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Bird’s Eye View: How Atlanta’s remaining opponents played in Week 4

In the midst of a two-game skid, the Falcons now turn their attention to one of the surprise teams of the young season

Welcome back to Bird’s Eye View!

In the midst of a two-game skid, the Falcons now turn their attention to one of the surprise teams of the young season. The Houston Texans spanked Pittsburgh on Sunday – more on that in just a second – and this will not be the cakewalk many predicted before the season.

The Falcons enter this matchup with real questions on offense. Slow starts have plagued Atlanta all season, and there are too many fruitless stretches. We’re not yet even at the quarter-way mark thanks to the addition of a 17th game, so it’s early. That being said, the pressure is ramping up.

A brief refresher for those who may be reading this piece for the first time: This exercise is meant to provide a quick synopsis of how each team did the previous week. I’ll highlight a standout player from each side of the ball, and for the two teams next on Atlanta’s schedule, I’ll include a potential x-factor player for the upcoming matchup.

Here’s how Week 4 went for the Falcons’ remaining opponents.

Week 5 – Houston Texans (2-2)

Last three games:

- Week 2: Loss vs Colts (31-20)

- Week 3: Win at Jacksonville (37-17)

- Week 4: Win vs Steelers (30-6)

Tweet-length summary of Texans in Week 4:

This team looks better with each passing week. CJ Stroud is doing things very few rookie quarterbacks have ever done, and he’s turned Houston into a dangerous early-season group. Defensively, keep your eye on cornerback Steven Nelson.

Best offensive player in Week 4: WR Nico Collins

Collins has the fifth-most receiving yards in the league through four games, and he exploded for 168 yards and two touchdowns on seven catches against Pittsburgh. Collins has more yards after the catch than any other receiver, and he’s developed a terrific connection with Stroud. Like the Texans, Collins is one of the biggest surprises of 2023 so far.

Best defensive player in Week 4: LB Christian Harris

The team leader in tackles on Sunday, Harris registered 12 stops and was effective in coverage as well. Houston’s defense is the sum of its collective parts, and Harris is a great example. With everybody playing their role effectively, this defense is gelling as well.

X-factor for Texans in Week 5: DE Will Anderson Jr.

There are a few offensive pieces for Houston who could fit in here nicely, but I’m going to spotlight the Texans’ other first-round pick. Many expected Anderson to be the rookie standout for Houston this season, and although Stroud has already claimed that title, the Alabama pass rusher has the talent to wreck a game. Given Atlanta’s issues with pass protection and their passing offense, in general, Anderson could have a big game ahead.

Team stat to know: Houston ranks 11th in team DVOA.

Week 6 – Washington Commanders (2-2)

Last three games:

- Week 2: Win at Denver (35-33)

- Week 3: Loss vs Buffalo (37-3)

- Week 4: Loss at Philadelphia (34-31)

Tweet-length summary of Commanders in Week 4:

What a fun game between two division rivals that went into extra time. Washington’s offense has a nice balance to it, and the defensive line is going to keep the Commanders in most games. This is a team with potential.

Best offensive player in Week 4: QB Sam Howell

Howell put together maybe his best performance yet against the defending NFC champs. He was unflappable down the stretch, delivering the game-tying touchdown pass as time expired, and finished with a solid stat line: 29 of 41 for 290 yards with a touchdown. He also ran for 40 yards on six carries.

Best defensive player in Week 4: CB Benjamin St-Juste

Washington’s slot corner was excellent against Philly’s receivers. He was only targeted twice and gave up a single reception for 5 yards to DeVonta Smith. St-Juste was a stone-wall run defender in this game and also stripped Kenneth Gainwell in the backfield.

X-factor for Commanders in Week 6: DT Jonathan Allen

Really the entire defensive line for the Commanders could define this game if the Falcons don’t have a plan ready, but Allen may pose a particularly challenging problem. Washington’s premier interior pass rusher is tied with Chase Young for most pressures this season (16). Expect to see him against Matthew Bergeron a lot, which will also stress Jake Matthews.

Team stat to know: The Commanders have 13 sacks so far this season, which is tied for fourth-most.

Weeks 7 & 14 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1)

Last three games:

- Week 2: Win vs Chicago (17-27)

- Week 3: Loss vs Philadelphia (25-11)

- Week 4: Win at New Orleans (26-9)

Tweet-length summary of Buccaneers in Week 4:

Everybody is talking about Baker Mayfield, and he had a really good game, but this is a team defined by defense and Mike Evans. Don’t get it twisted.

Best offensive player in Week 4: QB Baker Mayfield

Having said that, Mayfield was tremendous against the Saints. He completed 25 of his 32 pass attempts for 246 yards with three touchdowns and a pick. Mayfield has also been a tough runner this season, and his improvisational skills are a big part of this offense.

Best defensive player in Week 4: S Antoine Winfield Jr.

Winfield is becoming the player I thought he could be as a prospect in the 2020 NFL Draft. He was all over the place and disruptive in many different ways for Tampa Bay’s defense. He made perhaps the two biggest defensive plays for Tampa Bay: A forced fumble and recovery at New Orleans’ goal line that helped extend the lead, and a beautiful pass breakup against Chris Olave in the end zone that displayed his makeup speed and ball skills.

Team stat to know: Tampa Bay is second in the league with a plus-7 turnover differential.

Week 8 – Tennessee Titans (2-2)

Last three games:

- Week 2: Win vs Los Angeles Chargers (24-27)

- Week 3: Loss at Cleveland (3-27)

- Week 4: Win vs Bengals (27-3)

Tweet-length summary of Titans in Week 4:

Any given Sunday, huh?

Best offensive player in Week 4: RB Derrick Henry

A vintage King Henry performance, and it was great to see. He showcased his trademark tackle-breaking berserker running style, but Henry also had a bit more breakaway speed than I expected. It all amounted to a great day at the office—122 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. Oh, he also threw a 2-yard touchdown pass. Not too shabby.

Best defensive player in Week 4: MLB Azeez Al-Shaair

Aside from a 12-yard completion he allowed to Tanner Hudson, Al-Shaair had a pretty flawless day against Cincinnati. He was active in all phases of the defense, generating two quarterback hits and finishing second on the team with nine tackles.

Team stat to know: Tennessee has allowed the fourth-fewest rushing yards per game this season.

Week 9 – Minnesota Vikings (1-3)

Last three games:

- Week 2: Loss at Philadelphia (28-34)

- Week 3: Loss vs Minnesota (28-24)

- Week 4: Win at Carolina (21-13)

Tweet-length summary of Vikings in Week 4:

The Vikings are celebrating a win against the 0-4 Panthers like it’s saved the season. Maybe it has. There’s still talent on this roster, but it’s a group that feels like the late Matt Ryan era Falcons.

Best offensive player in Week 4: WR Justin Jefferson

He just keeps trucking right along. Jefferson finished with another great stat line – six catches for 85 yards and two touchdowns – and despite Puka Nacua’s emergence and Tyreek Hill’s dominance, the Vikings’ receiver still leads the league in yards.

Best defensive player in Week 4: S Harrison Smith

File this away under “the old guy’s still got it.”

Team stat to know: The Vikings have not scored a point in the first quarter of any game this season.

Week 10 – Arizona Cardinals (1-3)

Last three games:

- Week 2: Loss vs New York Giants (31-28)

- Week 3: Win vs Dallas (28-16)

- Week 4: Loss at San Francisco (35-16)

Tweet-length summary of Cardinals in Week 4:

The Cardinals were the latest team to run into the 49ers’ buzzsaw, but there are real signs of progress for the organization. Michael Wilson looks great as a rookie, Josh Dobbs is this year’s Geno Smith without the wins, and the defense … well, the defense is still bad.

Best offensive player in Week 4: WR Michael Wilson

The third-round rookie caught all seven passes thrown his way on Sunday for 76 yards and both of the Cardinals’ touchdowns. For the season, he’s gained 237 yards - just 2 yards shy of matching Marquise Brown’s team-high mark – on just 14 receptions.

Best defensive player in Week 4: DE Dante Stills

This is not a very good defense.

Team stat to know: Arizona ranks sixth in offensive DVOA.

Weeks 12 & 18 – New Orleans Saints (2-2)

Last three games:

- Week 2: Win at Carolina (20-17)

- Week 3: Loss at Green Bay (18-17)

- Week 4: Loss vs Tampa Bay (26-9)

Tweet-length summary of Saints in Week 4:

Best offensive player in Week 4: LT Trevor Penning

Against Tampa Bay’s strong pass rush, Penning held up rather well. He surrendered just two pressures, neither of which were converted into a sack. New Orleans’ offense was pretty poor against the Buccaneers, but the offensive line is showing flashes.

Best defensive player in Week 4: DT Malcolm Roach

The fourth-year defensive tackle is off to one of the best starts of his career. Although he’s still a rotational player, Roach was effective when in the game with five tackles and a quarterback hit.

Team stat to know: New Orleans leads the league in pass breakups.

Week 13 – New York Jets (1-3)

Last three games:

- Week 2: Loss at Dallas (30-10)

- Week 3: Loss vs New England (15-10)

- Week 4: Loss vs Kansas City (23-20)

Tweet-length summary of Jets in Week 4:

Patrick Mahomes tried harder to lose this game than Zach Wilson did, but we’re all going to pile on the Jets’ quarterback anyway. If Wilson does show incremental growth, the Jets can salvage this season with the weapons they have and the way their defense is playing.

Best offensive player in Week 4: QB Zach Wilson

There may not be many opportunities for me to put Wilson’s name down here, so I’m taking it. The much-maligned Jets quarterback was awesome in this game right up until the very end. He was 28-of-39 passing for 245 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He did have a costly fumble at the end, but Wilson also had a huge role in almost creating the shocking upset.

Best defensive player in Week 4: DT Quinnen Williams

My goodness, defensive line play in this league is lights out right now. Williams is turning into THAT DUDE at the NFL level. He had six pressures and was the anchor to New York’s run defense all night long. After a dominant season in 2022, Williams is once again on pace for a big year.

Team stat to know: The Jets have the best special teams unit in the league, according to DVOA.

Week 15 – Carolina Panthers (0-4)

Last three games:

- Week 2: Loss vs New Orleans (20-17)

- Week 3: Loss at Seattle (27-37)

- Week 4: Loss vs Minnesota (21-13)

Tweet-length summary of Panthers in Week 4:

The Panthers are reportedly looking to acquire a No. 1 receiver for Bryce Young. Maybe if they had Moore guys like that in the building things would be different.

Best offensive player in Week 4: WR Adam Thielen

For the time being, Thielen is emerging as Young’s top weapon. He again paced all Panthers receivers by catching seven passes for 76 yards. On a day when the offense didn’t find the end zone, there’s not going to be much praise.

Best defensive player in Week 4: S Jeremy Chinn

The safety play in the NFC South is really something special. Chinn earned his first sack of the season and finished second on the team with six tackles. He’s better closer to the line of scrimmage than say a Jessie Bates, but Chinn is very effective in his own way.

Team stat to know: Carolina’s 4.2 yards per play is third-worst among NFL offenses.

Week 16 – Indianapolis Colts (2-2)

Last three games:

- Week 2: Win at Houston (31-20)

- Week 3: Win at Baltimore (22-19)

- Week 4: Loss vs Los Angeles Rams (29-23)

Tweet-length summary of Colts in Week 4:

Outside of CJ Stroud, Anthony Richardson is the biggest revelation among rookie quarterbacks. We already knew about his athleticism, but Richardson looks more polished as a passer than many expected at this point in his career. He could have the Colts rolling sooner rather than later.

Best offensive player in Week 4: QB Anthony Richardson

Richardson tossed two touchdown passes and ran for another in this game. He started 5-of-15 before going on a tear in the fourth quarter to help the Colts erase the Rams’ lead and take the game into overtime.

Best defensive player in Week 4: DE Dayo Odeyingbo

Odeyingbo finished this game with a great stat line for a rotational defensive lineman. He had seven combined tackles, sacked Matthew Stafford twice and forced a fumble from Kyren Williams. It was easily the best game of the season from the third-year pass rusher.

Team stat to know: The Colts’ offensive red-zone conversion rate of 72.73 percent is third-best in the league.

Week 17 – Chicago Bears (0-4)

Last three games:

- Week 2: Loss at Tampa Bay (27-17)

- Week 3: Loss at Kansas City (41-10)

- Week 4: Loss vs Denver (31-28)

Tweet-length summary of Bears in Week 4:

Justin Fields looked incredible, and the Bears now hold the top two picks in the 2024 NFL Draft. Kind of a win-win for Chicago. Unless you count the loss.

Best offensive player in Week 4: QB Justin Fields

A sign of things to come or the ultimate outlier? That’s the question we’re all left asking after Fields looked like the tantalizing player so many fans coveted coming out of Ohio State. He only ran for 25 yards, but his production through the air was excellent. Fields completed 28 of his 35 pass attempts for 335 yards with four touchdowns and an interception.

Best defensive player in Week 4: LB T.J. Edwards

Edwards is having a really nice start to the season. He once again led all Bears defenders with nine tackles, and his ability to limit yardage at contact is very impressive.

Team stat to know: Chicago’s defense ranks last in the NFL in sacks per pass attempt.