Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Blaine Gabbert, Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Earl Thomas, Green Bay Packers, Jared Goff, julian Edleman, Kansas City Chiefs, LA Rams, Le'Veon Bell, Marcus Mariota, Matt LaFleur, Matt Nagy, Matt Patricia, Miami Dolphins, Mike Vraebel, Minnesota Vikings, Mitch Trubisky, New England Patriots, NFC North, NFL, Patrick Mahomes, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, Sean McVay, Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tennessee Titans, Tyler Eifert
Here we are, preparing for week five after which all the teams will have played four games and I can try to run through the entire league in a panic at the quarter pole post, but we are already beginning to get a bit more of a feel for how the league is shaping up.
Of the young quarterbacks that seem to be the story of the league so far this year, Patrick Mahomes traveled to Denver Monday night and struggled comparatively for him so far this year but still found a way to get the win for the Kansas City Chiefs against the Broncos, whilst Mitch Trubisky threw for six touchdowns as the Bears thumped the Tamps Bay Buccaneers. I have only seen the highlights of the Bears game and yes there were a lot of wide open people catching the ball, but I thought Trubisky looked good in terms of his footwork and whilst you can’t expect this every week it is a promising sign that Matt Nagy can find a way to keep his team competitive in the division with Trubisky as his quarterback.
Speaking of the NFC North, the Green Bay Packers pitched a shutout against the Buffalo Bills who reverted to type and were bad in this game. This leaves them one game behind the Bears but one ahead of the Minnesota Vikings who could not keep up with the LA Rams on Thursday night but then no team has this season. With quarterbacks on the mind I should also mention that one of the reasons the Rams look so good is that Jared Goff is absolutely thriving in Sean McVay’s office and threw some absolutely amazing balls to beat the Vikings coverage. The Detroit Lions lost a close game to the Dallas Cowboys who managed to find some offence this week, which is not how the Lions and Matt Patricia will have wanted to follow up their impressive win against the Patriots.
I hesitate to do this, and it is perhaps lucky that Dan is on holiday this week as the Miami Dolphins got demolished in New England. There is a reason why everyone was hesitant to write off the Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, and this was it. They ran for one hundred and seventy-five yards and got themselves back to 2-2 before Julian Edelman comes back next week. Things could well still go wrong but it would surprise no one if come December the Patriots are once again top of their division.
The other perennial contender that is struggling at the start of this season were not so lucky as the Pittsburgh Steelers failed to win their second division game as they lost at home to the Baltimore Ravens to go 1-2-1. We have seen dips of form before with the Steelers, but with the Le’Veon Bell situation rumbling on and a defence that is not the kind we usually associate with this franchise there could be real problems. They face the Atlanta Falcons next week in a game that will very much be decided by who can score the most points as the Falcons are struggling to stop anybody on defence. In week four this benefited the Cincinnati Bengals who squeezed out a 37-36 win game despite losing Tyler Eifert to a season ending injury for the third straight year. This was heart breaking as Eifert had finally had a healthy offseason and it was a horrible ankle break, but at least it wasn’t connected to his previous back/ankle injuries. Eifert has so much talent and it’s really sad he’s so seldom been able to make the most of it or get to that lucrative multi-year second contract given what he has produced when he has been on the field.
The other big injury from the weekend was to Earl Thomas who had been playing well for the Seattle Seahawks despite hardly practicing in protest at the Seahawks refusal to trade him after not giving him a new contract. The middle digit he offered to the bench was a sign of the frustration a player must feel when what he feared materialises, but a broken leg is at least an injury that shouldn’t affect him next season. That may not be that much comfort to a safety going into his thirties though, particularly given the lack of activity in signing veteran free agent safeties this off-season and this is exactly why Le’Veon Bell is holding out as he fears a similar injury when running backs are treated with even more scepticism as they approach thirty.
I think I will end this week’s round up though with a team who may not be playing pretty football week to week, but have got themselves a winning record despite multiple injuries. In week one the teams with new head coaches went 0-7 but rookie head coach Mike Vrabel and his staff have now won three straight games despite Marcus Mariota sustaining a nerve injury in week one that has led to numbness in the fourth and fifth fingers of his throwing hand as well as grip issues, and his backup Blaine Gabbert being lost to a concussion in the opening quarter of their week three game against the Jaguars. The Titans may only be ranked twenty-sixth on offence by DVOA and fifteenth by defence, but they are top ten in special teams and are finding a way in win games. It also helped that Mariota looked better in this week’s overtime win against the Philadelphia Eagles where Mariota played with a modified glove on his throwing hand where the first and second fingers had been cut off so he could feel the ball but the glove could help his week fingers/hand. I’m sure this is not what offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur was not expecting to have to deal with this when he joined the staff, but the Titans have remained competitive in the AFC South and will be looking to build on this solid start. This is a pretty impressive achievement for Mike Vrabel who does not have that much coaching experience compared to a lot of coaches yet alone experience running a team. Let’s see how sustainable this is.