After an exciting Week 5 of NFL football, only one team remains unbeaten. Both the Broncos and Eagles added a loss to their records, and the Vikings defense continues to carry Minnesota to victory. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady made his return and the Cowboys offense is starting to click, raising the stakes of the Dak Prescott and Tony Romo quarterback debate. This week, there are several important division matchups that could play a part in determining early playoff contenders. Here are the big games of the week.
Dallas Cowboys (4-1) at Green Bay Packers (3-1), 3:25 p.m. Sunday on FOX
Rookie duo Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot have taken command of the Cowboy backfield. Behind arguably the best offensive line in the NFL, Elliot has accumulated an impressive 546 yards and five touchdowns this season. Prescott has definitely made a statement in the past weeks. After a rough first week, the young quarterback has put up an impressive 101.5 quarterback rating with 1,239 yards and four touchdowns. The most important statistic for Prescott is that he has yet to throw an interception. Aside from the two almost costly fumbles against Washington in Week 4, Elliot has been limiting turnovers as well. On only 15 carries last week against Cincinnati, Elliot became the first Cowboys rookie with three consecutive 100-yard rushing games.
On Tuesday, MRI results showed that Tony Romo’s back has healed and is expected to see the field soon. With Prescott playing as well as he’s been, however, the Cowboys can afford to take their time acclimating Romo, should they decide to start him when he has fully returned.
With receiver Dez Bryant still questionable for Sunday’s matchup, receivers Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley will have to step up against the No. 4 defense at Lambeau Field.
For quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Pack, the NFC East-leading Cowboys could prove to be a formidable foe. Green Bay has a chance to end the Cowboys’ four-game winning streak but it’s going to take some serious production out of running back Eddie Lacy and Rodgers. Lacy has yet to score a touchdown this season and Rodgers has thrown three interceptions, virtually the opposite of Dallas duo Elliot and Prescott. For the Packers, limiting turnovers and developing a solid ground attack will prove vital this Sunday.
I think this matchup will serve as a proving grounds for both teams. While it is an away game at Lambeau Field, I believe the Cowboys will keep cruising and elevate to 5-1 on the season.
Dallas 31, Green Bay 17
Atlanta Falcons (4-1) at Seattle Seahawks (3-1), 3:25 p.m. Sunday on FOX
In possibly the biggest matchup this season, the Atlanta Falcons will take on the Seattle Seahawks.
After a record-setting performance in Week 4 and defeating the previously undefeated Denver Broncos last week, the Atlanta Falcons head to CenturyLink Field on Sunday to face off against Russell Wilson and the Legion of Boom. Falcons Quarterback Matt Ryan is having one of the best seasons of his career, throwing for 1,740 yards and 12 touchdowns, most of which have been to Julio Jones. The Falcons, offensively, look like serious contenders for a postseason run. They lead the league in points per game, yards per game and total quarterback rating.
The Seahawks defense, conversely, has proven to be among the league’s best. They lead the league in least yards per game allowed and rank third in points. This matchup will be a battle of strength vs. strength; a fight between the most explosive offense and a solid, tenacious defensive unit.
For the Falcons, it is essential to develop a run game early. The Seahawks are going to expect Ryan to try and get the ball to Jones as much as possible. Expect to see Richard Sherman line up across Jones on Sunday as Seattle hopes to limit the damage Jones is capable of causing. If the Falcons are able to get a solid ground attack going, it will open up play-action opportunities and Seattle safeties Earl Thomas III and Kam Chancellor to start creeping up.
The Seahawks are one of the best tackling teams in the NFL. They allow a meager 1.7 yards after contact. If the Falcons want to have any chance at this game, it will have to start at the line. Running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman rank among the bottom third in yards after contact among NFL backs, so a big push from the offensive line will be pivotal in this matchup.
If the Falcons do find a way to win at CenturyLink Field on Sunday, they will have defeated the team tied for the best home win percentage since 2012. I think Ryan and Jones will struggle with the Seattle defense. Wilson and the Hawks will hand Atlanta its second loss of the season come Sunday.
Seattle 28, Atlanta 10
Philadelphia Eagles (3-1) at Washington Redskins (3-2), 12:00 p.m. Sunday on FOX
After snapping a three-game win streak against Detroit last week in heartbreaking fashion, the Eagles hope to conquer their division rivals this week at FedExField in Washington, D.C.
The Eagles’ Carson Wentz is off to one of the most impressive seasons by a rookie quarterback to date. The No. 2 overall pick has thrown for 1,007 yards in his first four games, with seven touchdowns to one interception. According to ESPN Stats & Information, he is 27-of-32 with three touchdowns against the blitz, which speaks volumes about his level of composure.
For the Eagles, having a solid arm under center has been a real issue in the past. With Wentz, however, Philadelphia’s offense has been taking strides this season. The NFC East, as usual, has proven to be an interesting division.
In contrast, the Redskins quarterback situation has been shaky at best. Kirk Cousins is not having a bad year, but he is not having a good one either. He’s thrown seven touchdowns and five interceptions. However, the blame is not entirely on Cousins. Running back Matt Jones has shown signs of explosiveness but lacks consistency. If the Redskins want to improve their chances of winning this game, they need production out of Jones.
This NFC East matchup could prove vital later when it comes to deciding playoff contenders. With the Cowboys sitting atop the division, a loss for either of these teams could prove detrimental in the weeks to come. I see Wentz coming out with a chip on his shoulder after his first NFL loss and going off against cornerback Josh Norman and the Redskins. Cousins will most likely throw a few more interceptions and continue his mediocre season. I think the Eagles earn a scrappy road victory over Washington and rise to 4-1 on the year.
Philadelphia 38, Washington 14