Week 4 of the 2018 NFL season is in the books, now giving us a quarter of the NFL season to look at. It’s a time when you can start to look at the body of work and have takeaways. Here are three of the biggest ones after the season’s fourth week.
The Baltimore Ravens are a Legitimate Threat Out of the AFC
The Ravens are 3-1, tied with the Bengals for the best record in the AFC North, and after taking care of business Sunday Night in Pittsburgh, Baltimore continues to tell us they are for real. Their 47-3 beatdown of the Buffalo Bills looks more impressive considering that Buffalo went into Minnesota during Week 3 and beatdown a Vikings team that was considered one of the best teams in the NFL heading into the season.
But more than that, the Ravens are an all-around great team. They have the second-best defense concerning total yards allowed, are top-five in scoring, and are the second-best unit at getting offenses off on third downs. They have a loaded defense with pass rushers and might be getting reinforcements back in cornerback Jimmy Smith and defensive tackle in Willie Henry.
Quarterback Joe Flacco looks like a different guy, which makes the team that much more dynamic. Maybe it’s because 2018 is a contract year. Perhaps it’s because the Ravens selected Lamar Jackson in the first round. Maybe it’s both. Whatever it is, after years of mediocrity, Flacco looks revitalized and back to being a good quarterback. Through his first four games, the 33-year-old has 1,252 passing yards, eight touchdowns, and three interceptions while completing 64.3% of his passes.
Flacco has made the team a well-rounded one again. Not only are they excellent on defense, but they are top ten in total yards on offense and top-five in scoring. And special teams will always be a strength. And you can bet the offense is only going to get better because the front office has surrounded Flacco with three new quality receivers and used their first-round pick from 2018 on tight end Hayden Hurst, who has yet to make his debut because of injury. Once Flacco gets more rapport with the new guys, that aspect of the team will become dangerous.
And the one loss came on the road to a now, 3-1 Cincinnati Bengals team. It took two fluke turnovers to lose it. But the Ravens outgained the Bengals by 52 yards, had more first downs, and were better at converting third downs. Each week they are reminding us that they are one of the best teams in the AFC, and with an AFC that is mediocre this season, the Ravens are a viable threat to make it out to represent the conference in the Super Bowl.
Playoffs Look Legitimate for the Chicago Bears
If not for a 20-point collapse against the Green Bay Packer during their first game of the season, the Bears would be a surprising 4-0 and tied for the best league in the NFL. But, because Aaron Rodgers happened, they are 3-1, still good enough for first in the NFC North, bringing up whispers of a potential division crown.
Now that is jumping the gun a bit too much. Yes, they have started off strong, but a mediocre quarterback handicaps them. Yes, Mitch Trubisky threw six touchdown passes on Sunday, but before that game, he had just nine touchdowns in 15 games and had a hard time throwing for even 200 yards-per-game. He was the definition of mediocre and was looking like a bust. And he just happened to break out against the league’s worst defense, which continuously gave him open receivers to throw to. It will take more than one game against the most porous defense to view them as a division winner.
But, if he can stay competent, the Bears have a great chance at the playoffs. They have an excellent offensive line, a good running back duo, and a solid group of pass-catchers. But it’s that defense that is carrying the team, and as long as the offense gives the defense support, they will be a tough out for anyone.
The Khalil Mack Effect has been felt. The unit tops the leagues in sacks and defensive touchdowns, second in interceptions, third in yards-per-play, fourth in yards-per-game, and fifth in total scoring. It’s a special unit that is on its way to cementing itself as an elite one.
Patrick Mahomes Passes First Test
The Chiefs second-year quarterback has taken the league by storm and is looking like the sport’s next superstar. But, he’s done this without having to face much resistance. But, during Monday Football, he had his first real test on the road against the Denver Broncos. It was in a hostile road environment against an excellent pass rush, and he started off slow.
At one point, late in the game, Mahomes had completed just 15 of 29 passes and had just a little over 150 yards. The Chiefs were facing a ten-point deficit in the fourth quarter, and Mahomes was getting chased around all night, so he was facing his first instance of adversity. And the 23-year-old delivered once again and amplified the hype. He went 13 of 16 on passing in the last quarter, including this wizardry.
Mahomes got the pass off with the left hand 😱
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) October 2, 2018
He also had over 190 yards of passing outside of the pocket. Yes, you read that correctly. Outside of the pocket. Sometimes you need to struggle because how you respond is more telling in most instances.
Featured Image via Wikipedia through Creative Commons