NFL Media researcher Brandon Mendoza identifies several of the biggest overreactions from each week’s set of games. The storylines below are bound to play out because, after all, numbers never lie. Right?
The Cowboys should trade Zeke!
Ezekiel Elliott has recorded fewer than 100 rush yards in each of the first four games of a season for the first time in his career. He’s also received fewer than 15 carries in consecutive games for the first time since he entered the league in 2016. Remember, Zeke has ranked among the top two in carries and top five in rush yards in all but one of his previous four NFL seasons.
This drop-off in production through the first month of the season isn’t totally surprising considering first-year Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy never had a running back finish among the top three in carries or top five in rush yards in his 13 seasons at the helm of the Packers. However, the fact that Elliott is averaging 5.8 receptions per game (would be a career-high) and 68.3 rush yards per game (would be a career-low) might mean that McCarthy isn’t going to feed Zeke’s appetite for carries. So, if you’re not going to use Elliott to the fullest, why not deal him before a full season’s worth of declining production lowers his value? Yes, this is a spicy take, but these are overreactions. What did you expect?
After all, it doesn’t appear that Dak Prescott is going to stop slinging the ball all over the field at a high rate now that he holds the record for most pass yards (1,690) over a four-game span in NFL history.
Josh Allen is the top dual-threat QB in the NFL
With all due respect to reigning MVP Lamar Jackson, it’s Josh Allen who just became the first player in NFL history to post at least 12 pass TDs and three rush TDs in his team’s first four games. Allen is thriving as a passer in 2020, ranking second in pass YPG (331.5) and third in passer rating (122.7). Plus, he’s a force in the running game: He ranks fourth in carries (25) and is tied for third in rushing TDs (3) among quarterbacks.
Just take a look at Allen’s numbers through Week 4 compared with Jackson’s through his first four games of the 2019 season:
- Allen: 70.9 completion rate, 1,409 total yards (pass + rush), 15 total TDs, 122.7 passer rating.
- Jackson: 64.9 completion rate, 1,348 total yards (pass + rush), 11 total TDs, 109.4 passer rating.
As sensational as Jackson was right out of the gate last year, Allen’s production thus far is better.
Matt LaFleur is already a Hall of Fame-caliber coach
With a career record of 17-3, Matt LaFleur has the best winning percentage (.850) of any head coach in NFL history (minimum 20 games). Yes, better than Bill Belichick (.681), John Madden (.759), George Halas (.682) and even Vince Lombardi (.738).
LaFleur is calling the plays for a Packers offense that’s on pace to set the record for the most points per game (38.0) in the Super Bowl era. Sure, he had the benefit of inheriting a two-time MVP in Aaron Rodgers, but the 36-year-old QB is having a resurgent year in LaFleur’s second season on the job, becoming just the fourth player since at least 1948 with 12-plus passing TDs and zero INTs through his team’s first four games. So let’s give LaFleur’s scheme the credit it’s due.
The Packers are using motions or shifts on 61 percent of their offensive plays this season (sixth-highest rate in the NFL), per Next Gen Stats. For context, they used motion on 49 percent of their plays in 2019 (15th in NFL) and 36 percent of the time in 2018 (27th in NFL).
What does all this translate to? Open receivers. Rodgers’ unheralded pass catchers have generated 3.6 yards of separation per target in 2020, the highest figure in that category for a Packers team since NGS began tracking the metric in 2016.
Joe Burrow is the best passer among QBs selected first overall in the last five years
Sure, Joe Burrow got off to a slow start this season with 193 pass yards in a Week 1 loss to the Chargers. What has he done since? The top pick of this year’s draft is now the first rookie QB in league history to throw for 300-plus yards in three consecutive games.
This season, Burrow is averaging more pass YPG (280.3) than the three other QBs who have been selected No. 1 overall since 2016: Kyler Murray (229.8), Baker Mayfield (182.3) and Jared Goff (265.8). In fact, Burrow has more 300-yard-passing games (3) than all three of those QBs combined (1) this season.
The 2020 Colts’ defense is the best in franchise history
We’ve seen dominant defenses before, but from the Colts? Rarely. The franchise hasn’t finished with the No. 1 defense (yards allowed) since 1971, when it called Baltimore home. Indianapolis has a chance to snap that streak this season.
The Colts are allowing the fewest points per game (14.0), total yards per game (236.3) and pass YPG (159.3). They rank a “disappointing” fourth in rush yards allowed (77.0), but if they keep that pace, that would set a team record for fewest rushing yards allowed per game.
Philip Rivers might have been the Colts acquisition that garnered the most attention this offseason, but trading for DT DeForest Buckner, signing CBs Xavier Rhodes and T.J. Carrie and drafting S Julian Blackmon has paid immediate dividends.
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