It’s incredible how quickly the perception of NFL teams can change. Two weeks ago, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jacksonville Jaguars and Carolina Panthers looked like they were in big trouble. The Green Bay Packers, Baltimore Ravens and Los Angeles Rams looked untouchable. Fast forward to Week 5 and perceptions have changed quite a bit. There are a number of big games on the board this week, so let’s run down the top five to keep an eye on:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New Orleans Saints
The Saints improved to 2-0 under Teddy Bridgewater with a 12-10 win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football. While it wasn’t pretty, the fact that New Orleans has registered wins over the Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks – two 3-1 teams – without Brees in the lineup is extremely impressive. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay is coming off a 55-40 win over the defending NFC champion Los Angeles Rams in which Jameis Winston threw for 385 yards and four touchdowns. Yes, that is not a typo. The Buccaneers could very well be 3-1 right now if they didn’t blow a lead to Daniel Jones and the New York Giants in Week 3. This week, they have a chance to take over sole possession of first place in the NFC South.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Carolina Panthers
Just when it looked like the Jacksonville Jaguars season was done, Minshew Mania started running wild. After back-to-back wins in his first two starts, rookie sixth-round pick Gardner Minshew III will try to drag Jacksonville above .500 when they visit Carolina this weekend. Helping the rookie passer is a resurgent Leondard Fournette, who ran for 225 yards on 29 carries in the Week 4 win over the Broncos. Standing in the Jags’ way is another injury replacement quarterback in Kyle Allen, who also happens to be 2-0 since taking over for the injured Cam Newton. No one would have been excited about the Minshew v. Allen battle a month ago, but it represents two of the best storylines of the young NFL season. Both quarterbacks will face tough matchups against good defenses in Week 5, while only one will improve to 3-0.
Green Bay Packers @ Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys offense hit a wall in their Week 4 loss to the Saints. The same can be said for a Green Bay offense that really struggled in the second half of its Week 4 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Now these two NFC contenders are set to meet in Dallas this Sunday for an intriguing early season showdown. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense has been stuck in neutral for the most part this season. What might be more important in this game is their run defense, which as allowed at least 149 rushing yards in three straight weeks.
Indianapolis Colts @ Kansas City Chiefs
While it might not be everything the league expected when they scheduled Andrew Luck’s Colts against Patrick Mahomes’ Chiefs, it’s still an intriguing matchup of potential playoff teams. Despite a tough loss to the Oakland Raiders on Sunday in which he was without his No. 1 wide receiver, Jacoby Brissett is off to a good start in Indianapolis this season at 2-2. They’ll be in tough against the explosive Chiefs, who are a perfect 4-0 so far this season.
Cleveland Browns @ San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers are the last undefeated team in the NFC at 3-0. The team is coming off an early bye week, the Niners have two weeks to prepare for Cleveland. While their schedule hasn’t been very difficult at all, this roster is talented enough to contend with a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo back under center. Now San Francisco gets a chance to showcase what it can do against Baker Mayfield and the Browns on Monday Night Football.