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Game Rankings: Week 5 all about renewal of Peyton-Brady rivalry


Last year, Tom Brady and the Patriots bounced the Tim Tebow-led Broncos from the playoffs. (US Presswire)  
Last year, Tom Brady and the Patriots bounced the Tim Tebow-led Broncos from the playoffs. (US Presswire)  

What do I know? What do you know? What do any of us know?

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This league is friggin' bonkers. Every week I rate the games and then we watch damn near every single one of these contests come down to the wire. It's mind-boggling (some of you people really bet on this stuff?). For every gimme game, like 49ers-Jets a week ago, there are far more games like Steelers-Raiders, Browns-Ravens, Eagles-Browns or Giants-Eagles that come down to a call or a break or a defining play here or there.

There is no way to know who will prevail and no way to know which of these games turns out to be the game of the day. Yet still I produce 3,000-4,000 words in the middle of every week trying to rank these various affairs. Hmm. Joke's on me!

The reality is we don't know and never will. We'll watch them all, as damn well we should, because unless it's 27-0 at the half, anything is possible in this league. It's pretty mind-blowing to sit in our green room every Sunday and watch all of these games on a ton of screens and just absorb the wacky stuff that goes on that leads to these results.

Someone out there on Twitter needs to hit me up on the percentage of my footlongs and 6-inchers that end up being great games and how many sliders are actually the game of the day. I'm guessing my winning percentage in this regard is about the same as mine picking games on this here website this season.

Man, I have to get my stuff together, and soon. Says here I peak after the holidays, which has served more than a few teams well in recent years, come to think of it.


Denver Broncos  at  New England Patriots

Sunday, Oct. 7, 4:25 p.m. ET (CBS)

Why to Watch: It's only Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning, my friends. That's all. Nothing to see here. Just two of the five or seven best quarterbacks in the history of the game, dueling for what, at this stage, who knows, could be the last time ever. And, for what it's worth, the Broncos have won 15 of the past 20 in this series, and both teams come in off blowout victories in which their respective kick-ass QB made a major statement. The loser will be back below .500. Love these early games with postseason tiebreaker potential. Absolutely love Jim Nantz and Phil Simms on the call.

What to Watch For: Willis McGahee got his groove back last week, and we all know John Fox loves to run the rock. And, for that matter, Denver's entire defensive mojo was back a week ago, with the caveat being it was against the Raiders. But given New England's iffy offensive line, you have to wonder if Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil get off some in this late start. ... The Patriots, of all teams, had two running backs go over 100 yards a week ago. ... Champ Bailey might get to see an awful lot of his former teammate, Brandon Lloyd. ... Manning has four TDs in each of his past two games against the Pats.

Philadelphia Eagles  at  Pittsburgh Steelers

Sunday, Oct. 7, 1 p.m. ET (FOX)

Why to Watch: The Battle of Pennsylvania features the Eagles coming in off a huge victory against the Giants and the Steelers coming off the bye as a reeling bunch. This could be a different Pittsburgh team, with Troy Polamalu, James Harrison and Rashard Mendenhall all expected to return. Harrison will try to spark a pass rush that has been anemic and short on turnovers, knowing that Michael Vick is often quite vulnerable. Yet Vick was barely touched by the Giants' vaunted pass rushers and is coming in off his best and most consistent outing of the season. If the Steelers can't get their run game figured out quickly, trouble will be brewing, and no doubt that poor ranking for team defense isn't sitting well with them. The Eagles will try to knock off the AFC North's perennial power having already survived the Ravens.

What to Watch For: The Steelers' corners have been getting picked on, and the Eagles have a wide array of options. Jeremy Maclin could be a particular problem. ... Just how much of a load can the Steelers' returning injured players carry, especially with Mendenhall in his first outing back from knee surgery? ... The relationship between Ben Roethlisberger and new coordinator Todd Haley was under a microscope since before it started, and any signs of sideline unrest will be picked apart. ... Will the Eagles be willing to feed LeSean McCoy to the degree they might need to? ... Heath Miller is emerging more in the passing game, already with 4 TDs for the Steelers. ... Jason Babin has seven sacks in his past four games against the AFC.


Atlanta Falcons  at  Washington Redskins

Sunday, Oct. 7, 1 p.m. ET (FOX)

Why to Watch: Matt Ryan continues to make his case for MVP, though I know it's still ridiculously early, while Robert Griffin III continues to make his case for Rookie of the Year. Both could star here, as the Redskins can't cover anyone and the Falcons can't get much of a pass rush and lack the kind of athletic ends who can give Griffin fits. I'm loving this fired-up, F-bomb-dropping Matty Ice, and RG3 just keeps doing his unflappable thing. Michael Turner seems to be getting his legs back under him for Atlanta, and the Redskins have the NFL's top running attack.

What to Watch For: Julio Jones was pretty quiet last week. But Washington doesn't have anyone who can stay with him. ... Gotta love the old-school matchup of Skins middle linebacker London Fletcher and Falcons ageless tight end Tony Gonzalez. ... Ryan Kerrigan is hitting his stride to boost the Redskins' pass rush. ... Turner went for 166 yards the last time these two got together. ... Pierre Garcon is gaining nearly 26 yards per catch and is RG3's go-to-guy. ... Skins kicker Billy Cundiff better get more consistent or he will find himself released by both teams that play home games in the state of Maryland in two months.

Seattle Seahawks  at  Carolina Panthers

Sunday, Oct. 7, 4:05 p.m. ET (FOX)

Why to Watch: The loser of this one is in some deep trouble -- two upstart NFC teams with playoff aspirations that can't afford another loss. The Seahawks are enduring calls for rookie starter Russell Wilson to make way for relative veteran Matt Flynn, while Cam Newton continues to receive a disproportionate amount of criticism and hate. Suffice to say, both quarterbacks are under fire, as are their teams. Can the Seahawks travel east and get a big W without the aid of the 12th man? Riding the NFL's top rusher, Marshawn Lynch, might be their best bet.

What to Watch For: The Seahawks can't get anything going from the pocket, or vertically, from Wilson, though he is plenty elusive. ... Someone send out an APB for Braylon Edwards. ... Tight end Greg Olsen is becoming more of a factor with the Panthers lacking the big-play dynamic that defined them a year ago. ... Ron Rivera is facing a crisis with his defense allowing nearly 400 yards a game, and can they stand up here against an opponent with limited weapons? ... Leon Washington is quietly giving the Seahawks quality field position in the return game. ... Lest we let all the Newton faux drama get in the way of reality, he is the only player in NFL history with at least 25 passing TDs and 15 rushing TDs in his first 20 games, and he is worth the price of admission alone.

San Diego Chargers  at  New Orleans Saints

Sunday, Oct. 7, 8:20 p.m. ET (NBC)

Why to Watch: Give the Saints credit, they are giving people games again. They may not be winning them, or anything, but they finally showed some spunk in nearly beating the Packers, and you know Drew Brees still has a special little piece of hate in his heart for the Chargers, who once cut him loose. Of course, he was cut loose to make room for Philip Rivers, whose saliva glands must be going into overdrive watching film of the back seven on this Saints defense. Shootout, anyone?

What to Watch For: Could be Antonio Gates trying to show Jimmy Graham what this tight end position is all about. Both figure to be a big part of the game plan here. ... Brees went for 339 yards and three TDs the last time he faced the Chargers. With a TD here, he breaks Johnny Unitas' long-standing record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass. ... The Saints' running game has yet to get going this season, and I doubt this is the day it does. ... Look out but Jackie Battle seems to be the back du jour in San Diego with Ryan Mathews still taking flak.


Cleveland Browns  at  New York Giants

Sunday, Oct. 7, 1 p.m. ET (CBS)

Why to Watch: Well, this looks like it could be a big-time blowout, especially with the Giants fired up after letting a game against the Eagles get away Sunday night. But I'll say this -- the Browns are at least competitive, though your guess is as good as mine as to when they will actually win a game. Still, if Brandon Weeden keeps making strides, that's all hapless Browns fans can ask for, unfortunately. You would think Eli Manning comes up big here, and even without Hakeem Nicks, the Giants have enough big bodies to cause problems for an undermanned Browns secondary.

What to Watch For: I can't imagine there is any way Trent Richardson doesn't get force-fed the ball on the ground and in the pass game. ... Can Greg Little hold on to, like, one of every two balls that come his way? Too much to ask? And when does Josh Gordon make a flash? ... Expect the Giants to target rookie right tackle Mitchell Schwartz with some combination games and tricks. They'll focus a lot of energy on that side of the line. ... Could Victor Cruz catch so many balls he switches from salsa to tango by the end of the day?

Miami Dolphins  at  Cincinnati Bengals

Sunday, Oct. 7, 1 p.m. ET (CBS)

Why to Watch: The Dolphins have played better than their 1-3 record would indicate and aren't the doormat they were for much of last season. The Bengals are 3-1 but still seem to have their share of issues, and we'll see if this suddenly potent pass rush can keep it going. Miami has played strong, physical football on both sides of the line, and Reggie Bush is looking good running behind emerging FB Javorskie Lane, who is now finding the end zone himself. Ryan Tannehill is getting better by the week and his mobility is causing problems, while Cincinnati's A.J. Green looks to hook up for a third consecutive 100-yard game with Andy Dalton finding his zone.

What to Watch For: Cameron Wake might be the best pass rusher in the game right now and comes in off a 4½-sack outing. ... Brian Hartline of all people leads the NFL in receiving yards after going for 250 last week. That should draw some additional attention from a Bengals secondary that seems to be finally getting healthy. ... Dalton has been the best fourth-quarter QB in the NFL so far this season. ... Bush is averaging over 5 yards per carry.

Green Bay Packers  at  Indianapolis Colts

Sunday, Oct. 7, 1 p.m. ET (FOX)

Why to Watch: Colts head coach Chuck Pagano has a legion of friends and supporters around the league, and this will be an emotional day as his team takes the field for the first time since he was diagnosed with a treatable form of leukemia. It's a shocking jolt for the rebuilding organization, and you know that everyone associated with this team will do everything in their power to try to keep a smile on Pagano's face as he remains hospitalized with arduous treatment. The crowd reaction itself should be overwhelming. The Colts won't take this challenge lightly, and the Packers, who could easily be 1-3 right now, haven't looked good enough to take any opponent lightly this season.

What to Watch For: The Packers may just be content to keep going with a heavy dose of Cedric Benson, given how poor the Colts' rush defense is. It's also a secondary ripe for the picking, and Aaron Rodgers should be fairly dominant even if Greg Jennings sits as expected. If Jennings is out, look for James Jones to keep getting more balls his way in critical spots. ... We'll get to see what Andrew Luck managed to pick up coming off his first bye week. ... Do the Colts have anyone on their offensive line who can slow down Clay Matthews and keep him off their rookie quarterback?

Buffalo Bills  at  San Francisco 49ers

Sunday, Oct. 7, 4:25 p.m. ET (CBS)

Why to Watch: Ryan Fitzpatrick's pulse. Dude is in for a tough afternoon. The Bills offensive line, not exactly gang busters, is now down two more starters against what may be the best front seven in football. Meantime, the Bills are still sending out an SOS for their allegedly improved defensive front, and you have to wonder when, or if, Dave Wannstedt ever has a defense anyone fears.

What to Watch For: Fred Jackson healthy again and going for his fifth straight 100-yard game against an NFC foe. You also have to think C.J. Spiller is better this week after fighting through his shoulder injury in Week 4. ... Randy Moss -- remember him? -- has 12 TDs in 10 career games against the Bills. ... Since 2009 (including playoffs) Vernon Davis has 34 receiving TDs, most in the NFL. ... We know Bills coach Chan Gailey loves that spread stuff, but I bet the 49ers out-wildcat them here, just as they did the Jets a week ago.


Baltimore Ravens  at  Kansas City Chiefs

Sunday, Oct. 7, 1 p.m. ET (CBS)

Why to Watch: The weather is getting colder, but you can pretend you are at the beach watching this one and try to spot the banner being flown over the stadium calling for the jobs of Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli and starting quarterback Matt Cassel. The last time these two met, in the playoffs two years ago, the Ravens had Cassel completely undone, though that was with Terrell Suggs. Another train-wreck outing from Kansas City and big changes could be afoot there.

What to Watch For: The Ravens are struggling to set the edge at times, and few can hit the corner like Jamaal Charles. Tunning him inside, anywhere close to Haloti Ngata, might not be a good idea. ... This could be another game in which Joe Flacco keeps driving that contract price higher and higher. ... Ed Reed is looking healthier than he has in years and is able to play with a real physical dimension again. ... Tamba Hali gives the Ravens fits and their tackles are not overwhelming by any stretch. ... Can Anquan Boldin post consecutive big games? Having about nine days between games should help that cause.

Chicago Bears  at  Jacksonville Jaguars

Sunday, Oct. 7, 4:05 p.m. ET (FOX)

Why to Watch: How much longer does the Blaine Gabbert experiment go on? I admit I bought in some in the preseason, but it's just not there and jobs are going to be on the line soon enough. I would put Gabbert a close third, behind Russell Wilson and Matt Cassel, on the QB-who-could-lose-his-job-shortly list. Aside from two miracle plays to Cecil Shorts, it has been pretty rough, again, for him. And expect to see plenty of Julius Peppers vs. Guy Whimper. Best of luck, Blaine.

What to Watch For: Matt Forte should be better each week as he comes back from ankle injury. ... Brandon Marshall and Jay Cutler could make beautiful music for the second straight week, especially considering the Jags have just two sacks all season. ... Marcedes Lewis is back from the dead and Gabbert will be looking his way a bunch against this Cover-2 defense. ... Bears corner Tim Jennings has five picks in his past five games.

Tennessee Titans  at  Minnesota Vikings

Sunday, Oct. 7, 4:25 p.m. ET (CBS)

Why to Watch: Break up the Vikings! Who would have thought they might be one of the teams of destiny that come out of nowhere and snatch up a playoff berth? If they get to 4-1 here, with a nice little schedule, don't rule it out. Christian Ponder might be running one of the more limited offenses in the league, but he is doing it pretty flawlessly, completing nearly 70 percent of his passes and yet to throw a pick this season. And Adrian Peterson might be primed for his first real monster game, post knee surgery, as the Titans only threaten to play defense but rarely actually do so.

What to Watch For: Percy Harvin will carve up this opponent on the ground and in the air. ... Chris Johnson finally got going a week ago, but will the Titans commit to the outside zone stretch plays that allow him to flourish? ... The Titans are allowing 421 yards a game, and no one on the team has more than one sack. If they can't pressure Ponder, watch him make plays with his feet. ... Watch how much more fluid the Titans' offense is with Matt Hasselbeck under center. ... Titans rookie WR Kendall Wright is starting to find his way in the Titans' receiver-friendly offense.

Houston Texans  at  New York Jets

Monday, Oct. 8, 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Why to Watch: Well, good thing is, the competitive portion of this ballgame should be over by 10 p.m. ET, worst-case scenario, even with the late start on Monday night. So your sleep patterns shouldn't be interrupted. Also, it should be challenging trying to figure out which way the Texans want to go about gouging the Jets. Could be Arian Foster. Or Owen Daniels. Or Andre Johnson. Opportunities abound. Might be a good night for Fantasy players to stock up on Texans backups for the second half of this game.

What to Watch For: Does the scoreboard at the new Meadowlands go to three digits? Like, if the Texans score over 99? ... What will it take for Greg McElroy to get a look as Jets QB? ... What happens first -- Arian Foster goes over 100 or Mark Sanchez throws for 100? Oh, not fair? OK, Foster over 100 and Sanchez over 50? Does J.J. Watt have more passes knocked down than the Jets have touchdowns? Feel free to come up with your own prop bets/drinking games at this point. You get the drift.

Before joining CBS Sports, Jason La Canfora was the Washington Redskins beat writer for The Washington Post for six years and served as NFL Network's insider. The Baltimore native can be seen every Sunday during the season on The NFL Today.

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