NFL News & Analysis

NFL Week 4: Key matchups and storylines for all 16 games

Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) drops back to pass the ball in the first quarter against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The only undefeated teams in the NFL entering Week 4 are the Las Vegas Raiders, Denver Broncos, Los Angeles Rams, Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers — just as everyone expected. Three of those five teams are underdogs this week, including the Cardinals against the Rams in a battle of 3-0 teams.

But seeing which of those squads are able to remain undefeated plays second fiddle to Tom Brady’s return to Foxboro. These are the key matchups and storylines to monitor in that game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New England Patriots, along with the other 15 contests this weekend.

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JAX @ CIN | TEN @ NYJ | KC @ PHI | CAR @ DAL | NYG @ NO | CLE @ MIN | DET @ CHI | HOU @ BUF | IND @ MIA | WFT @ ATL | SEA @ SF | ARZ @ LAR | PIT @ GB | BAL @ DEN | TB @ NE | LVR @ LAC


Matchup to watch: QB Trevor Lawrence vs. QB Joe Burrow

There is going to be some level of intrigue to a game any time the past two No. 1 overall picks are on the same field, regardless of their team success.

Burrow is coming off his best game of the season in a Week 3 victory over the Steelers. His 90.3 PFF grade led all quarterbacks on the week. But no team and no quarterback have struggled more in 2021 than Jacksonville and Lawrence on the other sideline. The Jaguars are 0-3 against the spread, and Lawrence is PFF’s lowest-graded quarterback entering this matchup.

The only direction to go is up in this primetime matchup. 

Biggest Storyline: Bengals have been leaning heavily on running game so far this season

Cincinnati has stuck with its ground game through the first three weeks of this season. The Bengals' overall run rate of 48% ranks second in the NFL, and their run rate in neutral game scripts — early downs in the first three quarters of one-score games — ranks third in the league (53%).

Team Run play percentage
New Orleans Saints 51%
Cincinnati Bengals 48%
Cleveland Browns 48%
Denver Broncos 45%
Houston Texans 45%

That’s generally not the best of strategies behind an offensive line that is still the offense’s biggest weakness, but Joe Mixon has proven to be one of the NFL’s better runners through three weeks. Mixon’s 81.3 rushing grade so far this season ranks fourth among running backs with 25 or more carries.

PFF's Player Props Tool leverages PFF's Fantasy Football Projections to reveal betting opportunities within player prop markets.

The current over/under for this game is 46. PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.


Matchup to watch: QB Zach Wilson vs. Titans blitz

Through three games, Wilson has had a tough time adjusting to the speed of the NFL. His 41.9 passer rating when blitzed ranks fourth-worst to start the season, ahead of only Ben Roethlisberger, Jacoby Brissett and Trevor Lawrence.

Meanwhile, the Titans have been very aggressive with their defensive play calling, blitzing at a top-10 rate this season (30%). Their backend coverage has been shaky at best on those blitzes, allowing the second-highest passer rating in the league (155.3) on such plays. It will be important for Tennessee's pass rush to get home in this matchup.

Biggest Storyline: Ryan Tannehill has bounced back from a shaky Week 1 performance

Tannehill rebounded from an underwhelming performance in the season opener, consisting of a turnover-worthy play and six sacks taken. He’s the highest-graded quarterback in the league over the past two weeks (90.8) and has yet to register another turnover-worthy play while taking just four sacks.

His numbers could be even more impressive if not for dropped passes. Tannehill’s receivers have combined for the second-most drops over the past two weeks, with they've come on passes over 10 yards downfield on average. It will be important to monitor the health of his top two targets, Julio Jones and A.J. Brown, who are both dealing with injuries.

The current over/under for this game is 44. PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.


Matchup to watch: ED Chris Jones vs. RT Lane Johnson

One of the league’s preeminent talents at his position, Johnson has continued to dominate this season. He’s yet to allow a single sack or quarterback hurry — a streak that will be put to the test Sunday afternoon against Chris Jones, who continues to add new skills to his repertoire in his sixth season in the league. 

The All-Pro has already logged a career-high number of snaps lined up outside of right tackle so far this season, earning an 86.4 pass-rush grade from that position. Despite an overall pressure rate of just 11%, Jones will be a force to be reckoned with Sunday and should give Johnson all he can handle as both teams work to get back on track.

Biggest Storyline: Can someone besides Tyreek Hill or Travis Kelce step up for KC?

The lack of balance in the Chiefs offense has reared its ugly head in the early parts of this season, as the team’s collection of pass-catchers beyond Hill and Kelce have yet to make a significant impact. Kansas City's decision to sign a 30-year-old Josh Gordon underscores its search for a reliable third option while preparing to face a Philadelphia defense that has done well to limit big plays through the air through three weeks.

Running quarters coverage at the second-highest rate in the league, Philadelphia owns the fourth-lowest percentage of pass plays of 15-plus yards allowed.

The current over/under for this game is 54.5. PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.


Matchup to watch: ED Brian Burns vs. LT Tyron Smith

No defense has generated pressure on a higher percentage of their pass-rushing snaps than Carolina through three weeks (48%). Burns is a big part of that. His 68 quarterback pressures since 2020 are tied for 10th-most among edge rushers.

Nothing will come easy on Burns’ reps against Smith in this matchup, though. Smith ranks second among all left tackles in PFF grade entering this week, and he has allowed just two pressures on 122 pass-blocking snaps this season. He appears to be fully healthy after missing most of the 2020 season with a neck injury. 

Biggest Storyline: Can C.J. Henderson turn his career around in a new environment?

It looked like Jacksonville had found its lockdown cornerback of the future following Henderson’s first game with the team. The rookie allowed a 28.3 passer rating into his coverage on 10 targets in the 2020 season opener, leaving the game with an interception and three pass breakups. Henderson went on to allow a 140.4 passer rating during the rest of his disappointing stint with the Jaguars.

The Panthers traded for Henderson this week, and he provides another option to replace the injured Jaycee Horn in the short term. But the soon-to-be 23-year-old should also be part of Carolina’s long-term plans, as ge was widely considered one of the top man coverage cornerbacks coming out of Florida in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Related content for you: NFL Week 4 Odds and Best Bets via George Chahrouri and Eric Eager

The current over/under for this game is 50.5. PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.


Matchup to watch: WR Kenny Golladay vs. CB Marshon Lattimore

Golladay hasn’t had a flashy start to the season with his new team. He’s racked up only 116 yards on his 19 targets, with both Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton seeing a higher percentage of targets per route run.

He will most likely face off against Lattimore, who’s played well in the early part of this season. Lattimore is looking to reverse a downward trend that has seen his coverage grade drop every year since 2018. He’s currently tied for the best coverage grade among cornerbacks in the NFL (87.1) in 2021, recording an interception and three forced incompletions on 14 targets.

PFF’s WR/CB matchup chart projects these two will line up against each other on 27 snaps.

Biggest Storyline: Despite all the focus on the New York offense, the defense has been a bigger issue

The Giants' offense is far from perfect, but the defense has been the bigger issue through three weeks of the season. The unit ranks 30th in expected points allowed per play defensively, compared to having the 17th best EPA per play mark on offense. Despite fielding one of the best interior duos in the league with Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence, the unit as a whole hasn’t been able to generate pressure, ranking 27th in pressure rate.

New York will need to correct the issue if the team is to earnestly compete for the NFC East title.

The current over/under for this game is 42. PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.


Matchup to watch: ED Myles Garrett vs. LT Rashod Hill

Fresh off one of the most dominant individual pass-rushing performances in recent memory, Garrett has another prime opportunity to rewrite the history books this weekend against Hill.

Hill, a sixth-year pro out of Southern Miss, has allowed at least three pressures in each game this season, leading to the sixth-lowest pass-blocking grade of any left tackle through three weeks. Garrett, on the other hand, may be having his best start to a season as a pro, racking up his highest pressure percentage (21.2%) and win percentage (29.4%) through his first three games of a season.

Biggest Storyline: These are two of the best backfields in the NFL

The Browns and Vikings own two of the league’s fiercest rushing attacks yet attack the ground game in two distinctly different ways. Cleveland utilizes a top-tier duo, riding the unique skill sets of both Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt to the NFL lead in rushing touchdowns and the third-highest team-wide rushing grade. Chubb and Hunt have been individually spectacular as well, possessing the second- and third-highest overall grades among all running backs so far this year. 

Minnesota tends to prefer a one-man committee, whether that be presumed starter Dalvin Cook or Alexander Mattison in a reserve capacity like we saw last week. Both backs have excelled in that role, with Mattison coming off a 112-yard performance that included the fourth-most missed tackles of any rusher in Week 3.

The current over/under for this game is 51.5. PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.


Matchup to watch: ED Romeo Okwara vs. RT Germain Ifedi

Okwara has been Detroit’s best pass-rusher this season. He leads the team with 16 total pressures (tied for third-most among edge defenders), and he has the 10th-highest pass-rush win rate at the position through three weeks (24.1%). In Week 4, he should primarily see right tackle Germain Ifedi, who has been one of the better pass protectors on a shaky Chicago offensive line. His 3.7% pressure rate allowed entering this week ranks ninth among qualifying right tackles.

Okwara recorded a sack and two hurries on 22 pass-rushing snaps against Ifedi last season.

Biggest Storyline: What is the best option for Chicago at quarterback?

Andy Dalton‘s injury provided us with Justin Fields’ first NFL start that the city of Chicago has been clamoring for since the 2021 NFL Draft. The result was the worst passing performance of any team this season. The Bears averaged just 0.4 yards per pass play — the first team to go below three yards per pass play in a single game.

Fewest yards per pass play by an offense this season
Offense Week Yards per pass play
Chicago Bears 3 0.4
New York Jets 3 3.1
Miami Dolphins 2 3.2
Jacksonville Jaguars 2 3.3
New Orleans Saints 2 3.5

Anyone who watched the game understands that much of the blame falls on people other than Fields, but the worry is that the team is doing long-term damage to its future face of the franchise by leaving him out to dry and letting him take nine sacks. That's why head coach Matt Nagy is considering going back to Dalton or Nick Foles in this game.

PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline and over/under.

The current over/under for this game is 42. PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.


Matchup to watch: WR Brandin Cooks vs. CB Tre’Davious White

Cooks has seen by far the highest target share of any Texans receiver. He has been targeted 31 times, with no other Texans player having more than nine.

Cooks should see plenty of White, who has enjoyed a solid start to the year in coverage. He’s allowing only a 78.7 passer rating when targeted this season. Cooks could get loose against White downfield, though. He has six receptions of 15-plus yards, while White has allowed four such completions so far this season.

PFF’s WR/CB matchup chart projects Cooks to see White on more of his snaps than any other Bills cornerback (23).

Biggest Storyline: Bills interior offensive line remains a concern in pass protection

The Bills' offense has improved every week, but the interior offensive line continues to falter in pass protection. Jon Feliciano, Mitch Morse, Cody Ford and Ike Boettger have allowed a combined 36 pressures, the most by any team’s interior offensive line. Last week alone, those four combined to surrender 16 pressures (most by any team). The main culprit has been Ford, who has allowed the most pressures of any interior offensive lineman (17) in the league.

Josh Allen has done a decent job navigating the pressure, though, as he’s one of eight quarterbacks to have a passing grade above 70.0 in such situations.

The current over/under for this game is 47. PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.


Matchup to watch: Colts offensive line vs. Dolphins pass rush

Typically one of the league’s stoutest units, Indianapolis’ offensive line has struggled in all phases while dealing with a number of injuries. The group has been especially disappointing in pass protection, owning the league’s second-worst pass-blocking grade and allowing the most quarterback hits and sacks in the NFL. 

The Colts' resilience will be put to the test this week as they travel to Miami to face the league’s blitz-happiest defense. The Dolphins own the highest blitz rate (44%) and sixth-highest pressure rate (40%) in the NFL.

Biggest Storyline: Indianapolis enters this game with one of the NFL’s worst pass defenses

Indianapolis’ struggles are not just contained to the offensive side of the ball. The team's pass defense ranks among the league’s worst entering this game against Miami. The Colts’ 8.5 yards allowed per pass play is the highest mark of any team so far this season, while their 40.8 team coverage grade is the second-worst in the league. 

There isn’t just one area to place all of the blame. The Colts have generated pressure at the seventh-lowest rate in the league, but the secondary is far from faultless. The unit has the second-highest open target percentage (63.2%) and passer rating allowed when targeted (128.9).

PFF’s WR/CB Matchup Chart helps you set the best fantasy football lineups. You can toggle between showing the Matchup Advantage column against all projected coverage, or the individual defenders.

The current over/under for this game is 42.5. PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.


Matchup to watch: Falcons offensive line vs. Washington defensive line

Atlanta’s offensive line is coming off its best performance of the season in Week 3 against the Giants, but there isn’t any reason to believe that the Football Team won’t have a considerable advantage in the trenches here. 

Jalen Mayfield, a rookie guard out of Michigan, has been the weak point on the Falcons offensive line, and the interior has proven to be the strength of Washington’s defensive line early on. Daron Payne (14 quarterback pressures) and Jonathan Allen (11) lead the group in pressures entering this week, beating out Chase Young (10) and Montez Sweat (nine).

Biggest Storyline: Washington’s defense hasn’t lived up to expectations early in the season

Washington comes into this matchup ranked 29th in the league in expected points allowed per play. They’re ahead of only the Chiefs, Lions and Giants through three weeks in that regard. It’s not the kind of company that the Football Team were expecting to be keeping at this point.

Washington’s secondary hasn’t played up to the level it did in 2020, but Jon Bostic has been arguably the team's weakest link in coverage at linebacker. His 197 passing yards allowed into his coverage entering Week 4 are more than any other player at the position.

The current over/under for this game is 48. PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.


Matchup to watch: TE George Kittle vs. LB Bobby Wagner

This will be one of the more highly anticipated matchups of the weekend between two top players at their respective positions. Kittle is notably dangerous with the ball in his hands, racking up 1,935 yards after the catch since 2018 (most of any tight end). During that span, he has also forced 46 missed tackles, which is tied for the most with Travis Kelce.

On the other side, Wagner has been an excellent linebacker for quite some time, and that remains true in 2021. He’s the seventh-highest-graded player at the position through three weeks. Wagner has also forced 11 incompletions since 2018 when guarding tight ends, the most of any linebacker.

Biggest Storyline: Both secondaries are overmatched in this matchup

Neither team’s secondary has exceeded expectations. Seattle has the 24th worst coverage grade as a unit, with San Francisco slightly ahead of them at 21st. Neither secondary has intercepted a pass and both have allowed four touchdowns through three games.

Meanwhile, Deebo Samuel and Tyler Lockett are currently top five in the NFL in receiving yards. Samuel is tied for the most 15-plus-yard receptions (nine), while Lockett and D.K. Metcalf have combined for 13. This is not an ideal matchup for either team, but especially for the 49ers given that they’re up against one of the NFL’s best deep-ball passers in Russell Wilson.

The current over/under for this game is 52. PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.


Matchup to watch: WR DeAndre Hopkins vs. CB Jalen Ramsey

Trades for both players have blessed us with this matchup twice per year in the NFC West. Ramsey got the better of Hopkins in 2020, holding him to just 48 receiving yards on 15 targets. Ramsey lined up across from Hopkins on 62 routes across their two meetings last season, the second-most of any of Ramsey’s matchups.

The biggest question heading into Sunday’s showdown will be Ramsey’s alignment. The former No. 5 overall pick has spent the majority of his snaps this season in the slot for the first time in his NFL career, leading to questions as to whether he will shadow Hopkins.

Biggest Storyline: This is a major early-season battle in the NFC West

In an NFC West that is one of the NFL's most competitive divisions, every divisional game matters. Los Angeles owns the greatest odds to win the division heading into this matchup, possessing a 46% chance to reign supreme, according to PFF’s simulations. Arizona holds the third-highest odds to snatch the division crown (18%).

PFF’s simulations are relatively bullish on both team’s odds of making the postseason. The Rams (78%) and the Cardinals (49%) own the second- and seventh-highest playoff odds, respectively.

The current over/under for this game is 55. PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.


Matchup to watch: DI Cam Heyward vs. LG Jon Runyan

Heyward has arguably been the best defender in the league early this season. He’s the highest-graded defensive player through three weeks and is the only defender with 90.0-plus grades as a pass-rusher and a run defender. Heyward spends a lot of time lined up over the left guard, which means Runyan should see a lot of him in this game.

Runyan has done well in place of Elgton Jenkins after playing only sparingly as a rookie. He has allowed just two hurries on 67 pass-blocking snaps, and his 78.5 pass-blocking grade is the best mark on the Packers' offensive line over the past two weeks.

Biggest Storyline: Najee Harris has been too big of a component of Pittsburgh’s offense

Everyone expected Harris to get a lot of touches in Pittsburgh, but through three weeks, it may be too much of a workload for the rookie running back. He’s played 190 of the Steelers' 197 offensive snaps (96%).

Harris was targeted 19 times last week against Cincinnati, the most of any player in a single week this season. For reference, D’Andre Swift is the only running back with more total targets than that this year (23). Harris has also had to do the heavy lifting on the ground. Of his 123 rushing yards, 111 have come after contact.

PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline and over/under.

The current over/under for this game is 45.5. PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.


Matchup to watch: Ravens rushing attack vs. Broncos run defense

The Ravens roll into Denver with a potent rushing attack, averaging the second-most yards per run play (4.9) in the NFL this season. This dominance on the ground is nothing new for Baltimore. They are the only franchise to average over five yards per run play since 2019.

Sunday is their toughest test so far this season in that facet, as the Broncos have allowed an average of just 3.1 yards per run play in 2021 (sixth-lowest in the NFL). The unit is led by interior defender Dre’Mont Jones, who has collected four run stops on just 16 run-defense snaps en route to the highest run-defense grade of any interior defender in the league.

Biggest Storyline: How real has the Broncos’ undefeated start to the season been?

The Broncos have surprised this season, entering Week 4 as one of just five undefeated squads. While Denver’s three wins have come against three of the five lowest-ranked teams in PFF’s power rankings, there are a number of reasons to believe in what Vic Fangio and company are building.

Along with one of the NFL’s most complete defensive units, the Broncos can attribute a great deal of their success to quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Owner of the league’s ninth-highest passing grade, Bridgewater has been accurate when pushing the ball downfield. He ranks seventh in accurate pass rate on throws 10-plus yards downfield. As the quality of competition heightens, how Bridgewater responds will almost certainly dictate the outcome of Denver’s season.

The current over/under for this game is 45. PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.


Matchup to watch: QB Tom Brady vs. Bill Belichick’s defense

The chess match between Brady and Belichick headlines the Week 4 slate. The fact that Brady has slipped up against several Belichick-adjacent defenses in the past few years only adds another layer of intrigue.

Brady’s lowest PFF passing grades since 2018
Season and Week Opponent PFF passing grade
2019 Week 17 Miami Dolphins (Flores) 40.4
2019 Week 4 Buffalo Bills 44.1
2018 Week 3 Detroit Lions (Patricia) 48.2

This could be nothing more than an interesting anecdote, but two of Brady’s three lowest PFF passing grades have come against coaches from the Belichick tree. After 20 years together in New England, the two certainly know each other well.

Biggest Storyline: Can New England attack Tampa Bay’s cracks in the secondary?

Injuries have started to pile up in Tampa Bay’s secondary. Sean Murphy-Bunting headed to injured reserve with a dislocated elbow suffered in Week 1, and Jamel Dean was forced to exit the game early last week against Los Angeles. That opened the door for Dee Delaney to log 53 defensive snaps against the Rams after entering the week with just four career defensive snaps.

The Buccaneers signed PFF’s highest-graded cornerback in 2019 (Richard Sherman) to bolster the unit, but it remains to be seen if he will be available Sunday. It’s also not a guarantee that New England will capitalize on a potentially weakened group. The Patriots rank just 26th in expected points added per pass play entering this game.

The current over/under for this game is 49. PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.


Matchup to watch: ED Yannick Ngakoue vs. LT Rashawn Slater

Ngakoue has been one of the best pass-rushers off the edge over the past five seasons. He ranks in the 82nd percentile of all edge rushers in pass-rushing grade since 2017, and that has carried over in his first season with Las Vegas. Ngakoue boasts an 84.6 pass-rushing grade and 15 pressures through the first three weeks.

Slater, the Chargers’ first-round selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, has looked comfortable thus far, and he should be Ngakoue’s primary matchup in this game. He has allowed only five pressures across 135 pass-blocking snaps this season. That 3.7% pressure rate allowed ranks ninth among qualifying left tackles.

Biggest Storyline: Can the Raiders' pass rush continue to get home without the blitz?

Las Vegas ranks third in the league in pressure rate (44%) entering this divisional showdown with Los Angeles despite placing dead last in the NFL in blitz rate (9%). That's no surprise given Gus Bradley’s track record, but the Raiders' defensive line is a bit of a surprise through three weeks.

The competition hasn’t exactly been stiff early in the year, with their three games coming against a weakened Baltimore offensive line, Pittsburgh and Miami. But Ngakoue and Maxx Crosby dominated that below-average competition, which is what you want to see. The next step is maintaining that level of play against a stronger unit.

PFF's Fantasy Projections provide expected figures for every relevant fantasy football player in a given week of NFL action.

The current over/under for this game is 52.5. PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.


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