From Houston's record-setting offensive showing to Buffalo's huge road upset, here are Arthur Arkush's five takeaways after Week 4's early afternoon slate.
1. Bill O'Brien clearly made the wrong decision to open the season with Tom Savage over Deshaun Watson. Houston scored a franchise-record 57 points in its devastation of the visiting Titans, 57-14, with Watson accounting for five of the scores (four passing, one rushing).
Remember, led by Watson, the Texans scored 33 in Foxboro a week ago and nearly stunned the Patriots with the rookie quarterback amassing 342 total yards and two scores. Tally it up and Watson has 649 yards of offense and six touchdowns vs. three giveaways combined over the past two games.
Suffice to say, the Texans have their quarterback of the present and future. And although O'Brien dragged his feet in the offseason with Watson before giving Savage the quick hook in favor of the rookie, let's credit the head coach for customizing his offense to maximize Watson's success. O'Brien has installed an array of moving pockets and even zone reads that have immensely increased its dynamism with Watson at the controls.
And the 2017 debut of Will Fuller on Sunday made an immediate impact. The 2016 first-round receiver had four catches for 35 yards and two touchdowns, his speed giving a Titans defense already forced to defend sideline to sideline with Watson running boots and rollouts headaches over the top. Fuller drew a huge downfield pass interference penalty on Titans rookie CB Adoree' Jackson, in addition to his scoring contributions.
2. Buffalo would likely require a few breaks to upset the undefeated Falcons on the road, and Sean McDermott's club received two big ones: Atlanta's top two wideouts, Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu, exited early with injuries and the Bills appeared to be the recipients of a blown call by the officials with a Matt Ryan incompletion being ruled as a fumble return for score by rookie CB Tre'Davious White.
The Bills also again overcame some questionable late-game decisions from McDermott, including not reviewing what appeared to be fourth-down drop by Falcons backup wideout Nick Williams on Atlanta's final drive.
The Bills aren't apologizing, though, after going on the road and handing the Falcons loss No. 1, as Buffalo improved to 3-1 and finds itself alone in first place in the AFC East at the one-quarter pole.
Buffalo continues to get immense defensive contributions from its new-look safety corps. If Jordan Poyer was its star in Weeks 1-2, there's little question Sunday belonged to Micah Hyde. The ex-Packers jack-of-all-trades notched two interceptions, including the game-sealer, two passes defensed and a tackle for loss. No pair of NFL safeties are filling up the stat sheet like Buffalo's.
3. The absence of Jones and Sanu certainly loomed large in Atlanta's first defeat. Williams was clearly overmatched late in the game — a Matt Ryan pass off the wideout's fingertips led to Hyde's second pick — and Williams' and Justin Hardy's inability to gain separation on the potential game-winning drive contributed to three incompletions from the Buffalo 14 in the final minute.
Atlanta has a lot of weaponry, but Jones and Sanu are the two jumbo-sized wideouts whom Ryan can lean on in any situation. Diminutive Taylor Gabriel is a gadget specialist, albeit an extremely dangerous one, and Hardy and Austin Hooper just aren't battle-tested enough to be looked to consistently in high-leverage moments.
4. The Lions did it again, winning with defense and a run game, not Matthew Stafford's right arm, to earn a road upset over Minnesota, 14-7. Glover Quin notched the game-sealing forced fumble on Adam Thielen and coordinator Teryl Austin's unit now has 11 takeaways through four games, after totaling 14 all of last season.
Austin and fellow safety Tavon Austin continue to be johnnies-on-the-spot for Detroit, but we must also point out Anthony Zettel, who's this year's version of Kerry Hyder in Detroit. A sixth-round pick a year ago who played sparingly as a rookie, Zettel had two more sacks, four QB hits and a forced fumble Sunday and now has four sacks on the season.
The Lions earned the win, but it felt like cruel irony with Ameer Abdullah suffering a foot injury just six yards shy of becoming the first 100-yard rusher under Jim Caldwell. Abdullah's injury doesn't appear serious, but the franchise's futility streak on the ground continues... technically.
Detroit once again at least had the threat of a run game behind a determined Abdullah, a key development with their perimeter playmakers pretty much shut down by Minnesota and Matthew Stafford running for his life (six sacks for 55 yards) throughout.
Credit Jim Caldwell, whose Lions improved to 3-1 after an unthinkable loss as time expired vs. Atlanta a week ago. That's been Caldwell's calling card — rallying the Lions past adverse moments — and he did it again Sunday.
5. Did we anoint the Titans, even with a healthy Marcus Mariota, too soon? Tennessee was noncompetitive most of the afternoon for Watson's coming out party and, worse, Mariota sat the second half after injuring his hamstring following two rushing touchdowns, from 34 and and two yards out.
Tennessee's pass rush and pass defense were almost nonexistent with rookie CB Adoree' Jackson's continued struggles and LeShaun Sims also having a rough go of it. The Titans looked a step slower than Watson and Fuller and basically failed to show up for a big road division showdown, one week after handling the Seahawks.
Matt Cassel was awful in relief of Mariota, with nearly as many giveaways (three) as completions (four). Depending on the severity of Mariota's injury — and, remember, Mariota hasn't played 16 games in a season yet — would a certain mobile quarterback perhaps pique Tennessee's interest this week?
It goes without saying Colin Kaepernick is closer stylistically to Mariota than Cassel, who also faltered down the stretch following the starter's broken leg last December. If nothing else, expect Mike Mularkey to be asked the question this week as Tennessee gathers more information on Mariota's hamstring injury.