The elite teams are starting to be established through Week 5 of the NFL season, starting with the San Francisco 49ers thumping the Dallas Cowboys on the national stage. The Miami Dolphins continue to have a record-setting offense, while the Philadelphia Eagles quietly remain unbeaten and the Detroit Lions are a silent 4-1.
The league is starting to feel out which teams are also going to be competing for a playoff spot. The Los Angeles Rams, Indianapolis Colts, and Pittsburgh Steelers fall into that category. The AFC North is as unpredictable as ever, as the Baltimore Ravens failed to size command of the division in their collapse against Pittsburgh.
Through the Week 5 slate of games, here's what we learned from each team. Some trending patterns ensued for several teams:
Jalen Thompson injury hurt (pun intended): Not having Budda Baker already creates a massive hole in the Cardinals' secondary. When Thompson injured his hamstring in the second quarter and was ruled out, the Cardinals had K'Von Wallace, Andre Chachere, and Joey Blount step up to the plate at safety. Wallace did intercept Joe Burrow in the third quarter, but no Thompson or Baker was evident when Ja'Marr Chase was lighting up the Arizona secondary. The three players combined to allow Burrow to go 5 of 6 for 107 yards with a touchdown and interception (118.8 rating). For the Cardinals sake, hopefully Thompson isn't out long.
Play-action sparked Desmond Ridder: Teams have to be on their toes playing the Falcons because of Bijan Robinson and Tyler Allgeier, not paying much respect to Ridder and his throwing ability. Arthur Smith threw in a curveball to help Ridder out, using play-action to get him to move the ball downfield. Ridder was 10 of 11 on play-action passes for 163 yards with a 118.8 passer rating, part of a performance which saw him throw for 329 yards and a touchdown (111.2 rating). Ridder was just 6 of 15 on play-action the previous two games, so maybe more of those types of plays in the game plan have him more comfortable in the offense.
WR drops are a major concern: Feels like an annual thing in Baltimore, even though the Ravens have improved at wide receiver. Zay Flowers' drop on the first possession was crucial, but Nelson Agholor's dropped touchdown was even worse. Nine points at minimum were taken off the board just on those two plays. With five drops on Sunday, the Ravens lead the NFL in drop rate at 6.8%. The craziest part of Baltimore leading the NFL in drop rate? The Ravens had zero drops in the first four games. Perhaps it was just a bad day at the office, but the drops by wide receivers have happened before in Baltimore.
Injuries may derail a potential Super Bowl season: The injuries have been piling up for the Bills, which showed throughout Sunday's loss to the Jaguars. Cornerback Tre'Davious White is already out for the year and linebacker Matt Milano appears set to join him, two of the biggest pieces on their defense. With Greg Rousseau and Shaq Lawson already out, the Bills were down to AJ Epenesa, Leonard Floyd, and Von Miller on a pitch count at pass rushers. Defensive tackle DaQuan Jones may also miss time with an injured pectoral muscle and cornerback Christian Benford was already out at cornerback. Half of the defensive starters were out due to injuries and key pieces will be out most (if not all) of 2023. The Bills will have to overcome these injuries if they can.
Deep passes elude this offense: Bryce Young was a prolific deep-ball thrower at Alabama. Of course, he had a good offensive line and a clean pocket. Young has little of that in Carolina in a trying rookie season, but the Panthers aren't even allowing him to go deep. Young didn't attempt a single throw of 25-plus air yards Sunday and has just four on the year (0 of 4). He hasn't thrown a pass of 25-plus air yards since Week 2. Young has completed just 38.6% of passes of 10-plus air yards with one touchdown to three interceptions and a 40.3 rating. The Panthers just don't trust him to throw a deep ball.
D.J. Moore is the No. 1 wideout Chicago envisioned: When the Bears traded out of the No. 1 pick and got Moore as part of the package, Justin Fields got a top receiver to help him progress as a quarterback. The Bears weren't taking enough deep shots to Moore in the early going, but did on two of the first three plays Thursday and hit Moore on the second attempt for 58 yards. Moore had four catches of 30-plus yards in the win en route to 230 yards on the night. Through five games, Moore has three 100-yard games, 531 receiving yards, and five touchdowns. This is the Moore the Bears thought they were getting, along with the player that's caught 10 of the 15 targets to him that has targeted 10-plus air yards (10 catches, 264 yards, three touchdowns).
Ja'Marr Chase is back: After dubbing himself "always open" the week before in a loss, Chase showcased why he's one of the best wide receivers in football. Chase was brilliant against a depleted Cardinals secondary, catching 15 passes for 192 yards and three touchdowns to get his quarterback -- and offense -- on the right track. In Chase's last three games, he's caught 34 passes for 406 yards (11.9 yards per catch) and three touchdowns -- finally getting on the board in the touchdown department. As Joe Burrow is slowly coming back to his form, Chase is already there.
Dak Prescott fails to seize the moment, again: Prescott talked a good game heading into Sunday night, explaining how motivated he was after last year's divisional round playoff loss. He finished 14 of 24 for 153 yards with just one touchdown and three interceptions (51.6 rating), suffering the biggest loss since he became a starting quarterback. On passes of 10-plus air yards, Prescott was 2 of 9 for 55 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions (50.0 rating). This wasn't the time for Prescott to have a bad game, a team the Cowboys are going to have to beat if they want to get to the Super Bowl.
How does Courtland Sutton not get the ball?: Sutton isn't the best receiver on the Broncos, but he's a very good one. With no D.J. Reed and Sauce Gardner injured during the game, Sutton should have put up some numbers against the Jets secondary. He didn't get a catch until 2:09 left in the game -- and finished with one catch on three targets. The offense is out of sync right now, but Sutton (21 catches, 229 yards, three touchdowns) is too good a player to have just four catches for 40 yards over the last two weeks -- with only eight targets.
Playmakers across the board: This is a focus on how deep the Lions offense is, as Detroit didn't have Amon-Ra St. Brown or Jahmyr Gibbs in this one. Didn't matter with David Montgomery and Sam LaPorta helping the Lions put up 42 points against Carolina, as the offense took advantage of three Panthers turnovers. Montgomery had 109 rushing yards and a touchdown while LaPorta had two touchdowns. Josh Reynolds stepped up with St. Brown out, catching four passes for 76 yards and a score. Kalif Raymond also had 45 yards receiving. Jameson Williams hasn't gotten going yet either (first game back from suspension). The Lions just have plenty of playmakers on offense, more signs of how deep of a team they are.
Jordon Love has hit a wall: Not only was Love the first Packers quarterback to throw three interceptions in a game since 2017, he was the first quarterback to have no touchdowns and three interceptions against the Raiders since Drew Brees in 2002. This is the culmination of a poor three week stretch for Love, who is 61 of 110 (55.5%) for 687 yards with two touchdowns and six interceptions over his last three starts (57.7 rating). Love was arguably the best quarterback in the league after the first two games and has been the worst in the league over the last three. He's still a young quarterback, but this slump is concerning.
Formula to stop C.J. Stroud?: The Falcons used zone coverage to throw Stroud off his game, which is interesting considering Stroud still hasn't thrown an interception in his career. Stroud went just 16 of 27 for 197 yards with a touchdown against the zone and is just 26 of 45 (57.8%) over the last two games -- with just one touchdown pass (94.3 rating). Stroud isn't turning the football over, but this may be a way to contain the franchise quarterback -- at least for now.
Thank you, Gardner Minshew: Where would the Colts be without Minshew this season? Anthony Richardson has played well, but he's been getting injured basically every week. In come Minshew to fill in on two occasions, both of which he's entered the game and completed 75% and 150-plus passing yards in multiple wins off the bench in a season -- joining Steve Young in 1989 as the only quarterbacks since 1950 to accomplish the feat. With Zack Moss and Jonathan Taylor in the fold, all Minshew has to do is manage the game -- and he's done that. The colts aren't 3-2 without Minshew.
Travis Etienne is becoming a workhorse back: Etienne finished with 26 carries for 136 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday's win over the Bills in London, notching season-highs in all three categories. Etienne is second in the NFL in carries (95) and has 18-plus carries in four of the five game she's played. The workload clearly has not affected Etienne as he's taking significant pressure off Trevor Lawrence to perform. The big plays aren't there yet for Etienne, but they appear to be coming.
Justin Watson rises up with crucial catches: Every week the Chiefs receivers are discussed, but Watson deserves some praise on two catches that got the offense going when they needed a spark. A 23-yard catch on a second-and-10 situation led to a game-tying field goal late in the first half. Watson also caught a 33-yard pass on third-and-18 that led to Rashee Rice's touchdown to put Kansas City up 20-13. Two big catches by Watson helped get the Chiefs the lead at a time when the offense needed someone to step up with Travis Kelce's status in question. Those were Watson's only two catches, but they were massive.
Something going on with Davante Adams? Adams made his comments on expectations heading into Monday's game and all of a sudden he doesn't get targeted right away. The coaching staff had to know he was facing his former team right? Adams finished with just four catches for 45 yards, but had a surprising one target in the first half. The Packers made it a priority to stop Adams, but Jimmy Garoppolo didn't even look his way until the third quarter. Adams caught three passes and the Raiders scored on that touchdown drive to take a 17-13 lead. Maybe there's an issue with Adams or maybe there isn't, but the Raiders need to get him the ball in order to win games. Four targets isn't enough for one of the best wideouts in football.
The Cooper Kupp-Puka Nacua combo works: Keep and Nacua weren't as good in the second half due to the pressure the Eagles were getting up front, but the two combined for nine catches for 129 yards and a touchdown in the first half. Together the pair caught 15 passes for 189 yards and a touchdown. Kupp had his way on slant routes early on and Nacua had some wins on the outside. The pair can coexist together and can be dangerous for the Rams going forward.
De'Von Achane is far from a one-game wonder: Achane rushed for 203 yards in the 70-point barrage two weeks ago, averaging 11.3 yards per carry. There was no way he could keep that up right? In the two games since, Achane has 19 carries for 252 yards and three touchdowns -- averaging 13.3 yards per carry. He's a running back right? Achane has improved his yards per carry average every week and his the first player in NFL history with 100 rushing yards and 10.0 yards per carry in three straight games and is the first player since at least 1948 with 400 rushing yards and 10 yards per carry in a three-game span. Achene leads the NFL in yards per carry (12.1) and is second in rushing yards (460). He appears here to stay, even if the yards per carry average will come down at some point.
How will this offense survive without Justin Jefferson? The Vikings placed Jefferson on IR on Tuesday, so he will miss at least four games, meaning Kirk Cousins is going to have to be productive without his top target. The Vikings did go 10 plays for 66 yards on their first possession sans Jefferson, but turned the ball over on downs. Cousins took a sack instead of throwing a Hail Mary on the final possession down 27-20, but Minnesota was able to move the ball late. Jordan Addison and T.J. Hockenson will have to step up in Jefferson's absence, but early returns show the Vikings can be productive.
Another slow start: The Patriots just keep finding ways to dig themselves into a hole, trailing 21-0 with 10:47 left in the second quarter. That's not a way to win football games, as New England has been outscored 36-6 in the first quarter and 85-30 in the first half. Mac Jones has completed 62.6% of his passes with three touchdowns and three interceptions and a 77.8 rating in the first half, which isn't good enough either. The Patriots are bad, but slow starts appear to be the biggest culprit. Jefferson was held to three catches for 28 yards before leaving the game ealy in the fourth quarter with the injury.
This is a top-5 defense: The Saints turned in their best defensive performance of the year in pitching a shutout of the Patriots, holding New England to eight first downs on 14 possessions and just 156 total yards on 3.1 yards per play. This defense has allowed fewer than 20 points in four of five games only allowed over 350 yards in one game (353 last week). They're fourth in points per game allowed and fourth in yards per game allowed. The offense is figuring things out, but the defense makes New Orleans a threat in the NFC. This unit is elite.
They still don't have an offensive touchdown in the first half: The Giants finally did score a touchdown in the first half, but it wasn't on offense. Jason Pinnock had an 102-yard interception return for a touchdown off Tua Tagovailoa late in the second quarter for the Giants' first touchdown in the first half this season. New York is just the sixth team since 1991 with zero first half offensive touchdowns through five games. The Giants and the 2017 Dolphins are the only teams since 2005 not to record an offensive touchdown in the first half through the first five games of a season. Hard to win games when a team isn't scoring touchdowns early in games and being outscored 4-19 in the first half of games.
Breece Hall is back: One year after a dynamic rookie season was cut short in Denver, Hall avenged some demons in the mile high altitude as he rushed for 177 yards and a touchdown (8.0 yards per carry). The Jets had just 20 yards on 15 plays on their first four possessions before going to Hall six times in eight plays to get a field goal. On the next possession, Hall had his 72-yard touchdown that brought the Jets offense to life and derailed Denver. Hall is sixth in the NFL in rushing (387 yards) and second in yards per carry (7.2). New York needs to give him the ball to make Zach Wilson's life easier.
Bradley Roby may be the answer in the slot: Roby was signed by the Eagles last week to their practice squad, getting essentially a three-week tryout to be the slot cornerback. He was only on the team five days before taking over the role after Mario Goodrich struggled against Cooper Kupp and Eli Ricks is a better fit outside (both players played a combined two career games). Roby allowed two of six completions for -4 (yes, -4) yards when he took over the slot. The Eagles were down their top two slot cornerbacks, but Roby may be the answer for the rest of 2023.
More Jaylen Warren please: The Steelers invested a first-round pick in Najee Harris, but Warren is the better running back. The offensive line is bad, yet Warren seems to find a way to turn garbage into gold. Warren had nine carries for 40 yards (4.4 yards per carry) for a team that averaged 2.9 yards per carry Sunday. Harris is better at yards after contact per rush (3.24 to 2.53), but Warren is better at yards before contact per rush (1.12 to 0.68). When teams put eight in the box, Warren averages 5.0 yards per carry to Harris' 1.8. This isn't a call for Warren to be the featured back, but he deserves at least 10 touches a game.
Brock Purdy may be elite: At this point, it's hard to nitpick anything Purdy does. He seems to answer any challenge and overcome any obstacle that comes his way. The Cowboys defense was the best unit he faced in 2023, and Purdy torched them in going 17 of 24 for 252 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions (144.4 rating). He was 7 of 10 for 166 yards and three touchdowns on throws of 10-plus air yards (152.1 rating). Purdy has completed 72.1% of his passes for 1,271 yards with nine touchdowns to zero interceptions, leading the league with a 123.1 passer rating. There's nothing more to say. Purdy is good, and may be great.
Red zone woes lead to losses: The Titans were just 1 of 4 in the red zone in Sunday's loss, which was actually better than the Colts (1 of 5). The missed opportunities hurt Tennessee a lot more than Indianapolis, particularly on the missed Derrick Henry pass to DeAndre Hopkins and Henry getting stopped on fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter in a 20-16 game with 8:03 left. The Titans are 1 of 9 in the red zone in their three losses and 29th in the NFL (6 of 17, 35.3%). The Titans have problems scoring already, but the red zone is the biggest culprit.
The secondary can't stop top wide receivers: D.J. Moore must have watched a lot of what A.J. Brown did to dominate the Commanders five days earlier, as he finished with eight catches for 230 yards and three touchdowns. The Commanders had no answer for Moore, just like when Brown had nine catches for 175 yards and two touchdowns the week prior. Stephon Diggs finished with eight catches for 111 yards the week before Brown when the Bills drubbed the Commanders. See a pattern here? Washington has significant trouble stopping the pass to begin with, especially when there's an elite wideout present.