Mike Freeman's NFL Grades for the First Quarter of the Season

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterOctober 1, 2013

There's been talk that the read-option is dead. Deader than Richard Nixon. That is a lie. It is a lie because Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is proving it's a lie.

Denver quarterback Peyton Manning is the NFL's MVP after four weeks. But Wilson's not far behind. And that's pretty impressive, considering Manning has 16 touchdown passesthe most through the first four games of a season in NFL historyand the Broncos are averaging 44.8 points per game, which is more than the Giants (15.2), Yuccaneers (11) and Jaguars combined (7.8)

Sep 29, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning after  the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos won 52-20.  Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Wilson doesn't have Manning's explosive numbers, but he does have the same 4-0 record. He has been mentally tough, an accurate thrower, athletic when needed, and while other read-option quarterbacks like Robert Griffin III and Colin Kaepernick have struggled, he has not.

This week's grades are cumulative for the first four weeks, and Manning and Wilson have both led their teams to GPAs in the 4.0 range. They're not the only ones getting high marks. Here are their grades and the rest of the good (Chiefs), the bad (Jaguars) and the ugly (Jaguars) at the quarter point.

49ers (2-2)B

Week 4 gave the 49ers the perfect opportunity to get back to a passing grade. They played a terrible opponent with a horrible quarterback and a crappy defense. And they won by running Frank Gore. And then running him again. And again. This should be their formula every damn game.

Bears (3-1)B-

Jay Cutler threw three interceptions in Chicago's game against Detroit on Sunday, but that was after three brilliant games to start the season. Not sure if this means teams have figured out how to finally get to Cutler, as well as coach Marc Trestman's new schemes, or if Cutler is reverting to the player we all know and love.

Bengals  (2-2)C-

Just when you think the Bengals could go on a run after an impressive win versus Green Bay in Week 3, they put up a stinker against the Browns. At times it looks like Andy Dalton has regressed.

Bills (2-2)B

They found a defense against Baltimore, intercepting Joe Flacco five times. Overall, while EJ Manuel hasn't always been spectacular, it's clear the franchise has found its quarterback for the next 10 years.

Broncos (4-0)A+++

Not sure it could get much better. Peyton Manning being Peyton Manning is obvious. The surprise has been the effectiveness of the Broncos defense while missing key components like Von Miller and Champ Bailey. 

Browns (2-2)A

The owner and GM gave up on the season, but the players did not. An incredible story for the moment. The players have a lot of guts. Management doesn't.

Buccaneers (0-4)D-

Most of their games have been close losses, which is the only reason the team doesn't get a failing grade. While quarterback Josh Freeman has handled himself poorly, the team has handled things even worse. This is a franchise with a locker room in near revolt.

Cardinals (2-2)C

Played Tampa Bay on Sunday and gave up one sack to a Bucs team that had 12 in its first three games. On the season, Carson Palmer has been like rest of his offense—OK.

Chargers (2-2)B-

Totally dumbfounding team. They've played every team tight. Good teams, too, like Houston and Dallas. The Chargers are actually just a few plays away from being 3-1 or 4-0. 

Chiefs (4-0)A+++

We knew Andy Reid could do this. Just not this soon. This well. The Chiefs aren't pretty or dominating. They will not overwhelm anyone. They watch teams beat themselves and then take advantage. The ultimate vulture team.

Colts (3-1)B+

The Trent Richardson trade has done exactly what many believed it would do: It's given the Colts a well-rounded offense. Teams can no longer simply focus on Andrew Luck. This has made Indianapolis an incredibly dangerous team moving forward.

Cowboys (2-2)C-

Same old Cowboys. Mediocre team in a horrible division. Should be running away with it.

Dolphins (3-1)B

The story of this team, one of the stories of this season, is Ryan Tannehill. He's proven to be one of the few good quarterbacks the Dolphins have had post-Dan Marino. And I love how now everyone is claiming they knew Tannehill would be good. Hilarious. The Saints loss showed flaws, but the Saints do that to many teams.

Eagles (1-3)D

They started hot against Washington in the season opener and now look putrid. First-year coach Chip Kelly isn't so smart now, eh?

Falcons (1-3)D

Let's keep this one simple: The Falcons can't be trusted. At all.

Giants (0-4)F

It's almost sad. No, not almost. It is sad. Watching Tom Coughlin end his career this way. The Giants haven't been 0-4 since 1987. They have seven points in their last eight quarters. The key aspect to this point for New York is running back David Wilson's fumbles and subsequent disappearance from the offense. But the other big story is what in the hell has happened to Hakeem Nicks?

Jaguars (0-4)F

The Jaguars have been outscored 129-31. The talent level there is putrid.

Jets (2-2)C-

The Jets defense is actually playing incredibly well. The problem is the offense. Against the Titans, quarterback Geno Smith was intercepted twice, had two fumbles and was sacked five times.

Lions (3-1)B

Ndamukong Suh is a beast. He is also dirty. But when he's not a dirty beast, just a beast, he can't be stopped. He's driving this Lions defense, and that was evident in the critical game against Chicago, when he had two sacks. One sack caused a fumble returned for a score.

Packers (1-2)C-

Offense: still excellent. Defense: a step above awful.

Panthers (1-2)C-

Up and down, sometimes bordering on terrible. Then came the Giants game in which they decimated New York. Now, while every team has destroyed the Giants, there was a spark with the Panthers. Their upcoming schedule is fairly easy.

Patriots (4-0)A+

The Patriots are 4-0 with one star tight end hurt for most of the season, the other in Gitmo, and Wes Welker in Denver. All because of the eternal Tom Brady and a defense that is far better than anyone expected.

Raiders (1-3)F+

The plus is for Terrelle Pryor. He's raw but talented. He's also the only thing going for the Raiders.

Rams (1-3)D-

Sam Bradford is a bad quarterback. Sure, there are protection issues, but there were at least three instances this week where Bradford missed open receivers. And they weren't hard throws or tightly covered wideouts. They were wiiiiiiiiide open.

Ravens (2-2)C-

Denver blowing them out in the season opener and Joe Flacco's five interceptions in their most recent game against Buffalo lowers the grade. But it could be worse for Baltimore.

Redskins (1-3)F

The NFC version of the Steelers, only with worse quarterback play. The positive for Washington is it can't get much worse. Robert Griffin III is also starting to play better. There is a pulse.

Saints (4-0)A+

Sean Payton might be one of the top two or three play-callers in history. He makes such a huge difference. He makes the difference.

Seahawks (4-0)A

The beating they gave the 49ers made them look like the best team in football. The impressive comeback overtime win at Houston made them look like the toughest.

Steelers (0-4)F

Can't block. Can't run the ball. Can't tackle. No great franchise in recent memory has fallen off a cliff faster than this group. The Steelers will struggle to win three games. 

Texans (2-2)B-

Matt Schaub remains up and down, sometimes drive to drive. In one drive against Seattle, he was 4-of-4 for 90 yards and a TD pass. That was Good Matt. But for the most part, he's just Pedestrian Matt. The Texans won't go deep into the postseason until Schaub plays consistently well.

Titans (3-1)A-

A great 3-1 start. That's the good news. Quarterback Jake Locker might miss a month or more. That's the bad.

Vikings (1-3)C+

There's little to take the pressure off Adrian Peterson. As long as that remains the case, the Vikings will struggle.

Note: Stats via NFL.


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