Order has finally been restored to the NFL! Okay, I lie… at least order has been restored to my picks (sort of). Coming off of a 10-4 week, I have found new life in the wold of crystal balls and fortune cookies. So let’s break the seal on Week 6. This week includes a trio of good games (Green Bay/Baltimore, New Orleans/New England, Indianapolis/ San Diego), an interesting bout pitting long time rivals from the NFC East in Dallas and Washington, as well as a handful of games that could determine the fate of certain teams. The Falcons and Dolphins get an extra week to stew in the bile of defeat that was bestowed upon them just one weekend ago, but for the other thirty teams it is go-time! Fifteen games on the slate for sixth installment of the NFL season; here’s to a 15-0 week… maybe.
Thursday, October 10th, 8:25 e.t.
New York Giants (0-5) @ Chicago Bears (3-2)
Boy has this game lost its pizzazz; at the beginning of the year many would have thought these two teams would have a possible eight wins between them. Instead we get the winless wonders versus the slumping Soldiers from Chicago. I’ve been trying to keep the flame lit on the candle that was the Giants’ season for the longest time now, but it may be time to blow it out. It is possible that 7-9 or 8-8 will be good enough to to win the NFC East, but an 0-6 hole would be too deep for the G-Men to climb out of. Should I say that an 0-6 record leaves your team six feet under? (Cue the crickets). Anyways, I have no reason to believe that the Giants can steal one on the road in Chicago. The Bears are a more complete team and their defense thrives when they can create turnovers. If the very generous Eli Manning is in the giving mood again on Thursday night, Big Blue won’t last long. I’m banking on at least one touchdown from the Chicago defense in a victory. This is not a bold prediction given that the Giants lead the league by a mile in giveaways (20) and the Bears are second in the league in takeaways (15). I smell a skunk here.
Chicago 26, New York 14
Sunday, October 13th, 1:00 e.t.
Oakland Raiders (2-3) @ Kansas City Cheifs (5-0)
For those of us on the east coast who had enough caffeine in our systems to stay awake for the 11:35 kickoff last week between the Raiders and Chargers, we were treated to a rather impressive performance from Oakland at home. They forced five turnovers and did not give the ball away themselves in a ten point victory over San Diego. Now, the Raiders are facing a much more formidable task: an undefeated team on the road… an undefeated team that does not like to give the ball away, that being Andy Reid’s Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs have played some very good defense this season and are virtually living in the opponent’s backfield early on in the season. They lead the league in sacks (with 21) and the pass-rushing duo of Justin Houston and Tamba Hali have combined for an astounding 20 QB hurries so far this season (the team has 30 overall). The mismatch here is obvious; the Raiders have struggled to protect Terrelle Pryor and Matt Flynn this season. The beat up O-line has allowed 18 sacks on the season (tied for 28th worst in the league). Only Miami is worse than Oakland in terms of sacked percentage (the Raiders QBs have gone down on 11.5% of their dropbacks so far). In short, I believe that the pressure Kansas City will be able to mount is going to be the difference in this game. I like Terrelle Pryor a lot, but I’m not such a fan of his protection. I’ll take Kansas City to go to 6-0 in this one.
Kansas City 19, Oakland 10
Carolina Panthers (1-3) @ Minnesota Vikings (1-3)
This game is majorly important for the parties involved. a 2-3 start to the season looks so much better than 1-4 and I don’t think it is a stretch to say that the loser of this game may have to look ahead to the 2014 season. Josh Freeman has jumped from his pirate ship to a Viking vessel earlier this week, so it remains to be seen what his role will be in this game. No matter who starts for Minnesota, the offense is going to go as Adrian Peterson does. Last time he was on the field, he roasted the Steelers defense for 140 yards and two scores and the Vikings won the game. If A.P. can get it going on the ground this week then Minnesota could coast to victory. The Panthers are 7th in the league in rushing defense though, so this could be an uphill battle for the 2012 MVP. My gut tells me that Carolina will find a way to win this game on the road, but recent history says they will find a way to lose. The Panthers are 0-3 in road games during October under Ron Rivera and are notorious for horrible starts to their seasons. That said, I have to take the Vikings here. That Panther offense looked horrendous in the desert last week while the Vikings offense has actually looked pretty good all season long. Slight edge to the home team here.
Minnesota 27, Carolina 21
Detroit Lions (3-2) @ Cleveland Browns (3-2)
Who could forget the last time these two teams threw down? It was a classic in Detroit that saw the then rookie Matthew Stafford out-duel Brady Quinn’s Browns in a 38-37 shootout. A score like that is probably not going to pop up again this week even though both teams are 3-2 heading into the weekend (where in 2009 they were each 1-9 before that bout). What we will see is some good defense; each team has shown the ability to play hardball in 2013. The biggest question here has to be the health of Calvin Johnson. MegaTron did not play in his team’s 22-9 loss in Green Bay last week. The Lions mustered a measly 286 yards and it was clear that Stafford missed his 6’5” target on the outside. Jim Schwartz claimed that his absence did not affect the outcome of the game, but I believe it would have gone a little differently had he been healthy. Anyways, if Johnson plays this week he will be followed by Joe Haden everywhere he goes and will probably receive a lot of double teams. The Browns will try and make the Lions offense one dimensional and predictable. That defense is much better than people give them credit for. This is a tough game for Detroit, who is only 1-2 away from home this year. Call me crazy but I see the Browns going to 4-2 after this one. Can you say upset of the week?
Cleveland 20, Detroit 16 *UPSET OF THE WEEK*
Pittsburgh Steelers (0-4) @ New York Jets (3-2)
Not too many people saw the Jets going into Atlanta and beating the Falcons last Monday night, but it happened. I am not a believer in Gang Green yet, but I was impressed by how Geno Smith played. However, he is now going up against a Dick LeBeau coached defense. LeBeau has a knack for making rookie quarterbacks look bad and I expect him to do so again this weekend. Pittsburgh’s defense has created just 20 takeaways in their last 20 games and are the only team in the NFL to not have one this season. I expect this stat to change a little bit on Sunday. Quite frankly, I trust the Steeler “D” more than I trust the Jets offense. Plus, Pittsburgh showed a pulse in London with regards to a running game. Maybe a heavy dose of Le’Veon Bell is just what the doctor ordered. If not, there is always Ben Roethlisberger. At the end of the day Big Ben > Geno Smith, I don’t care what anybody says.
Pittsburgh 21, New York 13
Philadelphia Eagles (2-3) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-4)
It appears as if Michael Vick will be a spectator in this game after sustaining a hamstring injury last week in the Eagles victory. Reports have been encouraging for the veteran QB, but as of right now Nick Foles is scheduled to start. Foles’ first win as a starting quarterback came against Tampa Bay last season in Florida. I think his second win as a starter will come in the same place (I don’t count last week’s victory solely as his since Vick started that game). The Eagles offense has put up over 430 yards in all five of their games this season and the team is actually undefeated within the NFC. On the other side, I don’t trust Mike Glennon to keep his offense on pace with the up-tempo Philly attack. Doug Martin will need to have a huge game for the Buccaneers to have a chance. I can see Tampa finding a way to win the game, but I am playing it safe and taking the more proven commodity in the Eagles. Their defense has a chance to look good for once against a rookie quarterback (go figure). It is also important for them that they have not turned the ball over in three of their first five games. If they can limit the mistakes down in Tampa, it bodes well for them.
Philadelphia 30, Tampa Bay 20
Green Bay Packers (2-2) @ Baltimore Ravens (3-2)
The Packers are winless on the road (0-2) and the Ravens are undefeated at home (2-0) this season. Will this pattern continue? I don’t think so. Aaron Rodgers has only put forth one poor effort so far this season, and that was against a Bengals defense that shut down Tom Brady last week. Other than that, he has been lights out. The Green Bay wide-outs should not find much trouble creating separation from the Baltimore corners in the passing game. Now, I can’t predict a washout because the Ravens always seem to play well at home. Plus, after being slaughtered by Peyton Manning and the Broncos in Week 1, the defense has only allowed two passing touchdowns. Expecting Aaron Rodgers and the Pack to surgically pick apart the Baltimore secondary may be ludicrous. However, the X-factor in the game will be the Green Bay running attack, specifically Eddie Lacy. The Packers have looked very strong running the ball this season (outside of Week 1) and they will probably try to create space for the rookie to plow through. At the end of the day I have to take Green Bay here simply because they are a more complete team. It could be tough sledding, but by the end of the game people will appreciate the efficiency of Aaron Rodgers when he leads his guys down the field for a game-winning Mason Crosby field goal. It’s gonna happen.
Green Bay 27, Baltimore 24
St. Louis Rams (2-3) @ Houston Texans (2-3)
Don’t look now, but the Texans aren’t very good. Well, their play so far on the season suggests that they are not the same team that combined for a 22-10 record over the past two seasons. Matt Schaub has been the victim of some early season hiccups and his play has enraged many loyal Houston fans. If Gary Kubiak is smart, he will try and run the ball down the Rams’ throat. It is what other teams have done so far this year. Let’s rewind for a minute: the Cowboys dominated the Rams at home by feeding the ball to DeMarco Murray 26 times for 175 yards. The 49ers did the same thing the next week by running the rock for a collective 40 times and 219 yards. The numbers don’t lie, the Rams can be run against. Heck, the Jaguars managed nearly 100 yards against the St. Louis “D”. Arian Foster is, in my opinion, the best running back that the Rams will face through their first six games and if previous rushers made some money against them then there is no reason for me to believe that Foster won’t gash them as well. At this moment, Matt Schaub’s best friend is a good running game. I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t attempt a single throw more than 20 yards down the field in this one. The Texans should keep things close to the best and play to their strengths in this game. If they are able to do that, they will finish the week with a 3-3 record. Oh yeah, I almost forgot. With this game we get to see Cortland Finnegan vs. Andre Johnson! #classicfight
Houston 21, St. Louis 9
Cincinnati Bengals (3-2) @ Buffalo Bills (2-3)
No EJ Manuel= No Win. Sorry Bills fans, but I can’t see them beating a Bengals team that is coming off of a dominant defensive performance against the Patriots. Thad Lewis will be starting for Buffalo in this game. I think Lewis has some talent, but unfortunately for him he doesn’t have the greatest receivers in the world to work with outside of Stevie Johnson. I’m also not very high on the Bill’s corners. They were taken back to school by the combination of Josh Gordon and Greg Little last week. Buffalo did what they could to contain Jordan Cameron last week but with that they suffered on the outside. How do you think they are going to fare against A.J. Green and the various characters the Bengals will be throwing at them this week? Green is a beast, nuff said. The Bills don’t stand a chance if they can’t get their running game going by the way. C.J. Spiller finally broke one last week, but all and all he has not been the explosive player he was last season. Fred Jackson will once again split carries with Spiller as Buffalo tries to keep the Cincy offense off the field. This will be an interesting battle to watch seeing as how the Bengals are the #10 ranked rush defense in the league. I have to take the Cats here because they have been able to win the battle at the line of scrimmage so far this season.
Cincinnati 20, Buffalo 7
Sunday, October 13th, 4:05 e.t.
Tennessee Titans (3-2) @ Seattle Seahawks (4-1)
It is too bad this game isn’t being played in Tennessee. If it was, then it would have been a pretty good game. As it turns out it will be played up in Seattle where teams simply don’t stand a chance in that noise. The Seahawks have won both of their games at home this season by pretty sizable margins and they will likely be playing with some extra motivation after losing to the Colts on the road last week. Once their game with the Titans wraps up, the Seahawks will be done with AFC competition (after bowling through all four AFC South teams in four straight games). Tennessee is not a bad team, however. They played the Chiefs pretty tough last week and have been in all of their games so far this season. They will not fare as well this week because Ryan Fitzpatrick will be the man under center for this week and he is certainly mistake prone. Look for the Legion of Boom to create at least one turnover in a tough environment. Also, the Titans running defense hasn’t exactly been stingy this season (letting up over 100 yards on the ground per game). Russell Wilson has been a wizard over the past two weeks when carrying the ball and let’s not forget Beast Mode in Seattle. Marshawn Lynch is going to be a spoonful for the Tennessee defense to swallow.
Seattle 34, Tennessee 14
Jacksonville Jaguars (0-5) @ Denver Broncos (5-0)
It doesn’t take rocket science to break this one down. Just look at the records of both teams involved and you can probably guess where this game is headed. What we have here in Denver this weekend is a match-up of what I believe are the #1 and #32 teams in the league. Peyton Manning is in a league of his own this year, and is on pace to throw for 64 touchdowns and 6,029 yards this season. As the kids say these days: the dude’s cray-cray! The Jaguars are in for a long afternoon up in Denver this week. The one shred of good news for them is that I don’t see the Broncos scoring 50+ points again. They won’t need to. We might not see them drop a 40 burger in this one. Mercy will be shown as Denver only wins by 28.
Denver 34, Jacksonville 6
Sunday, October 13th, 4:25 e.t.
Arizona Cardinals (3-2) @ San Francisco 49ers (3-2)
San Fran has gone back to its roots and is winning games the good ol’ fashioned way: ground and pound the opposition into submission. Colin Kaepernick has not looked good since his Week 1 eruption against Green Bay, and the Cardinals are coming off of a dominating win over the Panthers in which the defense got to Cam Newton seven times and forced him to throw three picks. It will be a mistake if Kap throws the ball over 25 times against this grizzly Arizona back-seven. Frank Gore is hot, so deal him the cards and let him be the bell-cow here. The Cardinals rushing defense is #3 in the league, but they haven’t faced a run-first team yet. Look for the Niners to test them in this game. I see this game as an old-school slug-fest with a lot of hard hitting and chippy play. A low score is to be expected when two old NFC West foes trade blows on the west coast. In a game like this, I have to give the edge to the 49ers. And if you were wondering, the Cardinals have not beaten the 49ers in San Francisco since 2008 when Kurt Warner was the starter. I don’t expect that to change, but I do think that this game has the potential to be the game of the week.
San Francisco 16, Arizona 13
New Orleans Saints (5-0) @ New England Patriots (4-1)
On paper, this is the best game on the slate for Week 6. It pits two teams who are well over .500 and have opened up leads in their respective divisions. The Patriots took their first loss of the season in excruciating fashion on the road in Cincinnati and now return home to play an even better team. A week ago fans were clamoring about how good the Patriots were after they beat the Falcons in Atlanta, but then the Jets went ahead and did the same thing. To me, that takes some of the luster away from that victory. Now, the defense has been playing very well this season and has not let up more than 23 points in any game so far, but the Saints offense is going to test that mark in a big way. Drew Brees has played well this season and just got through with picking apart the Bears defense. As good as the Patriots have been on “D” this season, I don’t think they are worlds better than Chicago and Brees had no problem making them look average. Aquib Talib has done an amazing job locking up his assigned receivers so far this season, but the Saints are going to present a much different look; their best receiver isn’t even a receiver. It’s a tight end. Tony Gonzalez destroyed the Pats two weeks ago, so just imagine what Jimmy Graham could do this week. I don’t expect Talib to be manning up on Graham all that much in this game since he will probably be chasing after Marques Colston on the outside for a majority of the game (although Bill Belichick has done some odd things in the past). Jimmy Graham is a lethal option who could end up being the X-factor in this game. Speaking of great tight ends, Rob Gronkowski is expected to make his season debut this week. How much of an impact he will have is still up in the air. With all of this being said, I have to go with the Saints in this game. They are a much better team than most people realize and they match up well with the New England defense. If this game were played later in the season when the Patriots will likely be healthier, it would be a tougher pick on my part. For a mid-October game with a slightly wounded New England team and a dynamic New Orleans one, I have to take the Saints.
New Orleans 34, New England 25
Sunday, October 13th, 8:30 e.t.
Washington Redskins (1-3) Dallas Cowboys (2-3)
The NFC East has received a lot of heat for being a sub-par division this season, but in all honesty the entire NFC seems to be a step below the AFC so far, which is an interesting change of pace. Anyways, the Redskins can find themselves right back in the middle of their division if they can pull off a win in Big D this weekend. Robert Griffin III has slowly improved his footwork this season and has had an extra week to prepare for the Cowboys (coming off of the BYE Week). I’m not expecting him to be the lightning-fast player he was, but the nation should see a much improved RGIII than the one that they have been seeing so far in the 2013 season. On the other sideline, Tony Romo is playing the best football of his career and was nearly able to pull off an impressive win over Denver last week. The Cowboys are averaging 38.3 points/game at home this season and the Redskins defense has not been the greatest this season. They did handle the Raiders pretty well in Week 4, but that was a team lead by a backup quarterback so they still have to prove to me they can slow down a good offensive team before I can pick them. I do like the ‘Skins chances in this game but I have to give the slight edge to Tony Romo here. As long as his offensive line can keep him off his back, he should find his receivers open down the field for big plays.
Dallas 31, Washington 24
Monday, October 14th, 8:40 e.t.
Indianapolis Colts (4-1) @ San Diego Chargers (2-3)
I am going to apologize ahead of time to all Chargers fans for this one, but remember the last time the Chargers played a home game Week 6 on Monday Night Football? They took a 24-0 lead into halftime against the Broncos, only to see that margin disappear in the second half during a major 35-24 loss. Now San Diego is going to face the heir apparent to Peyton’s throne in Andrew Luck who will be making his first of three straight prime time starts. If you have been reading my breakdowns and previews of previous Colts games, you will know that I have been praising the work that Pep Hamilton has been doing as the offensive coordinator. Luck is playing at an even higher level than he was last season, and he proved it last week. The Colts were in a trailing position for much of the game against Seattle and he was able to lead team back by scoring 11 unanswered points in the 4th quarter. He did not throw an interception and has only throw two of those all season long. Indy has been stressing their running game all year but I think that this will be Luck’s game to win. The Chargers have been solid with their run defense this year. I can see this one being a shootout as well. San Diego has had no ground game to speak of so far this season and that issue was magnified late at night last week against Oakland. Philip Rivers will probably be slinging the ball all over the yard in this one. It comes down to a battle between Luck and Rivers. Man, that can be exciting. I love what each quarterback has done this season and I want to go with the Colts here, but for some reason I can’t pull the trigger. San Diego needs this game in the worst way since they are currently three games behind in the AFC West. Over the years I have learned that the Chargers tend to play their best ball in desperate situations so that is why I am taking them here.
San Diego 35, Indianapolis 32
Week 6 promises to clear the water quite a bit on the 2013 season. Just think, in a few weeks we will be looking ahead to playoff scenarios. The season is moving forward at a rapid pace and I appreciate everybody for taking the ride with me. As always, you can look forward to my post-game thoughts/recaps of the weekend’s action.