Here is how The Examiner breaks down this week in the NFL.
WEEK 5 STORY LINES
1. Dallas is not only the class of the NFC East, it’s a serious challenger for the NFC crown, as well. The Cowboys’ defense has limited runners to 3.7 yards per carry and only one touchdown. But what’s more impressive, and scary, is their passing attack. Quarterback Tony Romo has thrown for 11 touchdowns against only three interceptions. And look at this stat: He’s averaging 9.91 yards per attempt, second only to New England’s Tom Brady. Terrell Owens — remember him? — is averaging 19.1 yards on 19 catches. And one more thing: Get the Cowboys early. In the second half, Dallas has outscored the opposition 107-40.
2. Weren’t the Cleveland Browns supposed to be dead after their 34-7 opening-day thrashing against the Pittsburgh Steelers? Well, they still might not do much this year. But there’s been a definite improvement offensively. It shouldn’t be such a surprise given the receiving talent, particularly tight end Kellen Winslow (20 catches, 367 yards, one touchdown) and acrobatic receiver Braylon Edwards (18, 375, four). Jamal Lewis has 371 yards rushing, but 216 came in one game. Also, the line has allowed just two sacks the past three games. Now, about that defense …
3. Everyone hailed the New Orleans Saints for being able to land running back Reggie Bush in last year’s draft after Houston bypassed him. But Bush has yet to prove he’ll be the same player in the NFL that he was in college. He’s averaging 2.8 yards per carry and 4.4 yards per catch. With Deuce McAllister out, Bush must prove he’s a quality back.
— John Keim
GAME OF THE WEEK
Seahawks (3-1) at Steelers (3-1)
After four games, Pittsburgh is the more balanced team in this rematch from the Super Bowl of two years ago. The Steelers have the seventh-ranked offense and the second-ranked defense. And quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is off to a strong start with eight touchdown passes against three interceptions. But the Steelers also have injury questions in the secondary and at receiver entering this game. That will play a factor. Seattle has lost one game on a last-minute field goal at upstart Arizona and the Seahawks typically have a hard time traveling east. What they must worry about is their run defense, which is allowing 4.2 yards per carry. Pittsburgh will try to exploit that with Willie Parker.
— John Keim
WEEK 5 PICKS
DOLPHINS AT TEXANS </B>Dolphins coach Cam Cameron must feel like he’s back coaching at Indiana. Dolphins’ “D” is aging and bad. Texans 23, Dolphins 10
FALCONS AT TITANS Harrington fever! Seriously? Falcons’ “D” must stop Chris Brown. Yes, Chris Brown. Titans 24, Falcons 10
LIONS AT REDSKINS Redskins are 13-13 at home in the second Joe Gibbs era. But Lions are 0-20 in D.C. Redskins 23, Lions 20
JETS AT GIANTS New York fans convinced rest of world cares only about this game. Yawn. G-men 17, J-E-T-S 16
SEAHAWKS AT STEELERS Oh, good, another chance to hear Seahawks fans complain about the Super Bowl officiating. Seahawks 21, Steelers 16
CARDINALS AT RAMS Cards on a roll! Cards are playoff-bound! Whisenhunt is the best! Upset special Rams 20, Cards 19
PANTHERS AT SAINTS The Saints can’t pass, run or defend. Naturally, it’s a good time to pick them. Saints 20, Panthers 16
BROWNS AT PATRIOTS Browns haven’t won consecutive games since Weeks 5 and 6 in 2003. Keep waiting. Pats 34, Browns 24
JAGUARS AT CHIEFS Jags a few weeks from annual swoon. Chiefs play four of next five at home. Jaguars 17, Chiefs 14
BUCCANEERS AT COLTS Over-under on Tampa 2 “D” references? 75. Bucs in trouble minus Cadillac. Dungys 27, Former Dungys 20
RAVENS AT 49ERS What’s with all these QBs named Trent? Dilfer gets a shot at team he led to Super Bowl. Ravens 21, Niners 17
CHARGERS AT BRONCOS Norv Turner has turned around the Chargers! Oops. Broncs are two last-second kicks from 0-5. Chargers 23, Broncos 21
BEARS AT PACKERS Forget QB, what’s wrong with Bears’ “D”? Opposing QBs have 102.1 passer rating. Packers 21, Bears 13
COWBOYS AT BILLS Anyone still wondering if Tony Romo can recover from the botched hold in the playoffs? Cowboys 30, Bills 17
— John Keim
PLAYER TO WATCH
Carolina Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers was touted as a possible defensive MVP before the season, but he hasn’t played like one. Peppers had 53½ sacks in his first five seasons, but he has none in 2007. And he’s on pace to finish with a career low in tackles.