NFL 2021 Week 4 Sunday is in the books… and there was a significant amount of chaos! The City of New York was victorious together on a Sunday for the first time in nearly two years… and at the expense of playoff calibre teams from New Orleans and Tennessee no less… Furthermore, the least fancied team in the league’s toughest division is now the lone 4-0 team in the NFL. Is the NFC West, like the AFC West maybe, in line for a shake up? Maybe. And will the Texans ever score a Touchdown again? Who knows.

This is a bit of a shorter read this week as I wanted to give adequate and detailed attention to the two main stories of the day, but hopefully it’ll still give you a flavour of every key storyline coming out of Sunday’s games. We’ll get to the Arizona Cardinals, but of course, we had the Primetime showdown between former lovers. How else could we begin anywhere else, but in rainy New England…

The Brady Bowl

Credit: Maddie Meyer (Getty Images)

Well, after ALL the pageantry, and Roger Goodell & NBC’s media machine attempting to sell this game as the single biggest regular season game in NFL history… it’s done. Anybody else feel like a lot of people were going a little bit (a lot) overboard in hyping this matchup this week? In reality, this was just a Week 4 matchup that, whilst historically significant for one man becoming the NFL’s all-time passing leader, won’t be replayed many times by anybody other than members of the Brady family. We can now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

I do want to thank Bill Belichick for turning on his weather machine in Gillette stadium, just to give this match another layer of complexity (#RainGate, anybody!?). Must have been strange for Brady to have that used against him for the first time in his career. What I will say is that this was a closer contest than it had any right to be, and there are two main reasons for that. 1). is that the Buccaneers are absolutely destroyed in their secondary. Injuries everywhere. Richard Sherman was signed three days ago and played damn near every single snap. Credit to him by the way – they tried to pick on him but he never gave up a big play or made an egregious mistake. Impressive. 2). is that Mac Jones showed he could be the real deal for the Patriots. Anyone else think Jones would win the QB duel last night? I certainly didn’t.

Before we get to Mac, we have to talk about Tom. Clearly, this was a big – and emotional – game for him. Adele ringing in his ears and Jay-Z saying “allow me to reintroduce myself” on repeat in his mind, TB12 was not his usual ice-cool, precise self. Obviously the weather  (machine) affected his throws, often a yard too high or too wide and he attempted to compensate for the complicated conditions.

On the flip side, Mac’s pass attempts were often short, but also accurate, and the Patriots were able to chip their way down near the Red Zone on a couple of occasions, before stalling out and submitting to kicking Field Goals. Hunter Henry – remember him?! – scored the first New England Touchdown, with Jonnu Smith – remember him as well?! – adding a second following a lovely play action fake between Jones and Damien Harris.

That said, the game still might have been out of reach of the Patriots had Antonio Brown come down with a circus catch attempt with a few minutes to go in the 4th quarter. Instead, the ball went back to Jones, who created enough to give Nick Folk a chance to win the game, albeit a very difficult 56 yarder in miserable conditions. Whereas last week Justin Tucker got the benefit of the upright, this week it would not favour the Patriots. Clang… and the Pats are 1-3, the Bucs 3-1. A heartbreaker for the Patriots, who gave absolutely everything to hold the normally free-scoring Bucs to just 19 points.

Couple of shout outs: Firstly, Kendrick Bourne as WR/QB. More trick plays. Give me MORE trick plays. Secondly, Matthew Judon… what a performance, absolutely fantastic. Lastly, the entire Buccaneers defensive front. Feels like you’d have an easier time attempting to move the Eiffel Tower than move the Bucs D-Line and create a running lane. You feel like teams will have to just abandon the run against the Buccaneers, as we’ve seen the Cowboys and Rams already do this year.

But with all that said, it was no surprise that the Buccaneers ended up winning this game – they’re just clearly a better team – but the Patriots gave their fans enough signs of life and effort to suggest better days can be ahead for them. Their defense (and Bill’s weather machine) put up enough of a fight to believe they can maybe push for a wildcard place, but the AFC is STACKED and the lack of weapons around Jones is what I think will condemn New England to another playoff-less season.

If I may be marginally romantic for just a second, it was nice to see Brady and Belichick embrace after the game was done – this coming from a card-carrying member of the “I hate the Patriots and Tom Brady forever” club – as you’d hate to see anything (including their divorce) diminish how incredible their achievements together were. For now though, Pats and Bucs fans alike, can all finally move on with their lives.

NFC West Pace Setters

Credit: Kirby Lee (USA Today Sports)

League… consider yourself “on notice.” The Cardinals mean business. 4-0. Just beaten many people’s favourite to face the Buccaneers in the NFC Championship game. Let me start by saying, the Los Angeles Rams will be absolutely fine. Sean McVay will get his team right, even on a short week as they head into Thursday Night Football (more on that later). It didn’t really click for them yesterday, with Arizona finding stops in situations that the Rams’ other opponents so far this season have been torched for long touchdowns.

Cooper Kupp failed to find the endzone… We’ve found the blueprint for beating the Rams clearly. Darrell Henderson Jr. returned following his absence last weekend, and looked shifty with 6.4 yards per carry, but the defense could not find a way to stop the opposition’s backfield from grinding out first downs and the opposition’s receivers from making catches when needed.  Stafford missed on a couple throws – I recall a 4th and goal to Tyler Higbee in the flat that could have given the Rams some hope but went awry – but the Rams just weren’t themselves on Sunday… and one team was VERY happy to take advantage.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you: Kliff Kingsbury’s Barmy Army. The disrespect this man has suffered… unbelievable. I’m in group chats full of very knowledgeable football fans who seem to have real disdain for Kingsbury and what he’s building in Arizona. My question is… Why?! Sure he’s a little bit too good-looking. Sure, he rolls the dice a lot. Sure, at times last year his offensive game plan seemed to be “get Kyler to run around for 30 seconds, hope Hopkins gets open, and the D-Line gets tired.” But I don’t see those old deficiencies in either Kingsbury OR the Cardinals as a whole this year.

They’ve added significant pieces on defense (see: Watt, J.J.) and have great depth on offense where now DeAndre Hopkins is getting support from AJ Green and the sparkplug Rondale Moore, plus BOTH James Conner & Chase Edmonds are becoming dangerous backfield weapons… and we haven’t even mentioned the Quarterback yet. This all works because of Kyler. He’s the most slippery glue I’ve ever seen. You can’t bottle him up, he’s loose and fluid and constantly in motion, and yet he holds it all together. Kyler Murray COULD take this team – who were a 6/1 shot before the season started – to an NFC West Title.

The next big test… is next week. The 49ers come to the desert, where the Cardinals will need a more convincing performance than the one they turned in against Minnesota the last time they were at home. However – after this?! – how could you doubt the credentials of these Red Birds. The Cardinals are legit. Disrespect them at your peril. After Monday Night Football… they’ll be the sole undefeated team in the NFL in 2021. That said, their next 5… 49ers, Browns, Texans, Packers, 49ers… is a bit of a gauntlet. But if they come out of that 6-3 or 7-2… or maybe even better?! Then they’re really on their way to the playoffs and a run for a championship.

Quick Hits

Credit: USA Today Sports
  • Well, it was fun being optimistic about the Dolphins until Week 4… that’s over now sadly. Without Tua… this team appears to be devoid of much hope. Do we pay attention to those trade rumours…? Ugh. That’s a whole other column…
  • Is Zeke back?! It feels like Zeke might be back…
  • The Cowboys… I’m going to keep saying it… have a SuperBowl calibre team. Is Dalton Schultz the next big thing?! They were firing on all cylinders to beat the Panthers.
  • Give some credit to the Panthers though, especially Sam Darnold. He’s LEADING THE LEAGUE IN RUSHING TOUCHDOWNS. Samuel Darnold!? Unbelievable. Also DJ Moore is a wizard. Carolina will push the Saints for 2nd place in the NFC South.
  • Speaking of the Saints… What happened to Alvin Kamara being a pass-catching back!? Zero catches and the Saints absolutely bottled that game against the Giants. A shame for Sean Payton in the Saints’ first game with a full SuperDome in a long time.
  • On the flip side… GREAT to see some offense for the G-Men. Kenny Golladay & Kadarius Toney both put together nice games and WELCOME BACK Saquon Barkley. 2 TDs and 126 scrimmage yards is the sort of line we’ve been accustomed to seeing him have in previous years.
  • If you haven’t seen Jabrill Peppers calling the coin toss before overtime… do yourself a favour and go find it. Hilarious.
  • Not this year… but the Philadelphia Eagles will win the NFC East with Jalen Hurts as their Quarterback. I firmly believe that.
  • Oh no. Oh no for Tennessee. Zach Wilson got his first win of the season, but Randy Bullock’s missed Field Goal for the tie will take some of the headlines. The Titans… were a shambles. Fine, missing AJ Brown and Julio Jones is tough for any team, but you have to be able to beat the hapless Jets regardless. Derrick Henry rushes for over 150 yards and you lose? That’s a bad day.
  • Congrats to the Jets – you showed some Moxie. Sadly… it’s going to be one of very few wins this year.
  • The Falcons found a way to choke another game… surprise surprise. Credit to Taylor Heinicke and the Washington offense though. They are REALLY picking up the slack for the floundering Washington defense right now.
  • That “roughing the passer” penalty on Chase Young was a disgraceful piece of officiating. Come on.
  • The Browns ground out an UGLY win in Minnesota. Congrats to Cleveland on getting to 3-1… they were very close to beating the Chiefs in Week 1 and being undefeated at this point like the Cardinals.
  • Sadly… I think it’s now time to accept that Big Ben is done.
  • Loved the little interaction between Aaron Rodgers’ and Mike Tomlin. Flirting before next season, maybe?! Remember when the Packers were dead after Week 1? Yeah… Lol.
  • The Bears beat the Lions. Fields did okay. That’s about all the interesting notes from that game (Incoming angry Bears fans meltdown in 3… 2… 1…).
  • Russell Wilson doing Russell Wilson things. I love the Seahawks when they’re at their chaotic best. They are never boring to watch. Excited we get them on Thursday Night Football this week too.
  • It will be VERY interesting to see Trey Lance over the next few weeks. Obviously a tough situation to be put into yesterday, but now he’s got his chance to show why he was the number 3 overall pick. The Niners really need him to play like it… quickly.
  • Thank you to the Baltimore Ravens for putting some context onto the Broncos’ 3-0 start. Nice to see Hollywood Brown recover from his horror show last week with an athletic long TD grab this time around. Lamar Jackson won this game with his arm. He was superb.
  • The Broncos are legit in serious trouble if Drew Lock starts for more than a couple of weeks this season. Hope Teddy B is okay.
  • ALSO – I absolutely LOVE that John Harbaugh put his offense back on the field to try and keep their streak of 100 yard rushing games as a team going. Anybody criticising that as “unsportsmanlike” doesn’t understand the magnitude of breaking a record like that. 42 straight games is unbelievable. Now the Ravens have a chance to break it and get to 43 next Monday Night against the Colts.

MNF Prediction: (Season Record: 2-1)

Credit: USA Today Sports

Dak & the Boyz did the business against Philly last week so we’re officially above .500 on the season. Let’s stay there now!

It’s an AFC West matchup between – in my opinion – one of the best teams in the league, and one of the biggest overachieving teams in this young season.

Let’s start with the good… the Chargers are for real. It’s been a while for “the artist formerly known as San Diego” to have a team capable of contending with the Chiefs for the AFC West title, but going into Arrowhead last weekend and winning proves they have successfully reached that point now. Herbert & Ekeler in the backfield are an incredible tandem and Mike Williams has joined Keenan Allen in the upper echelons of “Elite” wide receivers this season.

As far as the other side of the coin goes… I’m convinced the Raiders might be the most average 3-0 team I’ve ever seen. Incredibly fortunate to beat the Ravens in Week 1, won on the road against a poor Steelers team in Week 2, and fairly fortunate to beat the Dolphins in Week 3… The Las Vegas Raiders are 3-0… somehow. But that all ends tonight!

Listen, I’ll give Gruden and Mayock some credit; they’ve clearly built a team that is better than what I was expecting, but with uncertainty at RB (will Josh Jacobs be healthy? Is he the guy? Can you really start Peyton Barber in the year 2021?) and Derek Carr being… well, Derek Carr, I find it hard to trust this offense will be consistent across 17 games. Also – simply put – the Chargers are clearly the better team here. Gimme J-Herbz and his merry band of offensive weapons, and the Chargers’ better-than-some-people-thought Defense.

Official Prediction: Chargers.

Week 5 Preview

Week 5 already!?! Yeesh. Time flies when you’re losing bets, fantasy matchups and sleep aye? Why do we love this sport again?! Anyway… Week 5 starts with another huge NFC West matchup as the no longer undefeated Rams head to Seattle to face the Seahawks, coming off that big win in San Fran. Seattle win, and both teams are 3-2… Rams win, they’re 4-1, Seattle 2-3… It’s a massive game.

We also get our first London game! The Jets vs the Falcons is not exactly a dream matchup in terms of excitement or prestige, but I’m sure the crowd at Tottenham Hotspur stadium will make it a special occasion nonetheless. Hey, someone’s gotta win! Although… it would be perfect for those two teams to tie IN LONDON…

Moving on, the week’s two biggest matchups come later on Sunday, with the other two NFC West teams squaring off in Arizona. The 4-0 Cardinals against the 2-2 49ers. My money’s on Kyler continuing to make magic. But – without question – the highlight of Week 5 has to be the AFC Championship game rematch in Kansas City between the Chiefs and the Bills. Mahomes, Hill & Kelce vs Allen, Diggs and… Dawson Knox!!! Let’s go. A big one – certainly worth the 4:30am bedtime next sunday. It’s a miracle I ever get this column written. Ah well, I’ll sleep when I’m dead. Thanks for reading my ramblings again this week. I’m @CallumJDSquires on Twitter and Instagram. Come say hey. Cheers!

Callum Squires