Tom Brady has officially started his “Revenge on Goodell” tour, Dallas is a playoff team with or without Tony Romo, and Derek Carr has the Raiders rolling. This 2016 NFL season just keeps getting better. In week 6, Tom Brady will show Andy Dalton how to play quarterback, Cam Newton will begin to pull his team out of a 1-4 ditch, and Tony Romo will watch Dak Prescott officially take his job. That’s right: I’m coming out firing this week, so let’s get into it.
By Matt Jarecki
Denver Broncos at San Diego Chargers
Line: Denver -3 1/2
Final Score: Denver 13 – San Diego 21
2 Cents: This game told us more about Denver’s season going forward than it did about San Diego’s. While still elite, this defense, and Broncos team, is losing the close games they found a way to win last year. It’s becoming clear now that Peyton Manning, even in his worst statistical year, provided leadership and knowledge on offense that’s been unmatched by Trevor Siemian thus far. Now, all of the sudden, a week 9 match up with the rolling Raiders looks a little more daunting for a Broncos team that’s struggled to put up points the last two weeks. As for San Diego, this was a feel-good win for Philip Rivers, who continues to produce on a team that just keeps losing weapons, and has under-whelmed on defense. I’ve been hard on GM Tom Telesco, but let me give him some credit: the Chargers have drafted heavy on defense since 2013, which is exactly what they should do with Rivers’ career coming to a close — it simply hasn’t come to fruition. This division still runs through Denver, for now.
San Francisco 49ers at Buffalo Bills
Line: Buffalo -9
Predicted Score: San Francisco 13 – Buffalo 24
2 Cents: Well, isn’t this cute. Buffalo’s about to go 5-2 after beating the 49ers this week, and (spoiler alert) the Dolphins in week 7. Three weeks ago, after Buffalo fired offensive coordinator Greg Roman, I was the first one to call Rex Ryan toast. Now, after three dominant performances, and two easy wins on the forefront, I will have to eat my words to a certain extent. New offensive coordinator, Anthony Lynn, has implemented the classic ground-and-pound offense that brought success to Rex Ryan’s teams in the past. That offense makes the Bills successful for 3 reasons: It takes pressure off of a limited Tyrod Taylor, it puts the ball in the hands of their best offensive player in LeSean Mccoy, and it lets their offensive line block for the run primarily, rather than having to protect Tyrod Taylor for 3 downs. San Francisco, on the other hand, just doesn’t have a lot of talent on either side of the ball. They rank 21st in total defense, and 26th in offensive yards gained. Chip Kelly haters will have a ball this year, as he walked into one of the least talented teams in the league. If you’re a 49ers fan, patience is key. Bills win big this week, with a dominating ground-and-pound approach, and a suffocating defense facing a vegan Colin Kaepernick.
The Catch: Although the narrative has been overwhelmingly cynical about Kaepernick this year, we are all secretly excited to see what he can do under the influence of Chip Kelly. If he can be anything close to 2012-13 Kaepernick, this game could get interesting.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Chicago Bears
Line: Chicago -3
Predicted Score: Jacksonville 23 – Chicago 21
2 Cents: Chicago is… favored in this match-up? Well, I guess that’s not a huge deal, as both of these teams have just one win this season. While Chicago continues to be the most boring team in the league, Brian Hoyer has brought a sense of urgency to this offense (I can’t believe I just said that). In each of his 3 games as a starter this season, Hoyer’s thrown for over 300 yards and 2 TD’s, with 0 interceptions. If we didn’t know who this guy was, we might think he was the second coming of Aaron Rogers. Unfortunately, though, we know Brian Hoyer too well, and we know that this streak of great play will end against a talented Jacksonville defense coming off a bye. As far as the numbers go, this match up has two story-lines. Jacksonville is better on defense in almost every statistical category, and they have better players all around. Chicago, though, is the much better offensive team, ranking 8th in total yards/game compared to Jacksonville’s 26th. In the end, though, this game will see Brian Hoyer return to what he’s always been, as he faces his toughest defensive test of the season. Jacksonville will win this game because they are fresh off of a bye week, they have the better defense, and they have the more talented quarterback.
The Catch: Jacksonville has come away victorious in just one out of their last 9 away games. That’s scary.
Los Angeles Rams at Detroit Lions
Line: Detroit -3
Predicted Score: Los Angeles 21 – Detroit 28
2 Cents: After a 3-1 start, Los Angeles has begun their decent towards a 6-10 finish, and the eventual firing of Jeff Fisher (and his mustache). The Rams defense, which Fisher used to hang his hat on, now ranks 19th in yards allowed per game, and just gave up 30 to the Bills. That’s simply not good enough for a team that’s starting the league’s most limited quarterback in Case Keenum. As for the Lions, they are on a comfortable 2 game home stretch, and Matthew Stafford is still humming, coming off a 3 TD performance against one of the league’s better defenses in Philadelphia. LA will move the ball against Detroit’s 24th ranked defense, but will not make enough stops to pull out a victory over the high-flying Lions. The better quarterback is what wins Detroit this game.
The Catch: Jeff Fisher knows how to win ugly after bad losses, as was shown in a 9-3 victory of Seattle in week 2. With Detroit allowing 4.9 yards/carry on the ground, the Rams have a chance to control the game with Todd Gurley.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Miami Dolphins
Line: Pittsburgh -8 1/2
Predicted Score: Pittsburgh 28 – Miami 17
2 Cents: There isn’t a more exciting team to watch in the NFL right now than the Pittsburgh Steelers. It seems like every other play Big Ben is going over-the-top to Antonio Brown or Sammy Coates. Oh, and they have a guy named Le’Veon Bell, who is averaging 5.5 yards/carry, and picked up 88 yards through the air last week. Then, there’s the dismal Dolphins. Miami is 24th in total offense, and 28th in total defense. The one bright spot on this Miami roster is their receiving core. Unfortunately, they have Ryan Tannehill throwing to them, who’s about to make the switch from up-and-coming franchise quarterback to career backup. Steelers win big again this week.
The Catch: This feels like a trap game. Miami is about as low as a team can get, grasping for any sort of hope, while the explosive, but inconsistent Steelers are feeling very good about themselves. I wouldn’t bet the spread.
Cincinnati Bengals at New England Patriots
Line: Patriots -9 1/2
Predicted Score: Cincinnati 17 – New England 34
2 Cents: The poor Bengals are in desperate need of a victory, but have the misfortune of running straight into the NFL’s best and angriest quarterback. Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention something about Bill Belichick: the best coach in the league currently. That, though, is the sad reality for this destined-to-be 8-8 Bengals squad. The Bengals have taken a slight step back, both offensively and defensively this year, and that doesn’t bode well for them against a 4-1 Patriots team just hitting it’s stride. But hey, for the hell of it, lets take a look at the numbers. The Bengals rank 12th in total defense, but the Patriots aren’t far behind at 14th: we’ll call that even. The Bengals turnover differential is +2, while the Patriots’ is +4: slight advantage Patriots. Offensively, New England’s offense has a higher yards per game total even while missing Brady for 4 games. Yikes. Last but not least: the Patriots have won 9 of their last 11 home games, while the Bengals have lost 2 out of 3 away games this year. The Patriots will win big this week with home field advantage, the better coach/quarterback combination, and Brady’s strongest group of receiving weapons since 2011.
The Catch: The Bengals are a desperate team with a stronger-than-average coach/quarterback situation. They’ll need to make Brady uncomfortable to win this game.
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints
Line: Carolina -2 1/2
Predicted Score: Carolina 34 – New Orleans 28
2 Cents: This is one of the games I’m most excited about in week 6. Here’s the headline: “Cam Newton puts his superman cape on to save the day in a match up of desperate NFC South teams”. Yes, Cam Newton will put this reeling Carolina team on his back, just like an MVP-winning quarterback should. The Panthers will start to regain their swagger. This won’t be easy for the Panthers, though, who’s secondary (and defense in general) has been weaker than expected thus far. Drew Brees is still playing at a very high level, having gone over 1000 yards in 4 games with 10 TD’s to 3 interceptions. He has the receiving weapons to make this a long afternoon for Carolina. This game will be a shootout, and the team that can make the most stops will come out with the W. While Carolina sits just outside the top 10 in yards allowed per game, New Orleans sits at 31st; that will be the difference. Carolina will come out of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome at 2-4.
The Catch: New Orleans is 4-1 coming out of a bye week over the last 5 years. Never sleep on Sean Payton and Drew Brees.
Baltimore Ravens at New York Giants
Line: New York -3
Predicted Score: Baltimore 21 – New York 17
2 Cents: I’m begrudgingly writing about this game, folks. While it does have significant implications for two teams on the verge of losing 3 or 4 straight, these are two of the ugliest (but kind of good?) teams to watch in the NFL. The Ravens are a good team that will win and lose games close this year; and if their offense can figure itself out, they could be dangerous. Baltimore has a top 5 defense that’s held several teams (including the Raiders) to season-lows on offense. Let’s not forget, Joe Flacco did win a Superbowl: he gives the Ravens a chance to win every week. The Giants, on the other hand, are a team that looks dangerous on paper, but has under-performed on both sides of the ball. Eli Manning has the league’s 27th ranked passer rating, and has thrown 5 TD’s to 4 interceptions — even with his best receiving core since 2011. The Ravens will win this game because they have a major advantage at head coach, the better quarterback right now, and the better defense.
The Catch: Baltimore just fired offensive coordinator Marc Trestman, which could leave this offense vulnerable against a Giants squad that picked off Aaron Rodgers twice last week.
Cleveland Browns at Tennessee Titans
Line: Tennessee -7
Predicted Score: Cleveland 13 – Tennessee 24
2 Cents: …And the Cleveland Browns featured quarterback of the week will be: Cody Kessler! I’m so sorry, Hugh Jackson, that you inherited this abysmal Browns team, who is 29th in the league in total defense, and hasn’t yet won a game. Here’s the bright spot though: Even with a revolving door at quarterback, the Browns are 18th in the league in total yards gained, which should have the bottom 14 offenses bowing their heads in shame, because nobody has it worse than the Cleveland Browns. Hugh Jackson knows how to get an offense rolling, and that’s a good trait to have in the 2016 NFL. Now he just needs the players. For this week, though, the Browns are about to travel to Tennessee and get rolled, by a team that’s not as bad as people think. Tennessee has the league’s #1 ranked offensive line, a top 10 defense, and a 14th ranked offense that’s committed to running the ball. Even though Hugh Jackson is a better coach than Mike Mularkey, the Titans are better in too many areas to lose this game.
The Catch: Cleveland allows only 3.9 yards per carry on defense, which is the Titans M.O. Meanwhile, Cleveland is gaining an average of 5 yards per carry on the ground. They have a chance to control the clock in this game.
Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Redskins
Line: Philadelphia -3
Predicted Score: Philadelphia 28 – Washington 27
2 Cents: This will be such a fun game to watch on Sunday. How will Carson Wentz come back from his last-minute interception to end (what was supposed to be) his first signature game-winning drive? Are the Redskins for-real after popping off 3 straight wins, 2 of which came on the road? The NFC East is wide open, and one of these teams has a chance to claim their stake in what looks to be the Cowboys’ division — for now. Let’s look at the numbers, shall we? Washington and Philadelphia are ranked 10th and 11th in yards gained/game. Washington gains 34 more passing yards per game than Philadelphia, but Philadelphia gains 32 more yards than Washington on the ground. Here are the key differences: Philadelphia’s defense is giving up 100+ less yards than Washington’s defense, and Philadelphia is 1st in the league in time of possession, compared to Washington at 22nd. Philadelphia will control the clock, create turnovers, and run the ball down Washington’s throat on their way to victory.
The Catch: With all the hype surrounding Carson Wentz, we forget sometimes that he is a rookie, and teams had little to no pro tape on the guy in his first 3 games. Last week Detroit brought Wentz down to earth, and there is one more week of tape for teams to game plan around.
Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders
Line: Kansas City -1
Predicted Score: Kansas City 27 – Oakland 24
2 Cents: Derek Carr is the next big thing, and Reggie McKenzie is creating a monster in Oakland. This team is going to rule the AFC West for the next 10 years, but not this year. For one more year, the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs will hold onto this division by a thread, and it’s because their teams are built for post-Thanksgiving play. By that, I mean they play stout defense, and run the ball, which bodes well during the coldest, and most critical parts of the season. Oakland, on the other hand, will have a season similar to the Falcons of 2015, who reeled off 5 straight wins to start the season, but trailed off to win only 3 more the rest of the way. There are 3 reasons the Chiefs win this game: 1. Kansas City has allowed 80 less yards/game than Oakland, who has the worst defense in the league. 2. Jamaal Charles is a full-go this week, and this offense is about to experience a much-needed identity shift. The Raiders are allowing 4.9 yards/rush, 30th in the league. 3. Andy Reid is 15-2 after bye weeks in his career. Enough said.
Dallas Cowboys at Green Bay Packers
Line: Green Bay -4
Predicted Score: Dallas 24 – Green Bay 21
2 Cents: Here it is folks: My upset of the week. Green Bay is about to meet their match in their first loss at Lambeau Field this season. I know, I know: What about the great Aaron Rodgers, you say. What about that great Packers run defense, you ask. Dak Prescott is a rookie, you’re shouting, as you wipe the Cheeto dust off of your face. Here’s what I have to say about all of that. Aaron Rodgers is great, but he has not been great in the second half of games this year, completing only 56% of his passes, and throwing 0 TD’s to 1 interception. Speaking of the 2nd half, that’s exactly when the league’s top rushing attack will start to take over this game. Dallas has the 5th ranked offensive line in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus, leading the way for Dallas to gain a league best 155 yards/game on the ground. Rookie Ezekiel Elliot is going to run roughshod over these Packers, and it’ll open things up for another ROY candidate, Dak Prescott. I can hear all you Cheeto-eaters yelling, “This game is too big for Dak!”. It’s not. Dak has the second highest total quarterback rating in the league, has thrown for 4 TD’s to 0 interceptions, and has lead the Cowboys to 1st in the league in 3rd down conversions. This kid is for real. For those of you that don’t think so, go ahead, put your money on Green Bay, I dare ya.
The Catch: Aaron Rodgers is Aaron Rodgers. If Dallas can’t run the ball the way they want to, their ranking of 2nd in time of possession will be obsolete, and that mediocre Dallas defense will be on the field long enough for Aaron Rodgers to pick it apart.
Atlanta Falcons at Seattle Seahawks
Line: Seattle Seahawks -7
Predicted Score: Atlanta 21 – Seattle 27
2 Cents: Vegas is telling us something that I told you a couple weeks back: this Atlanta team will not match up well against tough teams in outdoor stadiums. That being said, Atlanta showed us last week that they can in fact, beat a Superbowl caliber defense. Unlike last week, though, Atlanta will have to face a quarterback with 5 years of experience and 2 Superbowl appearances under his belt. Atlanta, who’s defense is ranked 26th in yards allowed/game, isn’t ready. Russell Wilson is simply too good, and has too many weapons around him this year. Seattle will win this game because they have the league’s stingiest defense, the better head coach, and a major home field advantage at Century Link.
The Catch: Atlanta has the best offense in the league right now. They can run and throw, ranking 1st and 7th in those categories. Seattle’s defense is great, but they haven’t faced an animal like this yet.
Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans
Line: Houston -3
Predicted Score: Indianapolis 27 – Houston 21
2 Cents: Houston is favored, as they should be, with a ferocious defensive front (that nearly took Sam Bradford’s head off last week) facing a dreadful Colts offensive line. In fact, Houston has allowed the 6th fewest yards/game, and are especially good against the pass. Houston also has one of the league’s most explosive receiving cores, and the 10th best rusher. I mean, Houston is better in almost every aspect of the game. But there is one looming quagmire that will hold the Texans back from winning this game. His name is Brock Osweiler. Dun. Dun. Duuun. I’m sorry, Brock, but you look like a chicken with it’s head cut off out there, and you’re taking up valuable cap space on an otherwise-great Texans roster. Forget what the stats say, people. Andrew Luck will once-again rise above the Colts’ miserable front office/ownership, and lead his team to victory. He’s 5-1 against the Texans in his career.
The Catch: Like I said, the Texans nearly took Bradford’s head off last week, and the Colts offensive line play hasn’t been much better than the Vikings’. The Texans’ shot at winning this game is to disrupt Andrew Luck just enough to get the W.
New York Jets at Arizona Cardinals
Line: Arizona -7 1/2
Predicted Score: New York 17 – Arizona 28
2 Cents: The Jets are far from the 10-6 team that just missed the playoffs last year, and it has everything to do with Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzy’s got 9 interceptions and 2 touchdowns over his last 3 games. It won’t get any easier for him and his Jets this week as they face a Cardinals team that just doesn’t lose at home. Arizona has the league’s 8th ranked defense in yards/game, and they’ve been trending up. Meanwhile, the Jets have fallen off a cliff to 23rd in the league, with a non-existent secondary, and a league-worst -10 turnover differential. Carson Palmer will have a day in his return from injury, and the Cardinals will get that Arians-swagger back on their way to 3-3.
The Catch: David Johnson could be in for a rough day, facing the league’s second ranked rushing defense. Stopping Johnson and forcing the Cardinals to throw will be the Jets’ chance at victory, given that Palmer has thrown 5 interceptions in 3 games thus far.