Week 5 of the 2013 NFL regular season is set to commence at 8:25 p.m. ET on Thursday, Oct. 3, when the Buffalo Bills travel to play the Cleveland Browns on NFL Network. This will set the stage for a week of high-stakes football games that will go a long way toward shaping the postseason picture.
While all eyes may be in the battles between rivals, the games that will truly shape the season are the inter-conference battles. Here's how they'll transpire.
Seattle Seahawks (4-0) at Indianapolis Colts (3-1)
Date: Sunday, Oct. 6
Time: 1:00 p.m. ET
Prediction: 17-14, Seahawks
When the Seattle Seahawks meet the Indianapolis Colts, two of the best teams in the NFL will square off in what could be a Super Bowl preview. I'm not necessarily sold on the Colts as a Super Bowl team just yet, but through four weeks, they're 3-1 and fourth in the NFL in point differential.
Just don't think the Seahawks are unprepared for an elite opponent.
Seattle is a 4-0 football team that only recently returned injured stars, with starters Brandon Browner and Chris Clemons shining already. During Week 4, Clemons had his first sack of the season and Browner had two passes defended during a 23-20 overtime win over the Houston Texans.
Seattle may need another day of fourth quarter heroics to take down Indianapolis.
The Colts have outscored their past two opponents 64-10 after losing 24-20 to the Miami Dolphins during Week 2. Dominating the Jacksonville Jaguars isn't too impressive, but a 27-7 road win over the San Francisco 49ers is.
Indianapolis is balanced, well-coached and a legitimate threat in the AFC.
Andrew Luck is taking care of the football and Trent Richardson has two touchdowns in as many games, and Seattle did allow Arian Foster to run for 102 yards in Week 4. With that being said, the Seahawks are just as balanced as Indianapolis with a superior defense.
It'll be ugly, but when it's all said and done, Seattle will win a close one.
Denver Broncos (4-0) at Dallas Cowboys (2-2)
Date: Sunday, Oct. 6
Time: 4:25 p.m. ET
Prediction: 41-30, Broncos
When the Denver Broncos travel to play the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, Oct. 6, both teams will have the division lead on the line. That may be hard to believe, considering Denver is 4-0 and Dallas is 2-2, but both squads own a slim advantage in the AFC West and NFC East, respectively.
In Denver's case, its only edge is a tiebreak.
The Broncos have been playing outstanding football, but the Kansas City Chiefs are also 4-0. The Chiefs play the Tennessee Titans during Week 5, which is a favorable matchup considering Jake Locker suffered a severe hip injury and will miss at least four weeks, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.
If Denver loses and Kansas City wins, the Broncos will be No. 2 in the AFC West.
The Cowboys enter this game with a one-game lead over the Philadelphia Eagles and the Washington Redskins in the NFC East. The Eagles and Redskins are 1-3 football teams, which displays both how weak the division is and how inconsistent Dallas has been.
A loss here would make all four teams in the NFC East below .500.
Dallas would be the team with its back against the wall in conventional situations, but Denver is under just as much pressure. Despite scoring 52 more points than any other team in the NFL, the Broncos are tied in their division with a very good Chiefs team.
Expect Denver to display the same sense of urgency as Dallas, thus leading to a high-scoring victory.
Houston Texans (2-2) at San Francisco 49ers (2-2)
Date: Sunday, Oct. 6
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Prediction: 24-20, 49ers
The Houston Texans entered the 2013 NFL regular season as a primary candidate to finish as the second-best team in the AFC behind the Broncos. The San Francisco 49ers entered the year as the team that many favored to reach the Super Bowl for the second consecutive season.
Through four weeks, both teams are 2-2.
The talent on both rosters suggests that they could run the table, but after Week 5, either Houston or San Francisco will be 2-3. This is bad news considering Houston trails the 3-1 Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco is two games and a tiebreak behind the Seattle Seahawks.
This is must-win territory.
The Texans have lost two consecutive games, including a 23-20 overtime defeat against Seattle after Matt Schaub threw a fourth quarter pick-six. The Niners defeated the St. Louis Rams 35-11 to snap a two-game losing streak, but were blown out by more than 20 points in consecutive games before that.
It's safe to say that neither one of these teams has too much reason for confidence.
This one will come down to quarterback play, as the defenses and running games effectively cancel each other out. Schaub has been excellent statistically, but Colin Kaepernick needs to prove that he's not just another flash in the pan.
After dreadful performances in Weeks 2 and 3, and a strong-but-not-stellar Week 4, look for Kaepernick to prove his status as a rising star.