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Week 4 Snap Judgments

Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we dive into an upset-heavy Week 4 in the NFL…

  • It was there, if you were paying close enough attention on Sunday, the early proof that this NFL season is shaping up as one with virtually no givens, no absolutes.

In a matter of seconds apart, last season's two Super Bowl teams — Atlanta and New England — both lost at home in stunning fashion, being upset by a pair of opponents that finished with a combined 13 wins a year ago. Then moments later, the Week 4 trend continued with the upstart Rams shocking the Cowboys 35-30, dealing Dallas a home defeat at the hands of a club that absolutely no one saw coming.

Last year is so last year in the NFL, and what a vivid example we just witnessed to drive home that point.

  • To recap, New England went a sterling 14-2 last year, but lost 33-30 to a Carolina team that finished 6-10 and in last place in its division in 2017. The Patriots have already matched their defeat total of last season, with two home losses, and we're only a month into the new year.
  • Atlanta was 11-5 last year, but fell from the ranks of the unbeaten at 3-1, dropping a 23-17 contest to visiting Buffalo, perhaps the AFC surprise of the year thus far at 3-1. The Bills were just 7-9 a season ago, good for third place in the AFC East.
  • Dallas, too, was victimized, showing that last year's 13-3 record didn't mean anything to the Rams, who went a dreadful 4-12 a season ago. Los Angeles (3-1) has nearly matched its 2017 win total, and somehow found a way to come out on the winning end of a wildly entertaining but schizophrenic game against the 2-2 Cowboys.

Throw in the Dolphins getting embarrassed 20-0 by the Saints in London on Sunday morning (East Coast time), and four of the NFL's 2016 playoff teams in Week 4 got schooled by teams that finished below .500 a year ago. A fifth 2016 playoff team, the Giants, were beaten 25-23 at Tampa Bay and slid to 0-4, just one fewer loss than they racked up all last season.

Those were the kind of unforeseeable results we got in Week 4, and a month in, there's not much to count on thus far in this 2017 season. As Week 4 exhibited, there will be no slam dunks and very few certainties this time around. Kansas City is already the last remaining undefeated team, and the 3-0 Chiefs will get their own test Monday night at home against 2-1 Washington.

It's all so unpredictable so far, but it could be fun.

  • From the looks of his face in the final seconds of the game, I'm willing to bet Wade Phillips positively loves beating the Cowboys, the team he used to lead as its head coach, until being replaced by Jason Garrett mid-way through the 2010 season.

But the Rams revenging Phillips isn't the headline from this game. It's that Los Angeles rallied from a 24-13 first-half hole, and really should have routed the Cowboys, if not having to settle for a career-high seven Greg Zuerlein field goals along the way.

Critics said the Rams had only beaten the struggling Colts and 49ers, so we best not get too excited about their early success under rookie head coach Sean McVay. But all of that's out the window now, because the upset at Dallas had statement game written all over it. This is a good team, and it's on the rise.

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Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott? How about Jared Goff and Todd Gurley instead? Gurley continued his huge season with 121 yards rushing, plus seven catches for 94 yards and a touchdown. That's his third consecutive game with a receiving touchdown, and he already has a team-record tying seven scores through four games, one more than he totaled for the entire 2016 season.

Goff turned in another strong showing as well, throwing for 255 yards and two touchdowns, without a turnover. His transformation from last year to this year has been nothing short of astounding, and to think he was considered a potential draft bust of epic proportions as recently as two months ago, before the preseason opened.

We knew the Rams had defensive talent. But now they've got a high-powered offense to match. Los Angeles has scored 30-points-plus in three of its four games, and rolled up 412 yards from scrimmage against a Dallas defense that had no answers in the second half.

  • The first-place Buffalo Bills. Let that one sink in for a while. Just as McVay has done on offense in Los Angles, rookie Bills head coach Sean McDermott has quickly changed the culture and the losing vibe on defense in Buffalo. The Bills used to come close but always find a way to lose a game like Sunday's in Atlanta. But not this year. The Bills finished the job in their six-point upset of the defending NFC champions, and their defense is the stingiest in the league when it comes to giving up points.

A 3-1 start guarantees nothing in Buffalo, of course. We've seen plenty of decent getaways turn into disappointment for the Bills, with their agonizing 17-year streak of missing the playoffs. But with the Patriots certainly looking vulnerable, why shouldn't Buffalo believe its time is now? The Bills defense forced three Falcons turnovers, and even though Atlanta was missing top receivers Julio Jones (hip flexor) and Mohamed Sanu (hamstring) for most of the second half, Buffalo logged a quality win in taking down Atlanta on the road.

McDermott in Buffalo and McVay in L.A. Those are your top two NFL Coach of the Year candidates through the first month, right? 

  • That said, I can give credit to the Bills while being very dubious of that "empty hand'' call that Buffalo benefitted from, when it was was ruled Matt Ryan fumbled rather than threw an incomplete pass. Rookie cornerback Tre'Davious White scooped up the loose ball and returned it 52 yards for a third-quarter touchdown while the stunned Falcons stood and watched in disbelief.

Ryan was hit by Bills pass rusher Jerry Hughes, but the ball didn't pop out of his grasp immediately and he seemed to re-grip it as his arm was moving forward in a passing motion. The play was reviewed and not over-turned, presumably because there wasn't enough visual evidence that Ryan remained in possession of the ball.

But it looked like a gift touchdown for the Bills from every angle I saw, and that proved pivotal in Buffalo's six-point win.

  • Perhaps there will be no changing of the guard in the AFC South this season after all. Two-time defending division champ Houston apparently wasn't informed that Tennessee was everyone's choice to rule the South in 2017, or maybe they were and that's how the Texans saw fit to lay an emphatic 57-14 whipping on the Titans, shattering the team record for points.

Deshaun Watson had another jaw-dropping day for Houston, throwing for four touchdowns and running for a fifth score, becoming the first rookie quarterback to manage that five-TD trick since Minnesota's Fran Tarkenton in 1961.     

The division is now a jumble, with Houston, Tennessee and Jacksonville all sitting 2-2, with last-place Indianapolis at 1-2 entering their Sunday-nighter at Seattle. Until further notice, the Texans are the class of this division and the Titans are apparently over-rated.

  • I had Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers bouncing back from their dismal 2016 to make the playoffs in my preseason predictions, but I didn't see this coming. Newton and the Panthers put it all together Sunday in Foxboro, walking away with a three-point win on kicker Graham Gano's cannon-shot 48-yard field at the final gun.

So I guess we can put that "What's wrong with Cam?'' narrative back on the shelf for the time being. Newton and his surgically repaired right shoulder were back to posing the play-making, multi-dimensional threat of 2015. He threw for 316 yards and three scores, ran for 44 yards and another touchdown, and got better as the game went along, leading the way to victory a week after the Panthers were pounded 34-13 at home against New Orleans.

Cam got his groove back. Someone best alert the rest of the NFC.

Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we dive into an upset-heavy Week 4 in the NFL…

  • It was there, if you were paying close enough attention on Sunday, the early proof that this NFL season is shaping up as one with virtually no givens, no absolutes.

In a matter of seconds apart, last season's two Super Bowl teams — Atlanta and New England — both lost at home in stunning fashion, being upset by a pair of opponents that finished with a combined 13 wins a year ago. Then moments later, the Week 4 trend continued with the upstart Rams shocking the Cowboys 35-30, dealing Dallas a home defeat at the hands of a club that absolutely no one saw coming.

Last year is so last year in the NFL, and what a vivid example we just witnessed to drive home that point.

  • To recap, New England went a sterling 14-2 last year, but lost 33-30 to a Carolina team that finished 6-10 and in last place in its division in 2017. The Patriots have already matched their defeat total of last season, with two home losses, and we're only a month into the new year.
  • Atlanta was 11-5 last year, but fell from the ranks of the unbeaten at 3-1, dropping a 23-17 contest to visiting Buffalo, perhaps the AFC surprise of the year thus far at 3-1. The Bills were just 7-9 a season ago, good for third place in the AFC East.
  • Dallas, too, was victimized, showing that last year's 13-3 record didn't mean anything to the Rams, who went a dreadful 4-12 a season ago. Los Angeles (3-1) has nearly matched its 2017 win total, and somehow found a way to come out on the winning end of a wildly entertaining but schizophrenic game against the 2-2 Cowboys.

Throw in the Dolphins getting embarrassed 20-0 by the Saints in London on Sunday morning (East Coast time), and four of the NFL's 2016 playoff teams in Week 4 got schooled by teams that finished below .500 a year ago. A fifth 2016 playoff team, the Giants, were beaten 25-23 at Tampa Bay and slid to 0-4, just one fewer loss than they racked up all last season.

Those were the kind of unforeseeable results we got in Week 4, and a month in, there's not much to count on thus far in this 2017 season. As Week 4 exhibited, there will be no slam dunks and very few certainties this time around. Kansas City is already the last remaining undefeated team, and the 3-0 Chiefs will get their own test Monday night at home against 2-1 Washington.

It's all so unpredictable so far, but it could be fun.

  • From the looks of his face in the final seconds of the game, I'm willing to bet Wade Phillips positively loves beating the Cowboys, the team he used to lead as its head coach, until being replaced by Jason Garrett mid-way through the 2010 season.

But the Rams revenging Phillips isn't the headline from this game. It's that Los Angeles rallied from a 24-13 first-half hole, and really should have routed the Cowboys, if not having to settle for a career-high seven Greg Zuerlein field goals along the way.

Critics said the Rams had only beaten the struggling Colts and 49ers, so we best not get too excited about their early success under rookie head coach Sean McVay. But all of that's out the window now, because the upset at Dallas had statement game written all over it. This is a good team, and it's on the rise.

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Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott? How about Jared Goff and Todd Gurley instead? Gurley continued his huge season with 121 yards rushing, plus seven catches for 94 yards and a touchdown. That's his third consecutive game with a receiving touchdown, and he already has a team-record tying seven scores through four games, one more than he totaled for the entire 2016 season.

Goff turned in another strong showing as well, throwing for 255 yards and two touchdowns, without a turnover. His transformation from last year to this year has been nothing short of astounding, and to think he was considered a potential draft bust of epic proportions as recently as two months ago, before the preseason opened.

We knew the Rams had defensive talent. But now they've got a high-powered offense to match. Los Angeles has scored 30-points-plus in three of its four games, and rolled up 412 yards from scrimmage against a Dallas defense that had no answers in the second half.

  • The first-place Buffalo Bills. Let that one sink in for a while. Just as McVay has done on offense in Los Angles, rookie Bills head coach Sean McDermott has quickly changed the culture and the losing vibe on defense in Buffalo. The Bills used to come close but always find a way to lose a game like Sunday's in Atlanta. But not this year. The Bills finished the job in their six-point upset of the defending NFC champions, and their defense is the stingiest in the league when it comes to giving up points.

A 3-1 start guarantees nothing in Buffalo, of course. We've seen plenty of decent getaways turn into disappointment for the Bills, with their agonizing 17-year streak of missing the playoffs. But with the Patriots certainly looking vulnerable, why shouldn't Buffalo believe its time is now? The Bills defense forced three Falcons turnovers, and even though Atlanta was missing top receivers Julio Jones (hip flexor) and Mohamed Sanu (hamstring) for most of the second half, Buffalo logged a quality win in taking down Atlanta on the road.

McDermott in Buffalo and McVay in L.A. Those are your top two NFL Coach of the Year candidates through the first month, right? 

  • That said, I can give credit to the Bills while being very dubious of that "empty hand'' call that Buffalo benefitted from, when it was was ruled Matt Ryan fumbled rather than threw an incomplete pass. Rookie cornerback Tre'Davious White scooped up the loose ball and returned it 52 yards for a third-quarter touchdown while the stunned Falcons stood and watched in disbelief.

Ryan was hit by Bills pass rusher Jerry Hughes, but the ball didn't pop out of his grasp immediately and he seemed to re-grip it as his arm was moving forward in a passing motion. The play was reviewed and not over-turned, presumably because there wasn't enough visual evidence that Ryan remained in possession of the ball.

But it looked like a gift touchdown for the Bills from every angle I saw, and that proved pivotal in Buffalo's six-point win.

  • Perhaps there will be no changing of the guard in the AFC South this season after all. Two-time defending division champ Houston apparently wasn't informed that Tennessee was everyone's choice to rule the South in 2017, or maybe they were and that's how the Texans saw fit to lay an emphatic 57-14 whipping on the Titans, shattering the team record for points.

Deshaun Watson had another jaw-dropping day for Houston, throwing for four touchdowns and running for a fifth score, becoming the first rookie quarterback to manage that five-TD trick since Minnesota's Fran Tarkenton in 1961.     

The division is now a jumble, with Houston, Tennessee and Jacksonville all sitting 2-2, with last-place Indianapolis at 1-2 entering their Sunday-nighter at Seattle. Until further notice, the Texans are the class of this division and the Titans are apparently over-rated.

  • I had Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers bouncing back from their dismal 2016 to make the playoffs in my preseason predictions, but I didn't see this coming. Newton and the Panthers put it all together Sunday in Foxboro, walking away with a three-point win on kicker Graham Gano's cannon-shot 48-yard field at the final gun.

So I guess we can put that "What's wrong with Cam?'' narrative back on the shelf for the time being. Newton and his surgically repaired right shoulder were back to posing the play-making, multi-dimensional threat of 2015. He threw for 316 yards and three scores, ran for 44 yards and another touchdown, and got better as the game went along, leading the way to victory a week after the Panthers were pounded 34-13 at home against New Orleans.

Cam got his groove back. Someone best alert the rest of the NFC.

  • Then again, what quarterback hasn't looked his best going up against New England's sieve-like defense? Carolina hadn't gained more than 288 yards in a game before Sunday, but then proceeded to dent the Patriots for 444, averaging more than seven yards per offensive snap.

There's time to get it fixed, but it's so surprising to see the New England defense flounder this badly. The Patriots are being killed by busted coverages, defenders being caught out of position, breakdowns and brain cramps at the worst possible time. I haven't seen this much confusion and indecision in New England's defense, specifically the secondary, since Bill Belichick first pulled on a hoodie in Foxboro.

New England even made Carolina receiver Devin Funchess into a two-touchdown catch playmaker on Sunday, and that's a label I can't ever remember using in his case. Free-agent cornerback Stephon Gilmore deserves the brunt of the blame for the miscues against Carolina, but there was enough for everyone to share in the secondary.

Alex Smith, Drew Brees, Deshaun Watson and now Newton have all had their fun against the Patriots pass defense. Next up? The Bucs' Jameis Winston, on a short week, Thursday night in Tampa. Time to stop the bleeding in New England.

  • If only Andy Dalton and the Bengals could play the Browns every week. What a dose of feel-good Cleveland administered on the Bengals, with Cincinnati winning 31-7 on the road to finally get in the victory column. Dalton was almost flawless against the forgiving Browns, completing all but five of his 30 passes, for 286 yards and his first four-touchdown game since 2013.

If you take the Bengals' 21-point first half against Green Bay last week and put it together with the 31-point showing in Cleveland, the effects of new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor's improved play-calling has been obvious. Dalton's comfort level has returned and he's making quick, decisive reads and being accurate with the ball.

  • As for Cleveland (0-4), I'm guessing Hue Jackson really knows he's a Browns coach now. He just dropped to 1-19 in his Cleveland tenure, getting trounced 31-7 by a winless visiting team, no less. Whatever optimism the Browns generated with that near-miss loss against Pittsburgh in Week 1, the air is leaving the balloon yet again in Cleveland.

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said Sunday he told Jackson, his good friend and former Cincinnati offensive coordinator, "Don't let them quit on you'' when they met at midfield after the game.

Really? It's come to that already in Week 4, with Browns players potentially quitting on their head coach as October dawns? Sadly that says all you need to know about where the Browns are these days. Back in the familiar spot of trying to find silver linings in a pile of manure.

  • That didn't feel much like a typical Pittsburgh-Baltimore blood feud rivalry game, mainly because it's impossible to take the Ravens offense seriously as a threat about now. Baltimore doesn't do anything particularly well on that side of the ball, and Joe Flacco has now led exactly one touchdown drive in his past 28 possessions. 

After last week's 28-yard passing showing in that blowout loss to Jacksonville in London, things couldn't get worse for Flacco. But they didn't really get much better either. He completed 31 of 49 passes for 235 yards and two interceptions in the 26-9 loss to the visiting Steelers, but Baltimore never really seemed close to turning the momentum of the game its way.

The frustration is on the rise in Baltimore. And the Steelers just stepped over their rivals and into the first place in the AFC North. And that sting will take the longest to fade, because the Ravens hadn't lost at home to Pittsburgh since 2012.

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  • Smart of Pittsburgh to get back to basics and hand the rock to Le'Veon Bell, over and over again. The Steelers needed to get him untracked after his slow start, and they can't be the offense they want to be until Bell is front and center and his old productive self. Bell ran a whopping 35 times for 144 yards and two scores, and added four catches for 42 yards, putting him at 186 for the game.

As Bell goes, so go the Steelers. I'd ride him for all he's worth. After missing the entire preseason, we know Bell's rested.

  • What a devastating blow if rookie running back Dalvin Cook is lost for the season with a knee injury, as Minnesota fears. Already missing quarterbacks Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford due to knee injuries, Cook went down in the second half of the 14-7 home loss to Detroit, and it's another deflating development for Mike Zimmer's snake-bit club.

In only four games, Cook showed he was a versatile and reliable threat, and the Vikings simply won't get the same impact from his replacements, be it Latavius Murray or Jerick McKinnon. It's harder to take Minnesota seriously as a playoff contender with this latest injury, and the home loss in the division that accompanied it.

  • The Lions are legit. They just know how to win the tight, taut games, and now they have themselves another pass rusher to help close things out. Defensive end Anthony Zettel is a break-through star for Detroit in the season's first month, with a team-best four sacks, two of which came against Minnesota's Case Keenum in Sunday's win. Zettel, a sixth-round pick in 2016, totaled three tackles, four quarterback hits and also came up with key third-quarter fumble recovery that helped hasten the Vikings' demise.

With the Packers and Lions tied atop the NFC North at 3-1, their Week 9 showdown in Green Bay might be the game that helps determine who takes the upper hand in the division in the season's second half.

  • Break up the Jets. And somebody please explain the Jaguars to me. Jacksonville alternates between great performances and lousy ones, and there's nothing that can drive a fan base crazier than that. Jacksonville in wins against Houston and Baltimore was dominant. The Jaguars against the Titans and Jets were underachievers, with Jacksonville inexcusably dropping one to New York, 23-20, on Sunday in overtime.
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And so it goes, with Jacksonville having not won consecutive games since October 2016. If there's a bigger tease in the NFL than the Jags, I'm not sure who it would be.

Which is not the problem for the Jets, who have surprisingly won two in a row after being lampooned and ridiculed for months. New York isn't going to the playoffs, but it does have the same 2-2 record as New England through the first month of the season, and the Jets are actually good at running the ball. Starting Sunday, at least.

New York gashed Jacksonville's talented defense for 256 yards on the ground, all from the two-headed backfield of Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire. Powell ripped off a 75-yard scoring run and McGuire scooted for a 69 yard touchdown, and that's how the Jets got to .500 for the first time since September 2016.

In terms of creating an identity, the scrappy Jets are at least making some progress. Give them a little bit of a chance, and they'll hang around and beat you.

  • It's a bit early for such things, but that was a season-saving win by Arizona in my eyes. The Cardinals would have looked horrible to be sitting 1-3 and coming off a galling home loss to the previously winless 49ers, owning nothing but that ugly road win at Indianapolis in Week 2.

Still, it's not as if the 2-2 Cardinals are going to be going places after their 18-15 squeaker of an overtime win against San Francisco. Not with that offense. Arizona keeps self-destructing on offense, giving up sacks and settling for field goals when touchdowns are needed. Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald rescued the Cardinals this week with that 19-yard game-winning connection in overtime, but nothing is coming easily for Arizona this season.

  • The Raiders became the sixth 2016 playoff team to lose in Week 4, with a tense 16-10 defeat at division rival Denver. And that's not even the worse news, given franchise quarterback Derek Carr left the game in the third quarter with a back injury that's an obvious cause for concern. If Carr is gone for long, the Raiders' Super Bowl dreams will vanish. (The Raiders say Carr left with back spasms).

Not that they're robust at the moment anyway. Oakland got manhandled at Washington last Sunday night, and then came out with little fire or intensity against the Broncos. The vaunted Raiders' attitude was supposed to be back this season, but two straight losses after an 2-0 start have given rise to legitimate doubts. Maybe Oakland wasn't ready for a step up in the weight class after all.

The Raiders at least start a three-game homestand next week, drawing visits from the Ravens, Chargers and Chiefs that could vault them back into the AFC West lead if they go 3-0. But Jack Del Rio's team is at a crossroads of sorts, and needs to re-establish its identity. That wasn't supposed to be the challenge in 2017.

  • Like the Steelers and Jets, the Eagles prioritized their running game Sunday and were well-rewarded for it, winning 26-24 over the Carson Chargers behind 214 yards on the ground. Turns out ex-Patriots running back LeGarrett Blount is going to have a big role in Philly after all, and he churned for 136 yards on just 16 carries (8.5 yards), including a 68-yard gallop in the fourth quarter. Running backs are all the rage in the NFL once again, to a degree.

The Eagles (3-1) now sit atop the NFC East at the season's quarter pole, and they've already beaten both the Giants and Washington in their division. With the Giants having bottomed out at 0-4, and Dallas treading water at 2-2, Philadelphia's road back to the playoffs for the first time since 2013 could be clearer than expected.

  • Okay so the Bucs fought back and won 25-23 over the visiting Giants, thanks to Nick Folk's 34-yard field goal as time expired. But the gratitude sounds sarcastic when you consider Folk missed from 46 and 49 yards earlier in the game, and also blew a first-quarter extra point.

And Folk was supposed to be savvy veteran who rescued the Bucs from their ill-fated Robert Aguayo kicking debacle? Who's going to be the kicker to replace Folk, because Tampa Bay's patience has to be wearing thin after Sunday.

With a Thursday night visit from New England on tap this week, there's probably little time to shop for another kicker. But the Bucs can't live with Folk's inaccuracy for long at this rate. Tampa Bay's kicking miseries have to end at some point if the Bucs' playoff chances are to survive.

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  • It's beginning to look a lot like the Jay Cutler experiment in Miami is going nowhere fast. Where's the Cutler who took so well to Adam Gase's offense in Chicago in 2015? Wasn't Cutler's experience with that offense the reason the Dolphins quickly signed him after Ryan Tannehill's early August knee injury? Miami lost 20-0 to the Saints in London Sunday at Wembley Stadium, and were it not for a last-play touchdown at the Jets last week, it'd be back-to-back 20-0 beatdowns for the reeling Dolphins. Cutler had just 163 yards of passing, and threw a costly early interception in the end zone.

Granted, Miami has been through a lot so far in 2017, with Tannehill's injury and Hurricane Irma playing havoc with the Dolphins' plans. But Gase's offense seems lost, and has been surprisingly unimaginative. Cutler is at his best when he's threatening the defense with the deep ball, but Miami has him mostly dinking and dunking, and it's not working. Cutler also has started looking disinterested at times, never more so than when he played decoy as a receiver on a Wildcat formation snap against the Saints. He was a lined-up-wide statue on the play, barely moving a muscle. Way to sell it, Jay.

Miami is only 1-2, but things could really get away from the Dolphins if they're not careful. They finally get their first real home of the season next week against an testy Tennessee club, and then have challenging road trips to Atlanta and Baltimore later this month. And don't forget, there is no post-London bye week looming for Miami. The Dolphins opted out of that, then were forced to take their break in Week 1 due to the hurricane, necessitating the playing of 16 games in a row. 

October just began, and it's already crunch time in Miami this season.

  • A shutout for the beleaguered Saints defense? What will they think of next? Give it up for a unit that was gouged for 65 points and more than 1,000 yards of offense in losses to Minnesota and New England in Weeks 1-2. Since then, New Orleans is 2-0, and has surrendered just 13 points, those coming in last week's impressive 34-13 road win at Carolina.

Miami only dented the Saints for a measly 185 yards of offense, and posted four sacks of Cutler, harassing him steadily all game. New Orleans at least has something to build on defensively for the first time in ages, and the Saints enter their Week 5 bye with their season saved and soaring confidence.

But their improved defense will get two majors tests in the weeks to come, so let's not get too far ahead of the story. The Saints host Detroit in Week 6 and then travel to Lambeau Field for a Week 7 game in Green Bay. The Lions and Packers can both hang up some crooked numbers in a hurry.

  • An obvious but necessary question for Bears head coach John Fox: What are you waiting for? Seriously. Is there any more you need to see more from Mike Glennon to know it's time for rookie Mitchell Trubisky to be your starting quarterback? Glennon was fairly well brutal in the Bears' 35-14 loss at Green Bay on Thursday night, and with Chicago sitting 1-3 and in last place in the NFC North after the first month of the season, there's no time to waste.

Start the kid and let him see if he can build on some of the good things we saw from him in the preseason. Glennon clearly isn't the answer, and that sizable signing bonus or not, Fox isn't giving his team its best chance to win with the ex-Buc under center. You can call Glennon a starter, but he's making the case for why he has backup-level ability. His eight turnovers and eight sacks have done major damage, and he's just too much of a sitting duck in the pocket. Let Trubisky add a little athleticism to the offense, and give defenses more to worry about.

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  • So Chicago's defense holds Aaron Rodgers to 18 completions and just 179 yards passing, with only 91 rushing yards by the Packers, and No. 12 still shreds the Bears with four touchdown passes, to three different receivers. That's almost not fair.

Rodgers is now a mind-boggling 16-4 as a starter against the Bears, including one playoff game, and that makes him Chicago's No. 1 football nemesis. At 3-1 with their mini-bye weekend to enjoy, the Packers are banged up but still in great position to make the playoffs for an NFL-high ninth consecutive season (New England can do the same).

  • A two-game suspension for Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan sounds about right to me. It may sound harsh to take away one-eighth of someone's season for just one illegal hit, but if you want to try and legislate that kind of dangerous crown of the helmet hit out of the NFL, you have to be willing to make the punishment harsh. The message will get through to players, and their behavior will change, if suspensions are consistently meted out. Fines alone won't do it, and only taking offenders off the field will resonate strongly enough.

Was Trevathan's hit on Packers receiver Davante Adams dirty? That's judging intent and that's always a bit tricky to do. It certainly was illegal. That much is beyond question. It was a scary sight to see Adams lay motionless and eventually be stretchered off the field, but he's home from the hospital, in the concussion protocol and thankfully said to be doing well.

  • Consider former NFL MVP Rich Gannon unimpressed with the state of quarterbacking in the game today. Gannon, the ex-Raiders quarterback who is now a CBS game analyst, concedes there are some fine young passers coming into the league in recent years. But he still sees a very shallow reservoir of talent at the game's most crucial position.

"I would not go so far as say our game's in trouble because it's not,'' Gannon told me last week. "But I just think if you look around at that position, across the board there's a lack of depth and talent. People are talking about Colin Kaepernick or whoever still being out there, but if you look at the backups in this league, I can go down the list and name 10 guys where it's 'You've got to be kidding me? That's your backup? That's the best you can do?' But that's where we're at.''

Ridiculously Cool Football Card of the Week

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Former Broncos head coach Red Miller died on Wednesday, at the ripe old age of 89. If you're too young to remember Miller and his 1977 Broncos, a team that captured the imagination of the sports world that magical season, I feel for you. Denver's first Super Bowl team was a wildly likable bunch, and as I remember it in my teenage years, everyone outside of the Oakland Raiders and their fandom seemed to be rooting for the upstart Broncos, who stormed to a 12-2 record and the first playoff berth in the franchise's 18-season history. The 50-year-old Miller was an enthusiastic rookie head coach in 1977, and everything he did that season for the Broncos worked out, at least until the Super Bowl, when Denver was trounced by Dallas 27-10, going down in an avalanche of turnovers.

I went with Haven Moses and his 1971 Topps, because he was Denver's leading receiver by yardage that season (27 catches for 539 yards), and he always seemed to be open in key situations. It was his clutch two-touchdown catch day against the defending champion Raiders in the AFC title game that helped deliver the Super Bowl trip to the Broncos, with that 20-17 conquest of Oakland being the high point of the season in Denver. Plus, how can you have a cooler name than Haven Moses? You can't. It's impossible.

RIP, Red. Forty years later, your 1977 Broncos remain one of the most beloved and popular teams in NFL lore.

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