The NFL pot continues to thicken with another assortment of intriguing matchups on Sunday.
Last week's slate whet fans' appetite, as the Detroit Lions secured a huge win over the Chicago Bears and the Seattle Seahawks stormed back to defeat the Houston Texans in overtime. Tom Brady led the New England Patriots to a 4-0 start on Sunday night, while Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints handed the Miami Dolphins their first defeat of the season on Monday night.
How can this week up the ante?
Have no fear—plenty of games promise to take down the house with premier squads facing off. While 13 games remain on the Week 5 calendar, let's examine three of the most promising choices on tap.
New England Patriots at Cincinnati Bengals
New England has stayed the course without its premier offensive weapons, starting 4-0 while looking stronger on the offensive end each week. The Cincinnati Bengals have not lived up the hype at 2-2, but the AFC North currently looks like the conference's weakest grouping.
This game provides the Patriots a chance to prove themselves against a tougher foe, while the Bengals' mood will drastically shift depending on the outcome. They'll be tied for first place with a win but below .500 with a loss.
While New England's offense is not yet at full strength, it could see one of Brady's top targets return. Rob Gronkowski will not play on Sunday, but according to The Boston Herald's Jeff Howe, wide receiver Danny Amendola will.
Brady earned his first 300-yard game of the season last week against Atlanta, and getting Amendola back will only bolster the offense. In their only game together, the two connected for 10 completions.
As for the Bengals, they squandered the highs of besting a divisional foe in the Pittsburgh Steelers and corralling Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers by falling short to the Cleveland Browns. As Brian Hoyer completed 25 of 38 passes for 269 yards and two scores, Andy Dalton looked erratic with a 54.8 completion percentage and an interception.
The Bengals can use a victory to prove they belong, but don't count on them getting it.
Prediction: Patriots 24, Bengals 17
Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers
Who thought the Lions would have a chance to pull 2.5 games ahead of the Packers during Week 5?
Fresh off a decisive 40-32 victory over the Bears, the Lions can grab another massive divisional win against the Packers, who are in danger of dropping to 1-3.
Although the Lions finished 4-12 last season, it should not shock anyone to see them vying to match that win total early in October. They collected the third-most offensive yards last season, but they are now finishing the job by scoring 30.5 points per contest.
The Lions are a playoff contender, but they're not quite a title player just yet. Beating Green Bay could alter that perception.
A slow start also plagued the Packers last season. They started 1-2 before winning 10 of their last 13 games, so two tough losses should not incite panic.
Don't expect much defense, and Rodgers is less likely to make key mistakes at home than Matthew Stafford is. Green Bay will escape with a narrow victory to close the gap between the two NFC North adversaries.
Prediction: Packers 34, Lions 27
Houston Texans at San Francisco 49ers
What an odd season it's been for both of these squads.
The 49ers started the 2013 campaign on fire, dominating the Packers and looking like the team to beat in the process. They then dropped two games by 20 points or more before regaining their mojo against the St. Louis Rams.
Houston has already stood on opposite sides of two overtime games and two gigantic second-half rallies. After overcoming a 21-point deficit in Week 1 and surviving an overtime affair in Week 2, the Texans were destroyed by the Baltimore Ravens before squandering a 17-point lead to the Seattle Seahawks.
Now these squads sit at 2-2, so who knows what to make of them? Let's hope this game helps us figure it out.
Despite their struggles, these squads enter Sunday with the stingiest defense from their respective conference. There's no loss of star power on that side of the field when J.J. Watt and NaVorro Bowman take the field, but Patrick Willis' status remains up in the air due to his injured groin.
Hard-hitting, low-scoring football will return to the forefront on Sunday night, but the 49ers have shown what they're capable of at their best. Expect them to wash out the poor taste of getting decimated by the Seahawks and Indianapolis Colts with a win over Houston.
Prediction: 49ers 16, Texans 13