NFL 2012 Season — Week Five Preview
Three unbeaten teams remain, plus an old rivalry enters a new stage, as the NFL enters its fifth week of the 2012 season. Here’s a preview of all of this weekend’s action:
Thursday, Oct. 4
Arizona Cardinals at St. Louis Rams — 8:20 p.m.
Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis
Powered by the NFC’s most productive pass rush, Arizona (4-0) is, surprisingly, still unbeaten this season. The Cardinals’ defensive front could create problems for Rams quarterback Sam Bradford, who has been sacked 14 times in four games. With Arizona’s feeble running game, St. Louis (2-2) will most likely focus its defensive efforts on stopping quarterback Kevin Kolb and receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
Sunday, Oct. 7
Miami Dolphins at Cincinnati Bengals — 1 p.m.
Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati
Miami (1-3) has the AFC’s worst pass defense, allowing 297.8 yards per game. The Dolphins will be further tested by Bengals’ quarterback Andy Dalton and receiver A.J. Green, who is second in the league with 428 receiving yards. Cincinnati (3-1) has yielded 28 points per game, so the Miami offense will look to keep pace behind rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill and wideout Brian Hartline, whose 455 receiving yards lead the NFL.
Green Bay Packers at Indianapolis Colts — 1 p.m.
Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis
Green Bay (2-2) is still getting used to a new offensive balance of the passing of Aaron Rodgers and the running of Cedric Benson. Rodgers has been sacked a league-high 16 times. Indianapolis (1-2) had a bye week, which gave rookie quarterback Andrew Luck extra time to prepare for the blitzes the Packers are expected to use to assist their leaky pass defense.
Baltimore Ravens at Kansas City Chiefs — 1 p.m.
Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Mo.
Unlike their usual run-focused offense, Baltimore (3-1) has shown it can win with the pass. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco leads the AFC in passing yards with 1,269. The Chiefs’ defense has given up 34 points per game, the second highest total in the league. Kansas City (1-3) may soon run out of patience with quarterback Matt Cassel, who has 10 turnovers already this season. The Ravens’ defense will attempt to limit Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles, whose 415 rushing yards lead the AFC.
Atlanta Falcons at Washington Redskins — 1 p.m.
FedEx Field, Landover, Md.
Led by top-rated quarterback Matt Ryan, undefeated Atlanta (4-0) has the NFC’s highest-scoring offense at 31 points per game. The Redskins’ 30th-ranked pass defense has allowed 326.3 yards per contest. Running back Alfred Morris and quarterback Robert Griffin III give Washington (2-2) the NFL’s best rushing attack at 175.5 yards per game. They’ll need to protect the football against a Falcons defense that is second in the league with 12 takeaways.
Cleveland Browns at N.Y. Giants — 1 p.m.
MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
Winless for the season and losers of 10 straight games dating back to last year, Cleveland (0-4) must face the defending Super Bowl champions on the road. Browns rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden is developing slowly, but he needs the running game to help him move the ball. The Giants’ pass rush will be relentless in third-and-long situations. New York (2-2) seems stocked with endless targets for quarterback Eli Manning, as Domenik Hixon, Martellus Bennett and Ramses Barden have joined Victor Cruz as legitimate threats. That depth is not good news for the Browns’ 28th-ranked pass defense.
Philadelphia Eagles at Pittsburgh Steelers — 1 p.m.
Heinz Field, Pittsburgh
Philadelphia (3-1) relied on running back LeSean McCoy, the NFL’s third-leading rusher, to help pound away at the Giants last week. The Eagles may choose to do more of the same against the well-rested and blitz-happy Steelers defense. Pittsburgh emerges (1-2) from the bye week with the possibility of safety Troy Polamalu and running back Rashard Mendenhall returning from injury. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is the league’s second-rated passer, but he could see extra pressure from the talented Philadelphia defensive front line if Pittsburgh’s 31st-ranked running game doesn’t provide some threat.
Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers — 4:05 p.m.
Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte
Seattle (2-2) often controls the tempo of a game through its defense. The Seahawks will pit the NFC’s stingiest defense, allowing just 275.8 yards and 14.5 points per game, against Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and the league’s 11th-best rushing attack. Carolina (1-3) must prepare its 25th-ranked run defense for Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch, the NFL’s leading rusher with 423 yards. Inconsistent Seahawks rookie quarterback Russell Wilson may be playing to keep his job from going to backup Matt Flynn.
Chicago Bears at Jacksonville Jaguars — 4:05 p.m.
EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Fla.
Despite sideline turmoil around quarterback Jay Cutler and inconsistent play on the field, Chicago (3-1) is tied for the NFC North lead. The Bears lead the league in takeaways with 14, meaning Jaguars’ quarterback Blaine Gabbert must be careful with the football this week. Jacksonville (1-3) ranks 30th against the run, giving up an average of 150.3 yards per game. The Bears may decide to center their offense around running back Matt Forte, who returned from an ankle injury last week against Dallas.
Tennessee Titans at Minnesota Vikings — 4:25 p.m.
Mall of America Field, Minneapolis
Tennessee (1-3) could be without quarterback Jake Locker, who separated his non-throwing shoulder for the second time in four weeks in the loss to Houston last Sunday. The Titans could opt for Matt Hasselbeck if Locker can’t play, but running back Chris Johnson remains the key to their offensive attack. The Vikings defense ranks eighth overall in the NFL and seventh against the run. Minnesota (3-1) has rallied behind second-year quarterback Christian Ponder, the NFL’s eighth-rated passer. He has yet to throw an interception this season. The Titans defense ranks 31st in the league in total yards allowed, giving up an average of 421.5 yards per game.
Denver Broncos at New England Patriots — 4:25 p.m.
Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, Mass.
The Peyton Manning-Tom Brady rivalry enters a new phase as Denver (2-2) heads east to face New England (2-2). Brady has already thrown for 1,227 yards, fourth best in the NFL. He’ll face a Broncos defense that ranks seventh in the league in yards allowed per game with 308. Manning has been efficient in running the Denver offense, with eight touchdowns and three interceptions. The Patriots’ defense is tied for fourth in the league with six pick-offs.
Buffalo Bills at San Francisco 49ers — 4:25 p.m.
Candlestick Park, San Francisco
Hampered by its weak defense, Buffalo (2-2) ranks 27th in yards allowed (406.5) and 30th in points allowed per game (32.8). Niners quarterback Alex Smith is the NFC’s third-rated passer, having thrown just one interception against five touchdowns. San Francisco (3-1) has the league’s fifth-ranked run defense, allowing just 79.5 yards per contest. Bills running backs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller must produce better than the 62 yards they combined for against the Patriots last week.
San Diego Chargers at New Orleans Saints — 8:20 p.m.
Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans
Quarterback Drew Brees is still producing for New Orleans (0-4), but he needs teammates to step up so that the season isn’t a total loss. After accumulating a league-best 1,350 passing yards to go with his 10 touchdowns, Brees will face a Chargers defense that doesn’t generate many sacks but thrives on turnovers. With his first scoring toss on Sunday, Brees will break Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas’s record of 47 consecutive games with a touchdown pass. San Diego (3-1) quarterback Philip Rivers steers his offense against a Saints defense that is last in the league in yards allowed (463.3).
Monday, Oct. 8
Houston Texans at N.Y. Jets — 8:30 p.m.
MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
Led by the NFL’s best defense, which allows just 14.0 points and 273.0 yards per game, Houston (4-0) is among the league’s best teams. The Texans defensive front will be a challenge for a Jets’ team that ranks 28th in yards gained and may have lost receiver Santonio Holmes for the season with a foot injury. Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez could be pulled for backup Tim Tebow if his struggles continue. New York (2-2) must stop the NFL’s ninth-ranked rushing attack, which is led by Arian Foster and Ben Tate. The Jets defense yielded 245 yards on the ground to San Francisco in last week’s 34-0 loss.
Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions, Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers