Following the trend of last weekend, NFL Week 4 was chock full of unforeseen events that made watching the games rather entertaining.
Who saw the Jets winning their second straight game? What about the huge AFC South game between the Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans? Did anyone have a clue that Tennessee would get blown out by more than six touchdowns? We sure didn’t.
The season’s second London game wasn’t nearly as entertaining as the first, though it did provide some fodder for us journalistic types. There is a whole lot more to dissect with just one game remaining on Monday night.
Here are the biggest winners from NFL Week 4.
Winner: Deshaun Watson is a boss
One week removed from nearly out-dueling the GOAT, Tom Brady, Deshaun Watson flexed his muscles in a big way at home against the Tennessee Titans. Watson threw four touchdowns and ran in another, leading the way in a 57-14 blowout win that we won’t soon forget. We can talk about Tennessee’s defense getting owned, but in all honesty the big story is just how darn good Watson has already become. With his performance Sunday, he did something only the great Fran Tarkenton has ever done as a rookie.
Perhaps the happiest man in Houston is DeAndre Hopkins, who has become Watson’s favorite target. The Clemson product hauled in 10 catches for 107 yards and one of Watson’s four touchdown passes. Since Watson took over on a permanent basis in Week 2, Hopkins has caught 24 of 33 targets for 256 yards and a touchdown. Adding to the fun, Will Fuller is back in action (two touchdowns Sunday), and suddenly Houston’s offense is one that opposing defenses must fear in a big way.
Loser: London jet lag stays with Joe Flacco
Flacco had the worst game of his professional career last weekend in London. He wasn’t quite as bad at home Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he continued to struggle nevertheless. The Ravens don’t have the best running game, so it’s not surprising that Flacco had to throw the ball 49 times. But he only managed 235 yards passing, averaging 4.8 yards per attempt. Worse still, Flacco threw two interceptions, the second of which turned into seven points for the Steelers late in the fourth quarter, sealing Baltimore’s fate.
The past two games, Flacco has completed just 58.2 percent of his passes, has averaged 3.93 yards per attempt while throwing one touchdown and four interceptions. Yikes.
Winner: Bengals get off the schneid
Playing the Cleveland Browns is still a cure-all for NFL teams these days. Just ask the Cincinnati Bengals, who won their first game Sunday on the road in Cleveland, where there weren’t many fans watching the game (look).
We’ll get to the Browns’ woes in a bit. Cincinnati did a fine job capitalizing on its opportunity against a bad team. Particularly, embattled quarterback Andy Dalton took advantage of Cleveland’s ailing secondary, completing all but five of his 30 attempts for 286 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. Running back Giovani Bernard had a huge play in the game, taking a screen pass 61 yards to pay dirt (watch here). Reserve tight end Tyler Kroft caught two touchdowns and A.J. Green reeled in the other.
Cincinnati’s defense ate, too. The Browns were helpless to do anything positive offensively until garbage time as the Bengals rolled, 31-7.
Loser: Smokin’ Jay Cutler makes an appearance
Cutler was pretty awful last weekend against the New York Jets. But on Sunday in London, he took things to another level. Let it be known that Miami’s opponent, the New Orleans Saints, entered Week 4 with the second-worst total defense in the NFL. Yet Cutler was unable to generate a single scoring drive against them.
It all started on the first offensive possession. Cutler led the Dolphins down the field and into the red zone. Then he threw an awful interception on a fade route to tight end Julius Thomas. Making matters worse, he was the world’s worst decoy on a Wildcat running play earlier in the drive, prompting social media to give him the meme treatment in a major way.
Cutler finished the game with some pretty mediocre stats, minus the interception. He completed 20-of-28 passes for 164 yards, or essentially half of what the Saints allowed on average the first three games. It was so bad that a former teammate tweeted out a message saying he thinks the Dolphins will end up benching Cutler for Matt Moore. Head coach Adam Gase slapped that idea aside in his post-game presser, but a few more of these types of games will change his mind.
Winner: Jared Goff, Todd Gurley continue to amaze
Todd Gurley’s fantasy football owners are ecstatic these days. The running back has become a do-it-all star, and he was the difference Sunday as the Rams took down the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Texas. Gurley finished the game with 215 total yards and two touchdowns — one rushing and one receiving. When the game was on the line late and the Rams needed to burn clock, Los Angeles’ offense became the Todd Gurley show.
The running back wasn’t the only star for the Rams, though. Jared Goff, who has taken to Sean McVay’s offense like a fish takes to water. He passed for 255 yards, throwing two touchdowns while staying turnover free. The Rams are averaging 35.5 points per game this year and lead the NFC West with a 3-1 record heading into the second quarter of the season.
Loser: Jaguars stink up the joint
What did the Jacksonville Jaguars do one week after crushing the life out of the Baltimore Ravens? Why, they laid a fresh turd on the field of MetLife Stadium, of course. We knew it was going to be a different kind of day as soon as Bilal Powell romped into the end zone for a 75-yard rushing touchdown … after he had hit the turf. No Jaguars defender saw fit to touch Powell down, and he took full advantage of the second chance (watch here).
New York ended up rushing for 256 yards and two scores. If not for a ridiculous call by offensive coordinator John Morton late in the fourth quarter, overtime would have never happened. He called for a backwards pass as the Jets were closing in on a score, up by three with just over three minutes left on the clock. Myles Jack ended up taking the impending fumble recovery 82 yards for a score. That play, and Blake Bortles trucking a Jets defender, were the only real highlights aside from Leonard Fournette’s first receiving touchdown. The rest of the game can be thrown into the waste bin where it belongs.
Winner: Legion of Boom puts poor Colts to shame
Let’s give Jacoby Brissett plenty of credit. He made the game fun for the first half and gave us hope we might see an entertaining finish. He played with grit and without fear, but Seattle’s defense woke up in the second half and took the game over. Justin Coleman took a bad Brissett pass to the house on a pick-six, and then Bobby Wagner mopped up following a Marcus Smith II sack-strip, taking the fumble back for six points.
In total, the Seahawks hit Brissett 11 times and tallied three sacks. They held Colts running backs to 65 yards on 22 carries. The Colts scored 15 points in the first half and managed just three more the rest of the way. It was a valiant effort by Brissett and Co. They just didn’t have nearly enough firepower to sustain the attack for four quarters.
Given the inconsistencies on Seattle’s offense, and the problems up front on the offensive line, defense will have to be the strength of the team going forward. After getting blown out last weekend by Tennessee, these guys got back on the right track Sunday night.
Loser: Matt Ryan throws game away at home against Bills
Plenty of credit goes to Buffalo for winning this game on the road in Atlanta. We’ll get to that in a bit. First, let’s discuss how awful Matty Ice was. He threw two interceptions and lost a fumble while going for just 242 yards on 24-of-42 passing. The three turnovers all occurred in the second half and turned into 13 points for the Bills. It was just a terrible performance by one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, who doesn’t usually have these types of games, especially at home.
Winner: Bills = AFC East top dog
The New England Patriots have been the top dog in the AFC East since … well, since forever. The Buffalo Bills haven’t even been to the playoffs since the 1999 season. In football terms, that’s a lifetime or two ago. Now, it’s still early. We’re only through one quarter of the 2017 season. But for now, at least for one week, the Bills are the top-seeded team in the division.
Buffalo was superb on the road in Atlanta Sunday. The Bills made life miserable for Matt Ryan and Co. offensively. Tyrod Taylor wasn’t magnificent, but he led a mistake-free offensive effort while averaging 9.1 yards per attempt and throwing a touchdown. That was all the offense Buffalo needed to move to 3-1 on the season, all alone atop the AFC East.
Loser: Chargers really don’t know how to win close games
The Los Angeles Chargers lost a game by two points. If we had to take a drink every time that happened … well, you get the point. The Chargers lost eight games by six points or fewer last year. With Sunday’s 26-24 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, they now have lost three of their four games in 2017 by three points or less and are 0-4 entering the second quarter of the campaign.
Perhaps the most embarrassing thing about this team right now is it cannot stop the run. Defense — especially the front seven — was supposed to be one of the biggest strengths of the Chargers this year. Philly ran over, around and through this unit to the tune of 214 yards Sunday. The Chargers have now given up 654 yards on the ground in their first four games. That’s a huge reason why they cannot win close games, or any at all to this point.
Winner: Cam Newton finds his rhythm
It’s pretty amazing how bad New England’s defense is these days. Cam Newton was more than happy to rip it to shreds Sunday, leading the Panthers to a somewhat surprising win over Tom Brady and Co.
Newton struggled out of the gate, throwing a terrible pass into double coverage that led to an interception by Malcolm Butler (watch here). The former league MVP bounced back nicely, however, finishing the game with 316 yards on 22-of-29 passing. He also threw three touchdowns and ran in another score.
It was the first time all year long that Newton got into a rhythm. But doing it against the NFL’s worst defense is one thing. Doing it consistently from week to week is another. We’ll be watching closely to see if Newton and the Panthers’ offense can keep up the good vibes heading into Week 5 against the feisty Detroit Lions.
Loser: Marcus Mariota struggles, then tweaks hammy
It’s somewhat understandable that a young quarterback like Marcus Mariota would struggle against the Houston defense. And he did. Throwing two interceptions, both hauled in by Andre Hal, Mariota was vastly outplayed by rookie Deshaun Watson. He did manage to run in a couple of scores, which proved to be the only touchdowns of the game for Tennessee, but it was far too little, too late as the Texans ran away with the game at home.
Making matters worse, Mariota suffered a hamstring injury that knocked him out of the game. It’s totally out of his control. But it’s clear that the former Oregon star is having trouble staying healthy, having been injured now in each of his first three seasons. That could be a long-term problem for the Titans, which really stinks because he’s got the kind of talent that is hard to find.
Winner: Jameis Winston outplays Eli Manning in offensive shootout
There wasn’t a whole lot of defense on display when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosted the New York Giants Sunday afternoon. The two teams combined for 813 yards and 48 points as the Bucs pulled out a 25-23 victory with a Nick Folk field goal as time expired.
The two quarterbacks combined to throw the ball 87 times, completing 52 passes to 15 different receivers. The only turnover occurred when Eli Manning failed to convert a fourth-and-4 in the first quarter. Two plays later, Winston connected with rookie O.J. Howard on a 58-yard touchdown. It was an exciting game that came down to the wire, and in the end the youngster had just a bit more firepower in his arsenal than the two-time champ.
Winston and the Bucs improved to 2-1 on the season, while New York limps home, still without a win in 2017.
Loser: The entire 49ers vs. Cardinals game
Arizona’s offensive line is legitimately the worst unit in the entire league. Carson Palmer was sacked six times for 40 yards and hit a total of 16 times. The Cardinals rushed for just 51 yards on 22 carries. It was just nasty, ugly, offensive football.
Kyle Shanahan’s mind-numbing decision to call for Brian Hoyer to throw the ball 49 times in a close game, while Carlos Hyde averaged 4.6 yards on the ground, made no sense at all. Hoyer is no Tom Brady. And he was predictably awful, averaging just 4.8 yards per attempt while failing to throw a touchdown and coughing up an atrocious interception in the second quarter that led to three points for Arizona.
The only good thing about the San Francisco 49ers-Arizona Cardinals game was the end. Larry Fitzgerald caught a 19-yard touchdown with 37 seconds left in overtime to mercifully put an end to what was the most nauseating display of football of Week 4.
Winner: Drew Brees and the Saints yet to turn it over in 2017
Sunday’s game against the Dolphins wasn’t pretty. For much of the first half, both offenses flailed around like they were, you know, playing across the Atlantic Ocean way too early in the day. But after a while, Drew Brees and Co. started lighting up the Fins, finishing with 347 total yards and 20 points. It was more than enough, as Miami’s defense pitched a shutout.
Better yet, the Saints didn’t turn the ball over once. And that’s the continuation of a trend that started in Week 1 and has yet to come to an end. Remarkably, New Orleans has not yet turned the ball over a single time this season through four games. If the defense can continue to improve, then this team will win more games than it loses based on that victorious formula.
Loser: Raiders reeling, lose Derek Carr
For the second week in a row, Oakland’s offense was a dumpster fire. Minus a beautiful touchdown throw by Derek Carr to Johnny Holton in the first quarter, the Raiders couldn’t do anything right. Von Miller and Co. owned Oakland’s offensive line, Marshawn Lynch and the Raiders’ rushing attack had nowhere to run (24 yards on 15 carries) and Oakland scored just 10 points for the second week in a row.
In the middle of all that rottenness, the Raiders watched in horror as Carr went down with a back injury that forced him into the locker room in the second half. EJ Manuel actually did some good things but predictably threw an interception as he attempted to drive the offense down the field late in the fourth quarter for the potential game-winner.
Now the team many picked to represent the AFC in Super Bowl LII is 2-2 and looking quite vulnerable. Thankfully, it appears Carr’s injury is minor, pending an MRI confirmation.
Winner: Jets on a winning streak
One week after nearly blanking the Miami Dolphins, the New York Jets took care of business with an overtime win against the Jekyll and Hyde Jacksonville Jaguars. Aside from the one huge mistake late in the game that led to Myles Jack’s 82-yard touchdown, New York’s offense pretty much took it to the Jaguars’ vaunted defense. Josh McCown took his lumps, as expected (five sacks), but he finished with 224 yards on 22-of-31 passing while Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire did the heavy lifting on the ground.
New York’s defense frustrated Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville passing game, allowing just 140 yards and one touchdown through the air. It wasn’t pretty, but Sunday’s win was the second in a row for a Jets team most (including us) expected to struggle to win this many all year long. It’s going to be fascinating to see what happens in the coming weeks. Were the Dolphins and Jaguars just that bad, or are the Jets better than we give them credit for?
Loser: Browns offense is a mess
Whew. Cleveland was atrocious Sunday at home against Cincinnati. The battle of the winless was about as one-sided as any game this weekend. DeShone Kizer ended up getting benched late in the fourth quarter after completing less than half his passes, failing to lead a single scoring drive and throwing an interception. To be fair to the rookie, he got no help from his receivers. Kenny Britt, in particular, has been awful all year long. His drop in the red zone led to the interception, which resulted in fans calling for the Browns to release him.
While the passing game languished, the team’s running game was actually worse. Cleveland gained just 45 yards on the ground, gaining 2.6 yards per carry. Hue Jackson has his work cut out the rest of the season as the Browns struggle to gain any traction offensively.
Winner: Le’veon Bell wakes from his slumber
Baltimore has been tremendous defending the run this year. But nose tackle Brandon Williams was out Sunday against Pittsburgh, and Le’Veon Bell took full advantage of this fact. The dual-threat running back was back to his old tricks in Week 4 after three mediocre showings to open the season. The slow start was to be expected after Bell held out of training camp. It appears he’s finally in football shape after gaining 186 total yards and scoring twice.
Bell’s big game was timely. Pittsburgh’s passing offense struggled, and all-world receiver Antonio Brown at one point got so frustrated he had a sideline meltdown Odell Beckham Jr. would be proud of (watch here). Roethlisberger managed just 216 yards passing, Antonio Brown caught just four passes for 34 yards and the offense was Bell or bust most of the way.
Loser: Danny Trevathan certainly earned his two-game suspension
First, let me say I don’t think Trevathan is a dirty player in the mold of Vontaze Burfict or Ndamukong Suh. However, his helmet-to-helmet hit on Davante Adams Thursday night was unacceptable and has no place in today’s NFL, no matter what some people in power have to say about the matter. Adams was already being pulled down to the ground when Trevathan came charging in, head first like a runaway freight train.
The NFL levied a two-game suspension against the Chicago Bears linebacker, which is completely fair. He’s going to appeal, but given the league’s emphasis on player safety and legislating out these types of hits, it’s hard to imagine he’ll win the appeal. We certainly hope he does not. Some would argue two games is not nearly enough.