It's easy to forget about defenses in the NFL with so much focus on quarterbacks and offensive weapons. But through the first four weeks of the season, the teams with the truly great defenses have bulldozed their way through competition early.
While the Philadelphia Eagles had a bye in Week 4, the team is No. 1 in scoring defense after allowing just nine points per game in the first three weeks. Behind them are the Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks, New England Patriots, and Denver Broncos, respectively.
Combined, the five teams are 17-2.
The only three remaining undefeated teams — the Broncos, Vikings, and Eagles — are playing solid offensively, too, even if it's with quarterbacks few expected to be leading the way just a couple months ago.
Even when Trevor Siemian went down for the Broncos, the team didn't miss a beat with Paxton Lynch and easily put away the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 27-7.
The Vikings also crushed an opposing offense en route to a victory, defeating the New York Giants 24-10 on Monday Night Football and passing the Patriots on our power rankings for the No. 2 spot.
With Tom Brady on the way back, there isn't much reason to panic about New England's 16-0 loss with a third-string quarterback. Even with the shutout loss, the Patriots are one of the NFL's scariest teams and only drop to No. 3.
There are a few playoff teams from last season with some big problems, but the most surprising have to be the two teams that played in the NFC Championship in January. The Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers both fell to 1-3 on Sunday and continued to show some of the issues that got them out to slow starts in the first three weeks.
The Panthers are struggling to keep Cam Newton from getting hit on every play and, while some of that is on Newton for his refusal to protect himself like the hit that gave him a concussion, a lot of it is because the team didn't upgrade an offensive line that needed one. The team also allowed Josh Norman to leave in the offseason and certainly could've used him to help stop Julio Jones from racking up 300 receiving yards.
Arizona's problems seem more correctable, but the team better figure things out fast, as they're also dealing with a concussed quarterback. The Cardinals became the first team since 2012 to have five turnovers in back-to-back weeks.
The other issue for Arizona has been its inability to stop the run, but the team plugged things up for Todd Gurley on Sunday (who hasn't?). If the Cardinals can figure out a way to both stop the run and not turn the ball over incessantly, they might have more results like the Week 2 demolition of the Buccaneers.
In the last three weeks, the Atlanta Falcons are averaging 42.7 points per game and had Julio Jones look like a damn cheat code in Week 4.
Through four weeks Matt Ryan leads the NFL in just about every passing category. Nobody has a higher completion percentage, more yards, more touchdowns, a higher passer rating, or a higher QBR (whatever that is). But up next are the Broncos and they've had no problem dishing out some bad days.
Still, the Falcons looked like a team far from being ready to be a winner when Dan Quinn was hired and here they are in year two looking like the clear-cut favorite to win the NFC South. The defense is still a work in progress, but scoring 40 points every week can help you forget that.
On the opposite side of the spectrum are the Los Angeles Rams, who have three wins despite an offense that doesn't do a whole lot of anything. But the team's physical defense, led by Aaron Donald, had another great day on Sunday against another divisional opponent.
Bottom of the trash heap
The Jacksonville Jaguars didn't look like they figured things out at all and they still got a win over the Indianapolis Colts in London, carrying a 17-point lead into the fourth quarter that was too much for the Colts to overcome.
If Jacksonville is making you look bad, you're probably bad.
The Jaguars were one of three teams to get their first win on Sunday, along with the New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears, although none were any kind of giant upset over a highly touted team.
Now, the only the team left with a zero in the win column are the Cleveland Browns, who carried a lead into the fourth quarter but lost 31-20 to Washington. For an 0-4 team, the Browns have actually been rather competitive every week, but it will take a Herculean effort to not get smoked by the Brady-led Patriots in Week 5.
|Week 5||Team||Last week|
|3||New England Patriots||2|
|9||Green Bay Packers||9|
|13||Kansas City Chiefs||7|
|17||Los Angeles Rams||22|
|18||New York Giants||13|
|21||New York Jets||19|
|22||San Diego Chargers||23|
|23||New Orleans Saints||29|
|27||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||24|
|31||San Francisco 49ers||30|
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