Some quick thoughts, insightful analysis and wild guesses for the NFL’s week six games after consulting the magic 8-ball on Friday night.
Denver Broncos (3-1) at New York Jets (1-4) ★
Early game on CBS; Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts
Broadcast in New England (except Boston and Providence), New York (except Buffalo), New Jersey, West Palm, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Indiana, Illinois, and everywhere west of the Mississippi (except Minnesota, California and Reno)
Denver will be without RB Montee
HBall and they’ve only covered once, but despite the long road trip it’s very difficult to find a reason to not go with the Broncos. Normally I would consider this to be a bounce-back game for the home team, but I can’t rationalize how that would be the case with this Jets team.
Pick • Broncos 34, Jets 13
Broncos -7½ (two units)
Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2) at Cleveland Browns (2-2) ★★★
Early game on CBS; Greg Gumbel, Trent Green
Broadcast in Pennsylvania, Ohio (except Cincinnati), West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina (except Charlotte) and South Carolina
The Pittsburgh defense has started to show some positives, with the young blood making some productive strides. This is an early season rematch; the two teams met in week one when the Steelers jumped out to a huge lead early with Cleveland tying the game late before Pittsburgh won on a field goal as time expired. Pittsburgh should be able to do enough on the ground against a Cleveland defense that is allowing 5.1 yards per rush (30th in the NFL) and 153 yards per game (29th) to gain a road win here.
Pick • Steelers 24, Browns 23
Jacksonville Jaguars (0-5) at Tennessee Titans (1-4) ★
Early game on CBS; Andrew Catalon, Steve Tasker
Broadcast in Tennessee, Tupelo, Savannah, Jacksonville and Orlando
Rookie quarterback Blake Bortles has just one touchdown pass and four interceptions in two starts, thanks to an empty cupboard to work with for the Jacksonville offense. The Jags are averaging only 272 yards per game (31st) and 13.4 points per game – which is how much seven other teams are averaging in a half. Tennessee isn’t much better with a 29th ranked 17.6 points per game. Maybe the two defenses can score a few times.
Pick • Titans 17, Jaguars 13
under 43½ (one unit)
Green Bay Packers (3-2) at Miami Dolphins (2-2) ★★★★
Early game on FOX; Sam Rosen, John Lynch
Broadcast in Philadelphia, DC, eastern Virginia, Florida (except Tampa), Wisconsin, Illinois, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, eastern Missouri, Texas (except Houston), Oklahoma (except Tulsa), Utah, Montana, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, Anchorage
Since their week one victory over the Patriots the Dolphins have a pair of 19-point losses (at Buffalo and at home to Kansas City), plus a victory over one of the leagues’s worst teams (Oakland). The Packers meanwhile have recovered from two road losses to good defenses (Seattle and Detroit), hitting their stride with two division victories by a cumulative score of 80-27. Miami may have the worst home field advantage in the NFL; cheesehead transplants will be filling Sun Life Stadium to the point where there will be times that you forget who the home team is. Despite Green Bay’s woes stopping the run (4.6 yards per carry and a league-worst 163 yards rushing per game), Aaron Rodgers should be able to win the 15th of his last 16 October games.
Pick • Packers 28, Dolphins 24
Detroit Lions (3-2) at Minnesota Vikings (2-3) ★★★
Early game on FOX; Mike Goldberg, Brendon Ayanbadejo (no, this is not a misprint)
Broadcast in Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Louisville and Tulsa
In two games Teddy Bridgewater has a 92.7 passer rating, completing 31 out of 50 passes for 467 yards. However, that was against New Orleans and Atlanta; now he and the Vikings face a Detroit defense that is allowing a league-low 282 yards per game, 15.8 points per game (2nd best in the NFL), 208 yards passing (6th) and has 12 sacks (7th). However, the Lions may be without WR Calvin Johnson, and last week were down to utilizing former Patriot training camp fodder George Winn at running back. Even with the injuries stalling Detroit’s offense, I think their defense will carry the club to victory in a gritty bounce-back game after their last second loss to Buffalo.
Pick • Lions 20, Vikings 17
under 44 (one unit)
Carolina Panthers (3-2) at Cincinnati Bengals (3-1) ★★★★
Early game on FOX; Chris Myers, Ronde Barber
Broadcast in New Orleans, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Knoxville, Kentucky (except Louisville), Indiana, Ohio (except Toledo and Cleveland), Baltimore and western Pennsylvania
After being lit up in blowout losses to average offenses – Pittsburgh and Baltimore scored 75 points and totaled 908 yards – Carolina took a step forward by holding the Bears to 347 total yards while sacking Jay Cutler four times in last week’s victory over Chicago. The Panther offense was supposed to be focused on their running game, but injuries have depleted that unit and they are averaging a mere 3.1 yards per carry and 75 rushing yards per game. The Bengals have won 11 straight regular season home games going back to 2012; Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill should have their way against a Carolina defense that is allowing an NFL-worst 5.4 yards per carry.
Pick • Bengals 24, Panthers 13
under 44 (one unit)
New England Patriots (3-2) at Buffalo Bills (3-2) ★★★★★
Early game on FOX; Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston
Broadcast in New England, New York (except NYC), Houston, western Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Idaho
The Bills are allowing 17.8 points per game, which is 4th best in the NFL. DT Marcell Dareus had three sacks and a forced fumble last week, which is bad news for an inconsistent New England offensive line that may be without center Bryan Stork. After carrying DC Jim Schwartz off the field last week at Detroit, I can’t help but wonder if Buffalo will have a bit of a letdown – something I can’t recall considering very often for a team facing the Patriots this century. I’m not sold on Kyle Orton yet, even though he is an improvement over EJ Manuel; a late turnover leads to yet another victory for the Patriots at Buffalo.
Pick • Patriots 20, Bills 17
under 45½ (one unit)
Baltimore Ravens (3-2) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-4) ★★
Early game on CBS; Spero Dedes, Solomon Wilcots
Broadcast in Baltimore, Harrisburgh, DC, Tampa and Fort Myers
Tampa Bay is allowing 31.2 points per game (31st), 412 yards (30th), 8.0 yards per pass (29th) while scoring 20.6 points per game (25th). Baltimore is better in virtually every aspect of this game, and should get the victory; after seeing the Bucs defeat Pittsburgh, the Ravens have no reason to be looking past this game.
Pick • Ravens 24, Bucs 13
Ravens -3 (one unit)
under 44½ (one unit)
San Diego Chargers (4-1) at Oakland Raiders (0-4) ★★
Late game on CBS; Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon
Broadcast in Boston, Providence, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Buffalo, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, California and Reno
The Chargers have struggled against the Raiders recently, losing 27-17 last year at Oakland and winning only four of the last eight games between these two teams. San Diego is allowing an NFL-best 12.6 points per game, while Oakland is scoring an NFL-worst 12.8 points per game. In the battle of two teams who once played in Los Angeles, does the loser or winner get to return to the City of Angels? Philip Rivers (12 TD, 2 INT, 70.3% completions, 116.3 passer rating) is having an MVP-worthy season, and should have no trouble guiding San Diego to their fifth victory of the year.
Pick • Chargers 31, Raiders 10
Chargers -6½ (one unit)
Chicago Bears (2-3) at Atlanta Falcons (2-3) ★★★
Late game on FOX; Justin Kutcher, David Diehl (who?)
Broadcast in Georgia, Alabama, New Orleans, Knoxville, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa
Atlanta has scored 93 points in their two home games, and it’s tough to pick against them in a game where they face a Chicago defense that is allowing a 23rd-ranked 26.2 points per game. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall has cooled off since his three-touchdown performance against San Francisco. In the last three games he has just six receptions for 69 yards while dealing with a bum ankle. look for he and Jay Cutler (four picks in the last two games) to get back on track against a subpar Atlanta defense. The Falcons are allowing 28.6 points and 407 yards per game (both 29th) and 8.2 yards per pass attempt (31st). The moneyline is favorable enough that I’ll put one unit on the Bears there in what is essentially a tossup.
Pick • Falcons 35, Bears 34
Bears +160 (one unit)
Dallas Cowboys (4-1) at Seattle Seahawks (3-1) ★★★★★
Late game on FOX; Thom Brennaman, Troy Aikman
Broadcast everywhere except Baltimore, DC, Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, New orleans, Knoxville, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota and Arizona
Mano a mano. Seattle leads the NFL defensively, allowing a minuscule 2.6 yards per carry and 62 yards rushing per game. Dallas lead the NFL with 160 yards rushing per game, as DeMarco Murray (670 yards rushing, 5.2 yards per carry) has run for 157 more yards than any other player in the NFL. Former Bear Henry Melton has helped improve the Dallas defense, but Seattle is still the better team – especially at home.
Pick • Seahawks 27, Cowboys 17
Washington (1-4) at Arizona Cardinals (3-1) ★★
Late game on FOX; Dick Stockton, Brady Quinn (I guess he really is retired now)
Broadcast in Baltimore, DC, Virginia and Arizona
Washington has now lost three in a row, while Arizona is coming off their first loss of the season at Denver. The Skins rely on Alfred Morris and the running game on offense, but the Cardinals run defense (3.0 yards per carry, 3rd; 77 yards per game, 4th) should be able to stop him, just like Seattle did last week.
Pick • Cardinals 27, Washington 13
Cardinals -3 (two units)
under 46½ (two units)
New York Giants (3-2) at Philadelphia Eagles (4-1) ★★★★
Sunday night game on NBC; Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth
I’ll let Jimmy Fallon preview this game:
Pick • Giants 31, Eagles 27
over 50 (one unit)
San Francisco 49ers (3-2) at St. Louis Rams (1-3) ★★
Monday night game on ESPN; Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden
Two strong defenses face off Monday night: San Francisco is 2nd in yardage (283 per game) and tenth in points (21.2), while St. Louis leads the league in pass defense with 192 yards per game. Austin Davis has performed far better than I expected he would at quarterback for the Rams, but the Niner defense is a whole lot better than the Philadelphia, Dallas or Tampa Bay D.
Pick • Niners 20, Rams 17
Seahawks -2, Lions +8½
Cardinals -3, Ravens -3
Broncos +1½, Bears-Falcons over 45, Bengals-Panthers under 53
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