Professional Football

Week 5 NFL Preview

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The first quarter of the NFL season is over and more than half of the league’s teams (18) are currently either in first place or within a game of the top spot in the division. But there’s a lot of season left to be played.

“We break the schedule down into quarters so we’re getting ready to start the second quarter now,” says tackle ANDRE SMITH of the 4-0 Cincinnati Bengals. “We’re starting the season off 0-0. That’s how we’re looking at it. We’re having a lot of fun. We’re playing hard and guys are doing what they’re supposed to do, executing when they need to and just trying to play good football.”

There are five 4-0 teams – Atlanta, Carolina, Cincinnati, Denver and Green Bay – tied for the most in a season in NFL history (1968, 2003, 2009 and 2013). New England – who had a bye in Week 4 – is 3-0 and, with a win on Sunday at Dallas, can be the sixth team to start the season 4-0 which would be the most in a season in NFL history.

“We’re 4-0 and in first place in the division,” says Packers quarterback AARON RODGERS, who leads the NFL with a 125.9 passer rating. “We’re playing the kind of ball we want to play in most phases of the game. But there are peaks and valleys throughout the season and there are ups and downs.”

But all 32 teams know there’s room for improvement. And, while not every club has gotten off to a great start, nothing is a given in the NFL.

Since 1990, when the current 12-team playoff format was adopted, 111 teams (37 percent of the 300 playoff clubs) have advanced to the postseason after starting the season 2-2 or worse. There were five such teams – Carolina (2-2), Green Bay (2-2), Indianapolis (2-2), New England (2-2) and Pittsburgh (2-2) – last season and all five were division winners. The Patriots, who started the season 2-2 through four games, went on to win Super Bowl XLIX.

“We’re 2-2 now instead of 0-2, so we’ve got some confidence going,” says defensive lineman CULLEN JENKINS of the New York Giants, who have won two in a row after an 0-2 start. “We’re finally starting to see some benefits from the hard work. The first two weeks, we were working hard but we weren’t able to reap any rewards from it. Now we’re getting wins so it’s helping mentally and confidence-wise. It’s showing us the right way to do it so we can keep improving that way.”

That’s all part of the unpredictability of the NFL. So entering Week 5, while it certainly helps to be near the top of the standings, don’t count anyone out.

Week 5 begins on Thursday night with a divisional contest between the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans (8:25 PM ET, CBS/NFLN). The Colts enter the week leading the AFC South but the Texans sit just one game behind. The week concludes with a pair of primetime matches as the New York Giants host the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night (8:30 PM ET, NBC) and the Pittsburgh Steelers visit the San Diego Chargers on Monday night (8:30 PM ET, ESPN). Some of the key games:

WASHINGTON REDSKINS (2-2) at ATLANTA FALCONS (4-0) (Sunday, FOX, 1:00 PM ET)

The Redskins evened their record at 2-2 with a 23-20 victory over Philadelphia last week. With the win, Washington moved into a tie for first place in the NFC East with Dallas and the New York Giants.

Washington quarterback KIRK COUSINS passed for 290 yards, rushed for a touchdown and threw the game-winning TD pass to wide receiver PIERRE GARÇON with 26 seconds remaining in the game. Garçon had the final three catches (30 yards) on the game-winning drive, including the four-yard touchdown.

“Pierre is one of the greatest competitors on this football team,” says Redskins head coach JAY GRUDEN. “People feed off of that.”

The Falcons remain one of the league’s unbeaten teams and improved to 4-0 with a 48-21 win over Houston.

Atlanta running back DEVONTA FREEMAN rushed for three touchdowns and leads the NFL with seven TDs. Freeman is the first Falcons player with seven rushing touchdowns in the team’s first four games of a season and is the first player in the NFL to accomplish the feat since LA DAINIAN TOMLINSON in 2005.

“It’s a team effort,” says Freeman about the team’s 4-0 start. “Coach (DAN) QUINN does a great job getting us to come out and compete every day. It feels good to score but getting the team victory is the most important thing. Individually, I want to be the best player but we want to go to the Super Bowl.”

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (2-2) at CINCINNATI BENGALS (4-0) (Sunday, FOX, 1:00 PM ET)

The defending NFC champions have won two in a row and Seattle’s defense has not allowed an offensive touchdown in each of the past two games. In Week 4, the Seahawks knocked off Detroit 13-10 and moved within a game of first place in the division.

“The fight that we’ve shown as a team, and our collective effort, it’s phenomenal,” says Seattle quarterback RUSSELL WILSON, who is the only player in the NFL with a 100+ passer rating (100.5) and 150+ rushing yards (177). “That’s what it takes week in and week out.”

The Bengals enter Week 5 with a 4-0 record and a two-game lead in the AFC North. Last week, Cincinnati recorded a 36-21 win over Kansas City.

Quarterback ANDY DALTON threw a 55-yard touchdown pass to BRANDON TATE and running backs JEREMY HILL (three) and GIOVANI BERNARD (one) combined for four rushing TDs in the Bengals’ victory.

“We’re 4-0,” says Bernard. “That’s all that matters right now. We need to work on what we did wrong and try to get to 5-0. We’ve got to get ready for Seattle.”

ST. LOUIS RAMS (2-2) at GREEN BAY PACKERS (4-0) (Sunday, CBS, 1:00 PM ET)

The Rams will attempt to knock off an unbeaten team for the second consecutive week. St. Louis is coming off a 24-22 victory over Arizona, which had entered the game with a 3-0 mark.

Rams rookie running back TODD GURLEY rushed for 146 yards last week in his first career start. Gurley, who had 106 yards in the fourth quarter, is the first rookie drafted in the first round to rush for at least 100 yards in the fourth quarter since ADRIAN PETERSON in 2007. Wide receiver TAVON AUSTIN had two touchdowns catches in the win over the Cardinals and is one of two players (Arizona’s DAVID JOHNSON) in the NFL this season to have a touchdown via rushing, receiving and returning.

“Todd came out this week and exploded,” says Austin about Gurley.

Green Bay moved to 4-0 with a 17-3 win at San Francisco. The Packers hold a two-game lead in the NFC North.

Quarterback AARON RODGERS, who threw a touchdown pass to tight end RICHARD RODGERS in the win over the 49ers, has 11 touchdowns and no interceptions this season for a league-best 125.9 passer rating. That is the third-most touchdown passes without an interception by a quarterback in his team’s first four games to begin a season in NFL history.

“We’re excited to get to 4-0,” says Packers head coach MIKE MC CARTHY. “That’s the most important part for our football team. We have a ton of work to do and we’ll continue to work. We’ll get back at it and get ready for St. Louis.”

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (3-0) at DALLAS COWBOYS (2-2) (Sunday, CBS, 4:25 PM ET)

The Patriots had a bye in Week 4 and look to continue their winning ways. Including the postseason, New England has won six games in a row, averaging 37.8 points per game. Quarterback TOM BRADY, who was named the AFC’s Offensive Player of the Month for September, has completed 96 of 133 passes (72.2 percent) for 1,112 yards with nine touchdowns and no interceptions for a 119.6 passer rating.

“Over the course of 16 games, you figure out where you’re at and which way your season is heading,” says Brady. “We’ve just got to keep going.”

The Cowboys enter Week 5 with a 2-2 record and a share of first place in the NFC East with the New York Giants and Washington. Last week, Dallas rallied with a late fourth-quarter touchdown pass from BRANDON WEEDEN to TERRANCE WILLIAMS but eventually fell to New Orleans in overtime 26-20.

“It’s tough but that’s what happens in this league,” says Cowboys tight end JASON WITTEN. “You have to regroup. This team doesn’t make excuses. We’ll get back at it.”

LAST WEEK’S RESULTS OCTOBER 1, 4-5
Byes: New England, Tennessee
(Home Team in Caps)

Thursday, October 1

Sunday, October 4 (cont’d)
Ravens 23, STEELERS 20 (OT)
WASHINGTON 23, Philadelphia 20
SAN DIEGO 30, Cleveland 27

Sunday, October 4
St. Louis 24, ARIZONA 22
New York Jets 27, MIAMI 14 (London)
DENVER 23, Minnesota 20
ATLANTA 48, Houston 21
Green Bay 17, SAN FRANCISCO 3
New York Giants 24, BUFFALO 10
NEW ORLEANS 26, Dallas 20 (OT)
CHICAGO 22, Oakland 20
CINCINNATI 36, Kansas City 21
INDIANAPOLIS 16, Jacksonville 13 (OT)

Monday, October 5
Carolina 37, TAMPA BAY 23
SEATTLE 13, Detroit 10

2015 NFL WEEK 5 SCHEDULE
THURSDAY, SUNDAY & MONDAY, OCTOBER 8, 11-12
Byes: Carolina, Miami, Minnesota, New York Jets
(All times local)

Thursday, October 8

Sunday, October 11 (cont’d)

Indianapolis at Houston, 7:25 PM (CBS/NFLN)
Jacksonville at Tampa Bay, 1:00 PM
Buffalo at Tennessee, 12:00 PM

Sunday, October 11
Arizona at Detroit, 4:05 PM
Washington at Atlanta, 1:00 PM
New England at Dallas, 3:25 PM
Cleveland at Baltimore, 1:00 PM
Denver at Oakland, 1:25 PM
Seattle at Cincinnati, 1:00 PM
San Francisco at New York Giants, 8:30 PM (NBC)
St. Louis at Green Bay, 12:00 PM
Chicago at Kansas City, 12:00 PM

Monday, October 12
New Orleans at Philadelphia, 1:00 PM
Pittsburgh at San Diego, 5:30 PM (ESPN)