Sports Stats Analyst and, ahem, Bucs fan Tea Manuel offers up all you need to know about our ten top match ups for week five of the Biggest Show in America.
1. Kansas City Chiefs v Chicago Bears
This is a rare match-up indeed. In fact, the Chiefs have only played the Chicago Bears eleven times since 1973. The very first meeting was at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas and the Chiefs lost 19-7. The Chiefs have won the last two match ups 14-10 and 31-3, but that last match was way back in 2011. The last time this fixture took place at Arrowhead was in 2003!
Player to watch: Jamaal Charles is the Chiefs best attacking weapon but he might have a tough day against the Bears defence (currently ranked 7th). That’s good work from the Bears; for the previous three seasons, the Bears defensive unit has finished in the bottom 5 in the league.
2. Atlanta Falcons v Washington Redskins
Last season the NFC South (Falcons, Saints, Panthers and Buccaneers) was the worst division in the NFL. This season, under new coach Dan Quinn, the Falcons remain one of six undefeated teams. The Falcons face a Redskins team that is getting accustomed to life without RGIII but which still seems rudderless at times.
The series between the Falcons and Redskins began in 1966. The Falcons have won only eight games against the Redskins in the 24 subsequent match-ups. The series is tied 5 apiece for games played in Atlanta.
Player to watch: Julio Jones (wide receiver) is one of the top 5 receivers in the game and on his day is simply unstoppable, however a new threat has emerged in the last two weeks – Devonta Freeman. Last season he totalled one touchdown. This season after 4 games he has seven.
3. Green Bay Packers v St Louis Rams
With all due respect to Tom Brady, Andrew Luck et al, Aaron Rodgers is simply the best in the business right now. Rodgers has an aura that is visible from space. He makes the players around him better. For example: James Jones was at the Packers from 2007-13 and was a solid starter. He played for the Oakland Raiders (2014) and was signed by the New York Giants this past off-season, but was soon released.
Jones was invisible for the last two seasons but re-signs with the Packers on a one year deal and has four TDs in four games.He only had 6 for the Raiders in the entire 2014 season. Simply put, chalk his renaissance down to Aaron Rodgers.
The Packers have won four in a row against the Rams, and five of the last six.
Player to watch: There is only one: Aaron Rodgers
4. Dallas Cowboys v New England Patriots
Even after deflategate there is one certainty in the NFL: Tom Brady is Tom Brady. He has already thrown for 1,112 yards and nine touchdowns with no interceptions. He will be rested and ready for the Cowboys after putting his feet up during Week 4 (Patriots bye week). Since 2000, the Patriots have gone 11-4 after their bye week.
This is the first trip for the Patriots to Dallas since 2007 when they played at Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas. The Cowboys now play at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Like the Chiefs and Bears, these two teams have only played each other eleven times, with the Cowboys leading the series 7-4.
Player to watch: Rob Gronkowski. Gronk has four touchdowns on the season and averages close to 100 yards per game. Oh yessir, Tom Brady loves himself some Rob Gronkowski.
5. Oakland Raiders v Denver Broncos
The Raiders’ home ground is fondly known as the “Black Hole”. Raider fans in recent seasons have found that to be an apt name. The Raiders have not made a playoff appearance since 2002 – the last season in which they won more than 8 games.
The Broncos and Raiders have shared the same division since the formation of the AFC in 1960. They have played each other 111 times. The Raiders lead the series 60-49 but have not beaten the Broncos since Peyton Manning came to Colorado.
In the last ten meetings in Oakland, the Raiders have only won twice, and the Broncos have won the last seven games straight.
Player to watch: Peyton Manning. Manning might be on the decline in arm strength but has all the cunning of a 16-year veteran. He has good weapons around him (Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Ronnie Hillman), which still makes the Broncos the team to beat in the AFC West.
6. San Diego Chargers v Pittsburgh Steelers
Did you know that Philip Rivers leads the NFL in passing yards? You didn’t expect that did you? The Chargers are 2-0 at home, but 0-2 on the road. This looks good on paper however the Chargers had to pull out two dramatic come from behind victories to be even on the season.
Pittsburgh is without Ben Roethlisberger for another couple of weeks and desperately needs him back. The Steelers offence is hurting without him, and will have to rely on the defence which is currently just outside the top 10.
In the past nine years, the Steelers have been downright terrible in California, going 2-7. However, the head to head series between these two teams is 7-6 in their favour.
Player to watch: Le’Veon Bell. Bell sat out the first two weeks due to a suspension but has played the last two games and also ended the Baltimore Ravens’ streak of 29 games without allowing a 100-yard rusher. Bell finished with 129 yards and one touchdown.
7. Philadelphia Eagles v New Orleans Saints
Prior to the regular season kicking off, the Eagles were heavy favourites to win the NFC East. Fast forward four weeks and Philly sits at the bottom of the division with a 1-3 record. The Saints started the season 0-3 but last week grabbed an overtime win over the Dallas Cowboys to also be 1-3.
The first meeting between the Eagles and Saints was in 1967. The Saints won 31-24, which was the first win in franchise history (Week 8). The Saints are 3-8 in Philadelphia but have won the last two games at Lincoln Financial Field.
Player to watch: Drew Brees is one week back from a rotator cuff injury. The Saints’ fate rests on the performance of Brees. If Brees is good, so are the Saints.
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Jacksonville Jaguars
The hapless Buccaneers have not won a home game since December 2013. That is 10 consecutive home defeats. That sucks so bad.
Five weeks into the season and things are getting critical for both teams, each boasting 1-3 record. This is a must win match up. The Buccaneers had the worst record in the NFL last year (2-14) and while you expect growing pains with a rookie QB, you don’t expect a further regression in the team overall.
The Jaguars (an expansion team founded in 1995) have only faced the Buccaneers five times and lead the series 4-1. The Jags won the most recent meeting, in 2011, 41-14.
Player to watch: Hmmm, both teams are horrible but if there was one to watch from either side it would be rookie Jameis Winston. He threw 4 interceptions last week against the Carolina Panthers. How will perform this week?
9. Cincinnati Bengals v Seattle Seahawks
Fact: This is only the fourth time in franchise history that the Bengals have started the season 4-0, and the first time since 2005. The Bengals have looked a different team so far this season but everyone is waiting for Andy Dalton to implode because history says it will happen.
The Seahawks defence is still as formidable as ever but the offence is struggling to find any cohesion, currently ranking 19th in the NFL. They could quite possibly be without star running back Marshawn Lynch for another few weeks as well.
The Seahawks have faced the Bengals nineteen times with the Bengals leading 6-5 in Cincinnati. The last game in Cincinnati was in 2003, with the Seahawks winning 27-24.
Player to watch: AJ Green. Green is an outstanding wide receiver but facing a rejuvenated Seattle defence could mean a long day for the Bengals star. This is a tough match-up for any team.
10. New York Giants v San Francisco 49ers
The New York Giants find themselves tied for first place with the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East. The Giants are riding a two-game winning streak and now face a 49ers team contemplating the strange demise of Colin Kaepernick.
The 49ers won their season-opener against the Minnesota Vikings but since then have been outscored 107-28. They are last in the league for points per game (12.0) and in the bottom echelon for passing yards, total yards and points allowed per game. Of course, all people in this part of the world want to see is former Parramatta Eel Jarryd Hayne but, sorry folks, Hayne will continue to see minimal minutes.
Player to watch: Odell Beckham Jnr. Beckham leads the Giants with 24 reception for 307 yards (2 touchdowns) and is the centre piece of the Giants’ offence. Beckham is a football player and he does nothing else but ball.