Nick Chubb, Kirk Cousins and NFL’s Best Defense: Buying or Selling Week 4’s Top Storylines

20 games into Cousins' tenure in Minnesota, the Vikings have gone 10-9-1 with him under center

Nick Chubb, the Surprising Saints and the League's Best Defense: Buying or Selling Week 4’s Top NFL Storylines
Nick Chubb carries the ball against the Baltimore Ravens. (Scott Taetsch/Getty)
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With Week 4 of the season now wrapped up following the pitiful Pittsburgh Steelers beating the pathetic Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football, we can officially put a quarter of the NFL season in the rearview and analyze it. While we can’t get to everything — like Vontaze Burfict being banned for the season and Odell Beckham getting choked out on the field — here are five of the top storylines to emerge following Week 4, and whether we’re buying or selling on ’em.

Buy: Teddy Bridgewater Has Earned His $7.25M Salary 

When it was announced Drew Brees would be out for weeks thanks to a thumb injury, some assumed the season would go downhill for the 1-1 Saints.

Instead, New Orleans has gone 2-0 without Brees, including an impressive home win against the previously undefeated Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football by a final score of 12-10.

Though he failed to throw a touchdown in the win, Teddy Bridgewater was steady filling in for Brees and completed 23-of-30 passes for 193 yards with one interception.

The highest-paid backup in the NFL with a one-year salary of $7.25 million, Bridgewater was not spectacular but he was steady in getting the ball in the hands of the Saints’ best playmakers, running back Alvin Kamara and wide receiver Michael Thomas.

With New Orleans’ defense playing at a high level for the first time in recent memory, the Saints don’t need Bridgewater to be much more than a game manager, something he’s shown to be capable of doing.

By continuing to get Kamara and Thomas the ball as well as ceding the occasional snap to gadget player Taysom Hill, Bridgewater is doing enough to keep New Orleans competitive without Brees.

That’s exactly what a backup QB is supposed to do which makes Bridgewater completely worth his salary.

Sell: Kirk Cousins Has Earned His $84M Salary

Coming off a deep playoff run two seasons ago, the Minnesota Vikings gave Kirk Cousins a three-year contract fully guaranteed for $84 million.

At the time, the deal seemed like a good one for both sides as the Vikings had a great defense and good skill players but lacked a good QB. For Cousins, signing with Minnesota gave him the guaranteed money he’d been unable to secure in Washington as well as provided him with an opportunity to play for a legit contender.

Or so it seemed.

Now, 20 games into Cousins’ tenure in Minnesota, the Vikings have gone just 10-9-1 with the 31-year-old under center and sit at 2-2 this season and occupy last place in the NFC North.

In those 20 games, Cousins has been sacked 48 times and has fumbled 15 times. This season alone, Cousins has fumbled six times and leads the league in that category.

The Vikings have been able to make up for their pricey quarterback’s deficiencies by relying on the running game and Dalvin Cook, but when the team is trailing as they were Sunday against the Bears, that isn’t always an option.

Cousins was brought in to put the Vikings over the top and make the team’s investments in wideouts Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen worthwhile. Thus far, he’s failed and has not been worth all the money Minnesota guaranteed him.

Buy: Nick Chubb Can Lead the Cleveland Browns

Baker Mayfield was decent in Cleveland’s surprising 40-25 win over the Ravens on Sunday, but he wasn’t the reason the Browns took care of business on the road in the Baltimore.

Running back Nick Chubb was.

Against a Baltimore defense that had been fairly strong through the first three weeks of the season, Chubb erupted for 165 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries and also added three catches for 18 yards on four targets.

One of those touchdowns came on an 88-yard run, which gives Chubb two touchdown runs of 85 yards or more in his first two NFL seasons. Only two other players (Bob Hoernschemeyer and Chris Johnson) have accomplished that feat.

Chubb’s dominance came at an opportune time for a Cleveland team that has had its share of problems in paas protection and struggled to keep opposing defenders off of Mayfield during the first three weeks of the season.

By relying on Chubb, the Browns were able to eliminate that issue and finally establish some stability for an offense that has failed to sustain drives.

It may not be a recipe for long-term success in a league that demands elite QB play, but the Browns should keep riding Chubb and find out. Even if it doesn’t work, it’ll at least take some of the pressure off Mayfield.

Sell: It’s Time to Panic About Deshaun Watson

Heading into a cushy matchup against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday coming off an impressive road win in Week 3, the Texans seemed like a lock to win and move into first place in the AFC South at 3-1.

Instead, quarterback Deshaun Watson completed just 21-of-33 passes for 160 yards, zero touchdowns and zero interceptions in Houston’s 16-10 loss to Carolina.

Watson was sacked six times in the loss and it was the second poor outing in three weeks for the third-year pro (he completed just 16-of-29 passes for 159 scoreless yards in a Week 2 win over the Jaguars).

Though he did run for a short TD on Sunday, Watson was pretty awful as a passer and badly missed throws to Will Fuller and DeAndre Hopkins in the loss.

Despite that, Houston does not have a problem at quarterback.

Instead of making excuses for his poor play in Week 4, Watson addressed it head-on during his post-game press conference.

It was a good look for a young player to deal with failure in this fashion and speaks to the behind-the-scenes coaching Watson is getting from members of Houston’s staff.

As long as Watson understands what he did wrong and, more importantly, can correct it, he should be fine going forward and the Texans should still be able to win the AFC South (everyone in the division is now 2-2).

Buy: The Patriots Have the NFL’s Best Defense

In the third quarter of New England’s 16-10 win over the Bills in Buffalo on Sunday, the Patriots’ defense did something it hadn’t done in 246 minutes and 26 seconds of play: allowed a touchdown.

When quarterback Josh Allen was able to sneak into the end zone for Buffalo, it was the first touchdown New England’s defense allowed since the fourth quarter of the AFC Championship Game against the Kansas City Chiefs. 

Beginning with the Super Bowl and continuing for the first four games of this season, the defense, not Tom Brady, has been the star for New England.

The Patriots have given up just 27 points this season (with 14 of those coming on turnovers by the offense) and are allowing a league-best 243 yards per game.

Theie defense is aggressive and leads the league in sacks (18) as well as interceptions (10) and is tied with the Bears for the league lead in turnover differential at +6.

True, New England’s success has come against four teams with a combined record of just 4-11, but the league-leading defense has looked good enough that it doesn’t matter.

There’s little reason to think that will change in the coming weeks as the Patriots have the Redskins, Giants and Jets coming up on their schedule.

Realistically, New England’s defense won’t really be tested until Week 8 when the Browns come to Foxborough and even that is up for debate.

What you can’t argue with, until further notice, is that the Patriots have the best defense in the NFL.

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