Two rookie quarterbacks put their streaks of turnover-free football on the line as the NFL enters its second quarter of the season. A talented Atlanta Falcons offense heads to Mile High to take on the defending champion Denver Broncos.
Meanwhile, back east, the New England Patriots get their future Hall of Fame quarterback back in the mix.
Will we be surprised with what happens in any of these games? What might shock the football world come Sunday? Here are 10 bold predictions for Week 5 of the NFL season.
1. Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz exit Week 5 without a turnover
Dak Prescott has no interceptions in his first 131 pass attempts, the most pass attempts by a rookie without an INT to begin an NFL career.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 3, 2016
Prescott now boasts the record for the most passes attempted (131) to start a career without an interception. That’s an amazing stat for any rookie quarterback, let alone one selected on Day 3.
What makes this even more impressive is the fact that he’s not accomplishing this running an intermediate passing game with a low-risk of being intercepted. Prescott is averaging 11.4 yards per completion and 253 passing yards per game.
Now taking on a surprisingly below-average Cincinnati Bengals defense that’s yielding a 92.6 passer rating with 10 touchdowns in four games, Prescott is primed to continue this early-season run of mistake-free football.
On the other hand, Wentz finds himself going up against a bad Detroit Lions defense after last week’s bye. Overall this season, Detroit has allowed 12 touchdowns compared to one interception for a 120.2 quarterback rating. There’s no reason to believe Wentz won’t pick up where he left off prior to the bye.
2. Matt Ryan goes for 300-plus and three scores
This seems a bit ridiculous on the surface. Dating back to the start of last season, the Denver Broncos’ defense has allowed a total of 21 touchdown passes in 20 games. For his part, Ryan entered this season having thrown 10 touchdowns in his past nine road starts.
That’s all fine and dandy. Call it recency bias or whatever, but something tells us that Ryan will buck this trend in Denver on Sunday.
Not only is he leading the NFL in completion percentage (72.1), passing yards (1,473) and touchdowns (11), the MVP candidate has also put up a league-best 7.9 touchdown percentage. With five touchdowns in two road starts, he’s also proved more than capable away from the Georgia Dome.
On their other hand, Denver has actually performed at a lower clip at home than on the road this season. It is yielding an average of 27.5 points and nearly 300 passing yards in two home dates. Compare that to 12 points and 161 yards on the road, and there’s definitely something to this.
3. A.J. Green burns Cowboys secondary for 250 yards
Despite their early-season success, the Dallas Cowboys have not done a tremendous job defending the pass. They are yielding a 63.7 completion percentage and 93.5 quarterback rating on the young year.
Interestingly enough, it’s not against receivers where the Cowboys have struggled the most. Instead, this unit has allowed tight ends to catch 28-of-32 passes thrown their way.
With Tyler Eifert suffering a setback in practice on Wednesday, he’s unlikely going to be given an opportunity to take full advantage of the Cowboys’ most-glaring weakness. This means that Green will once again find himself as a heavily-targeted receiver come Sunday.
This past week saw Green put up 10 receptions for 173 yards against the Miami Dolphins. In fact, he’s tallied 18 catches for over 250 yards in the past two games. Look for a Julio Jones-esque performance from the AFC’s top receiver in this one.
4. Brian Hoyer leads Bears past fledgling Colts in Indy
The Chicago Bears’ offense is a completely different monster than what we saw at the start of the season. Running back Jeremy Langford and wide receiver Kevin White, both starters, are out for an extended period of time. Meanwhile, starting quarterback Jay Cutler remains sidelined with a thumb injury.
Since Cutler and Langford went down, the Bears’ offense has been flowing much better. The team is averaging only 17 points over the past two games, but it is putting up an average of 400 yards during that span. For his part, Hoyer is completing nearly 70 percent of his passes with four scores and zero picks in Cutler’s stead.
In his first NFL start, rookie running back Jordan Howard tallied 132 total yards on 26 touches in Chicago’s win over the Detroit Lions last week. And while the loss of White surely does hurt, it’s important to note that Eddie Royal caught all seven passes thrown in his direction for over 100 yards last week.
With Chicago’s offense seemingly clicking, the struggling Colts might find it hard to stop what Hoyer and Co. are going to throw their way here. After all, Indy’s defense is yielding a 100.4 quarterback rating through the air and ranks in the bottom half of the NFL against the pass.
Look for Chicago to get its second consecutive win with the Colts dropping to a disastrous 1-4 on the season.
5. Jason Pierre-Paul sacks Aaron Rodgers three times
The Green Bay Packers have struggled to an extent protecting Aaron Rodgers. He’s gone down eight times while being hit a total 15 times in three games. This has Rodgers on pace to go down 43 times on the season.
While Pierre-Paul did struggle to put consistent pressure on Sam Bradford this past Monday, he still ranks among the top-10 4-3 defensive ends in quarterback pressures.
He’s also going to be lining up against a Packers tackle in Bryan Bulaga who has been inconsistent this season. That was magnified in a Week 2 performance against the Minnesota Vikings that saw Bulaga yield three pressures and a sack to Vikings’ defensive end Danielle Hunter.
With the same first-step speed off the edge, we expect Pierre-Paul to absolutely dominate his counterpart come Sunday night. If so, a multiple-sack performance isn’t out of the question.
6. Terrelle Pryor goes off for 100-plus against the Patriots
— NFL (@NFL) September 28, 2016
What Pryor has done thus far this season is nothing short of amazing. In his first full year as a receiver, the former quarterback is being tasked with No. 1 wide receiver duties. In this, he currently ranks fifth at his position in target percentage behind the likes of Antonio Brown and A.J. Green.
With no one else to help shoulder the load at receiver, Pryor consistently finds himself targeted throughout the game.
That will not change Sunday against the New England Patriots. It’s a game that will likely require rookie Cody Kessler to put the ball in the air a great deal. If so, there’s going to be plenty of opportunities for Pryor to make an impact.
Look for the former standout signal caller to record somewhere in the neighborhood of seven receptions for 120-plus yards in what should be a blowout loss to the Pats.
7. Case Keenum leads Rams to fourth consecutive win
When the Los Angeles Rams failed to put up a point in a 28-0 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1, most figured this team would be hard-pressed to win more than three games on the season.
But following three consecutive wins, including victories over Seattle and Arizona, the Rams are riding high. There’s not one specific area that’s dominated through these past three games. Instead, Los Angeles is playing fundamentally sound football across the board.
It has a plus-five turnover differential during this span and is coming off a Week 4 performance that saw it force five turnovers against the Cardinals.
Another important indicator of success, the Rams are also getting some production from the passing game. Keenum has thrown four touchdowns compared to one interception and is averaging over 230 passing yards over the past three games. Not great numbers, but much better than the league’s worst passing offense a season ago.
While the Buffalo Bills have found a way to right the ship with two consecutive wins, we’re going to project that Los Angeles heads into Western New York and pulls out a narrow win.
8. Raiders blow past the Chargers by three touchdowns
This has a chance of getting out of hand quick. With Jason Verrett now done for the season after suffering a torn ACL, the San Diego Chargers simply don’t match up too well against a high-flying Oakland Raiders aerial attack.
Verrett was the only member of the Chargers’ secondary able to contend with the likes of Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. With him out, an already questionable pass defense will be called into question even more.
Despite having Verrett on the field in the first four games, San Diego’s pass defense ranks in the bottom six of the NFL. It is allowing a 65 percent completion rate and nearly 290 yards per game. Not helping matters much, the Chargers enter Week 5 with just nine sacks in four games.
This isn’t a recipe for success against a Raiders offense that ranks in the top 10 of the NFL in passing. It’s definitely not a recipe for success against Derek Carr, who has lit it up during the early part of the season.
Also important to note here, Carr has been sacked a total of two times in four games. Give him the protection he needs, and the Chargers’ secondary won’t be able to compete.
Look for the Raiders to take full advantage of this matchup and lay the smack down against their division rivals. It’s definitely not unprecedented. Last season saw Oakland average 30 points per game against its southern neighbor.
9. Tampa Bay will push Carolina to 1-4 on the season
It sure looks like Cam Newton will not be playing Monday night. He’s missed practice all week after suffering a concussion in the Carolina Panthers’ loss to the Atlanta Falcons last week. If not, it will be all about Derek Anderson.
We don’t need to remind you about the last time Anderson started a Monday Night Football game.
As it is, Carolina is in a world of hurt right now. At 1-3 on the season, a loss here would pretty much doom the defending NFC champion’s hopes of winning their division.
The biggest issue here for Carolina has been pass protection. Newton has been hit on over 20 percent of his drop backs on the season. If it is indeed Anderson under center, that’s going to play right into Tampa Bay’s hands, as the team will send consistent pressure the way of the immobile quarterback.
On defense, Carolina absolutely stunk it up last week. It allowed nearly 600 total yards, 500 passing yards to Matt Ryan and 300 receiving yards to Julio Jones. That’s Madden-level stuff right there.
Despite his early-season struggles (eight picks in four games), Jameis Winston has the ability to beat a weak pass defense. We’ve seen this throughout his young career.
Look for Tampa Bay to nab its second win of the season while dropping the Panthers to a remarkable 1-4 on the campaign.
10. Josh Norman intercepts Joe Flacco twice
Wait for it. On passes intended for Steve Smith.
This is likely one of the games Norman has checked on his calendar. Going up against his former teammate, the Washington Redskins’ corner is going to want to strut his stuff.
That’s only magnified by the comments Norman himself made leading up to this game (more on that here).
We don’t know if Norman is going to be shadowing Smith here. What we do know is that the two will be lined up against one another early and often. That will surely give Norman the opportunity to make plays.
Norman has not been targeted a whole lot this season. He’s allowed just nine catches in four games and has continually found himself out on an island. That might change with Smith set to line up. Smith has been targeted 36 times in four games, which puts him on pace for the second-most targets of his illustrious career.
That might allow Smith to put up some solid numbers here, but it will also give Norman an opportunity to make plays. That’s something he hasn’t been afforded the opportunity to do just yet in D.C.