Can the Saints keep the Packers at bay?
After three weeks of controversy and extraordinary decisions, the NFL finally agreed a deal with the referees union in order for the regular officials to return to action. So now, after one of the more exciting starts to an NFL season, structure returns, and losses can begin to mount.
Week 4 features some cracking live games, with London-bound New England travelling to Buffalo, followed by the Packers, still reeling from the farcical loss on Monday Night Football, hosting the winless Saints. The action culminates in the Liberty City as the defending Super Bowl champs New York Giants square off in an NFC East clash against the Eagles.
In the 1990s, the Buffalo Bills lost four consecutive Super Bowls, the most unfortunate run of any team in the history of the sport. Now, the Bills would take a loss in Wildcard Weekend if it meant they played postseason football. Over the past three seasons, the Bills have underperformed considering some of the talent on their roster, and after a pre-season of big name, ambitious additions including 3-4 OLB Mario Williams, and former Patriot Mark Anderson. After drafting well, the Bills were tipped to be the only team to challenge the Patriots in the AFC East. After being humbled at the hands of the Jets in week 1, Buffalo have come to life, with CJ Spiller taking the plaudits before picking up an injury last week in a win against Cleveland. Now facing the Patriots, Chan Gailey will be looking for his QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to exploit the Patriots weak poor defense.
The Patriots head into a game with a losing record for the first time in 145 games, a run that stretches back to 2003, and for Bill Belichick, this just won't do. A heartbreaking loss to Arizona at home in week 2 was the first home opener Tom Brady has ever lost, and after losing an intense SNF thriller to Baltimore last week, the Patriots will be out for revenge. After signing TE Kellen Winslow to replace the injured Aaron Hernandez, he was cut earlier this week for personal reasons, taking away the option for a two TE set, forcing Tom Brady to utilise his WRs more. Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd have struggled to make an impact so far in 2012, but expect them both to feature on Sunday.
"Buffalo are an improving team and should run the Pats close, Brady & co are still in first gear and the defence looks suspect although they could easily turn it on against divisional opponents - Handicap about right."
Prediction: New England 24-17 Buffalo
Up 12-7 with 10 seconds to play, all Green Bay had to do was defend an expected Hail Mary pass to the end zone by rookie Seahawks QB Russell Wilson. The ball was floated to the end zone, and intercepted by MD Jennings, who fell backwards into Golden Tate, who handles the ball, and was given a touchdown. After replays, this ludicrous decision was upheld, and Green Bay were well and truly screwed with their pants on. One loss never defines a season; however a loss of that nature is difficult to rebound from, especially when a usually explosive offense is stuttering behind a depleted and weak OL. Aaron Rodgers hasn't come close to replicating the blistering form he demonstrated last season so far in 2012, and will need to bring a cool head to Lambeau if he is to guide GB to a win.
If you were to tell me that after week 3, only two teams would be 0-3, and that one of them were Cleveland, I wouldn't be surprise. However, the Saints going 0-3 was wholly unforeseen. Even after all their off-season troubles, some of which spilled into the regular season, the Saints have a talented core of players, and to be winless at this point in the season is not good enough. The teams to which New Orleans have lost, Washington, Carolina, and Kansas City all combine for an 0-6 record in other games this season, showing just how inept the Saints have been at times. They haven't looked as potent on offense, and their D has capitulated at times. The Saints' defensive line will need to step up and take advantage of the GB frailties up front, but New Orleans have to make an all round improvement if they are to stand a chance.
"Green Bay could win this at a canter but New Orleans still have the fire power to hurt any team, even though they are 0-3. Green Bay should put up a lot of points against a creaking defence and I take them to cover. Slight fancy for Green Bay."
Prediction: New Orleans 24-28 Green Bay
Betting tips courtesy of Fran Scott