Every week in the NFL brings a marquee matchup between two top-tier teams. Week 5 is no different, and, in fact, has many more fantastic games between some of the top conference rivals and playoff contenders than usual.
It will certainly be a fantastic Week 5 in the NFL.
And now to the picks and breaking down each matchup of Week 5.
The underachieving Eagles travel to Buffalo this week to take on the Bills and their perennially underrated QB, Ryan Fitzpatrick. This game has all the makings of a shootout between two very high-power offenses.
Philly's defense has failed to perform this year, despite their huge offseason acquisitions, and the Bills have the 22nd-ranked pass defense in the NFL. All of this would seem to indicate that Michael Vick and Fitzpatrick will have an awesome time throwing the ball around, and will certainly lead to an entertaining game for the fans.
That said, at some point Vick has to think that it's time to put the team on his back, and show the nation once again what he is capable of. He's shown flashes of it so far, but injuries have hampered him.
Now, after having two weeks to recover from a broken hand, its Vick's time to say, "Screw the system, I'm going to win it my way." And that's just what he'll do—although not without some protest from Fitzpatrick and Co.
Prediction: Eagles 30, Bills 27
New Orleans makes the trip to Carolina this week to face off against one of the bright young stars in the NFL, Cam Newton. Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will be the latest defensive guru to give Newton his best shot. His defense should be able to do the trick, although Newton will certainly give him a run for his money.
I found this quote by Newton really amusing. When asked by a reporter if he was surprised by his successful transition to the pro game, he responded: "If you write a good article, do you surprise yourself?" Spot on. Panther fans have to be jumping up and down with excitement over how well he's performed.
I expect the Panthers to try and run the ball to keep it out of Drew Brees' hands, but I doubt they will be able to stop the Saints offense.
In the end, it will be up to Newton once again to keep his team in the ballgame. I expect him to get close, but not close enough.
Prediction: Saints 27, Panthers 23
Arian Foster picked the right time to get healthy. With the Texans losing Andre Johnson to injury, Foster will return to the do-it-all role he took on last season—which is perfect for this game against the Raiders, as the Texans will try to keep the ball out of the hands of one of the top backs in the NFL, Darren McFadden.
The Texans' passing game is going to remain competent, despite the loss of Johnson, and the defense has become remarkably better under the leadership and tutelage of Wade Philips. Mario Williams and J.J. Watt look unstoppable rushing the QB right now as well.
The Raiders have also looked like quite the solid team so far this season, although, with McFadden and Michael Bush a little banged up, this matchup against the high-flying Texans—fresh off their victory over the Steelers—could probably be a let-down game for the Raiders.
Prediction: Texans 24, Raiders 14
Indianapolis gave Tampa Bay a run for its money last Monday night, and Curtis Painter looked pretty solid as the starting QB for the Colts. Perhaps he's not as bad as we all thought he was.
With that said, the Colts without Peyton Manning are still, well, the Colts without Peyton Manning, which is not saying much.
However, as bad as the Colts have looked, the Chiefs—besides their game with Minnesota—have looked pretty much hopeless. They have a non-existent running game, a defense which can't really play defense, even though Tamba Hali is still one of the top pass-rushers in the NFL, and a QB who has been just average so far.
Matt Cassel may decide that he's going to go out and prove me wrong this week, but I don't see how, with Dwight Freeney and Robert Matthis breathing down his neck all game long.
Prediction, Colts 20, Chiefs 13
Can we just talk about Andy Dalton for a second?
This guy has been phenomenal, considering the situation that he's been placed in. Replacing Carson Palmer and working with an entirely new receiving corps, Dalton has managed to guide the Bengals to a 2-2 start, which is not all that great, but it's certainly much better then we thought they would be.
The Bengals defense has been even better. They are ranked first in the league in overall defense—that's simply amazing. That's a lot of no-name guys getting together and going hard on every single play, and Mike Zimmer deserves all the credit.
As for the Jaguars, well, at least Maurice Jones-Drew is looking really good this year.
What they didn't do last week against the Saints was feed him the rock. I expect them to to do that this week and try to keep the ball out of Dalton's hands. It will probably be tough going, though, against this solid Bengals defense.
Prediction: Bengals 23, Jaguars, 13
The Cardinals are the most perplexing team in the league right now. Last week they looked superb against a very good Giants team: They ran the ball well, Kevin Kolb didn't make mistakes and they managed to stick around until the very end—when they got stuck on the wrong side of a controversial call.
The week before that, however, they looked anemic in their loss to the Seahawks.
Speaking of perplexing, why won't the Vikings give Adrian Peterson the ball? It boggles my mind.
The Vikings cite the reason they don't give it to him is because they don't want opposing defenses to load the box against him. Defenses have been doing that since Peterson stepped onto the field his rookie year, but he has consistently found ways to be productive, regardless of the amount of pressure he's facing. He is that good.
Feed him the ball, Leslie Frazier; you might win a game.
Prediction: Vikings 20, Cardinals 17
Eli Manning has been superb this year. He has a higher passer rating than Drew Brees (105.6 to 102.9), he's been more accurate than Matt Ryan (64 to 62 percent), he has more touchdown passes than Matt Schaub (eight to seven) and fewer picks than Tom Brady (two to five).
Plus, his running backs have given him the help that all QBs need, with Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs showing up in both the running and receiving game. Manning looks like the real deal this year.
The Seahawks finally broke though last week against the Falcons, and Tarvaris Jackson looked like he might actually have some life in him. I don't think, though, that last week makes up for the three previous weeks where the Seahawks looked extremely poor.
Also, the G-men are a better team, with a better defense, then the Falcons.
Prediction: Giants 30, Seahawks 10
The Steelers are coming off of a 17-10 loss to the Texans, a score that appears much closer then it actually was.
The Texans ran all over the Steelers, and pressured Roethlisberger into multiple errors. Plus, the Steelers lost Rashard Mendenhall to injury, which means that their running game will be even less effective than it already was.
The Titans, on the other hand, are coming off of a 31-13 beat down of the Cleveland Browns, in a game that saw Matt Hasselback toss three touchdown passes and Chris Johnson finally break the 100-yard mark.
The Titans are humming along right now, and I don't think a trip to Heinz Field will interrupt their rapid start. Plus, Roethlisberger was seen walking out of the stadium last week with a cast on his foot. I'm not sure if he can take another week of punishment.
Prediction: Titans 23, Steelers 17
It's the Battle of the Bays, as Tampa Bay travels west to take on the 49ers at Candlestick Park.
Frank Gore was a monster last week, injury or not. Coach Jim Harbaugh has certainly managed to motivate his team and get them to hustle each and every week, something they never did under Mike Singletary, no matter how hard he tried.
While Josh Freeman has not recovered his stellar 2010 form, the Bucs' defense has started to come into its own as a pretty decent defensive unit. With Gerald McCoy and Brian Price anchoring the interior of the defensive line, ends Michael Bennett and Adrian Clayborn have been freed up to do what they do best: get after the quarterback.
I think the Bucs will come after Alex Smith hard this week, force turnovers, and ride LeGarrette Blount to victory once again.
Prediction: Buccaneers 27, 49ers 16
Last week, Denver ran into the buzzsaw that is the Green Bay Packers offense, and ended up letting Aaron Rodgers throw for over 400 yards and score a total of six touchdowns.
Although Denver did manage to put some points on the board, courtesy of Eric Decker, it again finds itself in a situation facing an elite offense.
However, Philip Rivers has been relatively quiet this year, throwing for only five touchdowns and six interceptions. This can probably be attributed to the loss of Antonio Gates, but a QB the caliber of Rivers should be able to produce regardless—especially when he has one of the top receivers in the NFL in Vincent Jackson.
That has just not been the case so far, although this could change this week with a visit to the Mile High City.
Denver has been allowing opposing passers a completion percentage over 70 percent and an average QB rating of 110.7. In other words, it might be Rivers' time to take off.
Prediction: Chargers 34, Denver 17
In a rematch of last year's AFC divisional game, the Jets travel to New England to take on Tom Brady and the Patriots.
Brady has looked incredible this year, and only Aaron Rodgers can match his production and MVP candidacy. Brady is averaging three touchdowns and 388.3 yards passing per game, a pace that would see him finish with a league-record 6,212 passing yards, shattering Dan Marino's 1984 mark by a mere 1,128 yards.
Brady's counterpart on the Jets, Mark Sanchez, is not even close to approaching Brady in production. Last week against the Ravens, Sanchez went 11 for 35 with 119 yards passing—that's 3.4 yards per attempt.
That's a miserable stat for a QB who is the face of the Jets franchise. Sanchez has certainly been hurt by the departure of All-Pro center Nick Mangold, so getting him back this week will certainly improve his production.
However, I still don't think it will be enough to overcome Tom Brady and the Patriots, as the Jets simply do not have the offense to match the Patriots point for point.
Prediction: Patriots 33, Jets 19
The other rematch of last year's NFC divisional game finds the Packers traveling to the same place where they put the beat down on the Falcons the last time these two teams played.
Although there is less importance riding on this game than there was the last time these two teams faced off, it is certainly a significant game, simply because of the revenge factor.
Matt Ryan and Co. have been gunning for the Packers since the start of the season, if Roddy White's quote during the preseason serves as any indication: "We were a better team than those guys [referring to last year's playoff game between the Packers and Falcons]... I feel like we're a better team this year, and we'll be ready to get after those guys."
It will be interesting to see if Roddy White can back his words up.
I expect the Falcons to try and run the ball to keep the Packers offense from putting up too many points. Unfortunately, I don't see this working, as the Packers have the No. 2-ranked run defense in the NFL right now, and are forcing more turnovers per game than they were last year, when they won the Super Bowl.
Plus, Ryan has been getting the tar knocked out of him the past couple of weeks, and it appears that he's beginning to feel pressure when it's not even there.
Last week, the Falcons offensive line pulled itself together and delivered a no-sack performance. However, I don't think anybody is capable of stopping Rodgers and the Packers right now.
Prediction: Packers 34, Falcons 24
Detroit has finally found its way back into the spotlight, appearing on a nationally televised game against a premier division rival, the Chicago Bears.
The Bears' game plan for this week should be simple: Matt Forte, Matt Forte and, just for kicks, a little more Matt Forte.
For the Bears to have any shot of stopping this prolific Lions offense (when's the last time that's been said?) they will need to play keep away from Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson. And when the Lions do have the ball, I think the Bears will play some old-school Bears defense, and attempt to maul the Lions to death—legally, of course.
On the other side, the Lions game plan should be to shut down Forte. If they do that, I think they can win this game, as Jay Cutler has yet to prove that he can put the team on his back and lead them to victory.
The Lions have the offense to put up some points, and playing in front of the home crowd and national television will certainly motivate them to show everyone what they can do.
Prediction: Lions 24, Bears 20