Three things to watch for in Sunday's NFL action

As the action in the NFL enters Week 5, there will be no shortage of intrigue

Tom Brady, New England, Patriots,

Image: Steven Senne AP/Press Association Images

With the NFL entering Week 5, there are plenty of match-ups that look set to provide talking points for the coming days. 

The return of Tom Brady

Bill Belicihick revels in adversity; four weeks without one of the best players in the league and a guaranteed Hall of Famer was merely further chance for him to prove that he can solve any puzzle you put in front of him, be that with Jimmy Garoppolo or Jacoby Brissett at quarterback. 

When Tom Brady finally decided to stop fighting the NFL and accept his four game ban, many were predicting that the Patriots were going to come into this game with one, or at most two wins to their name. Thanks to Belichick and his system, they have a 3-1 record and couldn't have timed their loss against the Bills any better. 

They know now that they can be beaten, and need to refocus to overcome the Browns this week. Brady may return with a chip on his shoulder and a point to prove, or he may come back rusty and need to work his way back in to the game, but after posting a bagel against the Bills, you can reasonably expect that the team will certainly not lack intensity this weekend.

Are the Oakland Raiders finally figuring it out?

The Raiders are 3-1, which nicely mirrors nicely the record of their opponents the San Diego Chargers, who enter the game with a 1-3 record. Two of their wins were incredibly close-fought affairs, however. They recorded a 28-27 win over Baltimore last week and a 35-34 win over the Saints in Week 1, suggesting they were fairly close to coming into this game with a record that wouldn't make for such pleasant reading.

The reason they have been able to see those games out is, somewhat, down to the fact that they can manage games better and are not shooting themselves in the foot with silly errors.

Quarterback Derek Carr leads the NFL in red zone percentage, and his line is protecting him too, as the Raiders have allowed just two sacks so far this season - contrast that to the 15 Andrew Luck has taken at the other end of the table. That means that they have a player under centre who is being allowed to show his best form and makes relatively few mistakes, and that can go a long way to providing the wins that might see the Raiders finally end their playoff drought.

A perfect chance to keep a perfect start going

The Vikings' defence has surprised a few people this season with how valuable they have been, not only to head coach Mike Zimmer, but also to Fantasy Football players around the world who made the decision to pick them up. 

That strong platform has allowed them to go 4-0 as they head into Week 5, and they have been forced to overcome a number of difficult obstacles already this season that would have probably derailed most other teams.

Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater suffered a torn ACL and dislocated knee in practice back in August, which meant moving to make a trade and hurriedly slotting in Sam Bradford. Then running back Adrian Peterson went down with a knee injury that required surgery, and it started to look as though the Vikings might not be getting any luck this season. 

Image: Andy Clayton-King AP/Press Association Images

However, their impressive defence has kept their opponents to just 10 points for the last two weeks running, and Bradford looks to be at home in a system that hasn't asked him to really move outside of his comfort zone. They've kept him very well protected, as Minnesota are third in the table when it comes to sacks allowed, and even if Peterson were to come back, he would have to be satisfied with a reduced role in a team that is changing their style - and it's working.

With Brock Osweiler still settling in with the Texans (the Patriots held them scoreless just two weeks ago) and no J.J. Watt to make the big plays on defence, the Vikings come up against a weakened opponent, giving them the perfect chance to extend their unbeaten record to 5-0.

Week 5 fixtures

  • Cardinals 33-21 49ers (F)
  • Texans @ Vikings
  • Bears @ Colts
  • Jets @ Steelers
  • Titans @ Dolphins
  • Eagles @ Lions
  • Patriots @ Browns
  • Washington @ Ravens
  • Falcons @ Broncos
  • Bengals @ Cowboys
  • Chargers @ Raiders
  • Bills @ Rams
  • Giants @ Packers
  • Buccaneers @ Panthers (Monday)