LockedIN on the NFL Week 4 Preview


The NFL rolls into Week 4 with two significant early trends that separate this year from any of the previous 99 seasons: Quarterbacks are getting younger, and the league-wide passer rating, the highest it’s ever been through three weeks, is on an upward slope. This week, the NFL concludes a September that has seen both the highest collective passer rating ever through three weeks, and the most starting quarterbacks (20 in Week 3) age 26 or younger in league history. Meanwhile, each week continues to produce close games and stirring second-half comebacks, and rookies continue to progress into household-name territory.

Four teams that missed the postseason in 2018 – the BUFFALO BILLS (3-0), DETROIT LIONS (2-0-1), GREEN BAY PACKERS (3-0) and SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (3-0) – are undefeated through the first three weeks. Since the current playoff format began in 1990, this year marks just the fourth time that at least four teams have started the season undefeated through their first three games after missing the postseason the previous year. It also happened in 2002, 2003 and 2013.

If Buffalo, Detroit and Green Bay win this week, the league will have four undefeated teams through the first four weeks, among those that didn’t qualify for the postseason the prior year (including 3-0 San Francisco, on its bye in Week 4). It’s happened once previously, when Carolina, Denver, Kansas City and Minnesota opened 4-0 in 2003, after missing the playoffs in 2002. The Panthers advanced to Super Bowl XXXVIII that season.

HIGHEST PASSER RATING EVER THROUGH THREE WEEKS: NFL passers have compiled a 94.3 rating through three weeks, while the average age among starting quarterbacks has decreased each week.

Through three weeks, 11 of 32 NFL teams have rookies leading or tied for their team lead in passer rating, rushing yards, receiving yards, tackles or interceptions. That includes Pittsburgh, whose rookie linebacker DEVIN BUSH not only leads the Steelers with 29 tackles; he also leads the league with three fumble recoveries.

Last week in his first NFL start, New York Giants rookie quarterback DANIEL JONES passed for 336 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 112.7 passer rating. He also added two rushing touchdowns, including the game-winning 7-yard score with 1:16 remaining, in his team’s 32-31 win at Tampa Bay. Since at least the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, Jones is the first rookie with at least 300 passing yards, two passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns in the same game.

A look at rookies who lead their teams or are tied for their team lead through three weeks:

Gardner Minshew JAX 110.6 Josh Jacobs OAK 228
Daniel Jones NYG 109.7 David Montgomery CHI 147
Kyler Murray ARI 79.0 Miles Sanders PHI 106
*min. 40 attempts
Marquise Brown BAL 282 Ryan Connelly NYG 1
Terry McLaurin WAS 257 Darnell Savage GB 1
Preston Williams MIA 155

For the first time since 1982, when individual sacks became an official statistic, five rookies have at least 1.5 sacks entering Week 4. The CAROLINA PANTHERS have two of those five: BRIAN BURNS and CHRISTIAN MILLER each have 2 sacks. Jacksonville defensive end/linebacker JOSH ALLEN (2), New England defensive lineman CHASE WINOVICH (2) and New York Giants defensive end/linebacker OSHANE XIMINES (1.5) round out the group.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT THIS WEEK: Two games on Sunday feature a battle of undefeated foes, both in the early afternoon window. New Era Field in Buffalo hosts a clash of the 3-0 teams atop the AFC East (1:00 PM ET, CBS). The NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS, whose point-differential (89) is 36 points higher than No. 2 Dallas (53), play the BUFFALO BILLS, off to their best start since they began 3-0 in 2011. Buffalo seeks its first 4-0 start since 2008.

No NFL division has seen multiple teams start 3-0 since 2015, in the NFC South (Atlanta and Carolina). This season, both the AFC East and the NFC West (Rams and 49ers) have a pair of 3-0 teams.

At Ford Field in Detroit (1:00 PM ET, FOX), the KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (3-0) meet the DETROIT LIONS (2-0-1), who with a win would be undefeated through four games for the first time since opening 5-0 in 2011.

CONSISTENT CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS: Both the NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS and LOS ANGELES RAMS have authored a 3-0 encore after meeting in Super Bowl LIII. The defending Super Bowl teams haven’t started that well in 21 years, when both the DENVER BRONCOS and GREEN BAY PACKERS were 3-0 to start the 1998 season after clashing in Super Bowl XXXII. The last time both Super Bowl teams were 4-0? It was also the Broncos and Packers in 1998.

STRONG STARTS: On Sunday Night Football, the DALLAS COWBOYS make a trip to their neighboring state to meet the NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (8:20 PM ET, NBC). The Cowboys with a win would be off to their best start in 12 years, since opening 5-0 in 2007. With a win last Sunday over the Steelers, San Francisco is off to its best start in 21 years. The 49ers are on a bye this week but can advance to their first 4-0 start in nearly three decades with a win at home over Cleveland on Monday, October 7. Seven teams are 3-0 entering Week 4.

The LOS ANGELES RAMS and KANSAS CITY CHIEFS have each started 3-0 for a second consecutive season. The last time the same two NFL teams opened 3-0 in back-to-back years was 2015-16 (Denver and New England). The last time the same two teams opened 4-0 in consecutive seasons was 1968-69, when the Rams and DALLAS COWBOYS accomplished the feat.


(All times Eastern)

Thursday Sunday (cont.)
Philadelphia Eagles at Green Bay Packers 8:20 PM FOX/NFLN


Washington Redskins at New York Giants 1:00 PM FOX
Sunday Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals 4:05 PM FOX
Tennessee Titans at Atlanta Falcons 1:00 PM CBS Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Los Angeles Rams 4:05 PM FOX
Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens 1:00 PM CBS Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears 4:25 PM CBS
New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills 1:00 PM CBS Jacksonville Jaguars at Denver Broncos 4:25 PM CBS
Kansas City Chiefs at Detroit Lions 1:00 PM FOX Dallas Cowboys at New Orleans Saints 8:20 PM NBC
Carolina Panthers at Houston Texans 1:00 PM FOX Monday
Oakland Raiders at Indianapolis Colts 1:00 PM CBS Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers 8:15 PM ESPN
Los Angeles Chargers at Miami Dolphins 1:00 PM CBS Byes: New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers


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