NFL: Week 5 Thoughts

5 down. 12 to go.  And we still have 3 win-less teams, as well as 3 undefeated squads.

Washington, Pittsburgh, Minnesota and Tampa Bay were all on their bye weeks.

I’m deviating from breaking this down by record.  Now that we’ve come to week 5, division races are starting to take shape.  So let’s take a look around the league that way.

NFC EAST (The Under .500 Club)

  • Cowboys: Tony Romo had the best game of his career, becoming the 1st Dallas QB to throw for over 500 yards. But a late second interception led to a Broncos game-winning field-goal and a loss. But don’t focus on another Romo turnover.  When you put up 48 points, you should win.  The defense just couldn’t stop Peyton Manning.  To be fair no one has yet this year.  (2-3)
  • Eagles:  Michael Vick went down with a hamstring injury in the 1st half, but Nick Foles didn’t miss a beat. Kicker Alex Henery shook off a shaky start to his season by completing all 5 of his field-goal attempts. (2-3)
  • Redskins: Bye week. (1-3)
  • Giants: The good news? The offense looked a little better.  The bad news?  They didn’t look good enough, with 4 more turnovers, 3 of which came courtesy of Eli Manning in the 4th quarter.  The run-game remained anemic, and the defense generated absolutely no pass-rush once again. Changes need to come, and quick. (0-5)

NFC NORTH (Too Close to Call)

  • Lions: After a big win over Chicago last week, the offense sputtered without Calvin Johnson in the lineup against Green Bay. The running back tandem of Reggie Bush and Joique Bell couldn’t help Matt Stafford and the pass game either.  (3-2)
  • Bears: It wasn’t a horrible performance by the defense a week after allowing 40 to Detroit.  But they couldn’t get much going on offense.  Aside from a huge day from wide-receiver Alshon Jeffery, who caught 10 balls for 218 yards and a touchdown, Chicago couldn’t do capitalize.  Jay Cutler’s two fumbles, 1 which was lost didn’t help.  (3-2)
  • Packers: It wasn’t the prettiest game, but a win’s a win. Most of the offense came from the leg of Mason Crosby, who kicked 5 field goals.  Aaron Rodgers did connect on a long TD pass to James Jones to pull away in the 3rd quarter. (2-2)
  • Vikings: Coming off their bye week, they’ll have a new QB on the roster after signing Josh Freeman, who was released last week by the Bucs.  (1-3)

NFC SOUTH (The Saints Are Running Away) 

  • Saints: After starting last year 0-4, the turnaround in New Orleans has been a big one.  One of the final 3 unbeatens, Drew Brees is having a great start to his year, as is the defense.  Jimmy Graham tied an NFL record held by Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez with his 4th straight 100-yard game as a tight-end. Graham accomplished this feat back in 2011 as well. (5-0)
  • Carolina: Cam Newton had a very bad day Sunday against the Cardinals.  The mobile QB did manage to throw for over 300 yards, but was also picked off 3 times, took a safety and was sacked 7 times.  The defense had an okay day, but that many turnovers is hard to overcome. (1-3)
  • Atlanta: They came from 13 down to take a 1-point lead with less than 2 to play.  Really they should’ve been up 4, but somehow instead of kicking a field goal to end the 1st half to get within 7, the Falcons instead chose to go for it on 4th and goal and were stuffed. For the first time in his career, Matt Ryan loses back to back games at home, and are now essentially 5 games out of 1st. (1-4)
  • Tampa Bay: Bye Week. (0-4)

NFC WEST (The Most Improved Division?)

  • Seahawks: They suffered their first loss of the season, a shootout loss with the comeback kids, the Colts.  Going back even further, it was their first regular season loss since November 25th of last season.  Russell Wilson had 300+ total yards in the loss, including 102 yards rushing. (4-1)
  • 49ers: Another easy win for San Fran, this time coming against a Houston team that is struggling big time.  Tramaine Brock’s pick six of Matt Schaub on the first pass of the game was all the niners needed in the 34-3 win on Sunday Night football. (3-2)
  • Cardinals: Their defense was the real star against Carolina, picking up 7 sacks, a safety and three interceptions.  Carson Palmer’s day was nothing to write home about, neither was the run game, but they did enough to win thanks to short field position.  (3-2)
  • Rams: A good game on all ends versus the now 0-5 Jaguars. Sam Bradford threw for 3 touchdowns, including 2 to Austin Pettis. The run game was pretty good as well.  Big plays were the name of the game, including Matt Giordano’s 82 yard interception return for a touchdown. (2-3)

AFC EAST (You Can’t Just Hand New England the Division Anymore)

  • Patriots: They still lead the division, but they picked up their 1st loss of the year thanks to a shutdown Bengals defense.  It was a low scoring game, something we’re not seeing from New England.  And that’s because  Tom Brady did something he hadn’t done in 52 games, he didn’t throw a touchdown.  (4-1)
  • Dolphins: A 13-6 halftime lead wasn’t enough to save Miami from their second loss of the year.  In a game of field-goals, Caleb Sturgis missed from 57-yards to tie the score with 33 seconds to go.  The run game was non-existent, with starter Lamar Miller picking up just 15 yards on the ground. (3-2)
  • Jets: Geno Smith continues to show growth in his rookie season, leading his team on a game winning drive with under 2 minutes to play. The defense was lock down in the 1st half, but showed some holes in the redzone late.  But it’s a big road win none-the-less. (3-2)
  • Bills: Not only did they lose their game with Cleveland, they lost starting QB EJ Manuel.  On a scramble in the 1st half, Manuel took a hit to the knee, and suffered an LCL sprain, which could sideline him for up 6 weeks.  Fellow rookie QB Jeff Tuel came in for Manuel, but didn’t look very good.  The run game was on point, but it wasn’t enough on the road. (2-3)

AFC NORTH (Where Almost Everyone is 3-2)

  • Ravens: Justin Tucker had himself a day, going 4-4 on his field-goal attempts, including the game winner with 1:42 to go. Joe Flacco wasn’t a whole lot better than his 5-interception performance last week, but Ray Rice finally showed up on the ground, running in for 2 touchdowns.  (3-2) 
  • Browns: Three straight wins, despite losing QB Brian Hoyer to knee injury.  Brandon Weedon lost the starting job to Hoyer when he went down with an injury, but returned to help lead Cleveland to another win. (3-2)
  • Bengals: The offense wasn’t great, but their defense pitched a Brady shutout.  Ben Jarvis Green-Ellis ran in a 1-yarder for the games only touchdown in the 4th quarter. (3-2)
  • Pittsburgh: Coming off their bye (0-4)

AFC South (Houston We Have a Problem) 

  • Colts: Another impressive win for Indy, this time handing Seattle their first loss of the year.  Andrew Luck continues to show why he was the number 1 pick in last year’s draft, leading his team for a 9th career comeback win.  The special teams for both squads showed up, including Delano Howell who scored for Indy on a 61-yard return touchdown of a blocked field goal.  (4-1)
  • Titans: Tennessee lost, but put up a good fight against the undefeated Chiefs.  Ryan Fitzpatrick, in place of the injured Jake Locker, ran in a go-ahead TD in the 4th.  (3-2)
  • Texans: Ever since taking a 20-0 1st half lead in week 4 against Seattle, Houston has been outscored 57-3 in their 2 game losing streak. Matt Schaub threw a pick 6 for the fourth straight game (a 1st in NFL history), and was benched in favor of TJ Yates. (2-3)
  • Jaguars: Things have gone from bad to worse for the win-less Jags.  After getting starting QB Blaine Gabbert back, he left their loss to St Louis with a hamstring injury, and lost 1st round pick OT Luke Joeckel for the year to a broken ankle. Things don’t look better with the 5-0 Broncos coming to town. (0-5)

(AFC WEST) Where You’re Either Undefeated or a Game Under 

  • Broncos: This team has scored the most points through the first 5 games of a season in NFL History.  And yet they almost lost to Dallas.  The defense hasn’t needed to be on much this year, with Manning being so automatic (20 touchdowns, 1 rushing TD and just 1 interception).  But they couldn’t stop the run or the pass against Dallas, something they need to fix, because odds are Manning will struggle one of these days.  Maybe. (5-0)
  • Chiefs: Denver has company.  They got pushed by Tennessee, nearly blowing an early 14-0 lead.  But a Jamaal Charles touchdown in the 4th, apart of a 108-yard rushing performance, put them up for good. (5-0)
  • Raiders: Terrelle Pryor made it known Sunday Night that this is his team.  Two touchdown passes in the 1st quarter put San Diego in a hole they couldn’t climb out of.  The Raiders showed more faith in Pryor Monday, when they released off-season acquisition Matt Flynn. Their defense forced 4 turnovers, including one from veteran Free Safety Charles Woodson, who tied an NFL record with his 13th defensive touchdown. (2-3)
  • Chargers: The dilemma that is Phillip Rivers continues.  400 yards passing, but threw 3 interceptions.  This team was 2-0, and now find themselves at the bottom of the division. (2-3)

So that’s a wrap on week 5.  Week 6 kicks off with two desperate teams on Thursday Night Football.  The win-less New York Giants head to Soldier Field to take on the Chicago Bears.

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Week 2 Thoughts

2 weeks down.  15 to go.

Let’s break down 2-0 teams first:

  • Seattle: A Superbowl pick for many, and after an ugly win in week 1, the Hawks walked all over the 49ers, another consensus playoff pick in the NFC.  The defense was a takeaway machine, and Marshawn Lynch made it look easy, scoring 3 touchdowns against a good run defense.
  • Patriots: 2 wins by a combined 6 points.  Tom Brady isn’t getting much help from his receiving core, which is down 2012 stars Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski.  They’re lucky to have faced two rookie quarterbacks to start the season.
  • Dolphins: They’re much improved under second year QB Ryan Tannehill, and their defense has picked up where it left off last year.  They’ve looked better than New England early.
  • Texans: First team since the merger to win their first two on the final plays of the game.  They haven’t made it easy on themselves, but Arian Foster woke up this week and sometimes you’ve gotta win ugly.
  • Broncos : No surprise here. Peyton Manning has put his neck injury far behind him, and is getting contributions from his entire receiving core.  9 touchdowns and 0 interceptions is a nice way to start your season.
  • Saints: Bounty gate behind them, Drew Brees continued to be Drew Brees, and New Orleans is showing they should be feared once more in the South.
  • Chiefs: Yes, after just 2 wins last year, the Chiefs find themselves at that mark heading into week 3.  Many, including myself, had them improving quick. With a good defense, an actual QB, and a healthy Jamaal Charles, this team will continue to make noise in the West.
  • Bears: Their defense has a knack for scoring off turnovers.  A big game from Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett helped them outlast the Vikings.

Next up the 1-1 teams:

  • Packers: Aaron Rodgers is really good, and with James Starks finally providing a 100 yard rushing game, Green Bay looks like the toast of the NFC North once again.
  • Lions: They looked poised to move 2-0, but they were shut out in the 4th quarter against Arizona.  A good day from Calvin Johnson was about the only thing they got on offense.  After a big first game by the running back tandem of Reggie Bush and Joique Bell, the two combined for just 56 yards on 17 carries.
  • Colts:  Andrew Luck couldn’t lead another of his usual 4th quarter comebacks.
  • Eagles:  Offense isn’t the problem for Philly early, with Michael Vick looking like the guy Atlanta drafted so many years ago.  The defense however, has looked liked Swiss cheese, allowing 539 yards in their loss to San Diego.
  • Cowboys: They barely held off the Giants in week one, and bad offensive play calling saw them drop a 1 point game to the new and improved Chiefs.  Another year of mediocrity could be in Dallas’ future if they don’t get the run game going.
  • Falcons: Matt Ryan and Julio Jones got going against the Rams, but concern over a thigh injury to off-season acquisition RB Steven Jackson doesn’t help a team with Superbowl aspirations.  But with a great receiving core and defense, Atlanta should be fine.
  • Raiders: They’re 1-1 record is about as much as you can ask for.  They could be 2-0 if not for Luck’s comeback in week 1.  After years of sub-500 play, improvement each week is all you can ask.  They need more from WR Denarius Moore, their most athletic receiver, who was 0-2 on Sunday.
  • Titans: They held a big lead over Houston, but they the Texans overcome an 8-point 4th quarter deficit to win in overtime.  Chris Johnson looked good on the ground, while Jake Locker was okay.
  • Ravens: The defending champs have not looked good through 2 games.  The offense hasn’t gotten going, and with an injury to Ray Rice midway though their 14-9 win over Cleveland, a weak run game could get worse.
  • Chargers: A big day from Eddie Royal, Phillip Rivers and a 46-yard field goal from Nick Novak saved San Diego from an 0-2 start.
  • Cardinals: Their defense has shown flashes of greatness, but a hamstring injury to pro-blow wide-out Larry Fitzgerald hurts.   You have to hope it’s not serious.
  • Rams:  Sam Bradford had a good day, but a big pick 6 helped Atlanta take a big 24-3 halftime lead.  Bradford played well in the second half, but it wasn’t enough.
  • 49ers:  They’re usually stout defense has been suspect in two games early, and Colin Kaepernick has had one top-notch performance, and one full of bad decisions.  San Fran will need more consistency if they want to stay with Seattle all year in the division.
  • Jets: They held their own against the Pats, but when you hold Tom Brady to 13 points on the road, you need to win that game.  Geno Smith is a rookie, so you’re going to have to live with some mistakes, but you can’t have your QB throw 3INTs in the 4th quarter, especially in a division game.
  • Bills:  EJ Manuel has looked good in his first two career starts.  This team could be 2-0, but leading his team back against the Panthers for a win showed Manuel is capable of playing big when his team needs it most.
  • Bengals: After a 3-point loss on opening day, a big performance from rookie runner Giovani Bernard helped Cincy take down their division foe the Steelers.

And finally 0-2 teams:

  • Giants: 7 INTs for Eli Manning is concerning, but the lack of a run game might be more of a worry.  Manning had another big yardage game, but that doesn’t mean much with the 4 INTs.  In 300+ yard games for his career, the Giants are just 13-14, showing just how important the ground and pound game is to Big Blue.  They’re lucky no one in their division is better than 1-1.
  • Redskins:  The defense has looked bad through 2 games, and RGIII is clearly not the same player right now as he was last season.  It’s early, but they could go from first to worst in the East if they don’t pick it up soon.
  • Panthers: Two hard-fought games for Carolina, but two losses none the less.  A hungry Giants team awaits in week 3.
  • Buccaneers: Two tough losses to start the season.  They had week 1 locked up, and would’ve beat the saints if not for Drew Brees and his ability to drive quickly and easily.
  • Jaguars: No surprise here.  Not many wins to be had for Jacksonville once again.  No TDs through 2 games, tough to win that way. Not much else to say.
  • Browns: Their defense is doing the job early.  Their offense is bad.  You hold the defending champs to 0 points in the first half, you’ve gotta find a way to score more than 3.  Plain and simple.
  • Vikings: Adrian Peterson started off their season with a 78-yard TD run on the first play from scrimmage.  He’d score 2 more in the game, but it wasn’t enough to save them opening night.  And the Bears defense was too much for Christian Ponder and co in week 2.
  • Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger misses tight end Heath Miller and it shows.  Pittsburgh is going with tight end by committee, with the do-it all Miller out.  The defense hasn’t looked bad, and the return of Troy Polamalu has helped.

Looking ahead to Week 3:

  • Chiefs @ Eagles – Andy Reid comes home to Philly looking to get Kansas City to 3-0, while the Eagles look to improve defensively.
  • Texans @ Ravens – A match-up of AFC powerhouses.  The defending champs look to put together a complete game, while Houston looks to put a game away before the final drive.
  • Giants @ Panthers – one of these teams will pick up their first win, the other will be in trouble at 0-3
  • Lions @ Redskins – Detroit looks to keep pace with a couple of 2-0 teams in Green Bay and Chicago, while Washington looks to pick up their first win of 2013.
  • Chargers @ Titans – Phillip Rivers looks to grow off a big performance in week 2, while Jake Locker and Tennessee hope to rebound from an overtime loss to Houston.
  • Cardinals @ Saints – The Super Dome will be rocking, and as much as Arizona looks better than a year ago, I think Drew Brees will get his team to 3-0.
  • Buccaneers @ Patriots – The bucs have played well enough to be in both their games, only to lose late.  The Pats have done the opposite.  They’ve allowed teams to stay in it only to win on field goals late. I really dont like how New England is playing, but I have to give the home team the edge, and say they become a 3-0 team.
  • Packers @ Bengals – Two good defenses.  Aaron Rodgers is a former MVP QB, but Andy Dalton has some offensive weapons to work with himself.  Look for the run game to tell the story.  If James Starks can provide a spark like he did against Washington, Cincy has to hope for a big game from the tandem of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and rookie Giovani Bernard.
  • Rams @ Cowboys – St Louis is no pushover, but I don’t see them pulling out the road win.  Tony Romo and Jason Witten have things going early, and after Dez Bryant got going last week, look for the boys to pull out a fairly easy win at home.
  • Browns @ Vikings – Another case of two teams looking for their first wins of the season.  The Browns defense has played much better than the Vikings has, but Minnesota’s offense has looked better than the boys in orange.  Special teams play could tip the scales in this one.  Look out for Vikings Rookie returner Cordarrelle Patterson to play a big role, he had a 105 yard punt return TD in week 2.
  • Falcons @ Dolphins – This is one of the more intriguing games on the slate.  Atlanta wants to continue to rise up and make a statement in the NFC, while Miami looks to surprise and keep pressure on the Pats in the AFC.  Atlanta is more polished on offense, but don’t look past an improved Dolphins team from top to bottom.
  • Bills @ Jets – It’s a match-up of rookie QBs, each looking to get their teams to 2-1.  Division games are always fun and this should be no different.
  • Colts @ 49ers – It’s a bounce back for both teams this week.  If you’re San Fran you want to score early and often, with the comeback ability of Luck and the Colts.
  • Jags @ Seahawks – Seattle will be 3-0.  Not even a thought of an upset here, especially after the Jags best hope on offense in RB Maurice Jones-Drew was hurt in week 2.
  • Bears @ Steelers – The bears defense has allowed a lot of points, but have also gotten a lot of takeaways through 2 weeks.  I never feel comfortable picking Jay Cutler, but I think he has more weapons to work with than Ben Roethlisberger, so I say they move get to 3-0.
  • Raiders @ Broncos – Another easy 3-0 team in Denver.  Oakland has looked okay so far, but the high flying Broncos offense at home is just going to be too much for Terrelle Pryor to try and out gun.

Enjoy week 3 everyone.