Welcome to the latest edition of The Sunday Recap, a weekly column dedicated to thoughts on the previous day’s NFL action! Here are my top takeaways from yesterday’s games.
Jared Goff and Rams deliver statement of intent
The Los Angeles Rams were undoubtedly the biggest winners of Week 4. I said during our latest Check Down radio broadcast that their upcoming matchup with the Cowboys was the week’s most intriguing game, simply because it provided the 2-1 Rams their first true test of the season–a road meeting with last year’s number one seed in the NFC.
Well, Los Angeles certainly passed the test. Its revamped offense continued to impress, as Jared Goff, last year’s number one pick, took another step toward stardom. Forget about everything that happened during his dreadful rookie season: Goff has been great this year under new coach Sean McVay. He passed for two more touchdowns against the Cowboys, bringing his total up to 7 on the year (he also has only one interception). And how about his composure? Facing a 24-13 deficit late in the second quarter, Goff led Los Angeles on six scoring drives over its following seven possessions, albeit with a lot of help from running back Todd Gurley, who once again looked like his 2015-self after totaling over 200 yards from scrimmage on the day.
Goff’s success is terrific news for a Rams franchise still struggling to find a footing in its new city. Los Angeles now has a good, marketable quarterback and an explosive offense that currently ranks among the league’s best in nearly every category. This is exactly the kind of team you see playing in primetime consistently (think New England, Green Bay, Dallas, Atlanta). To now have a sexy new contender in such a large market, it’s essentially an NFL marketer’s dream!
We’ll see in the coming weeks whether LA’s offense is quite as potent as the numbers suggest (I’m particularly interested to see how Goff and company fare against the stingy Seahawks next week). Nonetheless, the following quote from the despicable Calvin Candie in Django Unchained came to my mind in the aftermath of Los Angeles’ statement win over Dallas: “Gentleman, you had my curiosity. But now you have my attention.”
Deshaun Watson is this year’s Dak Prescott, and he’s got the Texans finally looking like a Super Bowl contender
If only the Texans had a quarterback… Haven’t we been hearing that statement over and over again for years? News flash people: Houston now has a quarterback!
While leading the Texans to a 57-14 shellacking over the Titans, rookie Deshaun Watson accounted for five touchdowns (four passing, one rushing) and posted a staggering 98.3 Total QBR. That’s the highest single-game QBR of the young season. Oh, and guess who now leads the NFL in this same metric, which is arguably the most comprehensive and accurate measure available to measure a quarterback’s performance? Yes, it’s Watson.
Watson’s start is reminiscent of Dak Prescott’s last season. Like Dallas’ second-year QB, Watson is dynamic (he’s averaging close to 50 rushing yards per start), precise (he completed 73% of his passes yesterday), and, above all else, transformative. The Texans failed to average more than 20 points per game in each of the past two seasons. But after three starts from their rookie first-round pick, Houston is now averaging close to 35 per game. Combined with their above-average defense, it’s no surprise, therefore, that this kind of offensive success has translated to victories for the Texans. And let’s not forget this: in Houston’s lone loss with its star rookie at the helm, Watson had the Texans on the brink of a road victory against a New England team that has always made a mockery of them. The former Clemson star could very easily be 3-0.
The hypothetical discussion as to how good Houston could be if it had a legitimate quarterback is now a reality. There is no reason why this team can’t reach the same heights as last year’s Cowboys.
Confirmed in upset loss to Carolina: New England’s defense is the worst in the NFL
Glaring defensive woes continue to plague my Patriots, as they wasted another outstanding offensive performance in a surprising home loss to Carolina.
Here’s why yesterday’s defeat was particularly troubling. It’s reasonable to allow over 400+ yards to top-ten offenses like Kansas City and New Orleans. Carolina, however, was the second consecutive team to enter its game against New England ranked in the bottom five of points per game (15.0; 29th in the NFL) and yards per play (4.4; 30th). Nonetheless, the Panthers became the fourth straight opponent to post over 400+ yards of offense on the Patriots, while Cam Newton, who entered the contest 30th out of 32 qualified quarterbacks in Total QBR, totaled his highest yards-per-attempt figure (10.9) since 2015.
New England entered Week 4 dead last in every major defensive metric (points, yards, yards per play, DVOA–you name it), and clearly yesterday did nothing to dispel the notion that its defense is the worst in the NFL. As Tony Dungy pointed out during Football Night in America, however, many of the Patriots’ issues seem to be as a result of miscommunication, as there were a few plays against Carolina–including two touchdowns–in which two defensive backs would cover one man while another was left completely unchecked. Those kind of problems are fixable, in theory. It will be up to defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and Belichick–no, not the one you’re thinking of, but Steve Belichick, the grossly inexperienced defensive backs coach–to make the necessary adjustments.
Ultimately, though, the Patriots likely won’t be able to overhaul their defense overnight. It’s simply too far into the season for a dramatic personnel change to occur. So, despite having arguably the league’s best offense, New England can continue to expect its games to be uncomfortably close until the very end.
- Why exactly did the Dolphins give Jay Cutler $10 million?…Excluding a BS touchdown on the final play of last week’s game, Miami’s offense literally hasn’t scored in two weeks…Cutler (164 yards, 5.9 YPA, 1 INT on Sunday) is an abomination…get Matt Moore in there!
- Another awful quarterback: Cleveland’s DeShone Kizer…I’m already writing off the Browns’ second round pick…Kizer now has thrown eight interceptions in four games…as I said last April, Kizer didn’t produce in college, so it’s no surprise that he isn’t producing as a pro…Cleveland is still lost at the quarterback position.
- Are the Bills the biggest surprise through four weeks?…many pundits thought Buffalo was tanking this year after trading many of its top contributors from last season…now the Bills own impressive wins over Denver and Atlanta…I doubt this team will ultimately make the playoffs, but I like its running game…and more importantly, new head coach Sean McDermott has clearly upgraded this defense…the Bills have yet to allow over 17 points to an opponent.
- Big losers of the day: Oakland, Tennessee, and Minnesota…Derek Carr went down with a back injury in the Raiders’ loss to Denver…there looks to be a clear gap between the Raiders and both the Chiefs and Broncos…now it must cope with the potential loss of Carr…Tennessee, meanwhile, allowed 57 points…no analysis needed as to why that is concerning, and to add insult to injury, Marcus Mariota left the game with a hamstring injury…And lastly, the Vikings also dropped a divisional matchup while losing a key player, too…rookie running back Dalvin Cook is out for the season after “completely tearing” his ACL.
Monday Night Prediction
Washington Redskins (2-1) vs Kansas City Chiefs (3-0)
Spread: KC -9 Over/Under: 49.5
DVOA: WSH (7) < KC (2)
Public Betting: KC 67%
I like this matchup for the Chiefs. Kansas City’s ball-hawking defense should intercept the erratic Kirk Cousins at least once. And even though the Redskins are coming off a stellar defensive performance against Oakland, I doubt they’ll find a way to contain Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce.