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NFL Week 5 Preview: Hide Your Balls — Tom Brady Is Back

New England Patriots v Carolina Panthers
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The NFL made it through four weeks of its 2016 season without Tom Brady throwing a single pass. That changes this Sunday. Here’s a preview of Week 5:

Sunday, October 9

He’s Baaaack…

New England at Cleveland | FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS
Unless you are a New England Patriots/University of Michigan fan, you probably hate Tom Brady. The Pats quarterback has done a lot of winning — and perhaps some bending of the rules — to justify that scorn. Fresh off his four-game suspension for his role in the ‘Deflategate’ saga that seems like it happened when teams were still wearing leather helmets, Brady returns this week with New England (3-1) still on top of the AFC East, because of course they are.

As last week’s shutout loss to the Bills at home proves, the Patriots aren’t unbeatable. The 39-year-old Brady is likely to show some rust as he gets back into the shape that helped him get the team to six Super Bowls, but that may not matter against the Browns, who are terrible. Cleveland (0-4) is two or three more losses away from thinking solely about the 2017 NFL Draft. Maybe they can find themselves a quarterback…

Three Teams Are Still Perfect. Can They Stay That Way?
Green Bay Packers v Minnesota Vikings
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Houston at Minnesota | U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS
Philadelphia at Detroit | Ford Field, Detroit; 1 p.m. (ET) on FOX
Atlanta at Denver | Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver; 4:05 p.m. (ET) on FOX

The Vikings, Eagles and Broncos all have yet to lose in the 2016 season. Each team will face a significant test in Week 5.

Led by the league’s seventh-best defense, Minnesota (4-0) has overcome the loss of starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson, and ascended to the top of the NFC North. Houston (3-1) has relied on the NFL’s fifth-best defense to take a two-game lead in the AFC South, but they may have to go the rest of 2016 without defensive stud J.J. Watt. Even without Watt, the Texans defense will try to get after Vikes’ QB Sam Bradford. Houston’s Brock Osweiler must lead his team to points against a defense that leads the NFC in sacks and interceptions.

Philadelphia (3-0) has been the surprise of the league thus far this season, mostly because of an aggressive defense coordinated by Jim Schwartz. Detroit (1-3) knows all about Schwartz, who coached the Lions from 2009-2013. Detroit’s Matthew Stafford must find a way to attack and wear down the Eagles defense. Philly rookie quarterback Carson Wentz has yet to commit a turnover, which is another key reason the Birds have flown to a perfect start. Will that continue this week?

Irresistible force vs. immovable object: who ya got? Perhaps Sunday’s best game will pit undefeated Denver (4-0) against Atlanta (3-1). The Broncos have the league’s second-best pass defense and lead the NFL in sacks with 17. They have yet to allow an opponent to throw for 200 yards in a game. Enter Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan, who leads the NFL in passing yardage, touchdowns and rating. The Broncos must decide if quarterback Trevor Siemian or rookie Paxton Lynch will guide their offense. Siemian injured his non-throwing shoulder last week against Tampa, while Lynch looked good in his NFL debut. The Falcons defense must keep them from controlling the clock.

The Bengals Will Test The Cowboys’ Young Guns
Chicago Bears v Dallas Cowboys
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Cincinnati at Dallas | AT&T Stadium, Arlington; 4:25 p.m. (ET) on CBS
For once, the punditry was right: running back Ezekiel Elliott was a perfect fit for the Cowboys. Thanks to the play of Elliott and fellow rookie Dak Prescott at quarterback, Dallas (3-1) has become an early-season success story with wins over the Redskins, Bears and 49ers — all teams that suck (combined record of 4-8). Despite their .500 record, Cincinnati (2-2) does not suck. The Bengals are still one of the AFC’s best teams. If Dallas can win this game, they are for real. If Cincy loses, they are in real trouble in the AFC playoff race.

A Game With Eli Manning & Aaron Rodgers Should Be More Exciting Than This

Giants Packers

N.Y. Giants at Green Bay | Lambeau Field, Green Bay 8:30 p.m. (ET) on NBC

Two quarterbacks with three Super Bowl rings between them? WHERE’S THE HYPE? At some point, Eli Manning and Aaron Rodgers became old news in the NFL. They aren’t deflating footballs or wearing fine-incurring cleats or kneeling during the national anthem or…appearing in NFC title games. New York (2-2) and Green Bay (2-1) are still relevant, but the lack of attention this Sunday’s primetime game is getting indicates that the window of relevancy for each of these teams — and quarterbacks — is slowly closing.

Other Games

Thursday, October 6
Arizona at San Francisco | Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara; 8:25 p.m. (ET) on CBS

Sunday, October 9
Chicago at Indianapolis | Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis; 1 p.m. (ET) on FOX
Tennessee at Miami | Hard Rock Stadium, Miami; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS
Washington at Baltimore | M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore; 1 p.m. (ET) on FOX
N.Y. Jets at Pittsburgh | Heinz Field, Pittsburgh; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS
Buffalo at Los Angeles | Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles; 4:25 p.m. (ET) on CBS
San Diego at Oakland | Oakland Coliseum, Oakland; 4:25 p.m. (ET) on CBS

Monday, October 10
Tampa Bay at Carolina | Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte; 8:30 p.m. (ET) on ESPN

Bye Week
Kansas City, New Orleans, Seattle, Jacksonville

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