Hard to believe we are already moving into week 5 of the NFL season. Five undefeated teams remain, four winless teams are looking to get off the snide and Peyton Manning is on pace to shatter Tom Brady’s record of 50 touchdown passes in a single season.
The first quarter of the NFL season is in the history books, but the next four games are where teams start to separate themselves from mediocrity to the league’s best. As the season unfolds, let’s see who’s masquerading as a top contender and find out the teams that are head and shoulders above the rest.
Denver Broncos (4-0)
Right now, Peyton Manning is on pace for 5,880 yards passing, 75 percent completion rate, 64 touchdown passes and zero interceptions. The runaway favorite for MVP this early in the season has virtually been perfect through the first four games of the season. What’s scary is the Broncos are still without their best pass rusher who is scheduled to miss the first six games of the season for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy and trying to corrupt a urine sample.
While Miller is facing off the field issues, Manning and company are soaring in Mile High.
Houston Texans (2-2)
The Texans had to battle back in the first game of the season down 28-7 to the San Diego Chargers to come away with a 31-28 victory. They took a late game lead against the Titans in week 2 to squeak out a win in overtime, didn’t bother showing up to the game in week 3 against the Ravens losing 30-9, and after a 20-3 lead over the most physical team in football in the Seattle Seahawks, the Seahawks scored 20 unanswered points including a gift-wrapped interception thrown by Matt Schaub.
Schaub is surrounded one of the most talented teams in the NFL, but constantly shows up small in big time games and disappears in the playoffs. Schaub has reached his limit, he’ll never be more than he is right now. He’s not a top-5 or a top-10 quarterback. Houston won’t get over the hump with Schaub under center.
Indianapolis Colts (3-1)
The Colts have quietly become one of the most complete teams in the NFL. Nothing was quiet about the acquisition of Trent Richardson, but pairing him with Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton and having the 10th ranked overall defense in the NFL, the Colts are becoming the team no one wants to play against.
Cincinnati Bengals (2-2)
Cincinnati was a trendy pick to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, but that’s all out the window with the Broncos galloping to the top.
Andy Dalton took the Bengals to the playoffs in his first two seasons in Cincinnati, but has yet to take that next step as an upper echelon quarterback in the league. When you have a top-5 wide receiver in A.J. Green, two athletic tight ends in Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert, you can’t lose to teams who you are suppose to beat. A 17-6 loss to the Browns was a major setback as the Bengals are gearing up to take on Brady and the New England Patriots. It’s time for Dalton step up to the plate and shed the label as a middle-of-the-pack quarterback.
New Orleans Saints (4-0)
Sean Payton is the runaway favorite for Coach of the Year at this point. His one-year ‘Bounty Gate’ suspension proved how much he means to the success of Drew Brees and the entire organization. The last time the Saints started 4-0, they went on to win the Super Bowl. Brees has 10 TDs to 4 INTs through four games, last year his numbers were virtually the same through the first four game with 10TDs and 5INTs. The difference, coaching.
New Orleans had statically the worse defense in NFL history last season, but the impact of Rob Ryan has been tremendous. Ryan has the unit 5th best in passing defense and 8th overall. The Saints are marching.
Atlanta Falcons (1-3)
Every time I watch this team, I always ask myself, “What’s missing?” They have the best receiving corps in the NFL, a Hall of Fame tight end and a quarterback he was twice removed from being a play away in the Super Bowl.
But that’s the thing, Matt Ryan is always a play away. Ryan doesn’t have that “it” factor. He makes plays, but not THE play. Losing Steven Jackson to injury was a big loss for a team that was looking to add more physicality in the run game, but this team still falls on the shoulder of Ryan. If this team still has Super Bowl aspirations, they better right the ship, and quick.
Seattle Seahawks (4-0)
This team has still shown it’s struggles on the road by inching pass Carolina in week 1 with a 12-7 win and coming from behind against Houston this past week to pull off a victory in overtime. But like true contenders, top teams find a way to win. Seattle and San Francisco were neck-and-neck as the top two most physical teams in the league, but with the 49ers recent injuries and the Seahawks continued dominance, it’s not even up for question anymore.
Dallas Cowboys (2-2)
A win is a win in the NFL, but in hindsight, a 36-31 victory over the Giants in week one was a clear indication of who exactly are these Cowboys. The Giants are now 0-4, that tells the level of competition Dallas faced on opening day. The NFC East is 4-12, the worst division record in the NFL. After thumping a lowly Rams team, a statement win against a talented Chargers team would have solidified the Cowboys, but they literally fumbled away their chance at winning.
A lot has been made about Tony Romo as a top-5 quarterback in recent weeks, but I’m selling the hype. He routinely puts up high numbers in the regular season, but timely self-destructs every time. Jerry Jones decision to pay $100 million to a quarterback that has one playoff victory will come back to haunt him.
New England Patriots (4-0)
The Patriots slogan: The next man up. It doesn’t matter who is lining up at wide receiver, tight end or at running back, New England always get the job done. With already unblemished record, the Patriots might get Rob Gronkowski back next week. However, the loss of Vince Wilfork is not a good sign for a team that was finally making progress in run defense.
Baltimore Ravens (2-2)
The defending Super Bowl champions are a shell of themselves. The leadership is gone, the running game is un-Raven-like averaging 64 yards a game and they lost to a rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel and the Bills this past Sunday. Joe Flacco threw a career-high 5 interceptions, but what makes matters worse, Buffalo was without its top four defensive backs. Flacco isn’t the same without Anquan Boldin and an injured Dennis Pitta.
Chicago Bears (3-1)
The emergences of 6-foot-3 Alshon Jeffrey alongside 6-foot-4 Brandon Marshall is a matchup nightmare for opposing corners. Even with the loss of future Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher, the defense is still forcing turnovers. The Bears suffered its first lost of the season against a surprising Lions team. Jay Cutler had four turnovers including three interceptions, he’s known for having a poor outing and bouncing back the next game.
And he better with the Saints coming in town.
Green Bay Packers (1-2)
This is a bit premature, but the Packers only win have come against a Redskins team who just won their first game against Oakland. Aaron Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, but his division is much tougher this this year. The return of Eddie Lacy is a plus as they get ready to face the Lions 20th-ranked rushing defense, but Green Bay’s defense is needs to show up big time if they hope to stop Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush.
Kansas City Chiefs (4-0)
The Chiefs always had the talent, they sent six players to the Pro Bowl last season even with a 2-14 record. Adding Alex Smith at quarterback and Andy Reid at head coach, the Chiefs have found a successful duo to facilitate the talent. The defense has also been a bright spot yielding opponents to 10.3 points per game, no. 1 in the NFL.
Tennessee Titans (3-1)
Tennessee has been a big surprise this season, but the teams they have beaten have a combined record of 4-8. The injury to Jake Locker is a huge setback as he’s scheduled to miss 4-6 six weeks because of an hip injury. He will surely be missed as the Titans prepare for a rough three game stretch against the Chiefs, Seahawks and 49ers.
Detroit Lions (3-1)
This team is talented from top to bottom. They have arguably the best defensive line in the NFL, they have THE best wide receiver in the NFL and a top-10 quarterback. The standout player is Reggie Bush who has been showing flashes of his USC days. What worries me about the Lions is their tough division and their past history of shedding its “loser” label.
San Diego Chargers (2-2)
Phillip Rivers is quietly having a great start to the season with 11 touchdowns to only two interceptions. All of this has come without his no. 1 wideot, Danario Alexander, who is out for the season with a torn ACL. If this team can become more consistent, then San Diego can become a factor. However, with two undefeated teams in their division, the Chargers can’t afford too many mistakes.
Miami Dolphins (3-1)
Beating Brees on Monday Night Football would have been a statement game for Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins, but the stage was too big for the second year quarterback who tossed three interceptions, lost a fumble and was sacked 5 times. The young Dolphins have a favorable schedule ahead, but this team still isn’t ready to dethrone the Patriots.
San Francisco 49ers (2-2)
After a virtuoso performance against Green Bay, the 49ers had back-to-back embarrassing losses against the Seahawks and the Colts. Colin Kaepernick has been average at best in his last three games, but San Fran’s recent victory over the Rams allowed them to remember what they are know best for: a physical run game. John Harbaugh will continue to add mental toughness to his team to climb out of its hole of mediocrity. If San Francisco can string together a few victories in a row, the 49ers will be back.
Cleveland Browns (2-2)
After trading away there best player and starting quarterback out with a thumb injury, the Browns have won two games in a row. After averaging 8 points per game in the first two games, the Browns have tripled that averaging 24 points the over past two games. Let’s face it, the Browns are the Browns which puts them in the undecided list. But if Cleveland can beat Buffalo Thursday, the Browns can make serious noise in a mediocre AFC North.
Buffalo Bills (2-2)
Led behind the 2nd-ranked rushing attack in the NFL, Buffalo has reeled off some impressive wins against Carolina and Baltimore. E.J. Manuel has endured the expected rookie, rough patches, but he constantly shows composure under pressure. I had Buffalo as the no. 2 team in the AFC East, but no one saw the Dolphins jumping out the way they did. At this point, a 2-2 start is a breath of fresh air for a team with a rookie quarterback.
Arizona Cardinals (2-2)
The Cardinals were thought to be the surprise team in the NFL acquiring Carson Palmer in a trade and hiring the reigning coach of the year in Bruce Arians. They could easily be 3-1 if they didn’t give up an 11-point lead against St. Louis in week one. They have the 2nd-ranked run defense in the league and one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL with Patrick Peterson in the secondary. After averaging 26 in the first two games of the season, Arizona has averaged 7 points the past two games including an ugly 13-10 win over the Bucs. it’s still early, but the Cardinals have yet to claim an identity.
NY Jets (2-2)
Philadelphia Eagles (1-3)
Washington Redskins (1-3)
Minnesota Vikings (1-3)
Carolina Panthers (1-2)
Oakland Raiders (1-3)
St. Louis Rams (1-3)
Pittsburgh Steelers (0-4)
NY Giants (0-4)
Jacksonville Jaguars (0-4)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-4)