NFL Week 5: 5 Teams That Proved They're Contenders

Aidan MackieSenior Analyst IOctober 9, 2011

NFL Week 5: 5 Teams That Proved They're Contenders

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    Week 5 altered the NFL landscape, and had many fans jump off of certain's bandwagon and jumping on another's. These five teams had major questions heading into this season, but have shocked everyone and proven that they are a staple in the playoff race. These franchises demonstrated their superiority this week, as all of them came up with major victories.

Buffalo Bills

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    The Buffalo Bills proved this week that they belong with the Jets and the Patriots in the AFC East elite group. Ryan Fitzpatrick has impressed everyone through five games, as he has made the Bills one of the most potent offenses in football.

    Veteran running back Fred Jackson has ressurected his career in 2011, as he has been one of the top backfield threats in the league in the early portion of the season. The Bills defense also has a gift for making huge plays, as they have intercepted elite quarterbacks Michael Vick and Tom Brady, who combined for ten total picks last year, eight times in just two games.

    Buffalo's 31-24 win over the disappointing Eagles substansiated their place on the top of the NFL's best division, and proved that they are major contenders to take home the division crown this season.

Cincinatti Bengals

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    The Cincinatti Bengals have perhaps been the NFL's most surprising team through five weeks. After a big win in Jacksonville, they now sit at 3-2, and just one game behind the division leading Baltimore Ravens.

    Rookies AJ Green and Andy Dalton have combined to form one of the NFL's most dangerous passing duos, and dynamic backfield threat Cedric Benson bowls over opposing defenses. The Bengals defense has also established itself as one of the top units in the league, as they have limited opponents to limited yards and points through the team's first five games.

    With beatable teams such as the Indianapolis Colts, the Seattle Seahawks and the Tennessee Titans next on the slate, the Bengals could find themselves at 6-2 when they meet AFC North powerhouses like the Ravens and Steelers late in the year.

Oakland Raiders

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    After the passing of NFL legend Al Davis on Saturday, the Oakland Raiders played with heavy hearts this week against the Houston Texans. Black and Silver bullied around one of the AFC's best teams, beating them 25-20, and establishing themselves as real contenders to take home the AFC crown this year.

    Jason Campbell has finally given the Oakland faithful a decent quarterback option, after years of turmoil at the position. Running back Darren McFadden has only built on his superb campaign from 2010, as he has made himself one of the most dynamic runners in the game today. With young talent littered across the roster, Oakland has a real chance to surprise everyone and play great football throughout the entire season. 

Pittsburgh Steelers

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers have looked slow and sluggish on both sides of the ball through four games, as they have suffered bad losses to the Houston Texans and the Baltimore Ravens.

    But the defending AFC champions proved that they are contenders again this season, as they dismantled a 3-1 Tennessee squad this week, as they physically dominated the Titans offensively and defensively. Ben Roethlisberger silenced his critics by throwing for five touchdown passes, and the Steelers defense shut down elite running back Chris Johnson and an explosive Titans offense.

    Pittsburgh crushed an inferior team Sunday, and once again put the swagger back in the Steelers organization. 

San Francisco 49ers

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    The most surprising team of the 2011 season has been the San Francisco 49ers. Under new coach Jim Harbaugh, the Bay City franchise has dismantled opponents on their way to a 4-1 start.

    Sunday was the most impressive 49ers performance in years, as they dominated a talented Buccaneers squad throughout the entire game, crushing them 48-3. The offense has been terrific throughout the season, as star runner Frank Gore and explosive receiving weapons Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree and Braylon Edwards have played at the top of their games.

    The San Francisco defense has been stifling throughout the year, and have established themselves as one of the NFL's most talented units. 

    The classic franchise already owns a two game lead in the weak NFC West division, and this is likely to grow throughout the season, as they outclass their divisional rivals.