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2011 NFL Week 5 Primer

New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick encourages his team against the Oakland Raiders at the Coliseum in Oakland, California on October 2, 2011. The Patriots defeated the Raiders 31-19. UPI/Terry Schmitt

Titans @ Steelers, 1:00PM ET
Want to know how dire the Steelers’ situation is along their offensive line? They just signed a guy (Max Starks) whom they released in preseason. Ben Roethlisberger’s bruised foot was in a walking boot as he watched practice on Wednesday and the Titans have a couple of linemen in Karl Klug and Derrick Morgan that can get after the passer. Don’t be shocked if we see an upset in Pittsburgh this Sunday.

Eagles @ Bills, 1:00PM ET
Michael Vick says that the “Dream Team” moniker is now dead in Philadelphia and that the Eagles no longer want to be called that. Seeing as how they’re 1-3 and taking on a Buffalo team that has been unbeatable at home this year, I don’t think anyone will have a problem obliging Mikey’s request.

Saints @ Panthers, 1:00PM ET
Don’t be surprised if Cam Newton has another big day passing this week. The Panthers figure to be trailing in this one and the Saints have struggled defensively this year. Will Smith and Sedrick Ellis are about the only linemen who have helped generate a pass rush, while guys like Roman Harper have struggled in coverage. As expected, all three linebackers have had their issues as well. Jonathan Casillas has two sacks and four QB pressures, but he has struggled in coverage while Jonathan Vilma has been suspect against the run. There’s certainly holes in New Orleans’ defense that Newton can take advantage of.

Seahawks @ Giants, 1:00PM ET
Assuming the Giants win this week, who would have thought that their only loss this season would be against the Redskins in Week 1 and not at Philadelphia in Week 3? Give Tom Coughlin’s squad credit. They could have easily lost last Sunday in Arizona and looked like they would with about five minutes left to play. But they persevered and now have what should be an easy win this Sunday. Tarvaris Jackson played well against Atlanta’s soft zone last weekend but the Seahawks are a completely different team on the road than they are at home. New York should roll.

Bengals @ Jaguars, 1:00PM ET
Andy Dalton has certainly had his ups and downs through the first quarter of the season, but the Bengals have to be pleased with the way he’s battled. With the Bills up 17-3 last Sunday, Dalton and Cincinnati could have shut it down in the second half, especially considering how inept the offense looked versus the 49ers the week before. But they picked up a huge win and now go on the road to face a Jaguars team that has struggled with rookie Blaine Gabbert under center. It’s pretty remarkable to think that he Bengals could be 3-2 after this week when you consider how messy their offseason was.

Cardinals @ Vikings, 1:00PM ET
Is Leslie Frazier starting to warm up to the idea of starting Christian Ponder? Here was Frazier’s comments on the rookie this Wednesday: “He’s working hard in practice, doing the same thing in meetings. We feel like he’s progressing well and we’re optimistic, that, when his time comes, he’ll be ready to go.” A couple of more brutal showings by Donovan McNabb and Ponder’s time might be coming soon.

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NFL Week 5 Primer

Donovan McNabbSunday’s Best: Redskins (3-1) at Eagles (2-2) 1:00 PM ET FOX
Who would have thought after four weeks that the Washington Redskins would be right in the thick of things in the NFC East? Especially after they bombed in the opener against the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants. But they are, and a big reason for that is the maturity of QB Jason Campbell, who has looked comfortable running Jim Zorn’s West Coast Offense the past three weeks. But he’ll get a major test this weekend against Jim Johnson’s blitz-happy defense. The WCO is predicated on short timing routes and getting the ball into the hands of receivers so they can get yards after the catch. If Campbell can’t get the ball out of his hands quickly, Philly is sure to produce plenty of sacks and turnovers. Whether or not the Eagle offense converts those turnovers into points remains to be seen, however. In their loss last week to Chicago, Donovan McNabb struggled getting the Eagles into the end zone without the threat of Brian Westbrook in the backfield. Westbrook will be a game time decision, although he has seen a fair about of practice time this week, which might be a good sign that he’ll play. Expect another physical matchup between NFC East rivals.

Upset Watch: Bills (4-0) at Cardinals (2-2), 4:15 PM ET CBS
I’m not fooling oddsmakers by calling this a potential upset because they’ve already established the Cardinals as 1-point favorites. But considering how well the Bills have played this year and how Arizona surrendered 56 points in last weeks loss to the Jets, a Cardinal victory would be an upset. The fact of the matter is that the Cards just flat out play better in the desert than they do on the road. They’re a completely different team and while dynamic wide out Anquan Boldin is not expected to play after suffering a nasal injury last Sunday, the Cards have more than enough offensive weapons to pull out a win. The key will be Kurt Warner not turning the ball over and for the team to play all four quarters. Buffalo has trailed in the second half of three of their four victories this year, which means that they’ve been outstanding in the clutch. Arizona will have to play a complete game to earn a win, but an upset could be in the making.

Ben RoethlisbergerIntriguing Matchup: Steelers (3-1) at Jaguars (2-2), 8:15 PM ET NBC
The Steelers may be 3-1, but they can’t feel too good about the way things are unraveling as injuries continue to mount. Not only will Pittsburgh go into this game without their top two backs in Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall, but Ben Roethlisberger is also dealing with shoulder and hand injuries and OT Kendall Simmons is now lost for the year. The Steelers had offensive line issues coming into the season with Simmons in their lineup. Now they have to play without him, which isn’t good news for Big Ben and the rest of the offense. The Jaguars started the year 0-2 but are now gaining confidence after beating the Colts and Texans in dramatic fashion over the past two weeks. The running game has opened up the passing attack for David Garrard, who is starting to play like the quarterback who led the Jags deep into the playoffs last season. We’re going to see what Pittsburgh is made of, because Jacksonville is starting to show signs of the Super Bowl contender that everyone that they’d be in preseason.

Other Notable Games:
Titans (4-0) at Ravens (2-1), 1:00 PM ET
Tennessee is one of only two teams still undefeated and perhaps is playing the best defense in the AFC. Rookie Joe Flacco looked like he was starting to come into his home against the Steelers, so it’ll be interesting to see how he fares against a tough Titans’ defense.

Buccaneers (3-1) at Broncos (3-1), 4:05 PM ET
This is one of the best matchups on the Week 5 schedule as it pits Monte Kiffin’s defense against the Broncos’ offense, which has been one of the best units in the league so far. Can Denver bounce back from its embarrassing loss to the Chiefs last week? Can the Bucs further convince people that they’re a contender with Brain Griese under center?

Bengals (0-4) at Cowboys (3-1), 4:15 PM ET CBS
Ocho Cinco vs. Grab Your Popcorn. Should be a good one.

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