Patriots emerging rookie WR Kenbrel Thompkins (6 catches for 127 yards and 1 TD) was one of the standout players from 2013 NFL Week 4 as New England surprisingly beat the Atlanta Falcons by a score 30-23 in a rare Georgia Dome loss for QB Matt Ryan
(Philadelphia, Pa) — One quarter of the NFL’s “Back to Football” season is already in the books with the recent close of Week 4 around the league. At the first quarter pole of the exciting 2013 NFL Season, I can honestly say the only thing that we really do know, is that “No One Knows” what is going to happen next in sports most entertaining league.
Everyone thought that the Seattle Seahawks were gonna lose to the host Houston Texas as they trailed by a score of 20-3 at halftime. Well someone forgot to send the memo to Seahawks QB Russell Wilson and his teammates. Seattle never quit as upstart head coach Pete Carroll led his team into Houston with little fear and it showed. The Seahawks, playing with veteran pass rusher Chris Clemmons (1 sack) for the first time this season, decided that they were not going to just fold in the Texas sun to JJ Watt and the rest of the Texans as they slugged their way to a hard fought 23-20 overtime victory on a 45-yard field goal by Steven Hauschka.
The Seahawks (4-0) improbable win showed that no lead in the NFL is invincible and that games are being fought to the end.
Seattle now has their first 4-0 start in franchise history. The game-changing play of Seattle’s win was talkative CB Richard Sherman jumping a Matt Schaub’s pass intended for TE Owen Daniels and racing 58 yards to finish an incredible Pick-6 with less than three minutes left that got his team to the extra period. ”It’s a high-risk, high-reward play,” Sherman said. ”You have to jump in, and you might get beat over the top for a 20- or 30-yard gain if he gets the ball down there. But if you make the play, you might get a pick-6 and change the game for your team.”
Sherman was not the only hero for the Seahawks as Wilson also contributed 77 rushing yards after Texans stud MLB Brian Cushing left the game with a concussion. ”Russell’s play was off the charts,” Carroll said. ”I don’t even know what his numbers were; it didn’t matter. You had to watch the game to see the things he did to give us a chance.” The win also left some questions looming about the mighty Texans (2-2), mostly around slumping Schaub. The former high-priced acquisition was hit often at critical points late in the game, had two interceptions including his NFL-leading 3rd Pick-6 of the season, and failed to move the offense effectively in overtime. Watt furiously said after the game, ”We were dominating the whole first half … and the second half we just didn’t finish the game. It’s very, very frustrating.” Unfortunately there won’t be much rest for Houston, as they must now forget about the bad loss and prepare for a tough Week 5 match-up with the rebounding Niners (2-2).
All of the uncertainty and “Any Given Sunday” mentality around the NFL is fueled by Injuries (we talk about them every week and this week’s biggest lost-for-the-season player was New England Patriots NT Vince Wilfork – Achilles Tear vs. Atlanta Falcons), Urgency (teams, quarterbacks, and head coaches trying to stay afloat in unforgiving waters where everyone from owners to fans wants to win now… See Bucs and NY Giants), and Turnovers (these are game changers and defenses are always looking for them…Just ask the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs who lead the NFL with a +9 in takeaway margin).
In looking at the standings, there are only five unbeaten teams left (Broncos, Chiefs, Saints, Patriots, and Seahawks). With so few teams left in the unbeaten ranks, it really has to make you appreciate how well the 2007 New Patriots played in going a perfect 16-0 in the regular season. I fully expect the unbeaten teams to dwindle further and by the season’s halfway point in Week 8 that every team will have a blemish on their record — if any team does have a chance to make it to the halfway mark undefeated it is the Broncos. We all know that any talk of Denver starts and ends with QB Peyton Manning (28-34, 82.4%, 327 yds, and 146 QBR). The NFL’s only 4-time MVP – and probably soon to be 5-time — threw 4 more touchdown passes in the Broncos’ easy 52-20 win over Philadelphia to give him an NFL-record 16 for the first four games of the season.
After the unbeaten teams there are five teams at (3-1) – Bears, Lions, Colts, Dolphins, and Titans; a glut of 10 teams at .500 (2-2) – 49ers, Texans, Cardinals, Chargers, Browns, Bengals, Bills, Ravens, Cowboys, and NY Jets (of this group expect the Niners and Bengals to breakout); two (1-2) teams coming off a bye week in must-win situations – Packers and Panthers; six (1-3) teams, who are all hoping to be this year’s 2007 Chargers (started 1-3, but finished 11-5 winning the AFC West on the way to the AFC Championship game) – Redskins, Eagles, Raiders, Vikings, Falcons, and Rams; The last set of teams is the winless bunch (4) of the Steelers (0-4), NY Giants (0-4), Buccaneers (0-4) and Jaguars (0-4) who all reek of desperation as they are on their way to seeing who gets the number one pick come this April. Surprisingly, the Steelers and G-Men still have a chance to get back in the race as both their respective divisions, AFC North and NFC East, are led by a 2-2 squad (Cowboys and Browns).
My advice to all the teams no matter where they currently stand in the NFL rankings is to just keep playing, as you never know what can happen in the National Football League. Just ask the former (0-3) Minnesota Vikings – now 1-3 — who started very slow only to be lifted up by backup QB Matt Cassel and their pass rush in a big win over the poor Steelers (0-4) in London, England.
Sure the Broncos, Chiefs, Saints, Patriots, and Seahawks have to be feeling good that 82% of teams starting 4-0 since 1990 have made the playoffs. But remember in the parity-laden NFL, everything can change very quickly. Last year after four weeks eventual playoff qualifiers the Falcons and Texans were 4-0, but so were the Cardinals who finished with a record of 5-11. Also after four weeks, the following eventual playoff caliber teams: Ravens, Niners, Vikings, and Bengals all had a nice 3-1 record, but so did four eventual non-playoff teams (Eagles, Cowboys, Bears, and Chargers).
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo recently said of the marathon like NFL season, “It doesn’t matter whether you’re the favorite now or the least favorite, the reality of it is you’ve got to keep playing games. You’re not trying to be the favorite now, you’re trying to be the favorite at the end of the year.”