If you wanted variety, Sunday provided it.
Seven games were decided by seven points or less. Two were decided by a single point. The defending NFC champion Carolina Panthers lost to a team that didn’t even win half of its games last season. And, of course, there was that Sunday night game in which the 29-point margin of victory doesn’t begin to speak to how dominant the Steelers were.
There’s a lot to talk about in week four so, without further adieu, here is what we learned.
Sunday kicked off the Not Good Enough for the Former British Colonies Series.
The NFL, for reasons that I am yet to figure out, is speaking out of both sides of their mouth when it comes to international games. On the one hand, they constantly tease with mentions of expanding back into the European market. On the other, they barely pay the idea lip service, if their scheduling is any indication. While Sunday’s game, the first of the season outside the United States, ended up being a pretty entertaining affair, no one would have expected as much when the schedule came out. After all, the Colts were downright awful last year, and while the Jaguars are slowly improving, they are still in the bottom third of the league. Europeans are eating these games up nonetheless, with yet another sellout crowd. If they finally got a taste of truly good football, they’d start to boycott these less-than-stellar contests that are basically the NFL equivalent of hand-me-downs.
Well, this is certainly going to go to Rex Ryan’s head.
Two weeks ago, I said it was possible the Patriots lose to the Bills. Take the quarterback out of the equation, because neither Jacoby Brissett nor Jimmy Garropolo would likely have won this game, because the Bills’ defense spent almost as much time in the New England backfield as Brissett did. In a season when Rex Ryan is struggling (you know, just like most of his seasons) you have to figure he’s putting even more emphasis on the New England games than usual. For Ryan, these games have always been personal, and you have to give him credit for managing to get his players up for Sunday’s win.
Imagine there is a bug-eyed emoji here.
Don’t look now, but the Los Angeles Rams are 3-1, with wins over the Seahawks and the Cardinals. Sure, those teams aren’t the class of the NFC like they were supposed to be, but this is still an impressive start for...well...any team that employs Jeff Fisher as its head coach. Case Keenum is 6-2 in his last eight games, and has thrown just four interceptions in that span. To quote Gomer Pyle:
Now for the inaugural Weekly Bellyflop Award.
Of course, it’s only fitting that the first one of these awards would go to the Cleveland Browns, who are the only team in the NFL without a win after four weeks. The Browns had a late lead, up 20-17 over the Redskins. The defense was playing well and the offense was moving the ball in the second half. And then...well, then they Browned. Turnovers on three straight drives — two fumbles and an interception — led to 14 Washington points, and were the difference in the game. That’s So Cleveland.
The only player over the last few years to legitimately challenge Antonio Brown for NFL dominance at wide receiver has been the Falcons’ Julio Jones, and this week he stated his case loud and clear. Jones posted 12 catches for three-hundred yards and a touchdown in Atlanta’s outright thrashing of the defending NFC Champion Carolina Panthers. That’s an average of 25 yards per catch. Atlanta won, 48-33, and it wasn’t even nearly that close in reality.
College Football Bonus! I rarely feel bad when Florida State loses...
But, after succumbing to UNC this weekend, combined with their 43-point loss two weeks ago to red-hot Louisville...yeah, no, I still don’t feel bad.
And, finally...that gives Confluence a whole, new meaning.
In retrospect, all the signs pointed to a blowout win for the Steelers this week. We just didn’t see them, but they came together nonetheless. 1) Head coach Mike Tomlin and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger are fantastic in prime-time games. 2) Roethlisberger has been on fire at home, having thrown at least three touchdown passes in five consecutive games at Heinz Field. 3) Mike Tomlin’s teams almost always follow up their rare, bad losses with butt whippings of the blowout kind. What was unexpected, though, was how well the defense played throughout the game. The Chiefs didn’t get their first points until the fourth quarter in a game that was, quite literally, decided before the tenth minute of the game had concluded. Tight end Travis Kelce was held to five catches for 23 yards and the final, garbage-time touchdown with four seconds remaining. And that’s all despite the defense losing Jarvis Jones to injury after what may have been the best game of his career.
Oh, and there’s that little footnote about this being Le’Veon Bell’s first game of the season, and him averaging seven yards every time he touched the ball. Nothing major, or anything.