Week 5 is the first week that teams will have 4 full games of film to review. This is the standard amount that teams review throughout the season so teams really should start finding tendencies and patterns.
Note: Just as a warning, I didn’t get to do as much film study on these games and this week as I normally do. I’ve collected info from as many different resources as I could and I’ve relied on previous film study more heavily than normal.
New Orleans Saints at Chicago Bears
The Saints torched an overmatched Miami defense last week. I thought that Miami could have the personnel to match up to Brees’ weapons but we never saw them really try to scheme in a way that resembled anything coherent. The combo of Sean Payton and Drew Brees can do that to even the best.
The Bears lost to a resurgent Lions team that is very hard to defend. Most fans will look at the game and say it was a game that Jay Cutler gave away. Cutler wasn’t really making bad decisions he just wasn’t precise. He was inaccurate and for whatever reason this happens at times with him. He just couldn’t put the ball where it needed to be early on and the Bears defense had trouble stopping the Lions. Bad combination.
The Bears severely miss Henry Melton. He was so important to their interior pass rush and they’ll need to find a replacement or scheme to get more pressure on the inside. It’s unlikely they decide to blitz a lot more as it’s not their style, but we could see a lot more movement of their personnel along their defensive front. If the Bears really want an interior pass rush on certain plays, I have a feeling they’ll start moving Julius Peppers inside on a few snaps.
The Saints defense isn’t a product of scheme as much as I originally thought. Rob Ryan hasn’t been as multiple as I expected. It seems he truly believes in the personnel of this defense. Kenny Vacarro moves all over the place but that’s really about it. Everything else is line up and get to the QB.
While I like the Bears a lot, Cutler’s last game concerns me a bit. If he gets a little pressure around him, something the Lions got while the Vikings and Steelers couldn’t in weeks 1 and 2, he tends to become a little less accurate. The Bears have some serious weapons for Cutler to throw to and can really take advantage of the Saints secondary. The Saints have the fire power to keep up. I think with Melton, I would take the Bears but without him I have to trust Brees and Payton to have a better gameplan to beat a good defense than Cutler and Trestman.
Saints win in what I think will be a game that results in a lot of points.
New England Patriots at Cincinnati Bengals
The Patriots offense showed some serious signs of life last week but still relied heavily on the defense to come through at big moments. Aqib Talib looked great on Julio Jones and really seems to be working hard at getting a new contract. The loss of Vince Wilfork will be huge for that defense. He’s so strong up front and was a force in the run game. Even though the Patriots will most definitely lose that aspect, I wonder if they’ll now get a better interior pass rush?
The Bengals lost to a better-than-everyone-thought Browns team. The Browns challenged Andy Dalton with multiple looks and forced him to throw the ball in tough situations. Dalton couldn’t win in those situations and the Bengals’ offense sputtered. This is a blueprint for how to defend the Bengals offense and one I expect the Patriots to follow. They’ll take AJ Green out of the equation and make sure to condense space when Giovanni Bernard is in the game. The Bengals will be forced to adjust.
The Bengals linebacking corps is a cause for concern. They’re slow and not great in coverage. This is a terrible matchup against a team that loves to get LBs matched up on WRs in the slot and on more athletic TEs. The Bengals may have to end up in zone more than they want but even then Brady will shred them.
The only way the Bengals come out of this game is if AJ Green can find separation and Dalton can get him the ball consistently. The Bengals should try to use the width of the field to put the Patriots LBs in chase mode and de-clutter the middle of the field. If they can do that, they can put up enough points to keep up. If not, I think the Patriots roll in this one.
Patriots take it by about a touchdown.
Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers
The Lions are a team I’ve underestimated all year. The coaching has done a better job than I’ve given them credit for. While Matt Stafford hasn’t exactly cleaned up his mechanics, the Lions have done a good job of scheming shorter routes and that means Stafford is getting the ball out quicker. The linebackers – who looked bad in the preseason – have looked much better during the regular season. I also think Glover Quin makes a huge difference as a safety. He seems to be involved in nearly every play.
The Packers’ defense is much better than I think people realize. This is a very good man coverage team that can get pressure from their front seven. The LBs have been solid but not great. I really thought we’d see more from rookie Datone Jones.
The Lions are such a tough team defend with Reggie Bush in the backfield. If I’m looking at trying to defend them right now, I’m looking at this season’s film and also back in 2010/2011 when the Lions had Jahvid Best. That’s much like what the Lions are doing with Bush. The Packers are smart and will want to take away Calvin Johnson first but I’m still not sure how they’ll approach defending Bush. They may take a target approach and hit Bush every play with a rusher (much like the Pats did against Marshall Faulk in the Super Bowl). It seems the only reliable way to keep this offense in check right now. They’ll probably try to make the Lions beat them with Ryan Broyles and Brandon Pettigrew while giving up some pass rush to keep Reggie Bush from touching the ball.
On offense, the Packers will continue to do what they do. The Lions will have a tough time defending all of the weapons that the Packers have. I really don’t think they have an answer for Randall Cobb, who should have a big game. Also, if CB Chris Houston is out, that’s a lethal loss for the Lions.
The Lions will keep this one close and if Stafford can pull out a last minute drive, they’ll have a chance. The Packers should live up to the challenge and win by a field goal or less.
Kansas City Chiefs at Tennessee Titans
I was wrong about Jake Locker. At least for the start of this season. He looked phenomenal and was playing as well as any QB in the league not named “Peyton.” The loss of locker to a hip injury will be severely detrimental. Locker was more accurate than he had ever been before that injury. Ryan Fitzpatrick will take his place, which is a big step down from how Locker was playing. The real story about the Titans is the defense. Greg Williams has these guys blitzing and they are covering well on the backend. This was a defense that showed a little promise last year but now with Williams they are showing more consistency in the level of play.
The Chiefs are built to sustain and manage. The defense controls the game while the offense moves the chains with consistency and frequency. They don’t take deep shots because they don’t have to. Alex Smith has run the ball more than any QB in the league. He understands his job is to get first downs and keep the ball moving down the field without making mistakes. If he does that, the Chiefs are unstoppable.
Without the high level of play of Locker, I don’t think the Titans are a very good team. They get a decent pass rush and could give the Kansas City offensive line trouble, but Alex Smith gets the ball out quick and uses the short passing game to Jamaal Charles as an extension of the run. The Titans will likely focus on Charles. No one has made the Chiefs play from behind yet and that’s the way the Chiefs like it. If somehow the Titans get up early, maybe a kick return and a score off a turnover, they’ll have a chance at forcing the Chiefs to open up the offense and make mistakes. Other than that, they lose the matchup battle in nearly every position on the field.
The Chiefs win easily.
Seattle Seahawks at Indianapolis Colts
The Seahawks haven’t played particularly well this season, especially on the road. If not for some late Russell Wilson heroics last week, the Seahawks would have gotten the loss. The defense is playing well but the offense has run into problems with the passing game. Wilson needs to be more decisive with the ball. He’s relying very heavily on his athleticism and isn’t playing as well as he did at the end of last season.
The Colts are in every matchup with Andrew Luck at QB. The new offense really fits his strengths. Early on he was still taking unnecessary chances but he has really reined those throws in and is being more efficient with the football. While Trent Richardson hasn’t been spectacular for them yet, he does give them another dimension. The Colts do a great job moving receivers all over the formation which means the Seahawks will have to decide if they want to matchup or sit in zone behind it. The Colts are as multiple on offense as the Jets are on defense. The defense relies on man coverage which means they’ll probably have to mix it up with an athletic QB like Wilson in the backfield.
The fact that this game is in Indianapolis means a great deal. The Seahawks have been great at home but just mediocre on the road. They escaped last week in Houston because of a horrible decision by Matt Schaub (and a good play by Richard Sherman). The Colts aren’t prone to those mistakes and they’re much better at taking selective shots down the field.
The Colts offensive line is still below average and that makes me hesitate picking them against a very good pass rush by the Seahawks. However, Luck’s movement in the pocket is amazing and negates a lot of that. He’ll need to be good but I think the Colts take this one in a close game.
Jacksonville Jaguars at St. Louis Rams
The Jags are a hard team to define. The defense isn’t as bad as most people probably think but the offense hasn’t put up points so it really stresses the defense. The Jags may be without Cecil Shorts this weekend but get Justin Blackmon back from suspension. The Jags seem content on working through games while using a lot of the playbook and not trying to rely on the run to keep games in check. They’re clearly working on progression throughout the year.
The Rams have been a huge disappointment to me thus far. I thought they were primed for a very good season with a good pass rush and solid play on the back end of the defense. The offense was supposed to succeed on Bradford’s accuracy and a decent run game but neither of those have come to fruition. Isaiah Pead looks to shoulder most of the load in the run game but I think Zac Stacy needs to get some touches so the offense can see how he looks. The problem probably lies more in Brian Schottenheimer and his lack of creativity than it does in the actual personnel.
I want to say the Rams are the much better team at this point but they haven’t really shown it. This could be the game where the Jags put together enough of a showing to come out with a win, but it seems improbable. The front four of the Rams are tremendous at pass rushing and that’s pretty much the worst thing for Gabbert to succeed.
Rams win in a game that may help them reset themselves going forward.
Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins have to find a run game to help this offense really extend itself. The whole offense appears to be a work in progress because, among other things, they aren’t using Mike Wallace in a useful way. Charles Clay has emerged as a useful target at the TE position which could prove important down the stretch. Don’t judge this defense on their performance against the Saints last week. The Saints can do that to just about anyone.
The Ravens offensive line is average at best so Ozzie Newsome does what he does and went and got a very good offensive tackle in Eugene Monroe. Monroe should play extensively this weekend and will help upgrade the OL. The problem is that the Ravens still lack offensive weapons. They need to find a way to get Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce on the field at the same time. At this point they just need as many playmakers on the field as possible. Marlon Brown looks like he could be a viable asset opposite Torey Smith but the Ravens really need to continue to find ways to exploit the middle of the field to help free up Brown and Smith.
These games are always hard to predict as it’s two teams who are still struggling to find their identity. Neither team has really had a great run game and both teams have solid defenses. It could be a struggle with a couple of deep shots that prove to make a big difference. I tend to go with the better coaching staff in these matchups. That’s the Ravens in this one.
Ravens win in a fairly low scoring contest.
Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants
The Giants just added Jon Beason which may prove to be useful in the future but I doubt he plays much this weekend. The real addition, as all of my twitter followers know, is FB John Conner. The addition of Conner plus the type of game that the Eagles will want to play leads me to believe that this is the week that David Wilson finally gets his train out of the station. The Giants need the running game to help open up the passing game. Wilson and Brandon Jacobs should get a significant amount of carries to help slow down the face paced Eagles offense. The Philly defense is also susceptible to the run.
The Eagles offense has proven to be pretty simple. It’s based on very basic concepts that are used in different ways and formations. Being simple doesn’t mean it’s easy to defend. The speed at which they play paired with the concepts makes it tough for defenders to decipher what is going on and react in time. On defense the Eagles really struggle in multiple areas. The secondary has given up some open receivers and the front seven hasn’t been great against the run. I’m not sure the Eagles have the juice up front to really disrupt the Giants’ offensive line either.
Chip Kelly may throw in some new wrinkles but the Eagles’ offense should have no problem putting up points on this Giants’ defense. Their back seven is one of the worst groups in the league and that’s a really terrible problem to have. If the Giants can keep the offense in check by only rushing four and dropping seven into coverage then they have a shot. If they have to blitz, they have no shot. This is the reason why I think the Giants put a major emphasis on the run game. If they can keep the score low, they have a shot.
I honestly have no clue how this game will turn out. Both of these defenses have major issues but the Eagles have a more proven offense so far this season. However, I think the adjustment the Giants will make might be enough. I’ll take the Giants to squeak by with a win by taking the lead late and controlling the clock.
Carolina Panthers at Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals are a hard team to predict this week because they get back their best linebacker back from suspension in Daryl Washington. This really helps an already very good defense. Patrick Peterson has proven he can cover nearly anyone in the league. He matched up well on Vincent Jackson last week but Steve Smith is a completely different type of receiver and I’ll be interested in seeing how the two work against each other. The offense needs a little bit of a pick me up due to a lack of a run game. It’s only a matter of time before Andre Ellington takes over the lead back role. If he improves his pass blocking then there is absolutely no reason he shouldn’t handle almost all the snaps. Rashard Mendenhall fumbled twice (lost one) and probably fumbled another time last week but it wasn’t reviewed. Ellington provides way more juice and is a lot better on the edges and receiving than Mendenhall. How they haven’t already made the switch is beyond my comprehension. The difference and advantages is stark.
I’ll continue to tout the Panthers front seven as one of the best in the league. The loss of Beason will be interesting to see how it plays out. Chase Blackburn and Jordan Senn appear to be the two guys who will fill in on the weakside. Blackburn isn’t great physically so I’m not sure how this plays out for the Panthers. They’ll likely use mostly nickel and just play an extra defensive back except when teams go into heavy sets. The offense is still in need of desperate weapons and Cam Newton is having real trouble finding open receivers to throw to.
I think all around the Panthers are the better team but the defensive matchups tell me that the Panthers won’t be able to score on the Cardinals. A lack of a run game and no weapons means Cam pretty much has to do it all himself. The Cardinals are just good enough on offense to get the ball down the field and take advantage of the secondary. Larry Fitzgerald should have a good game.
The one chance for the Panthers that is very possible is that the front four gets a ton of pressure on Carson Palmer who is the type of QB who needs functional space to throw. The Cards’ offensive line hasn’t been great and will likely struggle but I still think they get just enough out of Palmer to win.
Cards win a close one that should be a low scoring affair.
Denver Broncos at Dallas Cowboys
Peyton Manning is on a tear. He’s been flawless this year and it’s been incredible to watch. He’s winning in a different way now than he used to win. He’s winning more now in the short to intermediate areas where a few years ago he used to take more advantage of the deep shots. Either way, it’s worked. The Broncos defense has played well but injuries are beginning to take a toll and they’ll need to rely more on scheming and gameplanning to win.
As good as Peyton Manning has played, Tony Romo may be next in line this season in terms of good QB play. Romo is throwing the ball into the intermediate areas of the field and deep and has been incredibly accurate and efficient with it. The games where Romo gets a run game to support him, and any semblance of a defense, makes the Cowboys look like they could beat any team in the league. However, Morris Claiborne and Bruce Carter were both benched this week by the coaching staff due to major errors on defense. Orlando Scandrick will start at CB and Ernie Sims will get the start at LB. I really expected this defense to be better because I thought Monte Kiffin would mix it up a little bit but that hasn’t exactly been the case.
The Broncos appear to have too many weapons on offense for the Cowboys to handle at this point. I would actually be more comfortable with Claiborne starting over Scandrick even with his bad play. I also think the Cowboys need Carter’s athleticism this week. The real issue for the Cowboys has been safety play. Without it, the cover 2 defense is pretty irrelevant.
The Cowboys have the offensive weapons to keep up with Peyton and company and that’s what they’ll have to do. Manning is going to go after Scandrick and Romo will go after Tony Carter. Champ Bailey is questionable at this point but not sure he’s ready to go yet. Dez Bryant is good enough to completely own Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. The safety play of the Broncos will play a big role as well.
Expect a shootout in this game. Peyton and Romo should throw a ton. If the Cowboys can get a run game going and play solid cover 2 defense then they’ll have a shot. Without a run game, I think Peyton and company prove they’re too good for the Cowboys to keep up. I’ll take the Broncos by 4 but in a game that Romo might have a chance to win in the 4th quarter.by