You watch football for nine hours, then you empty out the notebook. Here's what I collected in Week 5.
• I'm just about the last guy to accept the Broncos, but better late than never. Take your bow, Josh McDaniels. You've worked your magic again, turning an ordinary quarterback into a strong player, if not a star.
The shift from Jay Cutler(notes) to Kyle Orton(notes) was supposed to be a massive downgrade for the Broncos in the pocket but Orton's quietly got outstanding numbers through five games: 97.4 rating, 7.5 YPA, seven touchdowns against just one pick. Sometimes a quarterback will post stats like these in a bunch of front-running victories but Orton hasn't had that luxury – three of the five Denver wins were comeback specials. Orton's fourth-quarter rating is a glittering 138.7. It's clicking.
The madness of Brandon Marshall(notes) had me running away from No. 15 all summer, to my detriment. He's happy again and looking like a superstar, a true game-changer, the type of franchise receiver that keeps a defensive coordinator awake at night (the Patriots had no good match for him Sunday). Eddie Royal(notes) wasn't very quick off the mark when the bell rang (and he was ironically the one guy in this entire passing game I believed in all summer) but he finally had his timing down with Orton against the Patriots, snagging 10 receptions and looking crisp and impressive doing it. He should be a PPR force from here on out.
Running back Knowshon Moreno(notes) figures to come along for the ride as well assuming he can get a better handle on the rock (he's lost fumbles the last two weeks). Moreno has been over 4.2 yards a carry for four straight games and he's starting to get his feet wet as a receiver (four grabs Sunday). On an offense this strong and diversified, he's got a chance at being a Top 15 player at the position.
There is one buzz kill to the feel-good Denver offense – the schedule. San Diego doesn't concern me too much next week but then the Broncos get a bye, a trip to Baltimore and a home date with Pittsburgh (by then Troy Polamalu(notes) should be back). The Broncos don't face another bad defense until the Chiefs in Week 13. That to the side, I certainly like this unit a lot more today than I did before the year started.
• I have no stake in the Carolina backfield but if I called the plays I'd favor DeAngelo Williams(notes) for the short-yardage carries. Power is nice at the goal-line, and power is Jonathan Stewart's(notes) game, but quickness and decisiveness might be more important in those spots. It would be nice to see the Panthers get this sorted out because the schedule opens up nicely, with the Bucs, Bills and Cardinals waiting the next three weeks.
• The game isn't about buying high and selling low, but nonetheless, I'd sell low on Larry Johnson(notes). It looks like he's running in quicksand. Jamal Charles has a different skill set and he's been in the doghouse at times for different reasons, but wouldn't he have to be seen as an upgrade right now?
• We finally upgraded to HD in my house this year and it's absolutely fantastic for sports but there's a sneaky downside at play – anything you watch that isn't in HD has the look of a Zapruder film. If Comcast doesn't devote significantly more resources into HD sports next year (say, by baseball season), I'll drop those guys like fifth period French.
• One of the smartest things an organization can do is take a failed head coach and put him back into the coordinator role that made him a hot commodity in the first place. See Cam Cameron in Baltimore, Mike Nolan in Denver and Gregg Williams in New Orleans.
• You've got a week to bail out on Clinton Portis(notes). Don't try to trade him by name, tell your opponent that you're looking to "move a running back" and see if they come to Portis. Here's hoping the other guy saw the touchdowns and not the Carolina safety (on which Portis looked about as quick as Fred G. Sanford).
• The final score doesn't reflect it but the Rams offense actually pushed around the Minnesota defense between the 20s during Sunday's first half. But St. Louis fell apart around the goal line and the Vikings made disruptive plays at the right times.
• Jeremy Maclin(notes) and Miles Austin(notes) went undrafted in our 200-pick jamboree last week, while Austin Collie(notes) landed at pick 164. We're doing another one this week (this time it's PPR style) and it will be interesting to see what the adjustment becomes on these guys.
Austin left some plays on the field at Kansas City, dropping a couple of touchdowns, but he was consistently open and obviously he made some game-changing plays. If I ran the Cowboys I wouldn't promise Roy Williams a thing after the bye, I don't care what his pedigree is or how much he's making.
• I'm sure it's going to be corrected soon enough but right now Tom Brady(notes) is killing Randy Moss's(notes) value. Moss beats someone deep just about every week but Brady's sharpness on the long ball just isn't there yet. If you can buy low on either of these guys it's a good time to pull the trigger; New England's schedule has some perks later in the year; from Week 14 to 17 the Pats get Carolina, Buffalo, Jacksonville and Houston (if you use the final week).
• Cedric Benson(notes) has faced four excellent rushing defenses this year and produced against all of them. You've run out of counter arguments, haters. Grab a seat on the bandwagon and get comfortable.
• The Bengals are making No. 1 receivers disappear every Sunday. Greg Jennings(notes) and Derrick Mason(notes) went catchless. Brandon Marshall didn't do much. Santonio Holmes(notes) was a non-factor. Okay, no one is going to bench Andre Johnson(notes) in Week 6, but this is something we need to pay attention to.