The San Diego Chargers are scheduled to take on the New Orleans Saints on Sunday Night Football while the Houston Texans will try to remain undefeated 24 hours later in Week 5’s prime time matchups.
The Chargers and Saints will be featured on NBC starting at 8:20 p.m. ET, while the Texans and Jets are battling on ESPN’s Monday Night Football at 8:30 p.m. ET.
While each game features one struggling team against an opponent with a winning record, an upset is entirely possible if the underdog can win key matchups.
Here are the contests that will decide each of these prime time showdowns.
Chargers vs. Saints
San Diego Running Backs vs. New Orleans Front-Seven
The Saints rank dead last in the NFL in rushing yardage allowed per game.
While the Chargers are known as a passing team under Philip Rivers, the team must take full advantage of this glaring weakness. Ryan Mathews and Jackie Battle are set to split carries, and each is capable of having a productive day.
However, Battle is receiving a chance due to concerns of Mathew’s fumbling problems, and if the Saints front-seven is able to cause a turnover, it will give Drew Brees and the offense a chance to win.
But if Mathews doesn’t cough the ball up and the Chargers run on the Saints as successfully as New Orleans’ previous four opponents, San Diego will control this game. The running game will eat up the clock, and the play-action pass will be wide open for Rivers.
Battle of the All-Pro Tight Ends
This game will feature two of the best tight ends in football. The Saints’ Jimmy Graham led all players at his position with 99 receptions last season, while the Chargers’ Antonio Gates has been an All-Pro five times in his career.
Gates is 32 years old while Graham is just 25, but both players are still elite tight ends.
They are also their quarterback’s favorite receiver. The player who has a more productive game will significantly help their offense outperform their opponents.
Even though these players will not compete directly against each other in this game, their battle is crucial to the outcome.
Texans vs. Jets
J.J. Watt vs. New York Offensive Line
Houston defensive lineman J.J. Watt has been the best defensive player in the NFL through four games. He leads the NFL with 7.5 sacks and has also defended five passes and recovered two fumbles.
He has recorded these extremely impressive numbers despite playing defensive end in a 3-4 scheme—a position that focuses on occupying blockers instead of racking up sacks. Watt has done his traditional duties and still been able to wreak havoc for opposing quarterbacks.
Now, he faces a unit of blockers that has been woefully underperforming. Michael Salfino of the Wall Street Journal cites Pro Football Focus’ grades of the team’s offensive line to show its struggles. PFF uses film analysis of each individual play to come up with its rankings, and puts the Jets 22nd in pass blocking and 31st in run blocking.
If the offensive lineman are unable to slow down Watt, it will be an extremely long game for the Jets offense.
Houston Passing Attack vs. New York Secondary
Which prime time matchup is more intriguing?
Losing Darrelle Revis makes the Jets defense look extremely vulnerable. While the balanced Texans offense could pick apart its Week 5 opponent in a variety of ways, the New York secondary should be a worrisome area for the team’s coaching staff.
Andre Johnson is an elite player at his position, and without Revis, the Jets do not have a defensive back capable of stopping him.
With a talented ground game spearheaded by Arian Foster, the Texans receivers are likely to see many favorable matchups and the Jets defensive backs are going to have to make plays.
If New York’s secondary is not up to the challenge, the score line may be extremely lopsided when this game is over.