The NFL Season is at the quarter poll already if you can believe it. We’ve already seen anything and everything from the surprising to the downright expected. The Broncos may be even better than we thought, Andy Reid has turned the Chiefs into a contender, the read option is already taking a back seat and there’s still a long, long way to go before we crown a Super Bowl champion.
No need to waste any time getting into the rankings for this week. Don’t worry. The name at the top is a familiar one.
1. Denver Broncos (4-0, Last Week: 1): The Stat: 16, 50, 6000. Peyton Manning is so good right now that he gets three stats this week. He’s the first quarterback to ever throw 16 touchdown passes in the season’s first four weeks. He’s also done that without a single interception. He also is the first quarterback EVER to reach 50 touchdown passes or 6,000 passing yards in his first 20 games with a new team.
2. Seattle Seahawks (4-0, LW: 2): The Stat: 14. Richard Sherman’s 58-yard INT TD knotted the game with Houston before the Seahawks eventually won in overtime, but that’s just commonplace these days for Sherman. The boisterous shut down corner has 14 interceptions, two returned for touchdowns since he entered the league in 2011. He also has 45 passes defensed in that time, though he only has four this year while teams try to avoid him.
3. New Orleans Saints (4-0, LW: 3): The Stat: 4146. With 30 completions in Monday night’s game, Drew Brees passed John Elway for 4th on the all-time list. Brees moved 23 past Elway in the game, but he’ll be 4th for awhile. Dan Marino is 3rd, still 821 completions away. He will be moving up the passing TDs list soon, though. Brees is just eight scores behind Fran Tarkenton.
4. New England Patriots (4-0, LW: 5): The Stat: 17. There’s been all kinds of negative talk about Tom Brady’s no-name receiving corps, but it appears they’re coming around just fine. Julian Edelman (117) and Kenbrell Thompkins (128) both crossed the 100 receiving yard plateau Sunday. That’s the first time in 17 games two Patriots receivers passed the century mark. The last time: Week 4 of 2012, when Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski did it.
5. Kansas City Chiefs (4-0, LW: 6): The Stat: 37.6. The previously turnover-less Chiefs no longer hold that distinction after handing the rock over twice against the Giants, but the offense still excelled. One reason for that is field position. Kansas City leads the NFL, starting offensive drives at their own 37.6 yard line. That’s five yards better than any other team in football. The Chiefs are best in football on the other side too with opponents starting at their own 20.6.
6. Indianapolis Colts (3-1, LW: 9): The Stat: 14-6. Andrew Luck is 14-6 in his first 20 regular season games. Why is that important? It ties John Elway for best ever start by a Number One overall pick in the draft. 29 quarterbacks have been taken first overall, so for Luck to find himself on the top of that list is pretty notable.
7. Chicago Bears (3-1, LW: 4): The Stat: 1-13. Ever since a tough first half in Week One against Cincinnati, the Bears looked extremely good, up until Sunday at Detroit. Jay Cutler was victimized by the tough Lions defensive front, forcing him and the offense into a 1-13 day on 3rd Downs. Even more telling, that one conversion came on a touchdown pass with 43 seconds left. That kept Chicago from their first game since
8. San Francisco 49ers (2-2, LW: 10): The Stat: 153. Frank Gore’s 153 rushing yards Thursday night against St. Louis was his highest total since rushing for 167 yards against the Cardinals in Week 14 of 2009. That’s a span of 48 mostly excellent starts for the work horse back. In fact, he’s reached 100 yards 17 times in that period without getting to 150.
9. Detroit Lions (3-1, LW: 17): The Stat: 10-47. I mentioned that the Bears went 1-13 on 3rd Down against the Lions. It wasn’t a fluke. Detroit has the best 3rd Down defense in the NFL this year, giving up just 10 conversions in 47 chances, a 79% success rate for a defense that is much improved from a year ago.
10. Miami Dolphins (3-1, LW: 8): The Stat: 18. Despite their strong start, the Dolphins will need to protect Ryan Tannehill better for the 2nd year signal caller to continue to succeed. Tannehill’s been sacked 18 times this year, the highest number in the NFL. That has a lot to do with Tannehill’s five interception total, four of those coming in the last two games. With the Ravens, Bills, Patriots and Bengals up next, we’ll soon know how good the Dolphins really are.
11. Cincinnati Bengals (2-2, LW: 7): The Stat: 0-4. The Bengals were upset by the Browns Sunday, and now it doesn’t get any easier. It’s Tom Brady and the undefeated Patriots next up. Cincinnati’s 0-4 all-time against Tom Brady, and it hasn’t been pretty. Brady has 10 TDs, 2 INT, and his offense has scored 35, 38, 34 and 38. Even worse, the Bengals were without three of their starting four in the secondary Sunday so hopefully that will change.
12. Green Bay Packers (1-2, LW: 12): The Stat: 6-1. The Packers are 6-1 coming off a Bye Week under Mike McCarthy, including four straight wins. Their most common victim in those situations? Two wins against the Lions, including just last year. This week they host those same Lions, riding high off the win against the Bears.
13. Tennessee Titans (3-1, LW: 15): The Stat: 0. I’ve championed the Chiefs all year about winning with good defense and turnover free football, but it’s the Titans who are now the only team in the NFL that hasn’t given the ball away a single time. That streak might be tough to keep up with Quarterback Jake Locker out for about eight weeks with a serious hip injury.
14. Atlanta Falcons (1-3, LW: 13): The Stat: 59. The Falcons had gone 59 straight games without losing back-to-back in the same season. The last time it happened was Weeks 13 and 14 of 2009 against the Eagles and Saints. Atlanta’s record is much better than it looks. Their three losses were to teams that are a combined 15-1. The good news: their next four games are against teams with a 5-10 mark.
15. Houston Texans (2-2, LW: 11): The Stat: 3. That’s the number of touchdowns Texans Quarterback Matt Schaub has given up on interception returns in the last three games. In fact, the Houston signal caller has given up an INT TD in four of the past six games, with eight total interceptions in that time. No wonder fans are starting to wonder if he’s the long term solution at Reliant Stadium.
16. San Diego Chargers (2-2, LW: 19): The Stat: 83.3%. Philip Rivers threw for 401 yards in the 30-21 win against Dallas Sunday, and he did it with the best completion percentage ever for a 400 yard game, 83.3%. Rivers was 35-42 in the game, furthering improving a percentage that’s easily better than his career best of 66.0% in 2010. It’s only been four games, but Rivers has completed 73.9% of his passes overall, and he’s done so without projected top wide out Danario Alexander.
17. Baltimore Ravens (2-2, LW: 14): The Stat: 2.6. We’ll look past Joe Flacco’s five interceptions against a Bills secondary without its top four players and point out that the hard nosed, run-oriented Ravens are averaging an atrocious 2.6 yards per carry. That’s the 2nd worst average in the NFL, ahead of only the Jaguars. Many people considered the Ray Rice/Bernard Pierce backfield one of the best in the NFL, yet they combined for nine carries and 24 yards in Buffalo. Not going to work.
18. Buffalo Bills (2-2, LW: 21): The Stat: September 22, 1996. That’s the last time the Buffalo Bills beat a defending Super Bowl champion before knocking off the Ravens on Sunday. That day, 6,382 days ago, Buffalo racked up just 224 total yards but beat Dallas 10-7. This time around, the Bills defense intercepted Joe Flacco five times, beating Baltimore 23-20.
19. Dallas Cowboys (2-2, LW: 16): The Stat: 130-130. The Cowboys are one of the greatest unknowns in the NFL from week-to-week. Sometimes they come out guns blazing. Other times they’re completely stagnant. Because of that, it shouldn’t be terribly surprising that since 1997, Dallas has a 130-130 record. It’s incredible that a stat like that is even possible, and I’m sure Jerry isn’t too pleased to see it.
20. Cleveland Browns (2-2, LW: 25): The Stat: 4.2. Brian Hoyer’s getting the love for taking over the Browns and winning his first two starts with the team, but anyone watching knows that the Browns’ defense is the biggest reason why they’re 2-2 and looking better every week. Cleveland is leading the NFL, giving up only 4.2 yards per play with its revamped unit. They’ve done it by being number one in both pass yards per attempt (5.9) and rush yards per carry (2.9). They also are tied for the league lead, giving up just two touchdown passes in four games.
21. Minnesota Vikings (1-3, LW: 26): The Stat: 12. Adrian Peterson is known for his bruising running style, but one of the things that makes him the ridiculous talent he is is that he combines the bruising style with home run capability. AD’s 60-yard touchdown run Sunday was his 12th of 60+ yards in his career so far. That’s the largest number in NFL history. Second on that list: the great Jim Brown with nine such runs, followed by Chris Johnson and Barry Sanders with eight. Speaking of comparisons between Peterson and Sanders, check my column from last week.
22. Philadelphia Eagles (1-3, LW: 18): The Stat: 44.7%. The Eagles may have a high octane offense brewing, but the defense is lacking far behind. From a yards standpoint, they aren’t the worst overall, but Philadelphia’s allowing a score on a league worst 44.7% of opponents’ drives. That means their competition is scoring almost half the time they get the football. It’s tough to win when you’re up against that.
23. Carolina Panthers (1-2, LW: 24): The Stat: 15-of-19. This is a real oddity. This is the 19th season of Carolina Panthers football, yet it’s only the fourth time they’ll ever hit the road after a Bye Week. The Panthers have played at home following the Bye 15 times in the previous 18 years, though it doesn’t seem to matter from the standpoint of record. Carolina’s 7-8 at home following a Bye and 2-1 on the road.
24. Washington Redskins (1-3, LW: 27): The Stat: 52%. The Redskins dropped back to pass on 52% of their plays at Oakland Sunday. In the season’s first three games, Washington called a pass play 74% of the time. While a lot of that was because the team faced big deficits, it can’t be argued that when the ‘Skins get closer to 50-50 in the run-pass game, they are a much better team. In last year’s NFC East Champion season, Washington actually ran the ball 54% of the time. If they can find that ratio again, the wins will start to come.
25. Arizona Cardinals (2-2, LW: 28): The Stat: 61%. The Cardinals aren’t putting up huge points, averaging just 17.3 points per game, but fans are at least seeing late game excitement. Arizona has scored 61% of its points in the 2nd half, and their highest scoring quarter is the 4th.
26. New York Jets (2-2, LW: 20): The Stat: 7. Jets Quarterback Geno Smith is tied with the Giants Eli Manning for the NFL’s most turnovers. Both have 11. Making the concern even bigger this week is that Smith and the J-E-T-S hit the road to Atlanta. Smith has seven of his 11 giveaways in New York’s two road games, compared to four in the pair of home contests.
27. Oakland Raiders (1-3, LW: 23): The Stat: 0. The Raiders have been tested early, facing Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning and Robert Griffin III in three of their four games, but Oakland hasn’t intercepted a single pass this year, unacceptable for a professional unit in a four game span. The four quarterbacks they’ve faced have thrown 11 interceptions this year. On top of the lack of picks, the Raiders are allowing a league best 72.1 completion percentage.
28. St. Louis Rams (1-3, LW: 22): The Stat: 0. The Rams are transitioning from a running attack to a passing attack, but there’s a long way to go and to abandon offensive balance completely is a dangerous proposition. Unfortunately for St. Louis fans, that’s exactly what their team is doing. After cutting ties with Steven Jackson (4.2 ypc, 6.2 TD per season in nine years in StL), the Rams running attack is averaging 2.6 ypc and they’re one of two teams who still haven’t scored a rushing touchdown.
29. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-4, LW: 29): The Stat: 1968. This is the first time since 1968 that the Pittsburgh Steelers have been 0-4. Between the two 0-4 starts, Pittsburgh has a 440-306-3 record, 6 Super Bowl titles, 26 playoff appearances, 66 Pro Bowlers, 29 All Pro’s, and just 3 head coaches in 45 years. Needless to say, most people aren’t feeling too bad for the men of steel right now.
30. New York Giants (0-4, LW: 30): The Stat: 4. On defense, the Giants are usually known for their fearsome front seven, harassing quarterbacks into sacks and bad decisions. Not this year. New York’s 0-4 and has only four sacks, total. The descent didn’t start this year either. In 2012, the G-Men were 20th with 33 sacks after finishing 4th with 48 in 2011.
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-4, LW: 31): The Stat: 10. This is the 10th time in franchise history that the Buccaneers have started 0-4. That ties the Bengals for the most such starts since the NFL/AFL merger back in 1970. The saddest part: The Bucs didn’t exist until 1976.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-4, LW: 32): The Stat: 31. The Jaguars, in four games have scored only 31 points this year. How bad is that? The Broncos are averaging 44.8 points per game. Denver’s average is two touchdowns better than Jacksonville’s season total.