firing up huge second-half rallies, while both the Sunday night and Monday night games turned into exciting (if a bit sloppy) contests.

What's Week 4 have on tap? Some predictions:

• Buffalo will score 24 points or less vs. Cincinnati

So far, the Bills offense has been an absolute buzzsaw, putting up an NFL-best 37.7 points per game in a surprising 3-0 start. Ryan Fitzpatrick even managed to hang 34 on the Patriots, despite not scoring in the first half last week.

Week 4 has all the makings of a letdown game, though. Buffalo's coming off an extremely emotional victory and has a Week 5 home game against Philadelphia looming.

Meanwhile, Cincinnati's sporting one of the more underrated defenses in the league. The Bengals are giving up just 18 points per game and are third in yards allowed. A lot of that has to do with Cincinnati playing a very safe, ball-control style offense to protect rookie QB Andy Dalton.

Except that strategy to keep the Bengals in the game Sunday -- and keep the Bills from lighting up the scoreboard.

Adrian Peterson will rush for 150 yards

The Vikings are absolutely reeling after coughing up a 20-0 halftime lead and losing to the Lions in Week 3. Making matters worse is that Adrian Peterson's not thrilled with how he's been used so far this season.

Minnesota may not be able to bounce back and make a playoff run, but it should at least manage to rectify Peterson's concerns. He's been his usual self when the Vikings give him the ball -- A.P. is averaging 5.1 yards per carry and had 120 yards rushing in a Week 2 loss to Tampa Bay.

The Chiefs are the fifth-worst defense against the run so far this season, allowing 123 yard per game. Expect Peterson to get upwards of 20 carries and to break loose at least a couple of times.

Blaine Gabbert will turn it over at least three times

Gabbert's first NFL start, in Week 3 against Carolina, went well enough: 12-for-21 for 139 yards and a touchdown. But he also threw a pick, took a safety and fumbled three times (though Jacksonville recovered all three).

Things probably are going to get worse for Gabbert before they get better with the Saints rolling into town Sunday. New Orleans' defense hasn't been exactly stout so far, giving up 42 at Green Bay in Week 1 and 33 to Houston in Week 3.

What defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will do, though, is show Gabbert a lot of unusual looks -- Gabbert will have some shots to make plays, but he figures to see a lot of pressure. The Jaguars QB of the future has a ton of promise, but he hasn't seen anything like the Saints' D yet.

LeSean McCoy will get more than 25 carries

McCoy had a career-high 24 rushing attempts in a Week 3 loss to the Giants. The Eagles will need him to take on even more responsibility Sunday.

Why? Well, Michael Vick's been hurt in back-to-back weeks -- first, a concussion in Atlanta; then, a hand injury against New York. Philadelphia needs its star QB to make it through the season healthy.

San Francisco, even at 2-1 and with the NFC's second-best defense thus far, should provide the Eagles a chance to get an early lead and grind out a win. If that's the case, Philadelphia will try to limit Vick's exposure as much as possible, meaning plenty of plays called for McCoy.

• Jon Kitna will see action against the Lions

Tony Romo not only played all of Monday night's game against the Redskins, he turned in a gutsy performance in rallying Dallas back late. But he also took a few hits from Washington's front -- knocks that he definitely felt each and every time he got up.

Romo figures to find himself on the turf a few more times Sunday, with Ndamukong Suh and Detroit's imposing defensive line visiting Dallas. The Lions sacked Donovan McNabb four times in Week 3 and sent him flying to the turf several more times.

Dallas' QB should avoid any further injury Sunday, but don't be surprised if he needs a couple of plays here and there to regroup.

Julio Jones will catch his first TD pass

If not for that Vick injury in Week 2, the Falcons might be sitting 0-3 right now. As it is, Atlanta finds itself at 1-2 and in need of a win Sunday.

The Falcons' offense has been at its best in 2011 when the playbook has been opened up. And the light seemed to go on between Jones and QB Matt Ryan during the fourth quarter of Atlanta's Week 3 game at Tampa Bay -- Jones finished with six catches for 115 yards.

Atlanta should try to maintain some of that offensive momentum by airing it out early and often, which will give Jones a chance to find the endzone.

Torrey Smith won't top 20 receiving yards

Sticking with the rookie wide receivers ...

Baltimore's second-round pick made a huge splash last Sunday, turning his first NFL reception into a 74-yard touchdown, then adding two more TDs for good measure. He finished with five catches for 152 yards in Baltimore's win at St. Louis.

But he did that damage against much-maligned St. Louis cornerback Justin King. This week, with Lee Evans still hurting, Smith figures to draw Antonio Cromartie. That matchup will give Smith a chance to hit on a big play or two. More likely, it means the rookie will crash back down to earth for at least one game.

Curtis Painter will throw for 200 or more yards

The Colts have not officially decided on a QB for Monday night's game in Tampa Bay -- Kerry Collins suffered a concussion last Sunday against Pittsburgh and his status is still up in the air.

So, I suppose this is a two-part prediction: 1. Painter will start; 2. He'll do OK.

The Bucs' pass defense is only so-so -- 270 yards per game allowed, No. 23 in the league -- and Painter showed some flashes late in that loss to Pittsburgh that indicate he can move the ball, if he's given a chance. This isn't to say he'll win the game or even avoid turning it over two or three times. But he might play better than expected.

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