NFL Predictions Week 5: Forecasting How Top Teams Will Fare

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 23: Running back Arian Foster #23 of the Houston Texans runs with the ball against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on September 23, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images
Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistOctober 5, 2012

The first month of the NFL season was more unpredictable than any in recent memory. Huge upsets, elite teams playing like average ones and certain squads getting off to quick starts, including a few that exceeded expectations in a major way.

Now comes the tough part. Teams that have rushed out to early leads in their respective divisions during the season's first quarter have to find a way to stay in that spot for the final three. Let's take a look at how three of the fast starters will fare in Week 5.


Atlanta Falcons (at Washington Redskins)

The Falcons have been a team on the verge of a major breakthrough for the past handful of seasons, and have now seemingly realized that potential. Matt Ryan has been the league MVP through four weeks and the defense is making positive strides.

Perhaps the best sign to emerge from the last two weeks, however, has been Michael Turner looking like a playmaker again. He's averaged nearly seven yards per carry, making the Falcons offense virtually unstoppable given all the passing-game weapons.

Even though the Redskins are still a team in rebuilding mode with new quarterback Robert Griffin III, they are still a dangerous opponent as the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have already found out. It won't be easy, but Atlanta should survive.

Prediction: 38-28 Falcons


Houston Texans (at New York Jets)

Houston is the most balanced team in the NFL. The Texans lead the league in scoring defense, illustrating the ability to stop both the run and the pass, and also have a dynamic rushing attack thanks to the duo of Arian Foster and Ben Tate.

Even the team's passing game, which hasn't been anything special so far, is potent due to the presence of Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub. There isn't one area of the team where opponents can point and know they can exploit it during any given week.

Of all the undefeated teams, Houston probably has the best matchup in Week 5. The Jets are a team in turmoil with Mark Sanchez struggling and an equally bad running game. The Texans defense should have a field day en route to another win.

Prediction: 20-3 Texans


Minnesota Vikings (vs. Tennessee Titans)

The Vikings were widely expected to finish a distant fourth in the loaded NFC North, but here they are, tied for first place. Most impressively, it hasn't been due to an easy schedule, as illustrated by wins over the San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions.

Christian Ponder has been the main reason Minnesota has been able to pull off such a quick turnaround. He's shown vast improvement under center and has started to understand his role of being a game manager while allowing Adrian Peterson to carry the offense.

Ponder and Co. face off with a Titans team that has looked completely out of sync on both sides of the ball and now has to turn to Matt Hasselbeck under center. That should be enough for the Vikings to keep their surprising run on track.

Prediction: 23-20 Vikings


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