Week 6 NFL Picks: Last-Minute Predictions for Every Game
Another week in the NFL, another smorgasbord of can't-wait, can't-miss matchups. On the menu for Week 6:
An important showdown between two offenses struggling to keep up to 2011 expectations (Lions-Eagles).
A well-rested Cowboys team heading to the bird's nest in Baltimore.
The Patriots' breakneck offense facing the NFL's best secondary in Seattle.
An NFC championship rematch and potential preview in San Francisco.
A desperate 15-1 team from 2011 attempting to give the AFC's best team its first loss.
An AFC West clash between the division's two best teams.
Hungry enough to handle it all? Here's our last-minute predictions and previews for each game left on the Week 6 NFL schedule.
Oakland Raiders (1-3) at Atlanta Falcons (5-0)
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The Raiders have surprisingly lost nine straight games following a bye week, which is mind-blowing considering NFL teams historically have a better win percentage following the week off than any other week on the schedule.
Oakland's streak could likely hit double digits in 2012.
A trip to 5-0 Atlanta awaits, which means a struggling Raiders secondary must find a way to contain the early MVP leader Matt Ryan and his bevy of receiving options, including Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez.
Expect Ryan to continue picking apart a defense that allowed over 700 yards and seven passing touchdowns in the two weeks leading up the bye week.
Prediction: Falcons 34, Raiders 21
Final: Falcons 23, Raiders 20
Cincinnati Bengals (3-2) at Cleveland Browns (0-5)
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The Browns over the Bengals has become a sexy upset pick for Week 6. Cincinnati is coming off a surprising loss to the Miami Dolphins in Week 5, while the Browns showed some offensive life on the road in New York.
The Browns are also welcoming back suspended cornerback Joe Haden.
That said, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton is a perfect 3-0 against the Browns in his NFL career, including back-to-back wins in which he finished with a passer rating over 100. Cincinnati goes as Dalton goes, and he will have a strong game at Cleveland.
Prediction: Bengals 23, Browns 20
Final: Browns 34, Bengals 24
St. Louis Rams (3-2) at Miami Dolphins (2-3)
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A couple of reasons to like the surprising Dolphins in this matchup:
Young quarterback Ryan Tannehill, unlike Sam Bradford for St. Louis, has a clear No. 1 receiver. Brian Hartline leads the NFL in receiving yards, while Danny Amendola (clavicle) will be in sweats on the sidelines. Big advantage for Miami.
Cameron Wake is the NFL's best pass-rusher. With the Rams' shaky tackle duo, Wake could have another big afternoon in the quarterback's lap.
The Rams are 3-0 at home, but 0-2 on the road. St. Louis has been outscored 50-29 away from home this season. Winning away from home is always the toughest thing to develop for a young football team.
Prediction: Dolphins 17, Rams 14
Final: Dolphins 17, Rams 14
Indianapolis Colts (2-2) at New York Jets (2-3)
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The New York Jets have scored touchdowns on just two of their last 45 offensive drives. The Colts scored three touchdowns in the second half of their 18-point come-from-behind win over the Green Bay Packers in Week 5.
And so goes the story of these two football teams in 2012.
To be fair, the Jets showed a heartbeat Monday night, even as the nation was more than ready to pronounce their season dead. New York still lost, but a 24-17 defeat to an AFC Super Bowl contender was something to build on.
The key on Sunday for New York will be containing Colts receiver Reggie Wayne, in the same way Antonio Cromartie smothered Andre Johnson on Monday. If Wayne is held in check, the Jets will have a chance.
I'd expect a letdown for Indianapolis after an emotional win in Week 5, too. Bringing that much emotion on the road will be difficult.
Prediction: Jets 24, Colts 21
Prediction: Jets 35, Colts 9
Detroit Lions (1-3) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-2)
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No one would have predicted the kind of struggles both the Eagles and Lions offenses have suffered to start this season.
The Eagles are ranked a lowly 31st in the NFL in scoring, at 16.0 points a game. Matthew Stafford has just three touchdown passes, good for 32nd among quarterbacks. Philadelphia averaged almost 25 points a game last season, and Stafford threw for a franchise-record 41 scores in 2011.
Both Stafford and the Eagles offense are too talented to continue playing at such a low level. Could Week 6 be the breakout for either?
Maybe both will come out strong. In what could be the most fascinating game on the schedule that no one is talking about, the Eagles squeak out a win in a shootout.
Prediction: Eagles 34, Lions 31
Final: Lions 26, Eagles 23
Kansas City Chiefs (1-4) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3)
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For better or worse, the Chiefs are getting a start from quarterback Brady Quinn. Expect Kansas City to now be even more reliant on the running game with a former backup starting.
While losing a starter at the game's most important position is difficult to overcome, especially on the road, it's also hard not to look back on the Chiefs' upset win against the Packers a year ago with Kyle Orton as their quarterback.
Kansas City stayed on the ground, gave Orton convertable third downs and safe options, and the defense pinned its ears back and harassed the Packers offense.
If Quinn and the Chiefs follow that game plan on Sunday, Kansas City will beat the Bucs on the road. Maybe it doesn't go perfectly to that blueprint, but the Chiefs are capable of getting another win away from home.
Prediction: Chiefs 23, Buccaneers 14
Final: Buccaneers 38, Chiefs 10
Dallas Cowboys (2-2) at Baltimore Ravens (4-1)
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The Cowboys needed a bye week to gather their thoughts after a performance to forget two Monday nights ago. But traveling to Baltimore to face a 4-1 Ravens team won't be easy.
Play-caller Jason Garrett has to stay balanced or possibly even lean toward the run. Baltimore has been somewhat suspect stopping the run this season, but one-dimensional teams (see the Bengals in the second half of Week 1) have been eaten alive by the Ravens defense.
Dallas should play better and keep it close for 60 minutes, but Garrett will predictably get a little too pass-happy. The Cowboys offense makes that one crucial mistake to turn the game Baltimore's way.
Prediction: Ravens 24, Cowboys 20
Final: Ravens 31, Cowboys 29
Buffalo Bills (2-3) at Arizona Cardinals (4-1)
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Buffalo's defensive front four needs to get to Kevin Kolb this week. Arizona has allowed a whopping 17 sacks over the last two weeks.
However, let's also keep in mind that the Bills have been railroaded on defense (90 points over the last six quarters). Pressure up front has been non-existent.
Which dynamic fails first?
The Bills have the talent in the front four. The Cardinals lack it on the offensive line.
That said, I like Kevin Kolb and the passing game to control this contest at home, using a short-passing game to negate any pass rush. The Bills lose courtesy of another disheartening performance from the defense.
Prediction: Cardinals 27, Bills 17
Final: Bill 19, Cardinals 16
New England Patriots (3-2) at Seattle Seahawks (3-2)
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This interconference clash gives Giants-49ers a run for its money for game of the week. The reason? Patriots offense vs. Seahawks defense.
New England has begun to perfect the no-huddle, breakneck pace, mostly by mixing runs and passes at an efficient rate the last three weeks. The Patriots have rushed for over 200 yards in back-to-back games.
The Seahawks, however, stuff the run and smother passing games at home. There's no better secondary in the NFL, and Chris Clemons, Jason Jones and Bruce Irvin have helped apply enough pressure with just the front four.
Whoever wins this matchup wins the football game. The Seahawks secondary makes all the difference.
Prediction: Seahawks 23, Patriots 20
Final: Seahawks 24, Patriots 23
New York Giants (3-2) at San Francisco 49ers (4-1)
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The 49ers are still self-medicating the sting from last year's NFC championship game, but San Francisco can't forget how well it is playing right now.
No NFL team has been better in 2012, save one week in Minnesota. The 49ers had a plus-76 scoring differential with wins in the last two weeks over the Jets and Bills. This is a 53-man roster executing at the highest level.
The Giants have rode the wave of injuries and inconsistency in 2012, but their ability to get after the quarterback and win one-on-one matchups on the perimeter presents problems for San Francisco. New York also rushed for over 200 yards in Week 5.
The Giants may need another strong effort on the ground on Sunday to win again in San Francisco. I don't see that happening. These 49ers are playing too well right now.
Prediction: 49ers 29, Giants 20
Final: Giants 26, 49ers 20
Minnesota Vikings (4-1) at Washington Redskins (2-3)
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Vikings running back Adrian Peterson returns to the spot of of his horrific knee injury just 10 months ago. In a win over the Redskins in Washington last December, Peterson blew out his knee and appeared destined to miss the start of the 2012 season.
Peterson worked his way back, and so have his Vikings. Minnesota is currently 4-1 and atop the NFC North after five weeks.
The key for a physical Vikings defense is keeping Robert Griffin III inside the pocket. The rookie quarterback took a shot while scrambling last week, causing a concussion that forced him out of the game.
If Minnesota can corral a gun-shy Griffin III, the Vikings have an excellent shot at starting the season 5-1.
Prediction: Vikings 21, Redskins 20
Final: Redskins 38, Vikings 26
Green Bay Packers (2-3) at Houston Texans (5-0)
At 2-3, the Packers' 2012 season is on the brink. Eleven teams started 2-4 in 2011, and only the Denver Broncos recovered to secure a playoff spot. Denver finished 8-8, but that mark isn't likely to get the Packers into the playoffs in 2012.
The Texans will present a number of problems for Green Bay on Sunday night, mostly on offense. The balance between pass and run is a strength for Houston, as is the play-action passing game. Andre Johnson, a veteran receiver in Reggie Wayne's mold, gives Houston another asset to attack a struggling defense with.
While the Packers under Mike McCarthy have historically responded very well to these kind of back-to-the-wall situations, the X's and O's of this matchup weigh heavily in Houston's favor. A well-balanced Texans team sends the Packers to a lowly 2-4 record after six weeks.
Prediction: Texans 34, Packers 24
Denver Broncos (2-3) at San Diego Chargers (3-2)
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The Broncos offense is closing in on where it wants to be, with Peyton Manning looking more and more like his pre-2011 self. But the Denver defense remains a work in progress, and it's clear that this unit is going to struggle against the better offenses in the league.
Is San Diego's offense up to the task?
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has historically fared well against Denver, throwing 20 touchdowns against seven interceptions for a passer rating over 100.0. San Diego needs another strong performance from Rivers to beat Peyton Manning on Monday night.
At this point in the season, the Broncos simply aren't equipped on both sides of the ball to beat the Chargers on the road.
Prediction: Chargers 30, Broncos 23