NFL Week 6 Picks: Predicting the Weekend's Must-Win Games
The Green Bay Packers are in a must-win situation in Week 6—already two games back in the NFC North after five games.
The Packers aren't the only team that finds itself in this unenviable position at this point in the season either. There are a handful of teams that are in danger of falling too far behind their divisional rivals to make the playoffs in 2012.
Will the Packers win on the road against the Houston Texans?
Will the Denver Broncos win on the road against the San Diego Chargers?
Can the New York Jets hold off Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts at home?
Can Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins slow down the Minnesota Vikings at home?
Will the Tampa Bay Buccaneers be able to beat the hapless Kansas City Chiefs at home?
Can the Buffalo Bills somehow pull out of their funk to beat the Arizona Cardinals on the road?
Will the Detroit Lions rise up to the challenge and beat the Philadelphia Eagles on the road?
Here are my predictions for the biggest must-win games of Week 6.
Colts at Jets
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This is a particularly interesting matchup from my perspective.
The New York Jets absolutely need to win this game to have any hope of hanging with the New England Patriots in the AFC East. After five games, this team is only one game back, but the way the Jets are playing, it feels more like three games back.
The Indianapolis Colts have only played one road game thus far in 2012—their Week 1 blowout loss to the Chicago Bears. Since that time, this team has been highly competitive, winning or losing by no more than five points while beating both the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers.
Unfortunately, Robert Mathis isn't going to be playing for the Colts due to a sprained left knee (h/t Mike Chappell). He had tallied five sacks in just four games this season, and it's going to be hard for his teammates to pick up the slack.
That said, I predict Andrew Luck will have another big game and Sanchez's struggles will continue.
Prediction: Colts win their first road game of the season by a score of 23-17.
Lions at Eagles
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The Detroit Lions have had two weeks to figure out what's wrong after starting out the season 1-3. If this team doesn't come out and put forth its best effort, then the season will be completely lost.
The Philadelphia Eagles have one of the stingiest secondaries in the NFL, allowing just 209 yards per game (No. 8 in the league), just 6.1 yards per attempt (No. 3 in the league) and allowing just six touchdowns in five games while intercepting six passes.
Prediction: Lions will win on the road by a score of 31-24 due to a monster game from Stafford and Johnson.
Chiefs at Buccaneers
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The Kansas City Chiefs are a team in shambles right now after many experts picked them to come out of the AFC West as the divisional leader at the end of the season. If this team loses again this week, its season is officially lost.
That means Brady Quinn is going to attempt to lead his team to victory on the road against a defense that stifles opponents' running games to the tune of just 3.2 yards per carry. As good as Jamaal Charles has been this year, leading the NFL in rushing to this point, he's going to have a tough time running against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' stout front seven.
In his five-year career, Quinn has completed just 52.5 percent of his passes and has thrown 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions. While the Bucs are susceptible to getting burned in the passing game (No. 32 team in the NFL with 345 yards per game), I don't see Quinn finding similar success this week.
Buccaneers running back Doug Martin is going to have a big game against a struggling Chiefs defense too, keeping the chains moving and scoring at least one rushing touchdown.
Prediction: Buccaneers win at home by a score of 23-20.
Bills at Cardinals
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As bad as the Arizona Cardinals looked in St. Louis last week, they'll be much better in Week 6 against the Buffalo Bills at home. The Bills, at 2-3, are a game behind the New England Patriots. If they fall any further behind, it's going to be darn-near impossible to catch the surging Pats.
So far this season, the Cardinals have held serve at home, winning two close games against the Seattle Seahawks and Miami Dolphins and winning in blowout fashion against the Philadelphia Eagles.
In the last six quarters, the Bills have been outscored by an unbelievable total of 90-17.
It would seem to be a logical next step to say that the Cardinals will blow out the Bills, but I have a different take on the matter.
The Cardinals don't have a running game, but the Bills don't stop the run.
The Cardinals don't have an ability to stop pass-rushers from molesting Kevin Kolb, but the Bills don't have any pass rush to speak of.
The Bills are struggling to score points, but the Cardinals have allowed two anemic offenses to outplay them the past two weeks.
Prediction: The Cardinals win at home by a score of 27-23 in the ugliest game of the week.
Vikings at Redskins
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The Washington Redskins have yet to win at home this year, and at 2-3, this team is in danger of settling up permanent occupancy at the bottom of the NFC East.
The red-hot Minnesota Vikings come to town in Week 6, and the balance this team has on offense is going to be tough to overcome. Through five games, the offense has run 158 passing plays and 155 running plays.
Christian Ponder has been as solid as any starting quarterback in the league, and until last week's game, he hadn't thrown a single interception.
The Vikings have been amazing on defense this year too, allowing only 78.6 rushing yards per game (No. 6 in the NFL) and 226 passing yards per game.
That said, the Vikings haven't faced a team like the Redskins this season, and I'm expecting Alfred Morris to have a big game at home. Furthermore, Robert Griffin III will likely be playing, according to the latest reports from the Washington Post, and he's a test for any defense.
Prediction: Redskins win at home by a score of 31-24.
Packers at Texans
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Nobody expected the Green Bay Packers to be in danger of missing the playoffs in 2012, but with another loss, this team will be in a deep hole.
Their Week 6 opponent couldn't be more of a test either. The Packers will be at Houston to face the undefeated Texans—a team with the No. 3 defense in the NFL and the hottest pass-rusher in the league, J.J. Watt.
The Packers offensive line is in a sad state of disrepair. This unit has allowed 21 sacks in five game—the second-worst total in the NFL behind the Arizona Cardinals.
Even more troubling for the Packers is the fact that the team's run defense has been allowing 4.3 yards per carry.
Arian Foster is going to have a monster game.
Prediction: Texans will win by a score of 37-24.
Broncos at Chargers
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In one of the biggest games of Week 6, the Denver Broncos hit the road to face their divisional rivals, the San Diego Chargers. If the Chargers win, it's a two-game swing in their favor. They'll be 4-2 and the Broncos will be 2-4.
The stakes couldn't be much higher, and out of all the games to pick this week, I'm having the hardest time with this one.
The Broncos have been outplayed by the Atlanta Falcons, the Houston Texans and New England Patriots—three of the hottest teams in the NFL.
The Chargers have also been beaten by the Falcons, and their Week 5 loss to the New Orleans Saints is still a bitter taste in their mouth.
As with every game, this one will be decided by turnovers.
The Chargers are plus-two in this category, while the Broncos are minus-six. Being that Peyton Manning has traditionally struggled against the Chargers in the regular season (12 touchdowns versus 16 interceptions; h/t ESPN.com's Bill Williamson), I'm betting the trend continues in this game.
Prediction: Chargers win 31-27.