Four weeks down and we know a lot more about the NFL than we did at the beginning of September. Some things have stayed the same. Kansas City is clearly the best team in the league and the Jets are unquestionably the worst. Others have changed quite a bit. The Bills are a Super Bowl contender while the Cowboys look like a big pretender.
The league also spent much of the week dealing with the fallout of a COVID-19 outbreak. The Titans had 18 players and staff members test positive for the coronavirus. Jeffery Simmons tested positive as recently as Monday, which puts Tennessee’s Week 5 game vs. Buffalo in jeopardy. With their game this week against the Steelers already postponed, this could be a real headache for the league office.
On top of that, Cam Newton tested positive on Saturday for the virus, ruling him out of Week 4’s matchup with the Chiefs. It also caused the game to be delayed to Monday night from it’s original Sunday afternoon start time.
In the midst of the health concerns, players still found a way to remind everyone about what is truly important. Za’Darius Smith did it best with a simple, but powerful message for Breonna Taylor written on his undershirt. Important reminder to everyone that there are much bigger things than football.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: 4-0 (Last Week: 1)
Won 26-10 vs. New England
Patrick Mahomes and company were not quite as dynamic as we have come to expect, and yet the Chiefs still coasted to victory. Kansas City is a much more well-rounded team this season. The defense has allowed only 17.5 points per game so far, the second best average in the league. Sure, they got an easier assignment facing a Cam Newton-less Patriots offense in Week 4, but this came one week after shutting down Lamar Jackson and the Ravens. At the quarter mark of the regular season, there is a distinct gap between the Chiefs and every one else in the NFL.
2. Seattle Seahawks: 4-0 (Last Week: 2)
Won 31-23 at Miami
Russell Wilson had a disappointing game by his standards. With only two touchdowns and his second interception of the season, Wilson needed some help from the defense. Seattle’s secondary was not perfect, but two timely interceptions of Ryan Fitzpatrick were enough to hold off the resilient Dolphins. This was a tricky game for the Seahawks, who played in the early window after traveling 3,300 miles. Taking care of business is always important as Russ and company stay unbeaten.
3. Green Bay Packers: 4-0 (Last Week: 3)
Won 30-16 vs. Atlanta
Don’t look now but the Packers are 4-0 and seem to be gaining momentum. This team has not been at full strength in recent weeks, but that has not stopped them from comfortably winning football games. Green Bay’s has outscored opponents by an average of 12.75 points per games, the best mark in the league. With a bye week coming up, Davante Adams has a chance to get back to 100 percent before the Packers get a showdown with Tom Brady and the Buccaneers.
4. Baltimore Ravens: 3-1 (Last Week: 4)
Won 31-17 at Washington
That is much more like it. Granted, Baltimore played a much worse opponent in Week 4 than the undefeated Chiefs, but this was the style of play we have grown accustom to for the Ravens. Lamar Jackson was off and running, including a career-long 50-yard touchdown run. Mark Andrews dominated the red zone with two touchdowns of his own. The defense also had a good outing with a forced fumble and three sacks. Baltimore is capable of playing even better than this, but this performance was more than enough to take care of Washington.
5. Buffalo Bills: 4-0 (Last Week: 5)
Won 30-23 vs. Las Vegas
The Buffalo Bills are here to stay. Buffalo is 4-0 for the first time in 12 years. Strangely, the offense continues to carry this group. After a season where the Bills defense finished third in yards allowed and second in points allowed, coach Sean McDermott cannot run it back. Buffalo is giving up 25 points per game and the sixth-most passing yards in the process. If McDermott can get the defense back to its 2019 form, this might be the best team in the league.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers: 3-0 (Last Week: 7)
It was an unexpected bye week for the Steelers. With the Titans’ COVID-19 outbreak, their Week 4 matchup was pushed to Week 7 instead. It gives the Steelers a chance to recharge before heading into a brutal 13-game stretch (not including the playoffs) without a break. Pittsburgh should still reach the postseason regardless, but the task certainly becomes tougher with this new schedule.
7. New England Patriots: 2-2 (Last Week: 6)
Lost 26-10 at Kansas City
Cam Newton might have earned some MVP votes after we saw how badly the Patriots offense struggled without him. Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham combined for four turnovers, including a horrible pick-six on a Julian Edelman dropped pass. Lost in the lackluster showing was that New England could still run the ball. The Pats racked up 185 yards on 5.1 yards per carry. Defensively, this was a solid showing as well. Take away the pick-six and the Chiefs offense only managed 19 points. A healthy Newton will get this team back on track.
8. New Orleans Saints: 2-2 (Last Week: 8)
Won 35-29 at Detroit
It was not perfect or pretty, but New Orleans got the job done to get back to .500. On one hand, you have to worry about how slow the team started. Going down 14-0 to Detroit is not a great sign. On the flip side, the Saints then rattled off 35 unanswered points before the Lions finally climbed back into it. Drew Brees was fantastic, posting an 88.2 QBR in the win. New Orleans still has a lot to work out going forward, but Michael Thomas should return to face the Chargers. That should make things run a whole lot smoother.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 3-1 (Last Week: 9)
Won 38-31 vs. Los Angeles
I never thought I would write this, but if Tom Brady could just take care of the football, the Buccaneers would be winning games a lot more comfortably. But it’s 2020, so anything can happen. Brady threw yet another pick-six against the Chargers and the Bucs got off to a very rocky start, trailing 24-7. Los Angeles made enough mistakes to let Tampa back into the game though. Brady took advantage and finished the day with five touchdown passes. There are clear signs of how dominant this offense could be when healthy and clicking. I don’t know if we have seen a complete game from this Buccaneers team yet, which is scary considering the 3-1 record.
10. Los Angeles Rams: 3-1 (Last Week: 10)
Won 17-9 vs. New York
This was ugly. Los Angeles’s offense looked great on the first drive of the game and then disappeared for pretty much the rest of the contest. If not for the fact they were facing an inept Giants offense, the Rams likely would have lost this contest. Jared Goff had a pedestrian day, totaling 200 passing yards and a touchdown. The revived run game fell apart as well to the tune of 2.5 yards per carry. Give the defense credit for holding things down with five sacks and an interception, but L.A. needs to play better than this.
11. Tennessee Titans: 3-0 (Last Week: 12)
The Titans will be a very interesting team to watch over the next few weeks. The league is investigating whether or not Tennessee violated coronavirus protocols in the lead up to Week 3. With more players continuing to test positive, it is possible their Week 5 game will be pushed back after the team already took an unexpected bye in Week 4. Mike Vrabel says the team has been embracing the virtual preparation, but I have to imagine there is going to be some rust to knock off once the Titans finally return to the field.
12. Indianapolis Colts: 3-1 (Last Week: 14)
Won 19-11 at Chicago
The Colts defense looks like the real deal. Indianapolis has the second-best point differential in the league, tied with the Chiefs. Allowing a league-low 56 points through four games makes that possible. All of that should be taken with a grain of salt though. Indy has faced the Jaguars, Vikings, Jets and Bears. They have a combined record of 5-11 so far. The Colts face a much better test against the red hot Browns, fresh off a 49-point outing in Dallas. If the defense shuts down Baker Mayfield and company, then they will earn their spot among the NFL’s elite.
13. San Francisco 49ers: 2-2 (Last Week: 13)
Lost 25-20 vs. Philadelphia
The injury bug finally caught up to the 49ers. Even with Deebo Samuel and George Kittle back in action, it was the absence of Jimmy Garoppolo that loomed large in San Francisco’s loss. Nick Mullens threw two interceptions, including the game-clinching pick-six. C.J. Beathard replaced him and sparked the offense, but it was too little, too late. The defense did its best despite playing shorthanded. Picking up three sacks and holding the Eagles offense to just 18 points is enough to win in most weeks. While the loss is disappointing, better days are on the horizon for the 49ers.
14. Arizona Cardinals: 2-2 (Last Week: 11)
Lost 31-21 at Carolina
Arizona crumbled again as Kyler Murray continues to struggle. After two weeks as the league’s exciting young team, the Cardinals have fallen apart in back-to-back weeks. Murray does not deserve all the blame. The defense could not contain Teddy Bridgewater or slow down the running game. Arizona has a lot of young pieces playing in key positions, but this was still a letdown. The Cardinals should find the cure to all that ails them in Week 5. A trip east to face the Jets should get them back on track.
15. Las Vegas Raiders: 2-2 (Last Week: 15)
Lost 30-23 at Buffalo
It was another close, but not good enough type performance from the Raiders. Derek Carr was spectacular, but the defense could not slow down Josh Allen. Carr also did not get much help from a usually reliable running game. Josh Jacobs managed an unimpressive 3.2 yards per carry. Las Vegas also lost the turnover battle 2-0, which was likely the difference in the game. One sack and zero turnovers is simply not enough from the defense. The Raiders are still very much in playoff contention, but definitely feel like they are on the fringes of that conversation.
16. Cleveland Browns: 3-1 (Last Week: 19)
Won 49-38 at Dallas
Wow. For a lot of reasons, wow. Cleveland dropped 49 points on Dallas, by far the most in Week 4 and the most by any team so far this season. By the scoreline, this game looks like an old fashion shootout. However, the Browns led 41-14 entering the fourth quarter. The Cowboys cut that lead all the way down to three before Odell Beckham Jr. finally put the game away. Turnovers continue to be the key to Cleveland’s success. It owns a league-best +6 turnover margin through the first four games. There is still some bad news though. Nick Chubb is going to be out for an extended stretch. Thankfully, the Browns have one of the deepest backfields in the league. They will need it heading into a matchup with the Colts.
17. Chicago Bears: 3-1 (Last Week 17)
Lost 19-11 vs. Indianapolis
The Nick Foles era didn’t get off to the best of starts. The veteran quarterback had his own shortcomings, averaging only 5.9 yards per attempt and throwing an interception. He got absolutely no help from his running game though. Chicago averaged a woeful 1.8 yards per carry. It went up against a tough Indianapolis defense, but that level of inefficiency is unacceptable. On the other side of the ball, the defense that Matt Nagy keeps praising needs to step up. One sack and no forced turnovers is not good enough for a team that boasts Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, Roquan Smith, Eddie Jackson and Robert Quinn. The Bears definitely look a lot more like pretenders than contenders after Week 4.
18. Minnesota Vikings: 1-3 (Last Week: 23)
Won 31-23 at Houston
Good to see Minnesota finally get in the win column. The Vikings rode their offensive formula to success: feed Dalvin Cook and don’t ask Kirk Cousins to do too much. Minnesota threw the ball just 22 times in the win, but put up 31 points in the process. Cook rumbled for 130 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries, clearly leading the way for the offense. Not to be overlooked though, Adam Theilen and Justin Jefferson both went over the 100-yard mark as well. This type of big-play attack off play action feels sustainable, even against better competition.
19. Los Angeles Chargers: 1-3 (Last Week: 20)
Lost 38-31 at Tampa Bay
The Chargers looked poised to shock the NFL. Leading 24-7 with halftime closing in, Los Angeles was nearly halfway through what would have been a statement victory. This was only two weeks after the Chargers had nearly knocked off the defending champs after all. Youth and inexperience showed up again though for L.A. Tampa outscored them 31-7 the rest of the way. Losing by seven to the Buccaneers is not a bad result, but the Chargers still have a bitter taste in their mouth. On the bright side, Justin Herbert is continuing to look like a franchise quarterback in just his third NFL start. He needs to step up with Austin Ekeler out for the next four to six weeks.
20. Carolina Panthers: 2-2 (Last Week: 26)
Won 31-21 vs. Arizona
No Christian McCaffrey, no problem! That’s not exactly fair to the reigning Offensive Player of the Year, but Carolina moved to 2-0 without their superstar running back. Teddy Bridgewater tore up the Cardinals defense and the combination of Mike Davis and Reggie Bonnafon continue to do their best to shoulder the load with McCaffrey out. Defensively, the Panthers frustrated Kyler Murray. He might have finished with three touchdown, but he lost a fumbled and managed just 4.3 yards per passing attempt. Turns out Carolina might not be tanking for Trevor Lawrence after all.
21. Philadelphia Eagles: 1-2-1 (Last Week: 24)
Won 25-20 at San Francisco
It wasn’t pretty, but the Eagles earn an all-important win on the road to (somehow) move atop the NFC East. Despite the horrendous start from the Eagles offense this season, it’s almost as if the past three games don’t matter because Philly is back in the driver’s seat in the division. Injuries continue to plague the team, with the offensive line and receiving corps completely banged up. If the Eagles can slowly start to get healthy, specifically getting Lane Johnson, DeSean Jackson and Jason Peters back, this team should have what it takes to reach the postseason in a historically weak NFC East.
22. Miami Dolphins: 1-3 (Last Week: 21)
Lost 31-23 vs. Seattle
Miami hung tough once again with one of the best teams in the NFL. That won’t count for much come the end of the season, but it gives Brian Flores plenty to focus on as he continues to rebuild this roster. The negative side of Ryan Fitzpatrick showed up on Sunday. His two interceptions were likely the difference in the game. A 10-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter was nice, but it was way too late for that to be the only Dolphins drive that resulted in a touchdown. Miami feels really close to breaking through to the next level, but there is still work to be done.
23. Atlanta Falcons: 0-4 (Last Week: 22)
Lost 30-16 at Green Bay
In a nice change of pace, the Falcons never had a lead to blow in a disappointing loss to the Packers. Green Bay looks like one of the best teams in the NFL, but other clubs have had no trouble putting up big numbers on that defense. Atlanta’s offense never really got into gear. Julio Jones left with a hamstring injury. Calvin Ridley was inexplicably held without a catch. Matt Ryan was left turning to former undrafted free agent Olamide Zaccheaus in big moments. The defense was a mess, but it is hard to defend Aaron Rodgers when the entire secondary is injured. Jaylinn Hawkins and Damonate Kazee joined Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen among the many injured Falcons defensive backs. At some point though, Dan Quinn has to be held accountable and his seat is only getting warmer.
24. Dallas Cowboys: 1-3 (Last Week: 16)
Lost 49-38 at Cleveland
Dak Prescott is putting up video game numbers, but yet the Cowboys are a botched onsides kick away from being 0-4. He is currently on pace to shatter the single-season passing record, averaging over 400 yards per game. The issue is, he is almost always playing from behind because of Dallas’ inability to play defense. Prescott dragged the team back into the game and made the final score look somewhat respectable. In the end it was the turnovers (two by Prescott and one by Ezekiel Elliott) that killed the Cowboys’ chances. Given the defensive deficiencies, Mike McCarthy might have to focus more on establishing the run to keep his own defense off the field. There is no question Prescott can dominate through the air, but Dallas is struggling to hang on in these shootouts.
25. Houston Texans: 0-4 (Last Week: 18)
Lost 31-23 vs. Minnesota
The first NFL coach is gone. This was probably two years after it should have happened, but better late than never. I firmly believe that Bill O’Brien the general manager ruined Bill O’Brien the coach. Houston’s roster has a ton of holes, but the team has no cap space and no draft capital. Up until this year, O’Brien had been able to coach up what talent he did have and reach the playoffs each year. His house of cards finally fell though after the Texans dropped their fourth game in a row. Perhaps this will be the shock to the system Houston needs to get going in the right direction, but there is also a good chance that a long rebuild is ahead.
26. Cincinnati Bengals: 1-2-1 (Last Week: 29)
Won 33-25 vs. Jacksonville
Book it! Joe Burrow picked up his first NFL win on October 4, 2020. Maybe one day we will look back on this as the start of a great run for the Bengals. Until then, Burrow could use some help. He benefitted from facing a lifeless Jaguars pass rush and Joe Mixon going back to his Oklahoma days, but the defense still almost blew it. It is unlikely Mixon will rack up 180-plus yards and three touchdowns every week, but it is good to see him step up and complement Burrow in this offense.
27. Detroit Lions: 1-3 (Last Week: 25)
Lost 35-29 vs. New Orleans
After taking a week off from blowing early leads, the Lions got back to doing what they do best. Detroit went up 14-0 quickly against New Orleans and then seemingly went into hibernation for roughly two quarters. When Matt Stafford and company finally woke up, it was 35-14 and the Lions ran out of time to pull off a comeback. Overall, it was another disappointing outing for Matt Patricia’s squad. Detroit has shown it is more than capable of hanging tough with the league’s top teams, but it just can’t seem to do so for 60 minutes.
28. Denver Broncos: 1-3 (Last Week: 27)
Won 37-28 at New York
Despite their best efforts to hand the Jets the game on a silver platter, the Broncos headed back to Denver with their first win of the season. Brett Rypien tossed three interceptions, including a pick-six to keep things interesting. Lucky for him, the defense made Sam Darnold’s life hell, racking up six sacks. Melvin Gordon also came to play, rolling for 107 yards and two touchdowns against a usually stout New York run defense. If Rypien can settled down and avoid committing so many turnovers, Denver should be fine to weather the storm until Drew Lock gets back.
29. Washington: 1-3 (Last Week: 28)
Lost 31-17 vs. Baltimore
Another week of wondering when the Dwayne Haskins experiment is going to end is in the books. The second-year quarterback actually put up some good counting stats with 314 yards passing. However, his 31.5 QBR tells the full story. Washington finished 4-for-13 on third down as well. Unfortunately for Haskins, he is not getting any help from his running game. Washington managed a meager 69 yards rushing on a lowly 3.1 yards per carry. The best way to help a young quarterback is by establishing the run. Until the offense can do that, Haskins is going to continue to struggle.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars: 1-3 (Last Week: 30)
Lost 33-25 at Cincinnati
That Week 1 win over the Colts feels like a long time ago now. Jacksonville once again could not score enough points to keep up with its porous defenese. Gardner Minshew and company once again kept things competitive, but Joe Burrow had all day to throw and Joe Mixon tore the defense to shreds. This was always going to be a rebuilding year for the Jaguars, but I think the front office would like to see a bit more fight on the defensive side of the ball.
31. New York Giants: 0-4 (Last Week: 31)
Lost 17-9 at Los Angeles
While there are those that still question New York’s decision to draft Saquon Barkley second overall in 2018, the former Penn State running back might just be proving his worth from the sidelines. The Giants have not scored a touchdown in either game since Barkley’s injury. Daniel Jones has picked up the slack rushing the ball in a lot of ways because of the lack of proven options at running back. The Giants actually ran the ball fairly well against the Rams, but still seemed to fall apart when they needed a big play. That is Barkley’s specialty.
32. New York Jets: 0-4 (Last Week: 32)
Lost 37-28 vs. Denver
Another week, another disappointing loss. Perhaps more disappointing for all Jets fans is that reports surfaced almost immediately after the loss to the Broncos that the team would not be firing Adam Gase. There were even some rumblings that his job might be safe for the rest of the season. Beyond that being a huge mistake, it is killing the growth of their franchise quarterback. Sam Darnold did everything he could on Thursday night to carry the Jets to a win, but his terrible supporting cast and the horrible play calling from the sidelines once again let him down. New York does not deserve a player as loyal and committed to seeing it succeed as Darnold when it clearly has not shown the same commitment to him. The six sacks he took and sprained AC joint he suffered only serve to highlight the disparity.