With Week 4 in the books, the 2013 NFL season is almost a quarter of the way over. Last week, the New Orleans Saints, Kansas City Chiefs, Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks, and New England Patriots all successfully defended their perfect records, while the Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins fell from the unbeaten ranks. Looking ahead at Week 5, all of the undefeated teams will be in action on the road, taking on squads with a 2-2 mark or better.
Cowboys (2-2) vs Broncos (4-0) | AT&T Stadium, Oct. 6
Denver has arguably been the most dominant team in the NFL thus far, winning by an average margin of 22 points per game en route to securing a perfect 4-0 record. While they have looked impressive on both sides of the ball—especially on offense, where Peyton Manning set an NFL record with 16 touchdowns through the first four games—the Broncos have been the beneficiaries of a favorable schedule, as their four opponents have combined for just four total wins. This week, the squad will face its first real test, a road game against Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys at a hostile environment inside the sprawling AT&T Stadium.
If the Cowboys want to knock off the NFL’s top team, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin will have to find a way to shore up his defense quickly, as the unit ranks 27th in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game.
Bears (3-1) vs Saints (4-0) | Soldier Field, Oct. 6
Soldier Field will be the site of this showdown between two of the game’s top gunslingers, Jay Cutler and Drew Brees. Last week, the Bears slipped to 3-1 on the season with a road loss at the Detroit Lions, while the Saints cruised to 4-0 with a dominant performance over the previously unbeaten Miami Dolphins.
The Bears, who have traditionally fared better in Chicago, have been playing with fire on their home turf, needing two heroic comeback efforts from Cutler to salvage wins in the first two home games of the year. The Saints, who have been terrific in their three home games, though looked sluggish in a last-second, Week 2 win at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If the current trends continue, this contest could be destined to come down to the wire.
Texans (2-2) vs 49ers (2-2) | Candlestick Park, Oct. 6
This inter-conference game is reserved for the primetime Sunday night slot, and is certainly worthy of the spotlight. The contest features teams that were heavily favored in their respective divisions before each endured a two-game losing streak. Last week, the San Francisco 49ers were able to regain their footing by burying the St. Louis Rams on the road, while the Houston Texans faltered once again, losing in overtime to the Seattle Seahawks after blowing a late lead in regulation.
With San Francisco and Houston both at 2-2 on the season, this game could take on the feel of a must-win tilt, as both teams will desperately want to avoid falling below .500 at this juncture of the season. The 49ers, who have struggled to move the ball through the air thus far, will likely have to lean on their run game once more, as the Texans are allowing a mere 141 passing yards per game to lead the NFL.
Giants (0-4) vs Eagles (1-3) | MetLife Stadium, Oct. 6
Even though the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles have only one win between them, they are both very much still in the hunt for the division lead, as the first-place Dallas Cowboys sit at just 2-2. The Giants have been victims of a very difficult schedule—their opponents have an 11-4 combined record—but will have a chance to break into the win column in this NFC East matchup, as the Eagles’ well-documented struggles on defense could leave them vulnerable to Eli Manning and his talented receiving corps
If the Giants hope to end their skid, they must tend to some trouble spots of their own, as the team’s shaky run defense will have to stop LeSean McCoy, the league’s top rusher through four games with 468 yards on the ground.
Packers (1-2) vs Lions (3-1) | Lambeau Field, Oct. 6
The Detroit Lions are fresh off an impressive dismantling of the Chicago Bears, but will have their hands full as they travel to Green Bay to take on the well-rested Packers, who are coming off a Week 4 bye. Detroit’s 3-1 start to the year has been one of the most surprising stories of the early season, but the Packers’ disappointing 1-2 start is perhaps even more shocking. Aaron Rodgers and Co. will pull out all of the stops to avoid digging themselves into a 1-3 hole, but they will still have to stop Matt Stafford and Reggie Bush, who will be facing a defense that has given up over 400 yards per game thus far.
Patriots (4-0) vs Bengals (2-2) | Paul Brown Stadium, Oct. 6
While both teams own some of the league’s most dynamic playmakers on the offensive side of the football, it has been the defenses that have kept these AFC squads in contention early—New England and Cincinnati rank sixth and 11th, respectively, in points allowed per game. The undefeated Patriots could receive a huge boost if they are able to welcome back star tight end Rob Gronkowski to the starting lineup, but they will face a tall order in earning a win in Cincinnati, where the Bengals haven’t lost yet this season.