At this pace, will there even be enough backups to go around by season's end? Injuries are part of the game, but the frequency in which guys are being sidelined this season is unreal.
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart won't have to worry about Ken Whisenhunt's rotation system for the immediate future after suffering a left collarbone injury in a 34-31 victory over the St. Louis Rams Sunday that will sideline him indefinitely. The second-year pro is the third signal caller in the NFC West – joining the San Francisco 49ers' Alex Smith (right shoulder separation) and the Rams' Marc Bulger (broken ribs) – who will be sidelined at least in part because of an injury.
Leinart wasn't the lone quarterback to go down on a day of who's who on the infirmary list. Miami Dolphins quarterback Trent Green, who missed eight games with the Kansas City Chiefs after suffering a concussion in last year's season opener, was taken to the hospital Sunday after being carted off the field with a concussion during a 22-19 loss to the Houston Texans. David Carr, meanwhile, left his game with a bad back, but he returned to lead the Carolina Panthers to a 16-13 victory over the winless New Orleans Saints.
In addition to the injuries at quarterback, Cleveland Browns running back Jamal Lewis, Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Michael Pittman, Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Deion Branch, New England Patriots linebacker Adalius Thomas, Denver Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey and Bucs No. 4 overall pick Gaines Adams all left their respective games. And of course, let's not forget to mention that the Baltimore Ravens sat four Pro Bowlers (Todd Heap, Jonathan Ogden, Trevor Pryce and Samari Rolle) and the Steelers three (Casey Hampton, Troy Polamalu and Hines Ward), while the Indianapolis Colts played without five starters (Joseph Addai, Marvin Harrison, Rob Morris, Bob Sanders and Freddy Keiaho).
But enough about the guys who left the games early or didn't play. Here are the winners, losers and other observations from Week 5:
• One incredibly impressive win is not enough to declare that they're back, but at least we don't have to hear all the whining and questions this week about "what's wrong with the San Diego Chargers?" following the 41-3 whipping of the Denver Broncos on the road. And on an individual level, backup running back Michael Turner (147 yards, 1 TD) just saw his stock rise.
• Tom Brady for MVP will be explored below, but what an impressive opening to the campaign for one of the most increasingly blessed athletes in all of sports. Brady joined Steve Young as the only quarterbacks to start the season with at least three touchdown passes in five straight games after connecting for three scores in the New England Patriots' 34-17 victory over the Cleveland Browns.
• Kris Brown connected not once or twice, but three times from 50-plus yards, including a 57-yarder with a second remaining as the Texans knocked off the Dolphins.
• The Jacksonville Jaguars held Larry Johnson and the Kansas City Chiefs' rushing attack to the equivalent of a first down (10 yards) during a 17-7 victory. The Jags have flipped the script since giving up 282 yards rushing to the Tennessee Titans in the season opener. None of their three opponents that followed have gained 50 ground yards against Jacksonville.
• Joseph Addai sounded paranoid when he told Yahoo! Sports' Charles Robinson that he's afraid of missing time because he fears someone will take his job. Well, those sentiments didn't seem so far-fetched when Addai's replacement Kenton Keith ran for 121 yards and scored two touchdowns in the Colts' 33-14 victory over the Bucs.
• Joey Harrington, eventually replaced by Byron Leftwich on Sunday, has almost as many touchdown passes (three) to the opponents as he has for the Atlanta Falcons (four). Harrington threw the ball behind Michael Jenkins, which was deflected right into the bread basket of Vincent Fuller, who returned it for the go-ahead score in the Tennessee Titans' 20-13 victory.
• Apparently, bad offenses are in vogue by the Bay. A year after the Oakland Raiders set all kinds of records for offensive futility, the San Francisco 49ers appear headed in the same direction after being limited to 163 total yards and 49 yards rushing in a 9-7 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
• Maybe now all the talk about the Seattle Seahawks getting robbed by the refs in Super Bowl XL will stop. Yeah, one game has nothing to do with another, but after the Pittsburgh Steelers spanked Seattle 21-0 without its top two receivers (Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes), a Pro Bowl safety (Troy Polamalu) and a Pro Bowl nose tackle (Casey Hampton), it's time for the Seahawks and their fans to let it go.
• Speaking of "letting it go," it might be time for the New Orleans Saints and their fans to stop thinking about a return to the playoffs. The Saints dropped to 0-4 with their loss to Carolina. Only the 1992 Chargers have qualified for the playoffs after an 0-4 start since the NFL went to a 12-team playoff system in 1990.
• The Detroit Lions, 3-0 in their other games this year, have to be ecstatic that they don't play any more road games against NFC East teams this year. In losses to the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins, Detroit has been outscored a combined 90-24.
Question of the day? Any chance USC coach Pete Carroll called Dean Spanos on Saturday night after the Trojans' stunning loss to Stanford? And even more, did Spanos bother to accept the call?
The Pats' real MVPs: Already there's talk about this being the year Brady finally wins league MVP. Obviously, the case also can be made for Moss (though less after finally being kept in check on Sunday). But what those two have accomplished wouldn't be possible without the consistent mind-blowing protection of the offensive line. On the opening drive against the Browns, Brady connected on a third-down reception to Moss in which the quarterback sat in the pocket at least six seconds before finding his target. There are a bunch of QB-WR combos who would thrive under those conditions.
Put on the brakes: Not every broadcaster is as ready as ESPN's Tony Kornheiser to declare the Pats will go 16-0. In fact, many announcers expressed sentiments Sunday that the discussion at this point is simply premature. Maybe we should wait until after their road games against the Dallas Cowboys (next week) and Indianapolis (Nov. 4) before we give this topic serious thought.
Catching a break: Kurt Warner helped the Cardinals overcome an incredible mismanagement of the clock. With 14 seconds left in the first half and no timeouts, the Cards ran straight up the middle on first-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Edgerrin James was stopped and it appeared the clock ran out before the Cards got back to the line and could spike the ball. However, the officials ruled that two unidentified Rams kicked the ball, allowing the Cardinals to get the ball for another play. This time, Warner scored on a quarterback keeper for a 17-13 lead. It was the second disputed touchdown in Arizona's favor.
Tampa Bay troublemaker: Rookie safety Tanard Jackson made his presence felt throughout the Bucs' loss to Indy. Jackson laid out Dallas Clark when the tight end momentarily pulled in a grab from Peyton Manning in the second quarter. On the very next play, Manning threw into triple coverage and was intercepted by Jackson. Tampa Bay turned the ensuing possession into a touchdown.
Shortening the game: So much for the clichés of four quarters of football and 60 minutes. The Steelers literally have reduced their contests to three quarters and 45 minutes, as none of their five opponents have scored in the second quarter this year.
By the numbers: The Pats put up 38 points in each of the first three games. We should expect a 34 spot in next weekend's showdown against the Cowboys to match what they've scored in their past two games.