Aside from the highly anticipated annihilation of the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night, there are several quality matchups which should be very competitive during the afternoon preliminaries. In the early afternoon Arizona travels to Pittsburgh looking to avoid a second loss after winning their first four games; that will not be an easy task at Heinz Field against a Steeler offense that boasts of Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. 5-0 Cincinnati at Buffalo is a another compelling early game, and Denver – with their inconsistency on offense – may not have as easy a game as had been previously thought when they travel to Cleveland. There are also two good late afternoon games: San Diego at Green Bay, and Carolina at Seattle.
In the New England area CBS will broadcast the Bengals-Bills game early, followed by the Chargers-Packers at 4:25 pm; Washington at the Jets will be the single game on FOX early. To see what is being televised in your area, check out the Week 6 NFL Maps at 506 Sports.
5-0 Denver Broncos at 2-3 Cleveland Browns; early game on CBS; Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts
Broncos -3½; over/under 42½; Broncos -200, Browns +170
The outcome for this game may hinge on which bad unit is worse. Denver can’t run the ball (31ˢᵗ in the NFL at 3.3 yards per carry) while age and injuries have caught up to Peyton Manning (28ᵗʰ in the NFL with 6.53 yards per pass attempt); the end result is the Broncos are averaging just 4.9 yards per play, 31ᵗʰ in the league – they would be last but the Bears had to put Jimmy Claussen under center for two games.
The wretched Denver offense catches a break though, going up against Cleveland’s pitiful defense. Football Outsiders ranks the Browns’ D 28ᵗʰ overall and dead last against the run, so I suppose something has to give. Cleveland corner Joe Haden is out with a concussion, which should definitely help Manning. Josh McCown is on a hot streak (1,154 yards, 6 TD, 1 INT in last three games), but that was against the Raiders, Chargers and Ravens; Denver’s defense is far superior. The Broncos are allowing only 15.8 points per game (2ⁿᵈ best in the NFL) and have seven interceptions while allowing only three touchdown passes.
The Broncos have had a knack for pulling out victories against inferior opponents even when they played poorly; I’m expecting the Denver defense to come through with some turnovers leading to the same result here.
Prediction: Broncos 27, Browns 20
Pick: Broncos -3½ (one unit); over 42½; Broncos -200
5-0 Cincinnati Bengals at 3-2 Buffalo Bills; early game on CBS; Spero Dedes, Solomon Wilcots
Bengals -3; over/under 42½; Bengals -160, Bills +140
Andy Dalton gets a lot of crap for Cincinnati’s failures in the playoffs, but (a) this is still the regular season, and (b) that was in the past; this team looks different now. Dalton is completing 67.5% of his passes, has thrown 11 touchdowns with only two picks, leads the NFL with 9.49 yards per pass attempt, and his 115.6 passer rating is third only behind a couple guys named Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. He’s getting rid of the ball quickly, so that should negate Buffalo’s pressure from Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes from the outside.
Buffalo QB Tyrod Taylor is out with a sprained MCL, so E.J. Manuel will get the start. At running back Karlos Williams is out with a concussion, as is Cierre Wood (knee), but LeSean McCoy (hamstring) may make an early return after missing the last two games – and wide receivers Percy Harvin (hip) and Sammy Watkins (calf) are both questionable. The Bengal defense should have no problem with Manuel and a less-than-100% McCoy.
Prediction: Bengals 27, Bills 17
Pick: Bengals -3 (two units); over 42½; Bengals -160
1-4 Kansas City Chiefs at 2-2 Minnesota Vikings; early game on CBS; Greg Gumbel, Trent Green
Vikings -3½; over/under 43½; Chiefs +170, Vikings -190
The Chiefs started out losing tough games to quality opponents (Denver, Green Bay, Cincinnati), but after losing to the Bears – and losing RB Jamaal Charles for the rest of the year – their season is done. KC is giving up over 31 points per game on the road. Kansas City NT Dontari Poe is out with a high ankle sprain; that should pave the way for a big game by Minnesota RB Adrian Peterson (93 yards rushing per game, 4ᵗʰ best in the NFL).
Prediction: Vikings 31, Chiefs 17
Pick: Vikings -3½ (three units); over 43½; Chiefs +170
1-4 Houston Texans at 1-4 Jacksonville Jaguars; early game on CBS; Tom McCarthy, Adam Archuleta
Jaguars -2; over/under 43; Texans +100, Jaguars -120
Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles has a sore shoulder, and J.J. Watt got to him for six sacks last year. The Jaguars are giving up 29.0 points per game, second most in the NFL. Bill O’Brien may have mishandled the quarterback situation early in the season, but Brian Hoyer is playing better and deserves the start; he should have a good game against that suspect Jacksonville defense.
Prediction: Texans 23, Jaguars 21
Pick: Texans +2; over 43; Texans +100
2-3 Chicago Bears at 0-5 Detroit Lions; early game on FOX; Chris Myers, Ronde Barber
Lions -3½; over/under 44; Bears +140, Lions -160
Much maligned Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler could be in for a big game here. The Lions pass defense is awful; they rank dead last in opponent completion percentage (76.6%), yards per pass attempt (9.2), opponent passer rating (116.4), allowing nine touchdown passes with only three interceptions. Chicago’s pass D isn’t any better, so Matthew Stafford (three picks last week) could rebound here. The Bears have given up eleven passing touchdowns with only two picks and opposing quarterbacks are posting a 105.8 passer rating (28ᵗʰ).
Prediction: Bears 27, Lions 24
Pick: Bears +3½; over 44; Bears +140
2-3 Washington Redskins at 3-1 New York Jets; early game on FOX; Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston
Jets -6½; over/under 40½; Skins +250, Jets -300
These are somewhat similar teams: good defenses that rely on the offense to not make mistakes and do just barely enough to win; the difference is that the Jets are better on both sides of the ball. Washington’s D played well in their first four games, but Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman ran right through the Skins to the tune of 156 rushing yards and 5.4 yards per carry. Some of that can be attributed to Washington having to respect Atlanta’s passing game, but I would still think that Chris Ivory should be able to run for plenty of daylight here. If Washington finds themselves in third-and-longs or behind on the scoreboard in the second half, you can count on Darrelle Revis picking off Kirk Cousins.
Prediction: Jets 23, Skins 17
Pick: Jets -6½; under 40½ (one unit); Jets -300 (½ unit)
4-1 Arizona Cardinals at 3-2 Pittsburgh Steelers; early game on FOX; Thom Brennaman, Troy Aikman
Cardinals -3½; over/under 44½; Cardinals -180, Steelers +160
A year ago Arizona was abysmal running the ball, finishing last in the NFL with 3.3 yards per carry. Head coach Bruce Arians has rejuvenated the offensive line and RB Chris Johnson has revitalized his career; the Cardinals now boast an NFL-best 5.0 yards per carry through five weeks. However, Pittsburgh has a solid run defense; expect Arizona to test a Steeler secondary that is allowing opponents to complete 70.4% of their passes (29ᵗʰ). While the revenge angle is focused on the Patriots this week, let’s not overlook that factor in this game. Arians did not have his contract renewed after the 2011 season, even though Pittsburgh made it to the Super Bowl. Pittsburgh fans and media pinned the blame on Arians, complaining that the Steelers threw the ball too much. Fast forward to present day, and all Arians has done is win Coach of the Year honors twice and breath life into a perennial loser of a franchise.
Prediction: Cardinals 31, Steelers 20
Pick: Cardinals -3½ (two units); over 44½; Cardinals -180
1-3 Miami Dolphins at 1-3 Tennessee Titans; early game on CBS; Andrew Catalon, Steve Beuerlein
Titans -1½; over/under 43½; Dolphins +100, Titans -120
The Fins finally dumped laid-back Joe Philbin, and replaced him with far more rigid Dan Campbell. On paper Miami is the far more talented team, and I would expect them to respond positively – at least in the short term – to the coaching change. I would expect Campbell to place more emphasis on running the ball – Miami ranks last in the NFL with 16.2 rushing attempts per game – and Tennessee is just 24ᵗʰ in the league against the run, allowing 4.4 yards per carry.
Prediction: Dolphins 23, Titans 16
Pick: Dolphins +1½ (one unit); under 43½; Dolphins +100
4-0 Carolina Panthers at 2-3 Seattle Seahawks; late game on FOX; Sam Rosen, John Lynch
Seahawks -7; over/under 41; Panthers +250, Seahawks -300
If this was any other game between an undefeated team and a club with a losing record you would expect the 4-0 team to be favored – or at least not be a seven-point underdog. Carolina’s defense is very good, and should pose problems for the Seahawks. Carolina has limited opponents to 3.8 yards per rush attempt, and gets a boost with the return of linebacker Luke Kuechly. Corner Josh Norman is having an all-pro season but the pass rush may take a step back: LDE Charles Johnson is on in-season IR with a hamstring injury, and RDE Jared Allen is out with a bad back. Even without those two the Panthers should still have the upper hand against a mediocre Seattle passing game and porous offensive line that has surrendered an NFL-worst 22 sacks; overall the Seahawks are last in scoring touchdowns in the red zone (27.3%). Through week five Football Outsiders ranks the Panthers as the number four pass defense as Carolina has limited opponents to a 64.1 passer rating (3ʳᵈ), with those quarterbacks completing only 59.2% of their passes, picking off eight interceptions against just four touchdowns.
Prediction: Panthers 20, Seahawks 16
Pick: Panthers +7 (one unit); under 41; Panthers +250
2-3 San Diego Chargers at 5-0 Green Bay Packers; late game on CBS; Jim Nantz, Phil Simms
Packers -10; over/under 50½; Chargers +500, Packers -700
The Chargers are in a really tough spot here: they have a bad offense, going up against one of the league’s best offenses, on the road on a short week following a difficult last-second loss. San Diego is giving up 26.8 points per game (23ʳᵈ), 5.1 yards per rush (32ⁿᵈ), 132 rushing yards per game (30ᵗʰ), 7.8 yards per pass attempt (25ᵗʰ) and 6.1 yards per play (28ᵗʰ). Meanwhile Green Bay is scoring 27.4 points per game (fifth best in the NFL), rushing for 126 yards per game (9ᵗʰ) with a highly efficient offense (13.2 yards per point, fifth best) that has only turned the ball over four times (also fifth best). Philip Rivers is a very good player (323 passing yards per game; 71.3 percent completion rate; 8.6 yards per pass attempt), but he needs lots of help from the rest of the roster keep this from being a blowout.
Prediction: Packers 35, Chargers 20
Pick: Packers -10; over 50½; Packers -700
1-4 Baltimore Ravens at 1-4 San Francisco 49ers; late game on CBS; Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon
Ravens -2; over/under 43½; Ravens -130, Niners +110
What a difference a year makes. Twelve months ago a game between these two would be hyped to the point of exhaustion (Harbaugh Bowl!); now it is just a forgotten afterthought between two teams with a combined record of 2-8. The Baltimore defense is a shell of its former self, between Terrell Suggs out for the season (torn Achilles), Haloti Ngata now playing for Detroit and Elvis Dumervil dealing with a groin injury. Baltimore is allowing 27.4 points per game (26ᵗʰ); by comparison they ranked sixth in the NFL just last year at 18.9 points per game.
San Francisco’s primary issues are on the other side of the ball; the Niners rank last in the NFL with a paltry 15.0 points scored per game. After a couple of horrid games Colin Kaepernick looked better last week against the Giants, but at this point the rest of the season is just an audition so San Fran’s front office can decide whether Kaepernick is their quarterback for the future, or if they should bite the bullet and cut their losses after signing him to a $114 million extension in 2014.
Prediction: Ravens 31, Niners 20
Pick: Ravens -2 (one unit); over 43½; Ravens -130
4-0 New England Patriots at 3-2 Indianapolis Colts; Sunday night game on NBC; Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth
Patriots -9; over/under 54½; Patriots -400, Colts +330
What can be said about this game that has not already been said? After watching Game Pass replays of the Colts first five games I will say that Indy’s run defense has improved. Rookie NT David Parry is better than I anticipated, as is his former Stanford teammate DL Henry Anderson. However, the Indianapolis defense appears to be extremely susceptible to quick short passes – and that is something that the New England Patriots execute better than any other team in the National Football League. Are the Pats going to be out for a pound of flesh in an act of revenge? I would be shocked if they were not. Note: in case you missed it, this game actually opened up with the Patriots favored by just five points. Hope you were as quick as I was jumping on that (pats self on back) with a full five units.
Prediction: Patriots 52, Colts 10
Pick: Patriots -9 (five units); over 54½; Patriots -400 (five units)
3-2 New York Giants at 2-3 Philadelphia Eagles; Monday night game on BSPN; Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden
Eagles -5½; over/under 49½; Giants +210, Eagles -250
Eli Manning has thrown ten touchdowns with only two picks, and is in the top ten in passer rating (100.2, 9ᵗʰ) and passing yards per game (283, 8ᵗʰ). However, the Eagles do a very good job of forcing turnovers (13, 2ⁿᵈ most in the NFL). I see this as a game that could easily go either way, decided by a field goal; in other words, take the Giants plus the points.
Prediction: Eagles 27, Giants 24
Pick: Giants +5½; over 49½; Giants +210
Bye Week: 2-3 Dallas Cowboys, 2-3 Oakland Raiders, 2-3 St. Louis Rams, 2-3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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Tags: 2015 NFL Season against the spread Andrew Luck betting line Indianapolis Colts New England Patriots NFL odds Patriots Pats picks predictions Tom Brady Week 6