NFL Week 5 Predictions: Underrated Teams Destined to Shine on Sunday

Tyler ConwayFeatured ColumnistOctober 4, 2012

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 20:  Quarterback Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers leads his teammates onto the field to play against the New York Giants at Bank of America Stadium on September 20, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Sometimes no matter how many top-notch players are on a roster or jaw-dropping finishes an NFL team is involved with, they still cannot get recognition by the average fan.

For the most part, this is an understandable phenomenon. Outside of each individual's favorite team, there is only so much information an average fan can absorb.

When there are circus-like atmospheres with teams like the New York Jets and continuing dynasties like the New England Patriots, it is easy to focus on those squads and ignore most others. 

Nonetheless, as we hit Week 5 of the 2012 NFL season, there are teams that have gone under the radar for far too long. 

With that in mind, here's a look at some underrated teams that will announce their presence on Sunday.


Carolina Panthers

After a humiliating 36-7 loss in Week 3 against the New York Giants, it seemed that most had written off the Panthers as a viable playoff threat.

The offense had sputtered behind what was shaping up like a sophomore slump from quarterback Cam Newton and a shockingly ineffective performance from the high-priced running game.

However, with nine days of rest under their belt the loss to New York, the Panthers looked like a rejuvenated team against the Atlanta Falcons last Sunday.

Led by a virtuoso performance from Newton, Carolina put up 404 total yards of offense and put a scare into the undefeated Falcons. In fact, most believe the Panthers would have won the game had head coach Ron Rivera not made an erroneous decision to punt on a 4th-and-short late in the fourth quarter.

That type of loss could make or break a team, and after what we saw last week against Atlanta, my money is on a motivated Panthers team defeating the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has slowly descended from preseason darling to the hot seat with poor performances, and it seems reasonable to expect the Panthers to simply outscore the opposition on Sunday. 

Look for a big game from Newton and the rest of the Carolina offense en route to an easy victory. 


Chicago Bears

For a 3-1 team, the Bears certainly get a lot of disrespect. It seems that while everyone acknowledges their record, pundits and other teams keep waiting for the "aging" defense to flounder and for Jay Cutler to put up another horrid performance.

While the latter is certainly bound to happen sometime in 2012, the former is one of the NFL's biggest misnomers. Outside of big names like Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, it is readily apparent that Chicago quietly built a strong stable of young talent that is spurring the team's defensive renaissance.

Granted, it's unlikely that any of the players are Pro Bowl-caliber, but they are so well-coached and disciplined as a unit they suffocate opposing offenses. 

Expect those young defenders to shine on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Though improved, quarterback Blaine Gabbert is still easily among the league's worst signal-callers, struggling consistently with decision-making and accuracy.


Minnesota Vikings

Another 3-1 squad that's flying under the radar, the Vikings have not only exceeded all expectations, they have done so against relatively strong competition.

Each of the past two weeks has seen Minnesota systematically shut down an NFC playoff team's offense and win with non-spectacular, efficient play on offense.

Nonetheless, don't be surprised if you see a little offensive explosion Sunday when the Vikings face off against an anemic Tennessee Titans defense.

The Titans rank 31st in the NFL this season in yards allowed and are dreadful in both categories, ranking 27th against the run and pass.

What's more, Adrian Peterson has seemingly been closer and closer to a breakout performance with every carry. The physical marvel ran for 102 yards on 21 carries last week against the Detroit Lions and seemed on the precipice of regaining his once magnificent burst through the hole.

If there is any week that Peterson will re-establish his position as the league's best running back, it will come on Sunday against the Titans.