Well this feels like a huge week doesn’t it. Some big divisional clashes and perhaps the biggest game of the season so far as the Falcons travel to Seattle. The Broncos suffered a second consecutive defeat on Sky on Thursday night football as Phillip Rivers led the Chargers to a 21-13 win. Rivers threw for 178 yards (and one touchdown) and in doing so became San Diego’s career passing leader. There are four more games on Sky in week six.
Eagles at Redskins (Sunday, 6pm)
Last meeting: Redskins 38 Eagles 24 (26/12/15)
Overall record: Redskins lead series 84-73-5
This game has become more intriguing than it looked like it was going to be a couple of weeks ago. The Eagles suffered their first loss of the season somewhat unexpectedly to the Lions and the Redskins have now won three straight games to sit at 3-2.
In that Eagles loss Carson Wentz finally threw his first interception after 134 pass attempts without one. It was a costly one as well as it came with a little over a minute left in the game with the Eagles needing to score a field goal to take the lead.
The North Dakota State product got off to a fantastic start for the Eagles and this looks like just a blip for the young quarterback. The Redskins defence hasn’t been great so far this season and it could be a perfect opportunity for Wentz to bounce straight back.
Lane Johnson’s 10 game suspension for a violation of the league’s substance abuse policy was upheld so the Eagles will now be without their starting right tackle. Rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai is expected to take over and it will be a big test for him in his first start in the NFL.
The season didn’t get off to the best start for Washington but they have turned things around and put themselves back into contention in the surprisingly good NFC east.
Kirk Cousins has been inconsistent and there have been questions if he really is the Redskins’ quarterback of the future. However, he has a very good record in his career against the Eagles. In three starts against them he has thrown eight touchdowns and just one interception. The Philadelphia defence has been great so far this season though and it will take the good Cousins to really unlock it.
Jordan Reed could miss the game after suffering concussion like symptoms earlier in the week. It would be a big blow for the Redskins and Reed himself who has a history of concussions. It would be his fourth since entering the league in 2013 as well as the two he suffered in college. It is worrying as the symptoms have come despite no obvious hit to the head.
This could end up being a big game for the entire NFC as both these teams look to be in the hunt for either the division or a wild card spot.
Falcons at Seahawks (Sunday, 9.25pm)
Last meeting: Seahawks 33 Falcons 10 (10/11/13)
Overall record: Seahawks lead series 9-6-0
Undoubtedly the game of the week here. The hottest team in the league against one of the best teams of the past few seasons.
The Falcons come into this on the back of a big win against the Broncos in week five. They had been performing well but there was a question mark over whether they were the real deal. They answered all of those questions with a dominant win over a previously unbeaten team. It was only a seven point victory but that didn’t really tell the whole story. The Falcons were never in trouble and looked like a team ready to challenge for a Super Bowl.
Matt Ryan and Julio Jones have received most of the praise, and rightfully so, but the running game has been excellent for the Falcons. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman have already combined for 1000 all-purpose yards through five games. With Julio Jones receiving a lot of the defence’s attention it is leaving the pair of running backs with more room to run and space to make plenty of catches out of the backfield.
Russell Wilson has been struggling with a couple of different injuries but the bye week should have given him a chance to get closer to 100%. Even with those injuries he managed to put in some very good performances, particularly last time out where he threw three touchdowns against the Jets. The Falcons defence have improved on last season but they are far from a dominant defence. They ares near the bottom of a lot of defensive stats but some of that can be put down to the other teams playing catch up. Wilson should have the chance to really put up some numbers and continue to get the Seahawks’ offence back on track.
One thing that hasn’t helped Seattle has been the offensive line. They have struggled to protect Wilson and have made it hard for him to really do anything. It is no surprise that they are struggling though. They are spending just $8.5m on the entire line. That is $4.5m less than the next team and $14.5m less than the average spend. The team have had a lot of players to pay over the past few seasons but they may need to find a way to spend more to protect their biggest asset. The Falcons pass rush could show up a shoddy offensive line and go a long way to deciding this one.
This game really could start to sort things out in the NFC. These two teams look like they will be contenders and who knows, maybe this is just a preview of this year’s championship game.
Colts at Texans (Monday, 1.30am)
Last meeting: Texans 16 Colts 10 (20/12/15)
Overall record: Colts lead series 23-5-0
Where to start with the Colts. Are they the most disappointing team of the season? They were a shambles at Wembley. They couldn’t protect Andrew Luck at all and that continued against the Bears. They got the win but Luck was sacked five times. He has received some criticism but the quarterback is the furthest thing from a problem on this team. Until they can get some sort of pass protection then they are never going to improve. It’s not going to get any easier against the Texans and Andrew Luck could be in for a long afternoon, or a short one if the offensive line can’t keep him on his feet.
The running game is an issue for both teams. Frank Gore has been a great NFL player, but he needs to have a limited workload each week. He can still be effective but giving him the ball for 15+ touches every week is never going to be good for him or the team.
Lamar Miller moved to the Texans from Miami in the offseason and has struggled to really get going with his new team. He is averaging just 3.7 yards per carry so far this season and in week five picked up just 20 yards on eight carries. Brock Osweiler has struggled at quarterback but if Miller can find his form then it could take some of the pressure off of him.
DeAndre Hopkins was one of the big breakout stars in 2015. At this stage last season he had already had 42 receptions. He has just 22 so far this season as him and Osweiler seem to have struggled to build a connection. It wasn’t like he had pro bowl quarterbacks throwing to him last season. It was mostly Brian Hoyer. The Texans will need to find a way to get their most talented offensive player into the game more. A game against one of the worst defences in the league this week could be a good chance to really get going and kick start the season for the whole offence.
A win for the Colts this week really opens up the division with all teams being pretty close together. A Texans win will establish them as the favourites to pick up the AFC south once again.
Jets at Cardinals (Tuesday, 1.30am)
Last meeting: Cardinals 6 Jets 7
Overall record: Jets lead series 6-2-0
Not the start to the season that either team would have been hoping for. Just three wins so far between the teams and it hasn’t exactly been pretty for either of them.
Both quarterbacks had very good seasons in 2015 but look to have regressed. Fitzpatrick has always had a turnover in him but 10 interceptions through five games have him on course to beat his own single season record of 23 interceptions during his time in Buffalo. With Eric Decker now heading to IR it isn’t going to get easier for him.
Palmer missed last week’s game but has been cleared to play. Even when he has played he has looked nothing like the quarterback that led one of the most exciting offences in the league last season. He’s turning the ball over more and not throwing as many touchdowns. Not exactly ideal.
Both of them had career high QB ratings in 2015 and perhaps those were the anomalies and what we are seeing now is what they really are. Neither is getting any younger and it was perhaps foolish to expect that either could reproduce the form we saw a year ago.
It hasn’t been all bad for the Cardinals. David Johnson has been fantastic in the backfield. He is leading the league in all-purpose yards with just under 700 yards already.
Larry Fitzgerald once again looks like one of the best receivers in the game and is on course to match or even improve on his numbers from 2015 despite the problems at quarterback.
There is enough talent throughout the team to think the Cardinals can turn things around. But with games to come against the Vikings, Falcons, and Panthers (which maybe isn’t as tough as it may have been) as well as a couple of games against the Seahawks, they will need to get things worked out pretty quickly.
In fairness to the Jets, they have had a tough start to the season. They haven’t really lost to a team that you wouldn’t expect to be contending for a playoff spot but it has been the manner in which they have lost.
The pass defence in particular has been awful. It’s one of the worst in the league and hasn’t shown any signs of getting better. Darelle Revis missed the loss to the Steelers but the defence didn’t really look any worse for it. It wasn’t any better either.
The Jets have the easiest remaining schedule in the league but if they don’t start getting wins quickly then it won’t matter too much.
Both teams still have a shot to make a run at the playoffs, even if it isn’t likely. A loss here for either team could end all hope of that though.
Follow Author Dave Gray on twitter at djg23
Read more from Dave and other UK NFL fans at FirstandTen.co.uk