NFL award winners throughout the first quarter of 2019

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Four weeks of NFL action is already a done deal. As it stands, there are only three undefeated franchises in the league, while six other teams fall into the winless category.

In the middle column, some individual players are not doing their clubs any favors with poor play. Let’s take a look at some good and bad award winners at the first quarter mark of 2019.

King of garbage time passing yards: Matt Ryan, quarterback, Atlanta Falcons

Ryan keeps plenty busy on a weekly basis and is averaging a booming 331.2 passing yards per game. While this is all well and dandy for his personal stat line, this yardage doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. The Falcons are stranded in last place in the NFC South. Instead, Ryan and Co. should be rising to the top in their division that is currently manned with two backup quarterbacks and an unpredictable Jameis Winston. The Falcons’ repetitive struggles are worrisome and fans have already begun to lose hope for their 1-3 franchise making the playoffs.

Underrated workhorse: Dalvin Cook, running back, Minnesota Vikings

Not picked in the first round of fantasy football drafting, for the most part, Cook has been a gem on the field. He’s lit up opposing defenses for 410 rushing yards over four games and has scored a league-best five ground scores. This has been accomplished at a swift pace of 5.8 yards per tote. To top off these numbers, Cook has also gained 114 yards on 15 catches. Knock on wood Cook remains healthy while the Vikings continue to heavily feature him.

Most surprisingly impressive NFL offense: San Francisco 49ers

Returning from their Week 4 bye, the 49ers will strive to stay undefeated. Impressively, the 49ers offense has averaged 421 total yards per game as well as 32 points. In breaking things down, the 175 rushing yards per game the 49ers are generating stand for second-most currently averaged in the NFL. Meanwhile, Jimmy Garoppolo’s aerial attack, while completing 69 percent of his passes, has been efficient to keep the wins coming in. Though it’s still early, so stay tuned.

Best backup quarterback: Gardner Minshew II, quarterback, Jacksonville Jaguars

This year so far has been very cruel to several starting quarterbacks. Thus, many franchises were forced to turn to their backups. One guy who is now captivating the NFL and looks like a seasoned pro is Minshew. The sixth-round rookie is settling in very well with his offense — very quickly. Over his three starts, he has thrown for five touchdowns and zero interceptions. Minshew has helped lead the Jags to two wins to tie his team with the rest of the AFC South. So for now, we must all believe in the so-called, “power of the ‘stache” until further notice.

Fool’s gold fantasy wideout: DeAndre Hopkins, wide receiver, Houston Texans

If you want to smack talk one of your fantasy teammates, ask them how they feel now about burning an early pick on Hopkins. Nuk was superb in his Week 1 debut after racking up 111 yards and two touchdowns. Then he went MIA and turned into a fantasy bum. He has yet to score since Week 1 and the 67 yards tallied in Week 3 marks his best effort following his splashy debut. Hopkins’ targets are diminishing and receivers that no one drafted originally are topping the fantasy charts. Is it already time to press the panic button?

Least relevant NFL team: Miami Dolphins

In four weeks, no team has been more excruciating to observe than the Dolphins. There are some bad franchises in the NFL, but the Dolphins are on their own level of pure putrescence. This sad team has mustered only 26 total points in four contests. Meanwhile, Miami’s defense has allowed a league-high 163 points and has forced only two turnovers. Speaking of turnovers, the Dolphins’ offense specializes in that category. It has coughed the ball up nine times already including the seven combined interceptions both Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen have committed. Amidst horrifying quarterback play, Rosen has been sacked a ridiculous 11 times while Fitzpatrick has endured six sacks. All the while, the duo has a total of two touchdowns to their name. Gross.

Most unappreciated NFL player: Austin Ekeler, running back, Los Angeles Chargers

Ekeler has done a spectacular job of filling in for Melvin Gordon over four games. He has recorded a whopping 490 scrimmage yards and six touchdowns in just four showings. But, despite Ekeler’s contribution and Gordon’s holdout, the Chargers are ready to kick Ekeler to the kid’s table soon. The team has indicated that Gordon is their starting running back once he is back to speed. Apparently, there are no ill feelings on the side of the Chargers when it comes to their loyalty to Gordon. It would be difficult to envision that Ekeler won’t feel just a tad unappreciated once he plays second fiddle.

Scariest NFL defense: New England Patriots

It’s not just the Chicago Bears’ defense that is terrorizing opponents this year. The Patriots have been sensational this season. New England has given up only one touchdown in four games and has allowed a stingy average of 6.8 points from its opponents. Furthermore, the Patriots have combined for 10 total takeaways with safety, Devin McCourty already snagging a league-leading four interceptions. Next up, the Patriots look to once again dominate when they get to feast on the lowly Washington Redskins. Good luck in advance to the remainder of the Patriots’ 2019 opponents.

Signal caller on the hottest seat: Kirk Cousins, quarterback, Minnesota Vikings

The excuses are wearing thin when it comes to what is causing Cousins’ underwhelming performances on game day. At the quarter mark, Cousins has thrown only three touchdowns that have accompanied two interceptions and an absurd six fumbles. It is no wonder his teammates have spoken out in frustration. The Vikings are in last place in the NFC North and Cousins is getting paid a ton of money to help make his team a contender. Yet, he hardly looks capable of managing that task if he keeps up this poor level of play.

Worst division in the league: AFC North

There is a lot more losing going on in this division than winning. Only five combined wins have been scrounged up by the Cleveland Browns (2-2), Baltimore Ravens (2-2), Pittsburgh Steelers (1-3), and Cincinnati Bengals (0-4). In the disturbing column, the Bengals have the most veteran experience so sitting winless is inexcusable. As for Baker Mayfield and Co., this young group has not lived up to its preseason hype. But, there is hope for a turnaround. The Ravens also show promise with the talented Lamar Jackson moving the chains. In Pittsburgh, a new era is beginning with Mason Rudolph under center. Fans of all involved will need to practice patience.