By John Albinson
LA RAMS: After a disappointing season last year that saw them go 4-12, the Rams have already won three games this season and sit atop the NFC West. Quarterback Jared Goff, in his sophomore year, has looked surprisingly competent, tossing seven touchdowns to go along with only one interception throughout these first four games. Last Sunday, he helped lead Los Angeles to a big 35-30 victory over the Dallas Cowboys — in Dallas, no less — that legitimately shows the team’s improvement.
THE PANTHERS: Any team that beats the Pats is a winner — especially when that team is coming off a Week 3 trouncing by the Saints. Cam Newton had arguably his best game of the season, throwing for 316 yards to go along with three passing touchdowns and one rushing. Carolina is now tied for first place in the NFC South with the reigning NFC Champions Atlanta Falcons. After a frustrating season last year that saw them go 6-10 and finish at the bottom of their division, such a strong start by them this year is an indication they’re rounding back into their 2015 elite form.
THE CHIEFS: The only remaining unbeaten team in the league, the Chiefs, played a back-and-forth matchup between Washington on Monday night. In the last minute of the game, Kansas City nailed a game-winning field goal, and then to truly seal the deal, recovered a fumble and scored another touchdown as time expired. Rookie running back Kareem Hunt has been revelatory for KC this season, leading the NFL in rushing yards with 502. And Alex Smith (arguably the best slightly-above-average QB in the league) is playing the best football of his life.
THE GIANTS: New York has lost their last two games by a combined five points — which might be a summation of their frustrations this season. The Giants have looked like a mess all year, and their big offseason acquisition — veteran wide receiver Brandon Marshall — has not meshed at all with their offense. Eli Manning has been incredibly mediocre, the run game has been practically non-existent, and their defense ranks in the bottom ten of the league. They’ll need a miracle to resuscitate this season.
THE CHARGERS: Starting the season 0-4 is never a good thing. Starting the season 0-4 when you play in the AFC West — arguably the best division in football — is especially bad. Veteran QB Philip Rivers and the Chargers have lost close game after close game. Even with true offensive weapons such as Melvin Gordon and Keenan Allen, the Chargers have found themselves unable to play well for four complete quarters of a game — and if you can’t do that, then (unsurprisingly) you’re not going to win.
THE BROWNS: They are the Cleveland Browns and they are 0-4 and they are the Cleveland Browns.