Hope thrives in the NFL.

Just ask any of the teams that have erased leads of at least 16 points and won a game in 2020: the DALLAS COWBOYSTAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS, WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM or the CHICAGO BEARS, who’ve actually done it twice. This year is the first in which at least one team has overcome a deficit of 16-or-more points and won in each of the first four weeks of the season in NFL history.

And while comebacks in games are frequent of late, comebacks in seasons the year after missing the playoffs are common as well.

Six teams that missed the 2019 playoffs have started this season with three wins: the CHICAGO BEARS (3-1), CLEVELAND BROWNS (3-1), INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (3-1), LOS ANGELES RAMS (3-1), PITTSBURGH STEELERS (3-0) and TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (3-1). Since 1990, at least four teams each season have qualified for the playoffs after missing the postseason the year before.

The Week 5 schedule highlights two games involving those clubs. The Buccaneers travel to Chicago for a Thursday Night Football matchup (8:20 PM ET, FOX/NFLN/Amazon) while the Colts head to Cleveland on Sunday to meet the Browns (4:25 PM ET, CBS). Cleveland and wide receiver ODELL BECKHAM JR., who recorded 154 scrimmage yards (81 receiving, 73 rushing) and three touchdowns (two receiving, one rushing) in the Browns’ 49-38 win in Week 4, have the AFC’s top scoring offense (31.0 points per game) and lead the NFL in both takeaways (10) and turnover margin (plus six). The Colts, meanwhile, have the NFL’s top-ranked scoring defense (14.0 points allowed per game).

Only five rookie head coaches since 2009 have guided their teams to a season-opening record of 4-1 or better. Browns head coach KEVIN STEFANSKI can join that group with a win this week.

The last five rookie head coaches to open their careers 4-1 or better:

COACH TEAM YEAR RECORD
*Matt LaFleur Green Bay 2019 13-3
Dan Quinn Atlanta 2015 8-8
*Jim Harbaugh San Francisco 2011 13-3
+Jim Caldwell Indianapolis 2009 14-2
Josh McDaniels Denver 2009 8-8

+Won division and advanced to Super Bowl; *Won division and advanced to conference championship

The GREEN BAY PACKERS (4-0), who already this year had opened 3-0 in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1965-66, are off to their best start in five years. Head coach MATT LAFLEUR has started his career 17-3 (.850), tied for the second-most wins in NFL annals over a coach’s first 20 regular-season games.

The head coaches with the most wins over their first 20 regular-season games in NFL history:

COACH TEAM YEARS WINS
George Seifert San Francisco 49ers 1989-90 18
Matt LaFleur Green Bay Packers 2019-20 17
Paul BrownHOF Cleveland Browns 1950-51 17
Dick Rauch Pottsville Maroons 1925-26 17
Guy ChamberlinHOF Canton Bulldogs 1922-23 17

The Packers and Browns, who with a win over the Colts would have their best season-opening stretch since beginning the 1994 season 6-1, are two of several clubs off to notable starts in 2020.

  • The KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (4-0) are the first team in NFL history to start 4-0 in four consecutive seasons (2017-20).
  • The SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (4-0) have been 4-0 only twice in franchise history, this year and their Super Bowl XLVIII championship season of 2013. The Seahawks can improve to 5-0 for the first time ever when they host Minnesota on Sunday Night Football (8:20 PM ET, NBC).
  • The BUFFALO BILLS (4-0) with a win against Tennessee at Nissan Stadium Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS), can mark their best start in 29 years, since opening the 1991 season 5-0 en route to a Super Bowl XXVI appearance.
  • The PITTSBURGH STEELERS (3-0), who host Philadelphia on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX), have an opportunity for just their third 4-0 start in franchise history, and first since 1979, when they won Super Bowl XIV.

The 10 teams this month bidding for their best starts in at least five years:

TEAM RECORD BIDS FOR BEST START SINCE…
Baltimore 3-1 Team opened 4-1 in 2012
Buffalo 4-0 Team opened 5-0 in 1991 (also 5-0 in 1980; best franchise start was 9-0 in 1964)
Chicago 3-1 Team opened 4-1 in 2012 (Bears won 7 of first 8 that year)
Cleveland 3-1 Team opened 4-1 in 1994 (Browns won 6 of first 7 that year)
Green Bay 4-0 Team opened 6-0 in 2015 (team has bye in Week 5)
Indianapolis 3-1 Team opened 4-1 in 2013
Pittsburgh 3-0 Team opened 4-0 in 1979 (also 4-0 in 1973; best franchise start was 7-0 in 1978)
Seattle 4-0 (franchise has never been 5-0; team has opened 4-0 twice, 2013 and 2020)
Tampa Bay 3-1 Team opened 4-1 in 2005
Tennessee 3-0 Team opened 4-0 in 2008 (franchise has opened 4-0 once, in 2008, and never been 5-0)

BILLS, TITANS RENEW MUSIC CITY RIVALRY: The TENNESSEE TITANS (3-0) host the BUFFALO BILLS (4-0) on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS) in an AFC battle of first-place teams. The Titans, who are 10-3 over their last 13 games including postseason, have a plus-five turnover ratio, tied for second in the NFL. Titans running back DERRICK HENRY enters the week ranked fourth in the NFL with 319 rushing yards. Buffalo quarterback JOSH ALLEN ranks second in the NFL in passing yards (1,326) and third in passer rating (122.7) and touchdown passes (12). The Titans also are in a 34-day stretch between road games.

BREES MEETS FORMER CLUB: The NEW ORLEANS SAINTS and LOS ANGELES CHARGERS, who square off at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Monday Night Football (8:15 PM ET, ESPN), have a unique history. Saints quarterback DREW BREES, who currently holds the league’s all-time marks in passing yards (78,422) and touchdown passes (555), started his career with the Chargers.

  • In five years with the Chargers (2001-05), Brees threw for 12,348 yards and 80 touchdowns.
  • On Monday Night Football, Brees ranks third all-time in both career passing yards (7,868) and passing touchdowns (57). Pro Football Hall of Famers DAN MARINO (9,654 passing yards, 74 touchdowns) and BRETT FAVRE (9,068 passing yards, 69 touchdowns) rank first and second, respectively, in both categories
  • The 32nd-overall selection in the 2001 NFL Draft, Brees was actually a second-round choice one year before the expansion Houston Texans first took the field as the league’s 32nd franchise.
  • The first player the Chargers selected that day, RB LADAINIAN TOMLINSON, is already in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Tomlinson so far is one of two Hall of Famers from that 2001 draft, in addition to STEVE HUTCHINSON, selected by the Seahawks at No. 17 overall.
  • Former Chargers general manager JOHN BUTLER that year acquired the selections used to draft Tomlinson and Brees by trading away the No. 1 overall choice to Atlanta. The Falcons then drafted MICHAEL VICK.

PENNSYLVANIA PROMINENCE: The PHILADELPHIA EAGLES cross the state to meet the PITTSBURGH STEELERS on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX) in a battle of the top pass-rushing defenses so far in 2020. Philadelphia leads the NFL with 17 sacks while the Steelers rank second with 15. ​

It’s the 79th installment in a venerable series between franchises that once merged to form one team. In 1943, with the nation in the middle of World War II and many players and coaches serving their country, the “Steagles” went 5-4-1 in the NFL’s Eastern Division.

  • The Pro Football Hall of Fame has 36 enshrined individuals who are Pennsylvania natives. Additionally, 35 Pro Football Hall of Famers attended high school in the state, including quarterbacks GEORGE BLANDAJIM KELLYDAN MARINOJOE MONTANAJOE NAMATH and JOHNNY UNITAS.
  • This season, Kickoff Weekend rosters included 60 players that graduated from Pennsylvania high schools, including running backs from both teams in Sunday’s game, Pittsburgh’s JAMES CONNER and Philadelphia’s MILES SANDERS.

QUARTERBACK COMPARISON: Two of those Pennsylvania quarterbacks, Pro Football Hall of Famers DAN MARINO and JOE MONTANA, once met as young stars in Super Bowl XIX, when the 49ers defeated the Dolphins, 38-16. Miami and San Francisco meet again Sunday at Levi’s Stadium (4:05 PM ET, FOX). And as they were when Marino and Montana were dominating the NFL, young quarterbacks across the league have been outstanding in 2020.​

  • This season, of the 13 quarterbacks with a passer rating of 100 or better, six are 25 years old or younger: the Bills’ JOSH ALLEN, the Rams’ JARED GOFF, the Chargers’ JUSTIN HERBERT, the Ravens’ LAMAR JACKSON, the Chiefs’ PATRICK MAHOMES and the Jaguars’ GARDNER MINSHEW.
  • Through four weeks, quarterbacks age 25 or younger have a combined 56 starts. And in those 56 starts, those young quarterbacks have won 24 times.
  • Cincinnati rookie quarterback JOE BURROW passed for 300 yards with one touchdown and one interception for a 92.4 rating in the Bengals’ 33-25 win over Jacksonville in Week 4, his first career victory. Burrow, who passed for 316 yards in Week 2 and 312 yards in Week 3, is the first rookie quarterback to pass for at least 300 yards in three consecutive games in NFL history.
  • Los Angeles Chargers rookie quarterback JUSTIN HERBERT passed for 290 yards with three touchdowns and one interception for a 137.9 rating in Week 4 against Tampa Bay. Herbert, who threw touchdown passes of 72 and 53 yards, is the first rookie quarterback with two touchdown passes of at least 50 yards since DESHAUN WATSON (Week 8, 2017). Herbert has 931 passing yards this season, the second-most passing yards by a rookie quarterback in his first three career starts in NFL history. Only CAM NEWTON (1,012 in 2011) had more.

DEFENSES ON THE DEFENSIVE: NFL teams have combined to score 371 total touchdowns, 359 offensive touchdowns (passing and rushing combined) and 3,233 total points, all the most in NFL history through Week 4.

Despite those figures, five teams – the INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (14.0), KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (17.5), SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (17.8), BALTIMORE RAVENS (18.3) and PITTSBURGH STEELERS (19.3) – remarkably are holding opponents under 20 points per game.

  • There has been an average of 51.3 points per game scored (both teams combined), the highest total through Week 4 since 1970.
MOST TOUCHDOWNS IN FIRST

FOUR WEEKS, NFL HISTORY

  MOST OFFENSIVE TOUCHDOWNS IN FIRST

FOUR WEEKS, NFL HISTORY

SEASON TOUCHDOWNS   SEASON OFFENSIVE TDs
2020 371   2020 359
2018 344   2018 325
2015 332   2019 304
2012 327   2015 301
2019/2013 324   2016 298

MOST TOTAL POINTS IN FIRST

FOUR WEEKS, NFL HISTORY

  MOST POINTS SCORED PER GAME (BOTH TEAMS)

 IN FIRST FOUR WEEKS, SINCE 1970

SEASON TOTAL POINTS   SEASON POINTS PER GAME
2020 3,233   2020 51.3
2018 3,030   2018 48.1
2012 2,986   2012 47.4
2011 2,916   2015 46.3
2015 2,914   2014 46.2
  • GREEN BAY (152 points) leads the NFL in total points scored through the first four weeks, followed by SEATTLE (142), DALLAS (126), CLEVELAND (124), BUFFALO (123) and NEW ORLEANS (123).
  • Through the first four weeks, eight teams are averaging at least 30 points per game, the most teams in a single season through Week 4.
THE TEAMS AVERAGING 30+ POINTS PER GAME IN 2020    SEASONS WITH THE MOST TEAMS AVERAGING 30+ POINTS THROUGH WEEK 4, NFL HISTORY
TEAMS POINTS PER GAME   SEASON TEAMS
Green Bay 38.0   2020 8
Seattle 35.5   2002 6
Dallas 31.5   1968 6
Cleveland 31.0   Many tied 5
Buffalo 30.8      
New Orleans 30.8      
Baltimore 30.5      
Tampa Bay 30.0      

WEEK 5 NFL SCHEDULE

THURSDAY, SUNDAY & MONDAY, OCTOBER 8, 11-12

(All times Eastern)

Thursday, October 8 Sunday, October 11 (cont.)
Tampa Bay at Chicago, 8:20 PM (FOX/NFLN/Amazon) Los Angeles Rams at Washington, 1:00 PM (FOX)
  Miami at San Francisco, 4:05 PM (FOX)
Sunday, October 11 Indianapolis at Cleveland, 4:25 PM (CBS)
Carolina at Atlanta, 1:00 PM (FOX) New York Giants at Dallas, 4:25 PM (CBS)
Cincinnati at Baltimore, 1:00 PM (CBS) Denver at New England, 4:25 PM (CBS)
Jacksonville at Houston, 1:00 PM (CBS) Minnesota at Seattle, 8:20 PM (NBC)
Las Vegas at Kansas City, 1:00 PM (CBS)  
Arizona at New York Jets, 1:00 PM (FOX) Monday, October 12
Philadelphia at Pittsburgh, 1:00 PM (FOX) Los Angeles Chargers at New Orleans, 8:15 PM (ESPN)
Buffalo at Tennessee, 1:00 PM (CBS)