By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — If you were able to bet that the Patriots, Jets, and Bills would all be 3-2 after five weeks, you’d be a very wealthy person. You could probably buy a piece of Patriot Place.
It’s been a weird start to the season in the AFC, and the Pats’ own division is the least of it. The Chiefs have somehow Alex Smith’d themselves to a 5-0 record, making an early statement as the Team to Beat™ in the conference. Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers (3-2) appear to be in the beginning stages of a downward spiral. The Texans and Raiders (both 2-3) have suffered some major injuries that are threatening to derail their seasons.
And the Jets and Bills are 3-2.
With the Patriots having already played, Sunday was a day to check out how the rest of the conference looks. The word “parity” comes to mind. Here’s a quick look around the AFC from Week 5:
Alex Smith is your NFL MVP so far. Don’t laugh. The Chiefs quarterback leads the league with a 125.8 passer rating, while Tom Brady is a distant second at 112.0. Smith is playing like a man possessed right now, as it seems like KC’s drafting of QB Patrick Mahomes has launched him into “Keep My Job” mode. He’s thrown 11 touchdowns and no interceptions so far, adding three more against the Texans’ formidable defense in Sunday night’s 42-34 win.
But that D suddenly got a lot less dangerous, as the Texans unfortunately lost J.J. Watt (again) for the season to a broken tibial plateau in his left leg. They also lost Whitney Mercilus to a torn pectoral muscle. Amazingly enough, the Texans may now be able to win on offense, as rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson threw five touchdowns to give his team a chance on Sunday. Watson has thrown nine touchdowns against just one pick in his last two games.
Big Ben threw five picks, two of which went for touchdowns, and the Steelers are in disarray. “Maybe I don’t have it anymore,” said Roethlisberger in a Belichickian postgame presser. He somehow managed to post a worse passer rating (37.8) than the Jaguars’ Blake Bortles (48.2) in what turned into a Jacksonville (3-2) drubbing by the end. It also sounds like the Steelers have some problems brewing in the locker room, particularly between Roethlisberger and top receiver Antonio Brown. It doesn’t get any easier for Pittsburgh, as they have to head to Kansas City next Sunday.
Can’t stress enough that the Bills and Jets are both 3-2. Leave it to the Bills to let the Bengals (2-3) be the ones to tell them that they’re not as good as they think they are. Buffalo’s annual drop-off from a hot start looks like it could already be in motion, as an early 77-yard touchdown for A.J. Green set the tone for a Bills defense that allowed 388 total yards to Andy Dalton and the Bengals. Buffalo couldn’t hold Cincinnati off from a fourth-quarter rally, halting their momentum from two big wins over Denver and Atlanta. The Jets, meanwhile, managed to permanently damage their tanking plans, edging out the Browns 17-14 despite amassing just 212 total yards and allowing 419. The Patriots head to New York to play them next Sunday, and hopefully knock them down the proverbial peg.
The Ravens took advantage of a Carr-less Raiders team. The absence of quarterback Derek Carr shows just how important the position truly is, as the Raiders looked ordinary on offense without him. E.J. Manuel (13-for-26, 159 yards, 1 touchdown) clearly isn’t going to get the job done for them, and their defense won’t be good enough to cover up their sudden offensive deficiencies. With a pretty tough stretch coming up on their schedule (vs. Chargers, vs. Chiefs, at Bills, at Dolphins, vs. Patriots), their need for Carr to return is only becoming more urgent. It’s still hard to judge where the Ravens (3-2) really stand on defense, and it may remain that way until they head to Green Bay to face Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in Week 11. Their ability to celebrate a Week 5 win, however, is unquestioned.
Jay Cutler and the Dolphins (2-2) barely beat the Titans (2-3) with Matt Cassel. Can you say MVP???
Matt Dolloff is a writer/producer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, CBS, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.