LOS ANGELES, September 28, 2013—The Week 4 matchup between the Redskins and the Raiders is more than just a game between a pair of below average teams fighting to save their season. It is even more than the 30 year anniversary of when they played one of the greatest regular season games in NFL history followed by a lopsided Super Bowl rematch. In the regular season the Redskins led 20-7, fell behind 35-30, and won 37-35 at the end. Yet the Super Bowl saw Marcus Allen “running with the night” for a 38-9 win for the Silver and Black.
None of that matters in this game. As much as Mike Shanahan denies it, this is about his first matchup against the ghost of Al Davis. Davis fired Shanahan in 1989, and the animosity between the two men never thawed. If Davis were alive today, Shanahan would blame him for the debt ceiling battle and the Nairobi bombing.
Now Davis’s son Mark runs the team, and Mark is impossible to hate. He is a nice, friendly guy who hired football people to make football decisions. Yet Al Davis still lurks.
If the Raiders win this game at home, they would be 2-2 with a shot of getting to 8-8. If they lose to fall to 1-3, then another 4-12 season could be on the horizon. This game is their measuring stick. They were expected to lose to Denver on the road and conquer Jacksonville at home. Every other team in the league is doing this. Yet losing at home to an 0-3 team will show that the Raiders still have a long way to go. If Terrelle Pryor, who suffered a concussion last week, is replaced by Matt Flynn, the Raiders could be in trouble.
Yet if last year’s division champion Redskins lose this game to fall to 0-4, the roof could cave in. 1-3 teams have a postseason shot. Only the 1992 Chargers started 0-4 and made the playoffs. If Shanahan gets fired at the end of the season, people could point to this game when it all fell apart.
Even in death, Al Davis could have the last laugh. He could fire Mike Shanahan twice. Not even Banquo’s ghost haunted people with that much ruthlessness. Then again, Banquo was never the villain. Al Davis was, and loved every minute of it.
The rest of NFL 2013 Week 4 is now upon us. The San Francisco 49ers throttled the St. Louis Rams 35-11 on Thursday night. Sunday brings 14 more contests with Monday Night Football to wrap up the week.
Sunday September 29
Baltimore Ravens (-3.5) at Buffalo Bills—The Bills are improved, but they had a long way to go. The Ravens are worse, but they had a long way to fall. Ravens cover
Cincinnati Bengals (-4.5) at Cleveland Browns—These teams have both been awful for much of the last few decades. The Bengals have talent, while Cleveland might finally have a quarterback in Brian Hoyer. After winning last week on the road, the Browns deserve one chance at home to prove themselves. Upset special, Browns win outright
Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions (3) —The Bears are 3-0 and the Lions are 2-1, giving them both plenty of time to regress. Whoever loses this game will still not be as good as their record. Lions cover
Seattle Seahawks (-3) at Houston Texans — Seattle is a wrecking machine, having carpet-bombed teams by a combined 74-20 the last two weeks. Houston is a better than average team, but Seattle is a great team. Seahawks cover
Indianapolis Colts (-9) at Jacksonville Jaguars — The Colts made a statement last week in going on the road and throttling San Francisco by 20 points. The Jaguars are the worst team in football, and Andrew Luck should easily carve up Jacksonville’s defense. Colts cover
New York Giants at Kansas City Chiefs (-4.5) — These teams were expected to be a combined 3-4, but with the Giants having the three wins. Tom Coughlin and Andy Reid are both good coaches, but even the best coaches need players. The Chiefs have them. Big Blue lost 38-0 last week. Chiefs cover
Pittsburgh Steelers at Minnesota Vikings (Pick ‘em) (In London) —Not since America exported “Baywatch” to Pakistan has the worst of American culture been sent to a supposed ally. These teams are both 0-3, and should expand on the great Wembley Stadium tradition offered in prior years by Jacksonville and Tampa Bay. Vikings win
Arizona Cardinals at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2.5) —Despite losing on the road last week 31-7, Arizona faces a Bucs team that may have given up on their coach. The Bucs quarterback change should accomplish nothing. Upset special, Cardinals win outright
New York Jets at Tennessee Titans (-4.5) — If the 2-1 Jets win this game, the world will be subjected to the old Rex Ryan boasting of having the greatest team in New York and a Super Bowl contender. That cannot be allowed to happen. Titans win but fail to cover.
Philadelphia Eagles at Denver Broncos (-10.5) — Chip Kelly has installed a high octane offense, but it takes time for the players and the system to gel. Peyton Manning has been running his rocket fuel offense for over 15 years, and is on pace to shatter league records. Now he plays a team without a defense while his own defense gets to hunt Michael Vick. Broncos win but fail to cover
Washington Redskins (-3) at Oakland Raiders — The 0-3 Redskins will rebound at some point, while gauging the 1-2 Raiders is tough since everyone is losing at Denver and beating Jacksonville at home. Winning this game could separate the 8-8 Raiders from the 4-12 Raiders. If Terrelle Pryor starts, the Raiders could win. Pryor does not remember last week’s game while the Redskins try to forget this entire season and the Raiders try to forget the last decade. Upset special, Raiders win outright.
Dallas Cowboys (1.5) at San Diego Chargers —These hot and cold teams are led by hot and cold quarterbacks Tony Romo and Philip Rivers. Dallas won last week to get to 2-1 while San Diego lost to fall to 1-2. This week they reverse again. Upset special, Chargers win outright
New England Patriots at Atlanta Falcons (-1) — The 3-0 Patriots might be overrated and the 1-2 Falcons might be underrated. Atlanta is at home, giving them one more chance to show the league they are still elite. Falcons cover
Monday, September 30, 8:30pm
Miami Dolphins at New Orleans Saints (5.5) — Both teams are 3-0, but Miami still has many skeptics. Winning this game would silence the critics. A Saints blowout would expose the Dolphins as pretenders. Expect the latter. Saints cover
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