With just five weeks of the season in the books, there are no unbeaten teams left in the NFL and only two who are yet to record a victory – the Raiders and the Jaguars. Twenty-two of the league’s thirty-two teams have recorded either two or three victories so far, with only a couple of outliers to what looks like a very open year where any team who gets on a roll could make a deep run in the playoffs. Here’s a quick look around the league and how things went in Week 5;
NFC North 1. Packers/Lions 3-2; 3. Vikings/Bears 2-3
- Green Bay took advantage of Minnesota’s quarterback problems to race to an easy Thursday night victory, with Aaron Rodgers able to sit the fourth quarter with the game beyond the Vikings’ reach.
- It turned out to be a great weekend for the Packers as Chicago gave up an early lead to lose to the Panthers; while the Lions kicking woes continued and it cost them dearly against the Bills.
NFC East 1. Eagles/Cowboys 4-1; 3. Giants 3-2; 4. Washington 1-4
- Philadelphia and Dallas both kept up their impressive starts by beating St. Louis and Houston respectively, though the Cowboys needed overtime to overcome the Texans. Still, the only team that has beaten either of them to this point is the 49ers.
- After their 30-20 victory over the Falcons moved them to 3-2, there has been the suggestion that New York Giants could be surprisingly good this year. However, their three wins have come against Washington – who have only beaten the winless Jaguars – plus Atlanta and Houston, who had a combined record of 6-26 in 2013. I think the Giants are going to be 2014’s “good-bad team” – they will be able to beat other mediocre sides, but will lose against tougher opponents.
- Outside of destroying an awful Jacksonville team, Washington had their best performance of the year on Monday night as they hung tough against the reigning Super Bowl champion Seahawks. In the second half, the Washington defense looked really pumped up and was holding Seattle, but the offense just could not put up enough points for them to draw level.
NFC South 1. Panthers 3-2; 2. Falcons/Saints 2-3; 4. Buccaneers 1-4
- There might not be any good teams in the NFC South this year, even though the Panthers are disproving those (including me) who thought they would not be contenders to top the division again this season. Their two losses to the Steelers and Ravens were poor, though they did recover last weekend enough to come from behind and beat the Bears at home.
- New Orleans required overtime to win at home over the Buccaneers and have yet to put in an impressive performance this year, as their offense as sputtered not exploded as we have come to expect in the Sean Payton/Drew Brees era. On a bye this week, the Saints will need to improve massively ahead of their next five fixtures which look very tricky: @Detroit; vs. Green Bay; @Carolina; vs. San Francisco; vs. Cincinnati.
NFC West 1. Seahawks/Cardinals 3-1; 3. 49ers 3-2; 4. Rams 1-3
- Arizona lost for the first time this season last week, but it was in Denver against Peyton Manning and the Broncos’ potent offense, which destroyed the Cardinals’ previously strong defense. They are now down to their third string quarterback – Logan Thomas – so Arizona will need that defense to recover quickly in order to keep them in games over the next few weeks, until either Drew Stanton or Carson Palmer can return.
- Seattle’s only loss so far was in San Diego against an impressive Chargers team and their victory against Washington on Monday showed they can still ground out wins when they are not firing on all cylinders.
- San Francisco have managed to hang in there and are only a half game back after five weeks and they should improve in the second part of the season as they get more used to their new stadium and have players come back from suspensions. The 49ers also need Colin Kaepernick to get over a relatively poor start, though he did show signs of that in last weekend’s victory over the Chiefs, throwing for 201 yards and a touchdown, with no picks.
AFC North 1. Bengals 3-1; 2. Steelers/Ravens 3-2; 4. Browns 2-2
- As everyone was expecting the Bengals to roll into New England and pile the misery onto the Patriots, Cincinnati ended up being soundly beaten 43-17 on Sunday night.
- The Ravens lost to Baltimore’s old franchise, the Colts, in Indianapolis last week, but they still look like they could contend for a playoff spot this year, after a disappointing 2013 season.
- Twenty seconds before the half against Tennessee, the Browns trailed the Titans 28-3 and looked dead and buried. However, just as they did against the Steelers in Week 1, Cleveland came back in the second half and this time claimed a one-point victory with a last-minute touchdown.
- Pittsburgh have only looked good once this year – their demolition of their Panthers in Week 3 – and other than that have had four poor performances, including that near collapse against the Browns and last week’s 17-9 victory over the Jaguars.
AFC East 1. Bills/Patriots 3-2; 3. Dolphins 2-2; 4. Jets 1-4
- Buffalo made a change at starting quarterback last week against Detroit and Kyle Orton – who replaced the inefficient EJ Manuel – threw for more than 300 yards and helped the Bills to a last-minute win over the Lions.
- New England’s decisive victory over the Bengals proved that reports of their demise were somewhat premature, but I still think that even if they make the playoffs – which is still likely in a poor division – the Patriots are far removed from being a team that could make a deep run.
- Miami had a bye week following their victory over the Raiders in London in Week 4, while the Jets will be wishing they could go back to half-way through Week 2, when they were 1-0 and led the Packers convincingly in Green Bay. Since then it has been all downhill and last Sunday they were the first team in 2014 to be kept off the scoreboard, as they were beaten 31-0 in San Diego.
AFC South 1. Colts/Texans 3-2; 3. Titans 1-4; 4. Jaguars 0-5
- Indianapolis seem to have recovered from an 0-2 start by putting up 40+ points in consecutive weeks against the Titans and Jaguars, then beating the Ravens 20-13 last weekend. Their biggest test of the year so far comes on Thursday night in Houston, against a Texans team who have already recorded more victories this year than in 2013, but those have come against Washington, Oakland and a Bills team with EJ Manuel struggling at quarterback.
- Tennessee’s collapse against Cleveland was historically bad, but at least they get to host the 0-5 Jaguars this weekend.
- San Diego continued to look like one of the best teams in the NFL with their 31-0 victory over the Jets and will be confident of improving to 5-1 this weekend as they travel to Oakland to face the Raiders.
- Denver’s offense had their best day against the Cardinals in Week 5, but their game against the Jets on Sunday is just their second on the road so far this season. In fact, after playing in New Jersey, the Broncos have two consecutive home fixtures versus the 49ers and Chargers, then they must play six of their final nine games on the road.
Week 6 Picks
Last week, 8-7; Season, 42-34
Home teams in bold
Texans +2.5 over Colts
Bills +3.5 over Patriots
Panthers +7.5 over Bengals
Browns -1.5 over Steelers
Jets +8.5 over Broncos
Lions -1.5 over Vikings
Dolphins +3.5 over Packers
Titans -6.5 over Jaguars
Buccaneers +3.5 over Ravens
Chargers -7.5 over Raiders
Falcons -3.5 over Bears
Seahawks -7.5 over Cowboys
Cardinals -3.5 over Washington
Eagles -2.5 over Giants
49ers -3.5 over Rams