Another week in the books and it was another good one. It got off to a flying start with the Rams showing off their amazing offence. At one point on Sunday night it looked as though things in the NFL were settling down and then it all exploded and three games went to overtime before Monday nights battle between AFC West rivals. Here’s my take.
Rams 38 – 31 Vikings
Ooooh what a match it was to kick off the week four action! Some of the throws that Jared Goff made were just incredible. Lots has been said about Goff being a ‘system’ quarterback but he’s proving those doubters wrong as seems to get better each week. 465 passing yards and five TDs for Goff, three receivers over 100 yards and over 500 yards of offensive yards. Did someone say that the Vikings defense was good?
Credit to the Vikings, they were in this match right up until the end. Cousins himself had 400+ passing yards and three TDs. The difference was in the pass rush whereby the Rams were able to sack Cousins four times including the strip sack at the end to seal the game.
One concern for the Rams would be their third down efficiency which stood at only 16% but realistically, they usually get the job done before that!
Jaguars 31 – 12 Jets
A tough day for rookie quarterback Sam Darnold as he came up against one of the best defenses that the NFL has to offer. The Jaguars needed to bounce back this week following their loss to division rivals the Titans last week, and bounce back they did. Playing a tough defense, Bortles was able to generate 388 passing yards, two touchdowns and a pick as well as 28 rushing yards.
The Jags did enough to win against a poor Jets team. The O-Line was porous and barely gave Darnold more than two seconds to throw to receivers that were covered up most of the time. After the game, Todd Bowles admitted that he “didn’t know why we didn’t play well”, which would be a concern. Isn’t that his job?
Patriots 38 – 7 Dolphins
Well we all knew that would happen, right? The Patriots haven’t lost three in a row since 2002 and even though the Dolphins were the form team going into the match, it’s the Patriots. One day they’ll prove us wrong and the decline of the dynasty will be complete, but that wasn’t this week.
Tom Brady was getting back to his best and whilst he did throw two interceptions lets not forget, this was a heralded defense before Sunday! Brady ended the match with 274 yards, three touchdowns and those two picks. Star of the show though was rookie running back Sony Michel who rushed for 112 yards and a touchdown. Gradually he’s been getting a greater workload and with Rex Burkehead out injured I can see him and James White continuing to pick up more and more work. Another notable point was the two catches that new receiver Josh Gordon made. Neither of them were easy but if Brady’s confidence in Gordon’s ability grows then this really could be a special relationship, similar to that which Brady had with Hall of Famer Randy Moss.
The Dolphins did not look like a 3-0 team at any point in this match. They were just bad with only 172 offensive yards through the whole game. It was so bad for them that they bought Brock Osweiler off the bench for a few reps at the end of the game!
Titans 26 – 23 Eagles
The Eagles are having a tough time defending their first Super Bowl title and I think it’s maybe getting to that time that we start taking the Titans a little bit more seriously! The Eagles managed to give up a 14 point lead to allow the Titans to send this into overtime. In overtime the Eagles settled for a field goal whilst Mike Vrabel made a gutsy 4th down call to go for the win rather than tying with a gimmie of a field goal. Fair play to him, he’d told his team previously that he was going to be aggressive on play calls, he followed that through and it worked.
Mariota looked like a decent quarterback again as he was allowed to run with the ball, generating 46 yards on the ground to lead his team in rushing. The option also allowed him to have a better day with the passing game, totaling 344 yards, two touchdowns and one INT. Corey Davis is becoming a favourite target of Mariota’s and hauled in nine catches for 161 yards and the game winning touchdown, his first at home in the league.
Carson Wentz continued his progression to full game fitness and played a good game with 348 yards, two touchdowns and no picks. The concern for the Eagles will be there third down efficiency (33%) and worse, their red zone effectiveness which was only 25%. Happier times ahead though I think, especially with Jeffrey back in the receiving lineup.
But those Titans are starting to look interesting.
Colts 34 – 37 Texans
Another roller-coaster of a game and another one to go to overtime. Like Vrabel, coach Frank Reich made a bold decision to go for it on 4th down rather than punt away the ball and possibly settle for a tie. Unlike Vrabel, this decision didn’t work, the Texans got the ball back and were able to move it 24 yards to get the game winning FG. Reich said after the game he’d make the same decision again and to be honest, I like it. We’d all prefer to watch a team try and win a game rather than settle for a tie and if we applaud Vrabel for his successful attempt then we should applaud Reich for his unsuccessful attempt.
There are bigger problems for the Colts though. They botched a snap on their own one yard line which gave the Texans an easy possession with which to score from and there running game is……….. well it doesn’t exist. At all. Jordan Wilkins managed 16 yards from eight attempts, and he led the team in rushing! Luck was asked to throw 62 times, to his credit he connected with 40 of them for 464 yards, four touchdowns and no INTs. If the Colts had won this we’d be lauding over Luck and his new found fitness. Another ongoing bright spot was linebacker Darius Leonard who recorded another eight solo tackles and a sack to add to his burgeoning season stat line!
For the Texans, this was the first time that quarterback Watson recorded a come from behind win. He had a solid game with 375 yards, two touchdowns and an INT. Was good to see him connect with DeAndre Hopkins a bit more this week who had 169 yards and a touchdown. Speedster receiver and podcast favourite Keke Coutee recorded 109 yards and saw much more of the ball than he previously had. There’s a good chance that, if used correctly, he could fulfill a role that Tyreek Hill does for the Chiefs.
The defense though were the stars of the show. JJ Watt and Jadeveon Clowney each sacked Luck twice with Watt also forcing two fumbles. This is the first season where both pass rushers are fit and playing. If Sunday’s show was anything to go by, it could be a devastating duo.
Packers 22 – 0 Bills
The Bills came crashing back down to earth in week four following their win in Minnesota in week three. A superstar last week, quarterback Josh Allen was arch enemy this when his completion rate dropped below 50% and he threw two INTs.
But this wasn’t all on Allen, the line in front of him returned to their previous form and constantly fell apart. Allen was sacked seven times, three of which went to 3rd year linebacker Kyler Fackrell (yeah, you know, Fackrell). The Packers also hurried Allen a massive 12 times forcing him into at least one of the INTs. All this without Mo Wilkerson…
On offence, the Packers generated some good stats but Aaron Rodgers wasn’t too impressed; “It was as bad as we’ve played on offense with that many yards in a long time,” Rodgers said. “I think a lot of people played really good, but there was no flow to the game.” A bit whiny on a game with 423 yards on offence. Running back Aaron Jones looked to have taken over the RB1 slot from Jamaal Williams. Both backs had 11 carries, Jones racking up 65 yards and a touchdown whereas Williams had only 27 yards.
Cowboys 26 – 24 Lions
A much better offensive performance from Dak Prescott and the Cowboys. Dak threw for 255 yards and two touchdowns as well as lovely floated to pass to Zeke which helped set up the winning field goal.
The Cowboys have also realised that it’s ok to use their best player a bit more. Zeke had 25 carries for 152 rushing yards. But it was in the passing game where he was also effective catching four passes for 88 yards and a touchdown. I’d like to see the Cowboys use Zeke more on passing plays, like the Rams do with Gurley. With their athletic O-Line and mobile quarterback they should be looking at developing some exotic screen pass plays which could yield serious yards. Maybe then, the Cowboys really will look a little bit more like the Rams. Ain’t that right Jerry?!
The Lions weren’t bad by any stretch. Stafford finished the day with 307 passing yards and two touchdowns. Golden Tate was having his way with the Dallas backfield on his way to 132 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Today just wasn’t there day though as the defense was unable to stop the final charge by Dak and Zeke.
Bears 48 – 10 Buccaneers
Well I predicted a Bears win but I didn’t see that happening! Was this Matt Nagy letting loose? Some of the plays (and the score!) resembled a lot of what we’re now seeing from the Chiefs.
Or was this the real Buccaneers? I said earlier in the year that if you give any quarterback time in the pocket and receivers like Evans and Jackson then he’ll look good. This was the first defense that the Bucs have played that is good, and it showed. Kahlil Mack continued his rampage on the NFL with his fifth strip sack of the year. Fitzpatrick came crashing back down to earth with a 50% completion rate and an INT but he looked lost behind a line that couldn’t compete with the Bears pass rush. Eventually, mercy was shown and Jamies Winston came in, not that he was able to do much. Winston threw two more interceptions but managed a touchdown in garbage time to vaguely save the blushes. Dirk Koetter said afterwards that “everybody should be sacked for that performance” and if there’s more of that then maybe he’ll get his wish.
But let’s take nothing away from the Bears and their dominant offensive display. Questions have been asked about Mitch Trubisky but he’s only a few games in to playing under a head coach with an offensive mind. Whilst we shouldn’t jump to conclusions, if this is the start of things to come then the Bears will be very relevant in the NFC North. Trubisky ended the day with 354 yards and six touchdowns. He also showed off his legs with a further 53 yards on the ground. The Bears made a lot more use out of Tarik Cohen who before this game has had a quiet season. Cohen had 13 rushing attempts for 53 yards but it was in the passing game where he was especially effective, catching seven passes for 121 yards and a touchdown. Fellow speedster / gadget player, Taylor Gabriel also had a 100+ game and two touchdowns. If this was a breakout party for a new look Bears offence then I look forward to watching them in coming weeks!
Falcons 36 – 37 Bengals
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan might be starting to get annoyed with these shootout games. This is the second week where he and the Falcons offence have had a great game and yet they’ve been undermined by a defense riddled by injuries.
Ryan threw for 419 yards and three touchdowns, no picks. Julio Jones quietly made his way up to 173 yards and whilst he had no touchdowns, Calvin Ridley more than made up for it. Ridley helped himself to two touchdown grabs – that’s five in two games. Sanu was another big weapon helping Atlanta to get up and down the field, racking up 111 yards of his own. The Falcons did welcome back Tak McKinley from injury and he made an impact with three sacks. But he can’t do it by himself and the Falcons backfield needs reinforcements if they’re serious about making a run to the playoffs.
The Bengals suffered a devastating loss when tight end Tyler Eifert fractured his ankle in a horrible collision. Viewers beware on the below video as it was a gruesome sight and undoubtedly means that Eifert will be out for the rest of the season. That loss seemed to knock the wind out of the Bengals as they struggled to get any offence together. Eventually though they got their act together and with little time on the clock and six points down, Andy Dalton orchestrated a drive ending with a touchdown pass to AJ Green. Before that, Gio Bernard got himself back into form with 69 yards and two touchdowns. The Bengals will need him to maintain that form in the absence of Joe Mixon. On the other side of the ball, the duo of Dunlap and Atkins each registered a sack.
Cardinals 17 – 20 Seahawks
They may have won, but Arizona is not Seattle’s favourite place to play! They lost Super Bowl 49 there to the Patriots and both Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor suffered serious injuries there. This year, it was Earl Thomas the All-Pro safety who broke his leg on the play that Arizona scored a touchdown. That was probably the last we’ll see of Thomas in a Seahawks jersey as he’s been grumbling about leaving since the end of last year, flipping off his own bench on his way off the field probably won’t help matters!
Josh Rosen made his first NFL start in this match and on the whole, looked competent in a team that, on the whole, doesn’t have as much talent as their rookie quarterback. Rosen ended the game with 180 yards and a touchdown. Not amazing stats but good enough for a first start on this team. One of Rosen’s throws to tight end Ricky Seals-Jones was an absolute doozy! The good news was that the Cardinals managed to get David Johnson somewhere closer to form with 71 rushing yards and a touchdown.
Seattle needed a last minute kick from veteran kicker Janikowski to win this match. Whilst Mike Davis had a 101 rushing yard and two touchdowns, the passing game once again struggled to get going. Wilson had 172 passing yards and no touchdowns. The pass rush was equally inept against an O-Line that isn’t very heralded, managing just one sack. Much improvement still needed from this time if they’re to challenge for matches against stronger opposition.
Raiders 45 – 42 Browns
Another game that went to overtime at 42-42. First off, who’d have thought either of these two teams could score 42 points! Second off, where the hell did that decent Browns defence go? Anyway, all eyes were on Baker Mayfield as he made his first career start following his heroics in the comeback win versus the Jets last week. Baker was a typical rookie quarterback throwing two INTs, but he also threw two TDs and 295 yards, not bad really. But it was fellow rookie, running back Nick Chubb who impressed the most breaking off two massive touchdown runs for 105 yards off three carries. Carlos Hyde chipped in with another 82 yards on the ground. With this running attack taking pressure off Mayfield the Browns have got the makings of a nice looking offence.
Meanwhile, Derek Carr, despite the two INTs had a decent day throwing the rock. Four touchdowns and 437 yards. Amari Cooper was in on the act with 126 receiving yards and a touchdown whilst tight end Jared Cook had another great day with two touchdown grabs and 110 yards.
There was the obligatory ‘roughing the passer’ call on Baker but the real bad call was the placement of the ball off of a Carlos Hyde run on third down. On the field the refs gave the Browns a first down but after video evidence reversed the call. I for one thought he got it and there certainly wasn’t enough evidence to overturn it but that’s just me. The Raiders got the ball back, marched down the field and scored a TD and two point conversion to tie the game and sending it into overtime where the Raiders eventually managed to win with a go ahead kick after previously missing from 50 yards.
Giants 18 – 33 Saints
Headline grabber from this one was that Drew Brees didn’t throw any touchdown passes, but when you have a weapon like Alvin Kamara in the back field running in three, there’s no need. 19 carries, 134 yards and three touchdowns for Kamara was a good night against an Giants defense that is getting better.
For the Giants, Eli Manning had another decent day, 255 yards and a TD, no INTs. He’s still getting smacked around behind that O-Line but he does now have a little bit more time to find his receivers. Still waiting for OBJ to ‘go off’ this year though, seven grabs and 60 yards is ok, but Michael Thomas on the other team is really starting to show Beckham up a little. Saquon Barkley’s importance to this offence is starting to grow. 44 yards on the ground and a leaping TD as well as 56 yards receiving yards is a good showing for the rookie.
The Saints are like the Falcons at the moment – great offence and no defense.
Chargers 29 – 27 49ers
The 49ers put up a valiant effort to keep this a close game. The game kicked off with a bang when 49ers defensive back, Antone Exum intercepted Rivers and ran it back for a touchdown.
It was Rivers only INT of the game and he added 250 passing yards and three touchdowns to his stat line. With those yards he also overtook John Elway for total passing yards, he’s now eighth on the all time list behind his draft class mates Eli and Big Ben. On the ground, Melvin Gordon carried on his strong start to the season. Gordon tallied 104 rushing yards whilst his backfield partner Aaron Ekeler caught a touchdown pass. Third down conversion rate was only 28% which will need to be built upon against tougher opposition.
The Chargers pass rush continues to struggle despite the 49ers starting left tackle Joe Staley going out of the game injured. They managed only one sack on Beathard from safety Derwin James who’s importance to the Chargers defence is growing with every game.
Speaking of Beathard, he played well. 298 yards, two touchdowns and two intercepts is probably better than most supporters expected. George Kittle scored off an 82 yard touchdown pass, outrunning most of the Chargers defence in the process. Either he’s deceptively fast or the Chargers backfield are deceptively slow. Either way, the two former Iowa teammates combined for a total of 125 passing yards off of six passes.
The game went the way many predicted but I for one was impressed with the fight that the 49ers put up. More difficult questions will be asked of the Chargers.
Steelers 14- 26 Ravens
It might be time to start talking about the elephant in the room. The Steelers need Le’Veon Bell back. First half was ok, but in the second half the Steelers managed just 47 yards of offence. The total rushing yards was 19 yards. For the whole game. 19 yards. The reason Antonio Brown isn’t getting as much production this year is because the defence doesn’t have to focus on the running game.
The first half was better and in total, Big Ben ended the game with 274 yards, a toucdown and a pick. In lieu of Bell, Ben has managed to make more of his tight ends. Vance McDonald had a big game against the Bucs last week and followed it up with a good performance versus the Ravens with 62 yards. But it’s on third down that the Steelers are struggling – their success rate on third down was just 16%. If James Conner can’t replicate the form he showed in the season opener then the Steelers either need to go on bended knee back to Bell or find another solution.
But this Ravens defence is pretty good. This was the fourth game in a row whereby the Ravens haven’t given up a touchdown in the second half. This type of production can serve them well when games get tight.
And Flacco has found his form again in 2018. I say again, it helps having a decent set of receivers. Flacco finished the game with 363 yards and two touchdowns. John Brown again went over 100 yards with a touchdown. The running game also started to sputter into life with Alex Collins getting 42 yards off 11 attempts and Javorius Allen 30 yards.
Broncos 23 – 27 Cheifs
The week started with a bang on Thursday night and it ended with a bang on Monday night! The Mahomes show rolls on, this time with a win away to division rivals in Denver. The Bronco’s did a good job hustling Mahomes out of the pocket but there are few quarterbacks able to make the types of throws that Mahomes can make on the run. At one point in the fourth quarter Von Miller had Mahomes, on the way down, Mahomes switched the ball from his right to his left hand and passed it to Hill for a completion. It was just masterful. Mahomes ended the night with 304 yards and a touchdown, he also ran in another one on an eight yard carry. He has still not thrown an interception in his career.
Another notable performer for the Chiefs this week was Kareem Hunt who is looking back to his best. Hunt rushed for 121 yards off 19 attempts, helping himself to a touchdown as well. With that type of form and Mahomes’ ability to pass it to pretty much anyone, the Chiefs are becoming a strong contender for the AFC.
To the Bronco’s credit, they played well, especially with their ground game. They may have found something special with the rookie duo of Freeman and Lindsay. Freeman patient and powerful had 67 yards and a touchdown. And Lindsay, a jitterbug of a player raced for 69 yards and a touchdown. They were helped by an O-Line that was able to open up some big holes for them to run through. Like Mahomes, Keenum came under a fair bit of duress in the pocket but he’s not got the same scrambling ability and was either hit or throw some bad passses. It improved later in the game with the match on the line but close to the end of the match over threw an open Demaryius Thomas on what could have been a game winning drive. Even with the running game they had, the Broncos struggled to convert on third down, making just 18% of the opportunities they had.