Arizona Cardinals and Teams That Have Owned Early Season
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The first quarter of the NFL season has brought about several surprises, both good and bad. With the replacement-referee debacle settled, NFL fans can finally start focusing on the game itself and not the officials.
With four weeks of games in the bag, there are three teams that remain perfect, sitting at 4-0 (Cardinals, Falcons, Texans). These three teams are not the only teams that have owned the first quarter of the season, however, as several teams that are sitting pretty at 3-1 have shown some dominance so far this season.
There is still plenty of time for those teams that have struggled thus far to get their act together, but if they want to contend they will have to get their act together sooner rather than later.
Here's a look at five teams that have been dominant through the first four games of the season and look poised to stay that way all season.
Houston Texans: New Kings of the South
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A season removed from ending the Indianapolis Colts' run as kings of the AFC South, the Houston Texans look poised to hold onto the division title.
Led by quarterback Matt Schaub, the Texans have set out to prove that they are true contenders within the AFC.
Offensively, the Texans have been rolling this season racking up 126 points through four games, second only to the New England Patriots' 134. A dangerous double-headed offensive monster has started to take form in Houston and does not appear to be slowing anytime soon.
So far this season, Schaub has completed 66.9 percent of his passes while throwing only one interception. Schaub has had no problems spreading the ball around this season, either. He has six receivers with at least nine receptions, led by Owen Daniels and Andre Johnson.
The Texans' rushing attack has been led by Arian Foster once again, as the dangerous back has tallied four touchdowns in four games. While Foster has been the workhorse in the backfield for the Texans, Ben Tate has been able to be a nice change-of-pace back, who can take some carries from Foster.
Defensively, the Texans have been just as stout as they have on offense, allowing a league-fewest 56 points. Led by emerging star JJ Watt, the Texans have wreaked havoc on opponents all season. The Texans appear to be the real deal right now and look poised to continue their dominance through the entire season.
Atlanta Falcons: Ryan's Team
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Since his entrance into the NFL, Matt Ryan has been hailed as a player with superstar potential.
This season, he is finally showing that superstar potential.
Ryan has the Falcons off to a perfect 4-0 start and looking like a team that no one wants to see on their schedule.
The Falcons' upgraded receiving corps is immediately proving troublesome for opponents this season, as Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White are all having monster seasons to this point.
The success and ability of these three as well as the other receivers on the Falcons' roster has allowed Ryan to get into a rhythm, becoming one of the league's most efficient passers by completing almost 70 percent of his passes.
The running game for the Falcons has not been spectacular this season, but it has been good enough to get the job done. Michael Turner has lost carries to Jacquizz Rodgers after his early-season DUI, but he appears to have cemented himself as the Falcons' go-to back (if there was any doubt) after a solid performance against the Panthers in Week 4.
Matt Ryan's success will be the key for this Falcons team. As goes Ryan, so go the Falcons.
The Cardinals: Flying High or Getting By?
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After a quarterback controversy to start the season, Kevin Kolb has emerged as the starter in Arizona and has the Cardinals off to a 4-0 start.
While the Cardinals will not be commanding the respect and fear that the other teams sitting at 4-0 are, they still must be given the respect they deserve for going 4-0.
While Larry Fitzgerald has once again proven himself to be one of the top receivers in the league this season, it is another Cardinals receiver who has proven to be the bigger scoring threat.
Andre Roberts, over the course of the first four games of the season, has proven to be just as dangerous as Fitzgerald if teams forget about him.
The Cardinals' stingy defense has been another key this season, as they do not boast one of the NFL's highest-scoring offenses. With two overtime wins under their belts, the Cardinals are showing they know how to grind out wins late in games.
Do not be surprised if this team continues to win this season. Just do not expect them to blow many teams out by scoring 42 points.
Baltimore Ravens: The Next NFL Dynasty?
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With the downfall of the Colts and apparent slipping of the Patriots, the question is being asked: Who is the NFL's next dynasty?
The Ravens are another team whose wins have not been exactly blowouts, but who's counting?
Led by their defense and a running back who has established himself in the passing game, the Ravens are looking to establish themselves as the NFL's next dynasty.
Offensively, Ray Rice has paved the way for the Ravens, leading the team in rushing and receiving up to this point in the season. Rice has been quarterback Joe Flacco's favorite target so far this season, just ahead of Anquan Boldin. If the Ravens want to continue their success into the latter part of the season, they are going to need other players offensively to step up. If he is forced to shoulder too much of the load as the season continues on, Rice will begin to fall off and the Ravens will slip out of the picture.
Their only loss so far this season has come at the hands of the Eagles (3-1). That one-point loss was something that the Ravens want to put behind them as they continue looking to prove that they are the next NFL dynasty in the making.
Minnesota Vikings: A Cinderella Story
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Despite suffering a loss to the struggling Indianapolis Colts in Week 2, the Vikings are still flying high after four weeks.
Coming into the season, people were giving almost every team but the Vikings a chance to win the NFC North. The Vikings looked to use Weeks 3 and 4 to prove that they are true contenders for the division title, as they knocked off the 49ers and Detroit Lions respectively.
Despite having a juggernaut offense, the Vikings are slugging out close victories so far this season (their largest victory is 11 points). The amount of close games early on will only help the Vikings as the young season continues.
Young quarterback Christian Ponder is being put into situations early on this season that will force him to mature beyond his years and help elevate the Vikings to levels no one thought possible in the offseason.
The Vikings do not exactly have a cupcake schedule ahead of them, but do not look for this team to stumble completely, as they are ready to compete with the Packers and the Bears for the NFC North title.