Week 5 Preview
Arizona pulled out an OT win over Miami to improve to 4-0, and won over a few more doubters. Their defense came up huge, recording two late-game turnovers that led to scores at the end of regulation and OT. QB Kevin Kolb was streaky, but came through when necessary to help the Cards equal their best start since 1974. St. Louis (2-2) used rookie PK Greg Zuerlein’s 58 and 60-yard FGs to knock off Seattle, and the Rams are looking like a completely different team under new coach Jeff Fisher.
The Dolphins (1-3) OT loss to Arizona was their second consecutive OT defeat, but the team, especially on offense, is showing encouraging signs, most notably rookie QB Ryan Tannehill. The young signal-caller piled up 431 yards passing, but also committed two costly late-game turnovers. Against 3-1 Cincinnati, expect a lot of passing from both teams, as second-year Bengals QB Andy Dalton is rapidly becoming a force.
The Packers may have salvaged their season with a squeaker of a victory over New Orleans, and should have a bit of a breather in Indianapolis. The Colts (1-2) are coming off their bye week however, and rookie QB Andrew Luck may have some success against Green Bay’s (2-2) inconsistent secondary.
The 3-1 Ravens continue to display excellent team balance after years of being labeled a strictly defensive force. Going against KC’s porous defense, Joe Flacco and Ray Rice should have big days. The 1-3 Chiefs are still wildly up-and-down, with Jamaal Charles their only consistent weapon.
With Matt Hasselback at QB after Jake Locker’s injury, the 1-3 Titans head north to take on the surprising 3-1 Vikings. Tennessee was slammed by Houston, and have hopes that Chris Johnson (141 yds vs. Houston) has finally found his footing. Christian Ponder keeps improving by leaps and bounds for the Vikings, whose special teams are among the league’s most outstanding.
RGIII faces the undefeated Atlanta Falcons swarming defense at home, which may be a slight advantage for the ‘Skins (2-2). Rookie RB Alfred Morris has been as instrumental as RGIII in the team’s offensive turnaround, but the defense is still iffy. Atlanta needed a last-minute 99-yard drive to overcome Carolina, but with Matt Ryan under center, the Falcons are never out of it.
The Browns are the AFC’s only winless team, and it’s hard to imagine that changing after visiting Eli Manning and the New York Giants (2-2). Brandon Weeden is having a typical up-and-down rookie campaign, while Manning, despite stumbling against the Eagles, is still the best late-game performer in the league.
The Keystone State Bowl resumes in the Steel City, and expect plenty of hard-hitting and emotions when these two heated rivals square off. Michael Vick, despite all the turnovers, still instills fear in the opposition, and his weapons are numerous and talented. Pittsburgh is still trying to find offensive balance, and maybe the return of Rashard Mendenhall will help.
Russell Wilson vs. Cam Newton. Two versatile, athletic young QBs should provide ample entertainment this Sunday, with the key matchup being Seattle’s stifling defense against Carolina’s bevy of RBs. Special teams play could determine the outcome, and the result (for both teams) could determine a lot about the remainder of their seasons.
Jay Cutler and Co. shredded Dallas on Monday night, although the Bears defense was the real star, picking off 5 INTs and shutting down the Cowboys almost completely. Against the Jags, Chicago must avoid over-confidence and try to contain Maurice Jones-Drew.
The opposing QBs have an illustrious rivalry history, and it’s difficult to imagine anything changing with Manning in Denver. The Pats have unleashed a very productive ground attack this season, and going against Denver’s stingy run defense will be a test. The Broncos are still seeking better chemistry, but finding it in Foxboro won’t be an easy task.
Their pricey off-season defensive upgrade hasn’t panned out yet, and the Bills probably won’t find much in the way of offense going against the 49ers. San Francisco’s all-around balance is the envy of the NFL, and playing at home, it’s easy to see them at 4-1 after Sunday.
It’s not shocking to see that Cleveland is at 0-4 at this point, but New Orleans as well? The Saints aren’t playing badly, but all the opportune breaks they’ve gotten in recent seasons seem to be evening up in 2012. Going against the visiting Chargers at home should be a no-brainer, but Rivers and Co. are certainly capable of lighting up scoreboards.
Almost everyone has the Texans atop the Top 32 list, while the soap opera that is the Jets continues to make headlines for all the wrong reasons. Mark Sanchez is far from eliminating all the “Tebow” talk, and as the injuries continue to pile up, Rex Ryan’s usually outspoken press conferences are beginning to resemble a M*A*S*H episode.
About the Author: Don Phan is a full time marketing analyst with Fanatics Inc. His company sells licensed sports merchandise and runs several brands including Pro Sports Memorabilia. Be sure to visit their NFL memorabilia shop for the latest in signed NFL merchandise.