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Week 5 NFL thoughts

A few quick observations on the fifth week of the season.

• I had the Vikings winning two games this season. I also had Tennessee winning the AFC South. Wow, do both of those predictions look stupid. The Vikings have already doubled the win total I had for them, moving to 4-1 with their 30-7 pounding of the hapless Titans. A healthy Adrian Peterson, a playing-his-butt-off Percy Harvin and a significantly improved Christian Ponder might just make this a good enough offense to compliment a decent defense and keep the Vikings in the hunt. Meanwhile, the Titans can't stop anybody, Chris Johnson has been a complete bust and they've resorted to having a 37-year-old Matt Hasselbeck chuck it 43 times to try to win. Somehow, that didn't work.

• Another team that's certainly better than I thought it would be is Miami, which scored a very impressive 17-13 win at Cincinnati. I didn't even realize this until I was researching a column about the Bears this morning, but the Dolphins rank first in the NFL in rush defense. And Ryan Tannehill, who was 17-for-26 for 223 yards with no interceptions Sunday, has been miles better than I ever thought he'd be as a rookie. The way the Bills and Jets have played the past few weeks, it's not a stretch to say that the Dolphins might be the second-best team in their division. In a watered-down AFC, it's not impossible that they'll remain in the wild-card hunt, either, though I can't imagine them staying with New England for the division.

• The Joe-Flacco-is-becoming-an-elite-quarterback bandwagon (which I was never, and will probably never be, on) lost some steam when he went 13-for-27 for 187 yards, no touchdowns and an interception at Kansas City. The Chiefs held Ray Rice, Torrey Smith and company to three field goals. And unbelievably, because Matt Cassel was less effective than Flacco, the Chiefs still lost. I can't believe it took an injury for the Chiefs to replace him; nor can I believe that they didn't have a better backup plan for their mediocre quarterback than Brady Quinn. But even though Jamaal Charles is averaging 5.4 yards per carry and the defense is coming around, quarterback play looks like it's going to keep Kansas City from going anywhere.

• I continue to be underwhelmed by the Steelers, even after they beat the Eagles 16-14 on a last-second field goal. Their defense finally forced a couple of turnovers Sunday, but Michael Vick's Eagles turn the ball over to everybody, it seems, so it's tough to award too much credit. Rashard Mendenhall averaged 5.8 yards per carry in his first game of the season; I highly doubt that's sustainable. I continue to think that, in almost every other season in the AFC for the past decade or so, this Pittsburgh team would probably finish around 8-8 and miss the playoffs. As it is, six teams have to represent the conference in the playoffs, and the Steelers are probably one of them, almost by default.


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