NFL Week 4 recap: The league has made its bed

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AP

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick wears two masks as he watches from the sideline during the first half of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs , Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, in Kansas City. The New England Patriots have canceled practice amid reports that a third player has tested positive for the coronavirus. Sports Illustrated reported that reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore tested positive for the virus on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, and was added to the team’s reserve/COVID-19 list. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

James Krause, Columnist

I finished my column for Week 3 of the NFL last Wednesday and thought, “It can’t get any crazier than that.”

A week later, hindsight says it actually might be just the beginning.

After New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton tested positive for COVID-19 Saturday, the Patriots-Chiefs game was moved Monday night in one of several games that were affected by a COVID-19 outbreak.

Monday night came, and with it one of the more lackluster games of the Kansas City Chiefs was played out, with it being 6-3 at the half. Eventually, the Chiefs kicked it into gear and won handily, 26-10 over a Patriots team that was beating themselves without a consistent quarterback.

Hours after he played against the Chiefs, Patriots safety Stephon Gilmore tested positive for COVID-19. Now contact tracing and testing will dominate the weeks of two of the best teams in the AFC on shortened weeks.

FILE – In this Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, file photo, New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton runs against the Las Vegas Raiders during an NFL football game at Gillette Stadium, in Foxborough, Mass. For the second straight week the New England Patriots are heading into a game after having their preparations disrupted by a teammate contracting coronavirus. Last week it was Cam Newton, who tested positive two days before their matchup with Kansas City and was forced to sit out.(AP Photo/Winslow Townson, File)

The Tennessee Titans and Las Vegas Raiders have each had several players test positive since Sunday, the New Orleans Saints had a scare that almost cancelled their game, and oh, yeah, the president of the U.S got it.

The NFL has made its bed by carrying out a 16-game schedule, having no bubble and continuously shifting protocols. Now it will have to lay in it with weekly nail-biting and wondering if it’s going to have to reschedule or soon start outright canceling games.

The NFL doesn’t just need to take further responsibilities for their players; now more fans are being put at risk in certain cities. In Week 4, with the NFL and nation holding their collective breath for those in the league and our government, the number of teams that have allowed fans in the stands is up to 11. 

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis lifted stadium capacity restrictions on venues Wednesday and told the Miami Dolphins they can now host a full capacity crowd of 65,000 fans, according to the Fox Sports 640 radio station in Miami. This could lead to lifted restrictions on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who also host the Super Bowl in February. 

If 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C. can become a contagious site in the matter of a few days, what do you think will happen when 65,000 people pack into 347 Don Shula Drive in Miami?

This increase in attendance across the league comes as the Center for Disease Control has reported 319,622 new daily cases of COVID-19 and 4,989 additional deaths in the first week of October. The NFL can pretend their business is carrying on as usual but that shouldn’t include letting fans into their business. 

 

Packers beat lowly Falcons and take lead in NFC North

The original Monday night matchup didn’t have much in terms of fanfare either, with the Green Bay Packers beating the Atlanta Falcons 30-16.

The buildup isn’t nearly as dramatic as Patriots-Chiefs, but out of it came another undefeated team with the Packers moving to 4-0 and taking the lead of the NFC North with the Chicago Bears’ first loss.

Green Bay Packers’ Robert Tonyan (85) celebrates a touchdown reception with Malik Taylor (86) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons, Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer) (AP)

The Packers now lead the league in points going into October and are the only team in the league who hasn’t committed a turnover. They rank fourth in both passing and rushing offense.

The scary thing about their offense is they could be even better. Without wide receiver Davante Adams in the lineup the last two weeks, Marquez Valdes-Scantling has become the most targeted receiver for Rodgers. On 25 targets, Valdes-Scantling only has 12 receptions. 

The most consistent of Rodgers target’s is tight end Robert Tonyan, who has 13 catches on 14 targets and leads the team with five touchdown catches. With a bye to allow Adams to rest up and recover from a hamstring injury, the Packers might just become the best team in the NFC.

 

Cleveland rocks the Cowboys, exposes Dallas defense

The Cleveland Browns and Dallas Cowboys game Sunday had all the flash of a blockbuster meeting of Super Bowl contenders, just none of the defense of it.

In the end, the Browns won on the road 49-38 and now have quietly moved to 3-1 for the first time since 2001. Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. had his first three touchdown game since joining the Browns, with his 50-yard rushing touchdown to seal the game late being the cherry on top of what felt like a breakthrough day for the star receiver.

On top of that, the Browns rushing attack continued to dominate. The team finished with 307 rushing yards despite an injury to running back Nick Chubb, with running back D’Ernest Johnson leading the team with 95 yards. If the Browns rushing attack can stay healthy, it could easily carry the team to a playoff berth and make last year’s let down a distant memory.

As for the Cowboys, the best thing that can be said after their performance is that quarterback Dak Prescott could easily be in the MVP conversation if his team’s defense wasn’t sinking into the earth. He threw for 502 yards and four touchdowns, nearly pulling the Cowboys out of a huge deficit once again late in the fourth.

The spotlight of the NFL has seemed to shine most on the Cowboys defense, as it should considering they’ve given up a league-leading 146 points. The Browns blockers might as well have been blocking office chairs with how little of a fight some Cowboys could muster against them, and the lucky player to get a one-on-one tackling opportunity often was left face down on the turf.

Dallas defensive lineman DeMarcus Lawrence straight up called his team’s defense “soft” in the post game press conference, and it’s hard to fix a matter of effort and toughness in the middle of the season.

 

Houston sacks Bill O’Brien, but does that save 0-4 Texans from sinking?

The Houston Texans seemed like they were finally done dealing with their gauntlet of an opening schedule and could get back to being playoff caliber against an 0-3 Minnesota Vikings team.

In this Jan. 12, 2020, photo, Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien speaks during a news conference following an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, in Kansas City, Mo. The Texans fired coach and general manager Bill O’Brien on Monday, Oct. 5. The firing comes a day after Sunday’s 31-23 loss to the Vikings dropped the Texans to 0-4 for the first time since 2008. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga, File)

The final result on paper, a 31-23 Minnesota win, doesn’t do what happened justice. The Texans struggled all day on both sides of the ball and were only given life after the Vikings safety Harrison Smith was ejected. Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson brought the Texans back to make it a one-score game on the goal line, leading to running back David Johnson getting stuffed three times.

Bill O’Brien, Houston Head Coach and general manager was fired Monday, months after his team imploded while leading by double digits in the AFC Divisional round. It also comes after a rash of offseason moves that lead to them trading away their best player in DeAndre Hopkins, surrounding Watson with aging veterans, and creating a weak secondary.

On top of it all, O’Brien created riffs in the team this season. O’Brien has had confrontations with several players, coaches and staff members, most notably J.J. Watt, according to a Tuesday Houston Chronicle article. 

O’Brien will be replaced as coach by Romeo Crennel, but how much of an uphill battle will it be for this team to find any success? With the roster built the way it is and the frustrations that have tainted the first quarter of the season, it’s tough to imagine the Texans being any type of factor for the playoffs by the time December comes. 

 

The definitive worst thing on national primetime television this week

It was a meeting of the incompetient and unhinged representative of New York and the old guard of the industry who can’t get out of the way of their own mental faculties and physical health. 

Many words were used to describe what happened: a dumpster fire, a circus, a bad SNL skit. Some words can’t be published, none of them flattering. Whoever won, the conclusion was made that we as Americans lost.

I’m, of course, talking about when the New York Jets hosted the Denver Broncos Thursday night in one of the ugliest games we may have all season, with Denver claiming the win.

Injuries to quarterbacks Drew Lock and Jeff Driskel meant the Broncos had to turn to third-string quarterback Brett Rypien to run the offense. He’s the first quarterback to throw three interceptions in his starting debut and still win since 1997.

The loss gave national attention to hands down the league’s worst team, the Jets. Jets Quarterback Sam Darnold has no weapons available to him and no help, being sacked six times. Their lack of discipline was also on display, being penalized 11 times.

Head Coach Adam Gase and the team he and general manager Joe Douglas have made doesn’t look like one that can win a game this year, but also doesn’t seem to be repairable simply with a draft pick or trade. 

The sad thing about the Jets is there’s no fall from grace. It’s just years of rebuilding, getting torn down and starting again. The Jets are in an endless cycle of regime after regime having low expectations and still failing to meet, with their fans still coming back to be punched in the gut.

Thank God that’s just reserved for Jets fans, am I right, voting public?