With almost a third of the NFL regular season complete, we head into Week 6 with no shortage of interesting topics.
We’re down to just two unbeaten squads in Houston and Atlanta, and the lowly Browns remain the single winless club in the league. With each of these teams active this week, we could find ourselves without any undefeated teams come Week 7, but don’t count on it.
New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees succeeded in surpassing all-time great Johnny Unitas for consecutive games with a touchdown pass thrown, with the mark now sitting at 48 for at least one more week.
A down week for me in both spread and over/under picks nixed an above-average straight-up record resulting in a weekly percentage right around 45 overall. My (still disappointing) season totals sit at:
Straight: 45-32 (58 percent)
Spread: 33-44 (43 percent)
Over/Under: 38-39 (49 percent)
Altogether, that puts me at just above 50 percent on the year, a number quite a bit outside the realm of over-achieving. I can only hope to improve upon all of these totals in the weeks to come, and I really need to show a strong turnaround if I hope to achieve the goals set in this year’s first publication. Here goes nothing!
Pittsburgh Steelers (-5.5) at Tennessee Titans (O/U = 42.5)
The Steelers came off a bye week to knock off the Eagles in Week 5 with a last-second field goal. The returns of both Troy Polamalu and James Harrison were much-needed, as the offense was barely able to provide enough points to prevail by two in the end. Running back Rashard Mendenhall looked comfortable in his first game back from an ACL injury and should be expected to improve even further as his comfort level with that knee grows.
Tennessee failed to put anything together against the Vikings and looked the part of a team starting its second-string quarterback in the aging Matt Hasselbeck. With Chris Johnson looking as unreliable as ever, it will be tough for the Titans to hang with the strong Pittsburgh defense on Thursday night.
I don’t expect many points from the home team in this one as Pitt imposes its might in an easy win.
Detroit Lions (+5) at Philadelphia Eagles (O/U = 47.5)
Despite a 3-2 record, the Eagles have looked disjointed on offense to say the least, giving up 14 total turnovers and being outscored by opponents by a total of 19 points. Although they remain atop the NFC East, Philadelphia will need QB Michael Vick to do a substantially better job of protecting the football if it hopes to remain where it currently resides.
The Lions come off a bye week in which their entire organization was anonymously called out by a rival GM as being overrated and essentially a bad football team. While much of the feedback the Lions provided remained tame, it is hard to imagine statements such as those made will not fire up this prideful coaching staff and get a fire lit under Motown’s behind.
I find this one very tough to call, but with an extra week to study the Eagles defense, I think the Lions can pull out this upset on the road by racking up a lot of points. Even if they don’t, it’s almost a certainty that the Eagles will do a lot to help them out based on previous performances.
Oakland Raiders (+8.5) at Atlanta Falcons (O/U = 48.5)
Another Week 5 bye team was the Raiders, and following an underwhelming 1-3 start, they will not get any sort of break here against the undefeated Falcons. Carson Palmer has been unable to get a whole lot going in his first full year for the Silver and Black, and the Raider offense has suffered scoring the fourth fewest points per game in the NFL. Until he or RB Darren McFadden gets into some kind of groove, this team is not going to win a lot of games.
Atlanta continues to roll, not missing a beat against the Redskins in Week 5, and looks to be one of the best teams the NFL has to offer this season. Matt Ryan has really come into his own this season, and aside from outstanding support from WRs Roddy White and Julio Jones, the young QB has found arguably the most help from veteran Tony Gonzales. The future Hall of Famer surprisingly leads the NFL in receptions with 39 and continues to find ways to get open all over the field.
It doesn’t look like many people will be able to stop the Falcons this year, and it surely doesn’t seem that Oakland has what it takes to be one of those teams at this point.
Cincinnati Bengals (-2.5) at Cleveland Browns (O/U = 44)
In what will be their second and final matchup of the season, the Bengals and Browns square off here in the battle for Ohio. The Bengals took game one in the series by just a touchdown at home, but head into this one coming off a disappointing loss to the Dolphins in which they only pumped out 13 points. Just when their offense appeared to be clicking, it seems they were derailed a bit, and I look for them to return to form here against one of the leagues lower-end defenses.
The Browns will try yet again to pull out their first victory of the year and would love to do it against a divisional rival. Brandon Weeden ranks dead-last in QB Rating among starters this year, and with nine picks already, the Browns brass must be worried that their faith in the over-aged newcomer may have been ill-advised.
After losing by just seven on the road in the first matchup, it’s feasible that the Browns could put up a fight in front of the home fans, but I’m not confident enough in that chance.
St. Louis Rams (+3) at Miami Dolphins (O/U = 37.5)
Coming off back-to-back victories against division opponents, the Rams head to Miami looking to make it three wins in a row in Week 6. Jeff Fisher has his team above .500 in his first year as head coach, and despite a passing offense ranking near the bottom of the league, they have eked out three wins at home. The true question is whether or not this team can perform on the road.
The ‘Phins pulled out a bit of a surprise on the road in Cincinnati in Week 5 and would have potentially found themselves atop the AFC East had they not suffered back-to-back game losing field goals in overtime the two weeks prior. It’s hard to put a finger on this team, but with a run defense ranked No. 1 in the NFL, you can survive some question marks.
This might not be the most glamorous matchup of the week, but I do believe we will learn a lot of things from both teams. I’m not exactly sure why, but I think Miami pulls out a close one at home.
Spread: St. Louis
Indianapolis Colts (+3) at New York Jets (O/U = 42.5)
In what was easily the most inspirational game of the week, the Colts came from behind to beat the Packers in honor of head coach Chuck Pagano ,who is hospitalized after being diagnosed with leukemia. Reggie Wayne in particular had a statement game in his coach’s honor, putting up the most receiving yards in his entire career including two touchdowns in the win.
The Jets looked better against Houston than they did against San Francisco the previous week, but that’s not saying a whole lot following that 34-0 thrashing at the hands of the Niners. New York has lost its last two contests after losing both Darrelle Revis and Santonio Holmes for the season, yet it is just a game back of the Pats in a wacky year for the AFC East.
If the Colts come out with the same amount of heart that they showed against Green Bay, it will be tough for anyone to slow them down. I loved the display that they put on, but something tells me the Jets are ready to step back up with a strong defensive effort at home.
Straight: New York
Spread: New York
Kansas City Chiefs (+3.5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (O/U = 40)
While RB Jamaal Charles has returned to form to lead the NFL in rushing, at this stage in the season, his team has only been able to pull out a single victory. The ineptitude of Matt Cassell at QB teamed with a secondary that has been burned repeatedly has weighed heavily enough against Charles’ valiant efforts to turn this into an extremely poor football team.
The Bucs are coming off of a bye week and will look to flex their strong run defense against one of the league’s premier backs at home. With an extra week of preparation, the Bucs should be able to gameplan around their opponents’ many weaknesses and pull out their second win of the season.
Straight: Tampa Bay
Spread: Tampa Bay
Dallas Cowboys (+3.5) at Baltimore Ravens (O/U = 44)
The ‘Boys from Dallas had an entire extra week to fester on the embarrassing loss they took on Monday night in Week 4 in which Tony Romo was picked apart both literally and figuratively by the Chicago secondary. In a less than lucky turn of events, they will have to step back in against one of the top defenses on their schedule against Baltimore. With statistically the best pass defense in the league, it should not be too much to ask for the Dallas offense to hold on to the ball to win some football games.
Baltimore moved to 4-1 in Week 5 and hold a one-game lead in the hotly contested AFC North heading into this one. Although they have pulled down three Ws in a row, they were less than impressive in a 9-6 win against KC a week ago. I look for a steady dose of Ray Rice here, as Dallas is weaker against the run, leading to a big game from the premier back.
New England Patriots (-3.5) at Seattle Seahawks (O/U = 44.5)
In the Week 5 Game of the Week, the Pats took down Peyton Manning and the Broncos at home. Two strong offensive performances in a row have this team looking good heading into the meat of the season, and if star TE Rob Gronkowski can continue to improve from a hip injury, they should be to maintain their current lead in the AFC East.
The Seahawks find themselves in the tough position of being over .500, yet last place in their division. Pete Carroll has his team playing competitively in each game, and the Seattle defense has slowly worked its way into the conversation as one of the league’s best. If it can continue to hold opponents to 20 points or less, as it has in four of five games this season, then it can have a legitimate shot in every matchup.
Unfortunately, I don’t think even a 12th man can hold NE below 20 at this point in time. I’m taking the Pats on the road.
Straight: New England
Spread: New England
Buffalo Bills (+5) at Arizona Cardinals (O/U = 43)
The Cards suffered their first loss of the season in Week 5 in a stinker against the Rams. Just three points against a divisional rival is surely not how they saw that one working out, and despite just one loss, they are only tied for the division lead with SF and a game ahead of the next two squads. It’s not like anybody really believed this team was as good as its record indicated, but now it is time for it to prove if it was all a fluke, or if it can really win on a consistent basis.
Speaking of stinkers, the Bills only notched three points themselves as the SF defense put on a clinic on both sides of the ball in a 42-point rout. The Bills have once again failed to live up to high expectations, but are surely not out of the hunt just one game back of the Pats in the division.
I am not too high on either one of these teams right now, but I think the poor Bills defense will provide just enough holes for the Cards to pull it out at home.
New York Giants (+5.5) at San Francisco 49ers (O/U = 44.5)
Following a surprise loss to the Vikings in Week 3, the 49ers have come back with a vengeance, winning their next two by a total tally of 79-3. It has been clear for some time that the Niners featured one of the league’s top defenses, but with the offense rolling this way, it will be a true test to slow this team down.
The Giants have shown the ability to score with ease at times this season, but face their toughest test of the year here. After stealing a win in OT against San Fran in the NFC Championship last season, they will look to make this two in a row in one of the toughest environments in the league currently. Eli Manning sits in second place among all QBs for passing yards this season, and it will likely take quite a bit from him to put up some points against the toughest run D the NFL has to offer.
This may be the Game of the Week and should not disappoint. I like San Francisco to win at home with yet another strong defensive effort, but getting five and a half, I think the Giants can cover in a low-scoring battle.
Straight: San Francisco
Spread: New York
Minnesota Vikings at Washington Redskins (Spread and O/U N/A due to RGIII Injury)
Minnesota has now won three straight after a demolition of the Titans and finds itself tied atop the NFC North at this stage of the season. The offensive trio of Ponder, Peterson and Harvin has been too much for defenses to handle to this point, and an above-average defense has provided enough support to win four of five. With each week, this team seems more and more like a real contender.
After a massive hit to the head against Atlanta, it appears that RGIII will be starting against the Vikings, but with the league’s new stance on concussions, there is no doubt a close eye will be kept on the young QB. The Skins' 2-3 record is a bit deceiving, as they have been competitive in each game this season, and now they just have to figure out how to finish.
I think Griffin will come off of the injury scare strong, but will be tested against this tough Vikings D. Since there is no line out yet due to the injury I’ll have to stick to the straight-up pick for now.
Green Bay Packers (+4) at Houston Texans (O/U = 48.5)
Another great game this week will be the battle between the Pack and the Texans on Sunday night. Houston remains undefeated and continues to put space between themselves and the rest of the AFC South. A defense which has looked strong throughout the beginning of the season will have to show up against likely their strongest offensive opponent yet.
Green Bay lost last week to Indy, but with all the circumstances surrounding that game, it would have been tough for any team to handle the inspired Colts. At 2-3, I still think the Packers have a legitimate shot at another NFC North crown, and without a doubt a Wild Card spot. When hot, this is one of the best offenses in the league, and once Aaron Rodgers finds that groove, it will be hard to slow him down.
Packers fans will, however, wish he had found that groove before this game because a strong Houston D will not provide much room to figure things out. I’m taking the Texans at home in front of a raucous crowd in prime-time.
Denver Broncos (+2.5) at San Diego Chargers (O/U = 50)
After a Sunday night loss in Week 5, the Chargers will look to turn things around on Monday night this week in their second straight nationally televised game. They have scored at least 20 points in every game this season, and it looks like they will need those points to stay in the game against a Denver squad that has been putting on an offensive show themselves.
Had it not been for two untimely plays from Willis McGahee against the Patriots in Week 5, the Broncos could have been poised to make an improbable comeback in what eventually went down as a loss. Despite the defeat, Peyton Manning continues to impress with a 101 QB rating and two straight three TD performances.
Look out for some fireworks in this one, as these teams should provide plenty of fantastic plays throughout the duration of the Monday night matchup. I like Peyton to manage the offense away from costly mistakes that derailed them last week and pull out a big momentum victory on the road against a division rival.
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