The NFL is the ultimate done-for-me-lately league and while in Week 4 the Dolphins might not have effed around, they definitely found out, getting blitzkrieged by the Bills 48-20. It was a statement game about AFC East supremacy, with Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs reminding the up-and-coming Fins team who still owns this division.
During the offseason, most of the world enjoyed trying to write the Bills obituary. The Diggs Drama -- the specifics of which were never actually revealed -- was pushed into the regular season thanks to an ugly Week 1 loss to the Aaron Rodgers-less Jets. But Sunday was a good reminder about the connection between Allen and Diggs, with the wide receiver recording a trio of touchdown catches en route to his best outing of the young season, including this absurd break of double tackles for a 55-yard score.
The Diggs-Allen connection -- one so strong the kindred spirits are almost always on the same page to the point you can see the two of them managing to communicate in completely unique and largely non-verbal ways -- was cooking on Sunday. Allen also ran for a score and hit Gabe Davis for another touchdown, with Buffalo scoring on five of its six first-half possessions and toting a 31-14 lead into halftime.
It wasn't just the Bills offense delivering on Sunday. Miami's potent offense ran into an equally powerful Buffalo defense, with the Bills flashing a level of elite balance on both sides of the ball. The Dolphins were off to a historic start offensively and Tua Tagovailoa was the consensus MVP favorite. It looked like Miami might keep the train rolling with touchdown drives on their first two possessions. But once Mike McDaniel ran through his initial script, the Bills locked down the Dolphins for the rest of the half. An early third-quarter touchdown cut the Bills lead to 11 points and then Buffalo shut the Dolphins out the rest of the way while piling up points to make the final score look really ugly.
Miami is still a very good football team. Not putting them in the playoffs before the season is going to look foolish. But not as foolish as everyone who believed Buffalo's window had closed prior to the year, especially those that doubled down on the concerns after that disaster in Week 1. Since then, Buffalo's manhandled three straight opponents, winning the last three games by a total of 90 (!) points. The Raiders and Commanders could be written off as inferior competition, but there's not any excuses to provide for Miami, a team many considered to be the best team in football through three weeks.
Ja'Marr Chase quote -- "I'm always f---ing open" -- is going to get all the attention because it contains an F bomb but there are many more reasons why the Bengals are the would-be AFC powerhouse to really worry about almost a quarter of the way into the season. Joe Burrow has just been bad this year and it's pretty clearly a result of his calf injury limiting his ability to move around and push the ball down the field.
Burrow is the first quarterback in NFL history to attempt 150 passes and average less than 5 yards per pass attempt through his team's first four games, per ESPN Stats and Info. His mechanics look all out of whack (again, it's pretty clearly the calf and it shouldn't be that surprising either) and for some reason the Bengals feel OK leaving him in to take a bigger beating during a blowout loss on the road.
Zac Taylor says they were still trying to come back in the fourth quarter, down three scores and that’s why Burrow stayed in the game.— Paul Dehner Jr. (@pauldehnerjr) October 1, 2023
Burrow wanted to stay in the game and referenced playing the entire thing as a point of pride. That's all fine and well, but Burrow was, bluntly, getting his ass kicked out there. The Titans defensive line dominated the Bengals offensive line and Burrow was under siege for most of the afternoon, getting sacked three times and taking double-digit quarterback hits. Derrick Henry threw more touchdown passes than Burrow. The Bengals failed to score a touchdown for the second time this season. At some point Zac Taylor just has to recognize how dangerous it is for Burrow's long-term health to keep rolling him out there when he's getting crushed and the Bengals don't have a legitimate chance of winning the football game.
The Ravens also picked up a win on Sunday on the road against Cleveland, giving them a pair of divisional road wins with a chance to sweep the division on the road next week in Pittsburgh. Cleveland's dealing with a Deshaun Watson injury and has been seriously hit or miss on a week-to-week basis. Pittsburgh's offense has a Matt Canada problem. Baltimore could run away with the division, but the there are two very viable wild card spots even for a 1-3 Bengals team to attack.
Right now the offense isn't working, though, and there isn't a chance of Cincy stealing one of those playoff positions if Burrow doesn't get healthy. Any and all options should be on the table to get him as much time as he needs.
All the top picks
The Cardinals were considered the favorite to end up with the NFL's worst record and, since they were also holding the Texans' 2024 first-rounder, a decent bet to end up with the top two picks in a LOADED NFL Draft. The Chicago Bears have entered the chat!
With their brutal loss to the Broncos on Sunday, the Bears fell to 0-4, firmly establishing themselves as the NFL's worst team. The only other 0-4 team? The Carolina Panthers, piloted by a banged-up Bryce Young, who is struggling mightily behind a pretty rough offensive line. The Panthers jumped out to a lead against the Vikings thanks to a pick six, but the offense didn't do much the rest of the way, Justin Jefferson did some Justin Jefferson things and the Panthers also fell to 0-4.
The problem for Carolina? Young is only on the roster because the Panthers gave up multiple first-round picks to the Bears for a swap of No. 9 and last year's first-overall selection. Things won't get easier for Carolina, with back-to-back trips to Detroit and Miami on deck before a Week 7 bye. The Panthers might have a tougher path than Chicago, which could mean eventually handing over the No. 1 overall pick to the Bears in next year's draft.
Watching the Bears draft Caleb Williams or trade the pick (if Justin Fields convinces the franchise he's the guy) would be a pretty tough sell for owner David Tepper and a fanbase already worn down from this season, just four weeks in. The Fields factor came into play on Sunday with him shredding the Broncos defense early, hitting on his first 16 (!) passes and throwing, not running, for several touchdowns. Chicago's offense was cooking, D.J. Moore looked sharp and there was viable optimism surrounding Fields play, even if it was against one of the NFL's worst defenses in Denver (they gave up 70 points last week, you may recall). Down 28-14, the Broncos would rip off 17 unanswered points to steal their first win on the season and flip what was going to be a very ugly narrative surrounding Sean Payton and Russell Wilson.
Instead the focus is on the bad news: just how terrible Chicago might really be at football. But the good news is the Panthers might somehow be worse. And if Chicago lands the top TWO picks in the draft, a miserable 2023 season won't feel so bad after all.