We’re back, people. Your weekly look-around the NFL for the best performances, worst chokes, and most questionable prognostications. If I didn’t mention your team this week, no worries. Good, bad, or meh, I’ll be getting to everyone in due time.
NFL Week 4
1.Vontaze Burfict is still doing Vontaze Burfict things…
The sun rises in the East and sets in the West. Pizza is delicious. And Vontaze Burfict is simply incapable of playing football without getting suspended for dangerous conduct. The former Bengals star was four games into his tenure as a Raider when he lowered his helmet to hit Colts TE Jack Doyle crown to crown. Because of his history of dirty hits (eleven suspensions, ten games missed), Burfict was hit with an unprecedented disciplinary action: twelve games. It’s the longest suspension in league history for an on-the-field play. It could also be longer. Should the Raiders make the postseason, he won’t be allowed to join them.
2. The Jaguars might win the AFC South
O.K. Bear with me now. The Jags are 2-2. They’ve got Jalen Ramsey trying to leave the reservation. But they’ve won two straight including a huge divisional win over Tennessee. And rookie QB (and Uncle Rico clone) Gardner Minshew is doing some crazy things. He’s completing just under 70% of his passes and boasts 7TDs to only one interception. That’s a tie with some guy named Tom Brady. They boast the league’s sixth-best rushing offense, behind the leagues third-leading rusher, Leonard Fournette. Who, by the way, is averaging 5.6 yards per carry, two yards per attempt more than his career average. The division is in the air, with everyone at 2-2. So why not the Jags? Minshew is listed with a knee injury on the Jags mid-week report. If he goes down, I’m pretty sure they’ll end up giving the ball to the real Uncle Rico.
3. Kirk Cousins is sorry. And apologetic, too
The disfunction in Minnesota is sad to see, really. Adam Thielen (very rightly) called out his signal caller for missing wide-open passes and making poor choices in the pocket. After watching the tape, Cousins agreed. He had totally missed Thielen wide open in the flat. That play alone cost the Vikings six points. The QB was also sacked six times for over fifty yards and two fumbles and zero, count them zero TDs in the 6-16 loss to the Bears. That contract is looking worse and worse by the minute.
4. Washington has a QB controversy
It’s Wednesday, and as of press time, Washington hasn’t named a starter for next week’s game against the Patriots. Maybe this is a savvy move by Jay Gruden to keep Bill Belichick from preparing properly ahead of the matchup, but I think it’s simpler than that. I think the fans and owners want to see Dwayne Haskins (me, too, for the record) especially after seeing Daniel Jones resuscitate the Giants. Gruden probably wants to protect the young guy. At least until after that New England game. We all know what the Hoodie does to rookie signal callers.
5. New England can win ugly
The Pats week four win at Buffalo is exactly the sort of thing that makes Patriot fans (and talking heads on TV) go crazy. Tom Brady was held to 150 yards on 18/39 passing, zero TDs and an interception in the win. The reason is simple. The Bills defense is good. Really good. The only team that has allowed fewer points and yards per game than the Bills is New England. And THAT is the story. New England’s defense was just on another level on Sunday afternoon, hauling in four interceptions and sacking Buffalo QBs five times. It wasn’t pretty for the defending champs, but a win is a win, and this is a game that they could easily have lost. They will need to do some scrambling though, as placekicker Stephen Gostkowski was placed on the injured reserve list and headed for hip surgery after missing four extra points in as many weeks. We hear Carli Lloyd has a boot.
6. The AFC North is a mess
The Browns may have figured out what was ailing them. The Ravens may have come apart at the seams. We just don’t know yet. Cleveland came out swinging. Literally. It’s wild that no one was suspended in the wake of the fracas between OBJ the Ravens Marlon Humphrey who (maybe, or not) choked the Browns new deep threat. The Browns are looking realer by the minute, winning their first divisional road game since 2008. One of those 2-2 teams will win the division. There’s no doubt. The Steelers and Bengals on the other hand are squarely in tank mode and are looking for top five picks in next year’s draft.
7. The Eagles might make things interesting
If (and this is a big “if”) Carson Wentz can stay on the field. A big win over Green Bay in which they bullied the Packers is a clear indication that the Eagles plan to contend in the NFC East. That Eagles defensive front is as good as anyone. They’re the fourth-best defense against the run, holding opposing rushers to only 62YPG. That week 7 matchup with Dallas looms large.
8. The Saints are the best team in the NFC
The Saints have beaten two consecutive playoff teams in Dallas and Seattle…without Drew Brees. Yes, Tedy Bridgewater has thrown for 100 or so fewer yards per game. Yes, he’s averaging over a yard less per pass attempt. Yes, he’s converting far fewer third downs. But he’s doing way more than any backup can be realistically expected to do. He’s beating tough conference opponents. The Saints will be without Brees until after week nine. I expected Bridgewater to keep them in the mix by winning three of the six matchups. He’s now two for two against the two toughest opponents. If the Saints win five of six in this stretch without Brees, they are the team to beat in the NFC, and nothing will convince me otherwise.
9. The NFC West is the most exciting division in football
Why? Put simply, the Rams have come back to earth a little bit, but they’re
still 3-1, tied with the Seahawks. San Francisco (3-0) was on an early bye week, but they’ll get a real test in week five against the rejuvenated Browns. This is a division where three teams might win ten games. Unless they cut each other to ribbons as the season wears on, expect to see one or more of these teams make a deep playoff run.
10. Will the real Cleveland Browns please stand up?
Are the Browns the team that just stifled Baltimore’s gaudy offense and ran all over it’s tough, run-stopping defense? Or are they the cats that got demolished by the Titans in week one? They’re atop the AFC North at 2-2 on the strength of that win over the Ravens, but they’re still sporting a negative point differential. I still think a .500 season would be a great improvement for the Browns, so don’t be surprised if they don’t upset the applecart against an undefeated San Francisco team.
For more NFL content, click here.
Image Source: AP Images