Five weeks have passed in the 2013 NFL regular season, and it's safe to say the unthinkable has transpired. Only three teams are undefeated, multiple Super Bowl contenders are below .500, and numerous teams are stuck in the middle of the pack.
Which teams will continue to defy the odds during Week 6?
Opponent: at Minnesota Vikings
Betting Line: Vikings (-2.5) via VegasInsider.com
Prediction: 24-20, Panthers
The Carolina Panthers are 1-3 with two losses by less than five points and a Week 5 dud against the Arizona Cardinals. Through all of their failures, the Panthers rank in the top 10 in some of the most significant statistical categories.
Surprisingly, the issue has been the Panthers' ability to throw the football.
Thus far, Carolina ranks seventh in both rushing offense and rushing defense and eighth in passing defense. Unfortunately, ranks of 30th in passing offense and 27th in scoring offense display the team's inability to move the ball vertically and find the end zone.
Expect that to change against the Minnesota Vikings.
Cam Newton has something to prove to the NFL community after putting up monster numbers during his first two seasons and cooling down in year three. Carolina isn't yet eliminated from postseason contention, but with a top-10 defense, the blame for the losses goes to the offense.
If he's ever going to step in and prove himself, it'll be against a team with a subpar pass defense and inconsistent quarterback play.
Even if starting quarterback Christian Ponder plays, he'll still be hobbled while going against one of the NFL's top 10 defensive units. If Matt Cassel starts, the Vikings will play an efficient brand of offense but will lack the over-the-top threat Carolina possesses.
Minnesota's quarterbacks may be under pressure with the arrival of Josh Freeman, but Newton has his own hurdles to overcome. He'll do that in Week 6.
Opponent: at New York Jets
Betting Line: Jets (-1) via VegasInsider.com
Prediction: 17-16, Steelers
Before readers tell me I'm selling the New York Jets short, I do believe they will finish in the ballpark of 8-8—an impressive feat with a rookie quarterback. I also believe the Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the most well-coached teams in the NFL.
If Pittsburgh is going to win any games this season, it'll be the one that's fresh out of a bye week.
Ben Roethlisberger is still one of the NFL's great quarterbacks, and Le'Veon Bell ran for two touchdowns in his NFL debut during Week 4. The Jets have one of the better defenses in football, but the balance between airing it out and pounding it between the tackles is what Pittsburgh had been lacking.
Off a bye week that enabled Pittsburgh to develop better chemistry, the Steelers are in position to finally win.
The defense needs to force turnovers, but putting pressure on rookie Geno Smith should be manageable. From there, it'll come down to whether Big Ben can make clutch plays to secure a victory.
If that's not a strong enough reason, try convincing yourself that the Steelers could be 0-5.