Home-field advantage is a powerful force in the NFL, but it's not foolproof.
Winning any game in this league requires a high degree of excellence. From the coaches game-planning and scheming to their players executing said game plans with skill and fervor, every win in the NFL is the result of outstanding efforts all around.
Looking at Sunday's slate of games for Week 5, there are a few games that stand out as wins for superior road teams. Nothing is guaranteed, but these teams should have a happy trip back home after winning on the road.
New Orleans Saints at Chicago Bears
Since head coach Sean Payton's return to New Orleans, the Saints are back on track as Super Bowl contenders.
Payton and quarterback Drew Brees understand one another as well as any coach-quarterback duo in the NFL, and offense is never going to be a problem as long as it's working together.
But the real reason Saints fans should be getting excited this year is the team's improved defense under Rob Ryan. His 3-4 scheme has proven to be a good fit for New Orleans' personnel, and defensive end Cameron Jordan has been a huge beneficiary of the change (four sacks).
The Saints will make life miserable for Jay Cutler this Sunday. He threw three interceptions against the Detroit Lions in Week 4, and he'll turn the ball over a couple of times again this Sunday.
Those extra chances for New Orleans will prove to be the difference in the game. Brees is tough enough without them, but he has a knack for making teams pay after his defense creates a turnover.
Kansas City Chiefs at Tennessee Titans
If Jake Locker were healthy, then the Titans would be a smart pick at home.
Locker opened up some eyes this year before getting injured last weekend, passing for 721 yards with six touchdowns and zero interceptions while leading his team to a 3-1 record. Unfortunately, he's recovering from hip and knee sprains and won't be available for another four to six weeks, as noted by Ed Werder of ESPN:
Titans now estimate QB Jake Locker should return in four to six weeks from hip and knee sprains. Time frame was 4 to 8 or more— Ed Werder (@Edwerderespn) October 2, 2013
In his place, veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick will attempt to lead Tennessee to victory, which isn't good news for Titans fans.
Fitzpatrick was dumped by the Buffalo Bills after being signed as Locker's backup. He's completed less than 60 percent of his passes throughout his career and has thrown nearly as many interceptions as touchdowns (93 touchdowns and 81 interceptions).
On the other side, Kansas City's defense comes into the game having created 12 turnovers through four games. Justin Houston, Tamba Hali and Dontari Poe have been relentless pass-rushers this year for the Chiefs, and Fitzpatrick is a stationary target in the pocket.
Alex Smith will have an efficient game for the Chiefs, and Kansas City will improve to 5-0 after defeating the Titans this Sunday.
Denver Broncos at Dallas Cowboys
One thing I think we can all agree on is that Peyton Manning is better than Philip Rivers—or any other quarterback in the league, for that matter. He's currently on pace to demolish two major single-season records after opening up the season with 1,470 yards and 16 touchdowns in his first four games.
Another thing that would be tough to argue is that the Broncos feature a better corps of receivers and tight ends than the San Diego Chargers.
Does Dallas have any chance of beating the Peyton Mannings?
But what do these statements mean as it pertains to Sunday's game against the Cowboys? Rivers shredded Dallas in Week 4 to the tune of 401 yards and three touchdowns.
Monte Kiffin has done a masterful job with Dallas' defense this year—especially up front. But there's no doubt about the team's issue at the safety position. Will Allen and Barry Church are liabilities against top-tier quarterbacks.
Tony Romo won't be able to keep up with Manning score-for-score this Sunday, as Manning will continue rolling along at his record-smashing pace.
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