Best team: Houston Texans
The Texans have the best defence in the NFL (giving up just 14 points per game), coupled with the second best offence (31.5 ppg) so it’s little wonder they are the only 4-0 team in the AFC.
However, when you consider that Houston are ninth in rushing (546 yards) and a lowly 18th in passing (935 yards), you realise just how much they depend on their defence. The Texans are fifth in sacks (14) – with JJ Watt on course for a 30 sack season – and lead the league in forced fumbles (four) and defensive touchdowns (two).
Tougher tests await the Texans, particularly back-to-back games with the Ravens and Packers in October, but at this stage it’s difficult to see anyone beating Houston.
Worst team: Tennessee Titans
The Cleveland Browns may have the only 0-4 record in the AFC but they’ve lost four close games and been within a touchdown of a different result in three of them. The Titans, meanwhile, have a shootout win against the Lions to their name but have lost their three in-conference games by an average of nearly 25 points.
The production, or lack thereof, from Chris Johnson has been the biggest hindrance for the Titans this year. CJ2K rushed for just 45 yards in the first three games of the season and has yet to find the endzone.
Tennessee are the worst defence in the NFL, allowing 37.8 points and 421.5 yards (31st in NFL) per game in each for their first four outings. Were it not for some special teams execution against the Lions, the Titans would easily be 0-4.
Other notes: Despite being .500, the Jets points differential of -28 means I’ll probably be writing about a certain former Denver quarterback before too long. The Patriots are 2-2 but have lost their two games by a combined total of just 3 points and look the Texans biggest threat if they can shore up that defence.
Playoff predictions: Texans, Ravens, Patriots, Chargers, Bengals and Broncos
Best team: Atlanta Falcons
The Cardinals have undoubtedly been the most improved team in the conference but the Falcons are surprising a lot of people by showing they are legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Apropos of nothing, here’s a link to my season preview.
The Falcons are third in the NFL on offence, averaging 31 points per game, thanks in large part to Matt Ryan – the highest rated quarterback in the league with a QBR of 112.1 – and Roddy White’s 413 receiving yards (fourth in the league).
The Falcons defence have also stepped up, giving up just 19 points per game (9th in the NFL) thanks to 12 turnovers – five fumble recoveries and seven interceptions.
Their 4-0 start is their best since 2004 when they reached the NFC Championship game and few would bet against them doing the same this year.
Worst team: Detroit Lions
Once more, I’m not actually going to pick on the only 0-4 team in the conference. While the Saints have been horrible on defence, they had a chance to win or tie each of their four games on their last offensive possessions. It will eventually click for the Saints, just not this year.
Only the aforementioned Saints and Washington Redskins have given up more points in the NFC than the Detroit Lions’ 114. Their defence is porous but it is on special teams that Detroit are shooting themselves in the foot becoming, this past weekend, the first team in NFL history to give up touchdowns on both a kick-off and punt return in consecutive weeks.
While the Lions lead the league in passing (322 yards per game), the NFC is such a competitive and defensive division, it’s difficult to see a route to the playoffs for Detroit from here.
Other notes: The NFC West should no longer be considered the worst division in football as it is just one of two – the other being the NFC North – with all four teams .500 or above through four games. The only thing predictable about the Eagles, Cowboys, Bears and Giants has been their unpredictability.
Playoff predictions: Falcons, Packers, 49ers, Giants, Cardinals and Vikings
Week four results
- Cleveland Browns 16 @ Baltimore Ravens 23
- Carolina Panthers 28 @ Atlanta Falcons 30
- New England Patriots 52 @ Buffalo Bills 28
- Minnesota Vikings 20 @ Detroit Lions 13
- Tennessee Titans 14 @ Houston Texans 38
- San Diego Chargers 37 @ Kansas City Chiefs 20
- San Francisco 49ers 34 @ New York Jets 0
- Seattle Seahawks 13 @ St. Louis Rams 19
- Miami Dolphins 21 @ Arizona Cardinals 24
- Oakland Raiders 6 @ Denver Broncos 37
- Cincinnati Bengals 27 @ Jacksonville Jaguars 10
- New Orleans Saints 27 @ Green Bay Packers 28
- Washington Redskins 24 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 22
- New York Giants 17 @ Philadelphia Eagles 19