Following a Week 5 punctuated by some eye-popping individual performances and two significant upsets, the NFL rolls out another 14-game ledger in Week 6 that features another London showdown, a battle of two of the last three winless teams remaining and a couple of especially intriguing matchups between division leaders.
The Oakland Raiders landed one of the surprise haymakers of the week, even as they had to go out of the country to do so. Oakland upset the Chicago Bears by a 24-21 score in the first game of the 2019 International Series despite missing their three most experienced receivers. Jon Gruden’s charges used a combination of opportunistic defense, strong work on the ground by rookie Josh Jacobs and near-mistake-free football from Derek Carr.
Then, the Indianapolis Colts wrapped up the football day Sunday with a shocking 19-13 quieting of the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.
Week 6 NFL predictions and analysis
New York Giants at New England Patriots (-16.5)
Two franchises with rich tradition and shared postseason history meet up Thursday night at Gillette Stadium. Much like their NFC East Redskins brethren, New York is likely working through a transitional year. Unlike Washington, Big Blue has already started biting the bullet with its heralded rookie quarterback, turning the reins of the offense to 2019 first-round pick Daniel Jones three games ago.
Meanwhile, the defending champion Patriots have mostly looked even better than last year’s Super Bowl-winning edition. The defense is especially improved. The offense has mostly hummed along as well, despite the retirement of Rob Gronkowski this past offseason and the blink-and-you-missed-it tenure of the troubled Antonio Brown with the team last month.
All but one of New England’s first five games have featured double-digit spreads akin to this Week 6 number. The Pats have earned the confidence of oddsmakers and the betting public by winning four of their first five contests by 16 points or more, including three by more than 20. Their two home triumphs have come by 16 and 30 points, respectively.
The Giants got the Jones Era off to a rousing start with a wild 32-31 comeback win on the road against the Buccaneers. They followed that up by beating the worst team in the NFC, Washington, by a 24-3 margin in Week 4. However, they were brought back down to earth by the Vikings in Week 5 and now must travel on the short week.
There’s precious little evidence to suggest there’s an alternate outcome to this matchup to Tom Brady and company eventually steamrolling the Giants. Perhaps if Brady’s personal kryptonite, Eli Manning, was under center there would be reason for New England to worry (sarcasm font firmly engaged). Big Blue simply doesn’t have the horses on defense to keep up with the Pats’ diversified offensive attack.
That’s particularly true when considering New York currently lacks the secret weapon that truly has been Brady’s undoing in the past – a consistent pass rush. The Giants check in with a modest 13 sacks through five games (with seven of those coming against the porous offensive lines of the Redskins and Buccaneers) and have allowed the eighth-highest opposing quarterback rating (106.7).
For the season, the Giants are 2-3 (40%) ATS, including 1-1 on the road. The Patriots are 3-2 against the number overall, including 1-1 ATS as a home team specifically. Then, New York is 2-3 (40%) versus the spread in interconference games since the start of last season, while New England boasts a 5-1 mark ATS in those contests.
Carolina Panthers (-2.5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
– 9:30 a.m. ET (London)
The Panthers keep winning in Cam Newton’s absence with a combination of all-world play from Christian McCaffrey, a solid defense and interception-free football from interim signal caller Kyle Allen. That mix of ingredients has been good for three straight wins heading into Week 6. However, in what will be the second game of the 2019 edition of the NFL’s International Series, Carolina will face off against one of the two teams to hand them a loss this season.
Meanwhile, the Buccaneers come into this neutral-field rematch reeling from a loss to another NFC South foe in the Saints. The 31-24 final score is a bit misleading. Teddy Bridgewater and Michael Thomas were able to seemingly operate at will versus a Tampa secondary that lost starting cornerback Carlton Davis to ejection in the first half. This game against the Panthers will mark the Bucs’ first look at Allen; it was a less-than-100-percent Newton at the controls when they toppled Carolina by a 20-14 score in Week 2.
The Bucs’ front seven did an outstanding job on McCaffrey in that contest by limiting him to 37 yards on 16 carries and two grabs for another 16 yards. Containing him to that extent on two occasions in the same season seems like a very tall order with the way McCaffrey is playing, however. Since that Week 2 contest, McCaffrey has put together 153- and 176-yard efforts on the ground along with six- and 10-catch tallies.
I expect the game to be closely contested and I can actually see the Bucs winning again but the Panthers DO have revenge from an earlier loss to Bucs this Year.
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens (-12)
Neither one of these two teams’ fanbases is satisfied at this juncture of the season. Cincinnati’s is naturally much more discouraged, given the team’s 0-5 start and the team’s depleted receiving corps. However, it’s been a struggle to an extent for the Ravens as well. Their vaunted defense has significantly underachieved. The multi-week knee injury to Jimmy Smith certainly has had a part to play. But this is also a unit that added Earl Thomas during the offseason and is otherwise healthy.
Baltimore’s current deficiencies on that side of the ball can perhaps best be illustrated by Steelers rookie third-string quarterback Devin Hodges’ relative success against them after being thrown into the fire Week 5 following Mason Rudolph’s exit. The completely inexperienced Hodges’ 7-for-9, 68-yard effort through the air (which he supplemented with 20 yards on two rushes) would have been unthinkable against some recent editions of the Ravens defense.
The question is whether the Bengals have what it takes to actually exploit some of these unexpected weaknesses. Andy Dalton looked abysmal for about three quarters versus the Cardinals before finally hitting his stride Sunday. Naturally, an injury-depleted offensive line and the absences of both A.J. Green (ankle) and John Ross (shoulder) aren’t helping.
However, this is a hefty spread no matter how you slice it. Dalton has also enjoyed success against more complete Ravens defenses in recent years. I don’t see the Bengals having enough firepower here to pull out a road win.
Ravens have not forgotten last loss at home vs Browns and that will help fuel them.
Houston Texans at Kansas City Chiefs (-5)
Week 5 did a number on this line. The game originally opened with the Chiefs as -8 favorites. Then the two squads seemed to undergo a Freaky Friday-like transformation Sunday. Houston did its best Kansas City impression with a shellacking of the Falcons. Kansas City racked up yards but struggled to score at home versus a Colts squad that was missing its two starting safeties. Two eyebrow-raising results later and we have a three-point move on the number.
What makes this game especially intriguing is the following:
- The Texans are nowhere as good as 46-points-good on offense (the last TD versus Atlanta was on defense)
- The Chiefs are nowhere near as impotent as 13-points impotent on offense. Adding to the difficulty of forming an accurate outlook as of Monday afternoon is the potential availability, or lack thereof, of Tyreek Hill (shoulder) and Sammy Watkins (hamstring). A big reason for the lack of points for KC on Sunday night was the absence of both players, with Watkins having exited the game in the first half.
The remainder of the week will tell the take on both wideouts. In my view, they’re the key to assessing this game realistically. Coach Andy Reid is on the record that he’s optimistic Hill will turn in a full practice this week after limited showings leading up to Week 5. Watkins is another story, given both his soft-tissue injury and his spotty medical history. But a confirmed Hill return at minimum would expand the Chiefs’ projected advantage to a degree.
There’s also the matter of Patrick Mahomes’ ailing ankle, although that’s not in any way expected to keep him sidelined. Mahomes acknowledged he’ll receive treatment this week. Meanwhile, Deshaun Watson will be looking to not be overshadowed by his 2017 draft classmate and prove that his career-high five-touchdown effort versus the Falcons was no fluke. Yet he’ll be hard-pressed to do so, given his own inconsistency (zero touchdowns and sub-200-yard efforts in two games already this season) and the bump up in competition he’ll see in one of the most difficult road environments in the league (Sunday night’s results notwithstanding).
With Hill having a good chance to return this week and Kansas City undoubtedly determined to not drop consecutive home games, this looks like an excellent opportunity for a wager on the Chiefs cover at the current spread.
New Orleans Saints (-1) at Jacksonville Jaguars
Speaking of convincing impressions pulled off in Week 5, how about one Teddy Bridgewater making Saints fans *sorta* forget Drew Brees for a glorious three-plus hours on Sunday afternoon? Bridgewater was seemingly summoning up the “Teddy” chants at will while slicing through the Buccaneers defense for 314 yards and four touchdowns in a 31-24 win that was more convincing than the final score implies. For the second straight week, he displayed as good a chemistry with Michael Thomas as Brees normally enjoys. The Pro Bowl receiver finished with an eye-popping 11 receptions, 182 yards and two touchdowns.
While Bridgewater had his moment in the dome-obstructed sun, the Jaguars were involved in a wild back-and-forth affair with New Orleans’ NFC South mates, the Panthers. The competitiveness of Jacksonville’s 34-27 loss is perhaps best exemplified by the fact the game refused to end – it took three plays, including an untimed down at the end of the contest, for Carolina to finally put a figurative stake through the heart of the resilient Gardner Minshew. The Jags are clearly scuffling overall on defense without Jalen Ramsey (back/trade request) available to shut down one half of the field. Whether the Pro Bowl cornerback will suit up Week 6 is anyone’s guess as of Monday afternoon.
Another Ramsey absence could certainly spell trouble versus Thomas. Then there’s always Alvin Kamara, who may have taken a back seat to Thomas in Week 5 but who naturally has the ability to commandeer a game on any given week in much the same way Christian McCaffrey did versus Jacksonville. The Jags are now allowing an uncharacteristic 136.6 rushing yards per contest after getting trampled in Week 5.
The line on this game has flipped since the open – the Jaguars were originally 1.5-point favorites. Bridgewater has made it clear he can lead this offense to big points, but this will be a drastically different setting than the cozy Superdome. Therefore, this game shapes up as a wait-and-see spot for me early in the week.
Philadelphia Eagles at Minnesota Vikings (-3)
The Eagles finally looked like the Eagles for four quarters Sunday against an overmatched Luke Falk and the Jets. Whether that game really tells us anything about Philly remains to seen; New York really is that bad with anyone not named Sam Darnold at the helm. Then again, the Vikings didn’t exactly have the stiffest test against the other Big Apple team in Week 5. Therefore, this NFC showdown should be a lot more revelatory for both squads.
There hasn’t really been a need to unleash Carson Wentz very often thus far this season. In fact, he’s thrown for under 200 yards in each of the last two games. However, this week could prove different, although the assignment is a tough one against the Minnesota secondary. A return to action by DeSean Jackson (abdomen) would naturally help Wentz’s cause. Jackson’s speed could prove to be an x-factor versus a group of Vikings cover men that have often proven to be better equipped to handle bigger-bodied wideouts. Giants rookie Darius Slayton became the latest form of anecdotal evidence in that regard Sunday with a 35-yard touchdown grab.
Meanwhile, the Vikings offense has been an interesting contrast within its own unit this season. While Dalvin Cook’s work on the ground has been above reproach, there’s been no shortage of controversy surrounding the air attack. Kirk Cousins and Adam Thielen did enjoy a fruitful on-field mending of fences against a porous New York secondary Sunday. Stefan Diggs wasn’t nearly as productive as Thielen with just three receptions for 44 yards. However, he at least confirmed he wants to stay in Minnesota in a postgame interview.
Both receivers draw a nice matchup again in Week 6 versus an Eagles secondary that never seems to have a full complement of healthy corners and that’s taken its lumps against every QB but Falk thus far. Therefore, while both teams have some question marks, the three-point projected edge here for Minny is reasonable and coverable thanks to their near-elite defense.
Seattle Seahawks at Cleveland Browns (-2.5)
Interconference games always carry an extra air of mystery in terms of matchup. The two teams are typically nowhere near as familiar with each other as they are with even non-divisional conference opponents. When you thrown in a pair of dynamic quarterbacks in Russell Wilson and Baker Mayfield, you have the makings of an even more fascinating recipe.
One of the first things that stands out here is the rest difference between these clubs. The Browns will be coming off a Monday night, multi-time-zone trip to the 49ers in Week 5. In turn, the Seahawks will have had 10 days off thanks to playing the first game of the Week 5 slate last Thursday night. This alone makes for a significant advantage and renders the Browns’ status as 2.5-point favorites all the more exploitable to me.
Wilson has played very well on the road this season. He’s thrown for 300 and 240 yards against the Steelers and Cardinals, respectively, while completing a highly impressive 51 of 63 attempts and generating a 4:0 TD:INT. His fumbling issues aside, Chris Carson is proving to be an excellent complement to Wilson’s work through the air. The third-year back comes in with back-to-back 100-yard efforts and has proven capable of taking on a workhorse role when asked. Tyler Lockett, Will Dissly and D.K. Metcalf have done a solid job on the pass-catching front as well, and Metcalf has just started scratching the surface of his potential.
A bet on the Over of the point total is worthy of consideration. Both secondaries have proven capable of breakdowns this season, while Cleveland could potentially still be missing at least one of their starting corner duo of Damarious Randall and Greedy Williams due to their hamstring issues.
Washington Redskins (-3.5) at Miami Dolphins
The Ugly Duckling of the Week 6 slate – hell, likely of the entire season – unfolds in South Florida. As of Monday afternoon, we now know Washington will no longer have Jay Gruden patrolling the sidelines. His firing after a fifth straight loss to open the season was far from surprising. Offensive line coach and former Raiders head man Bill Callahan takes over on an interim basis. Given Callahan’s extensive background coaching up blockers for the running game and the Dolphins’ vast inefficiency stopping ground attacks, this could be an area of focus for Washington on Sunday. That could hold true whether it’s Colt McCoy, Case Keenum or even Dwayne Haskins under center.
The Dolphins’ winless record is apparently seen as somewhat inferior to the Redskins’ matching mark by the oddsmakers. Given that home teams are typically granted a default three-point advantage, Washington is being viewed as just under a touchdown better than Miami. That may ultimately prove true, although it seems much more likely that neither team can come close to pulling away from the other here. To their credit, the Fins have been more Not As Horrible with each game. That’s true even as the final scores still reflect the considerable gap in talent between them and pretty much the rest of the league. Yet that isn’t necessarily the case in Week 6. The Redskins are essentially the NFC version of the Dolphins in their current shape.
A game such as this is interesting to try and break down, to say the least. The safest assumptions here are likely a big play or two for the Redskins’ Terry McLaurin and even a productive afternoon for Adrian Peterson against a Miami front that’s been the worst in the league versus the run. On the other side, Josh Rosen could have his moments as well versus a Washington secondary that’s underachieved. He has a pair of capable of downfield threats in DeVante Parker and Preston Williams.
Ultimately, the South Florida humidity – still very much a thing in mid-October, by the way – and Washington’s slightly better defense likely cancel each other out. I see a 19-16 type game that the Redskins likely pull out while falling just short of a cover.