Cam Newton, QB (Panthers)

CAR 27 at DET 24

After the offense struggled a bit in the red zone during the first 3 games of the season, Carolina has had 2 decisive wins on the road and the team currently sits atop the NFC South with a 4-1 record.  What has made a big difference for the Panthers is QB Cam Newton’s improved performance.  During Week 5, he really shined and was the league’s passing leader with 355 yards, 3 TDs, 0 interceptions and a 141.8 rating.  The offense has also backed away somewhat from involving their newest rushing weapon on the ground, rookie RB Christian McCaffrey (34 Att, 96 yards, 0 TD).  And instead, the Panthers have used him more in the passing game (27 catches, 237 yards, 1 TD) in addition to WR Devin Funchess (24 catches, 269 yards, 3 TDs). The offensive line has also stepped up their play to help Newton and his surgically repaired shoulder improve each week.  Next up for Carolina are the Eagles on a quick turnaround (TNF).  Philadelphia’s defensive line hasn’t been very effective in sacking QBs this season (only 12 sacks in 5 games), but have hurried opposing QBs 68 times.  It’ll be interesting to see how Newton responds if the Eagles can put real pressure on him in Week 6’s game.

Leonard Fournette, RB (Jaguars)

JAX 30 at PIT 9

Last week’s rushing leader was this former LSU star with 28 attempts, a career high 181 yards, and 2 TDs.  Nearly half of those yards came from a 90-yard TD run, the longest for any rookie in league history.  For this accomplishment, Fournette’s Week 5 game-worn jersey was sent to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  Combined, the 22-year old rookie back has 466 total rushing yards (good for 2nd behind KC’s rookie RB Kareem Hunt), the most TDs (5), and has the most Attempts Per Game (21.8).  Fellow team member guard A.J. Cann said about Fournette, “He sets the whole tone for the whole team, and that’s what we needI don’t get to watch him much because I’m blocking. But when he does pass the line of scrimmage and I end up behind him, seeing little moves or seeing him run somebody over, it’s impressive and it’s a joy to watch.” Now the fun will be to watch as Hunt and Fournette compete in the race for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award.

A.J. Green, WR (Bengals)

BUF 16 at CIN 20

The stats show that this 29-year old 6’4, 210 lb. receiver caught the ball for more yards than any other during Week 5.  He had 7 receptions for 189 yards and 1 TD including a 47-yard catch in the 3Q to set up a field goal.  Last week also marked Green’s 30th 100-yard game, 1 behind the club record (Chad Johnson).  But, what the stats don’t show is that the 3 turnovers Green also caused during the game (2 passes went through his hands for interceptions & a lost fumble) almost unraveled his successful performance.  Admittedly, Green credits the whole team for “[bailing] us out”.  But, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis let him have redemption.  Late in the game Lewis asked Green if he was “OK” after all the turnovers. When Green confirmed he was, Lewis told him, “Then go win the game.”  Six plays later, Green outplayed his counterpart, a Bills corner (Tre-Davious White), to get the ball down to the Buffalo 5 which set up a Bengals score and they never looked back.  Luckily for Green, his mistakes will show up on Bengals’ QB Andy Dalton’s stats and not his.  When asked about his up and down day, Green told reporters on Sunday, “This was a first, I hope it’s a last.”

Harrison Butker, K (Chiefs)

KC 42 at HOU 34

This 22-year old rookie kicker earned the nickname Chiefs’ Head Coach Andy Reid gave him during Week 5 “” when he went 5 for 5 in field goal attempts (including 3 from 40+ yards), had 3 extra points, and earned a total of 18 points for the team win over the Texans.  Adding in the 3 he made during Week 4, Butker became only the 3rd kicker since 1950 to make at least 8 field goals through his first 2 games.  Beyond his natural talent of kicking a ball far, the former Georgia Tech alum has been able to put the nerves aside and keep his eyes on the prize, an impressive feat for such a young player.  During his first ever NFL game during Week 4, Butker nailed a 43-yard field goal at game’s end with the score tied 20-20 and 8 seconds remaining (which was incidentally – on Monday Night Football.  And, obviously, he was perfect in Week 5’s game on Sunday against the Texans.  Butker recently summed up the last 2 week’s whirlwind this way: “I’m loving every minute of it.”

Joey Bosa, DE (Chargers)

LAC 27 at NYG 22

One of the best performing defensive players during Week 5 was this 22-year old sophomore who had his best game of the season so far.  Bosa had two Q1 sacks for a loss of 6 yards, 6 tackles (1 for a loss), 1 forced fumble and 2 QB hits.  In tandem with fellow Chargers linebacker and NFL’s Defensive Player of September, Melvin Ingram (also 2 sacks in the game), the dynamic duo tormented the Giants’ offense and forced QB Eli Manning into an interception and 2 fumbles.  Together, Bosa and Ingram combine for a league-high 12 sacks and are considered by many to be the NFL’s top pass rush team.   If they keep up this high level of play, it’ll give Los Angeles a chance to win more games and prove they belong in their newly adopted city.

NY Giants (Team)

LAC 27 at NYG 22

When I made my pre-season picks, I honestly thought the Giants would make it to the playoffs.  I saw a healthy OBJ, the acquisition of veteran WR Brandon Marshall and the newly stacked defense as a combination that could make them a real contender to win the NFC East.  But, 5 games into the season, NY is woefully bad, have no wins, made silly mistakes, are breeding disorder, and are racking up huge injuries to key players, among other problems.  To top it all off, word is that second-year head coach Ben McAddo has lost control of the team.  At least he is conscious of that fact.  He said recently, “Everyone is disappointed, I am aware of it. Everyone is irritated, I am aware of it. But my focus right now is trying to help with the personnel department to field a football team this week to give us a chance to prepare and win.” Well, right now the 2017 Giants are on track to set the franchise’s worst 16-game record and I think they have a shot at it.  That was 3-12-1 in 1983.


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