What to Watch in Week 5
By: Kim O'Hara | Posted: October 04, 2012
What should you be watching for this weekend? Let’s find out in the Week 5 edition of What to Watch.
Arizona Cardinals at St. Louis Rams, 8:30pm Thursday
The Arizona Cardinals are looking to go 5-0 for the first time since 1974, when they were the (you guessed it) St. Louis Football Cardinals. Arizona nearly got caught in a trap game against Miami last weekend, allowing an uncharacteristic 431 passing yards to a rookie quarterback who doesn’t throw to a single premier receiver. A lot of that could be contributed to the absence of defensive end Darnell Dockett, who missed just his second NFL game due to a hamstring injury. Dockett is a vital, tempo-setting part of the Cardinals’ defense and is currently listed as questionable. If he doesn’t play Thursday night, the Rams’ chances at victory increase a fair amount.
Miami Dolphins at Cincinnati Bengals, 1:00pm
This week is all about BenJarvus Green-Ellis and his suddenly unsteady hands. Green-Ellis had been as close to a sure thing as the NFL can offer in his first 589 touches, never once losing the ball in his tenure at New England. In the last two games, he has fumbled three times, two of which were recovered by the opponent. It’s been a shocking development to see such consistency go awry so quickly, and Green-Ellis needs to keep the ball safe this week if he doesn’t want to lose carries to backup Bernard Scott.
Green Bay Packers at Indianapolis Colts, 1:00pm
Sunday will be Green Bay center Jeff Saturday’s big return to Indy. He’s in his first year with the Packers after spending 13 seasons with the Colts. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers found his first major successes this season against New Orleans (seems to be a trend for quarterbacks in 2012…) and will look to maintain momentum against a suspect Indianapolis secondary. The Colts will be playing with heavy hearts this weekend, as head coach Chuck Pagano has begun treatment for myeloid leukemia. It will be fascinating to see how the team responds to such adversity.
Baltimore Ravens at Kansas City Chiefs, 1:00pm
Kansas City is looking to protect the ball more successfully this week against a Baltimore Ravens defense hoping to hit its stride. After last Sunday’s three interception performance against San Diego, quarterback Matt Cassel’s seat is getting warmer by the day; the questionable credentials of his backups may be his last line of defense if he doesn’t improve dramatically this week. Fortunately for Cassel, the Ravens are allowing the fourth-most passing yards in the NFL with just four interceptions; even Browns rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden had his team in position to come back in Baltimore.
Cleveland Browns at New York Giants, 1:00pm
The Browns have a chance to go 0-5 on the season at MetLife Stadium this Sunday, but the Cleveland faithful have reason to hope. Sure, they have yet to post a win, but Cleveland has been in striking distance for all but one of their games so far (against its weakest opponent, oddly enough). Quarterback Brandon Weeden has demonstrated resilience after a brutal opening game, even finding some measure of success passing against the Ravens’ secondary in Baltimore last week. New York’s secondary has improved marginally with the return of Prince Amukamara, but don’t be shocked if Weeden tosses another 300 yard game.. or if it’s another close loss for Cleveland.
Philadelphia Eagles at Pittsburgh Steelers, 1:00pm
The Eagles should be riding high after an important divisional win last Sunday, but no one could be more excited than the Steelers, with the returns of linebacker James Harrison, safety Troy Polamalu and philosopher/running back Rashard Mendenhall imminent. Up to this point, Pittsburgh’s defense has been suspect; its most successful outing was against Mark Sanchez and the New York Jets, which is far from an endorsement of its quality. Harrison hasn’t clocked one minute since a heartbreaking AFC Wildcard loss in January. As long as he’s physically able, watch to see how definitively he takes out his frustration on Philadelphia’s offensive line, LeSean McCoy and Michael Vick. The Steelers’ secondary should also benefit from having both starting safeties Polamalu and Ryan Clark on the field together for the first time this season.
Atlanta Falcons at Washington Redskins, 1:00pm
With so many injuries to key components of its defense, Washington’s offense is faced with the burden of keeping a challenging season from becoming unsalvageable. It will need to outscore its opponents each week. (Yes. That is, in fact, the basic idea behind all team sports, but when a defense is more often than not incapable of preventing its opponent from scoring, games will become shootouts.) In the overall landscape of the season, Robert Griffin III will keep his team in position to win. This Sunday, however, Atlanta’s defense will regulate the tempo and result of the game, leaving RGIII still searching for his first home win.
Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers, 4:05pm
Cam Newton bounced back from an abysmal Week 3 performance (and questions about his character and leadership) with an exciting, near-victorious effort in Atlanta last Sunday. The “Superman” gesture also made the trip to Atlanta (looks like we’re stuck with it for the time being), but Newton was less than super when fumbling late in the fourth quarter. Though Carolina recovered the fumble, head coach Ron Rivera elected not to give Newton a chance to redeem himself with a first down, instead punting on 4th and 1, giving Atlanta the opportunity to win by a field goal. He’ll be forced to bounce back again this week after his last-minute error, but he may wind up simply bouncing off the often impenetrable wall that is Seattle’s defense.
Chicago Bears at Jacksonville Jaguars, 4:05pm
Does anyone else feel nervous for quarterback Blaine Gabbert and the Jacksonville offense after the Bears’ defensive master class on Monday night? Even after a short week, this team should come in and dominate in all phases of the game. Jay Cutler may even extend his streak of games with a triple digit passer rating to two. If the game is a blowout and you’re stuck watching, keep an eye to see how empty the stadium gets as the game goes on. There’s a legitimate morale problem among Jacksonville fans, as it seems they’re faced with the disappointment of another losing season after a hopeful offseason.
Tennessee Titans at Minnesota Vikings, 4:25pm
Were it not for Arizona starting off 4-0, Minnesota may have been the biggest surprise in the NFC. Not only has its defense been impressive, allowing just one rushing touchdown and an average of 85.2 yards a game, Christian Ponder has demonstrated an unexpected level of poise and ball control. He has yet to turn over the football, and with one interception on the season, it’s unlikely the Titans’ devense will do much to alter his streak. Tennessee is also allowing 136.5 rushing yards per game, which could set the stage for an industrious performance by running back Adrian Peterson, who continues to look mind-bogglingly great coming off ACL surgery.
Denver Broncos at New England Patriots, 4:25pm
With the Patriots’ and Colts’ respective division titles streak, it seemed like we were treated to a Tom Brady-Peyton Manning showdown each season. Thanks to Tim Tebow’s 2011 heroics (and, you know, the defense) Denver clinched the AFC West last season, unwittingly securing a whole new chapter in the Brady-Manning series. Manning looked the best he has since Week 1 last week, shredding the Oakland secondary and finding a promising rhythm with receiver Eric Decker, while Brady led the Patriots to 45 second half points against Buffalo. Watch this game for the opportunity to watch two of the best in the history of the game. At 36 and 35 respectively, who knows how many more seasons will include a duel of the caliber of Manning-Brady?
Buffalo Bills at San Francisco 49ers, 4:25pm
Watch this game to see how the Francisco can improve upon a 34-0 Jets shutout in New York against the Bills’ turnover-happy offense (seven interceptions and four lost fumble through four weeks) and defense that succeeded in making Mark Sanchez the best quarterback of Week 1. After a solid start to his 2012 campaign, quarterback Alex Smith has cooled off in the past two weeks, throwing for an average of 173.5 yards, just one touchdown, and his first interception since last season. Watch to see how he takes advantage of the Bills’ porous secondary. Also watch to see if backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick gets any snaps; his dynamic ability to run the ball could become a consistent asset to San Francisco’s offense.
San Diego Chargers at New Orleans Saints, 8:20pm
The Saints are due to win, right? They just have to. Especially with a VIP (VSP? Very Suspended Person?) in the crowd. Drew Brees requested (and was granted) permission for suspended head coach Sean Payton to attend Sunday's game. Interim head coach Joe Vitt and general manager Mickey Loomis, also suspended for bounty-related reasons, were granted permision as well but will not be in attendance. It’s a special night for Brees and the Saints’ offense, as he will attempt to become the first man in NFL history to have touchdown passes in 48 consecutive games. Brees tied Johnny Unitas, the current record holder, at 47 last week against Green Bay. This should be one of very few emotional highs for the Saints this season. Best of luck to Brees.
Houston Texans at New York Jets, 8:30pm Monday
I’m inclined to recommend watching this game for the same reason you stop to check out an accident on the side of the road: that gruesome human curiosity when it comes to witnessing disasters. And this game is likely to be the second disaster in a row for the Jets, fresh off last week’s embarrassing home shutout. Many have speculated that the loss of Santonio Holmes to a Lisfranc injury will negatively impact the offense, but don’t be surprised to see a looser Mark Sanchez Monday night. He’ll have the freedom to throw to young receivers like Jeremy Kerley, Stephen Hill (if healthy) and Chaz Schilens without fear of reproach from the notoriously moody, selfish Holmes. Overall, though, the Texans are far too talented on both sides of the football not to sail to 5-0.
Kim O'Hara is the Associate Editor of TheFootballGirl.com. She is an avid fan of sports in general, but the NFL in particular. She has also been a contributor to ESPN the Magazine. Follow her on Twitter: @arahomik
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