NFL Week 5: Big questions, risers, fallers and takeaways

ByNFL Nation ESPN logo
Sunday, October 8, 2023

Week 5 of the NFL season got started on Thursday night with a Chicago Bears breakout, as Justin Fields threw four touchdown passes and the Bears got their first win, beating the Washington Commanders.

On Sunday, the Jacksonville Jaguars' defense slowed the high-flying Buffalo Bills offense enough to win in London. Back in the United States, the Detroit Lions rolled to 4-1, the New Orleans Saints shut out the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers' defense shined bright in the fourth quarter against the Baltimore Ravens.

Our NFL Nation reporters reacted to all the action, answering lingering questions coming out of each game and picking out who -- or what -- is rising and falling for every team. Let's get to it.

Jump to a matchup:



Detroit 42, Carolina 24


Have the Lions upgraded at running back with David Montgomery as RB1? With Jahmyr Gibbs out with a hamstring injury, Montgomery continued to carry the load with 109 yards on 19 carries. His rushing touchdown on Sunday gives him six in his first four games. Former Lions RB Jamaal Williams set the franchise mark with 17 rushing touchdowns last season, with most coming on the goal line, but Montgomery has displayed an ability to do more. He scored a 42-yard touchdown in the first quarter, which was the second longest of his career.

Stock up after the win: TESam LaPorta. The rookie is proving to be a steal by GM Brad Holmes, scoring two touchdowns Sunday. His early connection with quarterback Jared Goff has made him an instant contributor for the offense. LaPorta's 25 receptions in his first five games are the third most for a tight end since 1950, joining Keith Jackson (29 in 1988) and Jordan Reed (26 in 2013).

Stock down after the win: Third-down offense. There wasn't much to nitpick after a complete win on both sides of the ball. But the offense was just 4-for-9 on third downs against the Panthers. After five games, the Lions' 39.4% conversion rate ranks 16th in the NFL; it's one of the rare categories in which the Lions' offense isn't among the league's best. -- Eric Woodyard

Next game: at Buccaneers (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)


Should the Panthers sit Bryce Young in favor of Andy Dalton? Young's turnovers are hurting the Panthers, who've given up 45 points off turnovers this season. Of those, 31 came directly after a Young fumble or interception, including 14 in the first half against the Lions. The most efficient the offense has been was in Week 3 vs. Seattle, when veteran backup Dalton started in place of an injured Young. The Seahawks had zero points off turnovers. Young is the long-term answer, but Dalton may be the short-term solution for this 0-5 team as it looks for an identity.

Stock up after the loss: Laviska Shenault Jr. The Panthers have been trying to decide whether he's best at wide receiver or running back. They seemed to tip their hand Sunday, giving the 2020 second-round pick (by the Jaguars) five rushes for 27 yards.

Stock down after the loss: RBMiles Sanders. He got a four-year, $25.4 million deal to be Carolina's lead back and take the pressure off Bryce Young as a runner and receiver. He came into Sunday's game averaging 2.9 yards per carry, and against the Lions he had only 32 yards rushing and a fumble that led to a Lions touchdown. -- David Newton

Next game: at Dolphins (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

Atlanta 21, Houston 19


IsKyle Pitts'season breakout what jolted Ridder's best day as a pro? After a week full of questions about job security, quarterback Desmond Ridder responded with his best game as a pro, completing 28 of 37 passes for 329 yards and a touchdown while rushing once for a 7-yard touchdown and completing his second fourth-quarter comeback this season. It's his first game over 250 yards passing as a pro. A lot of it had to do with the reemergence of the tight end, who had his most receptions (seven for 87 yards) since his rookie year in 2021. This Ridder-Pitts connection is what Atlanta had been looking for.

Stock up after the win: DC Ryan Nielsen. Atlanta's defense has consistently done enough to win, allowing one touchdown per game over the past two weeks and kept the Falcons in games while the offense has had to sort out its issues.

Stock down after the win: RBCordarrelle Patterson. It's likely the Falcons will say Patterson is still working his way back into the lineup, but he's been an offensive nonfactor his first two weeks, with a handful of combined snaps and one catch for 7 yards. -- Michael Rothstein

Next game: vs. Commanders (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


Will the Texans' scoring woes become a trend? Even though quarterback C.J. Stroud threw the go-ahead touchdown pass to tight end Dalton Schultz, the passing attack was inconsistent. The Texans' passing offense was humming over the past three weeks -- ranking fourth in passing yards per game (281) coming into the matchup. But Stroud went 20 of 35 for 249 yards with a touchdown, and the offense scored only 19 points -- with four drives ending in field goals.

Stock up after the loss:Schultz. The tight end had his best game as a Texan with seven catches for 65 yards, a season high, with a touchdown.

Stock down after the loss: Pass defense. Coming into the matchup, the Falcons' passing offense averaged an NFL-worst 156 yards per game, and it was able to throw for 351 yards Sunday. -- DJ Bien-Aime

Next game: vs. Saints (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

Miami 31, N.Y. Giants 16


Has the emergence of De'Von Achane turned the Dolphins into a run-first offense? The rookie did it again, turning in his third straight 100-yard rushing performance, highlighted by a 76-yard sprint to the end zone -- his fifth touchdown of the season. Achane finished with 151 yards on 11 carries, paving the way for a 222-yard day for the Dolphins on the ground. Raheem Mostert was no slouch, either, with 65 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. Miami still tore up the Giants' defense through the air to the tune of 302 yards, but if Achane and Mostert are going to continue to run the ball this effectively, Miami has to ride that until the wheels fall off.

Stock up after the win:Big-play offense. We knew they were fast entering the season, but the Dolphins are now responsible for the seven fastest ball-carrier speeds in the NFL this season, including a new top overall speed courtesy of Tyreek Hill (22.01 mph).

Stock down after the win:QBTua Tagovailoa. It wasn't his sharpest day, throwing a pair of interceptions. While 233 of his 302 passing yards came after the catch, it says a lot that a 300-yard, two-touchdown game is now considered a "down" performance for the fourth-year quarterback. -- Marcel Louis-Jacques

Next game: vs. Panthers (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


When is this offense going to show some competency? Sunday night in Buffalo isn't an ideal spot for a 1-4 team, even if there is a chance that running back Saquon Barkley (ankle) and left tackle Andrew Thomas (hamstring) return. Now the Giants also have to deal with the uncertainty of quarterback Daniel Jones (neck). It might be at least another couple of weeks before the Giants can get their offensive line to be functional. Giants quarterbacks were sacked seven times on Sunday, and the offense did not score a touchdown for the second straight game.

Stock up after the loss: The defense. The Giants' defense was their best offense Sunday. They gave up some big plays and 31 points to an explosive Miami offense, but they also had three turnovers, including Jason Pinnock's 102-yard pick-six.

Stock down after the loss: S Isaiah Simmons. The 2020 top-10 pick, acquired by the Giants via trade last month, started in the place of Micah McFadden (ankle) at linebacker but failed to make a significant impact. He just wasn't able to shed blockers with any regularity. -- Jordan Raanan

Next game: at Bills (Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET)

Pittsburgh 17, Baltimore 10


Is Kenny Pickett back on track? After struggling for three quarters, Kenny Pickett found George Pickens with a 41-yard touchdown pass to slip past the Ravens for a massive AFC North win. Pickett had hit Pickens two plays earlier on a perfectly placed back-shoulder throw for a 21-yard gain to set up the touchdown. That was his third career go-ahead touchdown pass in the final two minutes of regulation, the most of any player since the start of last season. Pickett has been shaky through the first month of the season, but entering the bye week, this gives the Steelers and their quarterback a significant boost.

Stock up after the win:Inside linebackers. This group was responsible for the biggest hits of the afternoon, including two third-down stops in the fourth quarter by Cole Holcomb and Elandon Roberts. Plus, Kwon Alexander had a sack and two tackles for loss -- including a key tackle for loss in the fourth quarter that led to a safety two plays later.

Stock down after the win:TEGunner Olszewski.With Calvin Austin III hampered by an injury, Olszewski took up return duties and had a massive fumble in the second half. Joey Porter Jr.'s first career interception kept points off the board, but Olszewski's fumble comes after another error in the first week of the season. -- Brooke Pryor

Next game: at Rams (Sunday, Oct. 22, 4:05 p.m. ET)


How big of a collapse was this for the Ravens? Baltimore went from seizing control of the division -- over an 80% projected favorite, according to ESPN Analytics -- to falling into a first-place tie with Pittsburgh and breathing life into its biggest rival. If the Ravens had won, they would have swept all three of their AFC North road games for the third time in franchise history. Instead, Baltimore let Sunday's game slip away with a Lamar Jackson interception in the end zone, five dropped passes, its ninth fumble of the season and a blocked punt. Now the Ravens head to London, the site of their biggest margin of defeat under coach John Harbaugh.

Stock up after the loss: LBRoquan Smith. In 15 games with Smith, Baltimore has allowed an NFL-best 13.8 points per game. The Ravens' defense hadn't allowed a touchdown in nine straight quarters before that 41-yard touchdown catch by George Pickens.

Stock down after the loss: QBLamar Jackson. Mistakes continue to haunt Jackson, who threw an interception and fumbled in the fourth quarter. This was Jackson's fourth interception in the end zone of his career and seventh fumble of the season. -- Jamison Hensley

Next game: vs. Titans in London (Sunday, 9:30 a.m. ET)

New Orleans 34, New England 0


Can the Saints sustain their offensive success? The Saints haven't had any momentum on offense dating back to last season, and they got their share of criticism after scoring only nine points in a loss to the Buccaneers last week. The Saints did what they've wanted to do all season: establish the run game and spread the ball around. Now they need to figure out a way to keep it going next week against the Houston Texans ... and beyond.

Stock up after the win: Offensive playmakers. Foster Moreau, Alvin Kamara and Chris Olave scored their first TDs of the season, Michael Thomas had a season-best in receiving yards and the Saints (offense and defense) hit the 30-point mark for the first time since Oct. 20, 2022.

Stock down after the win: TE Jimmy Graham. There admittedly weren't many options here following the Saints' best game of the season, but Graham couldn't haul in his only pass from Derek Carr in what likely would have resulted in a first down. -- Katherine Terrell

Next game: at Texans (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


How much longer will Bill Belichick stick with QB Mac Jones? Jones was coming off a nightmare performance in Week 4 against the Cowboys, and it only got worse against the Saints. He should have taken a sack in the first quarter but instead forced a fluttering pass under pressure that was returned for a pick-six by Tyrann Mathieu. It was all downhill from there. Yes, the OL is struggling. And yes, the pass-catchers struggle to gain separation consistently. But Jones' decision-making in that situation highlights one of the major issues holding back the offense -- turnovers that turn into points for the opposition. Backups Bailey Zappe (who replaced Jones in the fourth quarter) or Will Grier might not be an upgrade, but Jones' slide the past two weeks is a major concern.

Stock up after the loss: Demario Douglas. The rookie receiver nicknamed Pop provided the only pop for the team's offense with a 24-yard catch in the first quarter -- he's a promising prospect who should be part of the solution when he returns from concussion protocol.

Stock down after the loss: Bill Belichick. When a team shows no spark at home coming off a blowout loss on the road, it reflects poorly on the head coach. -- Mike Reiss

Next game: at Raiders (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)

Indianapolis 23, Tennessee 16


Should the Colts rethink their usage of Anthony Richardson? The Colts drafted the quarterback with the intent of using him as a runner and passer to fully take advantage of his unique skill set. But considering his latest injury -- he left the game with an injured right shoulder and did not return -- the Colts might have to rethink how they deploy their franchise quarterback. The Colts ranked fourth in the NFL in designed quarterback runs coming into Week 5, and Richardson's injury on Sunday came -- you guessed it -- on a designed quarterback run.

Stock up after the win:The offensive line. The unit was subjected to heavy criticism last season, but this group has bounced back to bolster a surprisingly productive running game. On Sunday, running back Zack Moss was the benefactor, running for a career-high 165 yards and two touchdowns.

Stock down after the win: The edge rushers. They had been productive in previous weeks, but the group -- led by defensive end Samson Ebukam -- was rendered ineffective against the pass Sunday. The Colts finished with one sack, allowing Titans QB Ryan Tannehill sufficient time to consistently throw down the field. -- Stephen Holder

Next game: at Jaguars (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


What happened to the Titans' red zone offense? Entering Sunday, the Titans' red zone scoring percentage was 38.4, ranking 29th in the NFL. Tennessee's red zone woes continued against the Colts, as the Titans cashed in on only one of their four visits inside the 20. They must find ways to get receiver DeAndre Hopkins involved in the red zone, especially on a day when he finally got loose and made a mark elsewhere on the field. The Titans keep finding themselves in close-scoring games, which makes scoring touchdowns in the red zone critical.

Stock up after the loss: Hopkins. The receiver was virtually unstoppable against the Colts as he posted eight receptions for 148 yards, marking the first 100-yard receiving performance by a Titans wideout since Week 11 last season.

Stock down after the loss: Kristian Fulton. The cornerback struggled mightily on multiple plays, starting with a blown coverage in zone defense, then a pair of pass interference penalties, and finally, he got turned around on another play by a Colts receiver. -- Turron Davenport

Next game: vs. Ravens in London (Sunday, 9:30 a.m. ET)

Jacksonville 25, Buffalo 20


After a rough start, is this victory a sign the Jaguars are going to be a factor in the AFC after all? QB Trevor Lawrence has said multiple times that you're measured by what you do against the league's best teams. The Jaguars failed against Kansas City in Week 2, but against the Bills -- one of the hottest teams in the NFL -- the Jaguars dominated time of possession, yardage and third downs. So by Lawrence's measure, the answer is yes. There are still concerns -- especially along the offensive line -- but the Jaguars now have a critical tiebreaker over the Bills when it comes to playoff seeding.

Stock up after the win: Defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell. The Bills averaged 41 points in their previous three games, but Caldwell called perhaps his best game of the past two seasons by being aggressive. The Jaguars blitzed Josh Allen on 32% of his dropbacks (12 of 37) and Allen completed just 4 of 11 passes for 41 yards on those plays.

Stock down after the win:The offensive line. It continues to be a major issue, with penalties by Anton Harrison (two) and Brandon Scherff, a bad snap by Luke Fortner, and whiffs by Cam Robinson that stalled drives, stole points and resulted in turnovers. -- Mike DiRocco

Next game: vs. Colts (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


Was this offensive performance a one-off or something that will be an issue going forward? There's reason for concern, but not alarm. Jet lag isn't to blame for a Bills offense (which had scored 37 or more points in the previous three games) being held to 20 points. The Bills gave up on the running game, finishing with only 13 carries for 29 yards. Quarterback Josh Allen also struggled with pressure, resulting in an inability to sustain long drives. It's nothing that can't be corrected, but a lack of balance can't become a theme.

Stock up after the loss:AJ Epenesa. With the Bills dealing with multiple injuries at defensive end, Epenesa stepped up with a strip sack and fumble recovery, two total sacks, three tackles and three batted passes -- becoming the first player since J.J. Watt in 2014 to have two sacks and three batted passes in a game.

Stock down after the loss:The linebacking corps. The Bills lost Matt Milano to a knee injury in the first quarter. The defense allowed Jacksonville to march up and down the field, dominate time of possession and rush for over 150 yards. -- Alaina Getzenberg

Next game: vs. Giants (Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET)


Chicago 40, Washington 20


Will the Bears commit their offensive identity around DJ Moore? Justin Fields has appeared his most comfortable when targeting Moore, who accounted for 230 receiving yards and three touchdowns against Washington. The wide receiver's 141 yards after the catch accounted for half of Fields' passing yardage, and the quarterback has looked more polished as a passer in the Bears' past two games. Fields pointed out how often he saw Moore one-on-one with a Washington defender, which should change against better defenses. How Fields adjusts to those changes will speak to the direction of the offense.

Stock up after the win: Teven Jenkins. The Bears left guard was activated off injured reserve hours before Chicago's win and kept Washington's stout DT duo in check while playing on a snap count.

Stock down after the win:The running backs. Chicago was down to fullback Khari Blasingame against the Commanders after losing Khalil Herbert, Roschon Johnson and Travis Homer because of in-game injuries. -- Courtney Cronin

Next game: at Falcons (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)


After such an ugly loss, where's the hope? Quarterback Sam Howell has played two productive games in a row, throwing for a combined 678 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He has posted a 79.4 quarterback rating in the past two games combined on third downs. If the defense ever gets turned around, Washington can gain momentum. After five games last season, the defense ranked 25th in points and 17th in yards; it finished seventh and third, respectively. Without another turnaround, jobs will be lost.

Stock up after the loss: DE Chase Young. While the defense in general has struggled, Young had a season-high 36.4 percent pass rush win rate vs. Chicago, and he now has three sacks in four games.

Stock down after the loss: The defense. Washington surrendered five plays of 25 yards or more against Chicago, giving the Commanders an NFL-high 16 such plays for the season. The secondary's attention to detail has been poor; rookie corner Emmanuel Forbes has struggled mightily and the entire unit has failed to produce big plays (one takeaway in the past three games combined). -- John Keim

Next game: vs. Vikings (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

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