First Down/Fourth Down: Browns showing a flair for the dramatic
Barring a change via flex scheduling later this season, the Cleveland Browns have just one prime-time opportunity in 2014: Thursday night of Week 10 at Cincinnati. That's a shame for the networks and the viewing public because the Browns, if nothing else, are proving to be as exciting a team to watch as any other in the league.
The average margin of victory in Cleveland's four games thus far: two points.
The Browns have dropped decisions of 30-27 and 23-21 and have won games by the counts of 26-24 and 29-28. Their latest victory, Sunday at Tennessee, came after they trailed by 25 points in the first half -- the largest comeback by a road team in NFL history.
They nearly claimed that mark back in Week 1 after erasing a 24-point deficit at Pittsburgh, only to lose by three.
"I have an EKG scheduled for tomorrow because my heart can't take many more of these," Cleveland coach Mike Pettine joked Sunday.
There are two sides to the coin, of course. The Browns have shown the talent and resilience to storm their way back, no matter the odds. They've also slipped up enough to fall into 24- and 25-point holes and to gag in the clutch against Baltimore.
Rebuilding teams tend to hit those ups and downs. It's cliché, but there is something to the talk of "needing to learn how to win." The Browns are getting there and doing so in mesmerizing fashion.
More of the best and worst from Week 5:
First Down: Bjoern Werner.
Up until Sunday, the Colts' 2013 first-round pick had put a rather nondescript first 17 games on his NFL résumé. This year, Werner had looked altogether overwhelmed in an attempt to pick up the slack for a suspended-then-injured Robert Mathis.
But he finally broke through against the Ravens, picking up his first two sacks of the year and providing a constant presence in the Baltimore backfield.
A matchup with Baltimore rookie tackle James Hurst was a favorable one for Werner -- a rare occurrence in his young career. He took full advantage to deliver his best performance in an Indianapolis uniform.
Fourth Down: Percy Harvin fantasy owners.
Sorry to those of you out there who lost their Week 5 fantasy matchups by virtue of Harvin having not one ... not two ... but three touchdowns wiped from the scoreboard Monday night due to penalties. Harvin actually scored on back-to-back plays in the second quarter -- a 16-yard run and then a 26-yard reception -- but a holding penalty on James Carpenter negated the first and a false start on Harvin himself erased the second. (Why was the latter play allowed to progress after a dead-ball false start penalty? Good question.)
Carpenter and the officiating combined to rob Harvin again in the fourth quarter. That time, it was a very debatable unnecessary roughness call on Carpenter.
A milestone weekend for Brady and Manning, whose teams also both knocked off previously unbeaten foes in convincing fashion -- New England by 26 over Cincinnati; Denver by 21 over Arizona.
The Patriots' future Hall of Fame quarterback bounced back from a rough Week 4 outing to throw a pair of touchdown passes in his team's win. Along the way, Brady climbed above the 50,000-yard mark for his career, making him just the sixth quarterback to accomplish such a feat. (Brett Favre is the all-time leader with 71,838 yards.)
Manning -- who now sits 5,581 yards behind Favre on that list, by the way -- earlier Sunday tossed his 500th career touchdown pass. He then added Nos. 501, 502 and 503 in the Broncos' easy victory over Arizona.
"It's pretty incredible what Peyton accomplished," said Broncos head coach John Fox.
Fourth Down: John Idzik.
Following the Jets' humiliating 31-0 Week 5 loss in San Diego, The MMQB's Robert Klemko laid out their current situation like this: To borrow a line from Rounders, this is a team with the table set up, the fork, the knife, the A1 sauce… and no steak. Where’s the talent? With the exception of 2013 first-round pick Sheldon Richardson, John Idzik has failed to keep the roster competitive over two offseasons as GM.
The utter lack of NFL-level depth here has become painfully apparent over the Jets' 1-4 start. Geno Smith could be the first to be punished because of it, even if he is less the main cause of New York's problems and more a passenger stuck on this ride to the bottom. Head coach Rex Ryan probably will follow. Ryan has dodged dismissal the past couple seasons, but there may be no avoiding it this time around.
Will Idzik be held accountable, too? If not, the Jets will find themselves in a situation similar to what Oakland is going through, where all the blame falls on the coach as the general manager flails.
First Down: Branden Oliver.
The Darren Sproles clone added to the Jets' headaches Sunday, piling up 182 yards and two touchdowns out of the San Diego backfield. Oliver not only wears Sproles' old No. 43, but also he cuts a similar image (Oliver stands 5-foot-7, 208 pounds; Sproles at 5-6, 190).
A strong preseason earned the undrafted rookie out of Buffalo a spot on San Diego's roster. Injuries to the team's top three running backs (Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead and Donald Brown) opened the door to more playing time. Oliver averaged 6.0 yards per carry and an electrifying 17.0 yards per reception against the Jets.
Fourth Down: Allen Hurns' rookie momentum.
All things considered, Hurns is off to a solid start after joining Oliver as an undrafted free agent. The Jaguars' rookie receiver has 16 catches for 280 yards and three touchdowns this season, the yardage and TD totals tops in an offense that has struggled to find its footing in 2014.
Sunday against the Steelers counted as a step back, though. Hurns caught just four of the 11 passes thrown his way by Blake Bortles for a measly 26 yards, with three drops. He also was flagged for a holding penalty on a Storm Johnson run.
Rookies will have shaky outings here and there. It may not get much worse than Sunday for Hurns.
First Down: The Bills' defensive line (and Jim Schwartz).
Not that the Lions needed another moment of indignity to add to their files, but Schwartz, their former head coach, provided one Sunday. Now the Bills' defensive coordinator, Schwartz was carried off the field by two of his players following a come-from-behind 17-14 upset of Detroit.
"I remember back in OTAs, somehow he was talking about it in a meeting. He said, 'When we go to Detroit, and we win, I want to be carried off the field,'" linebacker Ty Powell said, via ESPN.com. "I remembered that in the game. So I turned to Randell [Johnson], I said, 'Hey, we're going to carry him off the field.'"
Schwartz deserved at least a pat on the back for his defense's work Sunday. With the Lions down several key players due to injury, Schwartz' group dialed up the pressure on Matthew Stafford. The effort resulted in six sacks and numerous hurries of Stafford, who grew increasingly skittish in the pocket.
Fourth Down: Bad Jay Cutler.
In Chicago's two wins, Cutler has thrown four touchdown passes and zero interceptions. In its three losses, he has a combined six touchdowns and six interceptions. The Bears' roller-coaster 2-3 start falls on more shoulders than just Cutler's, but continued inconsistency at quarterback is one of the main reasons this bandwagon has plenty of seats still available.
When Cutler locks into a groove, as he did in a comeback win at San Francisco and then again in New York the following week, the Bears offense is borderline unstoppable. When he is struggling, however, his devil-may-care approach often backfires.
Sunday in Carolina, Cutler completed a season-high 77.8 percent of his passes, with two touchdowns (one rushing, one passing) in the first half as Chicago grabbed a 21-7 lead. The flip side: Cutler cost the Bears points with an early interception, then helped the Panthers tie things at 24 with a fourth-quarter turnover.
First Down: Jason Garrett's Coach of the Year campaign.
Don't laugh. This is, at least for now, very real.
How Garrett has survived as the Cowboys' head coach since midway through 2010 is a bit of a mystery. The Cowboys have finished 8-8 each of the past three seasons, coughing away a playoff spot with Week 17 losses every time.
Jerry Jones has stood by Garrett, declaring again this summer that his coach was not on the hot seat nor facing a do-or-die year. So far, Garrett is rewarding that faith.
The Cowboys are perhaps football's biggest surprise through five weeks, sporting a 4-1 record and holding onto a share of first place in the NFC East. They have to travel to Seattle this week but then enjoy three home games plus a road trip to Jacksonville before their bye. That means Dallas could hit its Week 11 respite already pushing that eight-win total again.
Fourth Down: The Josh McCown era in Tampa Bay.
Lovie Smith continues to balk at committing to Mike Glennon as his full-time starter. "I don't know why we have to go there right now," Smith said this week when asked about the battle between Glennon and McCown, which skewed Glennon's way only after McCown suffered an injury.
Smith may opt to go back to the veteran McCown once he's healthy -- Tampa Bay did hand McCown a two-year, $10 million deal this offseason to be the starter, after all. In the long run, however, it's becoming more and more apparent by the week that handing the reins over to Glennon should be the move.
Glennon backed up a Week 4 road win in Pittsburgh by nearly taking down Drew Brees and the Saints. In that game, Glennon hit on 19-of-32 passes for 249 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Hardly perfect, but another promising showing from a 24-year-old quarterback who has at least earned himself more playing time.