NFL Week 4 Takeaways: What We Learned This Week
So another NFL week in the books and another new columnist to introduce!
Connor Brosnan joins GridironXtra as an NFL writer and analyst with a passion for stats and he begins with a look back at week 4, in what was another thrilling slate of games.
Connor is a Carolina Panthers fan and has followed the trials and tribulations of the Charlotte based franchise for 7 years.
Follow Connor on Twitter: @CLBrosnan93
Can the Jets get any lower?
Every time you think the New York Jets have hit rock bottom, the next week rolls along and they somehow manage to fall again. Thursday's defeat at the hands of the Denver Broncos felt like a new low for a franchise that seems to have no direction at the minute.
Facing a Broncos lineup that was not only down to its QB3 in Brett Rypien following injuries to Drew Lock and Blake Bortles, but also missing several other notable starters including Phillip Lindsay and Davontae Harris, this was the perfect time for the Jets to get their first win of the season.
Obviously then, the Jets managed to make a complete mess of that opportunity, despite the Broncos doing their best to lose the game themselves. Rypien, making his first NFL start, certainly was not dreadful, throwing for 242 yards and two touchdowns but these are not the sort of numbers that could put the game beyond the Jets, especially given how he also threw three interceptions.
Their inability to put drives away just kept preventing the Jets from being able to build any sort of lead in a game they had plenty of chances to, highlighted by them settling for three field goals when in great position in the redzone. Darnold didn't have a good game by any stretch, despite his very impressive rushing TD early on, but his lack of weapons and the dreadful pass protection (6 sacks and 10 QB hits) gave him no chance to get any momentum going.
There is a distinct lack of quality all over the field on this Jets team and their six personal fouls suggests a complete lack of discipline and leadership too. It's yet another wasted year on a rebuild where they're not actually rebuilding and it looks like they'll have to just write this year off and hit the reboot button in February with a new head coach and likely a new quarterback...again.
Houston have a problem
If you ask most Texans fans, they will tell you that this sort of situation has been on the table for a long time. Squeezing into the playoffs through a pretty weak division for the last few years has papered over a lot of cracks. There is no hiding the issues this year though.
Admittedly their first three games this season were against potential Super Bowl contenders, but this week felt like the perfect opportunity for them to kickstart their season against a fellow winless Vikings, but they did not even threaten to do that.
Once again DeShaun Watson has been sacked more than any other QB (16) and has been hit 36 times through four weeks. A few of those can be down to Watson's indecision, however this just keeps showing how much they are struggling to protect him and the difficulty he is having at getting to open receivers (that Hopkins trade looks worse every week).
Finally, the Texans had seen enough and fired head coach Bill O'Brien. It got to the stage where they could no longer just keep accepting the massive mistakes the franchise has made and hoping things would work out in the end. With the power he held, the blame firmly had to lay at his door.
He had years to fix these problems, but it always seemed that in trying to do that they would end up creating even bigger problems. Firing O'Brien is definitely the right call, but the damage has long been done. There won't be a playoff push in Houston this year and to make things worse, they won't even get the silver lining of a high draft pick if the season keeps falling apart since Miami hold their 1st and 2nd round picks in the 2021 draft. Ouch.
Dak creating history
Regardless of where he is playing his football next season, there can be no doubt now that Dak Prescott will be getting paid. A lot. The debate as to whether he truly is a Franchise QB seems long over and he seems to put another argument forward every week as to why the Cowboys should be paying him whatever he was wanting.
It is strange that even in a pretty embarrassing loss the main talking point can be how good the losing quarterback played, but Dak's performance on Sunday left us with no choice as he was smashing all sorts of records against Cleveland. His 502 yards were a career high and just 4 short of Tony Romo's Franchise record.
Prescott leads the league in passing with 1,674 yards, nearly 400 yards ahead of the next highest, Josh Allen. Kurt Warner has lost one of his many NFL records as those 1,674 yards are the most in the Super Bowl era through 4 games, passing the Rams great. He is also now the first QB in NFL history to throw for over 450 yards in 3 consecutive games.
The Cowboys offense is reaping the rewards of giving Prescott arguably the best weapons in the league, consisting of an elite RB and essentially three WR1s combined with that solid offensive line. As much as the Cowboys are struggling, Dak Prescott is staking his claim to be one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL.
The Cowboys will regret not putting him in a position to help them win a Super Bowl, but Dak is going to keep creating history and put himself in a position to earn a lot of money, and if Dallas aren't careful he may end up somewhere where he can go and win a Super Bowl.
Cowboys repeating history
Right, after all the good we just addressed in that Dak Prescott performance on Sunday, we now have to talk about the major issues at the Dallas Cowboys. There is no way a team should be scoring 38 points at home with their quarterback throwing for over 500 yards and not winning.
Not only losing, but losing very comfortably for the most part. Yes, they threatened another spectacular comeback, but the problems facing Mike McCarthy cannot keep getting brushed under the carpet. The offense played well on paper – yes they had a few poor moments (two fumbles and an interception) and a lot of the points were late in the game, an issue that has repeated itself for longer than this season – but they struggle to just kill teams off when they jump out into a lead.
Their main issue right now however is on defense, which is on course for a historically bad season. In their four games this year, the Cowboys have conceded 38+ points in each of them. The Browns rushed for over 300 yards on Sunday evening, an inexcusable number.
Houston aside, they have the worst rush defense in the league and their secondary is not exactly anything to write home about. Let us not forget, the only win the Cowboys have this year was in part because the Falcons did what they always seem to do and imploded when they had a huge lead.
With a favourable schedule for the next four weeks, Mike Nolan and McCarthy need to figure out a way to fix that defense because they are in danger of somehow not winning the easiest division in football.
Are Cleveland finally legit?
Yes, this is my third takeaway from the Cowboys - Browns game, but there was so much to talk about in this one. For as bad as Dallas were on defense, we cannot forget the part Cleveland played in that.
This was a team that saw an opportunity for a statement win and were just relentless throughout to get it. 34 unanswered points through the middle quarters put them into a near-unbelievable 41-14 lead.
300+ rushing yards is an incredible showing on the road and mixed in with some trick plays and a spectacular game from Odell Beckham Jr, the Browns offense looked as good as it has for some time. Kevin Stefanski may finally be getting things to click.
Baker Mayfield hardly needed to get involved in this one because of the damage they put up with the run game, but he was steady enough with his 165 yards and two touchdowns. The loss of Nick Chubb is a big blow, but Cleveland are lucky enough to have a ready-made replacement in Kareem Hunt.
Sack leader Myles Garrett continues to impress, adding another two more to his total this week and if they can fix up that secondary which has been picked on all season, admittedly against some very talented offenses, Cleveland look like they have a very real shot at a playoff push.
Joe Burrow's first W
You would be hard pressed to find anybody that has not been impressed with Joe Burrow through the first four weeks. The No.1 overall pick has stepped into a difficult situation in Cincinnati but has very rarely looked out of place.
His three games before Sunday’s win against Jacksonville were narrow defeats against the Chargers and Browns, followed by a tie against the Eagles.
He has not looked overawed and has kept his sides in those games but just has not been able to get them across the line -- this week he did.
This was his third straight game of throwing over 300+ yards as he continues to click with the talented weapons he has, including a big helping hand this week from Joe Mixon who had his best game since being drafted in 2017.
It was another clean enough outing for Burrow, with his sole interception being on a reasonably well thrown ball that was brilliantly picked off in the endzone by Myles Jack. There is so much to like about Burrow's game, and with that first win under his belt you would feel that a big weight has been lifted off him and the Bengals franchise. Just what they needed as they head into a very tricky run of games.
The Carolina Panthers are getting exactly what they wanted from Teddy Bridgewater. We all know he is not going to blow teams away and be putting up ridiculous numbers, but that is not what the Panthers brought him in for. They have been crying out for some consistency for a while now and Teddy is the embodiment of that.
He may not be the long-term option, but he is doing his chances of getting that role no harm with another steady 276-yard, two-touchdown game. The Panthers are generally loaded in the skill positions, even without star running back Christian McCaffrey, with Mike Davis looking like a reliable stand-in and Robby Anderson turning out to be one of the pickups of the season as Teddy's favourite target (he was 1 yard short of his 3rd 100 yard game of the season).
All the Panthers were wanting was a quarterback to put up steady numbers and make few mistakes. The offensive line is improved slightly, allowing 8 sacks, but Bridgewater's ability to get rid of the ball quickly is helping to keep him protected, with the 15 QB hits he's received being among the lowest in the NFL. Fourth in the passing leaders chart, Bridgewater is exactly what the Panthers needed and shows that there's really no need for them to consider tanking. There is plenty there to work with, with this team.
The emergence of Robert Tonyan
It may be a little reactionary, but that performance from the current TE1 in Green Bay on Monday night against the Falcons definitely deserves recognition. The undrafted free agent was hardly known outside of the Packers organization, but his 98-yard, three touchdown game caught the attention of everybody this week, including his close friend and superstar tight end George Kittle on social media.
The Packers were injury ravaged in the wide receiving position for the visit of Atlanta, meaning Aaron Rodgers was having to rely pretty much solely on his running backs and tight ends, but I doubt even he would have been expecting the production he got from Tonyan.
It helps that they were facing a depleted and struggling Falcons defense, but the stats speak for themselves. Tonyan scored more touchdowns in this game than his combined total throughout his first two years in the NFL. He almost equalled his 2019 total yards just through his 6 receptions last night.
It is the sort of performance every quarterback craves from his tight end. Always available and making every play a big play, he wrote his name into Packers history by becoming only their third tight end ever to have a three-touchdown game. Time will tell if this is just a flash in the pan but having scored touchdowns in each of the previous two weeks before Monday, Tonyan was already showing signs of growing into a very useful tight end in the league. He is definitely one to keep an eye on going forward, and I am sure he will be a popular pickup in everybody's Fantasy Football league this week.