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The Week 4 Wrap

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  • By Neil Reynolds NFL International
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This has not always been the case over the past decade or more... the London game teams are coming in hot. Okay, that's a bit of a stretch but at least they're coming in as winners after the Chicago Bears beat up the Minnesota Vikings and the Oakland Raiders saw off the Indianapolis Colts.

Let's start with a Bears team that is playing truly elite-level defense and that unit was the major factor in Sunday's 16-6 win over the Minnesota Vikings. The Bears have won three in a row and while he is virtually impossible to block these days, it's not all about Khalil Mack.

What Sunday's demolition of the Vikings displayed was the depth of talent on Chicago's defense. Pro Bowl defensive tackle Akiem Hicks was sidelined through injury and starting middle linebacker Roquan Smith was out for personal reasons.

Yet the Bears held Dalvin Cook to 35 rushing yards on 14 carries and even then the NFL rushing leader only had success late on when the game was decided. And the Bears sacked Kirk Cousins six times with takedowns from lesser-heralded players such as Nick Kwiatkoski and Roy Robertson-Harris.

Even though Chase Daniel now has to come in to sub for injured quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, I don't think the Bears are any worse off. Trubisky has been so up and down in his short NFL career and I think Daniel can be the steadying hand required just to not mess things up while the defense takes care of business.

As for the Raiders, they took advantage of a banged-up Colts team and recorded a 31-24 victory. And what struck me about that win on Sunday night was the fact that it took everyone from the Raiders - it was one of those classic team victories.

Derek Carr threw a couple of nice touchdowns, Josh Jacobs remains an every-week factor at running back and the defense, while not complete by any means, flies around and plays with great passion. And that's one reason why they scored on a pick six through Erik Harris on Sunday.

It's early days in the Raiders re-boot under Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock, but it does feel like this team is on the right path. There will be more bumps in the road and the playoffs are not going to put a stamp on the Raiders' last year in Oakland, but this is clearly an improved team moving in the right direction as Las Vegas beckons.

Who's Hot...

New England's defense... The Bears always grab our attention on defense, but the league's best group currently resides in New England. The Patriots are truly sensational on that side of the ball and certainly did a number on Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen on Sunday. As we watched the action unfold on Sunday night from our Sky Sports studio, Will Blackmon summed it up when he said: "They've got a bunch of grown men." The secondary is outstanding but what is even greater is the way Bill Belichick uses his chess pieces. Take somebody like Jamie Collins, who is listed as a linebacker but splits his time between playing inside linebacker, edge rusher and even interior defensive line. Belichick also gets the best out of players who were just guys in other cities. Kyle Van Noy is a defensive beast in New England but he was utterly forgettable in Detroit. That is just one example and there are many more. It is so impressive to see.

Jameis Winston...In the past two games, Jameis Winston has thrown for 765 yards and seven touchdowns, compiling a quarterback rating of 116.7. His efforts should have led to a win over the New York Giants in Week 3 but for an errant field goal attempt at the end of the game. But on Sunday, Winston and the Bucs got their just reward, recording a stunning 55-40 road win against the previously-undefeated Los Angeles Rams. Winston still has shaky moments in every game - he threw an ugly pick six to Marcus Peters on Sunday - but he is looking very promising indeed under the guidance of Bruce Arians. I'm not saying the Bucs are certainties to commit to Winston for the long term with a new deal after this season but he certainly has our attention and is worth monitoring closely the rest of the way.

Philip Rivers... Others around the NFL get more attention, but few are better than Rivers on a week to week basis. His passing yardage totals this season read 333, 293, 318 and 310. That is some spectacular consistency on a team that has lacked that very commodity through four weeks. We almost take that level of performance and the player in general for granted. Rivers has seven touchdown passes to just two interceptions and so long as he is slinging the ugly-looking passes for the Chargers, this talented but up and down team will be in the playoff conversation.

Who's Not...

Josh Allen...After being served up patsies such as the New York Jets, the New York Giants and the Cincinnati Bengals, Buffalo's second-year passer faced his first real test of 2019 as the New England Patriots marched into western New York. It was a big stage for Allen. Perhaps the biggest of his young career. And he failed abysmally, throwing three interceptions while taking far too many risks and being totally out-foxed by Belichick before eventually being knocked out of the game. It was a tough day at the office for the strong-armed Allen and that showing reminded us that he has a long way to go in his development.

Kirk Cousins...At least Allen has the excuse that he is still young and pretty green around his NFL gills. The same cannot be said for Cousins, who saw his record against teams with winning records fall to 9-21-1 on Sunday. There is going to be much talk about Cousins needing to take down one of these elite units sooner rather than later. But how about we put at least a little bit of this loss on his offensive line? Cousins comes under far too much physical pressure and the fix does not appear to be an easy one. Adding to the quarterback's woes are the comments from star receiver Adam Thielen, who pointed out Cousins' inadequacies to the media on Sunday night. Helpful? No, most definitely not. The sky is not falling in Minneapolis just yet, but storm clouds are gathering above their quarterback's head.

Jay Gruden... Washington's head coach would do well to lock his office door and take the phone off the hook for the next few days, adopting the 'if they can't find me, they can't fire me' approach. It is about as poor as you could possibly imagine for a coach who already came into the new season with suggestions that he is totally powerless in America's capital. Winless Washington cannot slow opposing offenses and when they have the football, they cannot find the answers. Case Keenum was sent to the bench on Sunday as his turnover catastrophes continued. In came rookie passer Dwayne Haskins amid howls that he was not ready. And that proved to be the case. That is damning on Gruden, who played the position and should have got his guy ready to go during what was a long offseason.

The Fast Five...

They don't hand out lollipops and 'good boy' stickers in the NFL but if they did, line up Detroit Lions and Buffalo Bills players. Both teams showed they can hang with the NFL's elite. I was particularly impressed with both defenses on Sunday night.

Patrick Mahomes is human. He went 0 of 9 on deep throws on Sunday and did not throw a touchdown pass. This was one of his 'bad' days at the office. And for an idea of the ridiculously high bar he has set, Mahomes still guided the Chiefs to 438 total yards while throwing for 315 rushing for more than 50.

Pop quiz. Who is the only quarterback among those who have started every game this season not to commit a turnover? If you said Marcus Mariota, I tip my hat to you. I was fed that statistic into my earpiece on Sky Sports on Sunday night and responded: "Are you kidding me?" Mariota is under fire but lived to fight another day with a three-touchdown showing in Atlanta.

That���s back-to-back, not-so-easy-on-the-eye wins for the New Orleans Saints and they are 2-0 with Drew Brees out injured. How Sean Payton has coaxed team wins over Seattle and Dallas - both quality opponents - reminds us that the Saints are one of the NFC's best teams and certainly one of the most well coached. Even if they only get Brees back for the final seven games, let���s say, they can be Super Bowl contenders.

That's more like it, Cleveland. Feature Nick Chubb heavily and you will get more out of quarterback Baker Mayfield. Both young men were terrific in Sunday's 40-25 beatdown of the suddenly-plummeting Baltimore Ravens.

Fact of the Week

Tom Brady was under constant duress against Buffalo and compiled a quarterback rating of just 45.9. That was the fifth-lowest of his illustrious career. Brady had his most pass attempts (39) in a game without going over 200 yards passing or throwing a touchdown in his career.

Finish That Sentence

Each week in this spot I ask readers - via Twitter - to randomly send me the start of a sentence and, as we do on our NFL UK Live stage show tours, I will finish the sentence with the first thought that comes into my head. Here we go...

From Matt Nicholson (@mnicholson1389)... The rookie quarterback most likely to succeed in the NFL is... Daniel Jones. First up, the path to glory in the Big Apple is now free of obstacles with Eli Manning having been sent to the bench. So, for me, that gives Danny Dimes the nod over Gardner Minshew, who may end up being forced to make way for the expensive and more established Nick Foles when the former Super Bowl MVP is healthy again. And then I give Jones the nod over Kyler Murray, who I still have my NFL doubts about given how small he looks on the field. Danny Dimes is the real deal and is here to stay.

From Mark Budden (@mjbudden)... The team(s) who should copy the Miami Dolphins and hit the reset button are... few and far between. As you can see with a quick glance at the standings, parity reigns in the NFL and a lot of teams would be put off ripping it up and taking themselves out of playoff contention for years to come. That is a dangergous game to play, as empty seats in Washington and Miami would suggest. The Redskins need a lot more talent and we need to find out about Haskins the rest of the way and the Giants and Cardinals have already begun their rebuild. The one other team needing such a fresh infusion of talent, especially at quarterback, would be Cincinnati, in my opinion. I know who Andy Dalton is.

From Neil LS (@Fertzy)... The Redskins will be great when... they hire a strong-minded Jim Harbaugh type at head coach and give him total autonomy over the franchise. The Washington Redskins are dysfunctional and have been so for years. And they are currently led by a toothless and powerless head coach in Gruden, if the rumours and whispers are to be believed. We have heard that Haskins was not a Gruden pick and that is not a good sign. This team needs to become about its head coach and players, not about Bruce Allen and team owner Daniel Snyder.

Final Thought���

Vontaze Burfict has finally delivered one hit too many and the Oakland Raiders linebacker has been suspended for the rest of the season. At first glance, this may seem like a severe penalty but Burfict has previous and lots of it. He left himself literally no wiggle room when it comes to on-field disciplinary matters and really only has himself to blame here. The label 'head hunter' sounds so severe but let's be honest, that���s what Burfict is and has always been. Several Raiders I respect and admire insist he is a changed man. He didn't look all that changed - nor remorseful - as he jogged off the field in Indianapolis laughing and waving just minutes after he had laid out Colts tight end Jack Doyle. The NFL just became a tiny bit safer.

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