10 things you need to know from NFL Week 4
Andy Dalton is our No. 5 QB, Jameis Winston tanked, and the Rams made the NFC West race very interesting.
10 things you need to know from NFL Week 4
Didn’t catch every moment of NFL Week 4? PFF has you covered with the top 10 things you need to know.
1. Andy Dalton is our No. 5 ranked QB through Week 4.
The Bengals’ quarterback has been known for his solid regular season play—and for falling short in the postseason. So, why is 2015 any different?
In Week 4, Dalton continued to add to his career-best start. He posted a +4.2 overall performance, and now has a cumulative grade of +12.0 for the season—that puts him in the No. 5 spot, behind Carson Palmer, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, and Tom Brady.
Dalton arguably has the one of the NFL’s best arsenals of weapons around him, with the likes of Tyler Eifert, Muhammad Sanu, and Marvin Jones opening up A.J. Green. His big test will come this Sunday, as he faces the Seahawks’ No. 2 overall defense.
2. Josh Norman is the NFL’s best cornerback this season.
Through four weeks of the season, the Panthers’ Josh Norman has risen above the likes of Darrelle Revis, Vontae Davis, Chris Harris Jr., and yes, even Richard Sherman, to claim the best grade at the position.
You’re likely not the only one surprised by Norman’s mention in the “elite” cornerback category. He finished last season ranked No. 27, and only played in three games in 2013.
Sam Monson dove into some of the numbers this week that highlight Norman’s success thus far. Through four games, he has already totaled four interceptions, and opposing quarterbacks targeting him have a passer rating of just 23.1—the best mark in the NFL.
3. Denver would probably still be 4-0 without Peyton Manning
Through Week 4, Peyton Manning is our No. 25 graded quarterback. That puts him behind the likes of Sam Bradford, Kirk Cousins, and Derek Carr, among many others.
Now, we’re not claiming that the Broncos would be better off without Manning. He simply isn’t the driver behind the 4-0 success Denver has had thus far.
That has come from the Broncos’ defense, ranked No. 1 by a healthy margin through four weeks. Sam Monson wrote earlier this week about Denver’s completely different skill set compared to last season, when the offense carried the team, and hopefully the defense was good enough.
Now, with Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, Chris Harris Jr., and Aqib Talib steering the ship to victory, the reliance on Manning and the offense, ranked No. 5 overall in 2014, is miniscule. The question remains, however: Can the Broncos win it all on just one side of the ball, as they tried to last year?
4. Chris Ivory was our top-rated running back in Week 4
While much attention has been given to Devonta Freeman and Jeremy Hill for their Week 4 performances, Ivory posted our best overall halfback grade. The bulk of his +5.4 grade came from his run performance, where he earned a +5.2.
Ivory amassed 166 yards against the Dolphins in London, averaging 5.7 yards per carry. Most impressive, however, were his 110 yards after contact.
While the Jets came away with the win, it wasn’t an overall dominant offensive performance. Ivory, WR Brandon Marshall, and LG James Carpenter were the only New York offensive players to grade over +1.0—10 players graded negatively.
5. Josh McCown quieted the cries for “Johnny Football.”
Okay, maybe not all the calls for Manziel, but a large portion of them. Browns fans have to be thrilled with quarterback Josh McCown’s performance against San Diego, where he posted his best overall grade (+3.7) since Week 9 of 2013.
McCown threw for 356 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His accuracy percentage of 82.1 put him behind only two other quarterbacks in Week 4—Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers.
It will take consistent numbers like we saw in Week 4 for Manziel mania to truly be quelled in favor of McCown, but the career journeyman certainly showed he was capable of reproducing numbers similar to what we saw in 2013 with the Bears.
6. Jameis Winston made our “Worst team of the week.”
After two positive performances in Weeks 2 and 3, Jameis Winston looked very similar to the quarterback we saw open the season. Against Carolina, he posted an overall grade of -7.3—worst among all QBs in Week 4.
As Bryson Vesnaver said in his “Worst team of the week” selection, a pick-six on your first pass of the day is a good indicator that things aren’t headed in a pleasant direction. Winston completed 60.5 percent of his passes for 287—unfortunately, most of that was compiled in garbage time. He also threw four interceptions (should have been five, were it not for a missed opportunity by the Panthers).
It’s not yet clear whether this hot-or-cold play from Winston will continue, but the Buccaneers need to see some sort of positive consistency from their No. 1 draft pick if they are to play catch-up in the NFC South.
7. The Rams’ roller coaster continues.
In what was one of Sunday’s most surprising results, St. Louis defeated the red-hot Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Not a single member of our PFF team picked the Rams, who moved ahead of the Seahawks in the NFC West standings with the victory.
What does this mean for St. Louis, a team that seems to thrive in division play, but squander outside of the NFC West? In a division that is seemingly wide open, the Rams have some key pieces that will need work if they are to have consistent success. Their offense is ranked No. 23 overall through Week 4 (just ahead of the No. 26 Seahawks), but Nick Foles showed promise against the Cardinals with his highest grade of the season.
The Rams will likely rely on their defense if they are to have long-term success, with the No. 3 overall defense through four weeks. Aaron Donald (the league’s top-ranked DT/NT), of course, anchors the unit. (See Sam Monson’s article for more on Donald’s stellar performance.)
8. Blake Bortles can actually be a quality NFL quarterback.
Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles posted the best performance of his career (+4.0 overall, +3.4 passing) against the Colts in Week 4, giving hope to Jags fans everywhere. The second-year quarterback started the game on fire, with pinpoint downfield passes.
While Bortles has shown flashes of this type of ability, he has yet to repeat it on a consistent basis. Last year, he finished as our worst-graded quarterback. Through four weeks of 2015, however, he finds himself tied with Cam Newton and Teddy Bridgewater for the No. 8 spot.
9. J.J. Watt is still dominant, despite Texans’ 1-3 start.
A lot of PFF buzz has focused on Aaron Donald this season, comparing his production to that of J.J. Watt’s. That should in no way take away from the elite status of Watt, however,
In Week 4, the No. 1 3-4 DE (by a considerable margin) showed once again why he has been a fan-favorite here at PFF for some time. He ended the day against the Falcons with a sack, two hurries, and two batted passes, on top of three defensive stops. That type of production earned him a +9.9 overall grade; sadly, this was still not enough to lift his unit’s overall defensive grade into positive numbers (-1.3 overall against the Falcons).
10. Kam Chancellor’s return has had a serious impact on the Seattle defense.
After Kam Chancellor ended his holdout, we had a good feeling that he could help the Seahawks’ defense right away. In the two weeks that he’s played, however, Chancellor is tied with Denver’s Darian Stewart as the league’s second-best safety—so much for needing time to get back to game-speed.
Since Chancellor’s return, Seattle has allowed 10 points through two games—0 to the Bears, 10 to the Lions. Compare that to 48 combined points in Weeks 1 and 2, and it does seem that Chancellor’s presence has had a positive effect on the Legion of Boom.
Chase Howell | General Editor
Chase is a General Editor at PFF, focusing on the site’s NFL content strategy. His work has been featured in ESPN The Magazine, ESPN Insider, and The Cincinnati Enquirer.