NFL Week 5: Ups & Downs

3 Up-

Atlanta Falcons

Could it be real this time? So many times we have seen this Atlanta team perform well for a few weeks and then go completely cold for no apparent reason. Whatever the case, since losing a week 1 matchup at home, the Falcons have won the last four games. This past Sunday was their most impressive win of the season, beating a tough Broncos team led by their defense. Matt Ryan is taking care of the ball for the most part, but the biggest reason for the success of the Falcons has been the two-headed monster at the running back position (Coleman and Freeman). The duo has combined for over 1000 yards so far this season (rushing and receiving). Of course we can’t forget Julio Jones, who has proven year after year to be an incredible receiver. However, the most surprising part about this team has been the defense. Dan Quinn seems to finally be getting the production he wants out of them. The next three games against the Seahawks, Chargers, and Packers should give us a better idea of who this team really is.

Tampa Bay Bucs

It wasn't pretty, but a road win on Monday Night Football against a division rival is a big deal. The Bucs’ record of 2-3 isn't that great on paper, but with being 2-0 in the division and having played four of the best defenses in the NFL, it isn't all that bad. The kicking situation is shaky, and Jameis Winston is still inaccurate from time to time, but the defense stepped up big forcing 4 turnovers to not only win the game, but seemingly save the season. If the Bucs had lost that game, the season would have looked all but over. However, thanks to sloppy play by a reeling Panthers team, the Bucs were able to continue in the right direction. Coming out of the bye, the Bucs have an easier game against the 49ers. The Bucs should also get back their two main pass rushers in Gerald McCoy and Robert Ayers, as well as their starting running back Doug Martin who has been missing since week 2.

Tom Brady

400+ yards and 3 TD's demands some recognition, especially when you haven't played all season. Oh, and in one game with the new toy at Tight End, Brady hit Martellus Bennett with all three touchdowns. Despite handing it to the Browns, Brady said he felt like there were some areas he could improve in. If that's the case the rest of the league better be on alert. The defense and backup QB have done their job. 3-1 at the top of the division is not the kind of lead you want to give a guy like Tom Brady. Bengals and Steelers are up next. Steelers being one of the top teams in the AFC should give the Patriots a true test.

3 Down-

Carolina Panthers

A few months removed from the Superbowl, the Panthers are struggling. After taking a loss on Monday night, the reigning NFC champions are 1-4. As the statistics on Monday night stated, only eight teams in NFL history have started 1-4 and come back to make the playoffs. The Panthers too often take on the personality of Newton. Don’t get me wrong, I like Cam, but when you watch this team play it’s like they ride emotional highs and lows- exactly how Cam does. It’s a common theory that teams take on the characteristics of their star QB’s. All this team needs to do is string together a win or two, and they will be on their way to being the 9th team in NFL history to make the playoffs after a 1-4 start. Don’t doubt them, especially if they get on a winning streak.

Miami Dolphins

This team is reeling. After their most recent loss to the Titans, the Dolphins fall to 1-4 on the season. Most thought bringing in Adam Gase, the offensive guru, might alleviate some of the struggles of Tannehill, but it seems there is no fixing the QB. The big money handed out to Suh a few years ago seems to be a waste, and Arian Foster hasn’t done anything at all. This team should be in full rebuild mode. The Dolphins should trade as many as they possibly can, and start to stock draft picks. This team can’t keep wasting years making big free agent signings when the rest of the team isn’t competent outside of Jarvis Landry. It might be time to tank and look at drafting a new QB.

Cincinnati Bengals

That was a very winnable game on Sunday. For a team considered to be one of the best in the AFC to lose to a rookie QB and RB isn’t good. Don’t get me wrong, I think Dak and Zeke look good, but my point is that teams that are competing for a super bowl don’t lose that game. Keep in mind, the game wasn’t close. Although the score indicated a two touchdown game, the Bengals were down 28-0 until 10 minutes left in the 4th when they scored their first touchdown. It seems the Bengals are consistently thought to be one of the best teams in the AFC, but by now that seems like a bit of a false narrative. The team has talent, but something is holding them back. They remind me of the OKC Thunder of the NFL (prior to Durant leaving).