The Cover 4.com presents you with The Burning Questions After Four Weeks! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter at @thecover4 or facebook at theCo VerFour
One fourth of the NFL season is already in the books. Apart from the Green Bay Packers and Carolina Panthers, each team has played a quarter of their games. Some teams have surprised, while other teams have wholeheartedly disappointed. There have been devastating injuries and surprising players. And god forbid, a blockbuster trade!
Before we get on to the completely arbitrary questions I made up for myself to answer, obviously four games in the NFL is an incredibly small sample size. Even 16 games is somewhat small, the Detroit Lions last year looked like a franchise on the decline at 4-12. Now in 2013, they look like a team that is almost at an elite level that could steal the NFC North from the Chicago Bears and Packers. Basically, what I am saying is all the successes or failures of your favorite teams or players should be taken with a grain of salt, so what I am going to do is try to figure out how big that grain of salt really should be.
How good are the Denver Broncos?
Really freakin’ good. But not as good as everyone thinks. Before the pitchforks come out, let me explain: For one, their first four games were played against some god awful defenses. How bad? The “best” defense they played this year was the one that kicked off this season, against the Baltimore Ravens. Playing in the shadow of Joe Flacco, Peyton Manning was literally untouchable as he fired seven touchdowns against the defense while effectively ending anyone’s fantasy matchup before they even got to the Sunday games. After four games, the Ravens are ranked as the 11th best defense. Then there is the 16th (Oakland) and the worst two defenses in the league, the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles, respectively. If you’re an advanced metrics kind of guy, it gets even worse. I’ll spare the jargon, but those four teams are even more miserable in defensive DVOA. Denver’s offense is incredible and fun to watch no doubt, but just keep that tidbit in the back of your mind as we progress through the rest of the season
Secondly, the Broncos have had some devastating injuries that haven’t been exposed yet. To start off, they lost their stud left tackle Ryan Clady. Everyone tends to forget that Manning is 37 years old and only a year and a half removed from four neck surgeries. One wrong hit and he’s done for the rest of year, effectively ending the Broncos season. The offensive line thus far has only given up five sacks (sack numbers are admittedly fluky, QB pressures and knockdowns are much more telling but have not been updated as of right now). But like stated before, the defenses Denver will be playing in the future coupled with Clady’s loss is most definitely a cause for concern. On the other side of the ball Broncos fans should be a little more worrisome, as their two most dynamic defensive players still haven’t played. The ongoing Von Miller saga is not very encouraging, as well as Champ Bailey’s injury that seems either more complicated or more worse than Denver originally let on. So far, this defense hasn’t been , but with games coming up against formidable offenses, I am fairly confident this defense will be torn apart sooner rather than later.
What should I make of the Trent Richardson trade?
This one surprised everyone, and if someone told you other wise I would be weary of a protruding wooden nose. So, why? Let’s tackle the Cleveland Browns. First, the Dawg Pound are under a new regime. Trent Richardson had Mike Holmgren blood all over his dreadlocks, and new GM Mike Lombardi wanted to start from scratch with the core he wants to keep. If you look up Richardson’s stats they are remarkably unremarkable, especially for a first round pick. So to get a first round pick for a third or fourth round talent? Everyone with a brain would take that. I personally think Richardson is overrated, but if you think he still has potential, than you probably didn’t like the trade; just keep in mind Cleveland’s o-line is above average and Richardson couldn’t do squat. Regardless, the Browns are clearly dumping every valuable asset to tank for Teddy Bridgewater or Jadaveon Clowney, except no one accounted for Brian Hoyer the Destroyer leading them to two wins which seemingly gets them out of contention for the first two picks. This franchise can’t do anything right. But seriously, expect Josh Gordon to be traded by Week 8, also.
On the Indianapolis Colts side, everyone kind of shrugged off Jim Irsay’s frantic tweets about a big deal and just assumed he was crying wolf (two fairy tale references in two paragraphs, mind you). Is it possible for me to be a fan of what both teams ended up with? The Colts are clearly all in, trying to fit as many impact players on this roster while still having an Andrew Luck contract on the books for dirt cheap. Now instead of Trent Richardson being the focus of a defense for them to shut down, he is now an afterthought compared to Luck and emerging weapons TY Hilton, Coby Fleener, and the always dependable Reggie Wayne; Richardson is finally in a place to succeed. We’ll know if he is a legit talent by the end of the season.
Let’s play the Grain of Salt game
This will be a (relatively) condensed version of the Denver Broncos section. Keep in mind, the Grain of Salt game can go both ways. For example, I think the Miami Dolphins are over achieving, so obviously I’m taking their success with a small grain of salt. But I also think the Bengals are under achieving, so I would take their poor record so far with an equally small grain of salt. Oh, you already understand how this rudimentary game works? Sorry, I didn’t mean to insult your intelligence.
New England Patriots – We’re starting with them because I am an unapologetic homer. This grain of salt is relatively big. Look, I may be a homer but I am realistic. The amount of salt isn’t just because they are 4-0, it is because they are 4-0 without arguably the most dynamic tight end in the game and two rookie wide receivers who are on a crash course of learning the quirks of the NFL with an intense and screaming quarterback that would make a Marine drill sergeant blush. Their defense is stout (6th best scoring defense, 4th best DVOA) but I would be remiss to mention the absolutely devastating loss of Vince Wilfork. The Patriots are still here, but they never really left in the first place.
Cincinnati Bengals – Also mentioned above, all they need is Andy Dalton to step up. He may have gotten the benefit of the doubt by making the playoffs a lot early in his career, but under that red lettuce we’ve come to love and know might actually lay an average quarterback given a great chance to succeed. Like I mentioned in my preview, the Bengals gave him all the weapons to prove himself, and he is also backed with an above average defense to boot. This may be a ride or die season for the Red Rifle.
Jacksonville Jaguars – They would get the biggest grain of salt imaginable if this section were titled ‘The Jadaveon Clowney Grain of Salt Game’. Well, unless this comes to fruition.
Kansas City Chiefs – Almost everyone saw a Chiefs resurgence coming, but this team is legitimately good and will most likely snag a wild card spot with their 4-0 start. They have the second best scoring defense, but they have played a couple cupcakes. Alex Smith is doing Alex Smith things, which is not to turn the ball over and forgetting the NFL allows passes to be completed more than 20 yards down the field.
Miami Dolphins – Previously mentioned them, but I am not buying their success (or not buying their grains of salt?). Lamar Miller is a poor man’s Reggie Bush, meaning he is not a serviceable every down back but is more than capable of breaking off a big play. I like Ryan Tannehill more than I hate him, but that isn’t saying much. Their defense is right at league average, and their offense is ranked 8th in DVOA, but they are closer to the 17th best team (Oakland) than the second (Green Bay) so that is misleading at first glance.
What has gotten into Philip Rivers?
All signs point to Philip Rivers making a trip in the offseason to the Nile River and washing away all evidence of Norv Turner off his body. But in all seriousness, it is safe to say Rivers has always been the same (more or less) he just hasn’t been able to stay upright. So far in 2013, Rivers has been sacked only three times (all against Chicago) while being taken down an egregious 13 times last year through four games. The previously mentioned Norv Turner absence may have injected some much needed faith, but the tangible results point directly to the offensive line’s big improvement.
So there you have it. I tried to keep it short in terms just because of half-season power rankings coming out after Week 8, where I will break down each team’s ascension or decension from my preseason rankings. Making fun of myself will most assuredly be included.
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