In the blink of an eye, 4 weeks of the NFL season have gone by, but not without many dramatics and surprises. With now just a little less than 1/4 of the season done, let’s take a look at the top storylines for each division.
AFC East: The AFC East features two of the most high powered offenses in the NFL so far this season with the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins. The Bills, led by the dynamic superstar duo of QB Josh Allen and WR Stefon Diggs, are 3-1 with their only loss being to the Dolphins by just 2 points. As for those Dolphins, all eyes of the football world looked upon them as we saw their QB Tua Tagovailoa go down with a scary concussion/neck injury Thursday night vs the Bengals. With Tua looking like he will be out long term and the Patriots and Jets looking like nothing special, expect the Bills to run away with the division and look poised to make a Super Bowl run.
AFC West: The most stacked division (on paper) in recent NFL history has not quite lived up to the hype, but still looks to be competitive. At the bottom, we have the 1-3 Raiders. The Raiders red zone offense has been just flat out bad through 4 games and their win against the Broncos last week probably saved head coach Josh McDaniel’s job. As for those Broncos they beat, the team from Denver is an ugly version of a 2-2 team. Russell Wilson hasn’t been able to find a rhythm and, with a very difficult final few weeks of the regular season, the next few weeks may be early do or die time for the Broncos divisional championship aspirations. In second place meanwhile is the Chargers, who also come in at 2-2, but have the early tiebreaker due to winning the divisional game week 1 vs the Raiders. The Chargers finally got RB Austin Ekeler going this week with three touchdowns vs the Texans, and have multiple winnable games ahead of them that could allow them to inch closer to the first place Chiefs. The Chiefs have looked like, well, the Chiefs. QB Patrick Mahomes has looked magical and the team looks poised to chase another ring after starting the season 3-1.
AFC North: The AFC North’s 1st place team through 4 weeks is shockingly the Browns, who don’t even have their starting QB Deshaun Watson on the field due to suspension. However, the Ravens and Bengals have the same record as the Browns, and definitely have a higher ceiling than them. I expect both teams to get back on track and finish first and second in the division once the Browns start losing. As for the bottom feeder Steelers, the Kenny Pickett rebuild era began last week when he subbed in at QB and threw multiple INT’s, so don’t expect much out of Steel City while they figure out things over there.
AFC South: The South has a couple disappointments and a surprise team so far. The disappointments being the 2-2 Titans and the 1-2-1 Colts. The Titans star RB Derrick Henry has failed to find any sort of consistency and it appears QB Matt Ryan may not be the solution to the Colts problems. As for the pleasant surprise, it’s the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags upset the Chargers in LA 2 weeks ago before losing a tight one to 4-0 Philadelphia, bringing them to 2-2 and controlling their own destiny in the division. Who knows, maybe QB Trevor Lawrence and co. are ready to become opposing defenses nightmares late into the season.
NFC East: The NFC East has three teams two games over .500. No, that is not a typo. The infamously weak division has shown some strength this year. The aforementioned Eagles lead the division at 4-0, making them the only undefeated team in the NFL. As for second and third, the 3-1 Cowboys have backup QB Cooper Rush miraculously winning games for them, and the 3-1 Giants are simply just finding ways to win despite not looking elite on paper. While I do expect the Giants to fall off very soon, the Eagles and Cowboys look destined for a race to the finish for first. Meanwhile, the fourth place 1-3 Commanders have been disappointing, and look like the playoffs are not in the plans for them.
NFC West: I am writing this article before the Rams and 49ers square off on Monday Night, but so far the Rams have looked pretty beatable this season despite being 2-1. QB Matthew Stafford’s injury seems to be lingering a bit but, thanks to weapons like WR Cooper Kupp, they may be able to get away with it. Meanwhile, the 2-2 Cardinals and 2-2 Seahawks have had very different paths to the same record. The Cardinals have seem to just not be able to get over the hump and become “great” while the Seahawks led by QB Geno Smith are somehow 2-2 and not trending downwards, for now. However, I’m expecting the Rams to win Monday night against the 49ers, and begin to look to run away with first place in the next few weeks.
NFC North: The North looks to be a 2 way race between the Vikings and Packers, who have both started the season 3-1. Kirk Cousins has looked great as long as the team isn’t playing in primetime, and the Packers are on a 3 game win streak despite Aaron Rodgers having a subpar receiving core and saying that the way they’re winning “isn’t sustainable”. As for the bottom two teams, Bears QB Justin Fields performance so far has been abysmal, as he ranks last among starting QB’s in yards passing. The Lions, meanwhile, have been explosive offensively but their defense simply cannot get enough stops to win games.
NFC South: Tom Brady’s Buccaneers look a bit weak but the NFC South is even weaker. When a divisions starting QB’s (besides Brady) are Marcus Mariota, Baker Mayfield, and Jameis Winston, it’s no surprise the Bucs 2-2 record is good enough for first place and there is zero concern whatsoever that the Bucs won’t win the division.
While we may only be 4 games into the season and many variables can shift things every which way, the NFL’s season is beginning to take shape and we are getting a sense of what teams are contenders and what teams are pretenders. For now, there’s still 13 more games for each team to play and fight their way to the playoffs.