NFL Season Enters Second Quarter
The first quarter of the NFL season is over and more than half of the league's teams (17) are currently either in first place or within a game of the top spot in the division. But there's a lot of season left to be played.
"We're a quarter into the season," says head coach JOHN FOX of the 4-0 Denver Broncos. "We are not anywhere near done with our body of work. I'm pleased with where we are. You can't be better than 4-0 after four games. We'll just try to continue to prepare and do the things necessary to get ready for each week."
There are five 4-0 teams -- Denver, Kansas City, New England, New Orleans and Seattle -- tied for the most in a season in NFL history (1968, 2003, 2009).
But all 32 teams know there's room for improvement. And, while not every club has gotten off to a hot start, nothing is a given in the NFL.
Since 1990, when the current 12-team playoff format was adopted, 100 teams (36.2 percent of the 276 playoff clubs) have advanced to the postseason after starting the season 2-2 or worse. There were six such teams -- Denver, Green Bay, Indianapolis, New England, Seattle and Washington -- last season, including four division winners (Broncos, Packers, Patriots and Redskins).
That's the unpredictability of the NFL.
So entering Week 5, while it certainly helps to be near the top of the standings, don't count anyone out.
Kansas City Chiefs (4-0) at Tennessee Titans (3-1)
(Sunday, CBS, 1:00 PM ET)
The NFL's top two teams in turnover differential will meet at LP Field. Kansas City (+9) has forced an AFC-best 12 takeaways and Tennessee (+9) is the only team in the league without a turnover. The Chiefs are 26-20 all-time in the regular season against the Titans.
The Chiefs, who knocked off the New York Giants 31-7 last week, are 4-0, the second team in NFL history to win its first four games after finishing the previous season with at least 14 losses (1980 Detroit). The Chiefs 4-0 start is the team's best since 2003.
"Awesome," is how Kansas City quarterback ALEX SMITH responded when asked about the team's start. "It's great. The entire focus was getting the first win. It's a week-to-week thing. You can't start looking down the line."
The Titans have won two in a row, including last week's 38-13 home victory over the New York Jets. Tennessee forced four turnovers in Week 4's win, including two interceptions by cornerback ALTERRAUN VERNER and a forced fumble recovered in the end zone by defensive tackle KARL KLUG for a touchdown.
"The work still isn't done," says Verner. "That's just the first quarter of the season. We have a lot more football to play."
New Orleans Saints (4-0) at Chicago Bears (3-1)
(Sunday, FOX, 1:00 PM ET)
The Saints face their stiffest challenge to date from a hard-nosed Bears team that has opened up with an impressive 3-1 record under first-year Head Coach Marc Trestman.
After Monday night's 38-17 win over the Miami Dolphins, the New Orleans Saints (4-0) travel to Soldier Field (3-1) to face the Chicago Bears in a battle between NFC heavyweights. A balanced approach on offense, defense and special teams have spurred New Orleans' fourth 4-0 start ever. The team has improved to 5-0 in 1991, 1993 and 2009.
The Saints are 4-0 for the first time since 2009, when New Orleans started 13-0 and won Super Bowl XLIV.
In the Saints' 38-17 win over Miami, quarterback DREW BREES completed 30 of 39 passes (76.9 percent) for 413 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions for a 144.5 passer rating. Brees tied two of his own NFL records with his ninth consecutive 300-yard passing game and his 10th game in a row with 25+ completions.
"He's playing at a really sharp level," says Saints head coach SEAN PAYTON about Brees. "He did a good job with his progressions and protected the football. He's been outstanding."
New Orleans tight end JIMMY GRAHAM ties for the NFL lead with six receiving touchdowns -- the most ever by a tight end in September -- and his 458 receiving yards rank second in the league.
The Bears are tied for first in the NFC North and will look to rebound from last week's loss at Detroit.
Chicago has 10 interception-return touchdowns since the start of the 2012 season, the most in the league. The Bears have scored three defensive touchdowns so far this season: 44-yard interception-return by cornerback TIM JENNINGS, 42-yard fumble-return by defensive end JULIUS PEPPERS and 38-yard interception-return by safety MAJOR WRIGHT.
Seattle Seahawks (4-0) at Indianapolis Colts (3-1)
(Sunday, FOX, 1:00 PM ET)
After spending the past two weeks on the road, the Indianapolis Colts (3-1) return home to take on the undefeated Seattle Seahawks (4-0) at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Seahawks are 4-0 for the first time in franchise history after overcoming a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit to pull out a 23-20 overtime win at Houston. The Colts improved to 3-1 with a 37-3 win in Jacksonville and have won its past two games by a combined score of 64-10.
In the game against Jacksonville, the Colts defense tallied three interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown. Offensively, quarterback Andrew Luck completed 22-of-36 passes for 260 yards and two touchdowns for a 90.0 passer rating. RB Trent Richardson, TE-Coby Fleener and WR-Reggie Wayne each scored touchdowns in the game
The Seahawks rallied from a 17-point second half deficit to defeat the Houston Texans, 23-20, in overtime. Running back Marshawn Lynch tied a season-high with 98 rushing yards and a touchdown on 17 carries in the game. Cornerback Richard Sherman sent the game into overtime after intercepting a Matt Schaub pass in the fourth quarter and returning it 58 yards for the touchdown.
Taking center stage in this week's showdown will be each team's second-year starting quarterback.
Seattle's Russell Wilson, who was drafted in the third round (No. 75 overall) in 2012, has won 15 of his first 20 starts. He has passed for 3,905 yards with 32 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and a 99.1 passer rating in his career.
"He's done some pretty extraordinary things," says Seahawks head coach PETE CARROLL about his young QB. "He can do special things. There are just not very many kids that are as well-prepared to take on the workload and the stress of this and all the pressure that comes with it."
The Colts' Andrew Luck, who was the No. 1 overall selection in 2012, is 14-6 as a starter and is tied with Pro Football Hall of Famer JOHN ELWAY for the most wins in his first 20 starts by a QB selected No. 1 overall since the 1970 merger.
"He's such a mature kid and he understands the game," says Indianapolis head coach CHUCK PAGANO about Luck. "He prepares so well, and his focus is unbelievable. We know the physical talent is there. He's extremely intelligent. The great thing about Andrew is that he's unflappable. He's gotten better and he's his own critic."
Denver Broncos (4-0) at Dallas Cowboys (2-2)
(Sunday, CBS, 4:25 PM ET)
The Broncos are 4-0 and have scored an NFL-best 179 points, the second most through the first four games in league history (183 points, 1966 Dallas). Denver has won 15 consecutive regular-season games and each by at least seven points, the second-longest streak in NFL history (16 games, 1941-42 Chicago).
The Denver Broncos handed Philadelphia a 52-20 loss to set a franchise single-game scoring mark as Peyton Manning went 28-of-34 for 327 yards with four touchdowns. Manning connected with Demaryius Thomas a team-high nine times for 86 yards and two scores, with Wes Welker adding a pair of TDs. Knowshon Moreno led the rushing attack with 12 carries for 78 yards and a score. Trindon Holliday returned a kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown. The Dallas Cowboys lost 30-21 at San Diego. The Cowboys led 21-13 at the end of the half. However, San Diego scored 17 unanswered-points in the second half.
Quarterback Peyton Manning has 16 touchdown passes, the most ever through four games, and he has tied MILT PLUM's NFL record of 16 TD passes to start a season (1960) before throwing an interception.
"We have a tough road game next week," says Manning. "Every week you have to prepare hard and grind to get ready for the next opponent."
The Cowboys enter Week 5 leading the NFC East. Quarterback TONY ROMO connected with wide receiver DEZ BRYANT for two touchdowns last week. Since the start of 2012, Bryant leads the NFL with 16 receiving TDs.
"We want to be a contender," says Dallas linebacker SEAN LEE, who had a 52-yard interception-return touchdown last week. "We want to be a team that can win week in and week out."