The second quarter of the NFL season starts out with a bang. There are multiple intriguing matchups set to take place, starting Thursday night when Tom Brady and Andrew Luck do battle.
Turning to the weekend, we’re intrigued to see if Antonio Brown can get back on track against what has been a bad Falcons defense in what is pretty much a must-win game for both teams. Meanwhile, all eyes will be on Kirk Cousins taking his struggling Vikings to Philadelphia in a game against a familiar foe.
These are among the top matchups for each Week 5 NFL game.
New England Patriots at Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck vs Patriots secondary
New England’s secondary stepped up big time in Week 4 against Ryan Tannehill and the Miami Dolphins. After struggling through the first three games, this unit yielded a total of seven points. Tannehill completed just 11-of-20 passes for 81 net passing yards. Miami’s only score of the game came in the final minute when Brock Osweiler hit Frank Gore on a garbage-time touchdown.
The Pats will now face stiffer competition on the road Thursday night. It comes in the form of a quarterback in Andrew Luck who played inspired football in an overtime loss to Houston last week. Luck put up career highs in completions (40), attempts (62) and passing yards (464). Hopefully, he won’t be asked to do as much in this nationally televised game.
Denver Broncos at New York Jets: Kelvin Beachum vs Von Miller
In order for Sam Darnold to have any chance against an elite-level pass rush and rebound after three consecutive bad performances, Beachum must step up at left tackle. Darnold has only been sacked 10 times in four games. That’s not terribly bad for a rookie quarterback. Given his ability to get rid of the ball in a timely manner, pass rushers are limited some.
That won’t be the case come Sunday against Denver. Miller has torn through opponents over the first quarter of the season, racking up four sacks and forcing two fumbles. Another strong performance here, and the Jets will be looking at a fourth consecutive loss.
Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions: Aaron Rodgers vs Lions pass defense
Both of these entities are coming off ho-hum Week 4 performances. For Rodgers, he really didn’t need to do much against a horrible Bills team. The quarterback completed an uncharacteristic 22-of-40 passes with one touchdown and one interception. Though, it was clear he was trying new things against a Bills team that scored exactly zero points in this one. Against better competition, Rodgers’ game should tighten up a bit.
The same can be said for a Lions pass defense that headed into Week 4 having yielded the fewest yards in the NFL. It was then surprisingly attacked by struggling Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott in a 26-24 loss this past Sunday. Barring a strong performance from this unit, Matt Patricia and Co. will fall to 1-4 on the season. It needs to step up big time.
New York Giants at Carolina Panthers: Saquon Barkley vs Panthers run defense
The Giants’ offensive scheme continues to be a complete and utter mess. In last week’s 15-point loss to the Saints, Eli Manning dropped back to pass 46 times. Stud rookie running back Saquon Barkley ran the ball just 10 times. Remember, this was a close game at the half and Barkley had put up 100-plus total yards in each of his first three NFL outings. What’s the deal, Pat Shurmur?
Now heading into Carolina against a Panthers team that is yielding an average of 4.9 yards per rush this season, the Giants need to rely more on the ground game. It worked in the team’s only win of the season, back in Week 3 against the Texans. Why not go back to it? It’s an honest question.
Tennessee Titans at Buffalo Bills: Bills offensive line vs Titans pass rush
In last week’s shutout loss to Green Bay, rookie Josh Allen found himself sacked seven times. All said, he put up 87 net passing yards on 33 attempts. That’s next-level bad. That’s historically bad. He’s now on pace to be sacked the most times in NFL history. Some of this has to do with Allen holding on to the ball too long. That’s going to be a career-long problem until he rectifies his issues seeing the field and recognizing pressure. Unfortunately, a lack of a true offensive line has played a role.
On the other side, Tennessee’s pass rush came to play in a surprising win over the Eagles last week. Carson Wentz was sacked four times, including a huge strip sack from rookie Harold Landry in the fourth quarter. If he’s able to provide a punch with Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo, the Bills are going to have absolutely no chance here.
Atlanta Falcons at Pittsburgh Steelers: Antonio Brown vs Desmond Trufant
After yet another lackluster performance (by his standards) in last week’s loss to Baltimore, Brown has to be growing frustrated. His on-field connection with Ben Roethlisberger has taken a major hit thus far this season, leading to speculation that Brown isn’t a happy camper. Heck, he’s been about as boisterous as any player this season. Now, through four games, Brown has caught 29-of-53 targets for well less than 300 yards.
On the other hand, Trufant is also struggling to an extent in Atlanta. Without his two starting safeties, the Pro Bowl corner was called for a late-game pass interference last week against Cincinnati. He was also burned multiple times on the outside. On a Falcons defense that’s yielding an average of 30.5 points this season, Trufant must step up. If not, Atlanta will fall to 1-4 on the season.
Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns: James Hurst vs Myles Garrett
Joe Flacco has now been sacked a total of nine times through four games. Not great numbers. But given just how immobile he is, this is a clear indication that the Ravens’ pass protection has held up well. That came out in droves in what was a solid win against the division-rival Steelers last week.
Though, the team’s starting right tackle is going to have his hands full against an elite pass rusher in the form of Myles Garrett. Last year’s No. 1 overall pick has racked up 4.5 sacks and a whopping eight quarterback hits through four games. He’s a legit Defensive Player of the Year candidate. And if Garrett can get pressure on Flacco, it could help Cleveland rebound after a devastating Week 4 loss to the Raiders.
Miami Dolphins at Cincinnati Bengals: Andy Dalton vs Dolphins pass defense
Coming of an exhilarating performance in a 37-36 win over Atlanta last week, Dalton has his Bengals at 3-1 on the season. They’re averaging a whopping 31.5 points per game. For his part, the embattled quarterback has put up 11 touchdowns to go with north of 1,110 yards in four games. That puts him at a career-best pace. In fact, it’s not even that close.
Dalton faces a surprisingly difficult test this week against a Dolphins pass defense that still intercepted Tom Brady twice in a blowout loss last week. Through four weeks, Miami has yielded five touchdowns compared to nine interceptions. It’s this type of play-making ability that could give Adam Gase’s squad an opportunity to rebound from its first loss of the season.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Kansas City Chiefs: Tyreek Hill vs Jalen Ramsey
Kansas City’s brilliant comeback win against the Broncos at Mile High Monday night notwithstanding, Hill has been somewhat of a lost commodity over the past couple weeks. He caught nine passes for a total of 54 yards against the Broncos. Overall, Hill has 112 total yards over the past two games. Not bad. But not what we’ve become accustomed to.
With his Chiefs now undefeated and set to take on a fellow Super Bowl contender, Hill will need to step up. While Ramsey has not been the ball-hawking corner we’ve seen throughout his career, he’s still yielding a sub 60 passer rating when targeted. Meaning, he’s not being targeted. In a game between two of the best teams in the NFL, this matchup looms large.
Oakland Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers: Amari Cooper vs Casey Hayward
It was surprising to see the 49ers go after Hayward at somewhat of an effective clip last week. Backup quarterback C.J. Beathard hit backup receiver Kendrick Bourne for a touchdown against the all-world cover guy. It’s the first score Hayward has given up this season. And it seems to be an exception to the rule. With Derwin James doing his thing behind Hayward in Los Angeles’ secondary, we’re not expecting this to be a continual occurrence.
Speaking of themes, the Raiders sure Cooper’s performance from last week carries over. He caught eight passes for 128 yards and a score in Oakland’s first win of the season. That came after Cooper put up just two catches for 17 yards in a Week 3 loss to the Dolphins. All said, Cooper has two 100-yard games this season. In between that, he’s tallied a total of three catches for 26 yards. Some consistency, please.
Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles: Kirk Cousins vs Carson Wentz
It didn’t take these two former NFC East foes long to do battle. It also couldn’t come at a more pivotal point in the season for each team. Minnesota heads into Week 5 with one win on the season. It has not tasted victory since Week 1. Last week against the Rams, Cousins did everything possible to lead his team to a win. Unfortunately, the Vikings’ had no answer for Jared Goff and Co.
Now set to take on an Eagles team that’s 2-2 on the season, Minnesota is in desperation mode. This game comes after Wentz himself struggled with mistakes in a surprising road loss to an inferior Titans team last week. There’s a lot on the line for both quarterbacks and both teams.
Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks: Todd Gurley vs Seahawks run defense
If Seattle is to have any chance to knock off the undefeated Rams come Sunday, its run defense will have to ramp things up big time. This unit ranks in the bottom five of the NFL against the run and has yielded 4.6 yards per attempt. This has helped counteract what has been a great pass rush and a pass defense that’s surprised the masses.
Should Seattle struggle in this area in Week 5, Gurley will be ready to pounce. The reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year has put up 532 total yards and a league-leading six touchdowns through four games. To put this into perspective, he’s on pace to best what we saw last season. If the Seahawks can’t stop Gurley, it really won’t matter what their defense does against Jared Goff.
Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers: Josh Rosen vs 49ers pass defense
Josh Rosen wasn’t terrible in his NFL starting debut last week. Despite falling to Seattle at home, he didn’t turn the ball over a single time. Arizona also put up 17 points. While that doesn’t seem great, it must be noted that this team tallied a combined 20 points in its first three games with Sam Bradford under center. For a Cardinals team that remains winless, these baby steps are important.
Rosen will now get his first road test of the season against a 49ers squad coming off a disheartening loss to the Los Angeles Chargers last week. With Richard Sherman still sidelined, this offers Rosen an opportunity to improve off his debut. San Francisco has yielded a 102.4 passer rating through the first quarter of the season.
Dallas Cowboys at Houston Texans: Tyron Smith vs J.J. Watt
After struggling through the first couple games of the season, Watt has come up big time in the past two outings. He recording three sacks and a forced fumble in Week 3’s loss to the Giants and followed that up with two more sacks and two forced fumbles in Houston’s first win of the season this past Sunday. It sure looks like the 29-year-old Watt is back to pre-injury form after missing all but eight games over the past two seasons.
Speaking of being back to form, Smith has started all four games this season. While pass protection in general has not been great in front of Dak Prescott, he’s held up along the left side of the line. If that continues Sunday night, the Cowboys should be able to expose Houston’s below-average pass defense and start a nice little winning streak.
Washington Redskins at New Orleans Saints: Adrian Peterson vs former team
AD might have only played four games for the Saints last season. But we’re darn sure he remembers how Sean Payton and Co. failed to use him prior to the future Hall of Famer being shipped off to the desert midseason. Now in D.C., Peterson has reverted back to old form. He’s averaging 4.2 yards per rush and is on pace to put up nearly 1,800 total yards to go with 16 touchdowns.
Despite some major struggles stopping the pass over the first quarter of the season, New Orleans’ run defense has been legit. It held Saquon Barkley to just 44 yards on 10 rushes last week and ranks No. 4 in the NFL against the run. In a game pitting two potential playoff teams against one another, this is a huge individual matchup.