NFL Week 5 Predictions: Showcasing Most Intriguing Narratives and Storylines
For teams across the NFL, the quarter-season mark is usually a time of joyous celebration or unmitigated despair.
While some squads have breezed through the early slate and look well on their way to playoff glory, others might as well be booking vacations for January and February.
Whether your team is on either extreme or somewhere in the middle, there is likely at least one storyline captivating the attention of the masses. In our football-hungry culture, even the most minuscule topic can be stretched out across all spectrums of media.
Nonetheless, there are some narratives that stick out above and beyond the rest. With that in mind, here's a look at the matchups carrying the biggest storylines in Week 5.
Atlanta Falcons at Washington Redskins
Following a defeat of the Carolina Panthers, 30-28, in a fourth-quarter thriller, the Falcons soar (sorry) into Washington looking to contain scintillating rookie Robert Griffin III.
Though the Redskins youngster has been an early star for fantasy owners, what's been more impressive is his surprising ability to pass out of the pocket. Working in an offense catered to his skills, Griffin has completed 69.4 percent of his passes thus far in 2012, which ties him with Matt Ryan for second in the NFL.
Which game has Week 5's best storyline?
One of the knocks on Griffin coming out of the draft was whether he would be able to make accurate throws with NFL-level pressure in his face, and he's been unbelievable through a quarter of the season.
Nonetheless, the true key to the Redskins offense on Sunday will be running back Alfred Morris. The Falcons come into Week 5 giving up 146.3 yards per game on the ground, which ranks 28th in the NFL.
Considering the strength of Atlanta's passing offense and the abject failures of the Washington defense, the Redskins will need Morris to chew as much clock as possible on Sunday.
Unfortunately for the upstart Washington squad, it's unlikely to matter how it does in time of possession. Ryan is playing at an other-worldly level this season and is currently running away with the MVP race.
The 27-year-old signal-caller has thrown for 1,127 yards and 11 touchdowns this season while putting up a fantastic 112.1 quarterback rating. That rate should continue against a Redskins defense that has allowed an obscene 326.3 passing yards per game in 2012.
Atlanta won't blow Washington out, but the Falcons should win this game by two scores.
Score Prediction: Falcons 34, Redskins 24
Philadelphia Eagles at Pittsburgh Steelers
Though these Pennsylvania teams come into Week 5 considered top-tier in their respective conferences, there are plenty of causes for concern for both sides.
For the Eagles, it starts with Michael Vick.
After being roundly criticized early in the season for his turnover struggles, Vick performed admirably last week against a tough New York Giants defense. The dual-threat QB completed 19 of 30 passes for 241 yards and a touchdown while scrambling for a season-high 49 yards.
What's more, Vick came through when his team needed him most. Without his clutch play, there is no way Philadelphia walks away with its 19-17 victory.
Despite the Giants defense being a top-tier unit, traveling to Heinz Field may prove to be an even more daunting task for the Eagles.
The Steelers are expected to finally get Rashard Mendenhall back on offense as well as stars Troy Polamalu and James Harrison back to anchor the defense. Considering Pittsburgh comes into Sunday desperate for a win, these returns could not come at a better time.
Always expected to be among the NFL's best rushing teams, the Steelers floundered without Mendenhall. Both Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer struggled to get anything of significance going, and Pittsburgh currently ranks 31st in the NFL after gaining just 65 yards per contest in three games.
Additionally, the Steelers' once vaunted run defense has shifted toward the middle of the pack. Facing off against three lower-tier running teams, Pittsburgh has allowed 101 yards per game, good for 14th in the NFL.
The bye week was nothing short of a savior, so expect to see a far superior Steelers team on Sunday. With the team's playoff life likely on the line, look for Pittsburgh to come out on top in a close contest.
Score Prediction: Steelers 23, Eagles 20
Denver Broncos at New England Patriots
After consecutive poor starts in Weeks 2 and 3, it finally looked like Manning was getting re-acclimated to NFL life last week against the Oakland Raiders. The Broncos signal-caller completed 30 of 38 passes for 338 yards and three touchdowns as his team eviscerated Oakland, 37-6.
More importantly, it finally looks as if Denver has found a passing system that works around Manning's deficiencies. Dinking and dunking the ball around the field, Manning took an average of just 2.3 seconds to throw the ball, while of his 338 passing yards, only 120 came in the air (via Pro Football Focus).
Considering Manning's frustrations with throwing the deep ball early in the season, expect last week's trend to continue against New England on Sunday.
While dominant in their 52-28 victory, the Patriots allowed Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to throw for 350 yards and four touchdowns last week. And if you are unfamiliar with the Fitzpatrick brand of football, let's just say he doesn't have a howitzer for an arm.
New England also struggled mightily rushing the passer, getting pressure on the Bills quarterback on just six of his 44 drop-backs (via Pro Football Focus).
Repeating that performance against Manning would mean the only way New England wins this game is in a shootout, which is just fine with Brady and the Patriots offense.
Like Manning, Brady completely righted his ship against the Bills, completing 22 of 36 passes for 340 yards and a touchdown while also sneaking in on the ground. After losing two straight games, it seems like the Patriots have re-established themselves as the class of the AFC East.
Unfortunately for New England, it won't be going up against another weak front seven. Led by Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil, the Broncos put pressure on Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer a whopping 48.6 percent of the time.
Denver certainly won't be as blitz-heavy against the Patriots, but look for Brady to face more pressure than he's used to.
I would never expect anything but a close contest between these two quarterbacks. Nonetheless, I'm taking the Broncos to make an upset on the road this week.
Score Prediction: Broncos 31, Patriots 28
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