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Khalil Mack vs. the Bucs Is the Best Game of the Week

Also in the Week 4 Watchability Rankings: the Patriots are falling and the Browns might finally be worth your time

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

There are very few NFL players who can change the complexion of a game by themselves. Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady are the obvious first names that come to mind—quarterbacks who can win on one leg or overcome the longest of odds, respectively. There are a handful of non-quarterbacks who can warp games too: Julio Jones can explode for a 200-yard game at any time, Alvin Kamara can score from anywhere on the field, and Rob Gronkowski can be covered by only three defenders. The few players we have who can exert this kind of influence generally play offense, but if any defensive player deserves this same recognition, it’s Khalil Mack.

There is no overstating the impact that Mack’s trade from Oakland to Chicago has had on both teams this season. Mack has been a wrecking ball in Chicago, posting four sacks, 11 tackles, three forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, a touchdown, and an interception through just three games. Through three weeks of the NFL season, Chicago is first in defensive DVOA, while Oakland is second-to-last. The Raiders are also last in Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack rate, while the Bears are first. Chicago has notched a total of 14 sacks this year, tops in the league, and they’ve done so despite blitzing at the lowest rate in football:

That’s the power of Mack: He creates a pass rush seemingly by himself, allowing Chicago to keep more players in the secondary without sacrificing the defense’s ability to pressure the quarterback. It’s pretty easy to see how this works; Mack swallows quarterbacks whole even when he’s double-teamed:

Mack can be seemingly everywhere at once. Watch him shove running back Chase Edmonds aside on this play, then change directions and force a fumble:

The Bears now have the most exciting defense in football, an assertion that is backed up by our watchability rankings (more on those in a minute). The Chicago defense has helped the whole team creep up that leaderboard not just by ranking first in sacks, but by being tied for second in the league in takeaways, with eight on the season. They’ll be even more compelling this week when they take on the Buccaneers, owners of one of the most exciting offenses in the league.

Tampa Bay has the most explosive offense outside of Kansas City. No one could have seen the Bucs’ incredible rise coming, but we should have been more clued in to at least some of their offensive prowess. The team came into the season with some of the top pass-catching talent in football in Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Chris Godwin, and O.J. Howard. Pairing that corps with über-aggressive play-caller Todd Monken has produced a unit that through Week 3 ranks second in big plays (receptions or rushes of more than 20 yards), second in touchdowns, and is tied for third in fewest punts.

What Ryan Fitzpatrick is doing in this system right now is mind-boggling. He lead the league in yards (410 per game) through Week 3, he’s thrown for 11 touchdowns, and has put up a 124.8 passer rating. But even those numbers undersell him—he’s the only QB in NFL history to throw for 400 yards in three consecutive games.

We’ve seen Fitzmagic before—remember when he led the Jets to 10-6?—and we’ve seen it turn to Fitztragic. And when the Bucs faltered early against the Steelers on Monday night, falling into a 23-7 hole after three straight drives in the second quarter ended in interceptions, it looked like the magic was running out. But Fitz came alive again, ultimately finishing with 411 yards and three touchdowns:

Tampa Bay ultimately lost that game 30-27, largely due to those early picks, which underscores the problem with the Bucs’ aggressive approach: The team turns the ball over too damn much. The Bucs are tied for fifth in the league in turnovers with six so far. Turnovers could ultimately doom Fitzmagic, but Tampa Bay’s recklessly-aggressive offense could make the team’s matchup with the Bears all the more interesting. Chicago creates takeaways more than nearly any other team in the league. Pair that with the Bucs’ tendency to give the ball away, and you have an environment ripe for explosive plays. Put simply, when the Bucs offense and Bears defense meet, something interesting will happen. Watching Mack try to stifle Tampa Bay won’t just be interesting—it’ll be fun as hell.


With that, here are this week’s watchability rankings. The scores are weighted so that 2017’s numbers count for 40 percent of the overall total, while this season’s numbers count for 60 percent. We’re starting to see some real upward movement from teams like the Bucs as they maintain their offensive prowess week after week.

NFL Watchability Rankings, Week 4

Rank Team TDs Score Big Plays Score Punts Score TOs Score Sacks Score Takeaways Score 2017 Total 2018 Total TOTAL SCORE
Rank Team TDs Score Big Plays Score Punts Score TOs Score Sacks Score Takeaways Score 2017 Total 2018 Total TOTAL SCORE
1 Los Angeles Rams 1.30 1.25 2.56 0.84 -1.53 0.72 5.49 5.14 5.28
2 Kansas City Chiefs 2.62 1.25 1.43 2.06 -0.67 -1.05 3.56 5.63 4.80
3 Los Angeles Chargers 0.65 1.92 0.87 0.23 -0.24 -0.17 4.08 3.25 3.58
4 New Orleans Saints 1.30 0.80 0.87 0.23 -0.67 -1.50 6.80 1.03 3.34
5 Pittsburgh Steelers 1.30 0.80 -0.83 -1.60 1.48 0.72 3.98 1.87 2.72
6 Carolina Panthers 0.32 -0.32 0.02 1.45 0.19 0.72 1.33 2.37 1.95
7 Baltimore Ravens 1.30 0.57 0.30 0.23 0.62 -0.61 0.97 2.42 1.84
8 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1.63 1.70 1.15 -0.99 -0.24 0.28 -2.12 3.52 1.27
9 Detroit Lions -0.34 0.13 1.15 -1.60 1.05 -0.61 3.23 -0.23 1.16
10 Atlanta Falcons 0.65 0.57 -0.55 1.45 -1.10 -0.61 1.58 0.41 0.88
11 San Francisco 49ers -0.34 0.80 0.30 0.23 -0.24 -1.05 2.54 -0.31 0.83
12 Minnesota Vikings -0.01 -0.55 -0.55 -0.38 1.05 -0.17 1.89 -0.60 0.39
13 Chicago Bears -0.67 -1.44 0.58 -0.38 2.77 1.61 -3.16 2.46 0.21
14 Green Bay Packers -0.34 -0.77 0.02 0.84 -0.67 -0.61 2.73 -1.54 0.17
15 Philadelphia Eagles -0.34 -1.00 0.02 -0.99 0.19 -0.61 4.37 -2.73 0.11
16 Washington Redskins -0.34 -0.10 0.02 0.84 -0.24 0.28 -0.45 0.45 0.09
17 Jacksonville Jaguars -0.67 -0.55 -0.55 0.23 -0.24 -0.61 3.55 -2.39 -0.01
18 Seattle Seahawks -0.01 -0.55 -1.96 -0.38 0.19 1.61 1.52 -1.10 -0.05
19 New England Patriots -0.67 -1.22 -0.27 -0.38 -1.53 0.28 5.05 -3.79 -0.25
20 Cincinnati Bengals 0.98 1.25 0.87 -0.99 -0.24 0.28 -4.41 2.13 -0.48
21 Houston Texans -0.67 0.80 0.30 -0.38 -0.24 -0.61 -0.80 -0.80 -0.80
22 Cleveland Browns -0.34 0.13 -2.53 1.45 0.62 2.94 -7.09 2.26 -1.48
23 Miami Dolphins 0.65 -0.10 -0.55 0.23 -0.67 1.61 -5.67 1.17 -1.57
24 Dallas Cowboys -1.32 -1.44 -0.27 0.23 1.48 -1.05 -0.37 -2.38 -1.58
25 Indianapolis Colts -0.67 -1.22 0.58 0.23 1.05 0.28 -4.63 0.25 -1.70
26 Denver Broncos -0.34 1.25 -0.83 -0.38 0.62 -0.61 -4.18 -0.29 -1.85
27 Tennessee Titans -1.32 -1.67 -0.27 0.84 0.19 -0.17 -1.33 -2.40 -1.97
28 New York Jets 0.32 0.13 -0.27 -2.21 0.19 1.16 -4.18 -0.68 -2.08
29 Buffalo Bills -1.00 -0.77 -1.40 0.23 0.19 -0.17 -1.35 -2.91 -2.29
30 Oakland Raiders -1.00 0.13 0.87 -0.38 -1.96 -1.50 -3.37 -3.84 -3.65
31 Arizona Cardinals -1.65 -1.22 -0.83 -1.60 0.19 -0.17 -2.96 -5.28 -4.35
32 New York Giants -1.00 -0.55 -0.27 0.84 -1.53 -0.61 -6.59 -3.11 -4.50

Man, check out the Patriots, who have fallen all the way to 19th. No one is hitting the panic button on the team just yet, but New England has been a mess through three weeks. The Pats are below average in touchdowns, big plays, punts, turnovers, and sacks. They may still have Tom Brady, but his offense has been tough to watch—anyone who tuned in for last week’s game against the Lions would have to agree.

Meanwhile, keep an eye on the Browns. They’re still 22nd, but that’s in large part due to their 2017 score. This year, Cleveland’s defense is awesome, and Baker Mayfield could make its offense truly compelling. It may not be long before we’re tuning in every week to watch the Browns.

Here are your game scores for this week:

NFL Watchability Game Scores, Week 4

Rank Away Team Score Home Team Score Day Time (ET) Home Line Game Score
Rank Away Team Score Home Team Score Day Time (ET) Home Line Game Score
1 Baltimore Ravens 1.84 Pittsburgh Steelers 2.72 Sun 8:20 PM -3 5.76
2 Minnesota Vikings 0.39 Los Angeles Rams 5.28 Thu 8:20 PM -7 4.34
3 Kansas City Chiefs 4.8 Denver Broncos -1.85 Mon 8:15 PM 4.5 3.21
4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1.27 Chicago Bears 0.21 Sun 1:00 PM -3 2.69
5 San Francisco 49ers 0.83 Los Angeles Chargers 3.58 Sun 4:25 PM -10.5 0.87
6 Detroit Lions 1.16 Dallas Cowboys -1.58 Sun 1:00 PM -3 0.79
7 Cincinnati Bengals -0.48 Atlanta Falcons 0.88 Sun 1:00 PM -5 0.33
8 New Orleans Saints 3.34 New York Giants -4.5 Sun 4:25 PM -3.5 -0.28
9 Houston Texans -0.8 Indianapolis Colts -1.7 Sun 1:00 PM -1.5 -0.35
10 Philadelphia Eagles 0.11 Tennessee Titans -1.97 Sun 1:00 PM 3.5 -0.97
11 Miami Dolphins -1.57 New England Patriots -0.25 Sun 1:00 PM -7 -3.15
12 Seattle Seahawks -0.05 Arizona Cardinals -4.35 Sun 4:05 PM 3 -3.2
13 New York Jets -2.08 Jacksonville Jaguars -0.01 Sun 1:00 PM -7.5 -3.74
14 Cleveland Browns -1.48 Oakland Raiders -3.65 Sun 4:05 PM -3 -3.92
15 Buffalo Bills -2.29 Green Bay Packers 0.17 Sun 1:00 PM -10 -5.35

This may be the best week all year for prime-time matchups. The top three most watchable games of the week are on national television, meaning if you do something other than watch football during the daytime on Sunday, you’ll still be able to catch some great football.