Jacksonville Jaguars (2-3) vs. Oakland Raiders (4-2)
Although this is still early in the season, this is a must-win game for the Jaguars. They started the season in typical Jaguar fashion, a three-game losing streak, but are riding a wave of momentum following consecutive narrow victories. Despite giving up big plays in bunches, their defense is loaded with talent, including the highly acclaimed trio of early draft picks: Dante Fowler Jr., Jalen Ramsey, and Myles Jack. While these three young studs have been solid, it is the third round rookie Yannick Ngakoue who is turning heads. Ngakoue has recorded four sacks and an interception so far this season. 2014 first round pick Blake Bortles has shown flashes of brilliance, resembling a young Ben Roethlisberger, but time and time again regresses to the error-prone panicky style of play that consistently plagues Jaguar quarterbacks. Meanwhile, the Raiders are led by the fourth quarterback drafted in 2014, second-rounder Derek Carr. While Derek’s brother may be famous for being sacked more times in one year than any other quarterback, Derek has proved to be arguably the best quarterback from the 2014 crop. Derek, ironically one of the least sacked quarterbacks in the league, has mounted seven fourth-quarter comeback victories, and thrown 65 touchdowns versus only 28 interceptions in his career, and is the only quarterback from the 2014 draft class to start all 16 games as a rookie. Both defenses will bend to these young gunslingers, but the game will be decided by the one who breaks.
Detroit Lions (3-3) vs. Washington Redskins (4-2)
Matthew Stafford, the number one overall pick in 2009, doesn’t get nearly enough credit for what he has accomplished in his career. This Sunday will be Stafford’s 100th game in the NFL- huzzah! Stafford was drafted by the historically terrible 0-16 Lions. He threw 41 touchdown passes in 2011, last year he threw 32 with only 13 interceptions, and this year, despite his best receiver retiring prematurely, he has thrown 14 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions. Stafford is getting it done without Calvin Johnson Jr, and without a good defense. Stafford has 20 career fourth quarter comebacks and 23 game-winning drives under his belt, and he can do it again if necessary to beat the Redskins. In 2012 not many fans thought that, four years later, the Redskins would be led by fourth-round pick Kirk Cousins, instead of the number two overall pick Robert Griffin III. Well, it’s the truth. It’s hard not to love a guy like Cousins, He came into the league as an underdog, was up and down on the depth chart, and when he finally got handed the reins to the team, he took off. He has his own catchphrase and the full support of the locker room. This game will have plenty of big plays, lots of drama, and most likely a fourth quarter comeback. You like that! Yes, Kirk, we like that.
Philadelphia Eagles (3-2) vs. Minnesota Vikings (5-0)
Who would have predicted that the Vikings would be the only undefeated team left in the NFL? As I mentioned in my week 3 article, franchise quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and NFL legend Adrian Peterson were both injured and lost for the season. Their success is largely due to their defense, which ranks first in the league in points allowed, holding opponents to just 12.6 points per game. Linebacker Eric Kendricks has emerged as a star, recording a 77-yard pick six, 6 passes defended, a forced fumble, and 21 tackles. Meanwhile, the defensive line, which consists of Danielle Hunter, Linval Joseph, Brian Robinson, and Everson Griffen have combined for 15 sacks this season, leading a defense that is garnering comparisons to the legendary 1985 Chicago Bears. The Eagles are led by second overall draft pick, Carson Wentz. Wentz has good size, 6’5” 237 lbs, but many questions surrounded him before the draft. Despite his success in Division II North Dakota State football program, many doubted his ability to “hang with the big boys”. Wentz silenced his critics when he didn’t throw a single interception in his first 100 NFL pass attempts. He is averaging 237.2 yards per game and has seven touchdowns versus one interception. The tall order of moving the chains against the heralded Vikings defense will be his biggest test yet.