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NFL Week 4 Preview — Backup QBs in the Spotlight for Steelers & Cowboys

Michael Vick and Brandon Weeden
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The fourth week of the 2015 NFL season finds several backup quarterbacks trying to help their teams until the regular starters return. Here’s a preview of Week 4’s most interesting games:

Thursday, October 1

Michael Vick Gets Another Shot
Michael VIck
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Baltimore at Pittsburgh | Heinz Field, Pittsburgh; 8:25 p.m. (ET) on CBS/NFL Network

It’s a testament to Michael Vick’s athletic ability that he is once again a starting quarterback in the NFL. With Steelers franchise QB Ben Roethlisberger sidelined with a sprained left knee for the next 4-6 weeks, Pittsburgh (2-1) hopes the 35-year-old Vick can channel his former Pro Bowl self — or at least keep the team afloat — until Ben returns. His first assignment: win 2015’s first installment in the hateful and physical Steelers-Ravens rivalry. Vick must take advantage of the same defense that Peyton Manning, Derek Carr and Andy Dalton have victimized in the first three weeks of the 2015 season.

With three close losses decided in the waning minutes so far this season, Baltimore (0-3) is better than its winless record suggests. However, a loss to a Vick-led Pittsburgh team might get Ravens fans chirping about what needs to change in Charm City. Head coach John Harbaugh will likely have his defense in attack mode from the outset on Thursday. What he’ll need more is a strong, mistake-free game from quarterback Joe Flacco, running back Justin Forsett and wide receiver Steve Smith.

Sunday, October 4

London Should See A Defensive Battle (and Offenses Struggle)
Ryan Tannehill
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N.Y. Jets at Miami | Wembley Stadium, London; 9:30 a.m. (ET) on CBS
The NFL seems to love sending bad football games to Europe. While this Jets-Dolphins contest is perhaps the most traditional “rivalry” game to make it across the pond, these two teams aren’t likely to meet in the AFC title game (as they did in 1983) this season.

Both New York (2-1) and Miami (1-2) do have skilled defenses who can make it hard for opposing offenses to score. In the case of the Jets and Dolphins, the offenses also make it hard on themselves: both rank in the bottom half of the league in yards and points per game. New York’s Ryan Fitzpatrick has already thrown five interceptions this season, and Miami’s Ryan Tannehill is in the bottom five of the league in Total QBR.

The Chiefs Are Almost Through Their Early-Season Storm
Jamaal Charles
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Kansas City at Cincinnati | Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS

The Chiefs figure to end the 2015 season as playoff contenders, but they’d probably rather not have started this campaign by playing a whole lot of other playoff-level teams like the Broncos, Packers and this week’s opponent, the Bengals. It gets easier soon for Kansas City (1-2), which has the Bears, Vikings, Ben-less Steelers and Lions in the weeks ahead, but they need a big road win against undefeated Cincinnati (3-0) to get to .500.

Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith and running back Jamaal Charles must give their defense a lead to hold against the Bengals. If Cincy’s Andy Dalton has time to find A.J. Green, he will — and KC will fall further behind the Broncos in the AFC West.

How Long Can The Cardinals Stay Unbeaten?
Arizona Cardinals
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St. Louis at Arizona | U of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.; 4:25 p.m. on FOX

Are the Cardinals a Super Bowl 50 contender? Some people think so. Arizona (3-0) hasn’t had much trouble steamrolling New Orleans, Chicago and San Francisco, and now they run into a less-than-intimidating schedule of St. Louis (1-2), Detroit (0-3), Ben-less Pittsburgh (2-1), Baltimore (0-3) and Cleveland (1-2). That means the Cardinals might not face a legit challenge until their game at Seattle in Week 10.

Part of the Arizona secret: aging quarterback Carson Palmer, who tore his ACL during a win over St. Louis on Nov. 9, has been sacked just once this season while throwing for 803 yards and nine TDs. His QB rating of 117.8 trails just Aaron Rodgers, Andy Dalton and Tom Brady. If the Rams can’t pressure Palmer, the Cards will likely keep flying.

Brandon Weeden vs. Luke McCown (?) in Primetime. Ugh.
Cowboys Saints
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Dallas at New Orleans | Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans; 8:30 p.m. (ET) on NBC

This Sunday night’s Cowboys-Saints game looked like a perfect choice for NBC’s weekly primetime TV slot before the season, but with starting quarterbacks Tony Romo and Drew Brees each suffering injuries for Dallas (2-1) and New Orleans (0-3) respectively, fans may be treated to a battle of backups Brandon Weeden and Luke McCown.

Hmmn. Well, at least it’s not pre-season hockey?

Brees, who was sidelined last week with a sprained rotator cuff, still could be cleared to play, but Romo is certainly out. The Saints hope to get a suddenly elusive home win. They have lost six consecutive games at the Superdome, where opponents once feared to tread.

Other Games

Jacksonville at Indianapolis | Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS

N.Y. Giants at Buffalo | Ralph Wilson Stadium, Buffalo; 1 p.m. (ET) on FOX

Carolina at Tampa Bay | Raymond James Stadium, Tampa; 1 p.m. (ET) on FOX

Philadelphia at Washington | FedEx Field, Landover; 1 p.m. (ET) on FOX

Oakland at Chicago; Soldier Field, Chicago; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS

Houston at Atlanta; Georgia Dome, Atlanta; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS

Cleveland at San Diego; Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego; 4:05 (ET) on CBS

Minnesota at Denver | Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver; 4:25 p.m. (ET) on FOX

Green Bay at San Francisco | Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara; 4:25 p.m. (ET) on FOX

Monday, Oct. 5
Detroit at Seattle | CenturyLink Field, Seattle; 8:30 p.m. (ET) on ESPN

Bye Week: Tennessee, New England

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