NFL 2018 Season - Week 14
 

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Week Four Takeaways
by Dennis Ranahan

Four rookie quarterbacks started last week, and none of them got their team a win. Sam Darnold was making his fourth start, and lost to the Jaguars in Jacksonville. Josh Allen was making his third start for Buffalo, and after he led the Bills to an upset win over the Minnesota Vikings two Sundays ago, he was unable to dent the scoreboard during a 22-0 loss at Lambeau Field to the Green Bay Packers.

Two rookie quarterbacks were making their first starts, Baker Mayfield had burst on the Cleveland scene while leading the Browns back from a two touchdown deficit to a win over the New York Jets in relief of the injured Tyrod Taylor. In his first start, he put up 42 points but his team lost in overtime to the Oakland Raiders, 45-42.

In Arizona, Josh Rosen made his first start while replacing an ineffective Sam Bradford. The Cardinals offense certainly had more zip with Rosen in the lineup, but the results were the same, the Cardinals lost their fourth straight game to the Seattle Seahawks, 20-17, in overtime.

Two second-year quarterbacks played well for their teams, Deshaun Watson guided the Houston Texans to their first win over the Indianapolis Colts, 37-34 in overtime, and the story of the season continues to be Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes.

He has now tossed 14 touchdowns in his four starts, all wins, and the victory on Monday night in Denver required a fourth quarter comeback. In victories against the Los Angeles Chargers, Pittsburgh Steelers and San Francisco 49ers, the Chiefs offense had always sprinted to a huge early lead. Against the Broncos under the lights, Mahomes’ Chiefs trailed by ten points in the fourth quarter, and Denver had not surrendered a 10 point or more lead at Mile High since 2007.

That is, until Mahomes worked his magic, this time with a pair of fourth quarter touchdown drives that added to his first quarter of the season Most Valuable Player credentials.

The Miami Dolphins had their perfect season snapped in convincing fashion by the New England Patriots, 38-7. Perhaps an even more crippling loss is the injury suffered by center Daniel Kilgore, who was one of two off-season offensive line additions now shelved for the season with injuries. Four-time Pro Bowl player Josh Sitton, who the Dolphins picked up after the Chicago Bears refused to meet his contract demands, was knocked out for the year two weeks ago with a rotator cuff injury.

Although the Dolphins got off to a quick start this year with three straight wins, their future prospects appear less attractive.

After four weeks we should have a pretty good idea which teams are headed to the playoffs and what squads are in trouble. The Bills got their win over the Vikings, but their prospects for the year appear in the bottom five of the league. Joining them at the bottom rung are the New York Giants, New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals.

The best team though four weeks is the undefeated Los Angeles Rams, who can win with either their explosive offense or dominating defense. Entering the fourth week of action the Rams had scored the second most points in the league and allowed the fewest. This kind of success on both sides of the ball bodes well for their long range prospects, but that domination of statistics will also prompt the books to set lines that make the Rams a bad bet. Last Thursday, they downed the Minnesota Vikings in Los Angeles, but were saddled with a seven point spread and pushed on that number, 38-31.

The Chiefs are the only other team with a 4-0 mark, and while Mahomes has been amazing, the quick start does not promise long term success with a highly suspect defense.

The Jacksonville Jaguars defense is perhaps the best in the league, while the the surprise Washington Redskins had allowed the second fewest points before having their bye week in Week Four.

The top five teams right now are the Rams, Jaguars, Chiefs, Carolina Panthers and Cincinnati Bengals. Teams that have expectations too high while on decline are the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, Seattle Seahawks and Philadelphia Eagles.

The Patriots have a 2-2 record, but they are poised to make another midseason run that should begin with a point spread double-digit cover on Thursday night against the Indianapolis Colts.