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What to Watch For: Week 5

Cincinnati

@

Baltimore – 1:00 CBS

Bengals: After looking very solid against the Steelers in Week 3, many predicted that the Bengals would roll over the Browns in Week 4. Instead, it took

Cincinnati until the very last seconds of overtime to squeak out a victory over Cleveland, who was without Jamal Lewis and had just inserted Derek Anderson at quarterback. The thing to watch in Week 5 will be the emergence of Chad Ochocinco, who has seen his yardage decrease each of the last three weeks. He may have grabbed two touchdowns last week, but only totaled 24 yards receiving. If the Bengals want any chance of attempting to keep up with

Pittsburgh and

Baltimore, Ochocinco needs to be catching more than 3-5 passes each game.

Ravens:

Baltimore is still clearly the best team in the AFC North despite suffering a loss thanks to the hands of Mark Clayton, and seeing as they have the third-best offense in football along with their top-of-the-line defense, there is no reason that they shouldn’t be able to get the win on Sunday. One of the keys to

Baltimore’s success early on has been the steady play of the ageless Derrick Mason. Mason has over 200 yards receiving and has hauled in two touchdowns in as many weeks.

Cincinnati presently ranks 28th in the league in pass defense, so Joe Flacco and Mason should keep the good times rolling.

Cleveland @ Buffalo – 1:00 CBS

Browns: Just when I thought the Browns would shock us all and hammer out a tough win, they went and let Carson Palmer of all people run on them. However, what I saw last week was a rejuvenated squad who seemed to respond to their new (and old in a sense) starter under center. While Derek Anderson wasn’t exactly Peyton Manning, he did pass for over 250 yards and a touchdown. He also clearly benefited from Jerome Harrison’s strong day consisting of over 150 total yards. However, with Braylon Edwards now gone and Chansi Stuckey on the roster, one has to wonder who is going to step up for the team at receiver. Brian Robiskie is sure to get more playing time, but essentially their best receiver (besides Stuckey) is either Mohamed Massaquoi (eight catches, 149 yards in Week 4) or Mike Furrey. Not exactly who you want catching balls for your squad as they search for their first win. It’ll be interesting to see who becomes the go-to-guy in

Cleveland this weekend.

Bills: I honestly thought that the Bills would take it to the Dolphins.

Miami has a weak pass defense, and with Terrell Owens demanding the ball it would surely mean a recipe for some type of success right? Instead, Trent Edwards looked awful, and at this point, I would think he’d be feeling some heat for his job if someone better than Ryan Fitzpatrick was his backup. Coming into the year, I believed that Edwards would benefit from having an offense consisting of Owens, Marshawn Lynch, Fred Jackson and Lee Evans, but he has done nothing so far to prove that he has what it takes to lead an NFL franchise. His QB rating has fallen each week this year (114 to 97 to 56 to 51) and the Bills are in trouble.

Cleveland has a bad pass defense as well, and if Edwards can’t get it done against them, I’m not sure he’s the right man for his job.

Pittsburgh

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Detroit – 1:00 CBS

Steelers: The Steelers defense clearly misses Troy Polamalu. In what should have been a blowout game against

San Diego on Sunday Night Football,

Pittsburgh let the Chargers right back into the thick of things after leading 28-0 in the first quarter. Polamalu could be back on the field this week, which would be a huge boost to the defense (and IDP owners) which has been without its star safety since he sprained his MCL in Week 1. On the other side of the ball, Rashard Mendenhall finally showed flashes of why he was a first-round pick when he ran for 165 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Willie Parker has been less than acceptable, and even if he’s good to go this week, I expect Mendenhall to get the bulk of the carries because a solid run game would bring the Steelers offense to a state of equilibrium for the first time all year.

Lions: Matthew Stafford looked fantastic against

Chicago’s defense, putting up just under 300 yards passing and only throwing one interception before coming out with a knee injury.

Stafford completed 24 passes to 10 different receivers while Calvin Johnson, Brandon Pettigrew and Will Heller each averaged over 16 yards per catch. Obviously the chemistry is starting to build between the rookie QB and his receivers. Unfortunately, even if

Stafford can play on Sunday, he may be a little more reserved and hesitant to make certain throws due to his injured knee. Throw that on top of the fact that they’re playing

Pittsburgh and it could mean another long day at the office for

Detroit.

Washington

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Carolina – 1:00 FOX

Redskins: After debating back and forth for weeks, I have fully come to believe that this year will be Jason Campbell’s last in

Washington. His best game of the season (340 yards, two touchdowns) came against

Detroit, and when given the task of facing the Buccaneers, who had been sliced and diced by Eli Manning, Tony Romo and Trent Edwards,

Campbell just didn’t get it done. He threw three interceptions (all to Aqib Talib) and didn’t even break the 200-yard mark. Jim Zorn’s leash has to be short at this point in the season and

Campbell is not helping matters. If

Washington wins on Sunday, I can guarantee that it won’t be thanks to their quarterback.

Campbell is in his contract year and he’ll be signing his next one somewhere else.

Panthers: I think that a bye week is exactly what

Carolina needed. Jake Delhomme needed some time to get his head back in the game, and after what was a very rough first three weeks of the season, I’m sure head coach John Fox had some pretty specific things to tell his squad. The Panthers get an evenly matched opponent coming off of their bye in

Washington, and if they wanted any chance to say their season is not completely a waste, this is it. DeAngelo Williams has been averaging over four yards per carry despite having the opposing defense spotlight on him, and Steve Smith is averaging almost 13 yards per catch when he actually gets the ball. All the team needs is for Delhomme to snap out of it.

Dallas

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Kansas City – 1:00 FOX

Cowboys: Nothing soothes the overrated quarterback’s soul after a bitter loss more than a matchup with the Chiefs in his next game. Tony Romo should be thanking his chosen higher power all week for getting this game in Week 5. Romo overthrew his receivers all day against

Denver and never got anything good going for

Dallas offensively. It didn’t help matters that Marion Barber and Tashard Choice were limited to just three yards per carry against what had been a porous Denver run defense, but that will all change against Kansas City. The Eagles and Giants flat out demolished the Chiefs in every sense of the word, and if Romo is as good as everyone makes him out to be, he should have no problems doing the same. On top of that, Roy Williams should actually be able to get separation and do some things to help his quarterback. If the Cowboys can’t get a blowout on Sunday, this team is a lot worse than initially thought.

Chiefs: They may have only lost to the Giants by nine points last week, but the Chiefs were nowhere close to winning the game. Their defense turned Eli Manning into a clone of his brother, and despite throwing two touchdown passes Matt Cassel looked pretty un-franchise quarterback like yet again. I think it’s time for the franchise to just pull the plug on Larry Johnson though. L.J. averaged 2.9 yards per carry last week (18 rushes for 53 yards) while Jamaal Charles gained 24 yards on just two touches. On the season, Charles is averaging more yards per carry and per catch than Johnson. The Chiefs will lose size if Charles becomes the starter, but having L.J. as a goal line/down-and-short back wouldn’t be a bad thing. Todd Haley needs to do something to steady his team’s ship somewhat and Charles could be the answer.

Tampa

Bay @

Philadelphia – 1:00 FOX

Buccaneers: How much longer can Raheem Morris keep Josh Freeman on the bench? While keeping your rookie quarterback on the sidelines in his first year to learn the system is ideal, the fact of the matter is that he can’t be learning anything watching Josh Johnson take snaps. Johnson threw for 106 yards and averaged less than five yards per completion against

Washington while compiling a QB rating of 67.6. As I said last week about Chad Henne replacing Chad Pennington in

Miami, putting in Freeman couldn’t make things any worse than they already are. The only place the Buccaneers can go is up, and while

Philadelphia might not be the ideal defense to play in a rookie’s first game, it’s time for the future to start now in

Tampa.

Eagles: Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook should be back for the team which could mean one of two things: either they excel and the Eagles see no drop off from their Week 3 win over Kansas City (they had a bye in Week 4) or the offense has trouble moving the ball and the QB/RB controversies begin amongst the Philly fans. While head coach Andy Reid clearly has remained loyal to McNabb throughout his 11 years in

Philadelphia, his tone has changed a bit when discussing Westbrook. The coach remarked that from here on out, Westbrook will split time with rookie LeSean McCoy, and that can only mean that Westbrook’s days are limited. McCoy filled in admirably against the Chiefs and opened a lot of eyes. This week will be the first of the Eagles’ RB experiment and who better to try it out against but the Bucs’ 31st ranked run defense?

Minnesota

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St. Louis – 1:00 FOX

Vikings: I refuse to buy into the Brett Favre love fest, but he absolutely wowed me on Monday night. However, the most impressive part of it to me was the fact that he was able to put up a QB rating of 135.3 and three touchdowns while Adrian Peterson did absolutely nothing on the ground. AP was held to 2.2 yards per carry and had a football ripped out of his arms at one point in what was clearly his most lackluster game of the season. Favre’s offensive line protected him very well and he spread the ball to eight different receivers over the course of the game. Even Sidney Rice put up 70 yards and a score. This win showed me that Favre still has something left in the tank, and if he was able to do that against

Green Bay with a miniscule effort from Peterson, imagine what he’s going to do against the lowly Rams this week.

Rams: The Rams were shut out for the second time by an NFC West opponent this season on Sunday and showed no signs of going anywhere fast. I thought that Kyle Boller might be a little bit of an improvement over Marc Bulger, but I was so far off. Boller barely threw for 100 yards and had one interception, which left Rams’ fans wondering what to do next. Steven Jackson has been the only consistently decent player on the team this year, but the lack of a passing attack is allowing defenses to hone in on the backfield and limit him.

Minnesota’s run defense is starting to get back to its typical form and is now ranked 10th in the league.

Jackson will be the target on

Minnesota’s radar all day, which will make for ugly football and maybe another shutout.

Oakland

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New York Giants – 1:00 CBS

Raiders: The Raiders are officially the worst offense in the league statistically and that fact won’t be helped by Darren McFadden’s meniscus injury that will keep him out 2-4 weeks. McFadden had been less than stellar anyway, but if there was one bright spot of hope for this team, it was their running back. Michael Bush will become the starter now, and so far this year Bush has averaged four yards-per-carry and has found the endzone once. The team will lose some speed, but gaining more power could allow them to throw a bit of a curveball to the Giants. By no means will

Oakland be able to have great success in the ground game, but Bush will allow the Raiders to play a different style of football and at this point,

Oakland needs to try something new anyway. This is just one of several games this week (along with GB @ StL, TB @ Phi, and Dal @ KC) that will make you cringe if you watch.

Giants:

New York got lucky when they found out that Eli Manning would be able to go this week as long as he could deal with the pain. Manning has worked wonders with his receivers this year, and I’m pretty sure that success would not carry over with David Carr under center. Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw have teamed up to make the Giants the sixth-best running team in football, and seeing how Oakland is ranked 27th against opposing runners, that bodes well for owners of the two Giants’ backs. Manning will be able to take it easy this week, and Tom Coughlin will make sure he gets his backs plenty of opportunities early and often. The Giants will be a solid 5-0 after this week.  

Atlanta

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San Francisco – 4:05 FOX

Falcons: Matt Ryan’s statistics right now are a little misleading. He ranks 26th in the league in passing yards, but the guy is one of four quarterbacks who have only played in three games this season because of an early bye. In reality, right now the only signal callers that rank ahead of Ryan in QB rating are the Manning brothers, Drew Brees, Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. That’s some pretty elite company. However, the one thing that worries me is that when he finally played a decent team in New England in Week 3 (after facing off against Miami and Carolina), Ryan came up short, throwing for just 199 yards and not a single touchdown. This week,

San Francisco is on the schedule and Mike Singletary’s defense is tied for 11th in passing yards allowed, and it has held opposing quarterbacks to a rating of 69.3. This is a much tougher matchup than people are giving it credit for and will show us what Ryan is truly made of.

49ers: Shaun Hill continues to do just enough to get his team wins. On top of that, Glen Coffee (despite averaging just 3.1 yards per carry) capably filled in for Frank Gore, racking up 106 total yards. One of the main reasons that San Francisco continues to roll on though is the emergence of Vernon Davis, who continues to live up to his pre-2006 draft hype this year. Offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye is known for featuring tight ends in his offense, and Davis has responded by becoming the third-best TE in fantasy football through four weeks and is sixth among all tight ends in yards (behind Dallas Clark, Antonio Gates, Chris Cooley, Brent Celek and Jason Witten).

Atlanta has already given up two touchdowns and an average of 51 yards per week to tight ends through three weeks, which should mean continued points for

Davis’ fantasy owners on Sunday.

Houston

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Arizona – 4:15 CBS

Texans:

Oakland can make any team look good, but the Texans looked phenomenal on Sunday. It’s one thing to beat a bad team, but it’s another thing to blow them out. The defense held the Raiders to just 45 yards rushing (20 on one play by Darrius Heyward-Bey) and JaMarcus Russell had a QB rating of just 48.5. The defense is the one part of the team that had to be improved upon if head coach Gary Kubiak wanted to keep his job. The Texans have responded by being the eighth-ranked pass defense in the league, but their run defense is still ranked 30th. If the Texans want to be looked at as a true contender (especially since they’re in the tough AFC South), the run defense needs to step up. Seeing as

Arizona has all of 182 yards rushing as a team this year; Mario Williams, Brian Cushing and DeMeco Ryans should all have huge days on Sunday in IDP leagues.

Cardinals: The one thing that has surprised me most from the Cardinals this year is not their 1-2 record or their league-worst running game, but actually their receivers and lack of production. Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston were all 1,000-yard receivers last year and Fitzgerald was a Top 5 pick in some fantasy leagues. As of right now, Fitz leads the team in receiving yards, but only has 181 of them (good enough for 44th in the league). Meanwhile, Boldin actually has one less receiving yard than running back Tim Hightower. If the team wants any chance at catching/keeping up with

San Francisco in the division, they need to start winning in a hurry because this squad’s offense looks paltry compared to what they were able to do in 2008.

Houston isn’t the best team to rebound against, but the team’s bye could prove to be very beneficial especially in terms of getting Boldin fully healthy.

New England @ Denver – 4:15 CBS

Patriots: The Patriots backfield has been a black hole for fantasy owners, and that fact becomes even truer when they are facing a solid run defense. Against the league’s top defense in

Baltimore last week, the Patriots’ leading rusher was Fred Taylor, who had 25 yards on seven carries. As a team, they finished with 85 yards on 30 carries for a mere 2.8 yards per carry. I’ve been saying that Bill Belichick needs to find a No. 1 rusher if he wants his offense to thrive, but still the committee approach is taking the field in Foxboro. Last week the Broncos held the combination of Marion Barber and Tashard Choice to only 74 yards on the ground, and those two guys are much better than what

New England trots onto the field. The lack of a running game this week will really hinder the Patriots’ offense.

Broncos: Kyle Orton is rated as the ninth-best quarterback in football right now. He hasn’t thrown an interception yet compared to five touchdowns, and last week he even got Brandon Marshall involved in the game for once. This

Denver offense is really beginning to click, and maybe Orton isn’t as bad as everyone (except for Josh McDaniels) thought. He still makes bad decisions at times, but not having a pick at this point in the season is pretty remarkable for him. The team did take a huge hit when Correll Buckhalter went down with an ankle injury though. The combination of Buckhalter and rookie Knowshon Moreno made

Denver a Top 5 rushing team through the first four weeks and was arguably the biggest key to their success.

Moreno is averaging over four yards per carry right now, but it will be interesting to see how he responds to an increased workload.

Jacksonville

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Seattle – 4:15 CBS

Jaguars: Wow Jacksonville really opened my eyes last week. I thought that

Tennessee would finally wake up and facing David Garrard would work wonders for their pass defense, but boy was I wrong. Garrard was absolutely spectacular, throwing for 323 yards and three touchdowns. On top of that, Mike Sims-Walker made his statement for being recognized as the best receiver on the team with another 91 yards receiving and two touchdowns. The one guy that is overlooked in the offense though is Marcedes Lewis. The tight end had four catches and racked up 76 yards and a touchdown last week, bringing his season total to 179 yards and two scores. Lewis has amazing size at 6-foot-6 and 275 pounds, easily making him the biggest target on the team. If you’re in need of a pickup, Lewis could surprise you as the season wears on.

Seahawks: It seems as if Matt Hasselbeck’s ribs haven’t gotten any better in his time off and it looks like Seneca Wallace will be getting another start this week. Wallace did throw for over 250 yards against

Indianapolis, but he also had 45 passing attempts as

Seattle tried to play catch up for most of the game. The one positive thing that came out of their blowout loss to the Colts was the emergence of T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who brought in eight catches for over 100 yards. Housh had been relatively quiet before that, and if

Seattle wants any chance of succeeding this week he’ll need to continue to exert his skills against

Jacksonville’s pass defense which is tied for dead last in the league with

Tennessee. This game could easily be the most hard-fought of the week.

Indianapolis

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Tennessee – 8:20 NBC

Colts: This is just going to be an ugly Sunday night game. I’m sure the network executives at NBC were drooling when they got this matchup in the offseason, but now it’s going to be Peyton Manning and his league-best QB rating facing off against Tennessee’s league worst pass defense. Manning leads the league in passing yards as well and is also tied for the league lead in passing touchdowns. He has thrown for over 300 yards in each of his first four games and I see no reason for that trend to change this week. This is going to be one of those games where you just sit back and be thankful that you get to watch an artist like Peyton work his magic because quarterbacks like him are once in a lifetime.

Titans: Last week, everyone said that the Titans were in a must-win situation because surely there is no way that they can start off 0-4 and still make the playoffs. Well,

Tennessee eclipsed its loss total from all of 2008 when they laid down and let the Jaguars roll over them. Jeff Fisher has been adamant in saying that Kerry Collins will remain the team’s starter, but at some point (despite what Collins did for the team last year) Fisher has to give Vince Young some sort of shot at the job. Manning is going to carve up the defense this week, so if the bleeding isn’t going to stop I think it will definitely be time to try the VY experiment again. Eventually the team has to wave the surrender flag and that will happen as soon as we see Young in a game, which could very well be on Sunday night.

New York Jets @ Miami – Monday, 8:30 ESPN

Jets: The acquisition of Braylon Edwards could make this team a lot more dynamic down the line, but despite the fact that Edwards will be starting on Monday night I don’t see how he could have any impact until a couple weeks from now. We all remember how Roy Williams looked after being traded in the regular season from

Detroit to

Dallas last year. And in all honesty, Edwards hasn’t done anything this season to show me that he will be able to switch offensive systems right now and be a difference maker. Edwards will surely take limited snaps, and without Chansi Stuckey, Mark Sanchez may be limited as well with whom he can throw the ball to. It might not be the best week to start the rookie phenom with the offense changing up a bit.

Dolphins: After starting out 0-3, I was sure that

Miami would falter against

Buffalo and all of their weapons. However, Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams lifted them with 200 yards rushing and three touchdowns between them to support Chad Henne in his first NFL start. Speaking of Henne, he only threw for 115 yards, but was 14-for-22 and didn’t throw an interception. The Jets clearly have the best defense in the AFC East and are ranked sixth overall in the NFL, so times will be a bit tougher this week than they were last. One way Henne can help himself is if he targets Ted Ginn and Anthony Fasano a little more. Each man only had three passes thrown their way against

Buffalo, coming up with a combined two catches for 11 yards. Expect Henne to look their way more on Sunday.

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