When games finish on Monday night, we’ll already be a quarter of the way through the NFL season. With eight teams still undefeated, week four will be instrumental in determining the favorites to play in Super Bowl LIV in Miami Gardens, Florida in February.
With an action-packed Sunday coming up, here are three things to watch for:
1. Undefeated Patriots take on Undefeated Bills
The New England Patriots 2007 run during the regular season is only second to the gold standard set by the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins. However, it’s been tough road for coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, who’ve opened the season with four straight victories. If they defeat the Bills on Sunday, it’ll be only the fourth time the Patriots have opened the year 4-0 in the era of Belichick and Brady, and the first time since 2015.
For his part, Brady isn’t overlooking the Buffalo Bills. “They play well at home, it’s a great environment, so it’s pretty tough…this is going to be the toughest team we’ve faced, and we’re going to have to play a good game,” he said at his mid-week press conference on Wednesday.
On the other side of the ball, the Bills are having their best start since 2011. That’s not saying much, as those 3-0 Bills ended last season with a mediocre record of 6-10.
But third-year coach Sean McDermott is looking for at least a repeat of the 2017 season, which saw Buffalo’s first playoff game since 1999. But a 6-10 record last year’s performance left a bad taste in fans’ mouths, that is, until second-year quarterback Josh Allen helped pilot this year’s team to three straight victories.
Allen credits a stingy defense, one that is fifth in points per game allowed, for the early season success. “They (the defense) have been playing lights-out the past few games….we appreciate how hard they work and we have to be good on our end too,” he said at a press conference earlier this week.
Whatever is driving these wins, fans are here for it.
Watch: New England Patriots vs Buffalo Bills: 1:00 pm ET on CBS
2. Rookie quarterbacks are back in action
Daniel Jones took over for Eli Manning in week three, and immediately led the New York Giants to a thrilling 32-31 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Since last Sunday’s two-touchdown performance, his personalized jerseys sales spiked, according to NFL apparel provider Fanatics.
It’s a tough look for Super Bowl champion Manning. But he still has one fan: Jones. CBS Sports’ Brandon Tierney tweeted a photo of a much-younger Jones rocking Eli’s jersey.
Jones isn’t the only rookie taking the league by storm. Gardner Minshew, the mustachioed quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars jumped into the spotlight after replacing Nick Foles.
His legend and mustache continue to grow. Last week, he told the NFL that his facial hair started as a “silly thing” at camp in Washington State. “Everybody quit on me, so I said ‘screw y’all I’m doing this longer than everybody’ and here we are.”
The inevitable social media storm followed, and now the Minshew stache has its own hashtag, t-shirt and more.
Minshew’s reputation as a gun-slinging, wild man was furthered this week by meeting up with John Gries, the actor who played “Uncle Rico” in “Napoleon Dynamite.” Not only do the two resemble each other, but Rico’s claim in the movie that he could throw a football over a mountain definitely fits with the odd stories of the former Washington State signal-caller.
Watch: New York Giants vs Washington Redskins: 1:00 pm ET on Fox
Jacksonville Jaguars vs Denver Broncos: 4:25 pm ET on CBS
3. Kickers take aim
The much-maligned position of NFL kicker came under public scrutiny last season after former-Chicago Bear Cody Parkey’s missed kick – aka “Double Doink” – heard round the world. It hasn’t been much easier for kickers this season either.
Indianapolis Colts Adam Vinateri, one of the greatest kickers in the history of the league, saw his leg elude him in the opening two games of the season. But at least Vinateri wasn’t faced with an ad in the paper highlighting his miscues. That’s what happened to Tampa Bay kicker Matt Gay, whose missed kick allowed Daniel Jones his first win as a Giant. Following the game, Secret underarm deodorant placed an advertisement in the Tampa Bay Times mocking the Buccaneers for their field goal failures.
The ad features USA Soccer star Carli Lloyd, whose recent 55-yard training camp kick went viral. Lloyd aspires to become an NFL kicker in 2020, though Gay is hoping it won’t be his job she takes.
The rookie spoke to the media following his miss last week and said: “I was confident going into that kick…but I didn’t hit it clean, and it didn’t go in. I gotta live and learn…it’s not going to help to look back on this one.”
Watch: Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Los Angeles Rams: 4:05 pm ET on Fox