It's gut-check week in the NFL.
As we near the midway point of the 2012 season, the playoff race is just beginning, and getting ahead now is vital for November and December.
We also have two teams—the Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans—that remain perfect. Well, does that continue through Week 6? Or will the Oakland Raiders and/or the Green Bay Packers pull off the upset?
Additionally, a few other teams such as the Cincinnati Bengals, Philadelphia Eagles and Denver Broncos need response victories after falling in Week 5. The true test of a team is how it responds when facing a must-win situation.
Plenty of other teams are in a similar quandary this weekend as well. Therefore, let's move along and see the winners of Week 6 in pro football.
Steelers at Titans
Pittsburgh is banged up defensively, and Tennessee is desperate for win.
We also have to remember that the Titans' four losses have come against teams who now combine for a 15-5 record. The Steelers still have issues with the offensive line, and the Titans literally have nothing to lose.
Plus, Chris Johnson rushed for 141 yards against the Houston Texans. So a strong performance against the Steel Curtain is possible.
Tennessee over Pittsburgh
Bengals at Browns
Make no mistake about it, the Cleveland Browns are better than their indicated 0-5 record.
They've played a tough schedule to this point and are hosting the vulnerable Cincinnati Bengals in Week 6. Cincinnati's defense is significantly lacking compared to 2011, and the offense has only consistently produced via the passing game.
As for the Browns, Trent Richardson is capable of taking over this game, and provided Brandon Weeden gets help from his receivers, we'll see an AFC North upset.
Cleveland over Cincinnati
Raiders at Falcons
If there's one game that possesses true upset potential, it's the Raiders and Falcons.
Oakland presents Darren McFadden and a rushing offense capable of thwarting Atlanta on the ground. Yes, the Raiders are dead last in rushing offense; however, Atlanta gives up an average of 5.4 yards per carry.
This will be an interesting game, because the Falcons offense will move the ball on Oakland's defense. It's just a matter of how well the Raiders offense can control the clock, as the Dirty Birds can score virtually at will.
Atlanta over Oakland
Rams at Dolphins
One of the more underrated, yet exciting, matchups of Week 6 is St. Louis and Miami.
Both are coming off big wins last week and field two defenses that are much better than advertised.
Here, a major difference will be the passing offense that gets established to set up the ground game. Each defense is technically sound up front, but the edge goes to the Dolphins, who allow just 2.7 yards per carry.
On the flip side, the Rams are better against the pass, but the Dolphins have a more dynamic back in Reggie Bush.
Miami over St. Louis
Colts at Jets
The New York Jets are in desperate need of a win.
Counterintuitively, the Colts are coming off an emotional win and have newfound confidence across the board. Andrew Luck is the real deal, and Indy's offense is balanced enough to keep the Jets honest.
No matter how much Tim Tebow is utilized—or a lack thereof—the Colts are stronger against the run and have more offensive playmakers as well.
Indianapolis over NY Jets
Lions at Eagles
From top to bottom, the Philadelphia Eagles are the better team.
Detroit has given up big plays on special teams, and its defense allowed 44 points to the Tennessee Titans. Philadelphia, however, can consistently get pressure on the quarterback and lock down well enough in man coverage.
When they have the ball, the Eagles have a potentially explosive attack when not turning it over. As long as LeSean McCoy is fed his carries, the Eagles roll.
Philadelphia over Detroit
Chiefs at Buccaneers
Kansas City against Tampa Bay is an overlooked chess match.
The Buccaneers rank No. 32 against the pass and No. 4 against the run. So expect Quinn to be given more opportunities to pass than anticipated.
Jamaal Charles is the Chiefs' sole threat, though. Therefore, the Bucs will load the box and force Quinn to outplay Josh Freeman.
Not exactly the best quarterback duel, but that favors Tampa along with a nice ground game from Doug Martin.
Buccaneers over Chiefs
Cowboys at Ravens
As surprising as it may sound, the Baltimore Ravens still have a lot to prove.
Although they're undoubtedly one of the AFC title contenders, Baltimore has lacked defensively against the pass, which has made it vulnerable against the run.
This certainly helps the Cowboys for their Week 6 matchup, because Big D presents a balanced attack with much potential explosion. The downside is that Dallas has yet to get out of a funk. Tony Romo remains turnover-prone, and the receivers must step up.
Against the Ravens, though, we still can't forget about Ed Reed.
Baltimore over Dallas
Patriots at Seahawks
One of the most exciting matchups offered in Week 6 is the Patriots offense against the Seahawks defense.
Each ranks inside the Top 10 in both rushing and passing categories, so it's reasonable to call this a wash.
When Seattle possesses the rock, though, another wash occurs. The Seahawks lack an explosive passing game, and New England is most vulnerable against the pass. On the contrary, the Pats are strong versus the run, and Marshawn Lynch is Seattle's best option to move the ball.
In short, it will come down to which quarterback makes better pre-snap reads and in-game adjustments.
New England over Seattle
Bills at Cardinals
Buffalo and Arizona face a must-win situation.
For one, the Bills just need a win to build some confidence as the AFC East sees a new contender in the Dolphins.
The Cardinals are in a similar position, because the Rams are on the rise as well.
As for this contest, Buffalo simply can't turn the ball over. Arizona's defense has pass-rush potential and playmakers in the secondary, so a run-oriented approach is likely.
Unfortunately for the Bills, the Cardinals present receiver Larry Fitzgerald and other receiver complements. The Cards may lack pass protection, but Buffalo's pass rush has yet to really make an impact.
Arizona over Buffalo
Giants at 49ers
A rematch of the NFC Championship game, the Giants travel back to San Francisco in a colossal conference matchup.
Things are a little different this time around, however, because the 49ers have Brandon Jacobs and Mario Manningham.
New York still needs more week-to-week consistency from the running game, and San Francisco remains elite on defense.
In addition, the 'Niners have improved against the pass and Alex Smith continues to improve as well, not to mention he will be going against Big Blue's banged up secondary.
San Francisco over NY Giants
Vikings at Redskins
The Minnesota Vikings have found a rhythm and aren't slowing down any time soon.
Adrian Peterson is basically back in full force, and the defense has allowed just 33 points in the past three games.
Washington, on the other hand, hasn't been as fortunate.
Defensively, the Redskins are vulnerable to the pass, which only hurts when defending the run. Offensively, the consistent explosion is lacking and there has not been enough balance to control the game tempo.
This is what the Vikings do well, and they also have special teams playmakers.
Minnesota over Washington
Packers at Texans
Green Bay vs. Houston is a game that will either be a blowout or finish in dramatic fashion.
The Packers have struggled with pass protection and the ground game, regardless of who's receiving carries, and the Texans field arguably the NFL's best defense across the board.
Switch to the Texans offense and it revolves around Arian Foster.
This is key for Houston, because Green Bay allows an average of 4.3 yards per carry, which makes it susceptible to play-action.
With an opportunistic secondary and improved pass rush, anticipate a heavy dosage of Foster to keep Aaron Rodgers off the field and the Packers from causing turnovers.
Houston over Green Bay
Broncos at Chargers
The implications of Denver and San Diego will have a lasting effect on each team's season.
Not only is this a must-win for both, but the winner takes immediate control atop the AFC West before November.
That said, this game comes down to the pass rush and pass defense.
Both quarterbacks are capable of dicing up the opposing secondary, so playmakers such as Tracy Porter and Eric Weddle must step up for their teams.
One distinction, though, lies in the total number of players capable of applying consistent quarterback pressure.
Denver has a few players after Von Miller, whereas the Bolts have only Shaun Phillips.
Denver over San Diego
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