Week 4 of the 2023 NFL season is underway, starting with the Detroit Lions' 34-20 beatdown of the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on "Thursday Night Football." The Lions winning isn't breaking news -- they have now won four in a row against their NFC North rival -- but how they won is. Detroit went up 27-3 at halftime, becoming the first team to lead Green Bay by 24 or more points at Lambeau Field since Chad Pennington's New York Jets did so against Brett Favre's Packers in 2006. The Lions' six consecutive division wins going back to the 2022 season are tied for their longest division winning streak in the Super Bowl era.
Since anything can happen when it comes to the NFL, what's next, you ask? Well, here are five bold predictions for this weekend's Week 4 slate.
Picking the Bills to defeat the Dolphins isn't bold. They have won nine of their last 10 games against Miami, including last postseason's 34-31 win in the AFC wild-card round. However, the way the Bills are going to win will be a surprise.
Through three games, the Dolphins have produced the most yards (1,651) and the second-most points (130) in NFL history to start a season. Their 8.4 yards per play this season are the most for any team through their first three contests in the Super Bowl era. Peyton Manning's 2013 Denver Broncos hold the record for the most points scored in season with 606, and the 2023 Dolphins are on pace for exactly that many points in just their final 14 games with their league-leading 43.3-points-per-game average. That number doesn't only stem from their 70-20 victory over the Denver Broncos in Week 3: they dropped 36 points on the road in a Week 1 win over the Los Angeles Chargers. Miami is on pace to smash the 2013 record with a projected 736 this season.
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Fortunately for Buffalo, they have a pass defense with the best touchdown-to-interception ratio allowed (two touchdowns to seven interceptions) and the lowest passer rating allowed (54.0) in 2023. Their nine takeaways, 30 points off turnovers and seven interceptions are also the best in the league. Head coach Sean McDermott's defense has also shown a propensity to make opposing quarterbacks' days miserable by constantly getting their face. Their 41.1% quarterback pressure rate is the fourth-highest in the league while their 12 sacks are tied for the third-most in the NFL.
The Bills win their eighth consecutive home game against Miami and send their offense back to the world of mortals.
2. C.J. Stroud halts Mike Tomlin's dominance over rookie QBs in Texans' upset victory
No head coach has taken advantage of rookie quarterbacks like Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. His squads are 23-4 against rookie passers, the best by a head coach since 1950 among those who have at least 15 games against rookie quarterbacks.
Best record by head coach vs. rookie starting QBs*
* Since 1950, minimum 15 games
However, Texans rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud ends that run of success to join Dak Prescott, Carson Wentz, Brandon Weeden and Troy Smith as the only rookie quarterbacks to top Tomlin's Steelers. All 11 of Pittsburgh's wins since the start of last season have involved the Steelers scoring fewer than 30 points. Stroud and the Texans dropped 37 points on the reigning AFC South champion Jaguars in their 37-17 Week 3 road win because of Stroud's contributions.
He threw for 280 yards and two touchdowns on 20-of-30 passing while playing turnover-free and sack-free football. His 906 passing yards are the third-most through three games in NFL history, trailing only Cam Newton (1,012) and Justin Herbert (931), and Stroud is the only player with 900 or more passing yards and no interceptions through a player's first three career games since at least 1950.
Stroud is special, and he will do just enough to outduel Kenny Pickett and the Steelers maligned offense on Sunday.
3. Mike Evans breaks out for best game against Saints' Marshon Lattimore in years
It's Buccaneers versus Saints week, which means it is time to pull out your popcorn and enjoy the show that is Tampa Bay's four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Mike Evans versus New Orleans' four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Marshon Lattimore. Both of them got ejected in their Week 2 matchup last season, a 20-10 Buccaneers win, after they were the center of a fourth-quarter fight. Back in 2017, Evans ran onto the field and shoved Lattimore while Lattimore returned the favor by shoving Evans in the back and knocking his helmet off in a 2020 matchup.
Mike Evans receiving stats with Marshon Lattimore as primary defender*
* Involved in three on-field incidents between each other
In terms of their football matchups, Lattimore has had the edge lately. As the primary defender in coverage, Evans has not eclipsed two catches against him in seven consecutive head-to-head contests. However, the Buccaneers swept the season series with the Saints for the first time since 2007 last season, and now it's Evans' time to clap back at Lattimore. He is one of only two people to have a receiving touchdown in each of the first games of this season, along with Tyreek Hill. Evans is also averaging 17.5 yards per catch this season with Baker Mayfield as his quarterback, the second-highest number of his career.
Just like his first three games of 2023, Evans hauls in at least five passes for 60-or-more yards and a touchdown against Lattimore and the Saints.
4. Lamar Jackson breaks through Browns' stingy defense for multiple scores as Ravens win
No coaching hire has had a bigger impact early in the 2023 NFL season than the Browns' hiring of defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. Cleveland leads the league in scoring defense (10.7 points per game allowed), total defense (163.7 total yards per game allowed), and they have allowed the fewest yards (491), yards per play (3.2) and first downs (21) by any team through three games since the 1999 Buccaneers. They are also the only defense since the turn of the 21st Century to have no defensive plays occur inside their own 10-yard line through their first three games. Of course, that means All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett is having another incredible season as his 23.4% quarterback pressure rate is the highest among players with at least 50 pass rushes, and he has the fastest average time to pressure in 2023 (2.0 seconds) among players with at least 10 pressures.
Besides Garrett, Schwartz has been quite willing to also manufacture quarterback pressures by blitzing opposing quarterbacks on 31.3% of their dropbacks, the 12th-highest rate in the NFL. However, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has significantly improved his efficiency this season with an 11% jump in his completion percentage from 2022 (62.3%) to 2023 (73.3%) in his first season under new offensive coordinator Todd Monken. A critical piece of that improvement is that Jackson is becoming much more of a pocket passer: He has only thrown eight percent of his passes from outside of the pocket in 2023 (the fourth-lowest rate in the NFL) a year after 16% of his throws were outside of the pocket in 2022, the 12th-highest rate in the NFL that season.
His 73.3% completion percentage is the second-highest in the NFL, trailing only Justin Herbert's 74.4% while his 193 rushing yards are the most among quarterbacks. Jackson is the only quarterback in NFL history with a completion percentage of 70% or higher while having 150 or more rushing yards in their team's first three games of the season. He also joined his 2019 NFL MVP self as the only other occurrence of a completion percentage that high and that many rushing yards in a three-game span since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. With Jackson playing close to his 2019 MVP form, the Ravens have multiple plays inside the Browns' 10, and Jackson scores multiple touchdowns in a Baltimore victory.
5. Falcons' Drake London breaks out with two TDs in London against Jaguars
It's been a rough go lately for two of Atlanta's recent top 10 picks: tight end Kyle Pitts (fourth overall pick in 2021 NFL Draft) and wide receiver Drake London (eighth overall pick in 2022). Pitts is averaging 35.1 receiving yards per game since the start of last season after he averaged 60.4 yards per game as a rookie in 2021, when he became just the second tight end ever with over 1,000 yards in their first season.
London is also riding the struggle bus in head coach Arthur Smith's offense with only one touchdown in his last nine games. However, both have a chance to snap out of their funks on Sunday in London against the Jacksonville Jaguars as their hosts are allowing 264.3 passing yards per game, the sixth-most in the league. Texans rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud shredded Jacksonville's secondary a week ago, so it could be a big day for Atlanta through the air. London will be the main beneficiary of this matchup, hauling in two scores in a bounceback win for the Dirty Birds after their disappointing showing in Detroit against the Lions a week ago.