Sunday Morning Under the Helmet: What To Watch for in NFL Week Five
The first quarter is over, but don't worry, there is still plenty of football to go.
Through the first four weeks the NFL has seen its share of surprises, like the 4-0 Denver Broncos, disappointments like the 0-4 Tennessee Titans, and has certainly not lacked in entertainment.
The hard-hitting continues as we suit up for another weekend full of the game we all love.
Matchup of the Week: Atlanta Falcons (2-1) at San Francisco 49ers (3-1)
The Atlanta Falcons are coming off their bye week after their 26-10 loss in New England and are ready to rumble in week five.
The 49ers are also coming off a bye week...kind of. Last week they played the abysmal St. Louis Rams and cruised to an easy 35-0 victory, its most lopsided win in 87 games.
In his first three games, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has proved he will elude any talks of a sophomore slump. Ryan has thrown for 648 yards with five touchdowns and one interception and has a quarterback rating of 100.4.
Passing hasn't been the problem, it has been the ground game where the Falcons' offense has struggled to repeat last season's success. In 2008 they averaged 152.7 yards per game on the ground but have averaged just 92.3 yards so far this season. They rank 23rd in that category.
Don't expect those numbers to improve a whole lot after today because the 49ers defense ranks fourth against the run.
For the Niners, they'll also be focusing on the run this afternoon. With Frank Gore to be sidelined for at least another two weeks with an ankle injury, Glenn Coffee will be asked to carry the load again in week five.
Coffee should have success against the Falcons' 25th ranked run defense which has averaged 136 yards per game against them through their first three games of the season.
Although rookie wide receiver Michael Crabtree finally ended his holdout and signed a six-year deal with the Niners earlier this week, head coach Mike Singletary has said he will not see the field against the Falcons.
But who needs Crabtree when you've got Vernon Davis?
Davis is finally playing up to expectations from when he was drafted sixth overall in 2006. Through four games he has 17 receptions for 211 yards and three touchdowns, all team highs.
Keys to the game
-The Rushing attack: Whoever is most effective on the ground will likely win today.
-Tony Gonzalez: To counter the Niners' aggressive front seven, Matt Ryan will look in Gonzalez's direction plenty.
Prediction: 49ers win 27-16
Small Names, Big Games
Here we will take a look at three non-superstars who will post big numbers in Week Five.
Glen Coffee (RB, San Francisco)
Coffee will continue to see most of the action out of the San Francisco backfield with Frank Gore out until at least week seven.
Coffee ran for 74 yards last week against St. Louis.
Expect to see him touch the ball around 20 times against Atlanta's 25th ranked rush defense. He should top 100 yards today.
Ahmad Bradshaw (RB, New York Giants)
Brandon Jacobs is the No. 1 running back for the Giants but Ahmad Bradshaw sees his fair share of touches every week, too.
In four games, Bradshaw has carried the ball 47 times for 265 yards (a 5.6 average).
The Giants host the Oakland Raiders in week five who rank 26th against the run so Bradshaw could have another big game.
With quarterback Eli Manning battling an injury, the Giants will be even more likely to run a ton.
Watch for Bradshaw to break some big plays on the ground and out of the backfield as a receiver again this afternoon.
Kevin Walter (WR, Houston)
Kevin Walter is one of the most underrated wide receivers in all of football. He plays in a pass-happy offense where he consistently puts up solid numbers and has a nose for the end zone.
After missing the first two games with a hamstring injury, Walter has caught eight passes for 137 yards and one touchdown in the last two weeks.
The Texans head to Arizona today to take on the Cardinals who rank 30th against the pass.
Both of these teams love to throw the ball and you shouldn't expect anything to change today. Expect a high-scoring affair with lots of big plays and lead changes.
This type of game favors Walter, as he'll be able to rack up the catches and yards while the Cards focus on stopping Andre Johnson on the other side.
He's one of Matt Schaub's favorite targets, especially in the red zone, so be ready for a big-time performance by Walter in week five.
Others To Watch: Jerome Harrison (RB, Cleveland), Matt Cassel (QB, Kansas City), Pierre Garcon (WR, Indianapolis)
Upset Alert!: Kansas City (0-4) over Dallas (2-2)???
This upset prediction is just like last week's: It could be a disaster, or if everything goes perfect, it'll be an upset.
Kansas City has lost 27 of its last 29 games dating back to 2007 and are trying to avoid starting 0-5 for the first time in 32 years.
The Cowboys are trying to find their identity and get back to winning on a consistent basis.
Last week, Dallas lost a heart-wrenching 17-10 game to the Denver Broncos in the final minutes.
The Cowboys' inconsistency can be mostly blamed on the offense. Tony Romo and the passing attack cannot seem to have success like they've had in the past.
Romo has been held to an average of 212.3 passing yards per game with just one touchdown and four interceptions since their 34-21 victory over Tampa Bay in the season opener.
With wide receiver Roy Williams out today with a rib injury he suffered late in last Sunday's game, passing could be even tougher for Romo.
However, Kansas City's 28th ranked pass defense could make things a little easier for Romo and his weapons.
Quarterback Matt Cassel has yet to find the same success this year that he had in New England last season. But in last week's loss to the Giants, Cassel did show some signs of getting back to his '08 self when he threw for two garbage time touchdowns.
Cassel could have a big game this week against Dallas' 29th ranked pass defense. To do that though, he's going to need protection from the offensive line and for Larry Johnson to average more than the 2.6 yards per carry he's got so far.
The Chiefs' offense is also going to have to find a way to improve on third downs. They've converted just two of their last 26 third-down attempts and a 32nd ranked 17.6 percent on the year. To make things worse for K.C., the Dallas defense currently ranks fifth on third down efficiency.
Let's face it, the Chiefs have been atrocious all around so far in '09. But believe it or not, they do have a chance to take down "America's Team" in week five.
Keys for KC
-Move the ball on offense and score touchdowns
-Convert third downs
-Shut down the run
Prediction: Chiefs win 26-23
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