TheSTN – NFL Approaches Quarter Mark With Key Week 4 Games

Through the first three weeks of the NFL season, there are 27 teams with a 2-1 or 1-2 record, the most such clubs since realignment in 2002.

Three teams – Arizona, Atlanta and Houston – remain unbeaten at 3-0.

“It feels good,” says Texans wide receiver ANDRE JOHNSON about the team’s 3-0 start, the first in franchise history. “I’ve been through the worst of the worst with the organization. We’ve climbed that mountain. We are still climbing to get over that hump, but we have a great team. We just need to be consistent every weekend, go out and try to get wins.”

There is a lot of football left to be played. And while a strong start to the season is a good thing – 75.7 percent of teams (84 of 111) that started 3-0 since 1990 made the playoffs – it is hardly a guarantee of future success.

Since 1990, 55 teams with a losing record after the first three games made the playoffs. So, entering Week 4, hope is still very much alive for everyone.

“We’re 1-2 and we’ve got a big division game coming up against Oakland,” says Denver quarterback PEYTON MANNING. “Division games count double, so we’ve got to learn from this last game and improve from it. 1-2 is not the ideal situation. Everybody would love to be 3-0, but that’s not the way it is right now. So we’re going to keep fighting and find a way to correct some of these mistakes and play better and get some wins.”

Close games have been a staple of the 2012 NFL season as 28 games have been decided by one score (eight points or fewer), tied with 1988 for the most such games through a season’s first three weeks.

SEASON

GAMES DECIDED BY 8 POINTS OR FEWER

2012

28

1988

28

2011

27

2010

27

Five tied

25

On Sunday, three games were decided in overtime. That marked the first day since November 7, 2010 with three overtime games, one shy of the league record of four (October 8, 1995 and October 20, 2002). Additionally, Week 3 featured four other games in which the game-winning points were scored in the final minute. It is only the second time in NFL history (Week 6, 1995) that seven games had the winning points scored in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime in a single week.

The first three weeks of the NFL season have not only been full of close games, but scoring has been at an all-time high. Through Week 3, there have been 2,287 points scored, the most ever at this point in a season. The previous mark was 2,157 points set last year. There have been 248 touchdowns scored, the most ever through the first three weeks of a season (247 in 1989).

Like the first three weeks of the season, there are plenty of enticing games on the schedule in Week 4. Among them:

CLEVELAND BROWNS (0-3) at BALTIMORE RAVENS (2-1)
(Thursday, NFL Network, 8:00 PM ET)

The fourth week of the NFL season gets underway on Thursday night when AFC North rivals meet in Baltimore.

Cleveland running back TRENT RICHARDSON leads AFC rookies with 175 rushing yards and is one of three players in the league (ARIAN FOSTER and C.J. SPILLER) with at least two rushing touchdowns and a receiving TD this season.

The Ravens, who improved to 2-1 last week with a thrilling 31-30 victory over New England, are seeking their 13th consecutive win at home. Quarterback JOE FLACCO leads the AFC with 913 passing yards and running back RAY RICE ranks third in the conference with 395 scrimmage yards (268 rushing, 127 receiving).

Last week, wide receiver TORREY SMITH had six catches for 127 yards and two touchdowns to spark the victory.

“We have a bunch of guys that just will not quit,” says Baltimore head coach JOHN HARBAUGH. “Sometimes you win and sometimes you don’t. This time, we won. I couldn’t be more proud of a football team and couldn’t love a bunch of guys any more than I do.”

TENNESSEE TITANS (1-2) at HOUSTON TEXANS (3-0)
(Sunday, CBS, 1:00 PM ET)

The Titans will look to make it two wins in a row while the Texans attempt to extend their franchise-best start to 4-0.

Last week, Tennessee became the first team in NFL history to score five touchdowns of at least 60 yards in a game. In the Titans’ 44-41 overtime win over Detroit, the club got touchdowns from TOMMIE CAMPBELL (65-yard punt-return), JARED COOK (61-yard reception from quarterback JAKE LOCKER), DARIUS REYNAUD (105-yard kick-return), NATE WASHINGTON (71-yard reception from Locker) and ALTERRAUN VERNER (72-yard fumble-return).

Houston is 3-0 for the first time in club history. In Week 3, the Texans defeated the Broncos in Denver 31-25. Quarterback MATT SCHAUB, who is third in the AFC with a 102.4 passer rating, passed for 290 yards and four touchdowns.

“This win is a good step for us,” says Schaub. “It’s a step in the right direction. To come into a place like that against a very good football team and come out with a W, we’re extremely excited about that. It’s a step forward, but we have to find a way to refocus this week and go for win number four.”

NEW YORK GIANTS (2-1) at PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (2-1)
(Sunday, NBC, 8:20 PM ET)                

The Giants, Eagles and Dallas Cowboys enter Week 4 tied atop the NFC East with 2-1 records. New York and Philadelphia will renew their rivalry with a key division contest on Sunday night.

In Week 3, the Giants knocked off Carolina 36-7 as running back ANDRE BROWN (113 rushing yards, two touchdowns) and wide receiver RAMSES BARDEN (nine catches for 138 yards) had strong performances in their first NFL starts. Brown and Barden are the first set of teammates to have 100 rushing yards and 100 receiving yards in the same game making their first NFL starts since 1999 when Indianapolis’EDGERRIN JAMES and E.G. GREEN accomplished the feat.

The Eagles will look to rebound from the team’s first loss of the year, a 27-6 defeat in Arizona. Running back LE SEAN MC COY has scored 11 touchdowns (10 rushing, one receiving) in his past eight home games and aims for his ninth consecutive game at Lincoln Financial Field with a TD.

“Every game takes on extra importance,” says Giants defensive end JUSTIN TUCK. “We’ve got a very tough division. It seems like every team is going to be right there and have a shot at it, so we’ve just got to do our part in trying to keep pace with these guys. I’m hoping we can do that this week.”

CHICAGO BEARS (2-1) at DALLAS COWBOYS (2-1)
(Monday, ESPN, 8:30 PM ET)     

Week 4 concludes with a matchup between two NFC clubs with playoff aspirations. Both teams are coming off Week 3 victories and look to improve to 3-1.

The Cowboys’ defense leads the NFL allowing 250.0 total yards per game. Last week, in Dallas’ 16-10 win over Tampa Bay, the Cowboys allowed just 166 yards, the fewest the club has allowed since 2005 (129 yards vs. Philadelphia, October 9, 2005).

Chicago recorded six sacks and two interceptions – including a 45-yard touchdown return by safety MAJOR WRIGHT – in the Bears’ 23-6 win over St. Louis last week. The Bears, who had five sacks in Week 2 against Green Bay, have posted at least five sacks in consecutive games for the first time since 2001 (Weeks 15 and 16).

“This was a bounce back game for us,” says Chicago head coach LOVIE SMITH. “We needed to come out strong. And our defense did some really good things. It was just a good team win for us to get back on track.”

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