NFL Week 5 Storylines: Key games for struggling teams
With bye weeks starting in Week 5 of the NFL season, it's about that time when teams decide which way they're headed. Is a playoff run a realistic goal? Or is it time to start preparing for the future?
On that note, a few teams that we definitely thought were postseason-worthy have stumbled out of the gate -- Philly, the Jets and Pittsburgh, to name three underperforming AFC squads. All three of those teams face important tests this weekend.
All that and more in this week's storylines:
• Paging the "Dream Team"
The Eagles spent the offseason snatching up free agents like they were Monopoly hotels, then were dubbed the "Dream Team" after all the pieces were in place. If this is the "Dream Team," someone might want to wake Philadelphia up.
Three straight losses have dropped the Eagles to dead last in the NFC East and in a tenuous spot -- it might take 10 or 11 wins to claim even a wild-card spot in the NFC, so Philly needs to get hot soon. On the opposite end of the spectrum are the Buffalo Bills. They shot out to a 3-0 start, before dropping one last week in Cincinnati.
Are the Bills for real? Is Philadelphia really this bad? We might get the answers to both questions Sunday, when they meet in Buffalo.
• Turning point for Kansas City?
With a trip to 0-4 Indianapolis Sunday, the Chiefs have a chance to turn a favorable schedule stretch into something positive, heading into their Week 6 bye. Helping that cause will be rookie wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin, who's expected to make his NFL debut after missing K.C.'s first four games with a wrist injury.
• Donovan McNabb feeling the heat
Minnesota is 0-4 and stuck light years behind Green Bay and Detroit in the NFC North. If the season isn't lost already, it's definitely been misplaced.
The Vikings welcome 1-3 Arizona -- a disappointment thus far in its own right -- to the Metrodome Sunday. Another loss and Minnesota can forget about even pretending that it can turn this season around. So if McNabb wants to keep starting, he had best find a way to win this one.
• Trouble for the defending AFC champs
Perhaps no team has been more of a letdown so far than the Pittsburgh Steelers. They're 2-2, sure, but look older and more lethargic with each passing week. The latest example came in a sloppy 17-10 loss at Houston in Week 4.
Upstart 3-1 Tennessee visits the Steel City this Sunday for a critical AFC matchup. If Pittsburgh has anything left in the tank, now would be a good time to hit the gas.
• Familiar foes meet in Foxborough
Come on, who doesn't love a Jets-Patriots game?
Like always, this Sunday's version is a big one, with the Patriots tied atop the AFC East at 3-1 and the Jets reeling a bit at 2-2. It's more important for New York, which would fall below .500 and two back in the division with a loss.
However, the Jets looked downright awful -- think the East Dillon Lions before Eric Taylor whipped them into shape -- in a Sunday night loss to the Ravens last week, with Baltimore destroying New York's offensive line.
• Atlanta seeking revenge
Everything was set for an Atlanta Super Bowl run last season. The Falcons headed into the playoffs as the NFC's No. 1 seed, with home-field advantage throughout in their pocket.
And then, they ran into the Packers' buzzsaw. Green Bay stormed into Atlanta in the playoff's second round and hung a 48-21 embarrassment on the hosts. The Packers then rubbed it in by going on to win the Super Bowl.
The Falcons get a shot at some small measure of revenge Sunday night, when Green Bay visits again. The defending champs are still flying high, off to an impressive 4-0 start. Atlanta, meanwhile, finds itself at 2-2 -- just one loss shy of matching last year's regular-season total -- and could use a confidence-boosting victory Sunday night.
• "Monday Night Football" back in Motown
The Lions' last appearance on "Monday Night Football" came on Oct. 8, 2001. Winless Detroit hosted undefeated St. Louis, and the result was a debacle -- the Rams rolled, 35-0.
The atmosphere figures to be a little more festive this Monday, with the surprising 4-0 Lions welcoming in division rival Chicago for a key game. Detroit's gotten off to slow starts each of the past two weeks but still found a way to rally past Tampa Bay and Dallas. Already at 2-2, the Bears could find themselves in an insurmountable NFC North hole with a loss, as they'd drop three games behind Detroit and possibly Green Bay.