Five Downs: Week 4
Written by Jake Majka on October 1, 2019
Photo credit: barstoolsports.com
Welcome to Five Downs! Every week, I’m going to preview the five most interesting things happening in all of football from Thursday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday night’s action. From college campuses to Jerry World, and we get an extra down in here because I said so. I wanted to start this a few weeks ago, but you know how senior school work can get! However, like Alvin Kamara, I just kept my feet moving and finally, for Week 4 NFL Games, I will give you a Five Downs column.
The class of the NFL is who we thought they were
New England and Kansas City went into Week 4 with early season tests coming up on the docket. Both remain undefeated heading into Week 5. The Patriots traveled to Orchard Park to take on my beloved Bills, and the Chiefs traveled to Detroit to take on a better-than-we-thought Lions team.
The Patriots offense got put through the ringer as the Bills defense suffocated them for seven three-and-outs, the most for a Tom Brady led offense since 2003. Luckily, Josh Allen was playing quarterback on the other side. Allen had one of his worst starts in the NFL Sunday and left the game in the fourth quarter down by six points with a head injury after a scary hit. The Bills weren’t able to capitalize offensively, and the Patriots won 16-10.
The Chiefs were able to escape Detroit after Patrick Mahomes led a perfect two-minute-drill in the fourth quarter to upend the Lions 34-30. The Chiefs played from behind almost all afternoon as their front seven continues to get exposed and gashed on the ground.
The Patriots should be fine. The Bills defense is at the very least a Top 5 unit in the NFL, and their schedule for the next four weeks is essentially like Alabama scheduling four FCS schools in a row. But the Bills did give a blueprint for teams to follow if you have a front four who can get pressure, and a secondary who makes plays on the ball.
The Chiefs issues might not have as quick of a fix. They have been getting gashed on the ground for the last year and a half but on Sunday, and just like every other Sunday, having Patrick Mahomes erases a lot of issues.
New No. 1 Alert
The more things change, the more they stay the same. The leaves are turning, and the temperatures are dropping as we inch towards autumn and more meaningful college football games. Every year we wait with baited breath for the blistering heat of the summer to finally cool down and let us feel okay about sitting in our houses all weekend indulging in football. We do this every year, to no avail.
It may make us seem crazy especially in the college football world, where yet again, the leaves are turning darker, the sun will come up later and set earlier, Big Ten teams still forget how to play offense in conference play (looking at you Northwestern) and Alabama is the No. 1 ranked team in the country.
This is as much about Alabama as it is about Clemson, the former No. 1 ranked team in the country. The Tigers were lucky to escape a road game at North Carolina after the Tar Heels attempted a 2-point conversion to take the lead late but failed and lost 21-20. Alabama meanwhile, is rolling. They steamrolled Ole Miss 59-31 in a game where Tua Tagovailoa threw six touchdowns!
Meanwhile, Trevor Lawrence continues to struggle to reach the high expectations that were set for him to dominate college football, and I don’t know if he’s even in the discussion for best quarterbacks in the country at this point in the season. Tagovailoa surely is and with Ohio State and Oklahoma’s quarterbacks (Jalen Hurts and Justin Fields) looking explosive again as well, Clemson’s margin for error in the playoff race is dwindling each week.
Are the Rams okay?
The Rams lost to the Buccaneers on Sunday. At home! And they allowed 55 points! Jameis Winston put up 55 points on the Rams. Let that sink in!
Something has been up with the Rams all year. Todd Gurley CLEARLY is not the same player that he was last year, and whatever knee issue he has is certainly of some concern to the Rams based on the way they have used him so far this year. As the running game has dropped off, so has Jared Goff’s effectiveness. He popped off for over 500 yards and two touchdowns, but he also threw three interceptions.
The Rams offense just looks out of sync. They are 3-1 but have questions all over the field. Last year, they were clearly the class of the NFC. This year, it seems more muddled with contenders like Green Bay, Dallas, Seattle and New Orleans keeping pace. If Gurley can somehow regain his MVP form from early last year, this team is one of the most dangerous in the league. Something has to give, and they will get a serious test from the rival Seahawks this Thursday in a critical NFC West matchup.
The Saints aren’t dead yet, but neither are the Panthers
The NFC South has been a roller coaster to start the year. The Saints specifically were left for dead after Drew Brees was injured in Week 2. Now? They are 3-1 and look like they are going to remain a favorite in the NFC.
The defense shut down the high-powered Dallas offense this week and held Ezekiel Elliott to 35 yards rushing in a 12-10 victory on Sunday Night Football. Bridgewater has been able to be competent in place of Brees and having play makers like Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas sure doesn’t hurt.
Meanwhile, Cam Newton is hurt, but it doesn’t matter as the Panthers have won two straight with Kyle Allen at quarterback and look like a serious wild card contender in the NFC. Last week, Allen was dynamic on offense in Arizona. This week, it was the Christian McCaffrey show as he almost amassed 200 all-purpose yards in the game against the Texans.
The defense tortured Deshaun Watson. Watson threw for only 160 yards and was on his back more often than not all day. The Panthers defense is solid again, and if they can hold the fort down while Newton is out injured, they have an opportunity to make some noise in a crowded NFC.
Who doesn’t love way too early predictions?
Every week, I’ll predict my Final Four and championship matchups for the NFL and NCAA. The mileage may vary each week depending on how I feel.
College Football Playoff
- (1)Alabama vs (4)Clemson
- (2)Ohio State vs (3)LSU
Oh yes, one more time! Alabama and Clemson will likely both be 13-0 and win their respective conferences easily, but Clemson has looked spotty. If they had a trickier game on their schedule, you might look at them differently, but the only “tough” game looks to be a late season matchup with a maybe-good Wake Forest team, so they fall to four.
LSU only gets in over Oklahoma because they have the better big victory over Texas. Oklahoma gets a chance to get that same win in a couple weeks at the Cotton Bowl. Justin Fields continues to look other-worldly, and Ohio State keeps on rolling as they get into Big 10 play.
Super Bowl: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Dallas Cowboys
I’m wavering on the Rams for the first time this season. Goff and Gurley collectively just don’t look right and letting up 55 points to Winston is cause for concern to this blogger.
The Cowboys slide in there even after a loss, I still think they are the most complete team in the NFC, and Ezekiel Elliott is not going to be shut down like that most weeks. I also believe in the development of Dak Prescott into a top-tier NFL quarterback. Give me the ‘boys this week. If they lose to Green Bay at home though, our old friendAaron Rodgers is going to slide into this spot next week.