Week 5 of the NFL season is upon us. It marks the first official week of byes. The bye week is always a good time to evaluate the teams who have the week off. So, here it goes.
Denver Broncos, 3-1
Biggest positives: We knew the defense would be really good, and it is. However, Denver is third in rush yards per game so far this year. C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles have managed to stay healthy. The revamped offensive line has also exceeded expectations.
It was not uncommon for Trevor Siemian to have to throw 40-45 times a game last year. Siemian is better than most people think, but he is not built to do that. If the Broncos keep running the ball anywhere near their current clip, they will be back in the playoffs again and well-equipped to do damage.
Areas of concern: Winning on the road in the NFL is hard. Denver’s first road game of the year in Buffalo was a failure. Coming off the bye, the Broncos will be on the road seven of the next ten weeks. The AFC West is absolutely loaded. One or two bad games could sink any one of the three contenders. With that many road games coming up, Denver will have several landmines to avoid.
New Orleans Saints, 2-2
Biggest positive: The Saints have not quite figured out their running back rotation yet, but the offense continues to be very productive. Averaging 370 yards per game and putting up 23 points per game will give you a fighting chance every single week. Drew Brees may be 38, but he is still a premier player. He has yet to throw an interception this year.
Area of concern: The book on the Saints has been the same for several years now. As good as the offense is, the defense is that bad. Even after giving up 13 combined points in two games leading into the bye, they still rank 28th in total defense. The Saints got themselves back in the mix after an 0-2 start. However, the defense must continue its recent upswing for this team to be a true contender going forward.
Washington Redskins, 2-2
Biggest positives: Despite losing its two top pass catchers from last year, quarterback Kirk Cousins and the offense continue to produce. A three-headed monster has created a top ten rushing attack thus far. Washington remains hesitant to commit to Cousins long term. With 77 touchdowns to just 43 career interceptions, he has a long-term future as a starter, even if it is not with the Redskins.
For now though. Cousins is averaging almost eight fewer pass attempts per game this year than last. A legitimate ground game is a huge help to any quarterback. Jay Gruden is doing a great job of putting his offense in positions to be successful each week.
Areas of concern: The defense is middle of the pack in almost every category. Also, this division is another that is very strong. The Eagles are leading it at the moment and getting better each week. The Redskins have already lost to Philadelphia. With five division games left, a lot can change. However, Washington is already behind the eight ball for tiebreakers in what promises to be a tight race.
Atlanta Falcons, 3-1
Biggest positives: The defending NFC champions have found ways to win. That counts for a lot. This is not college football. Style points do not matter. With three of four games decided by one possession, their record could easily be flipped.
Areas of concern: They have found ways to win, but the offense just is not as good as it was last year. It was unrealistic to expect them to put up 33 points a game again. The defense was not special last year and is not this year. The Falcons are scoring a touchdown less per game this year under new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. Unless the defense improves, that will show up in the win/loss column before long.