Week 4 is really a case of the haves and have nots. Make no mistake, every game is important, but we have a handful of absolute garbage contests — and then some of the best games imaginable. There’s very little middle ground, and that makes it pretty easy to decide what to watch this week outside of your favorite team.
It’s been a wild and unpredictable opening three weeks, leading to a ton of intrigue. Now we’re getting down to business, and when the dust settles we should have a much better understanding of who the elite teams are in the league.
No. 1: Panthers vs. Cowboys, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET — Fox
Dallas is on a major upswing this season with the return of Dak Prescott. The team is boasting one of the hottest offenses in the NFL, and look elite, outside of a narrow loss to Tampa Bay to start the season. Ignoring what’s happening with the Cowboys would be foolish, because based on how the team is playing they have legitimate chances to make a deep playoff run.
That resume is what makes the game against Carolina so interesting. The 3-0 Panthers have been one of the biggest surprises of the season. Sam Darnold has been everything the team hoped he would when trading for him, and the quarterback is getting better and more comfortable with the offense every week. The real story of the Panthers is their defense, which is dismantling everyone that comes in contact with it.
The Week 4 game is a classic game of offense vs. defense, and if the Panthers can somehow pull out a win it’ll be time to start taking them a lot more seriously.
No. 2: Cardinals vs. Rams, Sunday, 3:05 p.m. ET — Fox
This is a no-brainer. We have two 3-0 teams, with two top-tier offenses, in the same division — it’s just going to be fun. Another kind of “prove it” game for Arizona, at this point it’s clear they’re a very good team, but the Rams are pretty much established as elite.
It’s going to be a case of whose defense can cause more problems for their opponent. On the surface the obvious answer is that the Rams can take care of the Cardinals, but you never know what might happen.
The Cardinals’ passing offense is well established, but this season the team has added a Top 10 rushing attack to the mix. Their ability mix up their attack makes the offense much more compelling, and a possible reason why they could make things difficult for the Rams.
No. 3: Ravens vs. Broncos, Sunday 3:05 p.m. ET — CBS
The second major test this week comes for Denver, who at 3-0 have been wonderful — but also untested. They’ve beaten the Giants, Jets and Jaguars, nothing that is particularly brag-worthy, but that all changes in Week 4.
Baltimore are sitting at 2-1, and have questions of their own, albeit smaller. We all know the Ravens are good, but do they belong in the NFL elite? I don’t know if a potential win over the Broncos answers that question, but it’s still something to watch.
Meanwhile for Denver, the AFC West feels wide open. Kansas City has taken a step back this season and are trying to find their footing, making it a three-horse races between the rest of the division. If the Broncos can win it’ll do a lot for their confidence as a team, and boost the perception of them moving forward.
No. 4: Buccaneers vs. Patriots, Sunday 8:20 p.m. ET — NBC
I don’t think this is going to be a great game, but the drama of Tom Brady returning to Foxboro is too good to pass up.
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