NFL Week 5 takeaways: Lessons, big questions for every game

ByNFL Nation ESPN logo
Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Week 5of the 2022 NFL seasonkicked off Thursday night with a touchdown-less overtime victory for theIndianapolis Colts over the Denver Broncos.

On Sunday morning, the New York Giants (now 4-1) defeated the Green Bay Packers in London.

Later,Taysom Hill rushed for three touchdowns and threw a passing TD to propel theNew Orleans Saintsover the Seattle Seahawks. The Buffalo Bills spoiled Kenny Pickett's first career start and dominated the Pittsburgh Steelers at home. While Teddy Bridgewater started for the Miami Dolphins, third-stringerSkylar Thompsontook over when Bridgewater was ruled out and underwent evaluation for a concussion. TheNew England Patriots' defense shut out the Detroit Lions in Bailey Zappe's first career start. The Cleveland Browns battled, but Cade York couldn't make the game-winning field goal in a loss against the Los Angeles Chargers. The Minnesota Vikings scored a late TD to overcome the Chicago Bears' surge.

The late-afternoon window saw the Philadelphia Eagles remain undefeated, as they got past the Arizona Cardinals to move to 5-0. That sets up a Sunday night showdown this weekend between the Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys, who used a relentless pass rush to beat the Los Angeles Rams and move to 4-1.

In Sunday's nightcap, Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens beat Joe Burrow and the Bengals on a last-second Justin Tucker field goal.

And to finish it off on Monday, the Kansas City Chiefs rallied from an early 17-0 deficit to take down the Las Vegas Raiders30-29.

Our NFL Nation reporters react with the biggest takeaways and lingering questions coming out of this week's matchups and look ahead to what's next. Let's get to it.

Jump to a matchup:





Kansas City 30, Las Vegas 29


What to know: Even with a mostly new crew of wide receivers, no deficit appears too big for the Chiefs to overcome. They rallied from 17 points down against Las Vegas even though their defense prevented the Raiders from scoring on just three of nine possessions. The Chiefs at one point scored on five straight possessions, with four being TD passes from Patrick Mahomes to Travis Kelce.

Should the Chiefs be concerned about allowing 154 rushing yards and 7-plus yards per carry to Josh Jacobs?The situation is worth watching. The Chiefs had trouble stopping Jacobs when the Raiders went to a sixth offensive lineman, which they frequently did. Look for upcoming opponents to try to be similarly physical. But the Chiefs don't figure to see many teams as determined with the run game as the Raiders were. The Chiefs also were down three defensive linemen due to injuries. -- Adam Teicher

Next game: vs. Bills (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)


What to know:The Raiders have yet to put together a contiguously solid 60 minutes of winning football. At 1-4, Las Vegas is entering its bye week. Its offense has had the ball for potential last-minute game-winning drives in three of four losses but has run out of downs and lost on a shocking walk-off scoop, and on Monday night, it ran out of downs again. The team also failed to convert a 2-point attempt at Tennessee in Week 3 that would have tied the game with 78 seconds to play.

Is their season over? No. Look, 1-4 is a huge hole to crawl out of, but in sticking with the glass-half-full outlook in a downcast-but-not-depressed locker room, the Raiders showed they can hang with a loaded AFC West. And the schedule lightens up after the bye, with home games against the Texans and Colts and trips to New Orleans, Jacksonville and Denver. Yeah, the Raiders are only 1-2 in the division, having beaten the Broncos, but they can use the bye week to lick their wounds and stay positive. It's a big leap, but given how early it is in the season, it's a logical leap. -- Paul Gutierrez

Next game: vs. Texans (Sunday Oct. 23, 4:05 p.m. ET)

Baltimore 19, Cincinnati 17


What to know: Lamar Jackson called game in the fourth quarter. In a matchup in which Jackson struggled for three quarters, he took control of the game when the Ravens needed him the most. After the Bengals took the lead with 1:58 left in the fourth quarter, Jackson ran four times for 31 yards -- putting his head down and bolting up the middle of the defense -- and completed a pair of passes to Mark Andrews for 15 yards to set up Justin Tucker's winning 43-yard field goal. Before that winning drive, Jackson was 17-of-30 (56.7%) for 159 yards and one interception.

Have the Ravens exorcised their fourth-quarter demons? No one should go that far, but it was huge that the Ravens didn't fold this time. After Baltimore lost two leads of 17 or more points in its first two home games, it could have really affected the Ravens' psyche if there was another fourth-quarter collapse. This win came down to the Ravens' two most clutch players: Jackson and Tucker. The game winner marked Tucker's 61st straight field goal made in the fourth quarter and overtime, which is the longest streak in NFL history. -- Jamison Hensley

Next game: at Giants (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


What to know: Sure, the Bengals were without wide receiver Tee Higgins (ankle injury) for most of the game. But Cincinnati couldn't push the ball downfield against one of the worst pass defenses in the league. Entering Sunday night, Baltimore allowed 30 completions of 11 air yards or more, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information, tied for the most in the NFL. Cincinnati had four such completions but against a mere six attempts, with no completions of 20 air yards or more. What worked for Cincinnati so well last season has been absent in 2022.

How important will Cincinnati's defense be for the team's playoff hopes? If Cincinnati repeats as AFC North champion, it will be because of its defense. The Bengals were more than solid against a potent Baltimore offense, holding Jackson & Co. to just one touchdown. Given how the offense looks, limiting other teams might be Cincinnati's best bet to reach the postseason. -- Ben Baby

Next game: at Saints (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

Philadelphia 20, Arizona 17


What to know: When all else fails, have quarterback Jalen Hurts take it into his own hands. He rushed for a pair of touchdowns on Sunday, passing Cam Newton for most rushing TDs by a quarterback in his first 25 starts with 19. On the go-ahead drive late in the fourth quarter, Hurts converted a pair of third-down QB sneaks to extend the drive, helping Philly sneak past Arizona to remain undefeated.

Will the offensive line injuries become a major factor? The Eagles entered this contest without left tackle Jordan Mailata (shoulder), and they lost left guard Landon Dickerson (leg) and center Jason Kelce (ankle) for parts of the game before they eventually returned. Right guard Isaac Seumalo, meanwhile, was limited this week with an ankle injury. The offensive line is a primary strength of this team, and the Eagles need it healthy, especially for next week's game against the Cowboys and their vaunted pass rush. -- Tim McManus

Next game: vs. Cowboys (Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET)


What to know: The Cardinals took a significant step toward figuring out their first-quarter offensive woes. Even though they didn't score in the first quarter for the sixth straight game -- which includes all five this season -- Arizona showed glimpses of its up-tempo offense, which helped change the pace of the game and kept Philadelphia on its heels. It was enough for the Cardinals to stay in a game many didn't think they had any business being in -- and it showed that any production in the first quarter could've been the difference on Sunday.

Can the Cardinals put together a complete game next week in Seattle? All signs are pointing to "it's likely." This year's Seahawks aren't the Seahawks of old, so a first-quarter score is most likely to happen in Seattle. The Cardinals are a few plays here and there away from that complete showing. It might have taken them a month to figure themselves out, but they're on the verge of showing who they are for an entire game. -- Josh Weinfuss

Next game: at Seahawks (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)

Dallas 22, L.A. Rams 10


What to know: How good are the Cowboys? Over the past month, they have beaten the defending AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals and, on Sunday, the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams. They also beat the New York Giants, who just knocked off the Green Bay Packers. This wasn't supposed to happen, especially without Dak Prescott. The Cowboys' defense continued to lead the way, allowing just one touchdown in the fifth straight game and stifling Matthew Stafford all day. The Boys did just enough on offense, highlighted by Tony Pollard's 57-yard touchdown run in the second quarter after the Rams took the lead.

How big is next week's game vs. the Philadelphia Eagles? The Eagles are the NFL's lone undefeated team and are considered by many the class of the NFC East. The Cowboys have won eight straight division games, including two against the Eagles a season ago by a combined 45 points (though Philadelphia rested its regulars in the second meeting). The Cowboys have won four straight games without Prescott (thumb) and are likely to be without him again. With a win against the Eagles, maybe folks will take Dallas seriously. -- Todd Archer

Next game: at Eagles (Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET)


What to know: It's easier said than done while dealing with several injuries, but fixing the pressure Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford is facing will be a key to turning this season around. It felt like Stafford faced constant pressure in Sunday's loss to the Cowboys; and it started from the Rams' first drive, when Stafford was sacked and fumbled, which the Cowboys returned for a touchdown to set the tone. Stafford was sacked five times (now up to 21 times this season), and the Cowboys had 11 quarterback hits.

How long can the Rams' defense keep this up? Although the Rams lost to the Cowboys, nine of Dallas' 22 points came off turnovers. Los Angeles held Cowboys quarterback Cooper Rush to 10 completions and 102 passing yards. Of course, L.A. has been beaten by Jimmy Garoppolo and Rush in its past two games, but the defense has been a bright spot on this 2-3 team. The Rams get quarterback Baker Mayfield and a struggling Carolina Panthers team next week. -- Sarah Barshop

Next game: vs. Panthers (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)

San Francisco 37, Carolina 15


What to know: The 49ers took care of business against an inferior opponent, but they might have suffered a much bigger loss on Sunday. Early in the third quarter, defensive end Nick Bosa was ruled out with a groin injury. The Niners have already lost multiple key players to injury this season, but there might not be a more important player on the roster than Bosa. The league's leader in sacks and pressures entering the game, Bosa is the driving force behind one of the NFL's best defenses. That D's depth has already been tested, but if Bosa has to miss extended time, the challenge will become far greater as the Niners head to West Virginia for practice before next week's game against the Atlanta Falcons.

What's wrong with the 49ers' kicking game? The Niners' special teams have been mostly good through the first month-plus of the season with one notable exception: the kicking game. On Sunday, kicker Robbie Gould had a field goal blocked for the second time this season (tied for the most in a season in his career) and left the game with a left knee injury, and the 49ers yielded kickoff returns of 48 and 45 yards to Carolina. Given San Francisco's myriad injury issues, those yards and points will matter plenty as the competition increases. -- Nick Wagoner

Next game: at Falcons (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


What to know: Third down continued to haunt the Panthers, only this time it was on both sides of the ball. The offense entered Sunday last in the NFL with a 25.5% conversion rate and finished 3-for-15 (20%). (The last team to convert less than 25% for a season was the 2005 49ers, who went 4-12.) That trouble was magnified by the 49ers' third-down success, as the Niners converted seven of their first 11 third downs. Outside of Baker Mayfield's pick-six, that was the difference in game.

What will it take for coach Matt Rhule to bench Mayfield? The Panthers traded for Mayfield believing he could help turn around the organization. He hasn't, and Sunday's pick-six was yet another example of how he hurts the offense. Replacing Mayfield as the starter with former XFL star PJ Walker -- who played the last couple of minutes of Sunday's contest in relief -- would send the message that the 2018 No. 1 pick is done. It could destroy Mayfield's confidence too. Now if Mayfield and the league's 32nd-ranked offense continue to struggle, the team could make a change when Sam Darnold (ankle) returns from injured reserve. But according to team sources, that's probably two to four weeks away. By then, if the losing continues, Rhule might be done. -- David Newton

Next game: at Rams (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)

Buffalo 38, Pittsburgh 3


What to know: The Bills had control of the game from the third play to the end, thanks in large part to quarterback Josh Allen and the big-play passing attack. Allen threw for 348 yards in the first half, the most passing yards in a single half in Bills history, per the Elias Sports Bureau, to help establish a 28-point lead, and finished with a franchise high for a regulation game with 424 passing yards. Despite being without multiple starters on both sides of the ball due to injury, the Bills held the Steelers scoreless after the first drive and came away with a commanding win.

Can the Bills keep up the big-play passing? The Bills came into Week 5 with 13 passing plays of 20-plus yards this season, but against the Steelers, big plays made all the difference. Buffalo had eight passing plays of 20-plus yards Sunday, and Allen finished the game with a career-high 13.7 yards per attempt. In the previous two games, the Bills strung together long drives, only to fall short in the red zone. Targeting wide receiver Gabe Davis deep more often -- Davis finished with a career-high 171 receiving yards on three receptions -- and learning from what worked against the Steelers will go a long way. -- Alaina Getzenberg

Next game: at Chiefs (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)


What to know: A 38-3 blowout by the Bills exposed the deep cracks that riddle the Steelers' foundation. Pickett did what was asked of him in his first career start, but an already short-handed and inconsistent defense couldn't contain quarterback Josh Allen and his weapons. Pickett completed 34 of 52 passes for 327 yards with one interception, but the offense came away with only three points. Meanwhile, Allen picked apart the Steelers' secondary with a career game. The NFL's highest-paid defense came into the game missing two defensive starters in addition to T.J. Watt, and three more were ruled out during the game after sustaining injuries. Sunday was supposed to be about Pickett's first start, but failures in every phase of the game made his play irrelevant. The 35-point margin of defeat is the worst for the Steelers since a 51-0 loss to Cleveland on Sept. 10, 1989.

Where do the Steelers go from here? It's only Week 5, but at 1-4, the Steelers seem destined to give Mike Tomlin his first losing season. With games against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles on the slate before the bye, the Steelers face the very real possibility of starting the season 1-7 -- something that hasn't happened in Pittsburgh since 1969. The Steelers don't believe in rebuilding years, but that's exactly how this one is playing out.

So what does it mean? Could the Steelers choose to rest players like Watt, who's recovering from a torn pectoral and arthroscopic knee surgery, for the rest of the season, while allowing Pickett to learn on the job for a basement team? Could they buck organizational precedent and make coordinator changes in-season? Could they start a fire sale of their limited assets to acquire more picks for the upcoming drafts in an effort to completely rebuild the team? Or will they ignore the noise, as Tomlin urged his team to do after a Week 3 loss to the Cleveland Browns, and keep doing what they're doing? -- Brooke Pryor

Next game: vs. Buccaneers (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

Houston 13, Jacksonville 6


What to know: The Texans' defense carried them to the win. The Jaguars were sixth in points scored per game (26.3), but the Texans became the first team to hold them under 21 points. It started by limiting Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence and intercepting him twice for a passer rating of 65. Texans rookie cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. got his first career interception, and cornerback Desmond King II finished the game off with an interception. Lawrence was consistently under duress as the Texans' pass rush was able to pressure him 14 times.

Is Dameon Pierce the leader for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award? Pierce carried the Texans' offense against the Jaguars as he rushed for 99 yards and the game-winning touchdown. He rushed for 31 yards on 10 carries in the fourth quarter. Pierce came into the game at No. 10 in rushing yards, and he is now averaging 4.8 yards per carry and has three rushing touchdowns. -- DJ Bien-Aime

Next game: at Raiders (Sunday, Oct. 23, 4:05 p.m. ET)


What to know: Quarterback Trevor Lawrence played his second bad game in a row, and now the Jaguars have a problem: Which Lawrence are they going to get each week? It's troubling that most of Lawrence's mistakes the past two games (as well as Week 1) were unforced -- including an inexcusable interception in the end zone early in the second half Sunday before another one to end the game. Not knowing what you're going to get from your quarterback each week makes it hard to be confident and make adjustments when things start to go wrong.

What happened to the turnovers? The Jaguars forced eight in the first three weeks -- one shy of their 2021 total -- but have just one in the past two games. Some of those are the bounce of the ball one way instead of another, but it seemed like getting turnovers was the defense's identity. This might be just a lull, but the Jaguars need to get things going on the takeaway front again because the offense could benefit from a few short fields. -- Mike DiRocco

Next game: at Colts (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

Tennessee 21, Washington 17


What to know: The injuries along the offensive line are testing the Titans' depth. Already down Taylor Lewan for the year, starting right guard Nate Davis was inactive because of a knee injury. The Commanders' front dominated the line of scrimmage and constantly pressured Ryan Tannehill. Left tackle Dennis Daley had his first bad game, as he struggled with Montez Sweat. Aaron Brewer gave up a sack along with Dillon Radunz, who was filling in for Davis at right guard. Washington sacked Tannehill five times. The pressure the Commanders were getting limited what the Titans could do with their playcalling.

How worried should the Titans be about the secondary? Another week, and another quarterback passes for 300-plus yards, as Carson Wentz's 359 passing yards almost beat them Sunday. Dyami Brown's 75-yard touchdown reception with Caleb Farley in coverage was the sixth play of 40 yards or more the Titans have allowed this season. Five of those have come via the pass. Brown also caught a 30-yard touchdown pass against Roger McCreary. Although the Titans won, the big plays continue to be a major issue. Tennessee's secondary has three high draft picks (Farley, McCreary and Kristian Fulton). There's no reason for that group to struggle this much. -- Turron Davenport

Next game: vs. Colts (Sunday, Oct. 23, 1 p.m. ET)


What to know: Washington no longer can ask for patience. At 1-4 in Year 3 of Ron Rivera's regime, the Commanders have not taken the step they -- or their fans -- had hoped. Carson Wentz threw for 359 yards and two touchdowns, but a possible game-winning drive ended in an interception. They lack consistency. They struggle to create better situations for the run game or play-action. And the defense still surrenders big plays and doesn't force turnovers. The offensive line is banged up but makes too many mistakes -- penalties and on assignments -- to play consistently.

Is the season already lost? Technically, there's still time for Washington to turn its season around. But the Commanders already have dug a steep hole in the NFC East. While other teams have survived injuries, Washington has not shown that it can. So, if they can get healthy, the Commanders could very well play better in a few weeks. But by then, they could be too far back to seriously challenge for a playoff spot. They need to provide reasons to believe it'll get better, and they haven't. Ron Rivera's teams typically play better in the second half of the year, but this was a season in which the Commanders needed to play better in the first half. -- John Keim

Next game: at Bears (Thursday, 8:15 p.m. ET)

L.A. Chargers 30, Cleveland 28


What to know: Coach Brandon Staley rolled the dice, and it almost backfired on him. Up 30-28 with 1:14 left, Staley went for it on fourth-and-1 from his own 46-yard line. An incompletion handed Cleveland the chance for a game-winning field goal try, but the Browns missed. This is who Staley is and who the Chargers are. And ESPN's win-probability model favored the decision (84.1% to 78.9%).

Can the Chargers keep running the ball? The Chargers came into the weekend ranked 25th in rushing. But against the Browns, L.A. finally got its ground game going, exploding for 238 yards. That production took pressure off QB Justin Herbert and allowed the Chargers to keep their defense off the field. If the Chargers can keep running the ball with Austin Ekeler & Co. going forward, they will be that much tougher to defend. -- Jake Trotter

Next game: vs. Broncos (Monday, Oct. 17, 8:15 p.m. ET)


What to know: Browns QB Jacoby Brissett spoiled what otherwise was a terrific performance with a costly late interception. On the heels of a key first-down scramble, Brissett had the opportunity to potentially take the ball in for a touchdown. Instead, he fired a pick trying to find Amari Cooper. Cleveland got another shot to win, but missed a 54-yard field goal. All three of Brissett's interceptions this season have come in the final three minutes of the fourth quarter.

What has happened to kicker Cade York? York drilled a 58-yard, game-winning field goal in Cleveland's opener and first career appearance. The fourth-round pick has struggled ever since. He missed two costly field goals again Sunday, including the game-winning try at the end. The Browns have little margin for error without Deshaun Watson and with the way their defense is playing. York's accuracy issues represent another concerning development. -- Jake Trotter

Next game: vs. Patriots (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

New Orleans 39, Seattle 32


What to know: It was Taysom Time for the Saints again, as Taysom Hill essentially became their entire offense Sunday, rushing for 112 yards and joining Archie Manning (1977 vs. Bears) as the only players in Saints franchise history with three rushing touchdowns and a touchdown pass in the same game. The Saints finally seemed to figure out their offensive roles with a mix of Hill and Andy Dalton.

How do the Saints sustain positive offensive momentum going forward? The Saints have been one step forward, two steps back all season. Now they've got to figure out a way to keep the offensive momentum going, whether that's keeping Dalton at QB, continuing to utilize Hill in all areas or figuring out how to get Michael Thomas back in the lineup as a healthy receiver. That means there will continue to be questions as to whether an injured Jameis Winston should return to the lineup or if they should stick with Dalton. -- Katherine Terrell

Next game: vs. Bengals (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


What to know: The Seahawks' defense remains a disaster, and this time, a strong day from Geno Smith and their offense wasn't enough to overcome it. A week after allowing 45 points in a win over Detroit, they were just as bad against the Saints, with no answers for Taysom Hill or Alvin Kamara. They allowed both to top 100 rushing yards, with Hill rushing for three touchdowns despite the fact that there was little mystery as to what the Saints were going to do when he lined up at quarterback. It's the second straight week in which Seattle's defense has gotten gashed by a team missing key pieces on offense, as the Saints were without their starting quarterback (Jameis Winston) and No. 1 receiver (Michael Thomas). The Seahawks have pulled off defensive turnarounds in each of the past two seasons after similarly poor starts, but there's no end in sight to this one.

Is Kenneth Walker III ready to handle the load at running back? Walker will have to step up if Rashaad Penny's injury is as serious as it looks. Penny went down in the second half after hurting an ankle, hanging his head on the sideline before being carted to the locker room. Walker, Seattle's rookie second-round pick, was off to a quiet start to this NFL career before he broke off a 69-yard touchdown run Sunday. He missed the opener after a hernia procedure and didn't seem to have a full handle on the playbook, based on the multiple times he went the wrong way on a running play. If Penny has to miss time, Walker will need to speed up his learning curve. -- Brady Henderson

Next game: vs. Cardinals (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)

Tampa Bay 21, Atlanta 15


What to know: This was a sloppy victory. The Bucs allowed the Falcons to score twice in the fourth quarter and nearly gave the game away. And once again, they gave up big plays on the ground (61 of the Falcons' 151 rushing yards came from quarterback Marcus Mariota). But Tampa Bay did a better job controlling the line of scrimmage: The defense had five sacks, and running back Leonard Fournette notched 139 yards from scrimmage with two touchdowns behind the offensive line's blocking. His 10 catches for 83 receiving yards were both career highs. The Bucs need to put four quarters together consistently, though, and they haven't really done that all season.

What should the Bucs do with receiver Julio Jones? Jones was inactive for the third time in five games Sunday with a knee injury after he left two plays into the second half last week after aggravating it. He was able to practice on a limited basis this week, but it was determined that he was unable to go during warm-ups Sunday. It's unclear whether he'll play against the Steelers next week, and it appears they will need to monitor his reps if they want to keep him for the season. It isn't ideal to have a player making $6 million sitting on the bench, but the Buccaneers didn't sign Jones for the regular season -- they signed him for December and January, in hopes of avoiding a repeat of last year when they had no healthy receivers. If they can shelve him over the next few weeks and let him get healthy, while continuing to get Scotty Miller and Jaelon Darden more involved, they'll be better off when they truly need him for their playoff push.-- Jenna Laine

Next game: at Steelers (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


What to know: The Falcons entered Sunday without tight end Kyle Pitts or running back Cordarrelle Patterson, so maybe it shouldn't be a surprise that the Atlanta offense struggled Sunday. Still, it became clear just how big an issue it might be to their offense without those two playmakers. Tampa Bay's defense is legitimate, but without either Pitts or Patterson, moving the ball and putting up points could be difficult. Atlanta did find decent work with Avery Williams at running back and Olamide Zaccheaus as a complement to Drake London at receiver, but it doesn't seem to be enough.

How do the Falcons figure out the running game going forward? In its first game without Patterson, Atlanta gave Tyler Allgeier 13 carries, Caleb Huntley eight carries and Williams three carries. That type of workload might be what this looks like over the next few weeks, too. However, none of the backs made much of a statement, and if Atlanta is able to bring back veteran Damien Williams off injured reserve -- he's eligible to return next week -- it should consider it. The Falcons are probably looking at a true running-back-by-committee situation for at least the rest of October. -- Michael Rothstein

Next game: vs. 49ers (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

Minnesota 29, Chicago 22


What to know: If nothing else this season, the Vikings have seen quarterback Kirk Cousins emerge as a late-game surgeon. He has made key plays and throws in the fourth quarter in each of the Vikings' past three games, all victories. Sunday, Cousins converted two third-downs on the ground during their final possession, including a 1-yard sneak for the winning touchdown. That came after he had completed his first 17 passes of the game, a team record. Cousins' play can still be spotty at times, but he is perhaps the key reason the Vikings are 4-1 and alone atop the NFC North.

How did this game become such a slog? The Vikings scored touchdowns on their first three possessions, were leading 21-3 midway through the second quarter and still needed a late drive to win the game. The easiest answer here is that they remain a work in progress as the conversion to new offensive and defensive schemes is underway. They're finding ways to win despite dips of concentration and intensity, and from this vantage point, it bodes well for their future success once they grow more efficient in running their schemes. -- Kevin Seifert

Next game: at Dolphins (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


What to know: After allowing Kirk Cousins to complete his first 17 attempts while running only 18 offensive plays of their own in the first half, Chicago got aggressive in the second half and scored 19 unanswered points to take a 22-21 fourth-quarter lead. Justin Fields orchestrated his best drive of the season to start the third quarter. The drive ended with rookie Velus Jones scoring his first career touchdown. Bears coach Matt Eberflus didn't take his foot off the gas in the second half. It didn't always work -- Chicago failed on its 2-point attempt after Jones' 9-yard TD -- but this team found an edge with its resilience and ability to adjust. Fields and the offense had a chance to win the game when they got the ball back with 2:26 remaining down 29-22, but Bears receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette (a former Viking) had a costly turnover that ended up sealing the loss.

Is Justin Fields turning the corner? The Bears quarterback said he felt like the passing game was starting to click against the Giants in Week 4. After a rough start in Minnesota, Fields went 12-of-13 for 135 yards and a touchdown in the second half and added five rushes for 36 yards. And his 52-yard touchdown run would have been the biggest highlight all day if it wasn't nullified by an illegal block in the back penalty on Smith-Marsette. Fields finished with 208 yards passing and a 118.8 passer rating. This game could be a sign the quarterback is turning the corner after a rough first month of the season. -- Courtney Cronin

Next game: vs. Commanders (Thursday, Oct. 13, 8:15 p.m. ET)

N.Y. Jets 40, Miami 17


What to know: For months, coach Robert Saleh has been stressing to his players the importance of closing the gap in the AFC East. One game doesn't make up for years of ineptitude, but the Jets took a step in the right direction, snapping a 12-game division losing streak. The Jets (3-2) showed they can play with a lead from beginning to end, something they hadn't done since Week 15 of the 2020 season -- a league-high 23 straight games without a wire-to-wire win. It's an important step for a young team. The Jets proved they can come from behind, as they did in two earlier wins, but it takes a different mentality to play from ahead. And, yes, it helped that the Dolphins had to play rookie third-string QB Skylar Thompson for virtually the entire game after losing Teddy Bridgewater.

How far can the Breece Hall-Michael Carter backfield tandem take the Jets? It's too early to talk about playoffs, but the Jets have a terrific one-two punch in Hall and Carter. It allows them to run a balanced offense, something they failed to do in the first month. Hall, who might be their best draft pick in a long time, became the first Jets rookie in history with 100 receiving yards and a rushing TD in the same game. He finished with 197 yards from scrimmage (97 rushing), a tremendous display of his many talents. The Jets used Hall and Carter (two TDs) at the same time more than in any previous game -- a nice wrinkle. -- Rich Cimini

Next game: at Packers (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


What to know: The Dolphins were the first team to experience the NFL's amended concussion protocol. Dolphins fans might argue their team was actually the first "victim" of the new rules, which added "ataxia" to the protocol as a "no-go" symptom. Teddy Bridgewater, in his first start filling in for the concussed Tua Tagovailoa, was placed into concussion protocol after playing just a single offensive snap. He passed his evaluation and was not diagnosed with a concussion, but a booth spotter believed he saw Bridgewater stumble, which triggered the new ataxia clause and forced him out for the remainder of the game. Rookie Skylar Thompson started strong but showed his youth during the fourth quarter, holding on to the ball for too long and eventually unraveling on a strip sack that helped the Jets put the game out of reach. The NFL pledged to use an "abundance of caution" in its amended protocol -- sometimes that means players who are not concussed will be placed in the protocol. Dolphins fans won't like it, and understandably so, but it's better than allowing potentially concussed players to reenter a game.

Who will start at quarterback next week? Both Bridgewater and Tagovailoa are in concussion protocol entering Week 6, but the former should be cleared in time for Sunday's game against the Vikings, considering he was not diagnosed with a concussion. But if Tagovailoa clears protocol, is 17 days long enough for the Dolphins to be comfortable playing him, or will they take an even more cautious approach to his return? Either way, Thompson needs to process plays more quickly before he proves to be a capable starter; entering a game with Thompson and Reid Sinnett at quarterback is not ideal. -- Marcel Louis-Jacques

Next game: vs. Vikings (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

New England 29, Detroit 0


What to know: Defense delivers. With 2022 fourth-round pick Bailey Zappe making his first career start at quarterback after injuries to Mac Jones and Brian Hoyer, the Patriots supported him with a stifling defensive performance against a Lions offense that entered the day as the NFL's top-rated unit in terms of points scored. Six (!) stops on fourth down, another interception by rookie cornerback Jack Jones and a strip sack by Matthew Judon that was returned 59 yards for a TD by Kyle Dugger provided Zappe plenty of breathing room. It resulted in the Patriots' first home shutout since 2016, when then-rookie Jacoby Brissett made his first NFL start. While Zappe wasn't asked to do too much, he was poised and played smart football (17-of-21 passing for 188 yards with a touchdown and an interception) in an overall job well done.

When will Mac Jones be ready to return? The Patriots have shown they can win with Zappe, but Jones' eventual return still provides them the most long-term upside. Jones was a limited participant in practices last week and was still limping a bit. Zappe's capable performance buys the Patriots more time for Jones to return as close to full health as possible, but at 2-3, their margin for error is still thin to keep pace in the AFC. -- Mike Reiss

Next game: at Browns (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


What to know: Detroit entered Gillette Stadium as the league's top-ranked offense but struggled mightily. Quarterback Jared Goff couldn't get anything going against New England's defense. The lackluster effort started in the opening half, when the Lions failed to score after having scored a touchdown in 12 straight halves -- which was the NFL's longest streak. The Lions also failed to convert six fourth downs Sunday, many of which came in Patriots territory. Running back D'Andre Swift (shoulder/ankle) didn't suit up for the second straight game but is expected to return after the bye week, which they hope can give them a boost.

How much is head coach Dan Campbell at fault for Detroit's 1-4 start? There's no denying that Campbell's charisma and authenticity has been a hit with players and fans. However, this isn't the first time that he's made questionable decisions in key moments, which included going for it on fourth-and-9 instead of attempting a second quarter, 49-yard field goal, which resulted in a scoop-and-score after Goff fumbled while being sacked by Patriots linebacker Matthew Judon. Campbell and his staff have repeatedly accepted the blame for these questionable coaching decisions, but they definitely have affected the Lions' poor start to the season. He holds just as much accountability as the players, and they have to fix some things after the bye week if they want to at least be respectable in the final 12 regular-season games. -- Eric Woodyard

Next game: at Cowboys (Sunday, Oct. 23, 1 p.m. ET)

N.Y. Giants 27, Green Bay 22(in London)


What to know: Daniel Jones and the Giants really showed something. They rallied from down 14 in the first half against the Packers to post a huge upset victory, perhaps their best win since beating the Cowboys late in 2016. Jones did it while clearly not 100 percent (ankle) and despite a questionable supporting cast. If anything, it put his toughness on full display. Jones went 13-of-14 passing for 136 yards in the second half. He also rushed seven times for 37 yards, before kneeling with the ball late. Jones carried a Giants offense that had Marcus Johnson, Richie James, David Sills V and Darius Slayton at wide receiver. A monster effort.

How did star RB Saquon Barkley come out of the game? The Giants' offense revolves around Barkley. He accounted for 43% of their total offense coming into the game and said this week he's "good with whatever [workload] they throw at me." But after New York went to Barkley early and often, he left Sunday's contest in the third quarter with a shoulder injury. He went to the locker room before returning to score the game-winning TD out of the Wildcat midway through the fourth. Everyone will be watching how Barkley feels this week given his importance to this offense. -- Jordan Raanan

Next game: vs. Ravens (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


What to know: At some point, the Packers are going to have to find a deep threat -- whether he's on their team right now or not. Either that or they should forget about trying and just run the ball more, because Aaron Rodgers was just chucking and hoping on Sunday. He tried to go deep to Allen Lazard several times and couldn't connect. He tried Romeo Doubs and missed him. He tried Randall Cobb, who had a nice game (seven catches for 99 yards), but Cobb has never been a consistent deep threat. Rodgers was 0-of-5 on attempts of 20 or more yards in the air, including 0-of-4 in the second half, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

What's happened to the Packers' defense?Green Bay almost lost to Bailey Zappe last week. Daniel Jones got the Packers this week. The Giants played without their top-three receivers, and it didn't matter. All the talk in the offseason was how the Packers have one of their best defenses in recent years. Yet they still managed to leave players open, miss tackles and commit costly penalties. It started in Week 1 when they let Justin Jefferson destroy that, and it hasn't gotten much better -- if at all. The Giants scored on five straight drives after opening the game with consecutive three-and-outs. -- Rob Demovsky

Next game: vs. Jets (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


Indianapolis 12, Denver 9


What to know: The Colts' defense is legit. Russell Wilson and the Broncos' offense have some deep issues, no doubt. And Denver's failures certainly contributed to the success of the Indianapolis defense. But the Colts dominated the line of scrimmage, and that is an area where having an advantage can go a long way. Indianapolis has not allowed any points in the fourth quarter or overtime in its five games.

Can the Colts stabilize their offensive line even a little? They're desperately trying. The Colts reconfigured their lineup for Thursday night's matchup, making moves at three of the five positions. It didn't work, though, so they might not be done tinkering. During their 10-day layoff before Week 6, they will continue examining their options. But nothing matters unless highly paid linemen such asQuenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly and Braden Smith play, at minimum, at a respectable level. That might be enough to allow embattled quarterback Matt Ryan and an emerging group of pass-catchers to keep the Colts in games. Maybe. -- Stephen Holder

Next game: vs. Jaguars (Sunday, Oct. 16, 1 p.m. ET)


What to know: All those good intentions from the offseason simply don't matter now, as the Broncos' offense has the look of a group that overreaches when it doesn't have to and overthinks when it shouldn't. The result is the Broncos simply don't score touchdowns at a rate that's anywhere close to a playoff hopeful. Thursday night, they handed the Colts an ugly overtime win with two Wilson interceptions in the fourth quarter -- both in Colts territory. And on the game's last play, when a conversion of a fourth-and-inches would have given them four chances at a game-winning touchdown, they elected to put Wilson in the shotgun, and he threw an incompletion to end the game.

Is Russell Wilson pressing? Not all the time, but there are moments, especially when Wilson is trying to push the ball downfield when he doesn't have to, when it looks like he is trying to live up to the trade and his contract on every play. He played his most composed, most efficient game in the season opener -- the loss in Seattle -- and it also happens to be his only 300-yard passing game of the young season. The Broncos haven't protected him well enough, and running back Javonte Williams' season-ending knee injury will take some adjustment, but things aren't going to improve until Wilson -- and coach Nathaniel Hackett -- settle down a little. Furthermore, it was reported Saturday that Wilson is dealing with a partially torn lat near his throwing shoulder.-- Jeff Legwold

Next game: at Chargers (Monday, Oct. 17, 8:15 p.m. ET)

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