The sixth week of NFL action is upon us and if the season were to end today we would have four different playoff teams this year than last. It has been an up and down year and filled with some big time performers and exciting play-makers. So this has me thinking: who are the most fun players to watch in the league? Below is my top-ten list of most fun players to watch; those that constantly make jaw-dropping plays and are must-watches whenever they suit up and hit the field.
10- Von Miller, LB, Broncos: From explosive bull rushes to athletic spin moves, it is a flat out pleasure to watch this guy rush the passer. He is getting even better in run defense and pass coverage as well, making him one of the more well rounded players on this list.
9.- Julio Jones, WR, Falcons: Thiss guy is a flat out pleasure to watch. He is constantly making big plays and out-running defenses. Every time he takes the field you just know there is a chance he can turn in a 75 yard touchdown at any time.
8.- Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers: It is so fun watching Big Ben wind up and chuck the ball deep a few times per game. He is by far and away the best deep thrower in football and it is certainly something to see him tossing it deep to Antonio Brown, Sammie Coates, or Markus Wheaton every week.
7:- Richard Sherman, CB, Seahawks: Whether it is getting in the face of opposing wide receivers or making athletic plays breaking up or picking off passes, this guy is always entertaining. Just watch him run with someone in man-to-man coverage if you don’t believe me. Check the tape as they say.
6:- Terrelle Pryor, WR, Browns: Who woulda thought a Brown could make this list. This guy is here because he can play wide receiver, quarterback, or running back. This dude does it all and is a real threat and a joy to watch.
5:- Carson Wentz, QB, Eagles: It is a lot of fun watching a rookie make calls at the line, audible, and pick defenses apart the way this guy does at just 24 years of age. He is only going to get better, which is a scary thought.
4:- LeSean McCoy, RB, Bills: This one should need no explaining. This guy is very reminiscent of Barry Sanders with the way he can juke, cut, and make defenders miss. One of the very best in that department.
3: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Giants: I may not be a fan of his tantrums that he throws on the sidelines, but it is always entertaining to see how he will react to plays on the field. Not to mention the plethora of jaw-dropping catches he’s made early in his career.
2: Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks: Wilson’s scrambling ability has been an awe in this league for a few years now, but since he is recently developing into more of a pocket passer, we are finding out that there isn’t much he can’t do. A play and/or game is never over with #3 at the helm and that is a big nod to him as a player.
1: Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers: This one is a no-brainer. This guy A.B. is a funny guy (just check out his snapchat). On top of that he makes splash play after splash play Sundays and has some of the best choreographed dances you will see in football. This guy is explosive, fast, and simply put a must-watch for any fans of football.
Now that we have covered the top ten most exciting players, lets get on to predicting the fourteen (promisingly) exciting games for the weekend.
Last Week: 10-4
Thursday, October 13th, 8:25 e.t.
Denver Broncos (4-1) @ San Diego Chargers (1-4)
The San Diego Chargers have got to be the most exciting/hard-luck 1-4 team in recent memory. It has been gut-wrenching loss after gut-wrenching loss for these guys and now they host the Super Bowl champs who are coming off of their first loss of the season. Ty Sambrailo had a nightmare of a game versus the Falcons’ pass rusher Vic Beasley and now has to face a Chargers team that finally got their rookie Joey Bosa on the field against Oakland. He did okay with a couple of sacks and multiple pressures against one of the better lines in the sport and a quarterback who gets rid of it quickly. He could be the difference in this one. Why am I not expecting San Diego to win this game though? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that they know how to lose a game better than any other team in the league right now, besides maybe Cleveland. Whether it be defensive collapses, botched holds on field goal attempts, or last minute turnovers, the Chargers know how to choke away a game. Joe DeCamillis will be stepping in for Gary Kubiak to coach this game, and Denver should be getting Trevor Siemian back this week so we can expect to see the offense revert back to what it was pre-Paxton Lynch: a complete and fundamentally sound one. Regardless of whether or not it is Lynch or Siemian, the Broncos win this game with their defense and also because they are much healthier than are the Chargers. With that being said, expect the Bolts to put up a fight and make this a very good game. That’s what these guys do best under Mike McCoy.
Denver 21, San Diego 18
Sunday, October 16th, 1:00 e.t.
Carolina Panthers (1-4) @ New Orleans Saints (1-3)
What is going on with the Panthers? They lost a game at home to a Tampa Bay team that did everything they could to give it away. Derek Anderson had a rough go of it in the second half and the team just has not been the same as it was a year ago. This is partially because they have struggled to run the ball lately. If there were ever a team to get right against, it is these Saints. Sure, they have had an extra week with the BYE to prepare for Carolina while they come on the road after a short layoff after having played on Monday night, but I still like Ron Rivera and company to steal this game. Cam Newton is still in concussion protocol, but early signs as of the typing of this prognostication show that he will be a go for Sunday’s action. The gameplan should be the same whether it is Newton or Anderson: feed the backs the ball and let them run through an injury plagued New Orleans defense. There will be big plays to be had down the field as well. The Saints aren’t exactly superb at matching up with tight ends or larger receivers. The Panthers have both an elite tight end and a big target in Greg Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin. Whatever hope Carolina has at returning to the postseason will hinge on their performance in this game, and I think they bounce back and get back to their roots with the running game. That defense has some other problems that won’t be helped playing Drew Brees, but for this week I say the team survives.
Carolina 27, New Orleans 21
Baltimore Ravens (3-2) @ New York Giants (2-3)
It hasn’t exactly been the best of times for either or these two squads as each rolls into this game hoping to snap losing streaks. Baltimore’s impressive 3-0 start has quickly vanished after two close losses at home to the Redskins and Raiders. Marc Trestman was kicked to the curb after not pleasing the crowd with his play-calling Sunday versus Washington. In steps Marty Mornhinweg who is used to coaching against the Giants from back in his days as OC under Andy Reid on the Eagles, but that was a different team he was facing. These Giants are a spread offense with a trio of good receivers and no sight of a competent running game. The last time these two teed off, Joe Flacco lit up the New York secondary, but that was, again, against Tom Coughlin’s Giants. This is a different package of G-Men and one that is hard to figure. The offense has run stale lately, but that was against two good defenses (yes, I am considering Green Bay’s “D” as a good one for the first time in a few years). The Ravens have a middling unit whose strength is playing the run. Yardage-wise, Baltimore is actually tied for second in the league, but they are not forcing as many turnovers as the other higher ranked defenses are. On the road against a Giant team that cannot afford to lose looking up at the rest of what looks to be a good NFC East, I don’t like their chances. Janoris Jenkins is balling these days and Joe Flacco would be wise to go elsewhere with the ball. P.S., get Mike Wallace involved deep! This guy can take the top off of defenses, it is time the Ravens utilized him. Anyhow I like the Giants to pull it together in an entertaining win.
Power Pick of the Week: New York 32, Baltimore 27
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3) @ Chicago Bears (1-4)
This is a game that has a lot of moving parts to it. On one hand we have the Jaguars who are coming off of a BYE and were barely able to gut a win out in London against Indy. The team is still trying to morph its identity on offense and has struggled mightily with turnovers. Meanwhile we have the Bears who have actually done some very nice things on offense over the past two weeks with Brian Hoyer slinging it around. Things have become ten times easier for him though because of rookie running back Jordan Howard. This guy looks like the real deal. He has flashed with great quickness and power plus he has the hands you like out of the backfield (wow I just noticed I sounded like Rich Gannon with that one). The Jaguars are literally a middling team when it comes to rush defense, ranked 16th. They could have their hands full with Cameron Meredith, said no one ever before last week, in the middle of the field. If the Jags continue to play zone as they have for the better part of the first quarter of this campaign, Hoyer the Destroyer could pick them apart.
This will be the game that Allen Robinson finally goes nuts in. It will, however, be in a losing effort. These are the kinds of games that Chicago wins. We all think they are one of the worst teams in the league but these guys have actually been participating in some watchable football games lately. I like the Bears at home because of the strides I’ve seen them take on offense early on. As for the Jags, I still don’t know if they are any good. One ugly win in London over an average team hasn’t sold me.
Chicago 27, Jacksonville 21
Pittsburgh Steelers (4-1) @ Miami Dolphins (1-4)
These aren’t your father’s Dolphins, unless of course he was a big fan of their “work” in 2007 when the team went 1-15. Miami is a mess offensively and they really struggle to cover receivers on defense. This spells trouble with the most explosive offense coming to town to play a game that is going to force Adam Gase and Clyde Christensen to get the team to score a lot of points. The Dolphins don’t do that. Their season high was 30 which came in overtime against a dreadful Browns team. In their four losses the Dolphins have scored just 58 total points which equates to just over 14 points per game. Oy vey. They are gonna need to do better than two touchdowns in this contest if they hope to hang with the Steelers. Sure, Pittsburgh is a very different team away from home but they still have a boatload of playmakers on offense. Jarvis Landry longs for a quarterback like Ben Roethlisberger to turn him into an Antonio Brown, because I do think he has the talent. Miami can make some noise in this game if and only if they can pressure Big Ben and cut down on the big plays. These guys were letting Titans run behind them last Sunday at home, I don’t see them slowing down the Steelers this week. The road team should enjoy a nice easy win on Sunday.
Pittsburgh 35, Miami 13
Cleveland Browns (0-5) @ Tennessee Titans (2-3)
Could the Titans really go to .500 after this week? A win over Cleveland would bring them there and have them in a nice position to go on a little bit of a run and actually compete in the AFC South. Meanwhile for the Browns, there aren’t a ton of games this year where they will have a solid chance in winning, but this would be one of them. Tennessee doesn’t have a wide receivers corps that is going to scare anybody away and their defense is susceptible to giving up a chunk play here and there. They are turning the ball over a bit more than they’d like as well, so if the Browns can hold on to the rock they might have a shot at a win. That said, the team has Kevin Hogan dressing up for action at quarterback. The thought is that Cody Kessler will be good to go here, but if not then they have yet another signal-caller to ready for game action. Even if Kessler is a go, the Cleveland defense is a liability. Teams have been able to run on this unit for years now and if there is one thing the Titans want to do, it is run the football. DeMarco Murray is second in the league and rushing and he should see plenty of carries here. The defensive line gets bullied when trying to defend the run. The Patriots didn’t have a lot of success dashing them a week ago, but their game-plan called for a lot of passes. Tennessee will not be throwing it 40+ times by choice. I like them to really control the flow of game and let that dominant offensive line do its thing. Just a side note here, can you name another team in football that has a better starting tackle tandem than do the Titans. It is hard to beat the combo of Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin. As a final side note here, last week’s touchdown celebration by Andrew Hawkins may have been the greatest I’ve ever seen.
Tennessee 25, Cleveland 14
San Francisco 49ers (1-4) @ Buffalo Bills (3-2)
Just when most of us though that Rex Ryan was dead in the water and foolish for firing Greg Roman, the Bills turn things around and win three straight games. It is so much more for them than an offensive coordinator change. The defense is playing very well and LeSean McCoy is looking like the runner he was back in 2013 when he won the rushing title. Speaking of Shady, you can bet that he will be fired up to face his former head coach that (allegedly) ran him out of Philly again. San Fran could not slow down David Johnson a week ago at home and this defense plays even worse on the road. Travelling across the country into a college-like environment won’t help them either. Tyrod Taylor has been careful with the football when he has actually lined up under center to take the snap. As long as Buffalo can avoid making mistakes like that, they should win their fourth straight game. It wouldn’t be right to end this preview without pointing out the fact that Colin Kaepernick is starting for the Niners. Will he provide a spark for them in Chip Kelly’s offense? Perhaps so, but it is going to be tough for them to pull off the zone-read with the quickest linebacker tandem in the league with the Brown brothers, Zach and Preston.
Buffalo 19, San Francisco 10
Philadelphia Eagles (3-1) @ Washington Redskins (3-2)
Here is a good looking game for you football junkies out there. The Redskins, like the Bills, have risen from the 0-2 abyss and found themselves with a winning record three weeks later. They now have a chance to leapfrog the Eagles in the NFC East with a win. Carson Wentz has finally been picked off in the NFL, although his throw that Darius Slay got his hands on was a good one. Now he will have to bounce back to get back in the good graces of he Eagles fans. Truth be told, Wentz had that team moving against Detroit. A combination of good play-calling and execution had Philly on the comeback trail after being down by 14 in the second quarter. They probably would have won the game had Ryan Mathews not lost his grip on the ball right before the two minute warning. The Redskins are fresh off of a thrilling win over the Ravens in Baltimore, a place that NFC teams have had almost no success in playing. The defense had been had early this season with big plays down the field, but did not allow anything longer than 15 yards against the Ravens. Kirk Cousins wasn’t perfect but he also did not make any major mistakes, save the one interception that was fumbled out of the end zone. He tends to save his best efforts for these Eagles and I fully expect him to go toe-to-toe with Carson Wentz and provide one of the most entertaining games of the weekend. In the end, it makes more sense to pick Philly because of their defense and because Wentz has actually been playing at an elite level this season (he is the #1 ranked quarterback according to Pro Football Focus), but I am riding with the Redskins for the third straight week because this is the NFC East and I think this division is simply made to be bunched together tighter than a high school clique.
Washington 26, Philadelphia 23
Los Angeles Rams (3-2) @ Detroit Lions (2-3)
This may sound crazy, but the Lions probably saved their season with the gritty win over the Eagles a week ago. If they were to fall to 1-4 with the Packers sitting at 4-1 and Vikings at 5-0 there would have been little hope for them to win the division. The wild card is looking like it is going to go to a pair of 11 win teams in the NFC this year as well, so a loss to Philly really would have buried them. As it is, they are 2-3 and still digging their way out of the early season hole they have fallen into. Save one poor game against Chicago, Matthew Stafford has actually played well this seasons, and ever since Jim Bob Cooter took over at offensive coordinator for Detroit. The Rams have the potential to wreck a quarterback’s day but that is only if they can get pressure on their opponent. Last week against Philly, Stafford got rid of the ball quickly to his running backs out of the back field on choice routes and to his receivers on quick slants and eight yard hitches. I expect him to do more of the same to LA. Also, the Rams don’t have the offense that the Eagles did. Case Keenum is not exactly scaring anybody throwing the ball, and Tavon Austin is yet to make a huge impact on any game this season. The one thing that is concerning to Lions fans would have to be their run defense. The Eagles gashed them in the middle with draws and traps. Todd Gurley could gash them, however he is more of a smashmouth runner. Quick dives towards the line of scrimmage have been his game over the course of his young career and the Lions don’t have tons of problems defending those. It is the longer developing plays that give them fits. Look for some stretch runs and or cutbacks to get the Lions on their heels. Anyways, I still like Detroit to win at home because of what I saw last week. I hate making picks based of off these kind of facts, but against my better judgment I am doing it here. Don’t quote me on a Lions’ win!
Detroit 22, Los Angeles 16
Cincinnati Bengals (2-3) @ New England Patriots (4-1)
The Patriots have Tom Brady back, and that should terrify opposing defenses around the NFL. The Bengals are coming off of one of their worst defensive performances in recent memory and now have to head to Gillette Stadium to face a Patriots team that might not lose another game all regular season (or year if you believe my pre-season predictions). I think what is more encouraging for the Pats after their dominant win over Cleveland a week ago is the re-emergence of Rob Gronkowski as a weapon. He, combined with Martellys Bennett is going to be a two headed monster that is almost impossible to defend. Let’s not even mention that Chris Hogan is balling like his hair is on fire and the always reliable Julian Edelman. All I am saying is that if the Bengals had trouble defending Terrence Williams, Jason Witten, and Cole Beasely, imagine the damage that the Patriots could do. A.J. Green will probably face a lot of bracket coverage like he did a week ago. This is the same strategy New England used when DeAndre Hopkins came to town, and the team held him to just four catches for less than 50 yards in that game. If the Bengals continue to struggle with finishing drives, we could have another blowout on our hands here. Cincy will need to hold on to the ball and keep Tom Brady on the sidelines. There is no need to push the ball down the field on every play. They need to play things close to the best and dink and dunk the ball to have a chance.
New England 41, Cincinnati 16
Sunday, October 16th, 4:05 e.t.
Kansas City Chiefs (2-2) @ Oakland Raiders (4-1)
The Raiders are looking more and more like a playoff team as the weeks fly by and have a chance to get a stranglehold on the division over the Chiefs with a win on Sunday. Kansas City has had an extra week to stew in the bile of an embarrassing defeat at the hand of the Pittsburgh Steelers two Sunday nights ago and have to be chomping at the bit to get back out there. Jamaal Charles made his return to the field against the Steelers but saw very limited action in that game. He should see more here against a Raiders team that is still trying to get its feet underneath them on defense. Truth be told, their secondary has been the issue so far this season. Their offense has been fun to watch so far this year and Michael Crabtree has been playing like one of the best receivers in football. He is tied for the league lead in touchdowns with five. The men he’s tied with go by the names of Antonio Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, and Jordy Nelson. Not bad company. Will the Raiders actually go to 5-1 on the year though? I don’t think so. Listen, I know I’ve picked against the Raiders in every week this year except for one and I really do like them. I think they are a playoff team, but this just seems like a trap game for them here. Andy Reid is historically very good coming off of a BYE, and I think the Chiefs will be itching to play well after getting dismembered by the Steelers. Also, it is a divisional game. Anything can happen.
Kansas City 34, Oakland 21
Sunday, October 16th, 4:25 e.t.
Dallas Cowboys (4-1) @ Green Bay Packers (3-1)
The Packers have to be the odds on favorite to win this game, but the Cowboys have some serious mojo going coming into this one. Their offensive line was firing on all cylinders a week ago and the team enjoyed a dominant home win over the Bengals. Of course, I don’t really think Cincinnati is all that special this year, but that does not take away from what Dallas did. This week, however, we see the #1 rushing offense taking on the #1 rushing defense. Don’t be surprised if the advantage here goes towards the Cowboys. Yes, Green Bay has been lights out against the run allowing a stifling 2 yards per carry, but let’s remember who they were facing in their first four games: Jacksonville, Minnesota, Detroit, and the New York Giants. Those teams rank 30th, 32nd, 23rd, and 27th in that department respectively. So it is fair to say they have not been tested. Furthermore, I really like what I have seen this season from the Dallas defense, especially lately. I think they can cover the Green Bay receivers much like the Giants did. The only difference between the Cowboys and the Giants is that Dallas has that awesome running game and offensive line to attack with. If Dak Prescott can avoid making mistakes, like he’s done all year, I think that the ‘Boys earn the upset win on the road.
Dallas 23, Green Bay 22
Atlanta Falcons (4-1) @ Seattle Seahawks (3-1)
The Falcons went into Denver and pulled an upset over the Broncos in a game that went the way that not many of us thought it would. Most encouragingly is the fact that Atlanta found some semblance of a pass rush with Vic Beasly who dominated that game. Now they have to take on a Seattle team that I think is among one of the very best in the league. Of course this game is in Seattle, which is always a tough place to play. Sure, it has been a bit more tolerable over the past year, but that still doesn’t change the fact that the crowd will be rocking and giving Matt Ryan a tough time with communication. Richard Sherman versus Julio Jones should be a hell of a match-up to watch. Don’t be surprised if Julio has a nice game though. I like his physicality over Sherman’s and his speed is elite. The Stanford corner struggles against players like Jones. Anyways, Russell Wilson, like Ryan, is in the discussion for the league MVP early in the season. After Seattle scored 15 points in two games, they have come out and scored 30+ in back-to-back weeks before their early BYE. Wilson has been lights out in those game and the Seahawks haven’t had the running game that they’ve had in years past. He is showing that he can make throws from within the pocket and that is only going to elevate his game from this point forward. Let’s not discredit a thing that Atlanta has done to this point. They are the clear favorites in the NFC South and have an amazing offense, but I think heading to Seattle will knock them down a peg. This team has the chance to go up two games in the division, which is important because the Cardinals might be preparing to go on a bit of a run soon. And oh by the way, Jimmy Graham is back, and he’s had some nice success against Atlanta with his time in New Orleans. Give the the ‘Hawks in a dominant home win.
Seattle 30, Atlanta 16
Sunday, October 16th, 8:30 e.t.
Indianapolis Colts (2-3) @ Houston Texans (3-2)
In what is arguably the hardest game to call this week, the Colts will go down to Houston to take on the Texans, a team that has been a lot better at home than on the road to say the very least. The defense is allowing just 14.3 points per game in Houston as opposed to their road games where they allow 29 points per game. Offensively, the Texans score 23 points per game at home and only 6.5 points per game on the road. The offense has really sputtered to this point in the season and the team is yet to put together a sound game on that side of the ball. DeAndre Hopkins has disappeared lately and it is no coincidence that the team is 1-2 in their last three games. We will have to see if he has a reemergence against the Colts’ banged up and inexperienced secondary this weekend. I say he comes out in a big way and dominates the game. Now the Colts have won two out of their last three games, but they came against two one win teams. It is hard to put faith into these guys because of the fact that they have given Andrew Luck no help with an offensive line or run game. To ask Luck to go into Houston and win all on his own is preying for a lot, but not too much I think. The Texans are a very flawed three win team and have not had the best of luck playing in prime time. I think the Colts come to town and win this one despite what could be a monstrous effort from DeAndre Hopkins. This game pick says more about what I think of the Texans rather than what I think of the Colts. Somebody has to win it though, and I’ve gone back and forth with this pick, even as I have written this column, but in the end I like Luck to take his team to victory under the lights on Sunday night.
Indianapolis 28, Houston 19
Monday, October 17th, 8:30 e.t.
New York Jets (1-4) @ Arizona Cardinals (2-3)
Ever since their impressive win in Buffalo in Week 2, the Jets have fallen to 0-3 and have looked bad doing it. The offense had been turning the ball over and the defense is giving up big plays. Now they are staring at the Cardinals, a team that does two things very well: creating turnovers and making big plays. Todd Bowles may not like his return to Arizona so much if this game plays out the way it looks like it will on paper. Nobody ever really thought that the Cardinals were a bad team, despite being 1-3 this time a week ago. The offense did not look overly impressive with Drew Stanton leading the way in San Francisco. In fact, the team picked up only 288 yards in that game, only 30 of which came from players not named Larry Fitzgerald or David Johnson. I am not joking. If Carson Palmer plays in this game, which it looks like he will, I have no problem rolling with the Cardinals as he will be sure to take shots down the field against a team that has really struggled to defend the deep-ball (giving up five touchdowns of over 40 yards this season). If Stanton does play I may reconsider here, but as of now I am definitely taking the Cards. Their defense should swarm and they have one of the best running backs in football to hang their hat on in David Johnson.
Arizona 31, New York 16
Week 6 Bonus Predictions
Sure Bet of the Week (3-1): New England over Cincinnati
Upset of the Week: Dallas over Green Bay
Offensive Player of the Week: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans
Defensive Player of the Week: Bobby Wagner, LB, Seahawks
Rookie of the Week: Carson Wentz, QB, Eagles
Best Quarterback: Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks
Best Running Back: DeMarco Murray, RB, Titans