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NFL Week 4 Preview: Best Games, Key Questions, Predictions

The story lines the MMQB will be watching, including Jaguars coach Doug Pederson vs. his former team in Philadelphia and trouble brewing with the Patriots and Raiders.

Welcome to Week 4 of the NFL season, where we’re going to see teams start to separate themselves as legitimate playoff contenders and teams that will be speculating on draft picks in a few weeks.

As we mentioned earlier in the week, there’s been some bad football so far. The biggest question: Which teams will start to shake out of it, and which teams are just revealing who they really are? We should get some answers this week with the Patriots and Raiders. Teams coached by Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels have a chance to finish Week 4 a combined 1–4, which would have been stunning to us just a few short weeks ago.

So get ready for another crucial week on the NFL schedule.

To get it kicked off, Albert Breer and Conor Orr will take you through the Sunday and Monday games, noting the best matchups and what they’ll be watching.


Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts

Hurts is averaging more than 300 yards passing per game for the 3-0 Eagles. 

Jaguars at Eagles, 1 p.m. ET Sunday: The headline on this one is Doug Pederson Returns Home … but there’s a lot more to it than just the ex-Eagles coach and quarterback coming back to the city he brought a Lombardi to. Believe it or not, Jacksonville (plus-46) and Philly (plus-36) come into this one with the second- and third-best point differentials in the NFL. The former, led by Pederson, has pumped life into Trevor Lawrence, who looks like what everyone thought he’d be in the spring of 2021. The latter has emerged as one of the league’s most complete teams, and it’s happening with Jalen Hurts jumping to a new level and a bevy of young guys, DeVonta Smith among them, breaking through. This should be a fun one. — Albert Breer

Bills at Ravens, 1 p.m. ET Sunday: The Bills go from an exhausting game in Miami to a matchup against the Ravens where, I wouldn’t call them vulnerable, but I would recognize how serious the heat was in Miami and how taxing that was for Buffalo. Now a banged-up defense has the unenviable task of chasing Lamar Jackson for four quarters. — Conor Orr

Broncos at Raiders, 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday: Josh McDaniels faces the Broncos for the first time as Raiders coach, and in a weird way it feels like there’s a lot on the line for both teams. For his Raiders, it’s obvious: Las Vegas is 0–3, having lost three nail-biters, and travels to Arrowhead for a Monday nighter next. So the Raiders lose this one, and they’re staring at an 0–5 start. For the Broncos, they’re 2–1, but some progress from an offense seemingly stuck in neutral, and figuring out how to best unleash Russell Wilson, would be awfully nice. — A.B.

Patriots at Packers, 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday: We’ve gone from billing this game as “Aaron Rodgers vs. Bill Belichick” to, I kid you not, “Bill Belichick visits a legendary location,” which is what I heard on my TV at some point last weekend. It shows how comically far we’ve gone from still recognizing Belichick as one of the best head coaches of all time. Possibly minus Mac Jones (or featuring Mac Jones with a high-ankle sprain, which isn’t ideal), the potential success of this game rests on Belichick’s ability to control Rodgers. Let’s give Belichick the benefit of the doubt, that despite Rodgers playing some efficient football, the Patriots can make this game interesting. — C.O.

Chiefs at Buccaneers, 8:30 p.m. ET Sunday: We discussed this on the MMQB podcast earlier this week. I don’t think I could hate a promotion for a game more than Beck covering Neil Young’s “Old Man” backing slow motion pictures of Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes looking at each other. Nothing against Beck (Morning Phase was a really cool record). Mahomes just happens to be really good right now. We have no idea how long he’s going to play football or whether he possesses any desire to place his life on hold until age 46 to chase football history. Why are we comparing them anyway? Why are we bringing Beck and Neil Young into this? Also, Brady was nothing like Mahomes when Brady was 27. Anyway, this should be a fun game if the Chiefs can score points, forcing the undermanned Buccaneers to keep pace offensively. Mahomes and Andy Reid have learned much about their need to incorporate more organic protection after the Super Bowl loss. — C.O.

Rams at 49ers, 8:15 p.m. ET Monday: One of the NFL’s best rivalries—and this week it gets the standalone treatment on Monday night. Rams coach Sean McVay finally broke his Kyle Shanahan hex in the NFC title game last year, but that won’t make this one any less of a challenge. There’ll be a lot of attention, of course, on Jimmy Garoppolo and Matthew Stafford, but the key matchups will be in front of those two. How the revamped interior of the 49ers offensive line handles Aaron Donald is one big thing to watch, and how the Rams’ struggling offensive line deals with the fearsome, Nick Bosa–fueled Niner front is another. — A.B.


Lions quarterback Jared Goff

Goff has passed for seven touchdowns in the first three games of the season for the 1-2 Lions.

What is your one big prediction for Week 4?

Orr: Jimmy Garoppolo throws for three touchdowns against the Rams in a 49ers victory. The Rams have had a hard time with Kyle Shanahan through the years, and just because Garoppolo pulled a Dan Orlovsky last week doesn’t mean he’s a bad quarterback (the same goes for Dan!). Anyway, this 49ers team is still really talented and well coached. Last week’s 11–10 debacle against the Broncos is in the rearview mirror.

Breer: Jared Goff throws for 400 yards against the Seahawks. Call it a hunch, and base it on how rickety the Seahawks defense has been. Seattle has, in particular, struggled to stop the run, so I see them taking measures to address that—and giving Goff (who’s playing really well), Amon-Ra St. Brown (who’s emerging as a top receiver in his second year) & Co. the opening to light up the scoreboard.

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Which team most needs a win in Week 4?

Orr: The Raiders: I’m secretly loving this Raiders-Broncos matchup for a lot of reasons. Denver is doing just enough to quiet the critics at the moment, while the Raiders are desperately trying to stave off 0–4. Whichever team loses falls into a bit of bedlam depending on the circumstances, no?

Breer: Easy. And I’m not gonna overcomplicate this and will try not to repeat Conor. It’s the Raiders.

Which coach or player is most under pressure in Week 4?

Orr: Josh McDaniels. As I wrote last week, I honestly think McDaniels was the right guy for the job in Las Vegas. However, he can’t start 0–4 with a roster like this, not after Jon Gruden, a man many Raiders fans loved, was 3–0 around this time last year.

Breer: Carson Wentz. After a really nice start to the season against the Lions in Detroit, the ex-Eagle and Colt has had a rough two-week stretch. The coaches have pointed out this week that the sacks in those losses weren’t all the line’s fault—that Wentz had to own some of them, too—and now here come Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence. I’m not saying that the Commanders are about to turn to Sam Howell. But, with issues you saw crop up at the end in Philly and Indy emerging again, it’s fair to ask when confidence in Wentz internally will be shaken.

Which team will everyone be talking about after Week 4?

Orr: It’s already post-hype to say the Eagles, right? We’re already talking about the Eagles? If that’s the case, then it’s time to start riding the Dan Campbell hype train. This offense is putting up points and gutting people in the running game. The Lions have a winnable matchup against the Seahawks and could put up some style points along with a W.

Breer: The Packers, whose passing game, I think, will come alive against a very solid Patriots defense—which will validate Matt LaFleur getting his rookie receivers reps and his veteran tackles rest in September. Throw in a Green Bay defense that should smother a Patriots offense that’ll be shorthanded, and maybe the plan some of us have seen playing out the past few weeks will become clearer for everyone else.

The first-year coach who has impressed you the most through three weeks?

Orr: How can it not be Mike McDaniel? This is why I do the assignment first, so Albert has a harder time coming up with an answer. As I wrote in our head-coaching master list on Thursday, McDaniel could very well change the way owners evaluate the head-coaching position. He’s been that good so far.

Breer: I do the assignment second because I’m forgetful. Anyway, Conor did take McDaniel from me—but I’ll go in another direction, because I’m writing this before the Thursday night game, and say Pederson. The ex-Eagles coach, like McDaniel, has turned the atmosphere in his building around in short order. And while I think Lawrence flipping a switch was somewhat predictable, given the circumstances, Pederson still deserves credit for it.

Which underdog has the best shot to win outright in Week 4?

Orr: The Commanders. I feel like we’re due for a sneaky Cooper Rush upset at some point. Rush is great, don’t get me wrong, but I would be floored if the Cowboys went undefeated in Dak Prescott’s absence, mostly because I don’t want to answer ridiculous questions about who should start when Prescott comes back. It’s Prescott, by the way. Stop it.

Breer: The Saints. I have a sneaking suspicion that the coaches there have wanted to get a look at Andy Dalton in a game after the vet had a really nice training camp, and they may get their shot in London. And if that happens, maybe New Orleans’s turnover problem (the Saints lead the league in giveaways) dissipates, and a talented skill group comes alive.


Orr: Keep in mind this weekend that we have brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles, grandparents, ect., trying to stay out of harm’s way as Hurricane Ian continues its destructive path. Consider giving to the Florida Disaster Fund or another registered service organization that can provide resources for folks on the ground.

Breer: I’ll second Conor’s final thought. And then I’ll give you this—if you’re a fan of the league, appreciate what we’re getting right now. Through September, we didn’t have a real dud of a Sunday, which is pretty remarkable, and this week’s schedule doesn’t look likely to produce one, either. The reason? There aren’t many completely rudderless teams, and the league’s quarterback talent is really good right now. So think of the people in Florida, and enjoy your Sunday.

More NFL coverage:

Jalen Hurts Determined to Dismiss His Doubters
How Mike McDaniel, Dolphins Survived the Bills
The Jaguars Could Be for Real
The 0–3 Raiders Might Be Wondering What Might Have Been