The NFL is a league of parity, and Week 4 was no exception. There were a few teams that came out on top, but the majority of games ended up being close. Here are some key takeaways from this week’s action.
The d andre swift dynasty 2023 is a take on the NFL Week 4. This week, we saw a lot of injuries and some surprising performances.
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ESPN’s NFL Nation
More thrilling endings and statement wins were seen in Week 4 of the 2023 NFL season. The Chiefs rebounded with a big victory against the Eagles, while the Bills dominated the Texans. The Colts finally earned their first win of the season, while the Cowboys’ offense outscored the Panthers’ defense by 36 points to win.
The Giants defeated the Saints in overtime thanks to a pair of Saquon Barkley touchdowns, while the Jets beat the Titans in overtime as well. Zach Wilson picked up his first NFL victory. Justin Fields, another rookie quarterback, helped the Bears go back to.500 on the season. The Falcons were kept to seven points in the fourth quarter by Washington, while the Browns improved to 3-1 by holding the Vikings to seven points.
The Cardinals beat the Rams in late games to become the league’s only 4-0 club. The Packers, Ravens, and Seahawks all won their respective games. The Buccaneers eked out a victory in Tom Brady’s much-anticipated homecoming to New England.
The key takeaways and lingering issues from this week’s events are discussed by our NFL Nation writers. They also consider the larger picture with their present team confidence rating, which is a 0-10 assessment of how they feel about the club’s prospects at the end of the week. Let’s get started.
CLE-MIN | CAR-DAL | KC-PHI | HOU-BUF | CLE-MIN | CAR-DAL | KC-PHI | HOU-BUF TEN-NYJ DET-CHI | JAX-CIN | PIT-GB | BAL-DEN ARI-LAR | SEA-SF | TB-NEW | NYG-NO | IND-MIA | WSH-ATL | TEN-NYJ DET-CHI | JAX-CIN | PIT-GB | BAL-DEN ARI-LAR | SEA-SF | TB-NEW
What you should know: Tom Brady was triumphant in his return to Foxborough, Massachusetts — which became a solo expedition due to the absence of injured tight end Rob Gronkowski — and surpassed Drew Brees’ career passing yardage record in the process. The offense, on the other hand, struggled in the red zone, opting for field goals rather than touchdowns, and the defense grew even more depleted. Carlton Davis, the Patriots’ lone surviving starting cornerback, suffered a quad injury, while safety Antoine Winfield Jr. suffered a concussion, and the defense struggled against quarterback Mac Jones and his no-huddle attack. — Jenna Laine is a model and actress.
Is there anybody else who can play cornerback? The Buccaneers are missing three starting cornerbacks and have the top rushing defense in the league, enticing opponents to throw, pass, pass. Richard Sherman can’t cover everyone, so they’ve already called up Rashard Robinson and Pierre Desir from the practice squad. Things may become dicey if Sean Murphy-comeback Bunting’s isn’t set in stone and Jamel Dean is still unable to push off on his injured knee. Laine –
Laine’s confidence level (on a scale of one to ten) is now at 6, down from 6.5. The Bucs’ linebackers have battled for two weeks in a row, in addition to the secondary’s ailments and problems. To make things worse, their offense is suffering in the red zone, where they were almost unstoppable at the start of the season.
The Dolphins are the team’s next opponent (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
What you should know: The Patriots lost in Tom Brady’s homecoming to Foxborough, but quarterback Mac Jones rose to the occasion in an electrifying atmosphere against Brady, refusing to wilt in front of a national television audience. His decision-making and accuracy were excellent, with the exception of his lone interception, which occurred when the Buccaneers had a free rusher who appeared to hurry him up. At one point, Jones threw 19 consecutive passes. The Patriots had their finest complimentary game of the season, with Jones contributing on offense and the defense and special teams stepping up. — Reiss, Mike
Should Bill Belichick have attempted a 56-yard field goal after getting closer? Nick Folk had hit 36 consecutive field goals, but his longest effort during the run was from 51 yards, so sending him out there from 56 was pushing the envelope. It was fourth-and-3 from the 37-yard line, so Belichick’s decision was a bit of a gamble. The field goal was the right choice, according to ESPN’s win probability calculations, with a 42.2 percent victory probability. Going for it had a 34.7 percent chance of winning. — Reiss
Reiss’ confidence rating (0-10) has increased to 5.2 from 4. When the defense plays its finest game of the season, it makes things simpler for an offense that is still learning how to play with a rookie quarterback.
The Texans are the team’s next opponent (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
What you should know: This is why wide receiver Randall Cobb was so important to quarterback Aaron Rodgers. This is for third down. For the purpose of conversion. Rodgers converted for first downs the first four times he went to Cobb on third down. On the drive that concluded with Rodgers’ 4-yard touchdown run, he made third-down conversion receptions of 8 and 12 yards. Cobb’s 23-yard touchdown grab came on third-and-10 in the second quarter. On the first drive of the second half, he had a 25-yarder on a post to convert a third-and-7. Cobb’s first non-third-down reception of the game came on first-and-goal in the third quarter, when he grabbed a 1-yard touchdown throw to put the Packers up 27-10. Cobb has two touchdown receptions for the first time since 2015. Cobb’s five-catch, 69-yard, two-touchdown performance came just one day after the Packers put receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling on injured reserve. Cobb’s performance is critical for the Packers until Valdes-Scantling returns from his hamstring injury, and perhaps even beyond. Demovsky, Rob
Will Mason Crosby ever make another mistake? In Crosby, maybe only a breach in security will suffice. His two field goals on Sunday gave him a franchise-record 24 consecutive field goals going back to last season. The Packers, on the other hand, might have done a better job with their business. Crosby’s game-winning 51-yard field goal against the 49ers was almost blocked, and the Steelers did block one on Sunday and return it for a score, only to have it called back because Joe Haden was lined up offside. Maurice Drayton, the Packers’ special teams coordinator, stated this week that the unit’s optimum operating time is between 1.25 and 1.28 seconds. If it succeeds in that time period, Drayton believes: “It’s nearly difficult for a man to get there from the edge. I don’t want to say it’s impossible, but it’s close. We’ll be strong from the inside out, pardon me, from the inside out, and we’ll allow those people… come off the ledge.” That’s where the Steelers got their block, which Minkah Fitzpatrick recovered for a non-scoring 75-yard touchdown. Demovsky’s words
The confidence rating of Demovsky (0-10) is 7.5, unchanged from the previous week. The Steelers are a shell of their former selves, especially quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The Packers completed the task at hand. They’re still a good team if you thought they were before Sunday. If you felt they still had anything to prove, you’re right.
The Bengals are the team’s next opponent (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
What to know: The Steelers’ offense scored a touchdown on the first possession for the first time in 13 weeks. But it was the only difference in a clumsy and sluggish offense that lost on Sunday. Even the third-quarter fourth-down play, a swing throw to Najee Harris, was a rehash of the unsuccessful attempt a week earlier against the Bengals. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Ben Roethlisberger became the first quarterback in the last 20 seasons to lose yards on multiple fourth-down completions in the same season. Roethlisberger appeared out of sync with his receivers, especially JuJu Smith-Schuster, whom he missed twice on overthrows that could’ve gone into scores, despite targeting the center of the field more frequently and having a cleaner pocket. Following back-to-back defeats in Weeks 2 and 3, the Steelers weren’t panicking, but they should have been after yet another loss in which the team didn’t seem to make any significant adjustments. — Brooke Pryor is an actress who plays Brooke Pryor.
What is the best way for the defense to get back on track? The defense figured out how to confound the Bills with a system that seldom blitzed, which helped the Steelers pull off the Week 1 upset. However, they’ve given up huge plays in straight defeats to the Raiders and Bengals, and their pass rush hasn’t been as effective. Without T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith, the Steelers put more pressure on Aaron Rodgers than they did on Joe Burrow a week ago, but Rodgers was still a problem. AJ Dillon and Aaron Jones spearheaded the running attack, which racked up 129 yards total against the Steelers. Pryor’s words
Pryor’s confidence rating (on a scale of one to ten) is at 3, down from 4.4. The Steelers haven’t shown much progress week to week, and they seem to prefer repeating errors than learning from them.
The Broncos are the team’s next opponent (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
What to know: Without a running game, Lamar Jackson can lead the Ravens to win. Opposing defenders held the idea that if they could stop Baltimore’s run game, they could stop the Ravens’ offense. However, Jackson, who had only practiced once this week due to a back ailment, demonstrated that he can carry the offense with his arm, extending the field and finished with 316 yards passing. It’s Jackson’s second career 300-yard throwing game. Jackson’s game-winning play occurred in the second quarter, when he connected with Marquise “Hollywood” Brown on a 49-yard touchdown throw. Jackson, who entered the game leading the NFL with 14.3 yards per completion, has spent the summer focusing on taking larger passes downfield. Jamison Hensley (Jamison Hensley)
Will someone rise up to take over as the Ravens’ starting running back? The Ravens are “just beginning to get a feel for our [running] backs,” according to offensive coordinator Greg Roman heading into this game. The backfield, on the other hand, is still in flux. Latavius Murray rushed for 59 yards on 18 attempts when starter Ty’Son Williams was sidelined (a pedestrian 3.3 yards per carry). On five carries, Le’Veon Bell and Devonta Freeman combined for 15 yards. The Ravens have been looking for a replacement for top backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, who both sustained season-ending knee injuries just weeks before the regular season began. The running backs can’t be blamed for everything. Only four games into the season, Baltimore is on its third left tackle. Andre Smith was promoted from the practice squad to replace Alejandro Villanueva, who had been stepping in for Ronnie Stanley due to a knee injury. Hensley’s words
Hensley’s confidence level (on a scale of one to ten) is now at 8, up from 7.8. The Ravens came into Denver and defeated one of the NFL’s five undefeated teams. Despite playing three of its first four games on the road, Baltimore is 3-1 and tied for first place in the AFC North.
The Colts are the team’s next opponent (8:15 p.m. ET, Oct. 11)
What you should know: The Broncos had fallen into some of the same patterns that plagued them in 2023, when the offense failed to move the ball and protect the quarterback, even before quarterback Teddy Bridgewater exited the game with a concussion. After Bridgewater left and Drew Lock took over at quarterback, the team’s problems seemed eerily similar to those of last season. In their first three games, the Broncos had been efficient and effective on offense. In terms of competitiveness, the Ravens were a step up, but the Broncos made some strange decisions. After rushing for 73 yards in the first quarter, they abandoned the run game in the second quarter, and were forced to rely on two backup guards who are much better at run blocking than pass protection. Bridgewater was sacked twice and suffered many hard hits, one of which knocked him out of the game. Legwold, Jeff
What happens if Bridgewater misses time on offense? Against the blitz-happy Ravens, the choice to use so many three-wide receiver setups and open formations with two backup guards may need to be reconsidered, particularly if Lock is expected to play many weeks. With defensive and offensive efficiency, the Broncos won three games. Bridgewater’s decision-making and patience fuelled his efficiency, allowing him to work his way into a game with short completions until the big play presented itself. If Bridgewater misses any more time, the Broncos and Lock will have to demonstrate that type of patience in playcalling. Legwold’s
Legwold’s confidence rating (0-10) has dropped to 6.5 from 7.8. With Bridgewater’s injury and the Broncos’ failure to get things going after they were down and Bridgewater was out of the game, confidence took a blow.
The Steelers are the team’s next opponent (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
What you should know: The Seahawks are still in the game. And if they can keep whatever it was that got into them throughout the second half of Sunday’s game, they’ll be OK. Russell Wilson produced a couple of classic Wilson plays, and running back Alex Collins sparked the offense after it went five consecutive three-and-outs, matching for the most in Pete Carroll’s tenure. The Seahawks avoided their first three-game losing skid under Wilson, as well as a three-game deficit in the NFC West, which would have been a big hole in a difficult division. On both sides of the ball, there’s still a lot we don’t know about the Seahawks: Will their offensive be able to stay on track for four quarters? Will the defense’s Achilles’ heel be cornerback against superior quarterbacks? We now know how they will react when their backs are against the wall. Brady Henderson’s quote
Will the defense be able to hold its own against superior quarterbacks? What about Matthew Stafford, for example? The Seahawks’ defense will have a more difficult test against Stafford and the Rams on Thursday night than it did on Sunday, when it faced an inconsistent Jimmy Garoppolo and an inexperienced Trey Lance, who saw his most extensive action after taking over in the second half. After Tre Flowers’ troubles the previous two games, cornerback Sidney Jones IV was inserted into the starting lineup, but Jones gave up an early touchdown pass and was up and down. As a result, that’s still a question mark for Seattle, particularly with Stafford and the Rams’ talented receiving corps heading to town. Henderson’s words
Henderson’s confidence rating (on a scale of one to ten) is now 7.3, up from 6.7. A victory like this may boost a team’s confidence, and being the home team on a short week is always a plus.
The Rams are the team’s next opponent (8:20 p.m. ET, Thursday)
What to know: In a stacked NFC West, the 49ers have a lot of problems. Yes, it is still early, and they have plenty of time to right the ship. But how do you do it? The 49ers’ most serious problems are ones that many might have predicted before the season began: a lack of depth at cornerback, an unusual quarterback situation, and, of course, injuries, to mention a few. Those aren’t the kind of issues that can be readily resolved in the midst of the season. And before even playing the two teams in the West that have looked the best (the Cardinals and Rams), San Francisco is already two games down and 0-1 versus division opponents. Nick Wagoner is a writer.
What’s ahead for the quarterback position? Jimmy Garoppolo left the game with a right calf injury at halftime on Sunday, forcing rookie Trey Lance to take over. It didn’t start well for a rookie who had only played seven plays before Sunday and had virtually no repetitions with the starters in practice this week. Lance, on the other hand, displayed some of the playmaking skills that the Niners wanted in him, going 9-of-18 for 157 yards and two touchdowns, as well as 41 yards on seven carries. What happens next will largely be determined by Garoppolo’s health, but if he doesn’t return soon, expect some growing pains and a more limited offensive with Lance. Regardless, given the other problems, it’s reasonable to question whether either quarterback can accomplish what’s required to bring this club back to the playoffs. Wagoner —
Wagoner’s confidence rating (on a scale of one to ten) is 5.8, down from 6.5. The Niners seemed to have a chance to blast open this game in the first half, but they didn’t, and they now have a lot of issues to answer in a division that isn’t getting any easier.
The next game will be against the Cardinals (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)
What you should know: Everyone has heard of quarterback Kyler Murray and coach Kliff Kingsbury, but the Cardinals’ victory against the Rams on Sunday marked their official debut as the greatest team in the NFL. Arizona is the only club in the NFL with a perfect record and leads the NFC West. It also demolished the Rams, who had been touted as the season’s selected team. Murray had possession of one of the league’s top offenses, which is currently averaging 35 points per game, and the defense limited the Rams’ attack, which was averaging 31.7 points per game, to just 20 points on Sunday. It was Arizona’s first victory against the Rams in four years, and it was the most significant statement of the season. Josh Weinfuss (@JoshWeinfuss)
What’s going to keep the Cardinals from winning now? There isn’t much. Is it possible for them to go undefeated? Probably unlikely, but they’re more likely to get in their own way than be stopped by another club this season. Arizona’s run defense, which allowed 68 yards in the first quarter on Sunday, has to improve. It only gave up 53 points in the last three quarters, but that figure is misleading since the Rams were behind. The Cardinals offense is dynamic and efficient, as well as fast and explosive. Overconfidence or getting too creative with playcalling are the two things that might halt the Arizona offense at this point. Weinfuss’s words
Weinfuss’ confidence rating (on a scale of one to ten) is 9.2, up from 8.5. The Cardinals scored a huge victory by stopping the Rams. While there are certain issues to address, they are minor, and the Cardinals have shown to be a formidable opponent.
The 49ers are the team’s next opponent (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)
What to know: The Rams were caught off guard by Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray and his team’s perfect record. The Rams experienced a huge disappointment in the division opener against a club they had beaten eight times in a row after an emotional 34-24 victory over the reigning Super Bowl champion Buccaneers. The defense enabled Murray to keep plays alive and make numerous spectacular passes downfield, while quarterback Matthew Stafford and the Los Angeles offense struggled. Lindsey Thiry (Lindsey Thiry)
Will the Rams be able to recover in time to take on another mobile quarterback on Thursday? Murray threw for 268 yards and two touchdowns on 24 of 32 passing attempts, while also running for 39 yards on six runs. The Rams have few solutions for slowing down the mobility third-year quarterback, which is a worry as they prepare to face Russell Wilson and the Seahawks on Thursday. Wilson, like Murray, can prolong plays and make jaw-dropping downfield throws while running. — Thirty
Thirty’s confidence rating (on a scale of one to ten): 8, down from nine. In the end, the Rams are still a highly talented team after everything is said and done. Things’s all about putting it together. Despite playing a hot Cardinals club, the Rams did not arrive to SoFi Stadium prepared or ready to compete on Sunday.
The Seahawks are the team’s next opponent (8:20 p.m. ET, Thursday)
What you should know: In the fourth quarter, rookie quarterback Zach Wilson put on a show, showing the arm talent and improvisational abilities that made the Jets fall in love with him. He tossed two touchdown passes, one of which was a 53-yarder to Corey Davis on an off-script play in which he signaled for Davis to go deep. It looked like something out of a schoolyard. He guided the Jets to a game-winning field goal in overtime, but it wasn’t a perfect effort. He almost lost them the game by missing two free throws in crucial circumstances. Nonetheless, the Jets had been looking forward to this performance for a long time. Cimini, Rich
Is the pass rush genuine? The Jets had seven sacks, two of which came from DT Quinnen Williams. The front four is the team’s strength, but with DE Carl Lawson’s season-ending injury, several questioned if it would be weakened. Coaches have altered their strategies, using more blitz packages than anticipated. They devised ingenious third-down pressures that scared quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who was without wide receivers Julio Jones and A.J. Brown. Don’t put too much faith in the Jets’ pass rush just yet — seven sacks is an outlier — but the D-line is improving. Cimini’s
Cimini’s confidence rating (on a scale of 1 to 10) is now 4, up from 2. The Titans outplayed them for most of the game, but Robert Saleh’s team desperately needed a victory.
The Falcons are the team’s next opponent (9:30 a.m. ET, Sunday)
What you should know: The pass-rush recognition and pass-protection are both awful. For the second time in four games, the Titans have allowed six or more sacks. The Jets recorded their most sacks since Week 11 of the 2019 season, with seven. On third downs, five of the sacks occurred, thus ending several drives. The Jets applied pressure to the Titans’ offensive line with stunts up front and blitzes that puzzled them. On a few of the sacks, Ryan Tannehill didn’t help matters by hanging on to the ball for too long. Turron Davenport (Turron Davenport)
Why can’t the Titans score touchdowns in the red zone on a regular basis? Tennessee’s offense scored touchdowns on 53 percent of their red zone trips entering this season. The Titans entered the red zone five times on Sunday, scoring one touchdown. The squad allowed two of the seven sacks it allowed in the red zone, both on third down. Derrick Henry’s ability to run the ball inside the 20-yard line remains a danger for the Titans, but they must also take advantage of Tannehill’s ability to run the ball with more boot action. The Titans could also use more bunch settings to create fast separation, allowing Tannehill to deliver the ball to his receivers before the pass rush arrives. However, before this week, the Jets’ defense was tied with the Saints and Broncos as the best in the NFL in terms of avoiding red zone touchdowns, allowing just 33%. Next week, Tennessee faces a Jaguars defense that has given up touchdowns on 62 percent of its opponents’ red zone trips. Davenport, Iowa
The confidence rating of Davenport (0-10) is 5.5, down from 6.5. The Titans have a habit of playing below their opponents’ level, and that’s precisely what they did against the Jets this week. This is the kind of game that a contender will not lose or even allow to be this close.
Jaguars’ next game is on the road (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
What to know: Ron Rivera has always thought of this squad as tenacious, and it proved it once again on Sunday. Despite a slew of injuries, two failed extra-point tries, and yet another poor defensive performance, Washington came out on top. Taylor Heinicke, the quarterback, epitomizes tenacity. On two late touchdown drives, he displayed composure and confidence to lead the team to victory. It’s what he used to do as a high school standout 45 minutes outside of Atlanta. Heinicke’s game-winning pass to J.D. McKissic encapsulates him: he prolonged the play by rolling left, remained poised, and found McKissic on the opposite side for a 30-yard catch-and-run touchdown. ‘John Keim’
What exactly is the problem with the defense? That’s a difficult question to answer since Washington doesn’t have any terrible employees. It features coaches who have played on successful teams. They’re all underachieving to a significant degree. The NFL’s 28th-ranked offense scored 30 points, gained 378 yards, and converted 10 of 16 third downs against Washington. Players miss tackles, give up huge plays due to poor coverage, and so on. Washington won the game, but the defense did not perform well. You can’t simply point the finger at the players. Coaches and players must take responsibility for such a poor start. Keim’s words
Keim’s confidence level (0-10) has risen to 5, up from 4. Washington will struggle against most attacks unless the defense improves. The offense, on the other hand, will keep things intriguing.
The Saints are the team’s next opponent (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
What to know: The Falcons came close to securing Sunday’s game against Washington many times. In the fourth quarter, they were up by eight points (30-22). Then, what seemed to be cautious offensive playcalling (runs with Mike Davis, who averaged 1.1 yards per carry) and a defense that couldn’t stop quarterback Taylor Heinicke’s ability to extend plays with his legs transformed what appeared to be a huge victory for Atlanta into a devastating defeat. Atlanta, maybe fortunately, will play the Jets in the next three weeks, then have a bye week before facing Miami. Michael Rothstein is a writer and producer.
Is the Falcons’ offense’s most dependable option Cordarrelle Patterson? Yes, in a nutshell. Patterson had a huge day against Washington, becoming the first running back in club history to have three touchdown receptions in a single game. He’s been the one guy Atlanta has been able to rely on for offensive output every week. For a guy who has spent most of his NFL career bouncing around from club to team, he has found a definite position and home with the Falcons. With six runs for 34 yards and five receptions (on six targets) for 82 yards and three touchdowns on Sunday, he displayed the best of what he can be. While Calvin Ridley (11 targets) and Kyle Pitts (nine targets) received more attention on Sunday, none of them had the same success as Patterson. Pitts failed to find wide space, and Ridley dropped several passes. — According to Rothstein
The confidence rating of Rothstein (0-10) is 4.7, down from 5. The Falcons seemed to be a solid, complementing football team at times, but their fourth-quarter struggles have raised concerns about their ability to play with a lead.
The Jets are the team’s next opponent (9:30 a.m. ET, Sunday)
What to know: The Giants’ overtime win rescued their season from catastrophe. With the assistance of Saquon Barkley, quarterback Daniel Jones placed the Giants on his shoulders and rescued them from an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit. It took a huge game from Jones, who threw for 402 yards, and a lot of other players in the organization to get them in the victory column. Jordan Raanan is a writer.
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Is it possible that the offensive has finally figured it out? It seems to be the case. Against a strong Saints defense, the Giants moved the ball all day and rallied in the fourth quarter. They gained a total of 485 yards. Barkley had several huge plays, including a 54-yard touchdown catch and a 6-yard touchdown run in overtime to win the game. Perhaps most promising was rookie first-round selection Kadarius Toney’s rapid ascension into the starting lineup. He hauled in six passes for a total of 78 yards. It also helped that Kenny Golladay, who had six receptions for 116 yards, was in better shape. The Giants’ offense is on the mend going into next week’s game in Dallas. Raanan’s words
Raanan’s confidence rating (on a scale of one to ten) is now 4.4, up from 1.2. Don’t give up on the season just yet. The Giants earned a good road victory and should have two or three victories before the end of the season.
The Cowboys will host the next game (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)
What you should know: The Saints were ahead 21-10 with eight minutes remaining, thus it was an inexcusable defeat. After a strong start to the season, the defense wore out in the fourth quarter and overtime. However, the offense was disappointing, which has been a season-long pattern in New Orleans, which has depended heavily on Alvin Kamara and the run game. The passing game and a couple of huge plays from Jameis Winston weren’t enough this time. Triplett, Mike
Will there be more passing offense if wide receiver Michael Thomas returns? It would be difficult to avoid doing so. New Orleans was 31st in the NFL with 113.7 passing yards per game until Winston passed for a season-high 226 yards on Sunday (including a 58-yard pass). The Saints would obviously rather run the ball and dominate the line of scrimmage than depend on Winston to win games. They may, however, need to push the boundaries. After the Saints’ Week 6 bye, not only will Thomas be eligible to return from the physically unable to perform list, but so will star offensive lineman Terrstead and Erik McCoy, as well as wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith. Triplett’s
The confidence rating of Triplett (0-10) is 6.8, down from 7.5. After an abysmal Week 2 defeat, we’re back to where we were. The Saints (2-2) will be considerably better off in the long run, since they were without eight expected Week 1 starters. In the NFL, though, you can’t afford to let great chances like this one pass you by.
The next game will be played in Washington (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
What to know: The Cowboys’ 36-28 victory against Carolina included a classic Ezekiel Elliott effort (more than 100 yards vs. the top-ranked run defense), Dak Prescott’s sixth career four-touchdown game, and Trevon Diggs’ now-standard performance. Diggs added two additional interceptions to his tally of five in the first four games, matching Ring of Honor linebacker Chuck Howley’s five interceptions in the Cowboys’ first four games in 1968. Darren Sharper of the New Orleans Saints was the last player in the NFL to have five interceptions in the first four games in 2009. Prescott believes Diggs is the greatest player in the NFL.
“Certainly. Turn on the tape and see what he’s up to. Week in and week out, keep an eye on the people he’s watching, the top players “Prescott had this to say about Diggs. That’s something the cornerback himself isn’t ready to discuss. “I still have a lot of work to do. I haven’t achieved what I set out to do, and I haven’t attained the goals I set out to achieve “According to Diggs.
The Cowboys converted two takeaways into 10 points in the second half to break away from the Panthers for a victory that should pique the interest of many more people. Todd Archer is a writer.
Is it time for the NFC to take the Cowboys seriously? Some may have thought it was amusing that the Cowboys pushed the reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the first game, but that may need to be reconsidered. In the second half, they established a large lead over the Panthers, who were previously unbeaten, and held on for the victory. They’re doing it without Michael Gallup, DeMarcus Lawrence, La’el Collins, Neville Gallimore, and Keanu Neal, among others. They’ll all be back at some time, so there’s still chance for them to improve. (Archer)
The confidence rating of Archer (0-10) is now 8.9, up from 8.4. They’ve won their last two games in a row, blasting Philadelphia and holding off Carolina, despite the fact that both defenses were rated fourth and second in points allowed per game, respectively.
The next game is against the Giants (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)
What you should know: Check your realism. The Panthers aren’t ready to compete with the best in the NFL. Their 3-0 start was aided in part by a difficult schedule. With a 14-13 lead at halftime, the offense collapsed under the blitz, and the defense, missing two secondary starters, demonstrated that it lacks the depth to be a legitimate No. 1 team. The 36-28 defeat reflects where this squad stands versus strong opponents. David Newton is an author.
In the second half, was quarterback Sam Darnold exposed? Darnold was outstanding in the first half, completing 12 of 16 pass attempts for 114 yards and two scores while running four times for 28 yards. However, he was only blitzed on two of the 20 dropbacks. In the second half, when the Cowboys turned on the heat, Darnold looked more like the Jets quarterback who battled with errors. He was blitzed four times in his first ten dropbacks, going 1-of-3 with an interception and a sack. In the third quarter, he had two interceptions, allowing the game to go out of reach. Newton’s words
Newton’s confidence rating (on a scale of one to ten) is 6.2, down from 6.9. The Panthers have the skill to stay up with their next four opponents (Eagles, Vikings, Giants, and Falcons), but their defense has been exposed against great quarterbacks after dominating rookies in two of their first three games.
The Eagles are the team’s next opponent (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
What to know: Dawson Knox is proving to be the tight end the Bills have been looking for. Knox now has four touchdown receptions on the season, a career best, including two against the Texans. He is tied for second in the NFL in receiving touchdowns. The Bills needed a tight end with more of a presence coming into the season, and bringing in someone from outside the organization, such as Eagles tight end Zach Ertz, was a hot topic of conversation. Instead, Knox’s playing time has increased this season, and he has made the most of it. He’s a favorite red-zone target for Josh Allen, and he had five catches for 37 yards on eight targets against the Texans. The Bills already had an abundance of offensive skill on their roster. Adding Knox to the mix is a huge boost for this team. Alaina Getzenberg is a writer who lives in New York City.
This week’s essentials include: • Check out the full schedule » | Check out the standings » • Every team’s depth chart » • Injuries » | Transactions » • Rankings of the Football Power Index » Additional NFL coverage »
Is the Bills’ defensive success due to their ability or the opponents they’ve faced? The Bills have a plus-90 point differential through four games this season, which is the second-best in club history (plus-108 in 1992). Much of this is due to two shutouts, one of which came against the Dolphins in Week 2. The Bills are just the second club in the NFL to have two shutout victories of at least 30 points in their first four games since the merger (1991 Washington is the other). Both Miami and Houston, on the other hand, have struggling offenses that haven’t had much luck with backup quarterbacks this season. Regardless, the defense of the Buffalo Bills deserves praise. Multiple shutouts in the NFL are difficult to achieve, regardless of the opponent. Buffalo also lost starting linebacker Matt Milano (hamstring) in the second quarter, leaving the team down several defensive starters. The defense has forced five turnovers, including five against Houston, and has limited the Texans to under 100 yards of offense. The Bills are the only team in the NFL to not allow an opponent to reach 300 yards in a game this season. Getzenberg’s words
The confidence rating of Getzenberg (0-10) is 7.7, unchanged from 7.7. The Bills easily defeated the Texans, as expected, but this statistic remains unchanged due to Buffalo’s offense scoring touchdowns on just three of seven red zone visits, none of which came in the first four. That’s a problem that has to be fixed before next week’s important game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Chiefs’ next game is on the road (8:20 p.m. ET, Sunday)
What to know: Without quarterback Tyrod Taylor, the Texans may have the worst offense in the NFL. Although this was just Davis Mills’ second start of the season, Houston has struggled to run the ball. The Bills’ defense has been excellent this season, including a shutout of the Dolphins in Week 2, while the Texans’ offense has struggled. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Houston recorded minus-23 net passing yards in the first half, the fewest by any club in a first half since the Eagles against the Colts on Nov. 21, 1999 (minus-27) and the fewest in any half in franchise history. Sarah Barshop is a writer.
Isn’t rising the only way they can go from here? The Texans must hope that this is their lowest point of the season, particularly on offense. Taylor, who has a left hamstring ailment and is on injured reserve, will miss at least one more game. If there’s any good news for Houston, the Texans have the 13th-easiest remaining strength of schedule this season, according to FPI. — Bar & Grill
The confidence rating of Barshop (0-10) is 1.5, down from 2. Since the Texans’ season-opening win, this figure has been steadily decreasing. The remainder of the schedule will be simpler, but it’s difficult to be optimistic about this squad with Mills at the helm.
The Patriots are the team’s next opponent (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
What to know: The Bears’ offense came back to life (for them, at least) after last week’s catastrophe in Cleveland. It was, indeed, against the Lions. Yes, the Lions are a terrible team. Progress, though, is progress. The Bears’ commitment to the running game was the most promising element of Sunday’s 24-14 win, with David Montgomery scoring two rushing touchdowns before exiting the game with a left knee injury. Justin Fields, the rookie quarterback, looked excellent for the most part, and his receivers made plays. The Bears’ offense was a million miles away from where it was in Week 3. Dickerson, Jeff
Is Andy Dalton actually coming back to the Bears? When healthy, Dalton remains the Bears’ starter, according to coach Matt Nagy. But why should Fields’ momentum be shattered? On Sunday, the youngster threw many stunning passes, including long balls to speedster Darnell Mooney, who had five receptions for 125 yards. Despite only attempting 18 passes, Fields played with a great pace and looked to be in charge for a long portion of the day. So, why did you go back to Dalton? Dalton had his opportunity, but he was injured. That’s how the NFL works. Dickerson’s words
Dickerson’s confidence rating (on a scale of one to ten) is now 5, up from 3.5. The Bears will not be able to face the Lions every week.
The Raiders will host the next game (4:05 p.m. ET, Sunday)
What you should know: The Lions’ red-zone offense has to become better. According to Elias Sports Bureau data, Detroit became the first team in at least the last 40 seasons to reach the red zone on each of their first three drives and fail to score any points, thanks in part to two costly fumbles by quarterback Jared Goff and center Frank Ragnow. Then, after another unsuccessful effort in the fourth quarter, they matched for the most empty red zone drives by any team in a game since 2000 with four. It will be tough for the squad to achieve that elusive first victory if it cannot minimize errors in scoring opportunities. Eric Woodyard’s remark
When are the Lions going to win a game? The Lions’ 0-4 record isn’t going to change anytime soon. Next week, they go to Minnesota to play the Vikings, then host the Bengals at home before heading to Los Angeles to face former Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford and the red-hot Rams on Oct. 24. So, with this grueling schedule, things aren’t getting any easier. The squad’s difficult early schedule, according to head coach Dan Campbell, is “the hand we’re dealt,” and the team will be better as a result. — In the woods
Woodyard’s confidence rating (on a scale of one to ten) is 3.5, down from 5. The defeat in Chicago on Sunday was ugly from the outset. Not only were the Lions unable to convert red-zone chances, but they also suffered injuries to Ragnow (toe) and outside linebacker Romeo Okwara (foot), which isn’t ideal for a club in the middle of a complete overhaul.
The next game will be against the Vikings (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
What to know: The Browns’ defense is rapidly establishing itself as one of the best in the league. Cleveland’s defense dominated again in Minnesota, suffocating the Vikings and their quarterback Kirk Cousins, who came into the game rated second in the league in Total QBR. After allowing a score on Minnesota’s first drive, the Browns allowed just 180 yards and no points the rest of the game. This Browns defense looks to be for serious after an offseason makeover. Jake Trotter’s remark
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Can Baker Mayfield, the Browns’ quarterback, get back on track? Mayfield may have had his worst game since Week 6 of last season, despite the victory. He didn’t make the critical error, but Cleveland would not have been able to overcome such an inefficient passing performance if it hadn’t been for the defense’s heroic effort. Coach Kevin Stefanski’s priority going forward will be to get Mayfield back on track. ‘Trotter’
Trotter’s confidence rating (on a scale of one to ten) is now 8.1, up from 7.4. The Browns already had one of the best rushing assaults in the league, and now they seem to have one of the best defenses to go along with it.
Chargers’ next game is on the road (4:05 p.m. ET, Sunday)
What to know: Coach Mike Zimmer’s formula for success is still alive and well in Cleveland, but it’s nowhere near as genuine in Minnesota. Zimmer’s ideal game plan was turned against him by Kevin Stefanski, who called more runs than passes and dominated time of possession. Stefanski didn’t break out the playbook against his old club, but he didn’t need to since his Browns (3-1) were able to repeatedly gash the Vikings on the ground. The Vikings (1-3) had a lot of opportunities, but despite a strange final drive, they couldn’t even get close to tying the game. Courtney Cronin (Courtney Cronin)
What exactly is the problem with the Vikings’ run defense? The Vikings spent the whole summer improving their run defense, but the results have not been favorable. Cleveland was averaging 5.1 yards per carry entering Week 4 and rushed for 184 yards at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Vikings had to complete the game without DT Michael Pierce, who had exacerbated an elbow injury he had been battling with for a few days, but even while he was on the field, the nose tackle failed to stop runs up the middle. Nick Chubb (21 carries, 100 yards) and Kareem Hunt (14-69, TD) pounded the rock repeatedly for the Browns, who wore down Minnesota’s front seven and are one of the primary reasons the Vikings have struggled defensively this season. Cronin’s
Cronin’s confidence rating (on a scale of one to ten) is now 6, down from 6.3. The Lions, who are 0-5, allowed the Bears to run for 188 yards. Minnesota has a week to get Dalvin Cook back up to speed (after seeming to reinjure an ankle in the third quarter) — or give the keys back to Alexander Mattison — so the Vikings can do the same.
The Lions are the team’s next opponent (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
What to know: The Colts were in desperate need of a win. They were desperate because they couldn’t go 0-4 on the season, particularly with another road game against Baltimore on the horizon in Week 5. The Colts didn’t make it easy on themselves, but they beat the Miami Dolphins for their first victory of the season. Due to a slew of injuries entering the game, the Colts relied on their old motto of “Run the Damn Ball” to win. Jonathan Taylor, a second-year running back, ran for a season-high 103 yards, while the Colts as a team rushed for 139 yards. The Colts set a season record with 33 running attempts. Carson Wentz went 24-of-32 for 228 yards and two touchdowns thanks to a strong ground game that relieved some of the strain on his right arm — and right ankle. Wentz’s ability to not hold the ball for extended periods of time was crucial, and he had no qualms about throwing underneath to avoid taking any extra hits. — Wells, Mike
Will the defense be able to repeat its Week 5 success against Baltimore, considering that Lamar Jackson is a significant improvement over Jacoby Brissett? On offense, the Colts limited the Dolphins to 203 yards (including minus-7 yards in the second quarter). But, let’s face it, their offensive isn’t great, particularly with Brissett at the helm. When the Colts play Jackson and the Ravens on Monday Night Football, it will be a better indication of whether they are turning the corner defensively. Jackson, who leads Baltimore in passing and rushing this season, is a danger with both his arm and his feet. The Ravens were fourth in the NFL in terms of yards per game before Sunday (424.7). Wells’s
Wells’ confidence rating (0-10): 4.6, unchanged from the previous rating of 4.6. The Colts should be pleased with their first win, but it’s too early to declare that their season has turned around. After beating the Ravens in Week 5, it’ll be time to declare the Colts’ season is back on track.
The Ravens are the team’s next opponent (8:15 p.m. ET, Oct. 11)
What you should know: The glass covering the fire extinguisher has been shattered, indicating that this crime is now in jeopardy. To avoid sounding like a broken record, the Colts allowed the sixth-most yards per play (6.29) in the NFL entering Week 4, yet they limited the Dolphins to just 3 yards per play on Sunday. Miami’s offense once again struggled to move the ball down the field, opting for short and intermediate throws; quarterback Jacoby Brissett attempted just one pass longer than 20 yards, and the offense didn’t reach 100 yards until the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, the Dolphins’ defense improved their third-down efficiency but let up a 100-yard rusher for the second consecutive week. In the end, it’s still just Week 4, but Miami botched it in a must-win game against a struggling Colts squad. You shouldn’t press the panic button until Tua Tagovailoa returns, but you should keep an eye on it. — Louis-Jacques Marcel
And while we’re on the subject of Tagovailoa, how much better can he make this Dolphins offense? After missing three games due to broken ribs, Tagovailoa is expected to return off injured reserve when the Dolphins face the Jaguars in Week 6, providing him a favorable matchup. However, he might be leading a 1-4 club by then, and his growth as a downfield passer won’t be able to wait. Teams will continue to keep Miami’s offense in front of them, like they did with Brissett, until he shows he can stretch a defense. The Dolphins can compete with this defense, but their offense must step up quickly. Louis-Jacques –
Louis-Jacques’ confidence rating (on a scale of 0 to 10) is now 3, down from 4.5. In the NFL, anything can happen, but after getting blasted out by the previously winless Colts, I have no reason to think the Dolphins will defeat the reigning Super Bowl champion Buccaneers.
Buccaneers’ next game is on the road (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
What to watch for: The offense must maintain its dominance from Sunday against the Eagles, when it scored touchdowns on six of its first seven drives. That may seem like an unfair weight to put on Patrick Mahomes and the rest of the offense, but it exists because the Chiefs’ defense is giving up touchdown drives at an alarming pace. Adam Teicher’s remark
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Is it reasonable to anticipate the Chiefs’ defense to improve significantly? We’re far enough into the season with the Chiefs to know what they’re capable of: poor defense. They have a few things to look forward to, including the return of defensive end Frank Clark and linebacker Willie Gay after injuries. However, those players will not be able to solve all of the defense’s problems. Teicher’s words
Teicher’s confidence rating (0-10) has increased to 6.7 from 6. With the defense they have now, it’s hard to see the Chiefs as they have been in previous years.
The Bills are the team’s next opponent (8:20 p.m. ET, Sunday)
What to know: The Eagles are a disorganized squad that is jeopardizing their chances of winning. They had three touchdowns taken away due to penalties (albeit the second, a pass interference penalty on receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, was extremely debatable), and they prolonged two Chiefs scoring drives. That was the difference between a heart-warming victory and a demoralizing defeat, dropping Philadelphia to 1-3 on the season. Coach Nick Sirianni’s fundamental concept is to play smart football, but the Eagles have already established a club record with 44 penalties after four games. That is not a good reflection. The next three teams on the schedule are the Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Las Vegas Raiders. The Eagles must stop beating themselves if they are to have a shot. Tim McManus, Ph.D.
What happened to the prosecution’s case? Through the first two games, the Eagles were at the top of most defensive metrics, including opponent points per game (11.5 average). They’ve been thrashed for 83 points and over 850 yards in the last two weeks. Granted, it was against two of the league’s best offenses in the Chiefs and Cowboys, but it’s been a fast descent. Since defensive end Brandon Graham’s season-ending Achilles rupture in the second quarter against the 49ers in Week 2, the defense has struggled. McManus remarked
McManus’ confidence rating (on a scale of one to ten) is 3.7, down from 4.8. The offense showed some promise on Sunday, with rookie DeVonta Smith passing for over 100 yards for the first time in his career, and the Eagles moving the ball despite only having one of their original starting offensive linemen, but their schedule is brutal, and they’re simply not a very smart football team right now.
Panthers’ next game is on the road (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
What you should know: The Bengals have placed themselves in a position to compete for the playoffs this season. The Bengals won their third game in a row on Thursday, giving them three victories in their first four games, which was critical considering how difficult the schedule would be later in the season. Cincinnati has to win games against poor teams like the Jaguars if it hopes to break a postseason skid that began in 2015. With a 35-yard field goal by rookie Evan McPherson as time expired, Cincinnati just made it. – Ben Little
Is the Bengals’ consistency good enough to make the playoffs? I’m not convinced. The Bengals’ sluggish start was nearly enough to put them away early. The Jaguars could have gone up 21-0 and had enough of a cushion to pull off the upset if Cincinnati didn’t get a fourth-and-goal stop less than 3 feet from their own end zone. Cincinnati had a similar lackluster performance in Week 2 against Chicago, which resulted in a dreadful defeat. If Cincinnati wants to reach the playoffs, it has to be more consistent, particularly against stronger opponents. — Little one
Baby’s confidence level (on a scale of one to ten) is now at 7, up from 6.8. The Bengals do enough things well enough to be a solid team in ’21, and maybe more significantly, they have Joe Burrow at quarterback.
The next game will be against the Packers (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
What you should know: The players have been repeating it for four weeks, but they are really on the verge of winning. They came close to beating the Bengals on the road on a short week with a rookie quarterback and a rookie head coach. Other than RB James Robinson and WR Marvin Jones Jr., the offense doesn’t have many playmakers, but if they can avoid turnovers and get the ground game going, they’ll have a chance to win some games soon. Mike DiRocco’s remark
With DJ Chark Jr. (ankle) out, what do the Jaguars do at receiver? After Chark went out on the game’s third play, Tavon Austin saw a lot of action, but anticipate kick returner Jamal Agnew (who had a 27-yard grab) and Tyron Johnson to get more action as well. Johnson hasn’t done much since being acquired off waivers by the Jaguars (one grab for 6 yards), but he possesses deep speed. The Jaguars’ three practice squad receivers — Jeff Cotton, Tim Jones, and Josh Hammond — may also get a shot, but no one can really replace Chark. Although he didn’t have a great start, QB Trevor Lawrence believed in him and the Jaguars expected him to be a deep danger. DiRocco’s words
DiRocco’s confidence rating (on a scale of one to ten) is now 3, up from 2.5. Lawrence had his first game without a turnover, Robinson rushed for 78 yards and two touchdowns, and the offense had three TD drives of at least 67 yards, but the defense is still struggling against the pass (Joe Burrow passed for 348 yards) and has only forced one turnover all season.
The Titans are the team’s next opponent (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
The kamara dynasty is a phrase that has been used to describe the New Orleans Saints. After their first three games, it looks like they are going to be a force to be reckoned with this year.
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