Top storyline for each Week 5 NFL game

By Vincent Frank
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Week 5 of the NFL season offers a plethora of stories to follow. After what has been an event-filled first quarter of the regular year, both the Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles have to right the ship. They’ll attempt to do so against one another in Philly on Sunday.

Over in the AFC, an undefeated Kansas City Chiefs squad faces its most-difficult test of the season. That includes a home matchup against Jalen Ramsey and the Jaguars’ No. 1-ranked pass defense. We’ll find out just how good Patrick Mahomes is in this one.

These are among the top storylines for each Week 5 NFL game.

New England Patriots at Indianapolis Colts: The start of a streak? 

In the midst of a rare two-game losing streak heading into last week’s game against an undefeated Dolphins squad, the Patriots needed to make a statement in front of their home crowd. While the team wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, that’s exactly what it did in a 38-7 blowout win. Tom Brady returned to form. Sony Michel proved why the Pats made him a first-round pick. Meanwhile, Bill Belichick’s defense stopped Ryan Tannehill cold.

It’s the same type of performance we’ve seen in recent seasons. Remember, New England started last year with a 2-2 mark before winning its next eight games. This isn’t foreign to Brady and his clan. Now set to take on a Colts team reeling from an overtime loss last week, can the Patriots continue their streak on a short week? We wouldn’t bet against them.

Denver Broncos at New York Jets: Avoiding disaster 

Denver started the season with a perfect 2-0 record. Since then, it has been anything but perfect. Last week’s home loss to the Kansas City Chiefs was a prime example of this. Case Keenum was vastly outplayed by Patrick Mahomes, especially in the final stanza. And in the end, Denver blew a two-score second-half lead to fall to 2-2 through the first quarter of the season.

Now set to take on a Jets team that’s starting a rookie quarterback and has lost three consecutive games, it’s time for the Broncos to rebound big time. Remember, they also started 2-0 last season before losing 11 of their final 14 games. A loss in Week 5 will bring back memories of what we saw in 2017.

Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions: Can Matt Patricia turn this thing around? 

Outside of a win over his former Patriots squad, the first quarter of Patricia’s initial season in Detroit has been an utter disaster. That continued last week against the Cowboys in Dallas. Having played well on defense through the first three weeks, the Lions’ struggles against the run reared its ugly head. In the process, Ezekiel Elliott put up 240 total yards in a dominating performance.

Now at 1-3 on the season, Detroit is in desperate need of a win. Short of that happening, Patricia’s first season on the sideline will descend into irrelevance. It comes at home against a division rival in what we’d easily call a rivalry game. This is Detroit’s final opportunity to turn the season around before it’s too late. Is Patricia and Co. up for the task? We’re not entirely too sure.

New York Giants at Carolina Panthers: Early-season struggles for Pat Shurmur 

What we saw last week against New Orleans was nothing less than disaster for Shurmur and his offensive scheme. The first-year Giants head coach continued to struggle calling plays. It resulted in rookie running back Saquon Barkley getting 11 rush attempts or fewer for the second time in three games. Meanwhile, Eli Manning dropped back to pass a resounding 46 times.

How is this acceptable? If you’re going to spend the No. 2 overall pick on a running back, why not utilize him in a manner that befits such a high pick? Through four games, the Giants have struggled in this regard. The hope here is that this changes against Carolina on Sunday. If not, Shurmur’s first season will result in a 1-4 start through five games.

Tennessee Titans at Buffalo Bills: Titans can’t really be this good 

No. That’s the short-form answer to this question. Before missing time to injury, Marcus Mariota struggled through his first two games of action, throwing zero touchdowns compared to two interceptions. He turned it around big time this past Sunday, completing 30-of-43 passes for 344 yards in a surprising win over Philadelphia. Does this mean Mariota is back? We’re not entirely too sure. What we do know is that his two-top receivers from a season ago, Delanie Walker (IR) and Rishard Matthews (released), are not with the team.

Even then, the Titans head into Week 5 with a 3-1 record and tied for first place in the AFC South. It’s doing so with second-year receiver Corey Davis having stepped up to the tune of 161 yards last week. Though, that could be more indicative of the Eagles’ issues in pass defense. We’ll certainly learn a lot more this Sunday. Should Tennessee dominate a bad Bills team on the road, we’ll then be able to take this team seriously.

Atlanta Falcons at Pittsburgh Steelers: Must win for both teams 

One thing was pretty clear during last week’s loss to the division-rival Ravens. In no way is Pittsburgh up to the level of Baltimore. Joe Flacco outplayed a struggling Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers’ defense continued to be a hot mess. Meanwhile, they seemed to miss Le’Veon Bell for the first time this season. At 1-2-1, Week 5 becomes pretty much a must win for Mike Tomlin’s squad.

Atlanta is seemingly in more of a must-win situation. Having lost three of its first four games, including two in heartbreaking fashion, Dan Quinn’s squad is now two games behind New Orleans in the NFC South. The issue here has been defense. This unit is yielding an absurd 30.5 points per outing. That includes 80 over the past two games. Given what we know about Big Ben’s ability to rebound, the Falcons could be in for a long day defensively. If so, a 1-4 start to the season could be on the horizon.

Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns: Can they win on a Sunday? 

Cleveland had everything going in its favor last Sunday against the Raiders. Up 20 points in the second half against a winless squad, the Browns, once again, found a way to lose. This time it came via a combination of bad officiating and horrendous defense. In what is becoming an absolute joke, the Browns have not won a regular season game on a Sunday since December of 2015. They are 0-33-1 on this unofficial American holiday since Hue Jackson took over as head coach.

We don’t envision the Browns actually coming away with a win here. They’re taking on a Ravens squad that just defeated Pittsburgh last week and is riding high at 3-1 on the season. Baltimore has also outscored Cleveland by a total of 63 points in their past five meetings.

Miami Dolphins at Cincinnati Bengals: Bengals might just be legit 

If we’re going to criticize Andy Dalton for his lackluster performances over the past several seasons, we must give him credit for a blistering hot start to the 2018 campaign. The much-maligned quarterback has his Bengals at 3-1 on the season and is heading an offense that’s averaging 31.5 points per game. For his part, Dalton is on pace to throw 44 touchdowns through the quarter point of the season.

Cincinnati has a real chance to prove its legit against a fellow 3-1 Dolphins team. While Miami was blown out last week against New England, its pass defense has been legit. Opposing quarterbacks have thrown five touchdowns compared to nine interceptions against this unit through four games.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Kansas City Chiefs: Just how good is Patrick Mahomes 

For a good three quarters last week against Denver, Mahomes looked like a young quarterback. He struggled completing passes on the outside and couldn’t move the ball at the clip we saw over the first three games. Then, in an instant, the second-year signal caller started carving up an elite Broncos defense in front of a hostile road crowd at Mile High. It really was a sight to behold. And it has us wondering just how good Mahomes is.

He’ll answer this question in more ways than one Sunday against a Jaguars defense that has yielded the fewest passing yards in the NFL this season. With his undefeated Chiefs averaging 36.3 points per game, Jacksonville represents the biggest test of the season. Can Mahomes stay perfect, both from a statistical perspective and a team-wide perspective?

Oakland Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers: The Los Angeles problem 

The Chargers might have narrowly escaped against a lesser 49ers team last week. But this wasn’t the biggest takeaway from the game. A sea of red showed itself big time at StubHub Center in Carson. It was pretty darn humiliating for the Chargers, especially when Philip Rivers had to go to the silent count at home. It’s just a continuation of what we’ve seen in the year-plus the Chargers have called these temporary digs home.

We’re not expecting much to change Sunday against a Raiders team that pretty much controls the landscape of Southern California football. But another scene like we saw last week would represent horrible optics for both the Chargers and the NFL. Let’s not even mention how playing in front of a Raiders-centric crowd could impact Los Angeles’ ability to move to 3-2 on the season.

Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles: Absolutely huge October matchup 

A lot of the focus this week will be on a struggling Vikings team that’s on pace for four wins after the first quarter of the season. Minnesota was completely outgunned last week against the Los Angeles Rams and is on the verge of seeing a season that started with Super Bowl aspirations go down in flames. Taking on the defending champs on the road this week, Mike Zimmer’s squad is pretty much in must-win mode.

Not to be lost in all of this, the Eagles are just 2-2 on the season and are coming off a disheartening upset loss to the Titans in Tennessee. Dealing with injuries in the backfield and at cornerback, is Philadelphia in the midst of a letdown season? A loss at home against a struggling Vikings squad would pretty much answer that question.

Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks: Imposing their will 

Seattle finds itself at 2-2 on the season. Though, not a single objective person believes this team stands much of a chance to make the playoffs in an ultra-competitive NFC. There’s too many issues along the offensive line and at the skill positions. Meanwhile, Earl Thomas’ season-ending injury is going to hurt this fledgling squad big time moving forward.

It’s in this that we expect the undefeated Rams to go into Seattle and impose their will against an inferior squad. Los Angeles’ offense is the newest Greatest Show on Turf, averaging a robust 35 points per game. Jared Goff is on pace for over 5,600 yards and 44 touchdowns. Todd Gurley? He already has 532 yards and six scores to his name. The one issue? Seattle remains a hostile environment to play in.

Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers: The two quarterbacks 

Josh Rosen will make his first regular season road start Sunday against an injury-plagued and free-falling 49ers team. In a vacuum, he has a solid matchup here. San Francisco has yielded a 102.8 quarterback rating on the season and is without future Hall of Fame cornerback Richard Sherman. If Rosen can overcome the obvious issue of playing on the road for the first time, he should shine in this one.

On the other hand, C.J. Beathard was brilliant in his initial start of the season replacing the injured Jimmy Garoppolo. The second-year signal caller threw for nearly 300 yards with two touchdowns against the Chargers last week. He seems to be vastly improved from an up-and-down rookie season. If Beathard performs like we saw last week, the Cardinals will find themselves at 0-5 on the season.

Dallas Cowboys at Houston Texans: The start of a streak? 

Both the Cowboys and Texans are coming off much-needed wins last week. For the road team, it was a solid overall performance against the Detroit Lions. Dak Prescott rebounded after struggling through the first three games. Ezekiel Elliott put up a career-best 240 total yards. All of that led to the Cowboys finding themselves at 2-2 through the first quarter of the season.

On the other hand, Houston surprisingly knocked off the Indianapolis Colts for its first win of the season. Even then, Andrew Luck torched this secondary to the tune of 464 yards and four touchdowns. That’s something Prescott should be able to take advantage of. If so, Dallas will move to 3-2 on the season, leaving the Texans as an irrelevant squad moving forward. If not, Houston will have righted the ship after early-season struggles to get right back in the AFC Playoff race. Yeah, this is a pretty big game.

Washington Redskins at New Orleans Saints: Just how good is the Saints’ offense? 

We’re going to find out first-hand just how dominant the Saints’ offense can be at home on Monday Night Football. Whether it’s Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara or Michael Thomas, multiple members of the offense are on pace to shatter single-season NFL records. For Kamara, that includes the reception mark. Did we mention he’s a running back?

Interestingly enough, Monday’s game represents a rather lofty test for this elite offense. Washington ranks No. 3 in the NFL in total defense and has yielded the third-fewest passing yards in the league. It’s also giving up less than 15 points per game during what has been a surprising 2-1 start to the season.