As we head into week 4 of the NFL season, there are some interesting storylines to look out for. Here are our top 5 things to look out for this weekend:
1) Can San Francisco stop the rot?
The 49ers came into this season with extremely high hopes as Colin Kaepernick was supposed to take the next step and revolutionise the way the quarterback position is played. In their opening game of the season, Kaepernick threw for over 400 yards and added three TDs as the 49ers saw off the Packers. Despite this good start, he has struggled in the following two games; throwing for 277 yards, no TDs and four interceptions during that span, as well as losing a fumble in each game, while completing less than half of his passes.
Tonight, San Francisco will be looking to get back on track against the Rams. The 49ers come into the game as three-point favourites, but the game is in St. Louis and the 49ers had a lot of trouble against the Rams last season. Although the game in San Francisco ended in a tie, the Rams managed to squeak a victory at home after kicking a field goal with 26 seconds remaining in overtime. The 49ers need to win tonight to avoid dropping to 1-3.
2) The Seahawks need to avoid a letdown
At the moment, Seattle have control of the NFC West, with a 3-0 record compared to everyone else’s 1-2 records. This week, they take on a Texans team in Houston in what could be a tricky game for them. The Seahawks completely dominate at home, but have yet to show that they can bring that kind of form with them when they go on the road.
If the Seahawks are to make it to their first Superbowl since 2006, they need to impose themselves in away games as well as avoiding letdown performances after big wins. The Texans are a decent team, so if Russell Wilson and co. can come out of Houston with a win, that would go a long way towards building this young team’s confidence.
3) Either Miami or New Orleans will be 4-0
Barring a tie, either the Dolphins or the Saints will be 4-0 this time next week after the two 3-0 teams face off on Monday night/Tuesday morning in Louisiana. Both teams have flown under the radar so far this season, despite their records. After this weekend’s match-up, one of these two teams will get begin to feel the pressure that accompanies the attention of the national media.
The NFL are surely delighted that both teams are doing so well, since the last two Monday night games have hardly been worthy of their timeslot. The Saints come into the game as the fourth-ranked defense and sixth-ranked offense, but the Dolphins have shown they are willing to stick it out against good teams already this year. It is probably a stretch too far to expect the Dolphins to record back-to-back road victories against a strong NFC South team.
4) Atlanta needs a win
The Sunday night/Monday morning game this week also sees an AFC East team travel to an NFC South team. New England travel down to Atlanta to take on the Falcons in a game that both teams need to win for different reasons. Atlanta need to make sure they don’t lose any more ground on the Saints after a 1-2 start, while the Patriots still have a lot of question marks in a lot of key positions.
Matt Ryan and the Falcons need to make up for their surprise loss to the Dolphins last week, and they have a very good chance of overcoming a vulnerable Patriots side. Despite the current situation in New England, a Falcons win would go a long way towards rebuilding their confidence as they are a team who will view anything less than a Superbowl as a failure this year.
5) How do Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning handle the pressure?
This season marks the first time that the New York Giants have ever started a season under Tom Coughlin with a worse record than 5-2 (with their current record at 0-3, the best they can hope for is 4-3). Under Coughlin, the Giants have always seemed to perform at their best when their backs are up against the wall and when no one expects them to do anything.
This week, they play the 3-0 Kansas City Chiefs. It is hard to see how the Giants will pull themselves out of this funk. Even though they have been in similar positions before, they were much more talented back in 2007 and 2011 than they are now. This team is too dependent on Eli Manning to have a monster game every week to actually succeed.
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