Judgements Four: Is it time to start trusting the Bills?
Four games into the season, we have an upset ... and it's in the unlikeliest of places.
The AFC East.
That's a division that for years has been owned and operated by the New England Patriots. But not now ... not with the Patriots' defense leaking like the Andrea Doria and the defending Super Bowl champs tied with ... get this ... the New York Jets.
Yep, four games into the 2017 season, the AFC East doesn't belong to New England. It belongs to ... Buffalo? You got it. The Bills are 3-1, and I know what you're thinking: Terrific, but it's four weeks, and we've been down this road before.
And you're right. First there was 2008. Buffalo started 5-1, then lost quarterback Trent Edwards to a concussion. They finished 7-9. Then in 2011 they won four of their first five and stood 5-2 after seven weeks. So what happened? They lost seven straight, and I think you get the idea. The Bills have indeed been here before, and they cratered.
Besides, they're in the same division as Tom Brady, where the only uncertainty is who's second to Brady and the Patriots. But not now and mostly because of what Buffalo is doing and what New England is not -- namely, playing defense. The Bills allowed only four touchdowns this year and just scored a signature victory by smothering NFC champ Atlanta ... in Atlanta ... where they forced three Matt Ryan turnovers.
So what's new? They've been doing this all year. In fact, the Bills didn't allow a passing touchdown this season until Ryan threw one at the seven-minute mark of the fourth quarter Sunday. By contrast, the Patriots allowed three Sunday and this season yielded 15 total TDs, including 11 passing.
But look a little closer. A week ago, Buffalo beat previously unbeaten Denver. Now they beat previously unbeaten Atlanta. And in each game they had two interceptions.
"I think we're legit," wrote reader Rich Quodomine, a longtime Bills' sufferer,
He may be right.
- Bill Belichick described Cam Newton as "Public Enemy No.1," but he's wrong. Newton isn't Public Enemy No. 1. The Patriots' defense is. Pure and simple, it stinks.
2. Houston, you don't have a problem. You have a quarterback.
3. Enough is enough, Chicago. You made Mitch Trubisky the second pick of the draft. So show us why. Start him. Now.
4. I'll say it again: Detroit is better than you think. The Lions could be ... should be ... 4-0 and are a legit threat to Green Bay in the NFC.
5. New York Jets -- 2, State of Florida -- 0. Mark it down: On Nov. 12 vs. Tampa they go for the hat trick.
6. That 0-4 record doesn't tell you how bad the Chargers really are, but this does: They lost to Miami.
7. For those keeping score, that makes Joe Flacco 31-31 since he won Super Bowl XLVIII. "I suck," he said Sunday. Hard to argue.
8. On further review, maybe Jay Cutler doesn't fit the system.
9. Don't tell me special teams don't matter. The Rams' Greg Zuerlein was responsible for 23 of the team's 35 points vs. Dallas -- including a career-best seven field goals.
10. Philip Rivers and Eli Manning -- who were traded for each other in the 2004 draft -- meet next week for perhaps the last time in their careers, and it's a significant occasion. Both are 0-4.
11. Yeah, I know, Le'Veon Bell ran for 144 yards and two scores, but there's still something missing from the Steelers ... and here's how I know; Ben Roethlisberger hasn't thrown for 300 yards in 10 consecutive games.
12. Call it a Super Bowl hangover or call it bad luck ... but where Matt Ryan had no multiple interception games last year he has two the past two weeks.
13. So much for that vaunted Giants' defense. That's the second straight week it failed to protect a fourth-quarter lead. Stick a fork in these guys and start the clock ticking on GM Jerry Reese.
14. Not sure who benefited more from the Sean McVay hire: Jared Goff or Todd Gurley. What I do know is that the Rams ... yes, the Rams ... are the most watchable team in the NFC West.
15. Cam Newton called the upset of New England "a statement game," and maybe he's right. But we won't have to wait long to find out. Carolina goes to Detroit next weekend.
SAM DARNOLD/JOSH ROSEN. Relax. you may not be ticketed for the Jets after all.
OHIO. Congratulations. It took a month, but you finally have a winner.
SAINTS DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR DENNIS ALLEN. He shut down Cam Newton last week. He shut out Miami Sunday. Next two stops: Mat Stafford and Aaron Rodgers.
CINCINNATI OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR BILL LAZOR. The Bengals had no TDs the first two weeks; they have six on offense in their two games under Lazor. Draw your own conclusions.
HOUSTON COACH BILL O'BRIEN. Suddenly, it's fun to call plays again.
SAN DIEGO TACO LOVERS. Another week, another Chargers' loss ... and another week of free tacos at El Pollo Grill in Bonita, CA. Just remember the password when you check out: Spanos taco.
MINNESOTA RB DALVIN COOK. Turn out the lights. the season's over.
OAKLAND COACH JACK DEL RIO. First, it's his son, University of Florida quarterback Luke Del Rio, who's hurt -- lost for the season with a shoulder injury. Now it's Derek Carr who's down with back spasms. Talk about a lost weekend.
NEW YORK JETS RB MATT FORTE. The Jets ran for 256 yards without him.
INDIANAPOLIS COACH CHUCK PAGANO. Andrew Luck or no Andrew Luck, he can't afford second-half collapses like that ... especially on national television. Memo to Chuck: Get in touch with your realtor.
BRITS. They give us the Mini, Cary Grant, tea and the Beatles. We give them Jags-Ravens and Saints-Fins.
SAINTS RUNNING BACK ADRIAN PETERSON. After the season opener, he said he didn't come to the Saints for 9 touches ... and he was right. He had four Sunday.
NEW ENGLAND DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR MATT PATRICIA. Report to the principal's office. Something's gotta change.
THE SUNDAY REPORT CARD
CAROLINA QB CAM NEWTON. Three touchdown passes, one touchdown run and an upset of defending Super Bowl champion New England.
ST. LOUIS K GREG ZUERLEIN. He hasn't missed a field goal this season and nailed seven more Sunday.
L.A. RAMS RB TODD GURLEY. He not only produced a career-best 215 yards from scrimmage; he took over the second half of the Rams' upset of Dallas and fell just 6 yards short of becoming the first Rams' back since 2006 to catch 100 yards in passes.
DENVER RUN DEFENSE. It's the best in the league, with Marshawn Lynch the latest to go nowhere. He ran for 12 yards ... total ... or 4 more than Ezekiel Elliott two weeks earlier.
DETROIT RB AMEER ABDULLAH. He came within six yards of becoming the first Lions' running back to gain 100 yards in a game.
LEGION OF BOOM. Two touchdowns on returns and a near-flawless second half? That's more like the defense that can carry this team.
ARIZONA QB CARSON PALMER. He didn't do much all afternoon (and with that O-line, who could?), but he dialed up the big play (and the game's only touchdown) when he had to.
TAMPA BAY K NICK FOLK. Sure, it was his field goal that beat the Giants (barely), but it never should have come down to a last-second kick ... and it wouldn't have if Folk made two previous field-goal attempts.
OAKLAND P MARQUETTE KING. Bad enough that he tried a fake punt on fourth-and-11 from his own 33. But after failing (he lost 3 yards) he drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
MIAMI OFFENSE. Coach Adam Gase called it "total garbage" and said it was "unacceptable"... but that was a week ago.
NEW ENGLAND DEFENSE. It may be the only defense Tom Brady can't outscore.
SUNDAY'S HALL OF FAMER
HOUSTON QB DESHAUN WATSON. It's one thing to puncture a porous New England defense, but he put up five scores -- including four passes -- in a demolition of Tennessee, and when's the last time that happened with the Texans? Answer: Never. The 57 points were a franchise record.
SUNDAY'S HALL OF SHAMER
ANYONE/EVERYONE ON MIAMI'S OFFENSE. In just two weeks, they've done the unthinkable: Turned defenses of the New York Jets and New Orleans Saints into the '76 Steelers. You can look it up: In eight quarters vs. those two the Fins produced one lousy TD ... and it came on the last play vs. the Jets.