Rookie QB Carson Wentz has exploded onto the scene early on in the season. (Photo courtesy of goo.gl/YxR2gO)
Four weeks into the NFL season, the contenders are starting to separate themselves from the pretenders.
Teams like the Arizona Cardinals, who were expected to compete for the NFC championship again have floundered, while teams like the Minnesota Vikings have exceeded even their biggest fans’ expectations.
Political issues have been strongly felt during this season, as many players have peacefully demonstrated during the National Anthem before games. The split within locker rooms is apparent, as white and black athletes take sides for the upcoming election.
Several big stars have served league-ordered suspensions, with Le’Veon Bell returning with a strong performance, and Tom Brady’s imminent return giving opposing teams and coaches nightmares.
Sorting through all the action, here are the top ten teams through week four of the 2016-17 NFL season.
2015 MVP Cam Newton throws under pressure during Super Bowl L against the Denver Broncos. (Photo courtesy of goo.gl/wawuvP)
- Denver Broncos- The defending champion Broncos again field a dominant defense, pressuring opposing quarterbacks at a higher clip than any other team, and allowing the fewest yards per passing attempt. The offense has been effective enough, as the Broncos have remained undefeated behind first-time starting quarterback Trevor Siemian.
- Minnesota Vikings- The Vikings came into the season as a dark-horse playoff team. Then they lost their young star Teddy Bridgewater. Then they lost Adrian Peterson, who has carried the offense for years. They were written off, yet here they are still undefeated. Riding an elite young defense that is only getting better, the Vikings are showing they mean to contend for a ring this year.
- New England Patriots- Tom Brady is officially a free man. After serving his controversial four game ban served down by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Brady is back to help the Patriots rebound from their first loss. As one NFL coach recently opined, the rest of the league is about to be run over by a rested and determined Tom Brady. At 3-1 while using two different backups, the Patriots now add possibly the best quarterback in the league to their scary offense.
- Philadelphia Eagles- Rookie quarterback Carson Wentz is making headlines after being thrown into the fire early on and putting up incredibly strong numbers. This defense deserves much more attention than it has gotten, as it has yielded only 27 points in three games. The Eagles hope this combination continues, allowing them to make a surprise run at the division title.
- Seattle Seahawks- The Seahawks defense has been strong again, having allowed fewer than twenty points in each of their first four games. Tight end Jimmy Graham, a forgotten star, has re-emerged with two straight 100-yard games. If he continues to dominate, this Seattle offense could pair nicely with an always-stout defense.
- Pittsburgh Steelers- After being embarrassed by the Eagles a week ago, the Steelers did the same to the Chiefs this week, posting a 43-14 win in primetime. With Running Back Le’veon Bell finally back from suspension, this Steelers offense is suddenly stocked with weapons, making it as dangerous as any in the league.
- Atlanta Falcons- Quarterback Matt Ryan and Wide Receiver Julio Jones may be the most deadly combination in the league, as they absolutely demolished the vaunted Panthers defense this past week. Ryan’s 503 passing yards came largely thanks to Jones’ 300 receiving yards. Fears that Jones was slumping have quickly been dashed. The Falcons need the offense to carry them, as their defense remains one of the worst in the league.
- Green Bay Packers- Quarterback Aaron Rodgers remains the motor behind this team, if he has a poor game they will almost always lose. This year’s run defense, however, has been dominant, leading the league with only 1.8 yards per rush. Rodgers remains on the run behind a weak offensive line, but with Wide Receiver Jordy Nelson coming back strong from injury, this offense is still dangerous.
- Oakland Raiders- The last time the Raiders started a season 3-1, they went on to play in the Super Bowl in 2002. While a Super Bowl appearance may be a bit far-fetched for this young squad, they seem to be quickly rising into the upper echelon of NFL teams. Behind young stars Derek Carr, Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper, this Raiders team looks to be on the way to making some playoff noise.
- Dallas Cowboys- The Cowboys offense been carried by two rookies this season, with Quarter Back Dak Prescott and Running Back Ezekiel Elliott accounting for most of their yardage. Prescott has yet to throw an interception, and is behind only Tom Brady in throws without an interception to start a career. Elliott, meanwhile, is second in the league in rushing yards. The Cowboys hope this young core can carry them like this for years to come.