Here are 10 things I'll be keeping my eye on in Week 5:
1. Jets cleared for takeoff
The Jets had five things happen to them this week that should really help their chances to go far. They get back their best cover corner (Darrelle Revis), their best receiver (Santonio Holmes), their best pass rusher (Calvin Pace) and two very good players (Randy Moss and Marshawn Lynch) left the division. It sure looks like a clear path to the playoffs, but the Jets do get a visit from Moss on Monday night.
2. Recipe for disaster
Rookie quarterbacks Max Hall and Jimmy Clausen are now the starters, yet neither the Cardinals or Panthers thought enough of either guy to take them in the first round. While Clausen went in the second round, Hall wasn't even drafted. What happened to letting guys learn from the bench? Both quarterbacks are up against 3-1 teams and will be asked to throw a lot more than they should to just stay in the game.
Week 5 matchups to watch
3. Reserves get the call
You never have enough running backs, and two backups will be counted on to perform this weekend. Ryan Torain takes over for the Redskins, and he has a chance to secure the job for the year. Mike Bell is a short-yardage power back that has to hold down the fort until LeSean McCoy comes back. If you read the Wednesday injury report, you would think another eight to 10 starters would be out. However, as one GM said, "We are already at the point in the season that the starting running backs just can't be ready for a Wednesday practice."
4. Bear in mind
The Chicago passing game was destroyed last week and left Jay Cutler unable to play the second half or Todd Collins to finish the game. Here's what the Panthers are looking at as they prepare for the Bears. Ten sacks last week -- three against seven-man protection. Three times Cutler held the ball over 6 seconds, rarely seeing the free blitzer coming in the five- or six-man protection schemes as the receivers consistently ran 18-yard stems. With Cutler out, the Panthers have lots of options to get after Collins, even with a questionable pass rush group. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz has to respond with a quick-passing attack and some answers on third down. The Bears only convert 21 percent of third downs, worst in the league.
5. Don't blitz these guys
Four weeks of action has revealed a pattern about what quarterbacks to blitz and which ones to play coverage against.
» Peyton Manning might have a weak offensive line but teams have blitzed him 45 times, and he responded with four touchdowns and no interceptions.
» Joe Flacco is under some scrutiny in Baltimore, however, his blitz report says be careful. He's seen pressure 60 times and has delivered four touchdowns and been sacked just once.
» Tony Romo has only played in three games but has already seen 54 pressure calls. He's returned the favor with two touchdowns, no interceptions and just one sack.
6. Sam I am
It's early in Sam Bradford's career, but as general manager Billy Devaney said to me this week, "Sam has the traits you look for in a franchise QB. He's the hardest worker on the team (and) lives in the building on Tuesday (the players' day off)." James Laurinaitis called him a natural leader and coach Steve Spagnuolo said he is cool under pressure. After four weeks, the numbers don't lie. He throws it 42 times a game and is on course for 3,500-plus yards and 20-plus touchdowns as a rookie. By the way, he's also on a two-game winning streak and has connected with 12 different receivers.
7. Young Lions growing up
The Lions-Rams game might not be tops on your list of games to watch, but besides Bradford, there are two other rookies in the hunt for year-end honors and possibly a trip to the Pro Bowl if they keep up the production. Ndamukong Suh is tied with the Saints' Sedrick Ellis for most sacks by a defensive tackle with three and his 13 tackles, which is an unofficial statistic, is among the best in the league for his position. Jahvid Best's 391 yards from scrimmage is far and away the best among rookies. In fact, the next in line is Ryan Mathews at 203.
8. Ready to buck the trend?
Eight teams come into Week 5 with a heavy-run tendency on first downs (Ravens, Panthers, Vikings, Jets, Chargers, Buccaneers, Titans, and Chiefs). The scouting report tells opponents to get eight in the box and play the run. The counter argument for these offenses is to throw on first down. Keep an eye on how this chess match plays out this weekend.
9. Favorite matchups
Vikings DE Jared Allen only has five sacks in his last 10 road games, including the playoffs, and needs a big night against Jets LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson. Panthers LT Jordan Gross squares off against old teammate Julius Peppers as the Bears come to Carolina. Clay Mathews, who leads the league with seven sacks, faces Redskins RT Jammal Brown when Mathews comes from that side, but who knows where the Packers will line him up half the time. Chargers LB Shaun Phillips had four sacks last week and now Raiders RT Langston Walker has to try and stop him.
10. Tight ends taking over?
Tight ends are becoming a critical piece to the passing game. A tight end is a leading receiver for nine teams (Browns, Rams, Packers, Lions, Saints, Chargers, Raiders, Jets, and Seahawks). There are another eight teams with a tight end challenging for the team lead in receptions. Defenses are struggling to cover these athletic tight ends. Teams have triple covered Antonio Gates and doubled Jermichael Finley and Dustin Keller on a regular basis.