Winners, losers from NFL Week 4: Saquon Barkley returns to stardom, Carson Wentz remains a problem

NFL Week 4

NFL Week 4 is drawing to a close with Sunday’s full slate of action providing tons of excitement. From a thriller in the NFL International Series to some chaos in the main slate, the NFL games today only strengthened what is shaping up to be an unforgettable 2022 season.

It all started on Sunday morning with a double doink capping off a roller coaster Minnesota Vikings vs New Orleans Saints game. While there were plenty of takeaways from that matchup, it served as the appetizer for NFL Week 4.

Fans witnessed the Philadelphia Eagles and Buffalo Bills overcome double-digit deficits in the first half, delivering much-needed wins on Sunday. For those who like surprises, the Atlanta Falcons taking down the Cleveland Browns and the Tennessee Titans running over the Indianapolis Colts provided it.

Related: NFL scores

Let’s dive into the winners and losers from NFL Week 4.

Winner: Saquon Barkley returns to superstardom

NFL: Chicago Bears at New York Giants
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Saquon Barkley proved once more in NFL Week 4 that he is officially back. Many rightfully worried that injuries would rob the football world of one of its best players. Thankfully, all of those concerns are forgotten. Even when multiple defenders penetrate a backfield, the New York Giants running back knows how to wiggle and maneuver out of tackles and then turns negative plays into explosive runs. This is the same player who eclipsed 2,000 scrimmage yards in his rookie season and 568 scrimmage yards entering Week 5, he’s on pace to do it again.

Loser: Indianapolis Colts’ investments prove foolish

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts

No one faulted Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard for acquiring Matt Ryan this offseason. A low-risk move at a minimal cost, Ryan provided stability at a position of need and it seemed like the right start for an offseason. However, Ballard essentially made that his entire offseason.

Mo Allie-Cox (85 receiving yards, two touchdowns) was the Colts’ leading receiver in NFL Week 4. Indianapolis made Quenton Nelson one of the highest-paid NFL players before the season. Through four games, Jonathan Taylor is averaging a career-worst 4.1 yards per rush (328 rushing yards) and Ryan has now been sacked 15 times. It’s almost as if positions like left tackle, No. 2 receiver and No. 2 cornerback are important and shouldn’t be ignored for guard, tight end and defensive tackle.

Winner: Jordan Poyer, Buffalo Bills defense saves the day

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Baltimore Ravens
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Things looked bleak for the Buffalo Bills early in NFL Week 4. Trailing 14-3, it seemed like Lamar Jackson and Co. would do whatever it wanted against the Bills’ defense. An early deficit sparked something in Poyer. He picked Jackson off twice in the second half, playing a pivotal role in a team effort that held Baltimore to six points in the final three quarters. Considering the Miami Dolphins lost in NFL Week 4, Sunday’s win could prove crucial.

Related: NFL standings

Loser: Carson Wentz proves he isn’t changing

NFL: Washington Commanders at Dallas Cowboys
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Commanders downplayed training camp struggles from Carson Wentz in training camp. For anyone who would listen, the coaching staff swore things would be different and Wentz felt good about playing for a team that wanted him. Let NFL Week 4 remind everyone why others gave up on him.

Wentz posted an abysmal 56.7 passer rating on Sunday, completing just 59.5% of his pass attempts and finishing with an ugly 4.0 ypa. He threw two interceptions, took a pair of sacks and recorded an intentional grounding. Sure, commentators marveled at his touchdown pass to Jahan Dotson, but that’s the problem. A coaching staff keeps believing it can turn a few “wow” plays back into the MVP-caliber player we saw in 2017. Ask the Philadelphia Eagles and Colts’ coaching staff, Wentz isn’t changing.

Winner: Geno Smith continues career resurgence

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Seattle Seahawks
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Seattle Seahawks were mocked for putting their trust in quarterback Geno Smith this season. Even for a rebuilding team, fans remembered the player who got sucker punched by a teammate in 2015 and could only view Smith as a draft bust. As we saw on full display in NFL Week 4, Smith can hold his own as a starting quarterback.

Smith carved up the Detroit Lions on Sunday. He completed 23-of-30 pass attempts, leading all quarterbacks in passer rating (132.6). The veteran signal-caller tacked on 320 passing yards, 49 rushing yards and three total touchdowns in a 48-45 shootout victory. Keep in mind he’ll be a free agent in 2023.

Loser: Green Bay Packers’ passing offense is a problem

NFL: New England Patriots at Green Bay Packers
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Even the casual observer can see the issues with the Green Bay Packers offense. Far too often, Aaron Rodgers only trusts Randall Cobb, Allen Lazard and Robert Tonyan. He is falling upon his old tendencies, being laser-focused on a player even if they aren’t open. It’s tolerable when you have Davante Adams, he is the best route-runner in the NFL and is a playmaker even when covered. Neither of those things can be said about Rodgers’ go-to guys now.

Of course, then you see the Romeo Doubs drop in the end zone and are reminded of the other problems in Green Bay. It wasn’t as bad as the Christian Watson drop in Week 1, but these young wideouts are letting touchdowns slip through their hands and not being in the position where Rodgers anticipates on certain routes. It’s easier to understand why Rodgers is hesitant to throw to the rookies, but he needs to do it when they are open.

It’s going to become a bigger problem as we move deeper into the season. It certainly won’t cause Green Bay against the likes of the New York Giants (Week 5), New York Jets (Week 6) or Washington Commanders (Week 7). However, it will be the Achilles heel that burns the Packers against the likes of the Bills and Eagles.

Winner: Zach Wilson steps up in NFL Week 4

NFL: New York Jets at Pittsburgh Steelers
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Making his first start of the season, quarterback Zach Wilson didn’t look good early. The New York Jets scored just one touchdown through the first 52 minutes of game action and that came with Wilson catching the score. As if he heard whispers questioning his ability, the second-year quarterback flipped a switch late in the fourth quarter.

Related: Mitch Trubisky benched in NFL Week 4

Trailing 10-10, Wilson led an 11-play drive that covered 81 yards and ended with a touchdown strike to Corey Davis. Across that series, he completed 5-of-7 attempts for 71 yards. Now a one-score game, Wilson seized on the momentum provided by his defense snagging an interception. He responded with a 10-play, 65-yard drive and Breece Hall put a bow on it with the game-winning touchdown. This is exactly what the Jets needed to see from Wilson and it gives New York a 2-2 record with a healthy quarterback coming out of NFL Week 4.

  • Zach Wilson stats on final two drives: 11-of-14,128 passing yards, 14 points

Loser: Carolina Panthers’ investment strategy

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

In defense of the Carolina Panthers, they traded practically nothing to acquire Baker Mayfield and he still represents an upgrade over Sam Darnold. It’s everything that got the franchise to this point that is responsible for the criticism exiting from NFL Week 4.

Carolina traded a second and fourth-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft and then picked up his fully-guaranteed $18.858 million salary before he played a snap for the team. A year later, the Panthers traded a 2022 fourth-round pick and a 2023 third-round selection to pick Matt Corral. Neither player will see the field this season.

It’s the same foolish investments from a franchise that made Matt Rhule one of the highest-paid coaches in the NFL, despite the fact that his lone experience at the level came as an assistant offensive line coach. Oh, there’s also the Christian McCaffrey contract that looks worse by the week. David Tepper might be one of the richest NFL owners, but he certainly doesn’t seem to know how to spend resources in the NFL.

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