The National Football League is starting to heat up as we enter week five of the regular season. Six teams remain in the land of the unbeatens, but there will be some quality games this week. Eighteen former Alabama players will start Sunday in 13 match-ups. Yours truly of Touchdown Alabama Magazine has targeted the players that all eyes will see this week.
Former Alabama stars to watch for
- Julio Jones, WR- Atlanta Falcons
Summary: Julio Jones is having a monster year through four games. He has been targeted 52 times, totaling 38 receptions for 478 yards and four touchdowns. The fifth-year veteran has been hampered by a hamstring/toe injury in practice this week and is listed as “probable”.
Jones will play more than likely, and if so, he will look to continue the Falcons’ win streak. Atlanta is 4-0 entering this weekend’s game against the Washington Redskins, who are 2-2.
Jones is averaging 119.5 receiving yards per game.
2. Amari Cooper, WR- Oakland Raiders
Summary: The combination of Derek Carr to Amari Cooper has Oakland sitting at 2-2 and second in the AFC West. Cooper’s had two 100-yard receiving performances this season against Baltimore and Cleveland, both resulting in wins for the Raiders. He currently leads the team in targets (40), receptions (24), receiving yards (339) and yards per catch at 14.1.
The rookie wideout is tied with Seth Roberts and Marcel Reece with two touchdowns.
Oakland faces an undefeated Denver Broncos (4-0) team, headlined by quarterback Peyton Manning and wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. Denver’s offense is explosive, yet its defensive secondary can be victimized at times. Eighth-year cornerback Aquib Talib may be asked to defend Cooper. He has 13 total tackles this season with two interceptions.
3. Eddie Lacy, RB- Green Bay Packers
Summary: Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been highly efficient in the team’s 4-0 start. He has completed 72.4 percent of his throws for 995 yards with 11 touchdowns and no turnovers. Green Bay’s head Mike McCarthy may go with a steady diet of Eddie Lacy against the St. Louis Rams this week. St. Louis has potent secondary anchored by Janoris Jenkins, Lamarcus Joyner and former Alabama safety Mark Barron. Lacy has been listed as “probable” for Sunday’s game, due to an ankle injury he sustained against San Francisco in the Packers’ 17-3 victory on Oct. 4. Lacy has recorded 230 rushing yards and a touchdown on 50 tries.
4. Donta Hightower, LB- New England Patriots
Summary: Donta Hightower leads New England’s defense into AT&T Stadium to face the Dallas Cowboys this week. The Patriots are third in the NFL in total defense, allowing 117.0 rushing yards and 23.3 points per game. Its fourth in third down defense, giving up first downs just 42.5 percent of the time. Hightower is second on the team in tackles with 21. He has 10 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks through three games. New England eyes a 4-0 start.
5. Mark Ingram, RB- New Orleans Saints
Summary: Mark Ingram should be the Saints’ focus point this week, as quarterback Drew Brees continues to maneuver his right shoulder. New Orleans’ 26-20 victory over Dallas last week was more than just its first win, it also the first game in which Ingram had a balanced performance.
The former Heisman winner at Alabama totaled 77 rushing yards and 51 receiving yards on 23 touches. He averaged 4.5 yards on the ground and 8.5 through the air. The Saints’ offensive line, captained by center Max Unger, must create opportunities for Ingram to have success.
Ingram has totaled 204 rushing yards with two touchdowns on 3.6 yards per carry
6. C.J. Mosley, LB- Baltimore Ravens
Summary: It looks bad seeing Baltimore sitting at 1-3; however, second-year linebacker C.J. Mosley has done his job. He is second on the team in tackles (27), and has a tackle for loss, two sacks, three passes defended and a fumble returned for a touchdown.
The Ravens are 13th in the league in total defense, allowing 104.8 rush yards, 242.3 passing yards and 26.0 points a game. It will face the Cleveland Browns this weekend, in a AFC North rivalry game. Both teams stand at 1-3, but Mosley has a chance to lead Baltimore’s defense to a much needed win.
7. T.J. Yeldon, RB- Jacksonville Jaguars
Summary: T.J. Yeldon achieved his first 100-yard rushing performance last week against Indianapolis in Jacksonville’s 13-16 overtime loss. It was his second-most productive game, and the second one that Yeldon totaled at least 60 rushing yards. The Jaguars face Tampa Bay Sunday in a match-up featuring two 1-3 teams. Balance will be imperative for Jacksonville’s head coach Gus Bradley and company. Yeldon has 259 rushing yards on 70 carries this year.
8. Ha’Sean “Ha Ha” Clinton-Dix, FS- Green Bay Packers
Summary: Free safety Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix has been stellar for Green Bay.
The former Alabama standout leads the team in tackles (29) with 25 being solo stops. He has captained the Packers’ secondary to the eighth-best pass defense in the league, allowing 197 yards per game.
Clinton-Dix and company will face a talented St. Louis wide receiver corps, bolstering the likes of Tavon Austin, Steadman Bailey and Kenny Britt. Clinton-Dix will also keep his eyes on former Southeastern Conference running backs Tre Mason and Todd Gurley.
9. Landon Collins, S- New York Giants
Summary: The New York Giants stand at 2-2 heading into Sunday’s meeting with the San Francisco 49ers. A match-up pinning former Alabama safety Landon Collins against his teammate, wide receiver DeAndrew White. Collins has 22 total tackles on the season, with three for loss. He recorded six tackles in each of the last two games, resulting in wins for the Giants.
10. Marcell Dareus, DT- Buffalo Bills
Summary: Marcell Dareus cashed in on a six-year contract worth $95.1 million on Sept. 10. Dareus’ deal included $60 million guaranteed, the highest of any non-quarterback in the NFL.
He has to prove that he is worth the money. Dareus has just nine tackles and a sack this season. The Bills, who are sitting at 2-2, will be at Nissan Stadium this week to face Tennessee.
Buffalo will enter Sunday’s game with the third-best rush defense, allowing 78.5 yards per game and a touchdown on 3.9 yards per carry through four games.
Stephen M. Smith is a senior analyst and columnist for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.