Four weeks into the NFL: Who’s hot and who’s not?
We’re now four weeks into the 2019 NFL season, so who’s impressed and disappointed so far? Jamie Braidwood assesses who’s hot and who’s not.
Kansas City Chiefs – HOT
The Chiefs and reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes have simply started where they left off following the 2018 regular season. Despite losing star wide receiver Tyreek Hill due to injury in Week 1, Mahomes and the Chiefs offense have been explosive through their first four games and are one of only two teams to remain 4-0. Sammy Watkins and Demarcus Robinson have stepped up in Hill’s absence, while tight end Travis Kelce remains Mahomes’ No. 1 target.
Some highlights for the Chiefs so far: Mahomes’ performance against the Oakland Raiders in Week 2 where he threw for four touchdowns and the Chiefs scored all 28 of their points in the second quarter, Mahomes getting the better of breakout Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson in a back-and-forth 33-28 win in Week 3, and, again, Mahomes leading a game-winning drive in Detroit on Sunday to edge the stubborn Lions 34-30 and maintain the Chiefs’ 100% start.
New England Patriots – HOT
If the Chiefs were one of the two teams to still be 4-0, of course it is the Patriots who are the other. The defending Super Bowl champions have been in imperious form to start the season, especially on defense. It took until Week 4 against the Buffalo Bills for the Pats to concede an offensive touchdown, and even then their defense terrorised the Bills with four interceptions in a narrow 16-10 win.
The Patriots were caught up in the Antonio Brown saga, with the team signing the troubled wide receiver for their Week 2 game against the Dolphins. At the time, Brown joined an offense that was led by Tom Brady and included Josh Gordon, Julien Edleman, Philipp Dorsett, Sony Michel and James White. The Patriots looked so good both offensively and defensively that there was talk that they could feasibly win every game and go 16-0. Brown was released after Week 2 after further details of his misconduct emerged, limiting Brady’s options somewhat, but the Patriots still look extremely strong and are set to once again meet Mahomes’ Chiefs in the AFC conference final.
Other hot properties
The second-year quarterback lit up the first two games of the season as he threw for 596 yards and rushed for a further 126 yards in Baltimore’s victories over the Dolphins and Cardinals. That set up a battle with Patrick Mahomes in Week 3, which the Ravens lost 33-28 in a classic, before they fell to a second straight defeat to the resurgent Cleveland Browns. However, Jackson has already shown that he is capable of leading this dynamic Ravens team to a playoff spot.
After the New York Giants fell to a 0-2 start, rookie quarterback Daniel Jones was given the starting duties ahead of veteran QB Eli Manning for the Week 3 game against Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Giants selected Jones with the No. 6 pick at the 2019 NFL Draft in April and were ridiculed for doing so – the Duke University prospect was not high on anyone’s list, let alone ahead of Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskings. So there was a lot of pressure on Jones ahead of his debut. He responded by throwing two touchdowns and rushing for a further two in the Giants’ 32-31 comeback win, before Jones followed that by leading the team to a Week 4 win against the Washington Redskins to move to 2-2. That is clutch.
Miami Dolphins – NOT HOT
The Dolphins opened the 2019 season with two home games. Pretty nice, right? A good opportunity to get off to a nice start in front of your own fans? Not for the Dolphins, who were blown away 59-10 to the Ravens in Week 1 and then shut out 43-0 by the Patriots in Week 2. Since then the Dolphins have effectively given up on the 2019 season and seem to be in the process of “tanking” (deliberately losing games in an effort to receive the No. 1 NFL draft pick for the following season). There is plenty of evidence to support that theory, such as Miami trading away two of their better players in Laremy Tunsil and Minkah Fitzpatrick for first-round draft picks. Now on 0-4 after losses to the Dallas Cowboys and LA Chargers, there is a real chance Miami lose every game this season and finish 0-16. The Washington Redskins, Cincinnati Bengals and Denver Broncos are all also 0-4.
Pittsburgh Steelers – NOT HOT
After trading away Antonio Brown and losing Le’veon Bell on free agency during the offseason, 2019 always looked like it would be a transition year for the Steelers. Losing 33-3 to the Patriots was a tough start but things got a lot, lot worse after quarterback Ben Roethilsberger injured his elbow during the Week 2 loss against the Seattle Seahawks and was ruled out for the rest of the season.
In just two years Pittsburgh have gone from Roethilberger, Bell and Brown to Kyle Rudolph, James Connor and JuJu Smith-Schuster. It’s not impossible for the Steelers to make the playoffs but it’s going to be very tough for this team to finish above the Ravens and Browns in the AFC North.
The Atlanta Falcons – NOT HOT
The Falcons were the hottest team in the NFL in 2016 but have fallen a long way since, despite retaining much of the team that made the Super Bowl at the end of the 2016 season, such as quarterback Matt Ryan and wide receiver Julio Jones. Atlanta have opened the season 1-3 and have stuttered offensively. Their Week 4 loss to the Tennessee Titans, in which the Falcons scored just 10 points despite Ryan’s 394-yard passing performance, rather encapsulates the problem.