The Week 4 NFL schedule for the 2021 season is stacked with great matchups, and we have you covered with what you need to know heading into the weekend. Our NFL Nation reporters bring us the biggest keys to every game, a bold prediction for each matchup and, of course, final score picks.
Additionally, ESPN Stats & Information provides a big stat to know for each contest, and our Football Power Index (FPI) goes inside the numbers with a matchup rating (on a scale of 1 to 100) and a game projection. ESPN researcher Kyle Soppe hands out helpful fantasy football and betting nuggets as well. Everything you want to know is here in one spot to help you get ready for a loaded weekend of NFL football.
Let’s get into the full Week 4 slate, including Tom Brady‘s return to Foxborough, Massachusetts, two NFC West showdowns, a rematch of Super Bowl XLV in Green Bay and a tough test for Lamar Jackson against Denver’s defense. It all culminates with a Monday Night Football matchup between the Raiders and Chargers on ESPN. (Game times are Sunday unless otherwise noted.)
Thursday: CIN 24, JAX 21
1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 68.7 | Spread: CLE -2 (51.5)
What to watch for: Tom Brady‘s homecoming isn’t the only one in Week 4. Reigning Coach of the Year Kevin Stefanski returns to Minnesota where he spent the first 13 seasons of his career for a matchup with his former boss, Mike Zimmer. The Vikings have a 1-2 record after losing their first two games by a combined four points, while the Browns barely missed out on a 3-0 start. Both teams boast top-seven offenses, and while the Vikings are more explosive on that end, Cleveland’s pass rush and defensive depth might hold the edge. — Courtney Cronin
Bold prediction: Browns QB Baker Mayfield and Vikings QB Kirk Cousins will combine for five play-action touchdown passes. On such plays, Cousins leads the NFL in QBR (94.1) and is tied for third in TD passes with three. Those five play-action touchdowns will prove to be the only scores of the game. — Jake Trotter
Stat to know: Cleveland is tied atop the NFL in pass rush win rate (with Carolina) at 58.4%. And star edge rusher Myles Garrett is coming off a 4.5-sack performance in Week 3. That’s the most by a Browns player in a game since sacks become official in 1982.
What to know for fantasy: Vikings receiver Adam Thielen has scored in all three games this season, and he’s just getting started. Did you know that he has caught a TD pass in 11 straight October games? See Week 4 rankings.
Betting nugget: The Browns covered on Sunday against the Bears, just their second cover over the past decade in nine games against the NFC North. Read more.
Trotter’s pick: Browns 21, Vikings 14
Cronin’s pick: Browns 24, Vikings 20
FPI prediction: MIN, 51.4% (by an average of 0.6 points)
1 p.m. ET | FOX
Matchup rating: 68.4 | Spread: DAL -4.5 (51.5)
What to watch for: Can the Cowboys’ offense control the tempo of the game against the NFL’s top defense through three weeks? After throwing it 58 times for 403 yards in the opener against Tampa Bay, the Cowboys have run for 198 and 160 yards. They have displayed a versatility on offense that makes it difficult for defenses to take away one phase. The Panthers are allowing just 10 points per game, but they have faced the Jets and Texans playing rookie quarterbacks, along with a Saints offense that is still adjusting to new starting quarterback Jameis Winston. — Todd Archer
Bold prediction: Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold will outperform Dallas’ Dak Prescott — mainly because he’ll be under less duress. The Panthers lead the NFL in sacks (14) and quarterback hits (27), a big reason they rank No. 1 in average passing yards allowed (146.0) and third-down efficiency against (21.2%). They are facing a Dallas team that gave up four sacks to the Eagles on Monday night. Dallas’ defense ranks 29th in the league in sacks (four) and 31st in average passing yards allowed (331.7). — David Newton
Stat to know: Darnold has won three straight games as a starter — and five of his past six. But he has never won four straight games as a starter in his career. Darnold also now has 300 passing yards in back-to-back games, and no Panthers QB has ever thrown for at least that many in three straight games.
Field Yates and Matthew Berry dive into whether Sam Darnold is a good option to start in fantasy this week.
What to know for fantasy: In Prescott’s past three starts on a short week (Dallas played on Monday), he has averaged 347 passing yards and thrown for multiple scores in all three games. And in those three games, he averaged 25.3 fantasy points. See Week 4 rankings.
Betting nugget: Carolina is 8-1 against the spread (ATS) on the road under coach Matt Rhule (since 2020). That’s the best road cover percentage in the NFL over that span. Read more.
Newton’s pick: Panthers 23, Cowboys 20
Archer’s pick: Cowboys 27, Panthers 23
FPI prediction: DAL, 57.8% (by an average of 2.8 points)
Matchup must-reads: Panthers’ top-ranked defense reflects ‘old-man’ strength of Snow … Ware: ‘I see something special’ in Parsons … Panthers’ Legion of Boom? GM Fitterer’s trade for Henderson has similar feel … Diggs’ hot, three-INT start sending message about Cowboys’ defense
1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 60.8 | Spread: KC -7 (54.5)
What to watch for: Eagles running backs received three total carries in their Monday night loss to the Cowboys. Only 9.4% of their plays were designed runs, the fourth-lowest rate in an NFL game over the past 15 seasons. It proved to be a serious miscalculation. Expect coach Nick Sirianni to remedy that this week, especially against a Chiefs defense that ranks 31st in rushing yards allowed (160.3 per game). — Tim McManus
Bold prediction: The Chiefs won’t commit a turnover, and quarterback Patrick Mahomes will at long last start a game that is decided by more than one score. The Chiefs have turned the ball over six times in the past two games, but they will protect it better against the Eagles, who are tied for the bottom of the league with just one takeaway in three games. The past 10 Chiefs’ regular-season games started by Mahomes were decided by six points or fewer, but that streak will end. — Adam Teicher
Stat to know: Despite blitzing at the fifth-highest rate in the NFL, the Chiefs rank 27th in pressure rate this season, down from second in 2020.
What to know for fantasy: Kansas City running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire recorded more rushing yards last week (100) than he had in the first two games combined (89), but the former LSU star still doesn’t have a touch gaining at least 15 yards this season. See Week 4 rankings.
Betting nugget: The Eagles are 4-1 outright in their past five when playing at home on a short week (they played on Monday night in Dallas), a run that comes on the tails of losing eight of nine such games. Read more.
Teicher’s pick: Chiefs 34, Eagles 25
McManus’ pick: Chiefs 30, Eagles 22
FPI prediction: KC, 67.1% (by an average of 6.2 points)
Matchup must-reads: Mahomes excited about signing of WR Gordon … Hurts takes blame for Eagles loss, but issues run much deeper … Reid released from hospital … Eagles lose Seumalo to season-ending foot surgery
1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 51.2 | Spread: BUF -16.5 (47)
What to watch for: Can rookie quarterback Davis Mills take a step forward against the Bills’ defense? Buffalo has forced three turnovers in each of the past two games, but the pass rush has struggled to find consistency. While it should be a difficult outing for Houston’s offense, there might be opportunities to put points on the board if the Texans can somehow take advantage of the Bills up front. Otherwise, it will be a long day for the rookie in Buffalo. — Alaina Getzenberg
Bold prediction: Houston receiver Brandin Cooks will again hit 100 receiving yards. Yes, the Bills have allowed just 178.0 passing yards per game (fourth in the NFL), but Cooks has shown through three weeks that the Texans’ offense runs through him. He has 322 receiving yards so far, the most in Texans history through three games. And in the six quarters the pair has played together, 20 of Mills’ 42 pass attempts and 13 of his 27 completions have gone to Cooks. — Sarah Barshop
Field Yates and Matthew Berry marvel at Josh Allen’s fantasy production in the Bills’ win over Washington.
Stat to know: Buffalo’s Josh Allen has 14 straight games with a passing touchdown (including playoffs). It’s the third-longest streak in franchise history.
What to know for fantasy: Allen scored 37.2 points in Week 3 against Washington after totaling just 33.9 points in the first two weeks combined. See Week 4 rankings.
Betting nugget: The Bills have failed to cover each of their past four home games in October (5-2 ATS at home in November over the past three seasons). Read more.
Barshop’s pick: Bills 31, Texans 14
Getzenberg’s pick: Bills 34, Texans 10
FPI prediction: BUF, 86.0% (by an average of 15.0 points)
Matchup must-reads: Texans’ Culley: QB Mills showed he can ‘handle a lot more’ … ‘The old man’s still got it’: Bills have put Sanders’ surprising speed to use … What we know and what’s next for Watson … Bills dedicate Sunday’s win to Daboll after grandmother who raised him died
1 p.m. ET | FOX
Matchup rating: 49.6 | Spread: NO -7.5 (42)
What to watch for: Will New Orleans’ return to the Superdome provide an overwhelming home-field advantage, after the Saints were displaced for 29 days because of Hurricane Ida to start this season? It should be especially beneficial for a Saints defense that ranks No. 1 in the NFL in points allowed and No. 2 in yards allowed since Week 4 of last season. — Mike Triplett
Bold prediction: Saints running back Alvin Kamara will have 100 yards receiving. Sure he has only 62 such yards in three games, but the versatile back gets to face a Giants defense that will be trying to replace middle linebacker Blake Martinez. New York defensive coordinator Patrick Graham admitted it will be a “collective” effort trying to fill that void. That’s not ideal when facing a player as dangerous as Kamara. — Jordan Raanan
Stat to know: New Orleans quarterback Jameis Winston has been pressured on 42% of his dropbacks this season, the fourth-highest mark among qualified quarterbacks. But the Giants rank 28th in pass rush win rate.
Betting nugget: The Giants have covered 12 of 17 road games since the beginning of 2019, but they are an underwhelming 4-8 outright in those contests. Read more.
Raanan’s pick: Saints 26, Giants 23
Triplett’s pick: Saints 29, Giants 20
FPI prediction: NO, 73.9% (by an average of 8.9 points)
Matchup must-reads: Garrett remains offensive coordinator after 0-3 start … ‘It’s going to be electric’: Saints eager to be back in full Superdome after COVID-19, Hurricane Ida … Giants lose LB Martinez to season-ending ACL tear
1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 35.5 | Spread: MIA -1.5 (42.5)
What to watch for: Dolphins quarterback Jacoby Brissett faces his former team for the first time Sunday, and it’s not the best matchup for him. The Colts play zone coverage at the seventh-highest rate in the NFL, while Brissett ranks 32nd in yards per attempt and 29th in completion percentage against zone looks. Expect Indianapolis to shy away from man coverage, against which Brissett is far more successful (10th in completion percentage). — Marcel Louis-Jacques
Bold prediction: The Colts will sack Brissett at least four times, which equates to half of the eight sacks Indy has on the season. Brissett has been sacked six times in the past two games, and the Dolphins have given up 10 sacks in just three games this season. — Mike Wells
Stat to know: Miami receiver Jaylen Waddle has 22 receptions, the second most by a player through three career games in the Super Bowl era. The most receptions through four career games is 30 by Anquan Boldin.
Daniel Dopp and Field Yates discuss the fantasy opportunities for Jaylen Waddle vs. the Colts.
What to know for fantasy: Colts running back Jonathan Taylor scored under 8.5 fantasy points in just two games during his strong rookie campaign, but he has done that in each of the past two weeks. See Week 4 rankings.
Wells’ pick: Colts 20, Dolphins 10
Louis-Jacques’ pick: Dolphins 17, Colts 10
FPI prediction: MIA, 56.2% (by an average of 2.2 points)
Matchup must-reads: Colts QB Wentz isn’t shutting it down, and his mobility won’t return anytime soon … Brissett, Dolphins vow to be aggressive when time is right … Fuller misses practice with chest, elbow injuries
1 p.m. ET | FOX
Matchup rating: 22.0 | Spread: WSH -1.5 (47.5)
What to watch for: Atlanta QB Matt Ryan has career lows in yards per dropback (5.3) and yards per attempt (6.0), but Washington’s defense is allowing 7.2 yards per dropback. The Falcons’ offense has not been able to find intermediate and deep routes this year, but could this be the week that Ryan rediscovers going deep? — Michael Rothstein
Bold prediction: Washington edge rusher Chase Young — sackless in his first three games — will record two sacks and a forced fumble for his first impact game of the season. Young is still evolving as a pass-rusher, and coach Ron Rivera said he needs to be more consistent with how he’s rushing — way less stutter-stepping and more explosion off the line. Young will face a struggling right tackle in Kaleb McGary and an immobile quarterback in Ryan. This defense needs a big game from Young. — John Keim
Stat to know: Washington has a 26.5% conversion rate on third down this season (worst in the NFL). The last time an NFL team was below 30% for the full season was Washington in 2019 (29.1%).
Betting nugget: Unders have hit in eight of the 10 games the Falcons have played against the NFC East over the past five seasons. Read more.
Keim’s pick: Washington 21, Falcons 20
Rothstein’s pick: Falcons 24, Washington 21
FPI prediction: WSH, 52.0% (by an average of 0.7 points)
1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 21.5 | Spread: TEN -7 (44.5)
What to watch for: This says everything about the matchup: Titans RB Derrick Henry has three touchdowns, one more than the total for the entire Jets offense. With rookie QB Zach Wilson struggling to stay upright (15 sacks), the Jets are staring at their third straight 0-4 start. The Titans, who won’t have receiver A.J. Brown (hamstring) and, possibly, Julio Jones (leg), will lean on Henry as they bid for their third straight win. — Rich Cimini
Bold prediction: The Titans’ defense will generate three turnovers. You know it’s bad when right tackle David Quessenberry leads the team in forced fumbles, but the focus all week for Tennessee has been to find ways to get turnovers, whether it be stripping the football or getting hands on it in the air. Tennessee is last in the NFL with 0.3 turnovers per game. — Turron Davenport
Stat to know: The Jets have scored 20 points through their first three games, tied for the fewest through three games in franchise history (1976). Their fewest scored through the first four games in a season? Twenty-four in 1971.
What to know for fantasy: The Titans are road favorites for the 10th time since the beginning of 2019. In the nine previous instances, Henry averaged 146.6 rushing yards and has five games with multiple rushing scores. See Week 4 rankings.
Betting nugget: Unders are 11-6 since the beginning of 2019 when the Jets play at home. But Tennessee has gone 13-5-1 to the over since the start of last season. Read more.
Davenport’s pick: Titans 28, Jets 10
Cimini’s pick: Titans 20, Jets 15
FPI prediction: TEN, 65.3% (by an average of 5.5 points)
Matchup must-reads: Titans’ Henry relishes connection with community, giving back … Jets’ Davis faces former team with something to prove … Crunch time for Jets’ Mims: Is this the week? … Titans QB Tannehill confident in ‘next man up’ approach to WR
1 p.m. ET | FOX
Matchup rating: 19.7 | Spread: CHI -2.5 (41.5)
What to watch for: The Bears are desperate for a victory, but the Lions are a scrappy bunch. Detroit kept it close against the Ravens and for a while against the Packers, whereas the Bears have been blown out in two of their three games. Chicago is under immense pressure to rebound after last week’s debacle in Cleveland, where the Bears finished with just 47 net yards and 1 net passing yard. To say the Soldier Field crowd will be on edge is an understatement. — Jeff Dickerson
Bold prediction: The Lions will get their first victory of the Dan Campbell era. Although last week’s loss to Baltimore was stunning, there were also some positives to take away — notably on the defensive side — to give them confidence moving forward. Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson said they have “to take a win,” and a matchup with the Bears is a good opportunity to avoid their first 0-4 start since 2015. — Eric Woodyard
Stat to know: Chicago receiver Allen Robinson II has four straight games under 40 receiving yards (dating back to last season). It’s his longest streak since a career-long streak in 2016 (five games).
Field Yates and Matthew Berry discuss how much value D’Andre Swift has in fantasy heading into the Lions’ matchup vs. the Bears.
Betting nugget: The over has cashed in each of the past three times these NFC North rivals have matched up. Read more.
Woodyard’s pick: Lions 21, Bears 14
Dickerson’s pick: Bears 21, Lions 17
FPI prediction: CHI, 58.6% (by an average of 3.1 points)
4:05 p.m. ET | FOX
Matchup rating: 76.5 | Spread: LAR -4.5 (55)
What to watch for: The Rams and Cardinals are among five NFL teams that enter Week 4 undefeated. The Rams are a perfect 8-0 against the Cardinals since Sean McVay took over as coach in 2017, but Sunday’s matchup could go either way. Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford has been named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week twice this season, and the one week he did not earn the honor, it went to Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray, who has taken another step forward in his third season playing for coach Kliff Kingsbury. The Cardinals are tied for first in the league in scoring, averaging 34.3 points per game, while the Rams rank No. 3 (31.7). — Lindsey Thiry
Bold prediction: Murray will have 400-plus passing yards and 100-plus rushing yards while being responsible for five touchdowns. He is playing at an MVP level, and that won’t slow down against one of the best defensive players of this generation in Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald. We’ll see more theatrics and heroics from Murray, who’ll have to run for his life at times, but the Cardinals have found success in turning broken plays into yards and points. — Josh Weinfuss
Stat to know: The Rams are 40-0, including playoffs, under McVay when leading at halftime — the second-longest streak in NFL history.
What to know for fantasy: Since the beginning of last season, the top five QB games against the Cardinals have been aided by the signal-caller running for more than 30 yards. Stafford’s last game with over 30 rushing yards came in Week 7 of 2016. See Week 4 rankings.
Betting nugget: Unders are 8-2 in Rams home games since the beginning of last season. In those eight games, the Rams are 6-2 outright (5-3 ATS). Read more.
Weinfuss’ pick: Cardinals 41, Rams 38
Thiry’s pick: Rams 32, Cardinals 26
FPI prediction: LAR, 60.8% (by an average of 3.9 points)
Matchup must-reads: Why Cardinals’ Murray demoralizes would-be tacklers … Rams have been perfect vs. Cardinals under McVay, but biggest Arizona challenge looms … ‘Twilight zone’: Cardinals’ Kingsbury cries foul after ref’s errant flag … Stafford, ‘playing lights out,’ keeps Rams rolling as Hollywood looks on … Rams’ Fuller not starstruck vs. Bucs’ Brady
4:05 p.m. ET | FOX
Matchup rating: 67.8 | Spread: SF -2.5 (52)
What to watch for: San Francisco knew the Packers would throw early and often to Davante Adams last week, and that didn’t prevent him from going for 12 catches, 132 yards and a touchdown. So with a depleted cornerback group, how will the 49ers cover Seattle receivers DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett? Metcalf had 12 catches, 161 yards and two touchdowns in these teams’ first meeting last year, while Lockett posted 12 catches, 90 yards and two scores in the second. It’s too early to call any game a must-win, but this one is huge for both teams. Barring a tie in the Rams-Cardinals game, a Seattle loss would put it three games back in the difficult NFC West, while a 49ers defeat would drop them two games back. — Nick Wagoner
Bold prediction: The Seahawks and 49ers will combine for at least 750 yards of offense. Each defense is dealing with issues at cornerback, and the Seahawks’ problems go well beyond that. It has struggled against screens (which are a big part of San Francisco’s offense), allowed 112 rushing yards last week to Minnesota’s backup running back, Alexander Mattison, and have gotten gashed through the air in consecutive games. — Brady Henderson
Stat to know: Wilson is 15-4 against the 49ers, including playoffs. Those 15 wins are the second most by a starting QB against San Francisco in NFL history — behind Johnny Unitas (17).
Matthew Berry contends that the 49ers may either turn to Trey Sermon or Elijah Mitchell more, or use a running back by committee on Sunday.
What to know for fantasy: Lockett had 33 fantasy points in the Week 17 matchup with San Francisco last season, but in the six meetings with the Niners prior, he averaged a mere 8.6 points per game. See Week 4 rankings.
Betting nugget: Overs are 5-0-1 over the past three seasons when these two teams square off. Read more.
Henderson’s pick: 49ers 31, Seahawks 30
Wagoner’s pick: Seahawks 34, 49ers 31
FPI prediction: SF, 56.3% (by an average of 2.3 points)
Matchup must-reads: With NFC West showdowns up next, Carroll must fix Seahawks’ defense in a hurry … Shanahan stresses there’s no quarterback battle … Seahawks’ second-half offensive slumps helping create NFC West hole … Why having Lance helps the 49ers prepare for Seahawks … Kittle would have done ‘Venom’ ad campaign for free
4:25 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 70.1 | Spread: DEN -1 (45)
What to watch for: A lot has been made of the Broncos’ defense trying to keep Ravens QB Lamar Jackson from dispensing highlights, but the game might really hinge on what Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater does against a Ravens defense that hasn’t slowed opposing quarterbacks all that much. Bridgewater is second in the NFL in completion percentage (76.8%) and eighth in yards per attempt (8.7). The Ravens have allowed 995 yards passing in three games, as well as five passing touchdowns. — Jeff Legwold
Bold prediction: A week after setting the NFL record for the longest field goal, Justin Tucker will establish a new mark in the thin air of Denver, winning the game with a 67-yard field goal. Tucker is 5-for-5 in three games in the Mile High City, including a 52-yard field goal. There have been three field goals of 63 yards or longer made in Denver since 1998. Asked about Tucker’s range in Denver, coach John Harbaugh said, “I don’t know. It’s a good question.” — Jamison Hensley
Stat to know: Jackson threw for at least 200 yards and rushed for at least 50 yards in each of the first three games, becoming the first player to do that in NFL history. The only player to do it in four straight games at any point of a season was Michael Vick in 2011, per Elias Sports Bureau research.
Keyshawn Johnson discusses what Rashod Bateman’s return means for Lamar Jackson and the Ravens’ passing game.
What to know for fantasy: Broncos receiver Tim Patrick has scored over 12.5 fantasy points in all three weeks this season and continues to see his role grow as the injuries in the WR room pile up. See Week 4 rankings.
Betting nugget: The Ravens are 6-3 ATS in their past nine games that had a spread under three points (in either direction). Read more.
Hensley’s pick: Ravens 27, Broncos 24
Legwold’s pick: Broncos 26, Ravens 20
FPI prediction: DEN, 54.8% (by an average of 1.7 points)
Matchup must-reads: Jackson’s back has Ravens in ‘wait and see’ mode … Bridgewater loves that defenses are daring him to beat them … Ravens activate Bateman off IR, three defensive starters off COVID list … Hamler to miss the rest of the season with ACL tear … Patrick has gone from ‘unique upbringing’ to undrafted to top-flight receiver
4:25 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 54.6 | Spread: GB -6.5 (45.5)
What to watch for: Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger have played against each other only twice before, including Super Bowl XLV, and this could be one of those classic quarterback duels won by whomever has the ball last. Look for both to hit milestones, as well. Big Ben needs just one more touchdown pass to become the eighth quarterback in NFL history with 400 of them. Rodgers, with 418, needs just two more to tie Dan Marino for sixth on the all-time list and three more to tie Philip Rivers for fifth. — Rob Demovsky
Bold prediction: The Steelers won’t blitz Rodgers. Seriously. That was the Saints’ plan in their Week 1 route of the Packers, and the Steelers used a similar blueprint in their Week 1 upset win against the Bills, blitzing just twice on 54 pass attempts. The Steelers showed they can get plenty of pressure with a four-man rush and let their secondary go to work. Replicating the plan used against the Bills won’t be quite as easy without nose tackle Tyson Alualu, but it’s the best hope for the Steelers to limit the damage done by Rodgers. — Brooke Pryor
Stat to know: The Steelers have nine drops through three games, which is their most since ESPN started tracking the stat in 2006.
Betting nugget: The under has come through in seven of the past 10 Steelers games. Read more.
Pryor’s pick: Packers 27, Steelers 17
Demovsky’s pick: Packers 31, Steelers 25
FPI prediction: GB, 61.1% (by an average of 3.9 points)
8:20 p.m. ET | NBC
Matchup rating: 74.3 | Spread: TB -7 (49)
What to watch for: Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady is 68 yards from surpassing Drew Brees as the NFL’s all-time leading passer (currently at 80,291), and he should become No. 1 early in Sunday’s game. That he will do so in Gillette Stadium, his old home stadium, adds another layer to what has the makings of a memorable night. The Patriots are expected to honor Brady in some form before the game, likely with a video tribute. — Mike Reiss
Bold prediction: The Buccaneers will match their season sack total with three of the Patriots’ Mac Jones. “I love playing rookie quarterbacks,” outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett said. He added, “I wanna win every week, but I have an extra chip on my shoulder this week,” referring to Brady’s homecoming trip back to Foxborough. — Jenna Laine
Stat to know: Brady looks to join Peyton Manning, Brett Favre and Brees as the only starting QBs to defeat all 32 current franchises. Additionally, Brady has won against 30 teams as a visitor and would pass Brees and Manning for the most teams beaten on the road in NFL history with a win. (He has not beaten the Patriots or Seahawks on the road.)
Marcus Spears details what he expects to see from Tom Brady this weekend against the Patriots.
What to know for fantasy: While Mike Evans, Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski offer spike weeks, Tampa Bay’s Chris Godwin is always there. The former Nittany Lion has scored over 16 points in all three weeks this season and in five straight dating back to last season. See Week 4 rankings.
Betting nugget: This is just the 19th time that New England has been a home underdog since 2000, the fewest such instances of any team in the NFL. New England is 14-4 ATS in the previous 18 such instances. Read more.
Laine’s pick: Buccaneers 28, Patriots 24
Reiss’ pick: Buccaneers 27, Patriots 20
FPI prediction: TB, 56.6% (by an average of 2.4 points)
Matchup must-reads: Bucs look to bounce back as Brady’s awaited return to New England looms in Week 4 … Is Brady vs. the Patriots the biggest game in Boston sports history? … Brees all for Brady breaking his career passing yardage record in return to Foxborough … Belichick: If anybody can play to 50, it’s Brady … Sources: Patriots’ White expected to miss rest of season
What to watch for: Raiders QB Derek Carr is playing at a high level, helping the Raiders put up the fifth-most points in the NFL thus far and leading the league in passing (1,203 yards). But the Raiders’ defense might be even more key in this one against Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert, who had a bounce-back game last weekend against the Chiefs. One matchup to watch will be Las Vegas edge rushers Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue against Chargers rookie left tackle Rashawn Slater. — Shelley Smith
Bold prediction: Carr’s streak of passing for at least 325 yards in five straight games, dating to Week 16 of last season, will come to a halt. The Chargers boast the best defense Las Vegas has faced yet, and the Raiders want to be more balanced with the run game. If they become too one-dimensional with the passing game, that allows the likes of Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa to simply pin his ears back and attack. — Paul Gutierrez
Stat to know: Chargers receiver Mike Williams has at least one receiving TD in his first three games this season (four total). He is now seeking to join Antonio Gates (2010) and Tony Martin (1996) as the only players in Chargers history to catch a touchdown in each of the team’s first four games of the season. He also needs 105 receiving yards to join Lance Alworth (1965) and Gary Garrison (1968) as the only Chargers with 400-plus receiving yards and four receiving touchdowns through the team’s first four games.
What to know for fantasy: A quarterback attempted at least five deep passes and completed 65% of those passes twice against the Raiders last season: Justin Herbert in Week 9, and Herbert in Week 15. See Week 4 rankings.
Betting nugget: The Raiders are 9-3-2 ATS in their past 14 prime-time games (7-7 outright). Read more.
Gutierrez’s pick: Chargers 31, Raiders 30
Smith’s pick: Chargers 21, Raiders 17
FPI prediction: LAC, 60.0% (by an average of 3.6 points)
Matchup must-reads: Hall of Famer Flores’ impact goes beyond Raiders, across Hispanic football community … Why Chargers’ Herbert is a ‘gangster quarterback’ … Raiders’ Ruggs uses slight, real or imagined, as motivation against Dolphins … Chargers’ defense comes up big to guarantee Herbert a signature victory
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