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The Titans & Texans Battle in Houston — NFL Week 4 Preview

Houston Texans v Tennessee Titans
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Important intra-division games highlight the Week 4 NFL schedule. Here’s a preview of the week’s most interesting contests:

Sunday, October 1

Can the Steelers Finally Win in Baltimore?
Pittsburgh Steelers v Baltimore Ravens
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Pittsburgh at Baltimore | M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS

Last week at this time, it looked like this Sunday’s Ravens-Steelers game would be a battle of undefeated rivals clashing for the AFC North lead. Oh how things change. While they’ll still battle for the division lead, both Pittsburgh (2–1) and Baltimore (2–1) lost badly last week. The Ravens were humiliated 44–7 by the Jags in London and the awful Bears dropped the Steelers 23–17 in overtime.

Pittsburgh hasn’t won in Baltimore since 2012. To break that streak, the Steelers need their potent offense to lead the way, meaning more touches for Le’Veon Bell and sharper passes from Ben Roethlisberger. Given that the Ravens couldn’t stop Blake Bortles last week, this shouldn’t be a huge challenge. Baltimore needs quarterback Joe Flacco to be better than he has been, but the Ravens best hope is to control the clock and wear down the Steelers fourth-ranked defense with the running game.

The Vikings Are Winning Without Sam Bradford
Chicago Bears v Minnesota Vikings
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Detroit at Minnesota | U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis; 1 p.m. (ET) on Fox

No Sam Bradford? No problem. Minnesota (2–1) has played well without its starting quarterback, who will likely be out again this week. The league’s second-ranked offense is now led by … Case Keenum? Go figure. The skill-position players have been outstanding, with wide receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs ranking second and third, respectively, in the NFL in receiving yards and rookie running back Dalvin Cook gashing defenses for 288 rushing yards, the NFL’s second-best total.

All of that firepower will be a lot for Detroit (2–1) to handle on the road this week. The Lions game plan will likely be what it always is: cut quarterback Matthew Stafford loose and hope to outscore the opponent. That’s easier said than done against an aggressive defense that stuffs the run and dares quarterbacks to pass.

The Titans and Texans Hold an AFC South Cage Match
Tennessee Titans v Houston Texans
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Tennessee at Houston | NRG Stadium, Houston; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS

The AFC South will likely come down to the survivor of the two Titans-Texans wars this season. Tennessee (2–1) has looked very good in 2017, with quarterback Marcus Mariota and running backs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry flourishing behind a mammoth offensive line. That group will be tested this week by J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and a defense that loves to get physical. This will be a brawl in the trenches.

Houston (1–2) starts a three-game home stand that will prove pivotal to the team’s defense of its divisional title. Rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson showed incredible promise over his first two starts against Cincinnati and New England. He should have an easier time against the suspect Titans defense. He could use some run support, too.

The Raiders and Broncos Both Need to Rebound
Denver Broncos v Oakland Raiders
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Oakland at Denver | Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver; 4:25 p.m. (ET) on CBS

Much like the Steelers-Ravens game earlier on Sunday, this week’s Raiders-Broncos contest should have been a battle of unbeatens. NOPE. Both Oakland (2–1) and Denver (2–1) looked terrible last Sunday in losses to Washington and Buffalo, respectively. While the trip east is never easy for AFC West teams, plenty of sloppy play, poor execution and dumb penalties showed a lack of focus. That won’t do in the NFL.

Raiders’ quarterback Derek Carr was especially bad last week, but his usually-stout offensive line allowed him to be sacked four times. That could get worse against the Von Miller-led Broncos pass rush. Oakland’s defense needs to get heat on Denver’s Trevor Siemian and force him into mistakes. He is tied for second in the NFL with four interceptions. Not good for a quarterback who needs to play mistake-free football for his team to contend.

Monday, October 2

Are the Chiefs the NFL’s Best Team?
Kansas City Chiefs v Los Angeles Chargers
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Washington at Kansas City | Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City; 8:30 p.m. (ET) on ESPN

Thanks to a fierce defense and the stat-compiling magic of rookie running back Kareem Hunt, Kansas City (3–0) is the last undefeated team left in the AFC. The Chiefs start a six-game gauntlet this week, with Monday’s contest against the Redskins preceding games against the Texans, Steelers, Raiders, Broncos and Cowboys. If Kansas City emerges from that run undefeated, they’ll be an odds-on favorite to reach the Super Bowl.

Washington (2–1) has looked very good since a Week 1 loss to the Eagles. The Redskins pass rush has pressured quarterbacks and the Zach Brown–led defense has forced seven turnovers. They’ll need to do more of that against Hunt, Alex Smith and the Chiefs explosive offense. Washington will do well to let its running game grind down the Kansas City defense; the Chiefs rush the passer more effectively than they do anything else.

Other Games

Thursday, September 28
Chicago at Green Bay | Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wis.; 8:25 p.m. (ET) on CBS

Sunday, October 1
New Orleans at Miami | Wembley Stadium, London; 9:30 a.m. on Fox
Cincinnati at Cleveland | FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS
L.A. Rams at Dallas | AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas; 1 p.m. (ET) on Fox
Buffalo at Atlanta | Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS
Carolina at New England | Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, Mass.; 1 p.m. (ET) on Fox
Jacksonville at N.Y. Jets | MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS
San Francisco at Arizona | U of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.; 4:05 p.m. (ET) on Fox
Philadelphia at L.A. Chargers | StubHub Center, Carson, Calif.; 4:05 p.m. (ET) on Fox
N.Y. Giants at Tampa Bay | Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.; 4:05 p.m. (ET) on Fox
Indianapolis at Seattle | CenturyLink Field, Seattle; 8:30 p.m. (ET) on NBC

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