Five observations on the fourth weekend of the 2017 NFL season:
1. The 1972 Miami Dolphins can start putting the champagne on ice. With the season only four weeks old, Kansas City is the only unbeaten team in the wake of the Chiefs’ 29-20 victory over Washington and Atlanta’s 23-17 loss to Buffalo.
By contrast, there are four winless teams – the Cleveland Browns, New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Chargers.
The odds, though, are against the Chiefs going unbeaten. They barely escaped with the victory over Washington on a field goal with four seconds left. They added another touchdown, recovering a fumble on the last play when Washington tried the Stanford band lateral play.
That enabled the Chiefs to cover the spread and the over so a lot of money changed hands on that last play. But looking at Andy Reid’s playoff record – only one Super Bowl appearance and an overall 11-12 mark — it is too early to crown them as a favorite to make it.
2. New England’s defense continues to falter as the Patriots fell to 2-2 with a 33-30 loss to Carolina.
If Bill O’Brien had gone for it on fourth and a half-yard with two minutes left a week ago, the Patriots could be 1-3.
The Patriots defenders are making so many mistakes that critics are starting to question whether coach Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia are doing a good job of coaching them.
And Belichick is getting irritated, brushing past Carolina coach Ron Rivera without exchanging the post-game handshake, although Belichick often isn’t even a gracious winner.
The Patriots have a short week with a Thursday night game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, so we’ll see if Belichick can start to fix the problems. Not that he’s eager to discuss the problems.
Taking a page from his “We’re on to Cincinnati” slogan, he said Tuesday, “We’re game-planning for the Bucs.’’
The Bucs are 2-1 with the two victories over teams with a combined 1-7 record, so it’s too soon to tell whether they are for real.
3. The Bills are a surprise team in the AFC with a 3-1 record after handing Atlanta its first loss. And they’ve beaten Denver, 26-16.
The Bills are doing it with their defense, allowing just 13.5 points a game, the best mark in the league. And they’ve only allowed four touchdowns.
But the offense has to show it can keep carrying the team because of its suspect offense.
4. The scouts didn’t consider Deshaun Watson a lock to be a franchise NFL quarterback before the draft. He was the third quarterback taken, and O’Brien had him in training camp and still decided to go with Tom Savage although Savage lasted only a half before O’Brien conceded he had to go with Watson.
Watson is improving every week and had five touchdowns – four passing and one running – against the Tennessee Titans in a 57- 14 victory.
With Andrew Luck still sidelined although he’s started practicing and with the Jaguars going with inconsistent Blake Bortles, Watson could take the Texans to the playoffs as a rookie quarterback.
5. The Los Angeles Rams, who went 4-12 this year, are off to a 3-1 start under new head coach Sean McVay.
Quarterback Jared Goff is maturing in his second year, and they traded for Sammy Watkins to give him a big-time target along with Robert Woods. And Wade Phillips has improved the defense.
The Rams 35-30 victory over the Dallas Cowboys showed they have to be taken seriously even if the Los Angeles fans have yet to embrace them. Fans in L.A. lose interest if a team isn’t winner, and McVay may give them a winner.