It's Thursday and so begins Week 5 of the 2012 NFL Season. Man, with these TNF games each week now, it makes the season go by so much faster.
After a wild first four weeks of football, we're at the quarter-mark of the season and we should now start to see if the contenders are truly that or if the tides will change.
Will the slow starts of some preseason favorites plague them for the rest of the season or will their strengths and experience right the ship and carry them into the playoffs?
Or maybe some new faces will be celebrating come winter. For now, we can only wait and see but for Week 5, here are my big game surprises.
Thursday, Oct. 4th
The Rams and Cardinals on Thursday Night Football? The NFC West on prime time? Who actually thought this would make must-see television? Well, the Cards and Rams will have something to say about it tonight when they match up in St. Louis with two very different goals.
The Cardinals enter St. Louis with a 4-0 record, the first time since 1974 when ironically, they called the city home. Now they are the visitors in a hostile Edwards Jones Dome and are facing the hungry and freshly motivated Rams.
Their ultimate goal tonight is to leave 5-0 and continue their remarkable unbeaten streak into next week, establishing a defensive stranglehold on the NFC West and proving they control the division, not San Francisco.
However, St. Louis may beg to differ. Although their offense has struggled, their kicker Greg Zuerlein has been outstanding. In a game like this, where both offenses haven't been great but their defenses keep them in contention, I see the rookie having another big day.
St. Louis shocks Arizona, 19-17
Sunday, Oct. 7th
It's a hard week to determine many big surprises, as there are handful of good teams sitting at 2-2 and 1-3 who still have a viable shot, but I must press on.
The Dolphins have been truly unfortunate the last couple of weeks losing overtime thrillers against the rival Jets and last week against the solid Cardinals. If those games had drifted just a tiny bit their way, they would be sitting at 3-1 and leading the AFC East, pretty good huh?
Rookie Ryan Tannehill has exceeded expectations this season, looking pretty good in the pocket and keeping plays alive. It's helped that his supporting cast has been exceptional as well. Reggie Bush has been the spark-plug we saw late last year and Brian Hartline has excelled as Tannehill's No. 1 receiver.
Cincinnati enters Week 5 with one of the hottest QB-WR tandems in the league. QB Andy Dalton and WR A.J. Green have been displaying Madden-like efficiency and numbers. They'll need to if they wish to keep outscoring their opponents who, besides the Jaguars, have had little issue passing the ball against this defense.
Miami has played a lot better than most people are willing to admit and unless the Bengals' defense finds a second wind against the Dolphins' play-makers, I think Miami will leave Ohio with their second win of the season.
Miami swims away with this one, 28-24
Sunday, Oct. 7th
The Atlanta Falcons have broken out early against the competition this season and are the early favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl come February, but as history has shown, it's never that easy. Nobody knows this better than the Falcons' QB Matt Ryan.
Ryan has suffered through three playoff losses since his 2008 rookie season. He's already shown that he is dominant during the regular season and last week proved that he still deserves his ubiquitous nickname, Matty Ice.
Unfortunately, those late game heroics came against the Carolina Panthers who the Falcons were expected to handle easily. Too bad it won't get any easier on Sunday when Atlanta has to travel to the nation's capital to face RG3 and the Redskins.
Washington is coming off a close win against another NFC South opponent, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and even after losing two defensive standouts in Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker, their offense led by Griffin and rookie RB Alfred Morris should keep this game close.
If the Falcons find themselves in a similar situation against the Skins as they did last week against Carolina, Ryan won't have the motivation of the Georgia Dome's crowd; he'll have the pressure of a rabid and rejuvenated Washington, D.C. fanbase who have a ton to be excited about.
Matty Ice melts against the Redskins, 34-27
Sunday, Oct. 7th
Which question will be answered on Sunday Night Football? Are the Chargers for real or can the Saints stop the bleeding? Either way, we're in for a wild ride.
New Orleans was expected to struggle but were they supposed to look this bad? They definitely looked improved against the Packers and if it wasn't for a careless penalty, they'd be 1-3, not 0-4, but it's neither here nor there.
Steve Spagnuolo's defense has been atrocious and if the Saints expect to contend at all this season, they need to step up this week against a confident Chargers team.
The Chargers haven't made a ton of noise this season but they are sitting at 3-1 and leading the AFC West which all the experts handed to Peyton Manning and the Broncos on a silver platter this preseason. With a solid defense and playmakers on offense, San Diego is a dangerous football team.
Regardless, the Saints were in it against Green Bay right up to the end and, in my opinion, played a better game. I think the Chargers will find themselves in a shootout but, with the Superdome crowd behind him, it'll be Brees coming out on top, both in the record books and the win.
New Orleans avoids fifth straight loss, beats San Diego, 38-21