Saturday, October 8, 2011

NFL Week 5 Games to Watch

Even though we’re only a quarter of the way through the NFL season, this week’s must-see games have a hint of playoff atmosphere about them.  Two involve division rivals whose rematches later in the season will probably have implications for the post-season.  Two are rematches of last year’s divisional playoffs and the losers will be looking for redemption on Sunday…

New York Jets @ New England Patriots (4:15 PM ET, CBS):  If you live in either New York or Boston, you don’t have to follow football to know that these two teams hate each other.  And the two games these teams play against each other have been determining the division championship for several years.  In fact, this is a rematch of last year’s AFC divisional playoff game (the Jets beat New England 28-21).  The Jets offensive line has been struggling, in part because of an injury to starting center Nick Mangold who is expected to play but won’t be 100%.  On the opposite side of the ball, the Patriots defense has been uncharacteristically bad this season, ranking last in the league in passing and overall defense through the first four weeks of the season.  Their relative bright spot is in rushing defense, ranking slightly better at 18th in the league, and will certainly be looking to exploit the ailing Jets offensive line.  Plus, Tom Brady has cut his Bieber-do and is back to an all-business look:

Packers @ Falcons (Sunday Night Football, 8:20 PM ET, NBC):  Another playoff rematch features the Super Bowl Champions against the team they humiliated in last year’s NFC divisional playoff game (Green Bay won handily, 48-21).  The Falcons haven’t seemed to recover from that demoralizing defeat and are not living up to expectations this year.  Its defense in particular has been a disappointment, ranking exactly average, at 16th in total defense.  They won their last game by a too-close two points after leading the Seattle Seahawks 27-7.  The World Champ Packers seem to have picked up where they left off last year, as they remain one of only two undefeated teams left in the league.  The Packers currently lead the league in scoring and QB Aaron Rodgers has the NFL’s best passer rating. 

Bears @ Lions (Monday Night Football, 8:30 PM ET, ESPN):  Regular Naptime Huddle readers should remember the video of the touchdown catch by Calvin Johnson that was ruled a no-catch because he didn’t control the ball throughout the act of catching the ball.  That no-catch was against the Chicago Bears last season and would have been the game-winner.  That call, and resulting loss, seemed to let the air out of the Lions’ sails too early in their season.  As the only remaining undefeated team with the Champion Green Bay Packers, the Lions have had a well-documented turnaround* and face the Bears with renewed confidence, and—dare we say—swagger.  Meanwhile, Jay Cutler is under the heat lamps in Chicago, and it isn’t even winter yet.  He can’t be blamed for all the offense’s struggles—only St. Louis QB Sam Bradford has been sacked more than Cutler so far this year—but he is a popular target for hometown critics.  Will the Chicago O-line have Cutler’s back this week, or will the Lions continue their winning ways?

Bye WeeksFinally, note that the bye weeks have started and the following six teams have a break Sunday:  Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Miami Dolphins, St. Louis Rams and the Washington Redskins.  Most of these teams should be thankful for the time to regroup:  Dallas (embarrassing collapse against the Lions), Cleveland (2-2), Miami (0-4, injuries), Baltimore (injuries) and St. Louis (0-4).  Washington, on the other hand, is hoping that the break in momentum doesn’t end the explosive start to its season.  By the way, if you have a fantasy team, don’t forget to bench any players you have on these teams.  If your spouse or friends are doing fantasy, be a pal and remind them, too!

 *See, also, the Naptime Huddle post Unexpected Undefeateds...