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Kent Somers: Knowledge Can Be A Dangerous Thing

Analyzing where the NFL is -- or seems to be -- after four weeks

Bills quarterback Josh Allen throws a pass against the Dolphins last weekend.
Bills quarterback Josh Allen throws a pass against the Dolphins last weekend.

NFL history is filled with examples of why we should be careful in drawing conclusions from the first month of the season.

On Sept. 24, after a 70-20 victory over the Broncos, the Dolphins looked unstoppable. On Oct. 1, the Bills made them looked stoppable, beating them by four touchdowns.

Those are the same Bills that lost to the Jets in Week 1. The Bills haven't lost since; the Jets haven't won again.

Cardinals history is filled with cautionary tales, too, the most recent coming just two seasons ago. The Cardinals went 3-0 in September, 4-0 in October, 2-1 in November, and then lost five of their last seven, including their first playoff game since 2017.

But the first month is not insignificant. We've seen teams do the prep work needed for a great season, and sometimes we can have faith in what we see in September, as long teams avoid the injury or two that can ruin a season.

With all that in mind, here's what I know, think I know and could be incredibly wrong about four games into the season.

Eagles linebacker Nicholas Morrow after a sack against the Commanders.
Eagles linebacker Nicholas Morrow after a sack against the Commanders.


-- The best NFC teams last season are really good again.

The Eagles, who made it to the Super Bowl, are 4-0 and haven't played up to their standards yet. They will hit their groove at some point. The 49ers, who lost in the NFC title game to Philadelphia last year, are 4-0. If they have weaknesses, they are dim, not glaring. They rank in the top 10 in nearly every important offensive category. They have just seven sacks, but only the Rams have scored more than 16 points against them.

Dallas could make me a believer over the next two weeks. They play the 49ers Sunday, which is "not just another game," according to Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy. Maybe not. But the Cowboys game against the Chargers the following week is. If the Cowboys show the focus and maturity required to beat the 49ers and the Chargers, I'll start to believe they can win the NFC.

-- The AFC is nearly wide open.

The AFC title, as well as arguments about good barbecue, start with the chances of dethroning Kansas City, which hasn't looked especially sharp but is 3-1.

The Bengals (1-3), who played for the conference championship the last two seasons, need to beat the Cardinals Sunday at State Farm Stadium to remain relevant. Joe Burrow is completing 56.7 percent of his passes, hasn't thrown for more than 259 yards yet and is averaging 4.8 yards per attempt, the lowest of any regular NFL starter.

The Bills and Dolphins appear to be contenders. The Bills doused the hype around the Dolphins after Miami scored 10 touchdowns the week before. But I've got to see more of quarterback Josh Allen using his immense powers for good instead of bad before I see him leading Buffalo to a Super Bowl.

-- What's your plan at quarterback?

There's a reason that's the most important questions teams and prospective coaches ask each other in the interview process. Without a great quarterback, a great coach can look average. Or worse.

Whenever he becomes eligible, Patriots coach Bill Belichick will be voted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The person presenting him to the selection committee, which I've been a part of for nearly 20 years, will only have to stand and ask those who object to speak their minds. A case does not have to be made for Belichick's worthiness.

But even a Hall of Fame coach needs a quarterback. Belichick doesn't have one, and it's a big reason the Patriots are 1-3 this season and 3-8 since the bye week of 2022. Mac Jones isn't the answer, and the Patriots need to be bold in finding one in the next year or two.

The Patriots' 38-3 loss to Dallas last Sunday was the worst loss of Belichick's career, surpassing a 31-0 loss to Buffalo in 2003. The Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl that year, but they had Tom Brady at quarterback.

Belichick without Tom Brady: 80-90. With: 249-75.

That said, the 1-3 start is not all on Jones. The Patriots have a tendency to bury themselves early with fundamental mistakes and lack of execution in critical situations. Those are not Belichick trademarks. Meanwhile, the Celtics gave the Patriots a diversion last week by trading for Jrue Holiday. In times of trouble, it's always nice to be able to divert folks' attention to the shiny thing glittering over there.

-- The Giants offensive line is going to make free agent pass rushers huge money this offseason.

The group gave up seven sacks to Dallas in the opener and 11 on Monday night against Seattle. The Cardinals should be disappointed they only sacked Daniel Jones three times in week two.

Defenders who have the Raiders on the scheduled also have to be excited. The Chargers' Khalil Mack had six sacks against them last week. He has six for the season.

-- The Bears are the worst team in the league. Giants fans will argue their case. They are wrong.

-- To those of us of a certain age, Russ Francis was a cool breeze. The former Patriots and 49ers tight end wasn't revolutionary, but he changed games. And with dark hair, a mustache and ability to block and catch, he was very cool. In today's game, he would be Travis Kelce or Rob Gronkowski. Francis died Sunday in an airplane crash.

-- There's a lot of football left, which is great for most of us, but a warning to the folks in Chicago and Charlotte.

Texans coach DeMeco Ryans during his team's win over the Steelers.
Texans coach DeMeco Ryans during his team's win over the Steelers.


-- The Cardinals and Texans got it right with their coaching hires. A month into the season, it's clear neither teams' coaches or players are tanking. Houston is 2-2, and more importantly, appears to have both a coach, DeMeco Ryans, and quarterback, C.J. Stroud, in place for the long term.

The Texans are coming off an impressive victory over the Steelers, although the next 13 games will prove just how impressive, given the Steelers offensive woes.

At 1-3, the Cardinals are less impressive, but only slightly. Coach Jonathan Gannon and his staff are extracting every drop of talent from this roster. I mean, offensive coordinator Drew Petzing's name is already being dropped for potential head coaching jobs. (I'm not against that, but it's like when I taught my kids to drive and 35 mph felt like 85 mph. It's too fast, too soon. Let's tap the brake.)

At some point, fans and media will tire of the whole moral victory thing and just want victories, but, for now, Gannon has been impressive. And it's a "for now" league.

-- The Patriots have no shot at the playoffs the way they are playing, yet their schedule makes me hesitate to write them off. They have the Saints, Commanders, Colts, Giants, Chargers, Steelers, Broncos and Jets left to play. Could they get to nine wins and into the playoffs? I would not count out that coach (who just stole cornerback J.C. Jackson back in trade.)

-- The Steelers have no shot at the playoffs the way they are playing, yet their coach makes me hesitate to write them off. Mike Tomlin's worst record in his previous 16 seasons: 8-8. He won at least 10 games in nine of those seasons.*

*(Also had Ben Roethlisberger those years. See Belichick/quarterback note above.)

49ers running back Christian McCaffery scores a TD against the Cardinals.
49ers running back Christian McCaffery scores a TD against the Cardinals.


-- Everything, per source who is married to me.

-- This will be the first time since 2012 that someone who doesn't play quarterback is chosen as the league's MVP. Adrian Peterson won it that year. The leading non-QB candidate is 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey He scored four touchdowns against the Cardinals last Sunday and has seven for the season. He's scored in 13 consecutive games and leads the NFL in rushing (459 yards).

-- Tampa Bay will flame out. The Bucs are impressive, so far, and the NFC South is awful. Maybe they win the division but they will be one-and-done in the playoffs.

-- Giants quarterback Daniel Jones won't last the season. The Seahawks sacked him 11 times last week, and the Giants lost two starting offensive linemen when they tried, and failed, to gain a first down on the "Brotherly Shove" quarterback sneak that the Eagles use with such success.

-- Burrow will break out of his slump at some point. The Cardinals obviously prefer it not happen Sunday in Glendale, but Burrow is too good and he has too many weapons for the Bengals to be this bad offensively for long.