As usual, the past week of action in the National Football League did not disappoint. When the dust finally settled, we had seen three games go into overtime, four teams improve to 5-0 (two others are 4-0), a handful of notable upsets, several amazing individual performances, and a Monday Night Football game that was decided on the final play of regulation. Not too shabby for one week of games. With that being said, here is a look at the seven biggest takeaways from Week 5 of the 2015 NFL season.
1. The Cincinnati Bengals are for real
Given the history of the franchise, the hesitation by many people to jump on the Bengals bandwagon has been totally understandable, until now. They have one of the most complete defenses in the league, two dynamic running backs in Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill, one of the league’s best offensive lines, an elite wide receiver in A.J. Green, and their quarterback, Andy Dalton, is a legitimate NFL MVP candidate. Yes, you read that correctly. Dalton has gone from a player whose career appeared to be on life support before the season, to a truly elite NFL signal caller. As a result, the Bengals are undefeated and may be the biggest threat to the New England Patriots in the AFC.
2. The quality of the offensive line play around the league may be at an all-time low
The above statement is more of a testament to the amazingly talented next generation of athletes on the defensive side of the ball than it is a knock on the talent level of the offensive lines around the league. With that being said, we are consistently seeing quarterbacks running for their lives and running backs having inconsistent performances in games all around the league on a weekly basis. Several theories for this trend have been tossed around, but if you’re asking us, the style of play (i.e. spread offenses) at the college level is what’s really to blame. NFL offenses rely on more power-based, traditional blocking concepts, while the new-age college offensive line schemes rely less on power and more on finesse. Regardless, it won’t be long before the coaches around the league figure out a way around this problem.
3. The Atlanta Falcons look like the biggest threat to the Green Bay Packers in the NFC
It wasn’t all that long ago that the Falcons were considered to be perennial contenders in the NFC. With a new coaching regime, led by head coach Dan Quinn, running the show, it appears as though the Falcons are back to being one of the league’s best teams. They are arguably the most complete team in the league on the offensive side of the ball, and their defense is vastly improved under Quinn. Everybody knows that the Packers are the team to beat in the NFC, but it now appears as the Falcons have leap-frogged teams like the Seattle Seahawks, Dallas Cowboys, and Arizona Cardinals as Green Bay’s toughest competition within the conference.
4. Several teams are on the verge of running away with division titles
We could argue that up to six teams are running away with division titles after only five weeks of the season. The New England Patriots may not lose a game during the entire regular season, the Cincinnati Bengals have a solid two-game lead in the AFC North, the Indianapolis Colts have a two-game lead and the luxury of playing in the AFC South – which is the worst division in the league, the Denver Broncos have a three-game lead in the AFC West, the Green Bay Packers have a three-game lead in the NFC North and may be the best team in the league, and the Arizona Cardinals have a solid two-game lead in the NFC West. A lot can happen over the next couple of months, all six of the aforementioned teams look like they are destined to have at least one home playoff game come January.
5. The Sean Payton era may be coming to an end in New Orleans
The Saints are in terrible shape in terms of their salary cap and are currently undergoing a roster transformation that has us believing they are in full-fledged rebuilding mode. Couple that with the facts that the Saints are coming off of a 7-9 season in 2014 and have gotten off to a 1-4 start to the 2015 season, and it’s not hard to imagine Payton not being open to the idea of moving on to a franchise that is in better shape for the 2016 season. On top of that, the Miami Dolphins and Indianapolis Colts are reportedly planning to inquire about acquiring Payton this offseason.
6. The 2015 NFL MVP race is starting to take shape
For 12 of the last 15 years, a quarterback has won the NFL MVP award. In keeping up with that trend, it’s beginning to look like a virtual guarantee that the 2015 NFL MVP will be a quarterback. And with that, the race for the prestigious award appears to be down to four players: Tom Brady of the New England Patriots (pictured above), Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers, Andy Dalton of the Cincinnati Bengals, and Carson Palmer of the Arizona Cardinals.
7. Denver Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller has been the most impactful defensive player in the league this season
With all due respect to guys like Aaron Donald, J.J. Watt, Justin Houston, and Khalil Mack, Miller has been without a doubt the best defensive player in the league this season. His three sacks may not be enough to lead the league in that category, but Miller does lead the NFL in quarterback hurries and has the highest rated player in the league, regardless of position, according to Pro Football Focus. If Miller keeps up his current level of play and the Broncos keep winning games, he will not only win the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award, but he could also receive a few NFL MVP votes.
All statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.