NFL Week 4 Takeaways: Banged Up Broncos Could Be in Trouble

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonContributor IOctober 2, 2022

NFL Week 4 Takeaways: Banged Up Broncos Could Be in Trouble

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    Denver Broncos running back Javonte Williams (33) is cartted off the field during the second half of an NFL football game against theLas Vegas Raiders, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)
    AP Photo/David Becker

    In the early window of Week 4 NFL action, a pair of electrifying quarterbacks went head-to-head in a big-time battle between AFC teams with playoff aspirations while two young signal-callers battled down to the final seconds of regulation.

    In Baltimore, Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson took center stage, though a Buffalo Bills defender arguably made the biggest play of the game, which allowed the former to put his club in a position to win a close matchup.

    New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson made his 2022 season debut after knee surgery, though all eyes shifted to Pittsburgh Steelers rookie signal-caller Kenny Pickett, who took over for Mitch Trubisky after halftime.

    Though Pickett made multiple mistakes, he flashed. Perhaps head coach Mike Tomlin should’ve allowed the rookie to work through those miscues weeks ago. If the 24-year-old signal-caller avoids turnovers, the Steelers should have a decent passing attack.

    Let’s go through the biggest takeaways from the early kickoffs.

Key Broncos Banged Up After Loss to Raiders

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    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - OCTOBER 02: Randy Gregory #5 of the Denver Broncos is attended to after being injured in the fourth quarter against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium on October 02, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    The Denver Broncos lost their first division matchup of the season to the previously winless Las Vegas Raiders, and now they'll wait for injury news concerning edge-rusher Randy Gregory and running back Javonte Williams.

    Head coach Nathaniel Hackett told reporters that Gregory and Williams, the latter of whom had been carted to the locker room, will get MRIs for knee injuries. And per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Williams is "feared to have suffered a serious knee injury."

    On a short week, the Broncos may have to take the field against the Indianapolis Colts without them, which would be a significant blow to the team on both sides of the ball.

    Through four weeks, Gregory has recorded nine tackles, two for loss, two sacks and two forced fumbles.

    Williams leads the Broncos' rushing attack with 204 yards. Running back Mike Boone, who had an increased role after Williams' departure, dropped a pass in the open field on fourth down before the Raiders went into victory formation Sunday.


    Maurice Moton covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @MoeMoton.

Packers' Wide Receiver Unit Is Starting to Come Together

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    Green Bay Packers wide receiver Romeo Doubs (87) catches a 13-yard touchdown pass over New England Patriots cornerback Jonathan Jones (31) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke)
    Romeo Doubs (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke)

    The Green Bay Packers couldn't just run the clock out with a comfortable lead Sunday. They had a close seesaw overtime matchup with the New England Patriots, who inserted rookie fourth-round quarterback Bailey Zappe into the lineup for an injured Brian Hoyer during the first quarter.

    As the third-string quarterback behind Mac Jones (ankle) and Hoyer (concussion), Zappe played well when you consider the circumstances. He finished 10-of-15 passing for 99 yards and a touchdown. On the flip side, he lost a fumble at the Packers' 22-yard line before halftime.

    Before Sunday's outing, the Packers scored just one touchdown in the second halves of games. Against the Patriots, wideout Romeo Doubs hauled in a 13-yard touchdown pass with 6:14 left in regulation, and he almost caught another near the two-minute mark but failed to maintain possession while going to the ground.

    Nonetheless, Doubs has scored in consecutive weeks. After back-to-back contests with touchdown receptions, fifth-year wideout Allen Lazard caught six passes for 116 yards against the Patriots. Meanwhile, rookie second-round wide receiver Christian Watson scored his first touchdown as a pro on Sunday.

    Don't look now, but quarterback Aaron Rodgers has a young receiving unit that showed some promise in a balanced attack. In a 27-24 victory, he threw for 251 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Green Bay registered 35 rush attempts for 199 yards.

Raiders' Run Game Leads Them into the Win Column

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    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - OCTOBER 02: Josh Jacobs #28 of the Las Vegas Raiders runs with the ball in the first quarter against the Denver Broncos at Allegiant Stadium on October 02, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Getty Images)
    Josh Jacobs (Jeff Bottari/Getty Images)

    Going into Week 4, the Las Vegas Raiders had the fewest rushing attempts with a talented running back room that includes Pro Bowler Josh Jacobs, rookie fourth-rounder Zamir White, Ameer Abdullah and Brandon Bolden.

    On Sunday, Raiders head coach and lead offensive play-caller Josh McDaniels featured the ground attack as Jacobs rushed for 144 yards and two scores. White moved the chains on a crucial run late in the fourth quarter, which set up Jacobs for the final score of the game.

    Overall, the Silver and Black racked up 212 rushing yards along with the two touchdowns on 38 carries against the Broncos’ sixth-ranked run defense that gave up 4.4 yards per carry (16th) going into this matchup.

    Unlike the last couple of games, McDaniels didn’t fall in love with the passing attack at the expense of a viable rushing offense, and the game plan worked in the Raiders’ favor for their first win of the season.

    While Vegas has quality perimeter playmakers in Davante Adams, Darren Waller, Mack Hollins and Hunter Renfrow (once he returns from a concussion), McDaniels must continue to show balance in his play-calling decisions. If Jacobs continues to average 4.8 yards per carry, the offense would have shorter distances to move the chains on second and third downs.

    Perhaps McDaniels has found the formula to boost a top-12 scoring offense that has struggled to score touchdowns in the red zone (ranked 26th going into Week 4 and went 2-of-5 on Sunday).

Steelers Make Necessary Shift to Kenny Pickett in Loss to Jets

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    Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) celebrates after his second touchdown of the day against the New York Jets during an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in Pittsburgh, PA. (AP Photo/Matt Durisko)
    Kenny Pickett (AP Photo/Matt Durisko)

    Even though the Pittsburgh Steelers lost a 24-20 nail-biter to the New York Jets, they made the right decision with their quarterback situation.

    Down 10-6 at halftime, head coach Mike Tomlin had seen enough. When the Steelers came out of the locker room for the third quarter, Kenny Pickett took over for Mitch Trubisky, who completed seven out of 13 passes for 84 yards and an interception through the first 30 minutes of the game.

    Pickett threw an interception on his first pass but also added a much-needed spark. After that turnover, he scored on consecutive drives with short goal-line runs but finished the game with interceptions on Pittsburgh's last two possessions.

    In his first taste of regular-season action, Pickett completed 10 out of 13 passes for 120 yards and three interceptions.

    While Jets defensive backs Jordan Whitehead, Michael Carter II and Lamarcus Joyner made heads-up plays for takeaways, Pickett had some expected issues with ball placement and his decision-making.

    Perhaps he could've thrown a better deep ball to wideout Chase Claypool downfield or thrown a pass away to avoid an interception, but the Steelers moved the ball with him under center.

    Despite Pickett's turnover-ridden debut, the Steelers offense is more dynamic with him than Trubisky under center. They should've made this move a week or two ago.

    Fantasy football managers should pick up or start rookie second-rounder George Pickens going forward. He started to make big plays with consistency once his fellow rookie took over the huddle, finishing with six receptions for 102 yards. We're going to hear about the Pickett-to-Pickens connection a lot in the coming weeks.

    Pittsburgh will go through rough patches with its first-year signal-caller, and Pickett would face a tough challenge against the Buffalo Bills next week should he start, though he has the upside to pull the offense out of a rut.

Eagles Establish Themselves as the NFL's Best Team

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    PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - OCTOBER 02: Miles Sanders #26 of the Philadelphia Eagles warms up before his game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lincoln Financial Field on October 02, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
    Miles Sanders (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

    Against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Philadelphia Eagles had a slow start, falling behind 14-0 in the first quarter, but they came back with an offensive flurry, scoring 29 unanswered points between the second and fourth quarters.

    Philadelphia leaned on its ground attack and a stout defense to erase an early deficit and slow down the Jaguars.

    Running back Miles Sanders ran for a career-high 134 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Jalen Hurts didn't have his best game, throwing for 204 yards and an interception, but he reached paydirt on the ground, as did running back Kenneth Gainwell.

    For consecutive weeks, Philadelphia's defense swarmed the opposing quarterback, logging four sacks, which gives the unit a total of 13 sacks over the past two games. Edge-rusher Haason Reddick, whom the Eagles signed to a three-year, $45 million deal this offseason, sacked Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence twice.

    With the Miami Dolphins' Thursday night loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, the Eagles stand alone as the only undefeated team in the league. As we saw on Sunday, they have a complete squad that features a high-powered offense and an aggressive defensive front. This team should rank atop every media outlet's power rankings going into Week 5.

Josh Allen Escapes Baltimore in Battle Between MVP-Caliber Quarterbacks

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    BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - OCTOBER 02: Josh Allen #17 of the Buffalo Bills looks on before the game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on October 02, 2022 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
    Josh Allen (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

    Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson led their respective 2-1 teams into a must-see matchup. Neither quarterback had his best outing, though both signal-callers made special plays that illustrate why they're different from the rest.

    NFL @NFL

    Josh Allen. Dual threat. <br><br>📺: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BUFvsBAL?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#BUFvsBAL</a> on CBS<br>📱: Stream on NFL+ <a href="https://t.co/cByfmcze7G">https://t.co/cByfmcze7G</a> <a href="https://t.co/S4ouPhgf19">pic.twitter.com/S4ouPhgf19</a>

    NFL @NFL

    LAMAR IS A MAGICIAN. <a href="https://twitter.com/Lj_era8?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@lj_era8</a><br><br>📺: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BUFvsBAL?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#BUFvsBAL</a> on CBS<br>📱: Stream on NFL+ <a href="https://t.co/cByfmcze7G">https://t.co/cByfmcze7G</a> <a href="https://t.co/qIXRe9zojO">pic.twitter.com/qIXRe9zojO</a>

    Allen and Jackson had similar performances as ball-carriers who moved the chains with some misfires through the air. Allen ran for 70 yards and a touchdown while Jackson accumulated 73 yards on the ground, each leading their respective clubs in rushing, but the latter made a mistake that allowed Buffalo to seal the victory.

    At the Bills' 2-yard line, Jackson tried to find wideout Devin Duvernay in the end zone, but safety Jordan Poyer intercepted the pass to flip the field. On the ensuing drive, Allen helped lead his team deep into Ravens' territory, where Tyler Bass kicked the game-winning field goal as time expired in regulation.

    We'll likely see better battles between these quarterbacks, though Jackson made one too many errors, which ultimately cost the Ravens Sunday.

Giants Will Go as Far as Saquon Barkley Takes Them

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    New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) runs the ball against the Chicago Bears during the first quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
    Saquon Barkley (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

    Yes, the New York Giants have a flawed squad, but they're 3-1, and that's all that matters to a team that can match last year's win total next week in London.

    Head coach Brian Daboll has certainly changed the vibe around the Giants. They've won three slugfests without scoring more than 21 points. With that said, running back Saquon Barkley looks like the frontrunner for 2022 Comeback Player of the Year.

    Coming into Week 4, Barkley led the league in scrimmage yards (408) before Miami Dolphins wideout Tyreek Hill racked up 160 receiving yards against the Cincinnati Bengals Thursday.

    On Sunday, he amassed 162 scrimmage yards (146 rushing and 16 receiving) and also took snaps out of the Wildcat formation while quarterbacks Daniel Jones (ankle) and Tyrod Taylor (concussion) dealt with injuries. At the end of that drive, Big Blue still managed to score a field goal.

    In addition to a Barkley-centric offense, the Giants defense continues to limit its opponents. The unit hasn't surrendered more than 23 points in any game while forcing six turnovers this season. Don "Wink" Martindale's group sacked Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields six times on Sunday.

    Despite the lack of style points, the Giants have quickly found ways to win under a new regime. Furthermore, they've discovered their identity as a run-first team with a strong defense.

Colts Offense in Limbo as Jonathan Taylor Undergoes Tests on Ankle

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    Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor (28) runs up the middle during an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Zach Bolinger)
    Jonathan Taylor (AP Photo/Zach Bolinger)

    After Sunday's 24-17 loss to the Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich didn't have any definitive answers to questions about Jonathan Taylor's status for Week 5.

    Midway through the fourth quarter, Taylor lost a fumble and then exited the contest with an ankle injury. He didn't return to the field.

    Colts opponents have held Taylor to 71 rushing yards or fewer for three consecutive weeks. On Sunday, he rushed for a season-low 42 yards before his early departure.

    Though the 2021 rushing champion has struggled to get going this year, Indianapolis would miss him in a Thursday contest against the Denver Broncos' top-three defense in points and yards allowed.

    Pending the results of tests on Taylor's ankle, he's questionable at best on a short week. The Colts can give more carries to running back Nyheim Hines, though quarterback Matt Ryan would need to put the offense on his back in the absence of his All-Pro ball-carrier.

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