Welcome to Week 5 in the National Football League! It’s the first week that features a full slate of teams with byes, so many fantasy owners have issues. While you try to figure out how to replace that star in your lineup that has this week off, grab your Buffalo Wild Wings grub and think about how to plan your football watching and listening on Sunday. Three fun matchups this weekend:
1. None more intriguing than the Patriots-Broncos matchup this weekend. Yes, I’m doing this game, so I’m biased, but it seems to me that the renewal of the Brady-Manning rivalry will always take center stage in the National Football League. Both teams are 2-2, but both are coming off arguably their best performances of the season. But is the matchup Brady-Manning or Manning-Belichick? The presence of Peyton Manning on the field can force coaches to do some unique things… and it’s no different in this matchup. Who can forget 2009, when Coach Belichick rolled the dice in a big way, going for it on 4th and 2 from his own 28-yard line? As we know, that gamble backfired in a big way, and with years of hindsight, how much of that gamble was dictated by the presence of Peyton Manning?
Peyton’s back, but the bigger story for the Broncos might be the retooled Denver defense. New defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, who last year was at the helm of the Jacksonville Jaguars, brings a defense into New England that is ranked in the top 10 in scoring, rushing and total defense in the NFL. They’ve switched personnel at every level on the defensive side, and are hoping that’s enough to handle the league’s top offense in the Patriots. Tom Brady likely won’t have the two-headed monster at TE back this week, but figures to be able to move effectively even without Aaron Hernandez for one more week. Final note in this one… the Brady-Manning series was very lopsided towards Tom Brady early, but Peyton is 4-2 in the last six meetings. We’ll see if that streak can hold up in Foxboro on Sunday.
2. Atlanta and Washington is not one I thought I’d pay much attention to, but this game really has me intrigued. I had the chance to watch Atlanta in person last weekend, and while I’ve always liked Matt Ryan, I walked away from that game convinced I saw one of the top five quarterbacks in the league this year. He’s playing at a remarkably high level, and recovered well from an early interception in that game with the Panthers. And while some of the credit to his success has to go towards Carolina’s Haruki Nakumura, who spent a good portion of the game spinning around, most goes to Ryan and his talented wide receivers. The Falcons struggled, though, in two areas that may keep them from achieving their goal of the best start in franchise history:
- Pass protection. Ryan was sacked 7 times against the Panthers on Sunday. They get a break with Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker out on Sunday, but Ryan Kerrigan is still a formidable pass rusher, with 3 ½ sacks already on this young season. The Falcons have to do a better job in keeping Ryan upright, because the Redskins defense appears to be ripe for the picking for Ryan, ranking 31st in the league against the pass
- The other area of struggle for the Falcons was again stopping the run. Now, Cam Newton presents a myriad of problems from a run-stopping standpoint, but then again, so does RG3! The Redskins have the best rushing team in the NFL, and the Falcons are among the worst in the league against the run. If the Skins can establish that run game, they can control the clock and keep Matt Ryan and the rest of the offense on the sidelines.
3. Sunday Night Football this week on Westwood One is in New Orleans and features two teams that are in unfamiliar spots. San Diego, off to a fast start at 3-1, and the Saints, 0-4 on the season, meet in the Superdome. The Saints woes have been on the defensive side…worst defense overall in the league…worst against the run…24th against the pass. In comes a San Diego team that is still trying to find its run game, and really the entire offense, but has been carried early by a solid defense.
It’s hard for me to believe that Sean Payton, as great as he’s been on the sidelines in his career, is really the cause of the problems for the Saints this year. This game has to be won or lost by the Chargers offense against the Saints defense, the two weakest parts of the respective teams. If the Saints can get a few rare stops, Drew Brees and the Saints offense are still capable of lighting up any defense in the league. It’s just stunning to me that the Saints are 0-4. I keep waiting for this still-talented team to get off the schneid. Maybe this is the week.
Can’t wait for the games to start! The entire Westwood One schedule is right here on our website. Check it out and make plans to join us all weekend long for a great NFL week 5!
– Kevin Kugler
Westwood One NFL play-by-play announcer Kevin Kugler tackles subjects that are interesting to him each week in his blog. The Football Insider Report is brought to you by Buffalo Wild Wings. Protect the Football. This weekend, Kevin will be in Massachusetts as the New England Patriots host the Denver Broncos. Coverage begins Sunday at 3:45 Eastern.