The fourth week of the NFL season saw the Texans break out in a big way after dropping a heartbreaker in New England last week. Houston was all over a highly praised Titans team from kickoff and posted an impressive 57 points in the blowout win.
Houston tallied more points on Sunday than they did through the first three weeks combined and got it done in all facets of the game. Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota had no answers to the Texans defense and Deshaun Watson looked like the veteran quarterback.
In the opening week of the season I criticized head coach Bill O’Brien for going to the rookie signal caller too early. However, Watson has rejuvenated the Texans with two wins and a narrow road loss to the Patriots. If the terrific play under center continues, Houston is just as deadly as anyone in the AFC South and will be a tough out moving forward.
After improving to 2-1 with a road win over Arizona in week 3, the Cowboys looked for two in a row at home. They welcomed the new and improved Los Angeles Rams to Jerry’s world for a high-scoring thriller. Quarterback Jared Goff and star back Todd Gurley outscored Dallas 19-6 in the second half and held them off on the final drive to scrape out a 35-30 victory.
Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot have proven they’re still capable of leading a potent offensive attack, but there are question marks on the defensive side of the ball. 2017 will be much different than last year, when the Cowboys were rolling just about every week. They will find themselves in a divisional dogfight with Philadelphia and Washington as the season progresses.
The Rams have been one of the most pleasant surprises of the 2017 season so far. A team that could do absolutely nothing offensively is now thriving under first year head coach Sean McVay. The LA Rams are the highest scoring offense through the first quarter of the season.
It might finally be time to start sweating in New England. The Patriots dropped to 2-2 with their second home loss of the season in week 4 with a loss to Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. Newton entered the game struggling to move the ball at all and posted by far his best game of the season.
The Patriots surrendered 33 points to the Panthers and lost on a last-second field goal. New England’s defense has looked like one of the worst units in the league this season and will have to figure out a way to help out Tom Brady if they hope to have a shot at one of the conference’s top playoff seeds.
Carolina is now 3-1 with a very capable defense on their side. Newton finally played well, but the quarterback needs to show me that he’s mature enough to lead another divisional push. He showed his famous attitude again after the win and called out the media for doubting him. He needs to understand that he’s going to get criticized if he plays the way he did to start the season. If he can do what he did in New England against better defenses, the Panthers will contend.
Another battle between the AFC East and the NFC South squads took place in Atlanta. The Falcons dropped their first regular season game at the hands of the Buffalo Bills. Despite the loss, Atlanta lost star receiver Julio Jones in the first half and were nowhere
near as productive. They now sit tied atop their division with the Panthers with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looking up at 2-1.
Along with the Rams, Buffalo is one of the most surprising teams in 2017. They have now upset Denver and Atlanta in back-to-back weeks to move to 3-1 and sit alone atop the AFC East.
Denver bounced back nicely and improved to 3-1 with a critical home win inside the division over the Oakland Raiders. Oakland has struggled mightily over the last two weeks with losses to Washington and now the Broncos. To put things in perspective: it took the Raiders over six quarters to convert a third down conversion.
Oakland’s quarterback Derek Carr left the game with back spasms and didn’t look effective anyway. Suddenly, the Raiders have something to prove moving forward after a fantastic start in the opening weeks.
With the conclusion of the week on Monday night, a quarter of the season will be done. Nothing seems to be going how the top analysts predicted it would and many teams that weren’t looked at twice have now turned heads early. Things have a way of working themselves out, so we’ll see who will fall back down to earth and who makes headlines in the coming weeks.