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NFL Week Four: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

The following Sports Agent Blog contribution is courtesy of Brandon Thorn.

The Good

Peyton Manning has 16 TDs, 0 INTs and is sporting a 75% completion rate.

Denver Broncos – The Broncos have been unstoppable in the first quarter of the season, dominating every opponent. The offense is firing on all cylinders, averaging 44.8 points per game. Quarterback Peyton Manning has a NFL record 16 touchdown passes and zero interceptions, while completing an astounding 75% of his passes. At age 37, Manning is on pace to capture his NFL record 5th MVP award. Breaking records and blowing out teams has turned into a weekly occurrence for the Broncos. The defensive side of the ball is a solid unit that gets teams off the field on 3rd down and pressures the opposing quarterback, which is more than enough for the success to continue. The frightening thing for the rest of the league is that the defense’s two best players, including one of the top defensive players period (Von Miller), haven’t played in their first game yet.

While all of these things are great, cornerback Champ Bailey put it best after Sunday’s win, “We know we haven’t done anything yet but get a good start.” Next week the Broncos travel to Dallas to take on the up and down Cowboys, who will need to shore up their defense if they expect to compete in this game. Fresh off of giving up 400 yards passing to quarterback Philip Rivers, adjustments need to be made in a hurry, before the Broncos stampede into town.

Cleveland Browns – Once management traded away running back Trent Richardson, the team’s second best offensive, most well-known player, (Joe Thomas has always been the Browns best offensive player) the media automatically assumed that the team was giving up on the season. The Browns players and coaches took that as a slap in the face and have responded like professionals are known to do. The (2-2) Browns have won two straight games, both as underdogs, to pull into a three-way tie for the AFC North division lead.

Next week the team gets their opportunity to show the world what they’re made of, traveling to Buffalo for Thursday Night Football.

Tennessee Titans – The (3-1) Titans have showed the world that they aren’t going to conform to today’s softer, more finesse NFL. This off-season the team signed veteran safety Bernard Pollard, tight end Delanie Walker, running back Jackie Battle, and guard Andy Levitre. Then the team spent their first round pick on All-American guard Chance Warmack. Every one of these players represents the old-school mentality, and are among the most physical players at their respective positions. I paid attention to these transactions during the off-season and had my eye out to see how they gelled together this season. After four games, the Titans look like the most physical team in football and have quarterback Jake Locker playing like he was expected to play when he was a first-round pick in 2011.

The bad news is that Locker was taken to the hospital after injuring his hip in the 3rd quarter against the N.Y. Jets. Locker was having his best game as a pro before the injury, against one of the top defenses in the league. This injury put a damper on the win and the team will be waiting on pins and needles to hear the test results of how serious this injury will be for Locker.

Next week should be a very entertaining game nonetheless, as Tennessee hosts the red-hot (4-0) Kansas City Chiefs.

Philip Rivers – Quarterback Philip Rivers broke a NFL record Sunday. Rivers completed 83.3% of his passes on Sunday, which was the highest ever for a quarterback who threw for at least 400 yards. Rivers has played like his old self (if not better) this season. I wrote a couple weeks ago about the significance of the coaching hires in San Diego this past off-season, and they seem to be paying off handsomely for Rivers. So far this year, Rivers is completing 73.9% of his passes with 11 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions.

Robert Mathis – Defensive end Robert Mathis is one of the most underrated and under appreciated players in the league and has been for over a decade with the Colts. Mathis has spent all 11 years of his career in Indianapolis and just reached 99 career sacks on Sunday. That gives Mathis 7.5 sacks through the first 4 games of the 2013 season. Mathis is one sack away from becoming just the 30th player in league history to record 100 sacks. Not bad for an undersized guy drafted in the 5th round out of Alabama A&M.

The Bad:

Houston Texans – It wasn’t just that the (2-2) Texans lost, it was the way that it happened. The Texans were up 20-3 at one point in this game and all they had to do was not screw it up to pull off the huge win. Instead, the team collapsed on itself, particularly because of the poor play of their quarterback, Matt Schaub. It was the third week in a row that Schaub has thrown a pick-6, an unbelievable stat, that the city of Houston has taken notice of. The pressure is on in Houston, and Schaub is the one feeling most of the heat. Next week, Houston travels to a very unwelcoming place – Candlestick Park, to face off against the 49ers on Sunday Night Football. This isn’t a true “must-win” for the Texans, but it is as close to it as you can get in week 5.

New England Patriots defense –Defensive tackle Vince Wilfork is done for the year with a torn Achilles. This is a major blow for the entire team, as Wilfork was one of their leaders, and was the glue that held the Patriots defense together. To ensure the team remains competitive against elite teams, Head Coach Bill Belichick will have to devise one of his grand schemes yet again.

Jake Locker – The Titans quarterback was beginning to fulfill his potential and the lofty expectations placed on him when he was drafted. Locker suffered what appears to be a serious hip injury on Sunday and as of this writing is expected to miss 4-8 weeks. This would be a huge blow to a resurgent Titans team who has gotten off to a red-hot start.

The Ugly:

New York Giants – I don’t like to put teams or players in the same section multiple times, but the Giants continue to be shockingly bad. After four games, the Giants are win-less and cannot get anything right. What makes their situation better than say, the Buccaneers, is that they still have the leadership in place to turn this thing around. Head Coach Tom Coughlin is one of the few coaches in the league who I feel confident about after a 0-4 start. The Giants still have plenty of talent; they just have to figure out a way to shore up their offensive line, so the ball can get to the play-makers. Quarterback Eli Manning has been sacked 14 times, 3rd most in the NFL. The offense is averaging 15.2 points per game, ranking 30th overall. If the Giants find a way to get their running game going, I believe things will turn around and by the end of the year we will forget about how bad this opening act has been.

Jacksonville Jaguars – You know things are ugly when the team offers free beer to fans so the attendance numbers can rise. It doesn’t get much uglier than what the Jaguars have put on the field the first four weeks of the season. After getting new ownership, a new general manager, and a new head coach in the off-season, there was hope in seeing some improvement this year. While it is way too early to determine the ability of the GM or the coach, it could not have started worse. The team has scored 31 points the entire season, which typically what the Broncos score in a half. The Jaguars have been a bad football team for a lot of years now, so expecting new leadership to turn all that around in less than a year is unrealistic. A couple of years need to go by so the management can start bringing in more talent.

The Josh Freeman situation – This has gotten ugly, with both Freeman and Head Coach Greg Schiano conducting a smear campaign against one another. This is becoming unprofessional and embarrassing for the Buccaneers. Freeman should be cut immediately, to avoid it being anymore of a distraction for the team going forward. It also is in the best interest of Freeman that he is cut. The Bucs would love to trade him to get something in return, but given Freeman’s resume and contract, don’t expect that to happen. Hopefully this gets resolved so we can start focusing on football again in Tampa. The Bucs are 0-4 and could easily be 3-1, losing their last 3 in ridiculous fashion, with leads at the end of games.

By Darren Heitner

Darren Heitner created Sports Agent Blog as a New Year's Resolution on December 31, 2005. Originally titled, "I Want To Be A Sports Agent," the website was founded with the intention of causing Heitner to learn more about the profession that he wanted to join, meet reputable individuals in the space and force himself to stay on top of the latest news and trends.

Heitner now runs Heitner Legal, P.L.L.C., which is a law firm with many practice areas, including sports law and contract law. Heitner has represented numerous athletes and sports agents as legal counsel. He has also served as an Adjunct Professor at Indiana University Bloomington from 2011-2014, where he created and taught a course titled, Sport Agency Management, which included subjects ranging from NCAA regulations to athlete agent certification and the rules governing the profession. Heitner serves as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where he teaches a Sports Law class that includes case law surrounding athlete agents and the NCAA rules.