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Winners and Losers from the NFL’s First Four Weeks

by Joshua Doering

It seems hard to believe, but every NFL team other than the Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers are a quarter of the way through their season. While plenty can — and will — change over the next 13 weeks, four games provide enough of a sample size to start drawing conclusions. Here are 110 Sports’ winners and losers from the first four weeks of the NFL season:

Winner: Seattle Seahawks

Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has freed Russell Wilson from the limitations of a conservative gameplan and what’s resulted is a sight to behold. Seattle has scored 16 more points than any other team while ranking second in yards and yards per play. Wilson is completing 75.2% of his passes and has 16 touchdown passes to his two interceptions. His favorite target, second-year wideout D.K. Metcalf, is tied for the most receiving yards in the league with 403. Back-to-back losses by the Arizona Cardinals and the injuries suffered by the San Francisco 49ers all but ensure the only team with a chance of catching the 4-0 Seahawks in the NFC West is the Los Angeles Rams. The bigger question is whether anyone can take home field advantage away from them or catch Wilson in the MVP race. 

Loser: NFC East

The Philadelphia Eagles hung on to defeat the 49ers for their first win of the season on Oct. 4 and climbed atop the NFC East by doing so. Carson Wentz leads the league in interceptions while throwing to Zach Ertz, Greg Ward and practice squad players yet Philadelphia has been the best team in this division so far. The Washington Football Team and New York Giants are an unsurprising 1-7 and Saquon Barkley is done for the year. The Dallas Cowboys have the worst defense in the NFL and would be 0-4 if they went down 20-0 to any team other than the Atlanta Falcons (more on them later). Maybe Dallas figures it out at some point, but this is looking like a carbon copy of last season so far. NFC East teams are 2-11-1 against opponents outside their division. 

Winner: Buffalo Bills

Josh Allen owns the NFL’s second-best passer rating behind the aforementioned Wilson. He is also second to Dak Prescott in passing yards (1,326) and second to Wilson in passing touchdowns (12). The MVP talk is overblown but Allen is playing the best football of his career for the 4-0 Bills. Stefon Diggs (26 catches, 403 yards) certainly has something to do with that. Buffalo’s defense is giving up 25 points and 381 yards per game, which is concerning considering two of those contests were against the Jets and Dolphins. There is still plenty of time for Sean McDermott to get that unit back on track though. 

Loser: Matt Patricia

Jim Caldwell was the Detroit Lions’ head coach for four seasons. He won at least nine games three times and made the playoffs twice. The Lions fired Caldwell after a 9-7 campaign in 2017 and replaced him with Patricia, who is 10-25 as a head coach. Per Elias, Detroit has lost six straight games when leading by 10+ points, an NFL record. It happened in Week 1 (led 23-6), Week 2 (led 14-3) and Week 4 (led 14-0). ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky played for Caldwell in Detroit and summed things up nicely on Keyshawn, JWill and Zubin.

Winner: Indianapolis Colts’ defense

Simply put, the Colts have their defense to thank for their 3-1 start. Matt Eberflus’ unit is giving up 14.0 points per game, 3.5 fewer than any other team. Indianapolis ranks first in yards allowed per play at 4.4. The Steelers and 49ers are in second at 4.8. All seven of the turnovers the Colts have forced are interceptions, giving them the highest total in the league. This is all happening despite a below average start to the season for Darius Leonard, who left the team’s last game with a groin injury. Phillip Rivers doesn’t have to be great for Indianapolis to make some noise in the playoffs if the defense continues to play like this. 

Loser: Minnesota Vikings

Believe it or not, the Vikings are fourth in yards per play and tied for 12th in scoring through four weeks. Dalvin Cook leading the league in rushing is a big reason why, but it’s not like Minnesota’s been lifeless on offense. It’s easy to blame Kirk Cousins’ career-low 48.5 QBR and six interceptions and ignore a defense giving up the third-most yards in the NFL. The reality is that Mike Zimmer’s team has plenty of work to do on both sides of the football. Things could get even worse with trips to Seattle and Green Bay in the next three weeks. If they do, any hope of making the playoffs will fade rapidly.  

Winner: Los Angeles Rams

No team has increased their chances of making the postseason more so far than the Los Angeles Rams. Not only did they get off to a 3-1 start that was nearly a perfect 4-0, but their path to a second-place finish in the NFC West has gotten significantly easier. Jared Goff is completing 72.1% of his passes and the Bills are the only team to score 20 points on the Rams so far. Sean McVay couldn’t have asked for a much better start to the season than the one he’s gotten. 

Loser: Houston Texans

It appears the migration of talent over the last few seasons is finally catching up to the 0-4 Texans. The organization’s decision to fire Bill O’Brien suggests they reached the same conclusion. Making a team open against the Chiefs and Ravens is just cruel, but the sympathy only extends so far. No quarterback is able to cover up every flaw on their team, especially not one getting sacked four times a game and working with mediocre weapons. Will Fuller is Houston’s leading receiver with 18 receptions for 274 yards. Former Texan DeAndre Hopkins has 21 more catches and 123 more receiving yards than Fuller with his new team in Arizona. Houston is going to win fewer than 10 games for the first time since Deshaun Watson tore his ACL in 2017. 

Winner: Cam Newton

Newton was putting to bed any doubts about his ability to still play quarterback at a high level prior to testing positive for coronavirus. Though the numbers weren’t anything particularly special (714 passing yards, 149 rushing yards and six total touchdowns), the former No. 1 overall pick was presiding over a more dynamic offense than Tom Brady did last year. He went toe-to-toe with Russell Wilson and had New England off to a 2-1 start. Newton is in line for a massive pay raise this offseason assuming he recovers and comes back the same player he was. The performances of Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham against the Chiefs further demonstrated just how valuable he is to the Patriots. 

Loser: Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons lost to a better team in the Seahawks in Week 1, so there is no need to be concerned about that. What’s happened since, however, is borderline incomprehensible, even with a decimated secondary. Atlanta built a 20-0 lead, was ahead 29-10 at halftime, led 39-24 with 7:57 remaining and lost to the Cowboys in its second game. That was followed by the Bears scoring 20 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to erase a 26-10 deficit. Then Aaron Rodgers carved them on Monday Night Football. The Giants, Texans and Jets are the only other teams who remain winless after four games. Every other NFC South team has at least two wins and Atlanta has four games remaining against the Saints and Buccaneers. 

Photo by All-Pro Reels / Flickr

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