Forty-two of the 78 NFL games played through the season’s first five weeks have been decided by seven points or fewer, tying a league record set in 2006. Last week, nine of 15 games were decided by seven or fewer points.
Only two teams, the 6-0 New England Patriots and 4-0 San Francisco 49ers, remain undefeated, while four teams — two of which will play Sunday in the Redskins-Dolphins Stupor Bowl — are winless.
As for the story of the 2019 season — the emergence of young quarterbacks, who have stepped up to replace injured or retired veterans — Jacoby Brissett, Gardner Minshew II, Teddy Bridgewater and Kyle Allen are a combined 11-4 in their starts. Three of those youngsters are in action today, with Bridgewater’s Saints visiting Minshew’s Jaguars.
The Bills, Bears, Colts and Raiders have byes this week.
All times Eastern.
|9:30||Panthers at Buccaneers||NFL Network|
|1||Redskins at Dolphins||Fox|
|1||Eagles at Vikings||Fox|
|1||Texans at Chiefs||CBS|
|1||Saints at Jaguars||CBS|
|1||Seahawks at Browns||Fox|
|1||Bengals at Ravens||CBS|
|4:05||49ers at Rams||Fox|
|4:05||Falcons at Cardinals||Fox|
|4:25||Cowboys at Jets||CBS|
|4:25||Titans at Broncos||CBS|
|8:20||Steelers at Chargers||NBC|
The very early shift
Panthers (3-2) at Buccaneers (2-3), 9:30 a.m., NFL Network
Who doesn’t like a little London football with their Sunday morning cornflakes? That goes double for a game featuring Christian McCaffrey, who might be the best multipurpose offensive weapon in the league right now. The Panthers’ running back had 237 yards (176 rushing) and three touchdowns (two rushing) in last week’s win over the Jaguars. He also has managed two of the three longest rushes in Panthers history this season (84 yards last week and 76 against Arizona in Week 3, both for scores). With McCaffrey accounting for 866 yards (587 rushing), some of the pressure is off quarterback Kyle Allen, who is 3-0 in three starts replacing the injured Cam Newton. Tampa Bay looks to sweep the season series after a 20-14 Week 2 victory. Jameis Winston played an error-free game last week, but the Buccaneers still lost to the Saints.
The early shift
Redskins (0-5) at Dolphins (0-5), 1, Fox
In a just world, this one would end in a 0-0 tie. The Redskins, the team ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt said is “on a treadmill to nowhere,” now are being coached by veteran offensive line coach Bill Callahan, who has made it clear he wants to run the ball more and featured sprints and extra work in his first practice as interim head coach. The Redskins are expected to start Case Keenum and have a decent chance at a win because they have more talent than the Dolphins and haven’t actually been in tanking mode since the season began. The Dolphins are coming off a bye week and have to know that this is one of their best chances at climbing out of the winless void they and the Redskins share with the Bengals and Jets.
Eagles (3-2) at Vikings (3-2), 1, Fox
The next five weeks, starting Sunday, will determine a lot for the Vikings and Kirk Cousins, who got a phone call from President Trump after passing for 306 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s win over the Giants. Minnesota will face the Lions, Redskins, Chiefs and Cowboys over the following four weeks, a schedule loaded with playoff contenders. Running back Dalvin Cook helps compensate for Cousins’s deficiencies and, if it weren’t for McCaffrey, he’d be the talk of the NFL, ranking second to the Panthers running back with 542 yards rushing (742 from scrimmage). He’ll face a tough test against the Eagles, who have the stingiest run defense in the league, allowing 63 rushing yards per game. Last week, the Eagles made life difficult for quarterback Luke Falk of the Jets, sacking him nine times and holding the New York offense to 128 yards.
Texans (3-2) at Chiefs (4-1), 1, CBS
The biggest question concerns the injured ankle of Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes. In last week’s loss to the Colts, Mahomes passed for only one touchdown (a most un-Mahomes-like game). In their first loss of the season, the Chiefs’ streak of 25 straight regular-season games in which they’d scored 25 or more points also came to an end. The Chiefs were flagged 11 times for 125 yards in an unusually sloppy game and, for the first time, the Chiefs were held to fewer than 26 points in a game Mahomes started. Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson last week became only the third player in the Super Bowl era with 400 or more yards passing, five touchdowns and a perfect passer rating in one game. Note, though, that Houston fumbled five times in its 53-32 victory over Atlanta.
Saints (4-1) at Jaguars (2-3), 1, CBS
Who knew that this game would feature an exciting matchup between Teddy Bridgewater and Gardner Minshew II? In place of Drew Brees, who is recovering from thumb surgery, Bridgewater last week tied a career high by passing for four touchdowns and also threw for over 300 yards against the Buccaneers, the first time he hit that mark since Week 14 in 2015. Minshew, filling in for Nick Foles as he recovers from a broken collarbone, completed 26 of 44 passes for 374 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 42 yards in last week’s loss to the Panthers. D.J. Chark has played a big role in Minshew’s success; he leads the Jaguars with 27 receptions, 485 yards, 18 yards per catch and five touchdowns. Jaguars owner Shad Khan expects unhappy cornerback Jalen Ramsey to play after having a “heart-to-heart” talk with him.
Seahawks (4-1) at Browns (2-3), 1, Fox
What’s ailing Baker Mayfield? The Browns’ quarterback has the lowest passer rating (68.5) of the NFL’s regular starters. In a disastrous Monday night loss to the 49ers, he completed 8 of 22 passes for 100 yards, with no touchdowns and two interceptions. His passer rating? Try 13.4. He has thrown for just four TDs this season and leads the league with eight interceptions in five games. He has also been sacked 16 times. Cleveland’s defense has been susceptible to the run, ranking 29th in the league and allowing 150.8 yards rushing per game. Russell Wilson has the Seahawks clicking and they’re rested, having last played Oct. 3 in a 30-29 victory over the Rams. Wilson has the league’s best passer rating at 126.3, and may well be the best QB in the league.
Bengals (0-5) at Ravens (3-2), 1, CBS
The Bengals gave up 514 yards (266 on the ground) to Arizona last week, rallying for a fourth-quarter comeback that fell short when the Cardinals kicked a 31-yard field goal as time expired. Cincinnati finally topped 100 yards rushing against the Cardinals, but that was more than offset by a defense that gave up more than 250 yards on the ground for the second time in five weeks. The Ravens are coming off their usual physical game against the Steelers, one in which they failed to generate 300 yards of offense and Lamar Jackson threw three interceptions (he now has been intercepted five times over the last five quarters). Kyler Murray had a big day against Cincinnati, so perhaps Jackson will, too, despite Ravens’ issues on the offensive line.
49ers (4-0) at Rams (3-2), 4:05, Fox
The 49ers are the NFC’s only undefeated team for the first time since 1984 and are off to their best start since a 10-0 run in 1990. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has a 10-2 record as the starting quarterback, and he’ll face a Rams team in search of an identity. With the Seahawks at 4-1 and favored over the Browns, both these teams need a win in the uber-competitive NFC West. Despite a schedule that hasn’t been especially tough, the Niners rank among the league’s top teams in most statistical categories: second in points per game, fourth in yards per game and first in rushing attempts and yards per game. They are also fourth in scoring defense, second in yards allowed and second in total turnovers. The Niners also have a plus-70 point differential that is tops in the NFC and second only to New England. One key for the Rams will be their flagging running attack, especially with Todd Gurley unlikely to play.
Falcons (1-4) at Cardinals (1-3-1), 4:05, Fox
With Jay Gruden out, the Falcons’ Dan Quinn now occupies the hottest seat in the NFL largely because his roster contains so many of the same players who played in the Super Bowl 20 months ago. Owner Arthur Blank has given him the dreaded vote of confidence, but last week’s loss to the Texans was a stinker and the team has lost three in a row. Atlanta has the second-worst scoring defense in the NFL and is 23rd in yards allowed. And quarterback Matt Ryan has been unable to compensate for those defensive problems. The Cardinals are coming off their first win under Kliff Kingsbury; they tied Detroit in the opener, then lost to Baltimore, Carolina, and Seattle. Rookie quarterback Kyler Murray found his legs last week, rushing for 93 yards and a touchdown while passing for 253 in the win over Cincinnati.
Cowboys (3-2) at Jets (0-4), 4:25, CBS
Jets quarterback Sam Darnold is back, having missed the last three games with mono, and it can’t have escaped his notice that his replacement, Luke Falk, was sacked 10 times behind a porous offensive line in last week’s loss to the Eagles. The Jets will face a Dallas team whose furious, fourth-quarter rally fell short against Green Bay last week. The Cowboys hope to establish the run, something they haven’t done lately, with Ezekiel Elliott running for less than 70 yards in each of the last two games. He’ll be going up against a Jets defense that is giving up an average of 87.5 rushing yards per game, seventh best in the NFL, and allowing 3.4 yards per carry, tied for third-fewest. It’s particularly important for Dallas to get its offense clicking before next week’s meeting with the Eagles, who allow an average of 63 rushing yards per game, best in the NFL.
Titans (2-3) at Broncos (1-4), 4:25, CBS
Tennessee is coming off a loss to the Bills and Denver off an ugly win over the Chargers. Both of these teams know a thing or two about inconsistency at quarterback, and though Joe Flacco may have better offensive weapons than Marcus Mariota, he’s still Joe Flacco. The Titans have been better away from home, going 2-1 on the road. The Broncos have the NFL’s seventh-ranked defense and the Titans are right behind them at No. 9. Kicker Cairo Santos did the Titans no favors in last week’s seven-point loss, whiffing on four field goal tries. He was replaced by Cody Parkey, the kicker whose infamous “double doink” miss doomed the Bears in the playoffs. Denver won last week mostly thanks to Phillip Lindsay, who rushed for 114 yards and a touchdown. He’ll be facing a Titans defense that is ranked 14th against the run.
The night game
Steelers (1-4) at Chargers (2-3), 8:20, NBC
Thankfully, Pittsburgh quarterback Mason Rudolph is okay after being knocked out cold on a scary hit in an overtime loss to the Ravens. He’s in concussion protocol, though, and Devlin Hodges, an undrafted rookie out of Samford, will start. Hodges is known as “Duck” to his teammates for his love of duck hunting and calling. (He won the junior world championship in duck calling, for your information.) Hodges seemed comfortable in relief last week, leading what looked to be a game-winning drive before JuJu Smith-Schuster’s fumble. The Chargers played down to their competition and lost a home game against the Broncos, with Philip Rivers throwing two interceptions.
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