The NFL gave fair warning that it would crack down on defensive players, calling penalties in the preseason just about every time a defender so much as laid a hand on a receiver. The trend most certainly has carried over into the regular season, with penalties way up in the passing game.
According to the NFL, nearly four times as many illegal-contact penalties have been called through five games as there were at this point last year (59 to 15). Defensive-holding calls also are way up; last year, there were 52 calls through Week 5, compared to 115 this season.
There also have been 14 more penalties for pass interference and 48 more calls for illegal use of the hands.
But the crackdown on defenders in the passing game hasn't translated to any major changes in overall offensive output. An average of 46.4 points per game have been scored this season. And although that's the most through five weeks at any point since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger, it's barely more than last year's total at the same point.
Not only that, but passing yards are down slightly from last year. There has been an average of 484.4 passing yards per game this year, compared to 497.8 at the same point last season.
Home sweet home
After getting thrashed 43-17 last Sunday in New England, Cincinnati is back home this week to face Carolina. That's good news for the Bengals, who have won 11 straight home games. During that streak, quarterback Andy Dalton has passed for 2,563 yards and 22 touchdowns for a 97.7 rating.
Much-improved Cleveland, coming off a dramatic 25-point comeback win in Tennessee last week, host the Steelers Sunday. That means we'll really see just how much better the Browns really are. After all, Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is 18-1 against Cleveland, the best record of any quarterback against a team since the 1970 merger.
No wonder Aaron Rodgers was telling Packers fans to relax after they panicked because of the team's slow start. Rodgers has been just about perfect in his last four games, posting a 124.4 rating with 11 touchdown passes and no interceptions.
Romo vs. Seahawks
Huge game Sunday for the 4-1 Cowboys, who face the Seahawks in Seattle and will find out just how they stand against elite teams.
One player who is preaching caution about Dallas' quick start is quarterback Tony Romo, who has seen things turn out badly before; the Cowboys finished 8-8 the last three seasons.
"Being 4-1 is great, but we have a long way to go," Romo said. "You want to put yourself in the best position at the end of the year."
The Cowboys hope running back DeMarco Murray continues his torrid pace. Murray leads the NFL with 670 rushing yards and is tied for first with five rushing touchdowns. He has rushed for more than 100 yards in five straight games, joining Hall of Famers Jim Brown and O.J. Simpson as the only players with at least 100 rushing yards in his team's first five games.Overcoming deficits