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NFL Week Four Takeaways: Stars, Quarterbacks and Chokers

Weirdest NFL Team?

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You know how NFL coaches and those talking head analysts are always talking about "takeaways?"

Well, there's no law that says us common folks can't have our own "takeaways," so here you go. Week four is over and now that the season is a quarter of the way over, it's time to talk about my takeaways.

Golden Boys

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There are now five unbeaten teams left. What do they have in common?

They all have great quarterbacks, or at least way above average. Further evidence that quarterback is still the most important position in the NFL.

Weirdest NFL Team: Ravens

Was it just last year the Ravens won the Super Bowl? Remember how a lot of people counted them out against the 49ers in that game? Remember how they beat the 49ers in that game?

Remember how quarterback Joe Flacco - you know, the guy who just three five interceptions this past Sunday - signed a $120 million contract after that Super Bowl?

Well, the Ravens were counted out before the 2013 season started because the team was gutted in the offseason through retirement, free agency and trades. This time, it looks like they may really be down for the count.

The Ravens got creamed by the Broncos in the opener, barely beat Cleveland and then ran roughshod over the Texans, a team many people thought capable of going deep in the playoffs and maybe to the Super Bowl.

Then, the Ravens lose to the Bills, a very mediocre team at best.

What is up with these guys?

Fancy Schmancy Doesn't Always Win Games

The 49ers, on the other hand, had the kind of new-age, high falutin' offense everybody wanted, led by tattooed, new age quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

And they started the season gangbusters before inexplicably falling on hard times, beating the Packers in their opener, before losing to the Seahawks and Colts. Their offense was seen heading south, presumably to Mexico.

They have solved the problem temporarily by reverting to the simple basics and simply handing the ball to Frank Gore and letting him run with it toward the other guy's goal line.

That's how they beat the Rams 35-11 Thursday night. After being treated like a red-headed stepchild, Gore got 20 carries and ran for 123 yards and a touchdown against the Rams.

Defense, However, Almost Always Wins Games

They're panicking in D.C. and not just because of the idiot politicians. Washington started out 0-3 and Redskins fans everywhere have been holding their breath, waiting for Robert Griffin III to get back to last year's form.

The defending division champs finally won their first game of the season Sunday. Griffin had a good game, but it was the heretofore missing defense that put the 'Skins in the win column over Oakland, collecting seven sacks against Raiders quarterback Matt Flynn.

Offseason Stars in Suits and Ties

The Lions and the Chiefs have been the big surprises of the year. Their dramatic turnarounds probably shouldn't be a surprise, though, because the NFL is set up for losers to become winners at the speed of light, and vice versa.

Even so, the front offices for these two teams called some particularly smart audibles this past offseason that has their teams in the thick of it.

Still, the Lions tied for the lead in the NFC North with Chicago, who they just beat Sunday 40-32? These two teams were in the division cellar last year, now they are lording it over the Packers and Vikings. Detroit has almost matched its win total for all of last year.

Everybody points to signing Reggie Bush away from Miami as making a huge difference with the offense, and that's very accurate, but don't forget what newcomer safety Glover Quin is doing for the defense.

The Chiefs were horrific last year with only two wins. So they went out and got head coach Andy Reid from Philadelphia and quarterback Alex Smith, who lost his starting job in San Francisco. Smith threw three TD passes Sunday and the Chiefs are one of the NFL's undefeated. They also made some savvy additions off the waiver wire.

Chokers!

There is often a thin line separating the league's best teams, and in these two cases it has to do with the worst thing you can do in sports: choke.

Atlanta is dripping with talent, and quarterback Matt Ryan can rack up stats like nobody's business. But, when it's crunch time against good teams, he always seems to come up just a little short.

Ryan was 34 of 53 for 421 yards against the unbeaten Patriots Sunday, but threw a fourth-down incompletion on the Patriots 10-yard-line with 36 seconds left.

Houston has a reputation for manhandling lesser teams. This past weekend, quarterback Matt Schaub was 31 of 49 for 355 yards and two touchdowns, but his pick six - an interception returned for a touchdown - late in the fourth quarter allowed Seattle to tie the game and eventually win in overtime, 23-20.

Schaub holds virtually every passing record in the Texans' record book, so why were some Texan fans burning his jersey? Hard to blame them: Schaub has thrown pick-sixes three straight games. He's an anti-playmaker.

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