It's Week Four of the NFL season and already we have some strong clues about who's going somewhere and who is going nowhere.
The Patriots fail on defense - The issue for the Patriots entering the Kansas City game was the offensive line specifically and the offense overall; both showed genuine improvement overall. Tom Brady also started throwing to other receivers, and Brandon Lafell showed some excellent play, both with Brady and with Jimmy Garropolo.
The real problem, though, is the defense failed entirely - the defensive line was bowled over by the Chiefs and Darrelle Revis more and more is proving he is a fraud with inability to stop receivers he was long advertised as owning. Teams going forward will stop being afraid of him.
AFC East Still Struggles - We start with a curious dynamic in Miami - Ryan Tannehill in effect declared himself the starter for the London game against the Raiders, and thus showed up his coach - and the result was perhaps Tannehill's best game as a starter. It was against the Raiders, we understand, it nonetheless is what good teams do to bad. Now we see if the Dolphins get something rolling here.
Not getting anything rolling were the Bills or the Jets - E.J. Manuel blew it in the final minutes at Houston and the Bills have panicked - never a good reaction - and benched Manuel for longtime washout Kyle Orton.
Meanwhile it gets worse for Geno Smith as the crowd at the Jets' loss to the Lions began chanting for Michael Vick - this with a Jets coaching staff that has lost control of its team and isn't all that competent overall. The only question is why the Jets are able to prevent their defeats from being multi-touchdown routs.
NFC East begins to surprise - Suddenly the NY Giants look like a better offense, the Washington Redskins showcase the worst quarterback meltdown since Kordell Stewart in the 2001 playoffs, the Cowboys are surging like we haven't seen since the halcyon days of the 1990s, and the Eagles offense grinds to a complete halt. The inability of the Eagles to win a game where the 49ers were doing everything wrong was jaw-dropping, while Kirk Cousins fell apart graphically against the Giants, who exploded to more points than we've seen out of them in years and who now look comfortable with their new offense. And speaking of comfortable, Tony Romo is getting success beyond his competence as a quarterback - and that's scary.
Ravens surge while Steelers again melt down - The winless Bucs started Mike Glennon, and Glennon took a touchdown gap and pierced the Steelers with it, winning the game 27-24, Pittsburgh's nineteenth loss in the club's last 37 games - yet another sign the Steelers organization has lost ability to build championship squads.
The Baltimore Ravens meanwhile have their own amazing dynamic working - they've gotten a lot of inflammatory press the last few weeks and have turned it into a surging 2014 season. Stevonne Smith's eruption against the Panthers highlighted this surge back to playoff contention after 2013's meltdown.
Will the NFC North rise again? - The Packers beat the Bears - no shock there. The Lions beat the NY Jets - if anything the Lions should be angry they won by only one touchdown. The real shock, though, is the Minnesota Vikings, who started Teddy Bridgewater and suddenly showcased firepower akin to the 1998 Vikes - especially in winning a shootout with the Falcons by two touchdowns.
Suddenly the NFC North may be an open contest, though injury to Bridgewater bears monitoring.
AFC South isn't changing - Houston and Indianapolis lead the division and that appears to be it right now despite Indy's slow start. Tennessee's season may already be over - Ken Whisenhunt benched Jake Locker ostensibly for a wrist injury but it makes me wonder if he was looking for an excuse to start Charlie Whitehurst; the result was ugly and embarrassing. The Titans have a superbly talented roster but haven't shown the fight they had under Mike Munchak and quarterback controversy only makes things worse.
The Jaguars have been in rebuilding mode and they'll have to accept that right now.
NFC South gets burned - The Panthers got blasted, the Saints got humiliated, and the Falcons got shot down, while the Bucs salvaged a win. The division that appeared to be as strong as any suddenly isn't that good, especially for a Saints team that, far from contending as usual, is now in danger of failing to reach 8-8.
San Diego claws to contention while Kansas City claws back into it - With the Raiders done and the Broncos licking wounds from their first loss of the year, the Chargers are now the challenger to Denver in the AFC West and look better than last year. The Broncos for their part look overall shaky - the comeback against Seattle was the first time since late last season the Broncos showed closing ability. Meanwhile the Chiefs exploded on Monday Night and suddenly look legitimate after going just 1-6 against quality opponents in 2013.
It's still the Seahawks and Cardinals - The 49ers rebounded to beat the Eagles, and it was a needed win given controversy about Jim Harbaugh and also the poor play of Colin Kaepernick - who looks incapable of clock management or of actually playing the quarterback position; he showcases Michael Vick Disease in refusing to stop running first - coming in as well as poor play on the O-line from Jonathan Martin - a fact lost in the shuffle of NFL news.
Even with that it's still Seattle and Arizona on top and looking good enough to control the division. The Cardinals' decision to play Drew Stanton so far has worked, but his 52% completion is worrisome.
So that wraps up Week Four and a lot of teams have some serious effort to make to get back into it next week.