NFL Week 4 Review and Week 5 preview
And then There were Five
Denver, Kansas City, New England, New Orleans and Seattle are the only remaining undefeated teams at the end of the first quarter of the NFL season. Both Chicago and Miami dropped from the ranks of the unbeaten in Week 4 with turnover-laden games to Detroit and New Orleans. Minnesota and Washington both got their first wins of the season, albeit against hobbled opponents. The Vikings only had to travel 4000 miles as the home team to do it.
The Glut in the Middle of the NFL
Ten teams in the NFL enter Week 5 with even 2-2 records. The teams run the gamut from the upstart Browns, 2-0 since they traded their season away to Indianapolis (or so all of us pundits believed), to a Houston Texans team already on a downswing, coughing up a 20-3 lead on Seattle to lose in overtime. The AFC North has a three way tie for first among the .500 Bengals, Browns and Ravens, and Dallas even has a 1 game lead with their 2-2 record. In the AFC East and West, 2-2 seems miles behind the division leader New England, Denver and Kansas City’s unblemished records. Houston is one game back in a mostly competitive AFC South (Jacksonville notwithstanding).
The NFC North has an early race between the Bears and Lions, while last year’s NFL playoff participants Green Bay and Minnesota sit with one win a piece. New Orleans and Seattle have strong early leads in their divisions, with early victories over their primary rivals (Atlanta and San Francisco) already in hand. The NFC East has the kitchen sink of offenses, the Blur, read-option and the Eli Manning Huck and Chuck show, but Philly, Washington and the Giants have two total wins among them, mostly because of the horrific defenses they are fielding. The Cowboys are up and down, but are able to play enough defense to possibly run away with the division.
Bookend Games in the Week 5 Schedule
This week’s Thursday night game is intriguing. The Bills and Browns were both expected to be doormats this season but have surprised most with 2-2 records through the first four games. Buffalo’s EJ Manuel looks more and more in control as the Bills’ rookie signal caller while the Cleveland defense has been underrated for a while, and is now winning games for them. The emergence of former New England Patriots backup and Cleveland native Brian Hoyer has been a revelation for this squad. Expect Cleveland to disguise their coverages and force Manuel into a couple mistakes which will turn the game.
At the other end of Week 5 in the NFL is a matchup of teams who are revising their season projections down. The New York Jets, perennial Super Bowl contenders in the eyes of head coach Rex Ryan, travel to Atlanta to try and become the third straight AFC East team to take down the Falcons. Atlanta came within a few completions of defeating Miami and New England in weeks 3 and 4, but Matt Ryan couldn’t come through for them. Both of those teams are demonstrably better than the Jets, who have eked out wins over Tampa Bay and Buffalo. New York’s strength in defending the run will be of little use if the Falcons throw the ball 50+ times again, and their cornerbacks aren’t quick enough to defend Julio Jones and keep him from catching passes all over the field.
As for the rest of the NFL, here are my Week 5 picks:
Buf @ Cle - The Dawg Pound will be loud and raucous as the Browns try to get over .500 for the first time since Week 3 of the 2011 season Buf 16 Cle 23
NO @ Chi – This one could come down to the quarterbacks. Who will make fewer mistakes, Drew Brees or Jay Cutler? NO 31 Chi 26
NE @ Cin - The Bengals don’t have time to lick their wounds after their loss to Cleveland. Can Cincinnati get a running game going with New England down Vince Wilfork? NE 34 Cin 23
Det @ GB - Can the Lions go into Lambeau and win where they haven’t in so long? If they can they’ll have a 3-0 division record and be well positioned for a playoff run this season. Det 27 GB 35
KC @ Ten - This will be the Chiefs first real defensive test, though the Titans will be without Jake Locker. Alex Smith looks to continue his turnover-free season and help his team keep pace with the Broncos. KC 19 Ten 10
Sea @ Ind – Marshawn Lynch could have a field day against the Indy run D. Andrew Luck will have to work some magic to outscore what his defense allows. Sea 32 Ind 27
Jac @ StL – This is just the game Sam Bradford needs to regain his confidence. Jacksonville continues to trade players away and look to next year. Jac 13 StL 28
Bal @ Mia – Both teams are coming off bad losses, which one can bounce back in an important AFC clash. Bal 20 Mia 27
Phi @ NYG - Not quite the battle we expected before the season began. Expect a fast, loose game with almost no defense. Phi 41 NYG 38
Car @ Ari – Carolina needs to carry the momentum from their shutout of the Giants across the bye week to get back into the NFC South race. Carson Palmer was apparently not the answer in Arizona. Car 23 Ari 14
Den @ Dal - Another week, same question. Can the Dallas D hold Peyton under 40 points and 4 TD passes? Den 37 Dal 23
Hou @ SF - Colin Kaepernick is starting to regain his form, and Frank Gore has come on to help carry the 49ers. The Texans defense needs to tighten up and learn to close out games. Hou 20 SF 31
SD @ Oak – Philip Rivers is riding high after the Chargers win over Dallas. The offense needs to keep focused against the division rival Raiders. SD 27 Oak 16
NYJ @ Atl - Atlanta will come out Monday and prove they aren’t worse than the whole AFC East. NYJ 13 Atl 27
Byes: Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Washington
Last Week 11-4
Season Record 20-11
Check back on Friday for my New England @ Cincinnati preview, tickets available here, and weekly on Wednesdays for the prior week’s review and next week’s picks
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