By Joseph Fazio
Oakland Raiders (2-1) at Denver Broncos (2-1), (3:25 p.m., Sunday, CBS)
Division rivals Oakland and Denver play to secure the second-place spot in the stacked AFC West. Oakland is coming into the game with what could be called an average offense. Quarterback Derek Carr is the overall key player, throwing for more than 600 yards and six touchdowns. The receiving trio of wide receivers Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree and tight end Jared Cook have become Carr’s favorites to pass to. Crabtree sits on top of the chart with 170 receiving yards and three touchdowns. The defense will need to step up against Denver’s young quarterback. Through three games, opposing quarterbacks have a passer rating of 112 compared to Carr’s rating of 101.4. Linebackers Khalil Mack and Cory Joseph have to step up , as they lead the team in sacks and tackles. It will most likely come down to the play of Oakland’s defense in the end and whether the Raiders are able to rush through Denver’s offensive line to get to Denver quarterback Trevor Siemian.
The Denver Broncos will be looking to jump back Sunday after a disappointing loss against the Buffalo Bills. Siemian and the Broncos’ offense urgently need to step up against the Raiders’ pass rush. The offensive line has been a big problem for the Broncos this year. Siemian has been sacked nine times and has completed 63 percent of his passes. The only viable option for the Broncos has been their run game, which ranks second in the NFL. The Broncos’ defense has been dominant against all opponents. Linebacker Von Miller is once again leading the way for the defense with three sacks and 12 tackles. This game for the Broncos will come down to whether Siemian can connect to his receivers and whether the offensive line will be able to step up.
Oakland 38, Denver 20
Buffalo Bills (2-1) at Atlanta Falcons (3-0), (12 p.m., Sunday, CBS)
This game features a matchup between the first-place teams from the AFC East and the NFC South. The Bills are coming into the game after a tough victory against the Broncos. Buffalo quarterback Tyrod Taylor has become a great dual-threat option, as he has thrown for 561 yards and rushed for 106 yards. Newly acquired wide receiver Jordan Matthews has been a big replacement for the Bills since Sammy Watkins was traded in the offseason. Matthews is averaging 19 yards per reception and has 151 total receiving yards. Buffalo boasts one of the best defenses in the league with top-10 statistics in total tackles, team sacks and forced fumbles. If anything is going to stop Matt Ryan and the Atlanta offense, it will have to be the great pass rush of the Bills.
The Atlanta Falcons are only one of two remaining undefeated teams in the NFL this season. Ryan sits in the top echelon for the NFL, ranking fourth in passing yards and sixth for completion percentage. Running back Devonta Freeman has been a key player, rushing for a league-high four touchdowns. On defense, two names that stand out are cornerback Damontae Kazee and linebacker Vic Beasley Jr. Kazee, a rookie from San Diego State, has recorded two forced fumbles. Beasley Jr.’s two sacks have equaled a loss of 19 yards for opposing quarterbacks. The Falcons have shown equal strength on both sides of the ball, which will go hand in hand against the Bills.
Atlanta 41, Buffalo 24
Los Angeles Rams (2-1) at Dallas Cowboys (2-1), (12 p.m., Sunday, FOX)
The Los Angeles Rams come into their Week 4 matchup after a nail biter against the San Francisco 49ers. Second-year quarterback Jared Goff has already tied his previous touchdown mark, throwing five touchdowns through the first three games. Todd Gurley has proven himself to be one of the league’s best running backs after rushing for 241 yards. Newly acquired wide receiver Sammy Watkins has been a great asset to Goff, who has targeted Watkins 14 times for 194 yards and two touchdowns. Los Angeles’ defense has quickly become a great threat to the league with the team in the top 10 for total tackles, sacks, interceptions and forced fumbles.
The Dak Prescott-led Dallas Cowboys are going to have a tough battle against the Rams. The difference maker for the Cowboys’ offense has been tight end Jason Witten. In his 15th year, it looks like Witten has gained a boost of energy. With 159 receiving yards and two touchdowns, Witten has become Prescott’s favorite target. The front runner for Defensive Player of the Year is defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. Through three games, the fourth-year man out of Boise State has recorded 6.5 sacks, 16 tackles and a forced fumble. Opposing offensive lines have stood no match against Lawrence, and he will be the difference maker.
Los Angeles 38, Dallas 34