All but two teams have finished four games in the NFL season. I'm not sure if it's totally fair to measure teams like we normally would because of the replacement officials in the first three weeks, however, I don't think having the regular refs for Week 4 have drastically shaped teams during last week. Thus, a status report seems like something that's worth doing. Let's begin with the AFC.
Has shown to be the weakest division, although that's because the Patriots lost a couple games by a combined 3 points. Last week against the Bills is more of what I expect out of the Patriots than the team who struggled against the Cardinals (there's no shame in losing in Baltimore, even if the result was questionable). The good news for Buffalo is that they are 2-2; the bad news, they have to play @SF, @Arizona, @Houston and @NE in four of their next five games. If the Bills can somehow be 5-4, I like their playoff chances, but don't count on it. The way you would hear things around here, the Jets are the worst 2-2 team in NFL history. Losing Santonio Holmes along with Darrelle Revis is a killer and right now, their offense doesn't have enough playmakers to give Mark Sanchez a chance to succeed. Doesn't help that the schedule has suddenly become tougher as the NFC West has improved. Meanwhile, the Dolphins have become competitive, which when you have a first-year coach and first-year QB, that's not the worst thing in the world.
The Ravens are the class of the division and for the first time in recent memory, this team is capable of winning games with their offense and their defense. The thing to remember, this Ravens team (and Joe Flacco in particular) will be judged on postseason success. So far in the early going, the Bengals haven't fallen back to earth, something they generally do the year after playoff appearances. Games with Miami and Cleveland give the Bengals a chance at a 5-1 start, and they'd still have 6 of their last 10 games at home. Pittsburgh is an enigma, they could easily be 3-0, but something is missing with this team, which they hope can be fixed in this bye week. Huge game with the Eagles to try to right their ship this week. Meanwhile, the Browns are good defensively and Trent Richardson is starting to play better. Brandon Weeden had his best week against the Ravens, but I'm still not sold on him. A long season is taking place now.
Both South divisions are awful, aside from their unbeaten first place teams. The AFC-version has the Houston Texans, who are probably the most complete team in the AFC, if not the entire league. Only the Pats have scored more than Houston and their defense is the stingiest. Right now, Matt Schaub is outstanding, Arian Foster is still as productive as ever (though his yards-per-carry is down, I expect it will go up as the season progresses) and J.J. Watt's league leading 7.5 sacks is just a microcosm of their defense's impact. Meanwhile, the Colts, Titans and Jaguars are all in rebuild mode, since their starting QB's and head coaches are all in their first or second year. I'd say the Colts are the best of these teams, even though the Jags beat them at home.
For once, the San Diego Chargers haven't started slow. The romp over the Chiefs this week was a strong message to the league that this team isn't going to sleepwalk through the regular season like they have for the past two years. The Broncos are probably the most confounding team in the AFC, with their 2-2 start. Peyton Manning in particular either looks great (like against Pittsburgh and Oakland) or at best rusty (Atlanta and Houston). However, considering the caliber of opponent could explain Peyton's early struggles; this week against the Pats could be the perfect indicator. The Raiders and Chiefs keep digging holes for themselves. Oakland seems like they should be an also-ran, considering their lack of major skill players on offense. The Chiefs should be better, but if Matt Cassel isn't playing well, then the Chiefs are going to have issues. He needs to improve for Kansas City to have any chance this year, which is a shame since Jamaal Charles has been very good off last year's season-ending injury.
Later on, I will have the NFC Quarter Pole Review.