nfl week 4: four things to keep an eye on
By Tayyib Abu
Week 4 is the first staging point of the NFL season. Pictures begin to emerge regarding which teams are good and which teams aren’t. The headline game is Tom Brady returning to New England with his Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
However, there are plenty of other exciting stories and games in Week 4. It’s gut-check time for several teams as early defeats have placed them on the back foot. Meanwhile, others will attempt to solidify their strong starts.
Here are four things to watch in Week 4 of the new season…
Who Is The Best in The West?
The NFC West is the best division in the NFL, and in Week 4, the west kicks off its inter-divisional games as the Rams take on the Cardinals and the 49ers host the Seahawks.
The undefeated Rams bested the Bucs in Week 3. Sean McVay’s team controlled the game on defense and offense. The Rams are arguably the best team in the league right now, and they will take some stopping.
The Cards survived an early scare in Jacksonville before they romped away with the win. Per Football Outsiders, Arizona is the fourth-best team in DVOA, one spot behind the Rams.
Kyler Murray is shining in his third season. Murray is third in CPOE, indicating that he is routinely making great throws. Helping him achieve that is a bevy of elite receivers. Nuk Hopkins, AJ Green, and Christian Kirk are all excelling in this offense.
However, the Rams are a step ahead as it pertains to quarterback/wide receiver relationships. Matt Stafford and Cooper Kupp are the hottest pairing in the NFL. Kupp and Stafford have quickly developed an incredible partnership, and they will stress an improving Cardinals secondary.
This game has all the hallmarks of descending into a shootout, and it could become a thriller in the desert.
The other game features two teams smarting after tasting defeat in Week 3. The Niners lost heartbreakingly to the Packers. Meanwhile, the Seahawks are 1-2, having lost two straight to the Titans and Vikings.
Neither team is in a bad position, although Seattle desperately needs a win to avoid falling into a 1-3 hole. The Hawks’ offense stuttered in the final quarter against Tennessee, and that continued against Minnesota.
The 49ers have played well overall, although injuries and poor game management have caused them issues. It nearly cost them in Week 1 as a spirited Lions team frightened them, and it certainly did in Week 3 as Aaron Rodgers weaved his magic to steal a road win.
This defense is already missing Jason Verrett, and the injuries are starting to pile up for San Francisco. Arik Armstead, Javon Kinlaw, and Emmanuel Moseley are all battling injuries ahead of this game. It feels like a big game already for these teams. If the Niners go to 3-1, it creates an early gap between the Seahawks and everyone else.
More Trouble For The New York Teams
The two teams that call New Jersey home despite using New York in the name might be the worst in the NFL. The Jets are the worst scoring offense in the league. A myriad of drops, rookie quarterback woes, and an atrocious offensive line shorn of Mekhi Becton are combining to inflict real damage. Zach Wilson is a turnover machine, and the new coordinator, Mike LaFleur, is not helping him by implementing a complex scheme.
Now the Jets deserve some slack; they are the second-youngest team in the NFL. The problem they have in Week 4 is that the Jets are playing the NFL’s resident bullies.
The Titans stomped all over the luckless Colts in Week 3, and they did it by unleashing Derrick Henry. Henry is in late-season form, and the Titans are feeding off of that. Harold Landry led the NFL in Week 3 for pressures and a hapless Jets offensive line could be cannon-fodder for him and his teammates. The difficult days look set to continue for the Jets.
Still, it could be worse. No one expected the Jets to compete in 2021, whereas many felt the Giants would step up. It is year three of the Daniel Jones experiment, and GM Dave Gettleman has spent heavily surrounding Jones with talent at the skill positions and on the offensive line.
The Giants are 0-3. Moreover, the tensions are bubbling up. Joe Judge evidenced that by ranting at the analytics community in his midweek press conference. The Giants are lackluster on both sides of the ball. The pieces they have are not gelling, and the injuries on the offensive line are hindering Jones’ ability to play.
A divisional matchup against the Eagles offers the Giants a chance to kickstart their season, and the team should play with plenty of motivation and fire. Sadly, the Giants just lack quality.
Will The Washington Defense Please Stand Up
After winning the NFC East title in 2020, experts felt Washington would take another jump up in competitiveness. The vaunted defense was the foundation upon which they would succeed.
Unfortunately, it is not panning out like that. Washington surrendered 29 points against the Giants, which should’ve been more had Darius Slayton not dropped a touchdown. Last week, the Bills took Washington behind the woodshed as they hung 40 points on Ron Rivera’s team.
One of the principal reasons behind the struggle was a lack of pressure. Washington’s monstrous defensive line is currently MIA. They posted zero sacks, and only Da’Ron Payne was inside the NFL average regarding pressure. Worryingly, Chase Young and Montez Sweat were nowhere near Josh Allen.
With the Cowboys looking so strong, Washington can’t afford to lose to the Falcons. Washington can attack the Falcons’ offensive line, plus Matt Ryan is a statue quarterback who crumbles under pressure. Atlanta’s offense is decent, and if Ryan has time, he could slice Washington’s secondary.
Draftniks billed Chase Young as a generational pass-rusher. The former Ohio State Buckeye must rise to the occasion. His team needs him to have a monstrous game.
Are The Denver Broncos Fools Gold?
The Denver Broncos are one of the pleasant surprises in the early part of the season. Vic Fangio’s team is 3-0, and they’ve played competent football. Teddy Bridgewater is playing at a solid level, and the defense has Fangio’s fingerprints all over it.
However, there is one caveat in all of this: The Broncos have played the Giants, Jags, and the Jets. Therefore it’s hard to ascertain how good the Broncos are. Week 4 offers the Broncos a real litmus test as they host the Baltimore Ravens.
The Ravens escaped Detroit with a miraculous win courtesy of Justin Tucker’s right boot. Baltimore showed weaknesses against the Lions, and the Broncos could exploit them too.
Baltimore will use their staple Cover 0 blitzes, and the Lions negated that by running the ball and using D’Andre Swift as a receiver out of the backfield. Teddy Bridgewater won’t want to take pressure all game. The Broncos need to follow the Lions’ blueprint and force Baltimore to move away from the blitzing game.
Defensively, the Broncos must play a clean game against Lamar Jackson. Last week, the quarterback shone in the passing game; sadly, the Ravens receivers couldn’t catch the ball. Jackson is playing at a brilliant level, and Fangio will need to call a near-perfect game. Jackson has stardust in his boots, and he is quickly becoming an elite passer. It is the first tough challenge for the Broncos, and a win for Denver might announce them as genuine contenders.
Tayyib is an avid NFL fan and, as a follower of the detroit lions, is a permanent resident in the honolulu blue heartbreak hotel. writing football articles since 2019, tayyib loves everything about the sport except that wins are not a qb stat. follow him on twitter @TayyibABU1