Matt Ryan, QB (Falcons)

CAR 33 at ATL 48

I was surprised to see Ryan make this list after his performance during Week 2.  But here he is again with a tremendous performance Week 4 vs the Panthers when he passed for 503 yards, had 4 TDs and a 142 passer rating.  Even more incredible is how he still performed well with all the pressure he received from an aggressive Panthers defense up front that sacked him 3 times and forced an interception.  With these numbers, Ryan is on pace to finish the season with a record number of yards passing and TDs.  And, his name is even being thrown around as the league MVP through the first quarter of the season, which is apt.  No other QB is playing this well at the moment.

Julio Jones, WR (Falcons)

CAR 33 at ATL 48

It doesn’t hurt Matt Ryan to have this guy on the other end of the football, one of the best WR in the league and best performer during Week 4.  He received 300 of Ryan’s 503 yards, had 12 receptions, averaged 25 yards and 1 TD.  What’s interesting to note about his performance is the variety of formation receptions the Falcons offense executed last week vs the Carolina defense and which couldn’t stop Jones and Atlanta from scoring 48 big points.  Much has been said by reporters in the aftermath of this game regarding how much the Panthers defense miss cornerback Josh Norman in their secondary.  Whatever the case, the Falcons are now 3-1 and go to the Denver Broncos on Sunday.  It’ll be interesting to see how Ryan/Jones perform in the former Super Bowl Champ’s territory vs that defense.

Le’Veon Bell, RB (Steelers)

KC 14 at PIT 43

Pittsburgh rebounded in a big way from their Week 3 debacle to score 40 more points vs the Chiefs than they did vs the Eagles.  Part of the reason was the return of RB Le’Veon Bell to the team for the first time this season from suspension.  Bell rushed for 144 yards and averaged 8 yards on 23 touches.   Together with QB Roethlisberger who was 22-of-27 & passed for 300 yards and a perfect 158.3 passer rating through 3Q, it was like a torch had been lit.  And, just in the nick of time, too. With Bell’s return, more balance came back to that offense & so too does some of the swagger helping to get this Steelers team back on track towards the Super Bowl. “(Bell) made it look easy,” center Maurkice Pouncey said. “Whoever had him on their fantasy team was at the house screaming.”

Cameron Heyward, DE (Steelers)

KC 14 at PIT 43

Another component to the Pittsburgh team which helped the team rebound in Week 4 was the performance of the Steelers defense, particularly that of DE Cameron Heyward who had a career high 3 sacks and recorded 6 solo tackles on Chiefs QB Alex Smith.  This was good news for the Steelers, as Heyward had a high-ankle sprain during the preseason and was expected to miss extra time in the regular season.  While he still played Weeks 2-3, he didn’t have any sacks, which may have indicated the injury stuck around.  But it does now appear that Heyward has returned to form which should make a difference for this team that needs him. Next up for the Steelers defense is the NY Jets whose O-Line has allowed just 6 sacks this season so far.  Will Heyward bust through that line?

Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB (Jets)

SEA 27 at NYJ 17

Fitzpatrick’s Week 4 performance wasn’t as bad as his Week 3’s disaster when he threw 6 interceptions and had an 18.3 passer rating (whoa).  But, last Sunday he still tossed 3 passes into the other team’s hands, recorded a lowly 53.0 rating and even fumbled once.  Granted, he was sacked 4 times in this game by the Seahawks and pressured a lot.  In Fitz’s defense, Jets WR Brandon Marshall blamed several of the interceptions on “the receiver’s fault” for dropped balls, bad protection, miscommunication and route problems.  So, maybe he’s right to deflect all the mistakes off of one person.  After all, this is a team sport.  But, is it time to think about bringing Geno Smith in?  When people describe your starter as “Fitz-tragic”, you’re 1-3 a quarter way in to the season and  Pro Football Focus ranks your offense 30th in the latest Power Rankings, yeah, it’s time to go in another direction.

New England Patriots (Team)

3-1 (AFC East)

Ever hear of a statistic called “Toxic Differential”?  Former NFL Coach Brian Billick came up with the idea in 1998 while he was offensive coordinator with the Vikings.  He claims it is the #1 marker to predict which teams are likely playoff bound. Specifically, the stat measures how many big plays (20-plus yards) teams create minus how many they give up.  It also includes turnovers forced versus those given up.  In 2015, Billick said, “In my experience in coaching, there’s not a better indicator or playoff predictor than the toxic differential.”  So, which team is leading in this category so far through Week 4?  New England Patriots.  Right behind them?  Denver Broncos.


Source : NFL Stats

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at