With a number of games between playoff contenders in Week Five, distinguishing between which teams are for real and which will be sitting at home in January has become much easier. The Chiefs cemented their status as the league’s top team by going into Houston and winning without a shred of doubt, though the Texans could nosedive as their defense lost both JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus for the season. The injury bug wasn’t contained to just Houston, however, as Odell Beckham, Jr. went down with a season-ending ankle injury, putting the final nail in the coffin for the Giants. The playoff picture is becoming clearer, but there is still a long way to go.
- Kansas City Chiefs (5-0): Last week: 1
The Chiefs stayed undefeated by going into Houston and defeating the red-hot Texans 42-34 in a game that wasn’t as close as the score may have indicated. Converting nearly every third down, Alex Smith had a ruthlessly efficient game, as it seems that the drafting of Patrick Mahomes has lit a fire under the veteran passer.
- Philadelphia Eagles (4-1): Last week: 3
The Birds continued their surprising hot start to the season by dismantling a solid Cardinals defense in a 34-7 win at the Linc. Carson Wentz has been phenomenal, though their Thursday Night Football matchup against the Panthers could decide who the class of the NFC is in 2017.
- Carolina Panthers (4-1): Last week: 8
Having beaten the Patriots in New England the week before, the Panthers stayed hot by enduring a Matthew Stafford comeback to top the Lions on the road 27-24. Cam Newton was sterling, throwing for 355 yards and three touchdowns, while Ed Dickson made up for the loss of Greg Olsen by racking up 175 yards.
- Atlanta Falcons (3-1): Last week: 4
- Green Bay Packers (4-1): Last week: 5
Aaron Rodgers continues to have the Dallas Cowboys number, as No. 12 worked his last-second magic to beat the Cowboys 35-31 behind a Davante Adams back-shoulder touchdown grab with 11 seconds left. Rookie rusher Aaron Jones has officially arrived, as the fifth-rounder totaled 129 yards and a touchdown with Ty Montgomery and Jamaal Williams out.
- Detroit Lions (3-2): Last week: 2
Despite scoring 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter, the Lions ultimately fell short of victory at home against Carolina. Matthew Stafford couldn’t get much going against the Panthers, as he was sacked six times and was held to 229 yards in the air.
- New England Patriots (3-2): Last week: 9
The Patriots survived in Tampa Bay as Nick Folk fell to pieces on Thursday Night Football, though it was a big win for New England’s embattled defense. While the unit allowed Jameis Winston to throw for 334 yards, they did a good job of keeping the Bucs out of the end zone.
- Seattle Seahawks (3-2): Last week: 12
Pete Carroll’s squad badly needed a win in Week Five and got one over a division rival in Los Angeles. The game was a 16-10 defensive slugfest, but the Seahawks were able to contain Todd Gurley and forced Jared Goff to beat them, and his two-interception performance showed that he is ready to do that.
- Denver Broncos (3-1): Last week: 11
- Jacksonville Jaguars (3-2): Last week: 23
The owner of first place in the AFC South despite suffering losses to the Titans and Jets, the Jaguars beat the Steelers 30-9 in Pittsburgh behind two pick-sixes and a big game from Leonard Fournette. The Jags may be the NFL’s most interesting team, as they notched the win despite Blake Bortles throwing for only 95 yards and a pick.
- Minnesota Vikings (3-2): Last week: 19
The Vikes escaped with a 20-17 win in Chicago in Sam Bradford’s return, though the veteran quarterback was underperforming prior to his late first-half exit due to a re-aggravation of his knee injury. However, Case Keenum went 17-for-21 for 140 yards and a touchdown without getting sacked, a significantly better stat line than Bradford’s 5-for-11 for 33 yards while being sacked four times.
- Washington Redskins (2-2): Last week: 15
- Los Angeles Rams (3-2): Last week: 13
The Rams’ recent offensive outburst came to an end at home in front of tens of thousands of fans, as the Seattle defense stifled Todd Gurley and rendered the unit useless. The Sammy Watkins signing seems to have been a total bust, as the stud wideout didn’t record a catch despite receiving four targets.
- Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2): Last week: 6
The Steelers were exposed at home against the Jaguars, as one of the league’s most overrated teams came crashing back to earth in a blowout loss to Jacksonville. Ben Roethlisberger had one of his worst games in his career, as the Jags’ tough secondary picked him off five times.
- Buffalo Bills (3-2): Last week: 7
One week after beating the previously-undefeated defending NFC champions in Atlanta, the Bills put up a dud in Cincinnati. Rookie corner Tre’Davious White was burned repeatedly by AJ Green, LeSean McCoy averaged 3.3 yards per carry and Tyrod Taylor had his worst game of the season in the 20-16 loss.
- Dallas Cowboys (2-3): Last week: 14
Dak and company left too much time on the clock for Aaron Rodgers to work with, but their defense folded easily before the Bad Man. The offense had no trouble moving the ball throughout the game, but the defense needs to step up if the Cowboys want to contend for the title.
- Houston Texans (2-3): Last week: 10
Despite throwing for five touchdowns and not turning the ball over, DeShaun Watson was held in check for most of the Texans loss to the Chiefs. The rookie continues to impress with his mobility in the pocket, but he threw a number of thoughtless passes that could have been easily picked off. The bigger issue will be the defense, having lost JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus for the season.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-2): Last week: 16
The struggles of Nick Folk continued in Week Five, though this time around the Buccaneers loss as a result of his misses. The veteran kicker missed all three of his field goal attempts, effectively costing the Buccaneers a huge home win over the Patriots that would allow them to keep pace with the Falcons and Panthers in the division.
- Baltimore Ravens (3-2): Last week: 21
Winning in Oakland is not an easy task, but when it’s EJ Manuel under center for the Silver and Black rather than Derek Carr, the job is much easier. The O-Line did a great job of protecting Joe Flacco, as Khalil Mack and company weren’t able to register a sack.
- New Orleans Saints (2-2): Last week: 20
- Oakland Raiders (2-3): Last week: 17
The Silver and Black need Derek Carr back. Badly. The Raiders’ offense has stagnated in his absence, and Marshawn Lynch doesn’t seem to be able to put the team on his back like he would do for Seattle just a short while ago. Oakland’s big offseason investment has not rushed for over 45 yards in a game since Week One.
- New York Jets (3-2): Last week: 22
Gang Green is a shocking 3-2 and even more surprisingly is tied for first place in the AFC East. Granted, beating the Browns by just a field goal doesn’t mean the Jets should be thought of as a contender. Bilal Powell’s calf injury could present problems for the offense if he is forced to miss significant time.
- Cincinnati Bengals (2-3): Last week: 25
After a horrendous start to the season, the Bengals look to have righted the ship somewhat as they’ve won their last two games. While the running game was stagnant again, Andy Dalton threw for 328 yards and the pass rush brought down Tyrod Taylor six times.
- Miami Dolphins (2-2): Last week: 26
The Dolphins are somehow .500 despite having Jay Cutler at quarterback, as the man they pulled out of retirement to take over after Ryan Tannehill’s injury threw for only 92 yards in Miami’s 16-10 win over Tennessee. Even worse, the Dolphins have yet to rush for a touchdown this year.
- Tennessee Titans (2-3): Last week: 18
Without Marcus Mariota, the Titans looked like a chicken with its head cut off on offense in their loss to Miami. Matt Cassel didn’t commit a turnover, but was sacked six times and was held to 141 yards passing.
- Arizona Cardinals (2-3): Last week: 24
Going to Philadelphia to play a scorching-hot Eagles squad is not the best recipe for victory for a Cardinals team that needed overtime to beat the 49ers at home the week before. Arizona couldn’t generate any pressure on Carson Wentz, sacking the young quarterback once and hitting him just three times.
- Indianapolis Colts (2-3): Last week: 30
Jacoby Brissett and company earned their second win of the season in a 26-23 overtime win over the feckless 49ers in Indy. TY Hilton shredded the San Francisco secondary to the tune of 177 yards, and the Colts may have found a diamond in the rough in rookie running back Marlon Mack, who carried the ball nine times for 91 yards and a touchdown.
- Los Angeles Chargers (1-4): Last week: 28
The Chargers finally broke out of their slump, winning their first game of the season in a back-and-forth contest against the also-winless New York Giants. Melvin Gordon busted out in his first 100-yard effort of the season, totaling 105 yards on the ground and adding 58 yards and two scores receiving.
- Chicago Bears (1-4): Last week: 29
Mitch Trubisky’s first NFL start wasn’t the most efficient, though the Bears played the Vikings close behind trick plays and solid defense. Trubisky completed less than 50 percent of his passes and had a touchdown and a pick, but the Bears weak receiving corps doesn’t give the rookie much to work with.
- San Francisco 49ers (0-5): Last week: 31
The 49ers came up painfully short of a win once again, as they lost in overtime on the road for the second week in a row and have now lost their last four games by a field goal or less. While Brian Hoyer had a good game, Carlos Hyde was shut down, as the stud running back gained only 11 yards on eight totes.
- New York Giants (0-5): Last week: 27
The G-Men stayed winless after going down at home to the Chargers, and insult was added to injury as Odell Beckham, Jr. suffered a season-ending ankle injury. Without their best player, it is hard to imagine the Giants winning more than a handful of games in 2017.
- Cleveland Browns (0-5): Last week: 32
After having arguably their easiest stretch of games this year, the Browns are still winless. Benching DeShone Kizer again mid-game for Kevin Hogan, Hue Jackson’s squad will make it hard for another team to grab the No. 1 overall pick in 2018. One bright spot in the loss against the Jets was David Njoku, as the uber-athletic rookie tight end made a brilliant touchdown grab.