By Dan Durkin-
(CBS) After four weeks, five unbeaten teams remain. If all of them are victorious again this Sunday, it would mark only the second time that’s happened in NFL history.
Here’s my take on how Week 5 plays out.
(Home team in all CAPS)
Game of the Week: 49ERS 24, Texans 20 – 7:30 PM
Prior to the season, this game had the appearance of a potential Super Bowl preview. Four weeks in, both of these teams are looking to get above .500 in what could be a springboard game for the victor. Still shaking my head at the Matt Schaub pick-6 against the Seahawks. Even though he couldn’t audible out of the play, he could’ve not thrown the ball. The 49ers are coming off a long layoff after pasting a Rams team that doesn’t play NFL-caliber offense. Two stifling, physical defenses, but the 49ers are more talented and will grind out a win at home.
Chiefs 23, TITANS 17 – Noon
There’s a common theme between these two surprise teams: ball security. They both have a +9 turnover differential and the Titans are the only team in the league yet to turn the ball over. The Titans will be without the services of quarterback Jake Locker (hip strain), so Ryan Fitzpatrick will take over. Fitzpatrick is a conservative game-manager, so this should be a low-scoring affair. The Chiefs defense leads the league with 18 sacks and will once again be the difference.
Ravens 20, DOLPHINS 17 – Noon
The Dolphins were exposed on Monday Night, particularly in their secondary and on the offensive line. Granted, the Saints passing attack is potent, but there were communication issues and multiple coverage busts. Their offensive line couldn’t keep quarterback Ryan Tannehill clean, which will be an issue against the Ravens. The Ravens have had an enigmatic start to the season. They can’t get anything going in the running game due to key injuries and poor offensive line play, but I like them on the road.
RAMS 27, Jaguars 13 – Noon
If the NFL allowed corporate sponsorship for games, ED drug manufactures would’ve paid big dollars for this one, which gives new meaning to the word impotence. Offensively, these teams have a lot in common: Jacksonville ranks first in three-and-out percentage (50), St. Louis ranks second (43.5), and Jacksonville ranks last in point differential (-98), while St. Louis ranks 30th (-52). Stunningly bad. That said, the Rams defense is stout up front and their offense is less bad than the Jaguars.
Patriots 23, BENGALS 20 – Noon
Granted they’ve only played one decent team (Atlanta), but the Patriots don’t make the schedule, and are 4-0. To be fair, they’ve done it without their best weapons in the passing game and now running back Stevan Ridley (knee) is banged up. They’ll also be playing their first game without their defensive anchor – Vince Wilfork (Achilles) – so their depth is being challenged. I called the Bengals a “butterface” before the season because of their quarterback, and they look to be exactly that. The Patriots will play conservatively to slow down the pace of this game and grind out a win behind their dominant offensive line.
Seahawks 24, COLTS 20 – Noon
Two talented trigger men from the 2012 draft class clash in Indy. Russell Wilson was selected 74 picks after Andrew Luck, but early on, he’s had more success. Much of that has to do with his team’s defense and running game. Despite the Colts 3-1 record, they are flawed, particularly along the offensive line. The Seahawks are playing back-to-back road games, but they’ll control the line on both sides of the ball and run their record to 5-0.
PACKERS 28, Lions 24 – Noon
Two NFC North teams seemingly headed in opposite directions lock up in Lambeau, where the Lions haven’t won since 1991. After stumbling into the bye week after an ugly loss in Cincinnati, the Packers are anxious to right the ship in their first divisional game. They’ve been amiss – particularly on defense – since they were pulverized in last year’s playoffs. The Lions, on the other hand, are in a position to get to 3-0 in the division. The Lions defensive line will make life difficult for Aaron Rodgers, but he’s 9-1 against them and about to be 10-1.
Saints 31, BEARS 27 – Noon
The Saints are a different team outside of the Superdome, but their scheme and talent works anywhere. The key to beating the Saints is controlling the clock and getting pressure up the middle. Unfortunately for the Bears, they’re struggling to generate pressure with their front four, which won’t bode well against Brees, Graham, Sproles, and Payton. There are simply too many mismatches for the Bears defense to overcome, as they drop their second straight.
GIANTS 27, Eagles 23 – Noon
Hard to believe that after four weeks, these two teams have combined for one measly win. For the Giants, they can’t run the ball, can’t pass protect, and their secondary has given up a league-high 10 passing touchdowns. Minor details in football. The Eagles have no problem scoring points, but their defense can’t stop anybody and is on pace to allow 7,136 yards, which would break the NFL-record set by the 2012 Saints (7,042). It’s simply impossible to win games when your defense is this porous, so I like the Giants at home to break their 0-fer streak.
Panthers 20, CARDINALS 17 – 3:05 PM
Will the early bye week be a benefit or detriment to the Panthers? It’s been two weeks since they dismantled the Giants 38-0. Typically, teams prefer their bye weeks later in the season to rest their bodies. The Panthers small sample size makes them a tough team to gauge overall, especially on offense, but their defense has been impressive. The Cardinals defense is strong against the run, but offensively they have no identity. Low-scoring, grind-it-out win for the Panthers.
Broncos 34, COWBOYS 27 – 3:25 PM
The Broncos are a machine led by a football robot. The only possible way to stop them is to control the clock with the running game, convert first downs, and keep Peyton Manning on the sidelines. Much easier said than done, but the Cowboys are 10-0 in games where DeMarco Murray gets 20 or more carries. Even so, the Cowboys pass defense has been poor, giving up over 300 yards per game and an average passer efficiency rating of 99.5. Entertaining game, but the Broncos – specifically Manning – are in a different league.
Chargers 31, RAIDERS 20 – 10:35 PM
No, that kickoff isn’t a typo, the game has been moved back to prepare the field after the A’s game the night before. Phillip Rivers looks reborn in Mike McCoy’s offense. He’s completing a remarkable 74% of his passes and has thrown 11 touchdowns against two interceptions. The Chargers need that efficiency and production from Rivers, as their defense can’t stop anybody. Terrelle Pryor is expected to return for the Raiders, which is a boost as he extends plays with his legs, but it won’t be enough.
FALCONS 27, Jets 17 – Monday Night 7:40 PM
Yes, the Falcons have played a tough schedule – the opponents they’ve lost to have a combined record of 11-1 – but their red zone woes are the biggest reason for their 1-3 record. They lead the NFL with 18 red zone trips, but rank 29th in efficiency, converting only seven of those opportunities into touchdowns. It was more of the same last week against the Patriots, going 1-for-6. Their fortunes will turn around against turnover-prone Geno Smith and the Jets.
Season record: 41-22
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