Week 5 of the 2011 NFL season is in the books. 26 teams played from coast to coast on Sunday or Monday, with the remaining six off thanks to an early-season bye. Two of the six teams with a bye were in the AFC North (Baltimore and Cleveland), but we'll turn our attention to the Pittsburgh Steelers' division shortly.
First though, a quick overview of where things stand across the league after Sunday.
In the AFC East, the Buffalo Bills retained their grasp atop the standings with a yet another thrilling win. Buffalo held on to defeat the 1-4 Eagles 31-24 despite a furious late-game rally engineered by Michael Vick, who mind you, put Philadelphia in a hole early with his interceptions. (He finished with four on the day after being picked off late in the fourth quarter.) New England kept pace with a hard-fought 31-20 win over the New York Jets. After winning their first two, the Jets have are now reeling from three consecutive losses.
In the AFC South, Houston was upended at home by the inspired Oakland Raiders, who were playing in honor of Al Davis, the team's long-time owner who had passed away just one day earlier. Houston is now tied with Tennessee atop the division, as the Titans also lost of course to the Steelers. The 38-17 defeat in Pittsburgh snapped the Titans' three game winning streak, and was the second conference loss of the year for Mike Munchak's squad. Jacksonville is no real threat to challenge either team for the division. The Jaguars lost their fourth in a row, a 30-20 home loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. The Colts, meanwhile, blew a 17-point lead over the Chiefs, losing 28-24 at home to fall to 0-5 on the year.
In the AFC West, San Diego handled Denver 29-24 to improve to 4-1. Tim Tebow rallied the Broncos to within 2 late in the game with two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter, but San Diego iced it with a field goal drive in the final minutes. Oakland, as previously mentioned, improved to 3-2 with their 25-20 win over Houston. The Raiders occupy second place in the AFC West behind San Diego, and ahead of Denver (1-4) and the Chiefs (2-3), who aren't dead in the water just yet after their come-from-behind win over Indianapolis.
In the NFC East, the Eagles fell to 1-4 and are in last place in the division heading into next week's matchup against the Washington Redskins (3-1), who were off this week. The Dallas Cowboys were also off and are 2-2 heading into their Week 6 showdown with the Patriots on Sunday. Finally, the Giants lost on Sunday in a game that seems to be so symbolic of the Tom Coughlin era. New York lost at home to the Seattle Seahawks despite Eli Manning throwing for over 400 yards. If the Giants miss the playoffs by a single game again in 2011, they'll have nobody to blame but themselves, and will almost certainly look to their Week 5 meltdown against Seattle as one of the games they should have won.
In the South, New Orleans took control of first place with a dramatic 30-27 win over the Carolina Panthers (1-4). Drew Brees orchestrated a game-winning touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter to stave off yet another valiant effort from Cam Newton and the Panthers. With Atlanta's loss to Green Bay on Sunday night, and Tampa Bay's pathetic 48-3 defeat in San Francisco, the Saints are looking down on the rest of the division after losing in Week 1.
Should we even mention the NFC West? Fine, real quick. San Francisco is in in great shape after improving to 4-1 with their blowout win over the Buccaneers. Credit Jim Harbaugh for the incredible job he's done in so little time at the controls. Seattle appears to be the only real threat to San Francisco. The Seahawks are better than people realize, and improved to 2-3 with their win over the Giants. Arizona (1-4) fired blanks in a pathetic loss at previously-winless Minnesota. Finally, St. Louis is in the cellar at 0-4. They'll try to get on track after their much-needed bye week. Unfortunately for Steve Spagnuolo's squad, their next three are at Green Bay, at Dallas and home against the Saints. 0-7 looks like a distinct possibility for a Rams team that most believed was positioned nicely to take yet another big step forward after their encouraging 2010 season.
And finally, the Norris Division. The NFC North sports the only two undefeated teams in football -- the Packers and the Detroit Lions, who remained undefeated with a 24-13 win over the Chicago Bears in what was the organization's first Monday Night Football appearance in a decade. Who would have though that when Detroit hosted San Francisco in Week 6, it would be a matchup of two NFC front runners who could possibly be playing for playoff seeding. Don't forget about the Packers though. The defending champs look anything but hungover from their Super Bowl win a year ago. In fact, one would have to be a bit crazy to consider them anything but favorites to hoist the Lombardi Trophy again next February based on how they've been playing to start the year. Green Bay improved to 5-0 themselves on Sunday night with a convincing 25-14 win over Atlanta. After spotting the Falcons the first 14 points, Green Bay responded with 25 unanswered points for their 11th consecutive win dating back to Week 16 of the 2010 regular season. To round out the division, score one for Minnesota in Week 5. After blowing leads in all four of their losses to start the year, the Vikings finally held on against the mistake-prone Arizona Cardinals. Minnesota buried themselves with the 0-4 start, but don't sleep on them entirely. I guarantee you they'll knock off a few teams with playoff aspirations in the second half of the season.
And last but not least, back to the AFC North. As mentioned, only the Steelers and Bengals were in action on Sunday. Both won intra-conference games to improve to 3-2. Both will be favored to win in Week 6 as well. The Steelers host the Jaguars; the Bengals host the Colts. Cleveland looks to bounce back from a disappointing Week 4 loss when they return from their bye week to play the Raiders in Oakland. Baltimore will be tested in Week 6 by a Texans team that will be hard at work this week following their home loss to the Raiders.
Here's where things stand in the division...
|Team||Record||Div. Record||Conf. Record||Streak||Scoring Differential|
|Baltimore Ravens||3-1||1-0||2-1||Won 2||+62|
|Cincinnati Bengals||3-2||1-0||3-1||Won 2||+16|
|Cleveland Browns||2-2||0-1||2-2||Lost 1||-19|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||3-2||0-1||2-2||Won 1||+13|