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NFL Week Four takeaways – What we realized, large response questions and stat leaders for each sport

Week 4 of the 2021 NFL season noticed extra thrilling finishes and assertion victories. The Chiefs bounced again with an enormous win over the Eagles, whereas the Payments shut out the Texans. The Colts lastly received their first win of the season, and the Cowboys’ offense dealt with the Panthers’ nice protection, scoring 36 factors in a victory.

The Giants upset the Saints in time beyond regulation with a pair of Saquon Barkley touchdowns, and the Jets held on in an OT win of their very own, beating the Titans. Zach Wilson earned his first win within the NFL. One other rookie QB — Justin Fields — received the Bears again to .500 on the season. Washington pulled off an enormous comeback within the fourth quarter towards the Falcons, and the Browns held the Vikings to seven factors to maneuver to 3-1.

Within the late video games, the Cardinals defeated the Rams to turn out to be the one 4-Zero crew within the league. The Packers, Ravens and Seahawks additionally received.

Our NFL Nation reporters react to all of it, with the most important takeaways and lingering questions from this week’s motion. Plus, they every take a look at the larger image with their present crew confidence score — a 0-10 grade of how they really feel concerning the crew’s outlook popping out of the week. Let’s get to it.

Bounce to a matchup:
CLE-MIN | CAR-DAL | KC-PHI | HOU-BUF
NYG-NO | IND-MIA | WSH-ATL | TEN-NYJ
DET-CHI | JAX-CIN | PIT-GB | BAL-DEN
ARI-LAR | SEA-SF

Packers

What to know: For this reason quarterback Aaron Rodgers wished huge receiver Randall Cobb again. For third down. For conversions. The primary 4 occasions Rodgers went to Cobb on third down, they transformed for first downs. He had third-down-conversion catches of Eight and 12 yards on the drive that ended with Rodgers’ 4-yard landing scramble. Cobb’s 23-yard landing catch within the second quarter got here on third-and-10. He then had a 25-yarder on a put up to transform a third-and-7 on the opening drive of the second half. Cobb’s first non-third-down catch of the sport got here within the third quarter, when he caught a 1-yard landing cross on first-and-goal to place the Packers forward 27-10. It was Cobb’s first sport with two landing catches since 2015. Cobb’s five-catch, 69-yard, two-touchdown sport got here a day after the Packers positioned receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling on injured reserve. The Packers want this type of manufacturing from Cobb till Valdes-Scantling can come again from his hamstring damage and even perhaps after. — Rob Demovsky

Will Mason Crosby ever miss once more? Maybe solely a breakdown in safety can do in Crosby. His two subject targets on Sunday gave him 24 straight makes — a franchise file — courting to final season. However the Packers had higher work on their operation. Crosby’s sport winner from 51 yards towards the 49ers was practically blocked, after which on Sunday the Steelers really did block one — and return it for a landing, solely to have it referred to as again as a result of Joe Haden lined up offside. Packers particular groups coordinator Maurice Drayton stated final week that the unit has a perfect operation time of between 1.25 seconds to 1.28 seconds. If it pulls it off in that time-frame, Drayton stated: “It’s nearly, I do not wish to say it is unimaginable, but it surely’s just about unimaginable for a man to get there off the sting. We will probably be robust in and out, excuse me, inside [to] out, and let these guys … come off the sting.” That is the place the Steelers got here from on their block that Minkah Fitzpatrick returned for a 75-yard landing that didn’t depend. — Demovsky

Demovsky’s confidence score (0-10): 7.5, no change from final week. The Steelers, particularly QB Ben Roethlisberger, are a shadow of their former selves. The Packers did what they wanted to do. If you happen to thought they have been a superb crew earlier than Sunday, then they nonetheless are. If you happen to thought they nonetheless had issues to show, then they nonetheless do.

Subsequent sport: at Bengals (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)


Steelers

What to know: The Steelers’ offense did what it hasn’t finished in 13 weeks by scoring a landing on the opening drive. However that was the one factor completely different a few clunky and stagnant offense in Sunday’s loss. Even the third-quarter fourth-down play — a swing cross to Najee Harris — was a repeat of the identical one which failed towards the Bengals every week earlier. It misplaced a yard, and Ben Roethlisberger turned the one quarterback up to now 20 seasons to lose yardage on a number of fourth-down completions in the identical season, per ESPN Stats & Info analysis. Although he focused the center of the sector extra usually and had a cleaner pocket, Roethlisberger nonetheless appeared out of sync together with his receivers, together with JuJu Smith-Schuster, whom he missed twice on overthrows that might’ve changed into touchdowns. The Steelers weren’t urgent the panic button after the back-to-back losses in Weeks 2 and three, however they need to be fascinated by it after one more loss wherein the membership did not seem to make any efficient modifications. — Brooke Pryor

How can the protection get again on observe? The Steelers pulled off the Week 1 upset largely due to the protection determining learn how to confuse the Payments with a scheme that not often blitzed. However since then, they’ve given up large performs to each the Raiders and Bengals in consecutive losses, and the cross rush hasn’t been as efficient. In opposition to the Packers, the Steelers received extra strain on Aaron Rodgers than they did on Joe Burrow every week earlier with out T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith, however Rodgers was a handful. And the dashing sport led by AJ Dillon and Aaron Jones gashed the Steelers for 129 yards mixed. — Pryor

Pryor’s confidence score (0-10): 3, down from 4.4. The Steelers aren’t displaying vital week-to-week enhancements, they usually seem extra comfy repeating errors than studying from them.

Subsequent sport: vs. Broncos (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Ravens

What to know: Lamar Jackson can lead the Ravens to victory with no operating sport. The mentality for opposing defenses had been: Cease Baltimore’s run sport, and also you cease the Ravens’ offense. However Jackson, who practiced solely as soon as this previous week due to a again damage, confirmed he can carry the offense together with his arm, regularly stretching the sector and ending with 316 yards passing. It is the second 300-yard passing sport of Jackson’s profession. The decisive strike from Jackson got here within the second quarter, when he threw a 49-yard landing cross to Marquise “Hollywood” Brown. Taking larger pictures downfield has been a spotlight all offseason for Jackson, who led the NFL with 14.Three yards per completion coming into the sport. — Jamison Hensley

Will anybody step as much as turn out to be the Ravens’ lead again? Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman stated coming into this sport that the Ravens are “simply beginning to get a really feel for our [running] backs.” However the backfield stays in flux. After making starter Ty’Son Williams inactive, Latavius Murray managed 59 yards on 18 carries (a pedestrian 3.Three yards per carry). Le’Veon Bell and Devonta Freeman mixed for 15 yards on 5 makes an attempt. The Ravens have been looking for somebody to take over the featured position since high backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards suffered season-ending knee accidents inside weeks of the beginning of the common season. All of the blame cannot be positioned on the operating backs. Baltimore is on its third left deal with simply 4 video games into the season. Andre Smith, a apply squad promotion, crammed in for Alejandro Villanueva (knee), who had been filling in for Ronnie Stanley. — Hensley

Hensley’s confidence score (0-10): 8, up from 7.8. The Ravens got here into Denver and knocked out one of many 5 unbeaten groups within the NFL. A banged-up Baltimore crew is 3-1 and tied atop the AFC North regardless of enjoying three of its first 4 video games on the street.

Subsequent sport: vs. Colts (8:15 p.m. ET, Oct. 11)


Broncos

What to know: Even earlier than quarterback Teddy Bridgewater left the sport with a concussion, the Broncos had slipped into a number of the similar habits that plagued them in 2020, when the offense struggled to maneuver the ball and shield the quarterback. After Bridgewater exited and Drew Lock was behind middle and the crew was in catch-up mode, it felt just like the struggles of final season. The Broncos had been environment friendly and productive on offense of their first three video games. The Ravens have been an improve in competitors, however the Broncos made some odd selections. They deserted the run sport within the second quarter, after they’d rushed for 73 yards within the first quarter, and have been enjoying two backup guards who’re much more proficient as run-blockers than in cross safety. Bridgewater was sacked twice and took a number of heavy hits, together with the one which knocked him from the sport. — Jeff Legwold

What now on offense if Bridgewater misses time? The choice to go together with so many three-wide-receiver units and open formations with two backup guards towards the blitz-happy Ravens will want a re-assessment, particularly if Lock goes to must play a number of weeks. The Broncos received three video games with defensive and offensive effectivity. Bridgewater fueled that effectivity together with his decision-making and persistence, working his approach right into a sport with quick completions till the massive play offered itself. The Broncos and Lock must present that type of persistence within the playcalling if Bridgewater misses extra time. — Legwold

Legwold’s confidence score (0-10): 6.5, down from 7.8. Confidence took an enormous hit with Bridgewater’s damage and the Broncos’ incapacity to get issues kick-started as soon as they have been behind and Bridgewater was now not within the sport.

Subsequent sport: at Steelers (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Seahawks

What to know: The Seahawks are nonetheless alive. And if they will bottle up no matter received into them throughout Sunday’s second half, they are going to be fairly effectively. Russell Wilson made a pair of classic Wilson performs, and operating again Alex Collins gave the offense a spark after it began with 5 straight three-and-outs, tying for its most beneath coach Pete Carroll. That plus a powerful defensive efficiency helped the Seahawks keep away from their first three-game shedding streak of the Wilson period and a three-game deficit within the NFC West, which might have been a deep gap in a tricky division. There may be nonetheless a lot we do not know concerning the Seahawks on either side of the ball: Will their offense discover consistency over 4 quarters? Will cornerback be the protection’s Achilles’ heel towards higher quarterbacks? One factor we now know is how they’ll reply with their backs towards the wall. — Brady Henderson

Can the protection maintain up towards higher quarterbacks? Like, say, Matthew Stafford? Thursday evening’s sport towards Stafford and the Rams will probably be a harder take a look at for the Seahawks’ protection than the one it received Sunday when it confronted an inconsistent Jimmy Garoppolo and an inexperienced Trey Lance, who noticed his most prolonged motion after taking on within the second half. Cornerback Sidney Jones IV changed Tre Flowers within the beginning lineup, a transfer that felt inevitable after Flowers’ struggles over the previous two video games, however Jones allowed an early landing cross and was up and down. So that’s nonetheless a suspect place for Seattle, particularly with Stafford and the Rams’ robust receiver corps coming to city. — Henderson

Henderson’s confidence score (0-10): 7.3, up from 6.7. A win like this could do wonders for a crew’s confidence, and it is all the time a profit to be the house crew on a brief week.

Subsequent sport: vs. Rams (8:20 p.m. ET, Thursday)


49ers

What to know: The 49ers are going through some critical points in a loaded NFC West. Sure, it is early, and there’s nonetheless loads of time for them to proper the ship. However the query is how? The problems that plague the 49ers most are ones that many might have seen coming earlier than the season: shallow depth at cornerback, an odd state of affairs at quarterback and, in fact, accidents, to call just a few. These aren’t precisely the type of issues that may be simply mounted in the midst of the season. And San Francisco is already two video games again and 0-1 towards division opponents earlier than even going through the 2 groups (Cardinals and Rams) which have appeared the perfect within the West. — Nick Wagoner

What’s subsequent at quarterback? Jimmy Garoppolo departed Sunday’s sport at halftime with a proper calf damage, forcing rookie Trey Lance to take over. As you would possibly count on for a rookie who had performed seven snaps earlier than Sunday and took nearly no reps with the starters in apply this week, it did not begin off effectively. However Lance confirmed a number of the playmaking capacity the Niners coveted in him and completed 9-of-18 for 157 yards with two touchdowns and 41 yards on seven carries. What occurs subsequent will largely depend upon Garoppolo’s well being, but when he would not return briefly order, some rising pains and a pared-down offense with Lance are doubtless within the offing. Regardless, it is truthful to surprise if both quarterback can do what’s wanted to get this crew again to the postseason given all the opposite points. — Wagoner

Wagoner’s confidence score (0-10): 5.8, down from 6.5. This appeared like a sport the Niners had an opportunity to blow open within the first half, however they did not do it — they usually now have a number of inquiries to reply in a division that will not get any simpler.

Subsequent sport: at Cardinals (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Cardinals

What to know: Everybody has recognized about quarterback Kyler Murray and coach Kliff Kingsbury, however Sunday afternoon’s win over the Rams was the Cardinals’ coming-out occasion as the perfect crew within the NFL. Arizona ends the day as the one 4-Zero crew within the NFL and leads the vaunted NFC West. And it dismantled the Rams, a crew that had been anointed because the chosen one this season. On Sunday, Murray had command of one of many league’s finest offenses, which is now averaging 35 factors per sport; and the protection held the Rams’ offense, which was averaging 31.7 factors, to 20 factors. It was Arizona’s first win over the Rams in 4 years and was as large of an announcement as there was this season. — Josh Weinfuss

What is going on to cease the Cardinals at this level? Not a lot. Are they going to go undefeated? Most likely not, but it surely’s extra doubtless they get in their very own approach this season than being stopped by one other crew. Arizona must tighten its run protection, which gave up 68 yards within the first quarter on Sunday. It allowed simply 53 within the remaining three quarters, however that quantity will be deceiving as a result of the Rams have been enjoying from behind. The Cardinals’ offense is various and environment friendly and fast and flamable. At this level, an overconfidence or getting too fancy within the playcalling are about the one issues that might cease the Arizona offense. — Weinfuss

Weinfuss’ confidence score (0-10): 9.2, up from 8.5. Stopping the Rams was a big-time win for the Cardinals. Whereas there are issues to work on, they’re minor, and the Cardinals have confirmed they seem to be a power.

Subsequent sport: vs. 49ers (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)


Rams

What to know: The Rams weren’t ready for quarterback Kyler Murray and the undefeated Cardinals. Coming off an emotional 34-24 win over the defending Tremendous Bowl champion Buccaneers, the Rams suffered a serious letdown within the division opener towards a crew they’d defeated eight straight occasions. Quarterback Matthew Stafford and the Los Angeles offense had a lackluster efficiency, whereas the protection allowed Murray to maintain performs alive and full a number of explosive throws downfield. — Lindsey Thiry

Can the Rams regroup to face one other cell quarterback on Thursday? Murray accomplished 24 of 32 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns, whereas dashing for 39 yards on six carries. The Rams had few solutions to decelerate the cell third-year quarterback, inflicting concern as they put together to play the Seahawks and Russell Wilson on Thursday. Just like Murray, Wilson can lengthen performs and full jaw-dropping downfield passes whereas on the run. — Thiry

Thiry’s confidence score (0-10): 8, down from 9. Backside line, the Rams stay a really proficient group once they put all of it collectively. The hot button is really placing it collectively. Regardless of going through a red-hot Cardinals crew, the Rams didn’t present as much as SoFi Stadium ready Sunday and weren’t able to compete.

Subsequent sport: at Seahawks (8:20 p.m. ET, Thursday)

Jets

What to know: Rookie QB Zach Wilson placed on a present within the fourth quarter, displaying the arm expertise and improvisational abilities that prompted the Jets to fall in love with him. He threw for 2 touchdowns, together with a 53-yarder to Corey Davis — an off-script play wherein he motioned to Davis to go deep. It was straight out of the varsity yard. He led the Jets’ OT drive that resulted within the game-winning subject purpose, but it surely wasn’t a flawless efficiency. He missed two gimme throws in clutch conditions that just about price them the sport. Nonetheless, this was the efficiency the Jets have been lengthy anticipating. — Wealthy Cimini

Is the cross rush for actual? The Jets recorded seven sacks, together with two by DT Quinnen Williams. The entrance 4 are the energy of the crew, however some questioned whether or not it will be a diminished energy due to DE Carl Lawson‘s season-ending damage. The coaches have adjusted, utilizing extra blitz packages than anticipated. They designed intelligent third-down pressures and rattled QB Ryan Tannehill, who did not have WRs Julio Jones and A.J. Brown. Do not buy inventory on the Jets’ cross rush simply but — seven sacks is an aberration — but it surely’s an bettering D-line. — Cimini

Cimini’s confidence score (0-10): 4, up from 2. They have been outplayed by the Titans for a lot of the sport, however Robert Saleh’s program wanted a win within the worst approach.

Subsequent sport: vs. Falcons (9:30 a.m. ET, Sunday)


Titans

What to know: The cross safety and pass-rush recognition are horrible. The Titans allowed six or extra sacks for the second time in 4 video games. The Jets’ seven sacks have been essentially the most they’ve had since Week 11 of the 2019 season. 5 of the sacks got here on third downs, killing a number of drives. The Jets received strain with stunts up entrance and blitzes that confused the Titans’ offensive line. Ryan Tannehill did not assist by holding on to the ball too lengthy on a few the sacks. — Turron Davenport

Why cannot the Titans persistently rating touchdowns within the crimson zone? Getting into this season, Tennessee’s offense scored touchdowns on 53% of its crimson zone visits. The Titans received into the crimson zone 5 occasions Sunday and scored a landing as soon as. Two of the seven sacks the crew allowed got here within the crimson zone, each occasions approaching third down. The Titans nonetheless have the specter of Derrick Henry operating the ball contained in the 20-yard line however must additionally make the most of Tannehill’s capacity to run the ball with extra boot motion. The Titans additionally want to make use of extra bunch units to get fast separation so Tannehill can get the ball to his receivers rapidly earlier than the cross rush will get house. That stated, the Jets’ protection was tied with the Saints and Broncos as the perfect within the NFL in stopping crimson zone touchdowns, coming into this week permitting solely 33%. It will get a lot simpler for Tennessee subsequent week towards a Jaguars protection that has allowed touchdowns on 62% of opponents’ crimson zone visits. — Davenport

Davenport’s confidence score (0-10): 5.5, down from 6.5. The Titans have a approach of enjoying right down to the extent of their competitors, and that is precisely what they did this week towards the hapless Jets. These are the video games {that a} contender would not lose and even enable to be this shut.

Subsequent sport: at Jaguars (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Washington

What to know: Ron Rivera has all the time thought of this a resilient crew, and it confirmed it once more Sunday. Regardless of various accidents, two missed extra-point makes an attempt and one other unhealthy outing by the protection, Washington discovered a option to win. Quarterback Taylor Heinicke defines resilient. He confirmed poise and confidence on two late landing drives to steer the win. It is what he used to do whereas rising up 45 minutes from Atlanta as a highschool star. The sport-winning play to J.D. McKissic sums him up — Heinicke prolonged the play by rolling left, stayed poised and hit McKissic on the opposite facet for a 30-yard catch-and-run rating. — John Keim

What’s mistaken with the protection? That is an actual powerful one to reply, as a result of Washington would not have unhealthy personnel. It has coaches who’ve been a part of good groups. They’re simply all underachieving in an enormous approach. Washington allowed the NFL’s 28th-ranked offense to attain 30 factors, acquire 378 yards and convert 10 of 16 third downs. The gamers miss tackles; they offer up large performs due to botched coverages, and many others. Washington received the win, however that was not a get-right outing by the protection. You may’t simply blame the gamers, both. A begin this unhealthy is on the coaches and the gamers. — Keim

Keim’s confidence score (0-10): 5, up from 4. Till the protection will get proper, Washington will wrestle towards most offenses. However the offense will make issues fascinating.

Subsequent sport: vs. Saints (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

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Taylor Heinicke passes to J.D. McKissic, who then runs towards the tip zone and dives throughout the purpose line to place Washington up late.


Falcons

What to know: The Falcons, many occasions, got here near locking up Sunday’s sport towards Washington. They led by eight (30-22) within the fourth quarter. Then what seemed to be conservative playcalling on offense (runs with Mike Davis, who averaged 1.1 yards per carry) and a protection that could not comprise quarterback Taylor Heinicke’s capacity to increase performs together with his legs turned what appeared like an enormous win for Atlanta right into a crushing loss. Fortunately, maybe, for Atlanta, the following three weeks it faces the Jets, has a bye week after which goes to Miami. — Michael Rothstein

Is Cordarrelle Patterson essentially the most dependable choice on the Falcons’ offense? In a phrase, sure. Patterson had a monster sport towards Washington, changing into the primary operating again in franchise historical past with three landing catches in a sport. He has been the one participant who Atlanta has been in a position to depend on each week for offensive manufacturing. For a participant who has bounced between groups for a lot of his NFL profession, he has discovered a transparent position and residential with the Falcons. Sunday confirmed the perfect of what he can turn out to be, with six carries for 34 yards and 5 catches (on six targets) for 82 yards and people three scores. Whereas Calvin Ridley (11 targets) and Kyle Pitts (9 targets) have been appeared to extra Sunday, none had the day Patterson did. Pitts struggled getting open and Ridley had a number of drops. — Rothstein

Rothstein’s confidence score (0-10): 4.7, down from 5. The Falcons, at factors, appeared like a superb, complementary soccer crew, however the fourth-quarter failings result in some questions on this crew’s capacity to play with a lead.

Subsequent sport: vs. Jets (9:30 a.m. ET, Sunday)

Giants

What to know: The Giants saved their season from catastrophe with the time beyond regulation victory. Quarterback Daniel Jones put the Giants on his shoulders and rallied them from an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit, getting assist from Saquon Barkley. It took an enormous efficiency from Jones — who completed with 402 yards passing — and so many others within the group to get them within the win column. — Jordan Raanan

Did the offense lastly determine it out? Certain appears to be like prefer it. The Giants moved the ball towards a superb Saints protection your entire afternoon and rallied within the fourth quarter. They completed with 485 whole yards. Barkley made some large performs, together with a 54-yard landing reception and the successful 6-yard landing run in time beyond regulation. Possibly most encouraging was rookie first-round decide Kadarius Toney changing into an enormous a part of the offense. He had six catches for 78 yards. It additionally helped having a more healthy Kenny Golladay, who had six catches for 116 yards. Issues are wanting up for the Giants’ offense heading into subsequent week in Dallas. — Raanan

Raanan’s confidence score (0-10): 4.4, up from 1.2. Do not write the season off simply but. The Giants received a top quality street win and will realistically have two or three wins already this season.

Subsequent sport: at Cowboys (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)


Saints

What to know: An unforgivable loss, contemplating the Saints have been up 21-10 with eight minutes left. The protection wore down within the fourth quarter and time beyond regulation after getting off to such a superb begin this season. However the offense was additionally underwhelming — which has changed into a extra regarding season-long development whereas New Orleans has relied a lot on Alvin Kamara and the run sport. A handful of massive performs from Jameis Winston and the passing sport in the end wasn’t sufficient this time. — Mike Triplett

Will we see extra passing offense as soon as WR Michael Thomas comes again? It could be unimaginable to not. New Orleans ranked 31st within the NFL with simply 113.7 passing yards per sport heading into Sunday, when Winston threw for a season-high 226 yards (together with a 58-yard cross). Clearly, the Saints would like to run the ball and management the road of scrimmage greater than counting on Winston to win video games. However they could must push the envelope. And never solely will Thomas be eligible to return from the bodily unable to carry out checklist after the Saints’ Week 6 bye, however standout offensive linemen Terron Armstead and Erik McCoy and WR Tre’Quan Smith can even be again finally. — Triplett

Triplett’s confidence score (0-10): 6.8, down from 7.5. Again to the place we have been after an unsightly Week 2 loss. The Saints (2-2) will finally be significantly better off, since they have been lacking a staggering eight projected Week 1 starters. However you may’t afford to let golden alternatives like this one slip away within the NFL.

Subsequent sport: at Washington (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Cowboys

What to know: The Cowboys’ 36-28 win towards Carolina included a classic Ezekiel Elliott efficiency (greater than 100 yards vs. the top-ranked run protection), a four-touchdown sport from Dak Prescott (the fifth of his profession) and what’s changing into a traditional efficiency for Trevon Diggs. Diggs recorded two extra interceptions, giving him 5 within the first 4 video games, tying the crew file held by Ring of Honor linebacker Chuck Howley, who had 5 interceptions within the Cowboys’ first 4 video games in 1968. The final participant within the NFL to have 5 picks within the first 4 video games was New Orleans’ Darren Sharper in 2009. Prescott stated he thinks Diggs is the NFL’s finest.

“For certain. I imply, activate the tape, watch what he is doing. Watch the fellows that he is following week in, week out, the perfect participant,” Prescott stated of Diggs. The cornerback himself is not able to say that. “I really feel like I nonetheless received work to do. I have never reached what I wished to achieve and I have never achieved what I wished to perform,” Diggs stated.

The Cowboys turned the 2 takeaways into 10 factors to tug away from the Panthers within the second half for a win that ought to make much more folks take discover. — Todd Archer

Is it time to take the Cowboys severely within the NFC? Some may need thought it was cute that the Cowboys pushed the defending Tremendous Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers within the opener, however possibly that must be checked out in a different way. They constructed an enormous lead on the beforehand undefeated Panthers within the second half and held on for the win. And so they’re doing this with out some key performers, equivalent to Michael Gallup, DeMarcus Lawrence, La’el Collins, Neville Gallimore and Keanu Neal. All of them will probably be again in some unspecified time in the future, so there’s hope they will proceed to get higher. — Archer

Archer’s confidence score (0-10): 8.9, up from 8.4. They’ve convincingly received their previous two video games in a six-day span, routing Philadelphia and holding off Carolina — and people groups got here in with defenses that have been ranked fourth and second in factors allowed per sport.

Subsequent sport: vs. Giants (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)

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Cowboys QB Dak Prescott is on his sport as he passes for 4 touchdowns vs. the Panthers on Sunday.


Panthers

What to know: Actuality test. The Panthers aren’t able to be among the many NFL’s elite. Their 3-Zero begin certainly was a product, partly, of a weak schedule. Whereas displaying promise within the first half with a 14-13 lead, the offense crumbled beneath the blitz, and the protection, with out two secondary starters, confirmed it would not have the depth to be a legit No. 1 unit. The 36-28 loss is a good estimate of the place this crew is towards good groups. — David Newton

Was quarterback Sam Darnold uncovered within the second half? Darnold appeared sensible within the first half, finishing 12 of 16 cross makes an attempt for 114 yards and dashing 4 occasions for 28 yards and two touchdowns. However he was blitzed on solely two of 20 dropbacks. When the Cowboys got here with the warmth within the second half, Darnold appeared extra just like the quarterback who struggled with errors with the Jets. On his first 10 dropbacks, he was blitzed 4 occasions and went 1-of-Three with an interception and a sack. He had two interceptions within the third quarter that allowed this sport to get out of attain. — Newton

Newton’s confidence score (0-10): 6.2, down from 6.9. The Panthers have sufficient expertise to maintain tempo with their subsequent 4 opponents (Eagles, Vikings, Giants, Falcons), however the protection proved to be weak towards an elite quarterback after beating up on rookies in two of the primary three video games.

Subsequent sport: vs. Eagles (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Payments

What to know: Dawson Knox is rising into the tight finish the Payments wanted him to be. With two landing catches towards the Texans, Knox now has 4 on the season — a profession excessive — 4 video games into the yr. He’s tied for the second-most receiving touchdowns within the NFL. The Payments got here into the yr needing the tight finish place to have extra of a presence, and bringing in somebody from the surface, like Eagles tight Zach Ertz, was a well-liked dialogue level. As a substitute, Knox’s enjoying time has risen this season, and he is taken full benefit of the chance. He is a well-liked goal for Josh Allen, particularly within the crimson zone, and had 5 receptions for 37 yards on eight targets towards the Texans. The Payments already had a surplus of offensive expertise. Getting Knox within the combine is simply a plus for this group. — Alaina Getzenberg

Is the Payments’ success on protection as a result of they’re legit or due to whom they’ve performed? The Payments are actually plus-90 in level differential this season, the second-best level differential by way of 4 video games in franchise historical past (plus-108 in 1992). A lot of that’s thanks to 2 shutout performances, the opposite being towards the Dolphins in Week 2. The Payments are the second crew for the reason that NFL merger with two shutout wins by at the very least 30 factors of their first 4 video games (1991 Washington is the opposite). Each Miami and Houston, nonetheless, have struggling offenses which have but to seek out a lot success this season enjoying with backup quarterbacks. Regardless of that, this Payments’ protection ought to get a share of the credit score. A number of shutouts within the NFL just isn’t a simple job, regardless of the opponent. Buffalo, which was with out a number of defensive starters, additionally misplaced beginning linebacker Matt Milano (hamstring), who left within the second quarter. The protection is creating turnovers — together with 5 towards Houston — and held the Texans’ offense to fewer than 100 yards. The Payments haven’t allowed an opponent to achieve 300 yards in a sport this yr, the one crew within the NFL to take action. — Getzenberg

Getzenberg’s confidence score (0-10): 7.7, no change from 7.7. The Payments beat the Texans handily, as they have been alleged to, however this quantity stays put due to Buffalo’s offense scoring touchdowns in solely three of seven crimson zone journeys, together with none on the primary 4. That subject must be corrected going into an enormous matchup towards the Kansas City Chiefs subsequent week.

Subsequent sport: at Chiefs (8:20 p.m. ET, Sunday)


Texans

What to know: The Texans may need the worst offense within the NFL with out quarterback Tyrod Taylor. This was solely Davis Mills’ second begin in his rookie yr, however Houston hasn’t run the ball effectively, both. Though the Payments’ protection has been stable this season — it additionally shut out the Dolphins in Week 2 — the Texans’ offense actually struggled. Houston had minus-23 web passing yards within the first half, which was the fewest by any crew in a primary half for the reason that Eagles on Nov. 21, 1999, towards the Colts (minus-27) and the fewest in both half in franchise historical past, in response to ESPN Stats & Info analysis. — Sarah Barshop

The one place they will go from right here is up, proper? The Texans must hope that is all-time low for the season, particularly for the offense. Taylor, who’s on injured reserve with a left hamstring damage, will miss at the very least yet one more sport. If there’s excellent news for Houston, in response to FPI, the Texans have the 13th-easiest remaining energy of schedule this season. — Barshop

Barshop’s confidence score (0-10): 1.5, down from 2. This quantity continues to go down for the Texans since their victory within the opener. A better schedule the remainder of the best way will assist, but it surely’s onerous to be assured about this crew with Mills beneath middle.

Subsequent sport: vs. Patriots (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Bears

What to know: After final week’s catastrophe in Cleveland, the Bears’ offense roared (for them, anyway) again to life. Sure, it was towards the Lions. And sure, the Lions are unhealthy. However progress is progress. Probably the most encouraging facet of Sunday’s 24-14 victory was the Bears’ devotion to the operating sport, with David Montgomery scoring a pair of dashing touchdowns earlier than leaving the sport with a left knee damage. For essentially the most half, rookie quarterback Justin Fields appeared good, and his receivers made performs. The Bears’ offense was light-years higher than it was in Week 3. — Jeff Dickerson

Are the Bears actually going again to Andy Dalton? Coach Matt Nagy has stated again and again that Dalton stays the Bears’ starter when wholesome. However why smash Fields’ momentum? The rookie made a number of lovely throws on Sunday, together with deep balls to speedster Darnell Mooney, who completed with 5 catches for 125 yards. Fields performed with good tempo and appeared in command for a superb chunk of the afternoon, though he tried simply 18 passes. So why change again to Dalton? Dalton had his likelihood and received harm. That is life within the NFL. — Dickerson

Dickerson’s confidence score (0-10): 5, up from 3.5. The Bears cannot play the Lions each week.

Subsequent sport: at Raiders (4:05 p.m. ET, Sunday)

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Justin Fields and Darnell Mooney join on a number of spectacular performs towards the Lions.


Lions

What to know: The Lions’ crimson zone offense should enhance. Thanks partly to 2 expensive fumbles by QB Jared Goff and middle Frank Ragnow, Detroit turned the primary crew in at the very least the previous 40 seasons to achieve the crimson zone in every of their first three possessions and fail to attain any factors, per Elias Sports activities Bureau analysis. Then, following one other failed try within the fourth quarter, their 4 empty crimson zone drives tied them for essentially the most by any crew in a sport since 2000. If the crew cannot restrict errors in scoring conditions, it will discover it tough to get that elusive first win. — Eric Woodyard

When will the Lions win a sport? The schedule would not let up for the 0-Four Lions. They go to the Minnesota Vikings subsequent week, then host the Cincinnati Bengals at house earlier than touring to face former Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford and the red-hot Los Angeles Rams on Oct. 24. So it would not get a lot simpler with this brutal schedule. Head coach Dan Campbell categorized the schedule to start out the season as being “the hand we’re dealt,” including that the powerful early slate will make the crew stronger. — Woodyard

Woodyard’s confidence score (0-10): 3.5, down from 5. Sunday’s loss in Chicago was unhealthy from the beginning. Not solely have been the Lions not in a position to capitalize on crimson zone alternatives, they added accidents to Ragnow (toe) and outdoors linebacker Romeo Okwara (foot), which is not a superb combine for a crew within the midst of a full rebuild.

Subsequent sport: at Vikings (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Browns

What to know: The Browns’ protection is rapidly proving it may be among the many league’s elite. Cleveland delivered one other dominant defensive effort in Minnesota, stifling the Vikings and QB Kirk Cousins, who got here into the day ranked second within the league in Complete QBR. After surrendering a landing on Minnesota’s opening drive, the Browns allowed solely 180 yards the remainder of the sport — and no factors. On the heels of an offseason overhaul, this Browns’ protection seems to be for actual. — Jake Trotter

Can the Browns get QB Baker Mayfield again on observe? Regardless of the win, Mayfield may need performed his worst sport since Week 6 of final yr. He did not commit the essential mistake, however had it not been for a herculean effort from the protection, Cleveland would not have been in a position to overcome such an inefficient passing efficiency. Getting Mayfield on observe once more will probably be paramount for coach Kevin Stefanski shifting ahead. — Trotter

Trotter’s confidence score (0-10): 8.1, up from 7.4. The Browns already boasted one of many league’s high dashing assaults — now they seemingly personal one of many high defenses to enhance it.

Subsequent sport: at Chargers (4:05 p.m. ET, Sunday)


Vikings

What to know: Coach Mike Zimmer’s blueprint for fulfillment is alive and effectively in Cleveland and never even near actuality in Minnesota. Kevin Stefanski utilized Zimmer’s dream sport plan towards him by calling extra runs than passes and dominating time of possession. Stefanski did not open up the playbook towards his former crew, however he did not must as soon as he discovered a option to persistently gash the Vikings on the bottom, together with his Browns (3-1) operating for 184 yards. Cleveland gave the Vikings (1-3) a ton of probabilities, however Minnesota did not get near tying the sport after a weird final drive. — Courtney Cronin

What’s mistaken with the Vikings’ run protection? Minnesota spent your entire offseason rebuilding its run protection, however the outcomes haven’t performed out within the Vikings’ favor. Cleveland entered Week Four averaging 5.1 yards per rush and put up 184 yards dashing at U.S. Financial institution Stadium. The Vikings needed to end the sport with out DT Michael Pierce, who aggravated an elbow damage he has been coping with the previous few days, however the nostril deal with struggled to comprise runs up the center even when he was on the sector. The Browns repeatedly pounded the rock with Nick Chubb (21 carries, 100 yards) and Kareem Hunt (14-69, TD), which wore Minnesota’s protection down up entrance and continues to be one of many major causes the Vikings have struggled defensively this season. — Cronin

Cronin’s confidence score (0-10): 6, down from 6.3. The winless Lions let the Bears rush for 188 yards. Minnesota has Detroit at house and one other week to get Dalvin Cook (who appeared like he may need reinjured an ankle within the third quarter) up to the mark — or hand the reins to Alexander Mattison once more — so the Vikings can do the identical.

Subsequent sport: vs. Lions (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Colts

What to know: The Colts wanted this one. They have been in desperation mode as a result of there was no approach they may fall to 0-Four on the season, particularly with one other street sport at Baltimore awaiting them in Week 5. The Colts did not make it simple on themselves, however they received their first win of the season over the Miami Dolphins. Coping with myriad accidents coming into the sport, the Colts went again to their previous mantra of “Run the rattling ball” to get the victory. Second-year operating again Jonathan Taylor rushed for a season-high 103 yards, and the Colts rushed for 139 yards as a crew. The 33 dashing makes an attempt have been a season excessive for the Colts. The stable operating sport took some strain off Carson Wentz‘s proper arm — and proper ankle — and he was 24-of-32 for 228 yards and two touchdowns. A key for Wentz was that he did not maintain the ball too lengthy, and he had no drawback throwing beneath to keep away from taking any pointless hits. — Mike Wells

Can the protection have the identical type of success towards Baltimore in Week 5, provided that Lamar Jackson is a considerable improve over Jacoby Brissett? The Colts held the Dolphins to a complete of 203 yards (together with minus-7 yards within the second quarter) on offense. However let’s be actual — their offense is not that good, particularly with Brissett at quarterback. A greater indicator of whether or not the Colts are turning the nook defensively will come once they face Jackson and the Ravens on Monday Evening Soccer. Jackson is a menace together with his arm and his toes, as he leads Baltimore in passing and dashing this season. The Ravens went into Sunday ranked fourth within the NFL in yards per sport (424.7). — Wells

Wells’ confidence score (0-10): 4.6, no change from 4.6. The Colts needs to be completely satisfied about getting their first victory, but it surely’s too quickly to say they’ve turned the nook on their season. Beat the Ravens in Week 5, after which it will be time to say that the Colts are getting their season again on observe.

Subsequent sport: at Ravens (8:15 p.m. ET, Oct. 11)

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Carson Wentz finds Mo Alie-Cox in the long run zone twice because the Colts get their first win of the season.


Dolphins

What to know: The glass masking the fireplace extinguisher has been damaged — this offense is in bother. To not sound like a damaged file, however the Colts entered Week Four permitting the sixth-most yards per play (6.29) within the NFL, but they held the Dolphins to only Three yards per play Sunday. As soon as once more, Miami did not push the ball down the sector, seemingly settling for brief and intermediate passes; quarterback Jacoby Brissett tried only one cross longer than 20 yards, and Miami’s offense did not crack 100 yards till halfway by way of the fourth quarter. In the meantime, the Dolphins’ protection mounted its third-down effectivity however allowed its second straight 100-yard rusher. In the end, it is nonetheless simply Week 4, however Miami blew it in a get-right sport towards a hobbled Colts crew. Do not hit the panic button till Tua Tagovailoa returns, however you may positively have a hand hovering over it. — Marcel Louis-Jacques

Talking of Tagovailoa — how significantly better can he make this Dolphins offense? Tagovailoa will reportedly make his return from injured reserve when the Dolphins play the Jaguars in Week 6, giving him a winnable matchup after lacking three video games with fractured ribs. However he might realistically be main a crew that’s 1-Four by that point; his growth as a downfield passer will not be capable of wait. He must show a capability to stretch a protection or groups will proceed to maintain Miami’s offense in entrance of them as they’ve finished with Brissett. With this Dolphins protection, the crew can compete, however its offense has to hold its weight instantly. — Louis-Jacques

Louis-Jacques’ confidence score (0-10): 3, down from 4.5. Something can occur within the NFL, however I’ve no cause to consider the Dolphins will beat the defending Tremendous Bowl champion Buccaneers after being blown out by the beforehand winless Colts.

Subsequent sport: at Buccaneers (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Chiefs

What to know: The offense has to proceed to be as spectacular because it was towards the Eagles on Sunday, when it scored a landing on six of its first seven possessions. Which will look like an unfair burden to position on Patrick Mahomes and the remainder of the offense, but it surely’s there due to the Chiefs’ protection, which is giving up scoring drives of its personal at an alarming charge. — Adam Teicher

Can the Chiefs moderately count on vital enchancment on protection? The Chiefs are deep sufficient into the season that we all know what they’re: not good on protection. They do have just a few issues to stay up for, such because the returns of finish Frank Clark and linebacker Willie Gay following accidents. However these gamers will not repair all that ails the protection. — Teicher

Teicher’s confidence score (0-10): 6.7, up from 6. It is unimaginable to consider the Chiefs as what they have been lately with the protection they’ve.

Subsequent sport: vs. Payments (8:20 p.m. ET, Sunday)


Eagles

What to know: The Eagles are an undisciplined crew, and it’s destroying their probabilities for fulfillment. They’d three touchdowns taken off the board due to penalties (although the second, a cross interference name on receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, was extremely questionable), and prolonged a pair of Chiefs scoring drives with infractions. That was the distinction between what would have been a spirit-lifting win and a deflating loss that dropped Philadelphia to 1-Three on the season. Taking part in clever soccer is a core precept of coach Nick Sirianni’s, and but the Eagles have set a franchise file for penalties by way of 4 video games with 44. That doesn’t replicate effectively. The schedule has little give, with the Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Las Vegas Raiders up subsequent. To have any likelihood, the Eagles must stop beating themselves. — Tim McManus

What occurred to the protection? The Eagles have been close to the highest in most defensive classes by way of the primary two video games, together with opponent factors per sport (11.5 common). The previous two weeks, they have been gashed for 83 factors and greater than 850 yards. Granted, it was towards a pair of potent offenses within the Chiefs and Cowboys, but it surely has been a speedy fall from grace. The protection hasn’t performed effectively since defensive finish Brandon Graham was misplaced for the season with an Achilles rupture within the second quarter towards the 49ers in Week 2. — McManus

McManus’ confidence score (0-10): 3.7, down from 4.8. The offense confirmed some promise Sunday — rookie DeVonta Smith went over 100 yards for the primary time in his profession, and the Eagles moved the ball regardless of having simply considered one of their unique beginning offensive linemen — however their schedule is brutal they usually’re simply not a really good soccer crew proper now.

Subsequent sport: at Panthers (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Bengals

What to know: The Bengals have put themselves in place to be a playoff contender this season. Thursday’s win over Jacksonville gave the Bengals three wins of their first 4 video games, which was crucial, given how powerful the schedule will probably be later within the season. If Cincinnati needs to finish a playoff drought that dates again to 2015, it must stockpile wins towards unhealthy groups just like the Jaguars. Cincinnati barely did that, due to a 35-yard subject purpose by rookie Evan McPherson as time expired. — Ben Child

Are the Bengals constant sufficient to be a playoff crew? I am not so certain. The lackluster begin was nearly sufficient to place the Bengals away early. If Cincinnati would not get a fourth-and-goal cease lower than Three toes from their very own finish zone, the Jaguars may need gone up 21-Zero and had sufficient of a cushion to tug off the upset. Cincinnati had a equally flat outing in Week 2 towards Chicago in a sport that may find yourself being a reasonably unhealthy loss. Cincinnati should be extra constant, particularly towards higher groups, if it needs to make the playoffs. — Child

Child’s confidence score (0-10): 7, up from 6.8. The Bengals do sufficient issues effectively — and maybe extra importantly, have Joe Burrow at QB — to be a superb crew in ’21.

Subsequent sport: vs. Packers (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)


Jaguars

What to know: The gamers have been saying it for 4 weeks, however they are surely near getting a victory. They practically upset the Bengals in a street sport on a brief week with a rookie QB and rookie head coach. There aren’t a number of playmakers on offense apart from RB James Robinson and WR Marvin Jones Jr., however once they play turnover-free ball and get the bottom sport going, they’ll have probabilities to win some video games quickly. — Mike DiRocco

What do the Jaguars do at receiver with DJ Chark Jr. (ankle) sidelined? Tavon Austin received a number of work after Chark went out on the sport’s third play, however count on kick returner Jamal Agnew (who had a 27-yard catch) and Tyron Johnson to get extra work, as effectively. Johnson hasn’t finished a lot for the reason that Jaguars claimed him off waivers (one catch for six yards), however he does have deep velocity. The three apply squad receivers — Jeff Cotton, Tim Jones and Josh Hammond — would possibly get an opportunity too, however the Jaguars actually do not have anybody who can actually change Chark. He could not have been off to an excellent begin, however QB Trevor Lawrence trusted him and the Jaguars have been relying on him to be a deep menace. — DiRocco

DiRocco’s confidence score (0-10): 3, up from 2.5. Lawrence performed his first turnover-free sport, Robinson ran for 78 yards and two TDs, and the offense had three TD drives of at the very least 67 yards, however the protection continues to wrestle towards the cross (Joe Burrow threw for 348 yards) and has compelled only one turnover all season.

Subsequent sport: vs. Titans (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

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