We Know Nothing About the NFL This Year

So, we’re through four weeks of the NFL season and how it’s gone so far has left me with one question: Is anybody good? I’m all for parity in sports but the inconsistency has been unbelievably, except for some teams being consistently terrible. With that, here’s my take on where all 32 teams are at thus far, in the lense of how they fared in Week 4

 

AFC East

Buffalo Bills (3-1)

Week 4: Beat Atlanta Falcons 23-17

When you hear that the Bills are in first place in their division, you know things are out of whack in the NFL. They’ve been impressive in their three wins, beating the Jets as expected but also impressive wins against Denver and Atlanta. However, they were also involved in one of the worst games this season when they lose 9-3 to the Panthers. Their defense is showing itself to be one of the best in the league, and Tyrod Taylor has been efficient and taken care of the football on offense. They have to play the Patriots twice along with Kansas City in the second half of the year, but otherwise their schedule isn’t particularly daunting. It will be interesting to see if they can continue to defy expectation.

 

New York Jets (2-2)

Week 4: Beat Jacksonville Jaguars 23-20

The Jets aren’t in last place? And they have two wins already? There was a lot of speculation the Jets had a legit chance of going 0-16 this year. Their offseason moves indicated that they weren’t actually interested in winning games. Yet, here we are. In addition to this week’s win against Jacksonville, they soundly beat the Dolphins last week. They lost to the Bills in Week 1 before giving up 45 points to the Raiders in Week 2. The offense has been mediocre and the defense inconsistent. As hard as it may be to wrap your head around, there’s just several teams worse than the Jets; which says a lot about the quality of football we’ve witnessed this season.

 

New England Patriots (2-2)

Week 4: Lost to Carolina Panthers, 33-30

While it was being predicted that the Jets might go 0-16, an even more popular prediction was that the Patriots would go 16-0. And here we are with both teams at 2-2. The Patriots’ offense has been productive despite losing Julian Edelman for the season, Gronk being always at least slightly injured, and Tom Brady being 40. The real problem is the Patriots defense, which got bad while nobody was looking, the ridiculous offensive comeback in the Super Bowl overshadowing the bad defense that helped create that deficit in the first place. This season the Patriots have been surprised by the Chiefs, and then won strangely tight games against Houston and New Orleans. Tom Brady will have to play like a much younger QB if the Patriots are going to make the playoffs let alone challenge for another title.

 

Miami Dolphins (0-4)

Week 4: Lost 20-0 to New Orleans Saints

The Dolphins worst fears have been realized: losing Ryan Tannehill for the season crushed all hopes of a trip to the playoffs. Jay Cutler was brought in because he had worked with Adam Gase before and knows his offense. Turns out that not only should Cutler have stuck with his decision to move to the broadcast booth, but Tannehill’s performances last year were concealing other problems with their offense. With defenses in no way afraid of Cutler, more focus has been placed on Jay Ajayi whose breakout season last year is more and more looking like a fluke.

 

AFC North

Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1)

Week 4: Beat Baltimore Ravens 26-9

It’s been a weird year for the Steelers so far. They barely beat the Browns, looked impressive against the Vikings, lost to THE BEARS, and easily beat the Ravens (as they and everyone should). Le’veon Bell looks to have finally woken up from his holdout-induced offseason hangover, which should make up for some sluggish performances from an aging Big Ben. Both on and off the field, it just seems like the Steelers aren’t quite all on the same page. Nevertheless, they’re 3-1 and looking at the rest of the division should easily cruise to a division title.

 

Baltimore Ravens (2-2)

Week 4: Lost to Pittsburgh Steelers 26-9

I’m not sure if it’s weirder that the Jets have two wins or the Ravens. They started the year with wins over the Bengals and Browns (meh) before being dismantled by the Jaguars (giving up 44 points) and the Steelers. There’s no question this team is bad, but getting 4 games against the Bengals and Browns may result in a record that disguises just how bad they are. A team with a banged up (and definitely not #elite) Joe Flacco at QB and a defense giving up 4 TD passes to Blake Bortles is in for a very bumpy ride.

 

Cincinnati Bengals (1-3)

Week 4: Beat Cleveland Browns 31-7

How do you make Andy Dalton look like a good QB? Have him play the Browns. You could also argue that Dalton was playing for his job this week, and even though it’s the Browns his 4 TD passes should be enough to keep his job safe for several weeks at least. Cincy was shutout by the aforementioned Ravens to start the year before losing an unwatchably bad game against the Texans and a surprisingly competitive one in Green Bay. AJ Green is still one of the best weapons in the league (probably responsible for Andy Dalton being overrated) , Tyler Eifert is one of the best tight ends in the game when healthy, and there’s plenty of talent in the backfield between Geo Bernard, Joe Mixon and Jeremy Hill. Yet somehow they often struggle to score points. They’re better than Cleveland, but that’s about all you can say about them. Speaking of which…

 

Cleveland Browns (0-4)

Week 4: Lost to Cincinnati Bengals 31-7

It’s pretty simple: the Browns suck. They’ve lost to the Bengals, Ravens and Colts along with the Steelers. The good news is they get to play the entire AFC South, the Bengals and Ravens again, the Chargers and the Bears before the year is over so you’d think they might be able to pick up a win or two. It’s been a tough start for DeShone Kizer, but what else did Cleveland expect? He’s just the most recent in a long line of Browns QBs who wished there were five of Joe Thomas in front of them rather than one so they didn’t get beat up every game. The Browns are currently going to the 76ers school of tanking and accumulating draft picks, and looking at that model they have a couple more years before they’ve got a team worth paying any attention to.

 

AFC South

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2)

Week 4: Lost to New York Jets 23-20.

Blow out the Texans, lose to the Titans, blow out the Ravens, lose to the Jets, be in (a tie for) first place. Nothing sums up out weird the NFL has been so far this year quite like the Jags. Blake Bortles is quickly taking the place of Joe Flacco as the QB most known for swings between “franchise QB” and “should be benched immediately and never allowed near a football field again.” Leonard Fournette is a beast, but he might be wasted on this team. I wouldn’t expect them being in first place to last long, but they’ll take it for now. Who knows, if Bortles continues his alternating performances they could end up 8-8 (which at this rate might be good enough to win the division).

 

Houston Texans (2-2)

Week 4: Beat the Titans 57(!)-14

The bad news is the Texans played some really bad football in their first two games of the season. The good news is they’re trending in the right direction. Deshaun Watson seems to be getting the hang of the offense, which primarily consists of learning to throw it to Deandre Hopkins as often as possible. Many teams (read: coaches) don’t want to play rookies just because they’re rookies (*cough* Bears *cough* John Fox *cough*) and Watson has quickly showed that having him start the year on the bench was the wrong call. I’m sure JJ Watt and the rest of the Texans defense enjoy the offense suddenly being competent. We’ll get to see just how good their offense is when they take on the Chiefs next week.

 

Tennessee Titans (2-2)

Week 4: Lost 51-14 to Houston Texans

The confusion of this division continues with the Titans, who beat the Seahawks and Jaguars  but just got obliterated by the Texans. Like a lot of people, I expected Marcus Mariotta to continue his smooth, successful progression and for him and the combination of Demarco Murray and Derek Henry to cause problems for opposing defenses; not so much. While it hasn’t quite been the start they may have hoped for there is good news ahead. Next five games: Dolphins, Colts, Browns, Ravens, Bengals. It’s too early to panic, and there’s a lot of reason to still feel good about the Titans as the pick to win the mess of a division (as long as they don’t keep allowing record-setting amounts of points).

 

Indianapolis Colts (1-3)

Week 4: Lost to Seattle Seahawks 46-18

In my blog about the lack of Colin Kaepernick on any NFL roster, I noted how dire the situation was in Indianapolis. Throwing Jacoby Brissett into the fire has not helped, and I can only imagine the argument in Andrew Luck’s head between wanting to get back on the field and being terrified of having to stand between the transparent Colts’ offensive line. It can only be a matter of time before Chuck Pagano is fired, and the Colts can only go down from here. This week’s game against the ‘Niners will be a barometer for just how bad of shape the Colts are in.

 

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs (4-0)

Week 4: Beat Washington Redskins (29-20)

Are the Chiefs good? Yes! They made a statement in the opening game of the year by hanging 42 points on the Patriots, and have followed it up with three more wins. Alex Smith looks like a changed man, Kareem Hunt has basically already won rookie of the year, and there is talent all over the field. The one piece of bad news is they’ve lost Eric Berry for the season with a ruptured achilles. They’ve got a tough run of games coming up, but it’s an opportunity to supplant themselves as a class above the rest of the League right now.

 

Denver Broncos (3-1)

Week 4: Beat Oakland Raiders 16-10

Many football analysts were singing the praises of Trevor Siemian as well as the Denver defense after the Broncos 2-0 start. And then they lost to the Bills. They picked themselves up with a win over the Raiders this week but it’s hard to know what to make of this team, much like almost the entire league right now. I think it’s good that Siemian is being the chance to be the unquestioned starter (mostly thanks to Paxton Lynch’s injury). This is the only way to figure out if he’s really any good or not. As good as their defense is, it can’t win games by itself like it did the year they won the Super Bowl; if they’re gonna make the playoffs the offense is going to have to produce, especially if Oakland can figure out their offensive issues.

 

Oakland Raiders (2-2)

Week 4: Lost to Denver Broncos (16-10)

It all looked to being going to plan for the Raiders after starting 2-0, but then the offense’s wheels completely fell off. Marshawn Lynch has looked his age, Amari Cooper has been invisible, the offensive line isn’t living up to their enormous paychecks, and now Derek Carr is hurt. On the bright side, EJ Manuel almost won the Raiders the game and looked pretty good, until he threw an interception by trying to force it to Cooper. This division is crowded, and the playoffs could be out of reach in a hurry if the offense could get back on track. If they do, look for the AFC West to have 3 playoff teams.

 

Los Angeles (this is never gonna feel right) Chargers (0-4)

Week 4: Lost to Philadelphia Eagles

They can’t fill their temporary 30,000 seat stadium and there have been as many away fans as home fans at games. To make matters worse, the Chargers are 0-4. Staying true to form they have lost those four games by an average of 5.25 points each. Likewise true to form has been Philip Rivers’ seemingly constant fury at his teammates’ incompetence. Unlike the teams who are worse than their record suggests, the Chargers are the opposite, but I can’t blame them for not being able to find the motivation to turn one possession losses into wins when it’s clear nobody in your city gives a shit whether you win or not. They face the also winless Giants next week. Let’s just hope it doesn’t end in a tie.

 

NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles (3-1)

Week 4: Beat LA Chargers 26-24

It was hard to draw a lot of conclusions from Carson Wentz’s first season. He certainly proved he at least deserved to be taken seriously despite playing for North Dakota State, but it looks like he’s taken a big step forward this season in command of the Eagles offense. Their only loss so far this season was to the Chiefs, the only undefeated team left after four weeks. Their schedule is among the more difficult in the league (save games against the Bears and ‘Niners) but there’s plenty of reason to feel optimistic. Particularly if the Cowboys continue to sputter, the division could be theirs for the taking.

 

Washington Redskins (2-2)

Week 2: Lost to Kansas City Chiefs 29-20

Washington gave the undefeated Chiefs a really tough test this week, succumbing in the end to a game winning field goal that was inflated by a fumble return for a TD on the ensuing kickoff. Not a great sign in this game: Kirk Cousins being the leading rusher (for the second time this season). They’ve beaten the Raiders and resurgent Rams, and like a lot of teams have showed flashes of inconsistent greatness. Their schedule is also no picnic (luck of the draw for the NFC East this year) and there’s going to be weight on the shoulders of Kirk Cousins to put up enough point to win games. They’d be a scary offense if they could develop any semblance of a running game.

 

Dallas Cowboys (2-2)

Week 2: Lost to LA Rams 35-30

It seemed like a sure thing that the Cowboys would be good this year, that Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott were going to lead them to divisional dominance for years to come. Instead, they’ve been anything but convincing. It’s up in the air which games Elliot will be available for this year with a suspension hanging over his head, and he’s often looked disinterested when he’s been on the field this year. The defense hasn’t been anything special, and neither has Dak who will have to step up big time if Zeke does miss several games. This is going to be one of the most competitive divisions in the league this (although it looks like the Giants won’t be participating) and the Cowboys will have to prove they’re up for the fight.

 

New York Giants (0-4)
Week 4: Lost to Tampa Bay Buccaneers 25-23

First, how is Ben McAdoo an NFL head coach? That’s a question I’m confident nobody has an answer to. Meanwhile, a receiving core that looked to be stacked has gotten off to a slow start with injuries to OBJ and Brandon Marshall (perhaps predictably) not enjoying playing second fiddle. Eli continues to be mediocre (despite what his jewelry collection may lead you to believe) and the defense has been the same, although giving up ~24 a game shouldn’t leave you 0-4 given the offensive weapons they have. I’ve never seen a team as dependent on a wide receiver as this team is on Beckham, but without him they don’t go anywhere; and with him it’s still a struggle. McAdoo said they’re “dealing internally” with Beckham’s recent methods of celebration but I doubt OBJ will take those too seriously given how important he is to the team and that McAdoo is poised to get the axe if this continues much longer.

 

NFC North

Detroit Lions (3-1)

Week 4: Beat Minnesota Vikings 14-7

So maybe giving Matthew Stafford the biggest contract in the history of the sport wasn’t a waste of money after all (this feels premature). They’ve taken care of business against Arizona and the Giants and won the battle this week of their offense vs. the Minnesota defense. It’s hard to make too much of the Lions at this point because they’re one of the few teams who’ve done what they were supposed to. Most likely, they’ll get into a lot of high scoring games and hope Stafford can single-handedly win games; sometimes this will work, sometimes it won’t and maybe they sneak into a wild card spot as the top 3 teams in this division are bolstered by getting to play the Bears twice. We weren’t sure how good the Lions were going into this year and we still don’t know; I’ll reserve judgement until they play the Green Bay Aaron Rodgers’s.

 

Green Bay Packers (3-1)

Week 4: Beat Chicago Bears 35-14

The Pack easily took care of the Bears after getting a scare from the Bengals the previous week. There’s a lot of similarities between the Lions and Packers, but the difference is the Packers have Aaron Rodgers, who it pains me to say is without question my favorite QB to watch play. He, maybe even more than Tom Brady, can win games by himself. Given that the Packers still don’t really run the ball (they did nothing to address the fact that their starting back is a converted wide receiver) and that the defense will get shredded by any competent passing attack it’s going to take more consistent excellence from Rodgers for the Packers to succeed. Unlike a lot of teams this year, you know what you’re getting with the Packers. The primary question is will anyone else step up to help Rodgers and give them a chance to make it back to the Super Bowl?

 

Minnesota Viking (2-2)

Week 4: Lost to Detroit Lions 14-7

It’s been a weird start to the season in Minnesota. The given coming in was that their defense was going to be great, the determining factor is their offense. That offense looked great Week 1, but then Sam Bradford got hurt (he’s in the Andrew Luck category of out until who knows when) and they looked incompetent in Pittsburgh Week 2. But then, like magic, Case Keenum suddenly got good at football and he and Dalvin Cook led a sound beating of Tampa. Then, this week, they were up 7-3 when Dalvin Cook got hurt (torn ACL, out for the year) and they forgot how to score again. This is a lot of pressure to put on Keenum, and it’s looking again like injury will again dash Minnesota’s hope of challenging for a division title. Paging Teddy Bridgewater.

 

Chicago Bears (1-3)

Week 4: Lost to Green Bay Packers 35-14

One of the shocks of the season was the Bears beating the Steelers. What’s even crazier is that they should’ve beaten the Falcons, a dropped game-winning pass by Jordan Howard being the difference. But they’ve looked terrible in losses to Tampa and Green Bay. However, most terrible has been Mike Glennon who seems to be afraid to throw a ball farther than he is tall. The most recent plot twist in the Bears’ QB situation is the announcement that Mitch Trubisky will start this week, a move I’m all for. This team should be 2-2 despite Glennon’s struggles. The defense is finally showing signs of improvement and Jordan Howard and Tyreke Cohen look are a great 1-2 punch out of the backfield. But the lack of any talent at wide receiver will pose a challenge no matter who’s at QB and patience will be a virtue through this season. Here’s to the future.

 

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons (3-1)

Week 4: Lost to Buffalo Bills 23-17

The Falcons somewhat stumbled their way to 3-0 but they had given reason to believe they had recovered from their debilitating loss in the Super Bowl, and then they lost to the Bills. Now, all due respect to the Bills, it looks like they may be for real. The Falcons are largely the team they will last year: excellent offense, mediocre defense. The bonus they have over teams like Detroit and Green Bay is that they actually have a rushing attack. Despite all the offensive talent they can’t take anything for granted, with Carolina resurgent and the Buccaneers continuing to improve. Throw in the Saints trying to both score and give up as many points as possible and the NFC South is going to be fun this year.

 

Carolina Panthers (3-1)

Week 4: Beat New England Patriots 33-30

This season for the Panthers is the equivalent of a contract year for a player. This year they have to prove whether they’re for real or not, after going to the Super Bowl two years ago and then falling flat on their faces last year. Little attention was paid after wins against SanFran and Buffalo (before we realized they were good) and a loss to the Saints. But this weekend they beat the Patriots and now everybody is paying attention. Admittedly, the Patriots defense is terrible but Cam Newton looked the best he has in literally years. If they can maintain their tough defense, look out. It will be a hard battle to get to the playoffs from this division, and it only emphasizes that it’s do-or-die time in Carolina.

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1)

Week 4: Beat the Giants 25-23

The Bucs have beaten the Bears and the Giants (yawn) but were soundly beaten by a Case Keenum-led Vikings team. They were supposed to play the Dolphins Week 1, but due to Hurricane Irma was pushed to later this season. While they look promising, the jury is still out. They play the Patriots next week, which will be a real test for them. The Jameis Winston to Mike Evans connection is already one of the best in the league, but this offense can’t go to the next level until they have a better rushing attack (Jacquizz Rodgers is not the answer). In any case, this is a team heading in the right direction and Jameis Winston looks to have all the tools to be a starter in the League for a long time.

 

New Orleans Saints (2-2)

Week 4: Beat Miami Dolphins 20-0

The Saints spent their vacation in London beating up the hapless Dolphins. They offseason signing of Adrian Peterson has already proven to be a mistake, as not only is AP ineffective on the field he complains about not being on it when he’s off it. Drew Brees is now surrounded by a bunch of players you’ve never heard of who together must work to outscore whoever they’re playing to bail out their Swiss cheese defense. As much as Saints fans may have been hoping for a last hurrah from Brees and Peterson, the competitiveness of the division this year already dashes any hope of a playoff appearance.

 

NFC West

Los Angeles Rams (3-1)

Week 4: Beat Dallas Cowboys 35-30

Top of the list of things nobody saw coming this season: Jared Goff becoming NFL MVP. After he didn’t play for half of last year because the Rams said he “wasn’t read” Goff has come out and played like a team hopes a number one overall pick would play. The Rams unquestionably won the offseason by replacing God of Going 8-8 Geoff Fisher with 31-year-old offensive guru Sean McVay who has turned the team around in an incredible way. They already had a great defense and now looks to have an offense to match, with Todd Gurley and Goff looking like one of the best 1-2 punches in the NFL. If only people in LA gave a damn about how exciting this team is right now.

 

Seattle Seahawks (2-2)

Week 4: Beat Indianapolis Colts 46-18

Nothing like a game against the Colts to help a team hit the reset button. They struggled in a loss to the packers and a win against San Francisco, but then their supposedly phenomenal defense was torn apart by Marcus Mariota and the Titans. Russell Wilson has had back-to-back great games and his success is crucial on an offense without much of a running game. If he continues to play well and the defense can find at least some of its old self this team can be dangerous. We’ll learn a lot about both them and the Rams when they face off this next week.

 

Arizona Cardinals (2-2)

Week 4: Beat San Francisco 49ers 18-15

The Cardinals have barely beaten two of the worst teams in the league, SanFran and Indy, and been beaten by the Lions and the Cowboys. Losing All-Pro running back David Johnson Week 1 for the rest of the season is a crushing blow. Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald just aren’t why they used to be, and having high expectations for their offense is unrealistic. When Johnson went down their season likely went with it. The Rams and the Seahawks are just going to be too good and the Cardinals could be facing a lot of questions about the future of the team.

 

San Francisco 49ers (0-4)

Week 4: Lost to Arizona Cardinals 18-15.

The 49ers suck, and they know it. New coach Kyle Shanahan seems completely content to wait for the stellar QB class in next year’s draft and be able to hand-pick someone to run his offense. In the meantime, he brought in Brian Hoyer who knows his offense to oversee what is nothing but tanking. Their offense is bad, their defense is bad, it’s all bad. The biggest obstacle between them and the #1 overall pick? Their next game against the Colts. I look forward to which team can try harder to lose that game.

 

Way Too Early Playoff Predictions

NFC: Rams, Falcons, Packers, Eagles, Seahawks, Panthers

AFC: Chiefs, Texans, Patriots, Steelers, Bills, Broncos

 

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