Buying or Selling NFL Week 4's Surprising Results
There were several jarring results on the fourth Sunday of the 2021 NFL season.
The Indianapolis Colts and their injured quarterback went into Miami and took down the talented, well-coached Dolphins by a double-digit margin for their first win of the year. The New York Giants and New York Jets both pulled off upsets in overtime to earn their first victories of 2021. The Chicago Bears made easier-than-most-expected work of the Detroit Lions in rookie quarterback Justin Fields' first career win. And the Arizona Cardinals shocked the favored Los Angeles Rams on the road to become this season's only 4-0 team to date.
Let's review those surprising results by buying or selling the teams involved.
Colts 27, Dolphins 17
Have the Colts recovered before it's too late?
It sure looks like it. The Dolphins really needed this game, and Carson Wentz was dealing with injuries to both ankles. While it wasn't the prettiest performance of his career, the 28-year-old completed 75 percent of his 32 passes and led five scoring drives against a quality defense. And he did that without All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson, who is on injured reserve with a high ankle sprain.
It may be tough for the Colts to do this every week considering their injury situation, but they're a well-coached team with superb talent on both sides of the ball. The AFC South is also extremely weak, and they're suddenly just a game out of first place. Watch for them to put up a fight against the Baltimore Ravens next Monday night.
Can the Miami Dolphins avoid this becoming a lost season?
Sure, they're still without quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, but Tua wasn't much of an asset when healthy anyway and replacement Jacoby Brissett doesn't represent a significant downgrade right now. That alone doesn't explain why the Dolphins have dropped three consecutive games since beating the New England Patriots on the road in Week 1.
Brian Flores' defense has been a tremendous disappointment these last three weeks, while the Buffalo Bills are beginning to look like a juggernaut in that division. Challenging for the AFC East crown seems unrealistic. They have enough talent to hang around the wild-card race for a while but the Dolphins might not be a true contender until 2022 at the earliest.
Giants 27, Saints 21
Can the Giants still win the NFC East?
Damn right they can. This team might be 1-3, but it has scored more points than it has allowed the last three weeks, and quarterback Daniel Jones has quietly made a ton of progress early in his third campaign. He's now up to six passing/rushing touchdowns and just one interception after a 402-yard performance against a strong New Orleans defense in the Saints' first game at the Superdome this season.
The G-Men should only become stronger as that offense gets more settled, especially if Saquon Barkley can get back to where he once was. Nobody is likely to run away in the NFC East, and the Giants have the ability to upset the Dallas Cowboys on the road in Week 5.
Can the Saints iron things out?
New Orleans has been the league's ultimate Jekyll and Hyde team early this season, beating the Green Bay Packers and Patriots by a combined 50 points. They have also lost badly to the Carolina Panthers and somewhat embarrassingly at home against the Giants.
That inconsistency makes some sense considering all of the changes and injuries they're dealing with thus far, and it makes it hard to imagine them hanging with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (and even the Panthers) in the NFC South. Still, it's too early to give up on a Sean Payton-coached team that is expecting to get several key players back from injury in the coming weeks.
Jets 27, Titans 24
Are the Jets not horrible?
This victory was likely a case of a blind squirrel finding a nut. It's encouraging that rookie No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson appears to be making progress after a horrendous start to the season, but we should still expect inconsistency from a one-year college wonder who lacks support. And although they found a way to win, the Jets were still run over by Derrick Henry on Sunday.
Wilson could become something special, and a seven-sack performance from Robert Saleh's defense is eye-opening. This team could have a bright future, but the Titans also haven't been themselves this season, and quarterback Ryan Tannehill didn't have his top two wide receivers Sunday. This win was likely an aberration.
Can the Titans recover?
Absolutely. Despite a poor start overall and an embarrassing performance this week, the Titans have too strong a track record to panic over a 2-2 start in a soft division. Henry is one of the most special players in the league, Tannehill should get back on track and it'll help when Julio Jones and A.J. Brown return from injuries.
I still expect the Titans to easily post a winning record for the sixth year in a row this season.
Bears 24, Lions 14
Is Justin Fields set to carry the Bears?
While he should certainly continue to start even when veteran Andy Dalton has recovered from a knee injury, I'm not about to get too fired up about a guy who took nine sacks in his first career start one week ago. Fields completed just 11 passes in the win, which came at home against a winless opponent.
The progress he made from start one to start two is promising, but this wasn't a blowout victory against a bad opponent. We'll need to see Fields and Co. deliver against higher-quality competition, and a knee injury suffered by standout running back David Montgomery could make that difficult. This year still looks like a retooling season for Chicago.
Cardinals 37, Rams 20
Are the Cardinals the NFL's best team?
They did just beat the previously undefeated Rams, who beat the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Super Bowl favorite Kansas City Chiefs have already lost twice, and nobody else in the NFL is 4-0. So yeah, I'm buying a team with one of the most phenomenal athletes in the league at quarterback and plenty of highly accomplished weapons on both sides of the ball.
Remember, the Cardinals were all the rage last offseason after building up the roster that year. They didn't ultimately meet expectations in 2020, but they're even more loaded now, and it seems they benefited greatly from a proper offseason this time around. Beating the Rams on the road by a three-score margin is a big freakin' deal. For now, there's little doubt the Cards are the team to beat in this league.
Can the Rams overcome their weaknesses?
Sure. I'm not selling the Rams based on one bad performance against a smoking hot team. That connection between Matthew Stafford and his new receiving corps is too awesome, and it should only get better as they build more chemistry.
I'm not worried about that offense. However, the defense would be in big trouble if they were to lose Aaron Donald or Jalen Ramsey for even a short period of time, as this unit is already exploitable, particularly at linebacker. That could make it tough to keep up with Kyler Murray, Russell Wilson and maybe even Trey Lance in the stacked NFC West, but L.A. remains a prime Super Bowl contender because of Stafford, Sean McVay and those two superstar defenders.