Five Things We Learned in Week 5 of the NFL Season

October 12, 2009

One team should no longer have the right to be televised, the MVP Award just got wrapped up, and one NFL trend was savagely murdered in Denver. Lots of interesting lessons came out of the fifth week of the NFL season, but these particular ones were the most intriguing of all.

Contrary to Popular Belief (or Rational Thought) the Cincinnati Bengals are a Serious Playoff Threat

The Bengals entered this season with an adorable level of optimism usually reserved for the Special Olympics or elementary school science fairs. They believed in themselves (presumably), yet garnered almost no faith from anybody outside of Ohio. They spent their offseason defending name changes and lost their first game 12-7 to a Broncos team that many thought would be headed for the cellar and seemed as though they were on the short track to a top ten draft pick. But then, just as faith was fleeting slightly earlier than expected, the Bengals decided to try something new - and began actually winning football games. In fact, since their opening week defeat they’ve railed off four straight victories – the last two of which were over the defending Super Bowl Champion Steelers and AFC Championship finalist Baltimore Ravens. Marvin Lewis and company have won three straight close games, are undefeated on the road, and have developed the NFL’s 11th ranked offense. With their next two games at home against 2008 non-playoff teams, it’s possible that the Bengals jump out to a 6-1 start headed into their week nine rematch with the Ravens.

Tom Brady has Decided to Stop Being Dominant

Forget the fact that he’s on pace for a Chad Pennington-inspired 19 touchdown season. And ignore that he hasn’t completed a single pass over 36 yards after launching countless long bombs to Randy Moss in 2007. Simply watch the fourth quarter of the Patriots’ 20-17 loss to the Denver Broncos last weekend and take notice of how the former NFL MVP seemed terrified of the pressure. On several 3rd down opportunities he deferred to the running game, made several poor decisions on key drives, and overthrew Wes Welker by at least six yards on a wide open route that would have iced the game for the Pats. It’s obviously too early to call Tom Brady a bust (though fantasy owners may beg to differ), but if the past two games are any indication of Brady’s poise and accuracy, this may be a long year in Boston.

Retro Uniforms are No Longer Cool

I swear to god when I flipped past the Broncos-Patriots broadcast it took me several minutes to realize it wasn’t an ESPN Classic replay of a Grambling University game. Retro jerseys are acceptable for opening day, special occasions, or confused high school kids that like to pretend they know who Bart Starr is when they ask their parents for $245 to spend at the local sports memorabilia store. It’s time to let teams wear their actual jerseys so fans don’t get suckered into spending even more money on clothing that by no means is socially acceptable to wear in public.

The NFL Owes Everyone Who Had to Sit Through the Browns-Bills Game an Apology

Is it possible that a 6-3 game is even more boring than it sounds? Sure, Derek Anderson going 2-17 for 23 yards almost enters the “how many times can the announcers call WNBA players ‘he’ or ‘him’ drinking game” levels of unintentional comedy, but to force fans to watch a match-up in which Billy Cundiff received the game ball is just poor marketing. Roger Goodell should have pulled a Vince McMahon, announcing just before the game that the Bills were unable to compete, and then had the Florida Gators come out of the stands for a surprise match-up. How awesome would that have been? And what would the spread be in that one? Pick ‘em, Browns minus 2?

Peyton Manning Will Win His Second Straight MVP Award

Peyton Manning has put up over 300 yards in all five of his 2009 starts, led the Colts to a 5-0 record, and has a snazzy new hairdo. It seems inevitable that Indianapolis is going to end up with at least 13 wins (the majority of their remaining games are against sub .500 teams) and the league’s poster boy will receive the majority of the credit. Unlike Brady, Manning seems to have no problem taking over games and using his arm at key times. At this point – as odd as it sounds – the MVP race might end up being between Manning and the now 40-year-old Brett Favre. It’s sort of like 2003 again, only Shaun Alexander is irrelevant and some people have begun questioning whether Al Davis is still the rational, calculating football genius that can lead the Raiders to the Super Bowl this season.

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