NFL Picks Week 6: Bleacher Report's Expert Consensus Picks
Week 5 in the National Football League was all about comebacks and beatdowns.
No fewer than five NFL teams came roaring back from double-digit deficits to claim victories, headlined by the Cleveland Brown's record-setting 25-point comeback on the road against the Tennessee Titans.
Meanwhile, the undefeateds are no more, as the Arizona Cardinals and Cincinnati Bengals ran into buzz saws in Denver and New England.
Week 6 is going to be hard-pressed to match that level of drama and excitement, but with the week kicking off with a battle for first place in the AFC South, it should be a fun slate of games nonetheless.
Well, except for the New York Jets, anyway. And the Oakland Raiders.
We'll get to that in a moment as we break down how the Division Lead and National Lead Writers here at Bleacher Report expect Week 6 to play out.
One would think that given all the crazy endings and wild finishes around the NFL in Week 5, picking the games would have proved an exercise in futility.
One would be mistaken.
In fact, the opposite was true. Every one of our panelists hit double digits in wins last week for the first time this season.
Had (now-ex) Detroit Lions kicker Alex Henery not missed all three of his field-goal attempts in the team's surprising home loss to the Buffalo Bills, NFL National Lead Writer Mike Freeman would have posted the first perfect week of the 2014 campaign.
Chris Simms remains our overall leader, but his lead through five weeks has been trimmed to a single game.
(Season standings listed in parentheses)
Matt Bowen: NFL National Lead Writer 12-3 (46-30)
Gary Davenport: NFL Analyst 11-4 (47-29)
Mike Freeman: NFL National Lead Writer 14-1 (49-27)
Erik Frenz: AFC East Lead Writer 12-3 (41-35)
Brad Gagnon: NFC East Lead Writer 11-4 (49-27)
Andrea Hangst: AFC North Lead Writer 11-4 (43-33)
Christopher Hansen: AFC West Lead Writer 11-4 (39-37)
Zach Kruse: NFC North Lead Writer 12-3 (51-25)
Matt Miller: NFL National Lead Writer 11-4 (46-30)
Ty Schalter: NFL National Lead Writer 10-5 (40-36)
Michael Schottey: NFL National Lead Writer 11-4 (44-32)
Chris Simms: Former NFL Quarterback, Video Correspondent 11-4 (52-24)
Brent Sobleski: NFC South Lead Writer 11-4 (42-34)
Mike Tanier: NFL National Lead Writer 12-3 (42-34)
Sean Tomlinson: NFC West Lead Writer 10-5 (26-18)
Aggregate: 12-3 (45-31)
Indianapolis Colts (3-2) at Houston Texans (3-2)
The Pick: Indianapolis Colts (12-4)
So far this year, the Thursday night games have been a series of snoozers, blowouts that were decided by halftime.
Some have chalked up the sloppy play to the short turnaround between games, and running back Arian Foster made no effort to hide his disdain for Thursday Night Football while speaking with John Breech of CBS Sports:
Thursday Night Football is pretty annoying for players. I don't know one player that likes it. I really don't know a fan that likes it, either. I think it's just the league's way to try to generate more revenue, but that's what they are here for.
Like it or not, the winner of Thursday night's game at NRG Stadium will leave with first place in the division.
NFL National Lead Writer Ty Schalter expects the hometown Texans to prevail. "The Colts are coming off a big home win," Schalter wrote, "and the Texans a close road loss. Love the way Houston is trending right now, and I think they surprise the Colts at home."
He's in the minority, however, with three-quarters of our experts picking the Colts to capture their fourth straight win.
Colts: Bowen, Davenport, Gagnon, Hansen, Kruse, McCown, Miller, Schottey, Simms, Sobleski, Tanier, Tomlinson
Texans: Freeman, Frenz, Hangst, Schalter
Jacksonville Jaguars (0-5) at Tennessee Titans (1-4)
The Pick: Tennessee Titans (9-7)
Can you feel the excitement?
Sunday's AFC South "showdown" between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans features a pair of teams that have combined to win all of one game.
The winless Jaguars rank 31st in the NFL in total offense and dead last in total defense. The Titans were just on the wrong end of the biggest comeback by a visiting team in the history of the NFL.
Still, Michael DiRocco of ESPN saw a silver lining of sorts in Jacksonville's Week 5 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers:
The Jacksonville Jaguars finally looked like most of us expected them to in last Sunday's 17-9 loss to Pittsburgh. The defense played well and kept the game close and the offense struggled to consistently move the ball and score points.
The Jaguars have been a slightly better team on offense with rookie Blake Bortles under center, and with the Titans possibly starting a rookie of their own at quarterback in Week 6, nearly half the panel picked the Jags to get their first win of the season.
Nearly half isn't half, though, and the Titans are the pick as champs of the 2014 Dow Toilet Bowl.
Jaguars: Bowen, Davenport, Freeman, Schalter, Sobleski, Tanier, Tomlinson
Titans: Frenz, Gagnon, Hangst, Hansen, Kruse, McCown, Miller, Schottey, Simms
Baltimore Ravens (3-2) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-4)
The Pick: Baltimore Ravens (14-2)
They almost did it again.
One week after shocking the Steelers in Pittsburgh, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers nearly made it two upsets in a row, racing to a 24-13 lead in New Orleans before eventually falling to the Saints 37-31 in overtime.
There's no question that Tampa has been a much more competitive team with second-year pro Mike Glennon under center, but according to Scott Smith of the Bucs' website, head coach Lovie Smith still isn't ready to commit to Glennon as his long-term starter.
"Coach says that 'odds are' Mike Glennon will start again this week," Smith tweeted, "but he doesn't think it's time to address the QB situation long-term yet."
Our voters don't appear to much care who the quarterback is in Tampa. Coming off a tough road loss to the Indianapolis Colts, the overwhelming majority of our experts think that Baltimore will get back on the winning track Sunday.
Ravens: Bowen, Davenport, Freeman, Hangst, Hansen, Kruse, McCown, Miller, Schalter, Schottey, Simms, Sobleski, Tanier, Tomlinson
Buccaneers: Frenz, Gagnon
Denver Broncos (3-1) at New York Jets (1-4)
The Pick: Denver Broncos (16-0)
This game hardly even seems fair. It's the NFL equivalent of one of those early-season college matchups between Alabama and DeVry.
In one corner, we have the Denver Broncos, led by Peyton Manning. Last week Manning threw for a career-high 479 yards in a win over the Arizona Cardinals, becoming only the second quarterback in NFL history to throw 500 touchdown passes over his career.
In the other, we have the flatlining New York Jets, who were just embarrassed by the San Diego Chargers. In that game, Geno Smith and Michael Vick combined to throw for 74 yards.
Manning topped that mark in one pass to Demaryius Thomas against the Redbirds.
In other words, assuming that the entire Denver team isn't abducted by aliens at some point this week, the Jets look destined to lose five games in a row for the first time since 2007.
Broncos: Bowen, Davenport, Freeman, Frenz, Gagnon, Hangst, Hansen, Kruse, McCown, Miller, Schalter, Schottey, Simms, Sobleski, Tanier, Tomlinson
Jets: There isn't enough tequila on Earth to make this pick look good.
Detroit Lions (3-2) at Minnesota Vikings (2-3)
The Pick: Detroit Lions (9-7)
The Detroit Lions are a hard team to read, and an even harder team to trust.
In three games this season, the Lions have looked as formidable as any team in the NFC North.
In losses to the Carolina Panthers and the Buffalo Bills, however, a Lions offense that was supposed to be the least of the team's worries this year has had all sorts of problems scoring points.
Of course, injuries to star wideout Calvin Johnson and running back Joique Bell haven't helped matters any, and tailback Reggie Bush was forced from last week's loss to Buffalo as well.
Head coach Jim Caldwell didn't comment on Bush's status after last week's game, but he did tell ESPN's Michael Rothstein there's a real possibility Johnson's balky ankle will sideline him against the Vikings.
"Just being straightforward, I'm going to think about it again this week," Caldwell said. "Strongly. So we'll see."
With all the injuries to the Lions offense and Minnesota quarterback Teddy Bridgewater set to return to action, it's a close vote, but just over half our pundits believe that Detroit's top-ranked defense will be enough to carry the team to victory.
A competent kicker would probably help, too.
Lions: Bowen, Frenz, Miller, Schalter, Schottey, Simms, Sobleski, Tanier, Tomlinson
Vikings: Davenport, Freeman, Gagnon, Hangst, Hansen, Kruse, McCown
New England Patriots (3-2) at Buffalo Bills (3-2)
The Pick: New England Patriots (12-4)
It may only be the second week of October, but it's been a while since there was a game of this magnitude this late in the year at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
After leading Buffalo to a wild, come-from-behind win over the Detroit Lions last week, quarterback Kyle Orton and the Bills welcome in their hated rivals from New England, with first place in the AFC East on the line.
It's a rivalry that's been all Patriots of late. Dating back to 2010, the Bills have won only once in the last eight meetings with the Pats.
That one win did come in Buffalo, however, in September of 2011. NFL National Lead Writer Ty Schalter thinks the Bills defense has enough to pull off the upset again:
The Patriots bounced back in style last week, but Buffalo’s defensive line is giving everybody fits, and they always play the Pats close in Buffalo. Protection again becomes an issue for Tom Brady and company; I like the Bills here.
Schalter is in the minority, though, with three-fourths of the scribes picking the visitors to win.
Patriots: Bowen, Davenport, Frenz, Gagnon, Hangst, Kruse, Miller, Schottey, Simms, Sobleski, Tanier, Tomlinson
Bills: Freeman, Hansen, McCown, Schalter
Carolina Panthers (3-2) at Cincinnati Bengals (3-1)
The Pick: Cincinnati Bengals (15-1)
What a difference a few days makes. Heading into last Sunday night's game against the Patriots, the Bengals were the last undefeated team in the AFC, the conference's leading Super Bowl contender in the eyes of many after three straight impressive wins.
Then the Bengals got blasted 43-17, and suddenly they were right back to being the Bungles, the team that shrinks from the spotlight like a vampire in sunshine.
After listening to fans bemoan the team's poor showing in Beantown, offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth fired right back while speaking with ESPN's Coley Harvey:
They didn't come to the games when we were 3-0, so I don't know what to say to them. That stuff's just garbage. I'm not worried about the fans or the media or any of that crap. We need to go play well and win. The same people thought Tom Brady should quit football and retire from the NFL a week ago, so I bet they don't think that now. There's a lot of people [who] are reaping what they sowed in their comments last week about the New England Patriots, and now the team that was what everyone considered the hottest team [the Bengals], they beat the snot out of. So what does everybody have to say now?
The Bengals may not sell out Paul Brown Stadium, but they also haven't lost a regular-season game there since 2012, and that's enough to get the team the nod this week.
Bengals: Bowen, Davenport, Freeman, Frenz, Gagnon, Hangst, Hansen, Kruse, Miller, Schalter, Schottey, Simms, Sobleski, Tanier, Tomlinson
Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2) at Cleveland Browns (2-2)
The Pick: Cleveland Browns (12-4)
The AFC North is shaping up to be a dogfight this season. Through five weeks, it's the only division in the NFL where all four teams have at least a .500 record.
The Week 6 meeting between the Browns and Steelers will also be the second time the two teams have played this season. The Browns staged one of their patented comebacks after falling way behind early in Pittsburgh in Week 1, but even after escaping with a 30-27 win, Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons told The Associated Press (via The Washington Post) he has a newfound respect for his AFC North rivals.
"I think they’re serious this year," Timmons said. "You can’t take them lightly."
No one's taking the Browns lightly after last week's wild win over the Tennessee Titans. In fact, after losing to Tampa Bay and then struggling to down the winless Jaguars last week, only one-fourth of our experts think the Steelers will win the rematch.
The times they are a-changin'.
Steelers: Bowen, Miller, Schottey, Simms
Browns: Davenport, Freeman, Frenz, Gagnon, Hangst, Hansen, Kruse, McCown, Schalter, Sobleski, Tanier, Tomlinson
Green Bay Packers (3-2) at Miami Dolphins (2-2)
The Pick: Green Bay Packers (15-1)
Of course, back-to-back blowout wins over NFC North teams probably didn't hurt.
If the Packers are calm as can be right now, the Dolphins are anxious, even coming out of their bye.
That's because, as Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald points out, the Dolphins are about to find out how good they really are:
The Miami Dolphins are about to play "a measuring stick" game, as coach Joe Philbin called Sunday's meeting with Green Bay. And the reason this one presents such a considerable challenge is primarily because the Packers have perhaps the best quarterback in the NFL.
With Rodgers humming right along and Green Bay tailback Eddie Lacy coming off by far his best game of the season, only AFC East Lead Writer Erik Frenz chose the home team in this contest.
The Packers' two losses featured a similar formula, with a defense that can consistently rush four defensive linemen and drop everyone else into coverage. Cameron Wake, Olivier Vernon, Jared Odrick and Randy Starks create enough pressure on their own that they don't need to blitz, allowing them to drop everyone else into coverage. Ryan Tannehill could be the next mobile quarterback to victimize the Packers defense.
If they pull it off, you can't say Frenz didn't call his shot.
Packers: Bowen, Davenport, Freeman, Gagnon, Hangst, Hansen, Kruse, McCown, Miller, Schalter, Schottey, Simms, Sobleski, Tanier, Tomlinson
San Diego Chargers (4-1) at Oakland Raiders (0-4)
The Pick: San Diego Chargers (16-0)
The 1 p.m. games don't have a monopoly on lopsided affairs in Week 6.
Sure, the Oakland Raiders haven't won a game this year, and when last we saw them they were embarrassing themselves in London.
It's all good now, though, because new interim head coach Tony Sparano buried the past. Literally.
Defensive tackle Antonio Smith told Bill Williamson of ESPN that he likes what he's heard from the new head man so far:
His message, and his key thing he wants to do for us is to see us smile out there and win on Sunday, said that's his main job. You can't do anything but respect that, because that is a wonderful thing in this game. Winning is a wonderful thing, and to see the faces of the men you bleed and sweat with every day, with those smiles on their faces, it's something that's unbelievable. When he said that, it kind of lit a spark in my heart. I think that energy, that energy that he brings even when he's just talking, addressing the team, it just commands a presence, like a respect.
That's all well and good, but platitudes and hokey symbolism are of little use against a red-hot San Diego team that's won four straight.
Players would be good. Offense. Defense. That sort of thing.
Unfortunately, those are all in short supply in Oakland this year.
Chargers: Bowen, Davenport, Freeman, Frenz, Gagnon, Hangst, Hansen, Kruse, McCown, Miller, Schalter, Schottey, Simms, Sobleski, Tanier, Tomlinson
Raiders: As Charles Barkley would say, the Raiders is turrible.
Chicago Bears (2-3) at Atlanta Falcons (2-3)
The Pick: Atlanta Falcons (10-6)
Offense was not supposed to be a problem for the Chicago Bears in 2014. The Bears have as much talent at the skill positions on that side of the ball as any team in the NFL.
For the second straight week, the Bears failed to score a touchdown in the second half. For at least the second defeat of the season, fourth-quarter turnovers turned a satisfying Bears victory into a devastating defeat.
The Bears hired [head coach Marc] Trestman to fix the offense, period, but a unit that finished second in the league last year has regressed with the same players. All the noise about Cutler's inopportune mistakes has begun to drown out the quarterback whisperer. In the Bears' three losses, Cutler has six interceptions and Trestman no adequate answers.
If ever there would appear to be a remedy for the Bears' offensive woes, it's the Atlanta Falcons and their 29th-ranked defense. The Falcons have generated next to no pressure on opposing quarterbacks, managing only four sacks in five games this year.
Of course, the Bears are hardly a juggernaut defensively in their own right, and with a shootout potentially looming in the Georgia Dome, the majority of our writers expect the Bears' slide to continue.
Bears: Bowen, Davenport, Miller, Schottey, Simms, Tanier
Falcons: Freeman, Frenz, Gagnon, Hangst, Hansen, Kruse, McCown, Schalter, Sobleski, Tomlinson
Dallas Cowboys (4-1) at Seattle Seahawks (3-1)
The Pick: Seattle Seahawks (16-0)
There are three constants in life. Death, taxes and Seattle winning home games.
Since Russell Wilson took the helm at quarterback for the Seahawks in 2012, Seattle has lost a grand total of once at home.
Dallas head coach Jason Garrett told Jon Machota of Fox Sports Southwest that he knows the Cowboys have their work cut out for them:
It's a great challenge for us. Obviously, they're world champs and they play great at their stadium and have for a few years now. It starts with how good of a football team they are. They're a really, really good team. They didn't win the Super Bowl last year by accident.
Of course, the Cowboys are hardly chopped liver themselves. Paced by the league's best ground game and a defense that's exponentially better than anyone thought it would be, Dallas has reeled off four wins in a row.
But this is Seattle. The madness. The mayhem. The 12th Man.
And you just don't beat the Seahawks there.
Cowboys: They're getting better, but let's not get crazy.
Seahawks: Bowen, Davenport, Freeman, Frenz, Gagnon, Hangst, Hansen, Kruse, McCown, Miller, Schalter, Schottey, Simms, Sobleski, Tanier, Tomlinson
Washington Redskins (1-4) at Arizona Cardinals (3-1)
The Pick: Arizona Cardinals (14-2)
The Arizona Cardinals were knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten last week, and not only did the team lose a game, but they also lost a number of key players to injuries.
Among them was quarterback Drew Stanton, who was himself filling in for the injured Carson Palmer. As ESPN's Josh Weinfuss wrote, it leaves the Cardinals in quite a predicament:
The Cardinals, who fell to 3-1 after a 41-20 loss to the Denver Broncos, have been down a quarterback since Week 1, when Carson Palmer suffered an axillary nerve contusion against San Diego. With 12 minutes left in the third quarter Sunday, they went down two.
One healthy quarterback remains on the roster, leaving Arizona at a crossroads. It's impossible to predict when Stanton will be able to play. And despite progress made this weekend in Denver, Palmer's return is still as unpredictable as the nerve in his right shoulder. It's easy to consider rushing him back, but if he can't throw hard or deep, Palmer's not an option.
The overwhelming majority of our experts either feel Palmer or Stanton will play, or that Arizona's ground game and stout defense will be enough to carry the day against a floundering Washington team.
However, two writers (including this one) are leery enough of the possibility of Logan Thomas or the newly signed Dennis Dixon drawing the start under center to roll the dice on the visitors.
Redskins: Davenport, Simms
Cardinals: Bowen, Freeman, Frenz, Gagnon, Hangst, Hansen, Kruse, McCown, Miller, Schalter, Schottey, Sobleski, Tanier, Tomlinson
New York Giants (3-2) at Philadelphia Eagles (4-1)
The Pick: New York Giants (10-6)
In the opinion of NFL National Lead Writer Ty Schalter, the powers that be got the schedule right in Week 6. Sunday night's NFC East showdown between the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles is the marquee matchup of the week:
There are a ton of really intriguing matchups this week, but Giants-Eagles is the one I’m waiting for. Can Philly’s wild defensive/special teams success win out over a red-hot Giants team that’s outscored opponents 105-53 over the last three weeks?
Schalter hit the nail squarely on the head. The Eagles have kept right on winning despite a struggling ground game, in large part thanks to a staggering six non-offensive touchdowns over the past three games.
Meanwhile, the Giants got big contributions from rookies Andre Williams and Odell Beckham in last week's win over Atlanta. Written off for dead after an 0-2 start, the Giants are as hot as any team in the league.
One thing's for sure: If our panel is correct, things in the NFC East are about to get very interesting, as the Cowboys, Giants and Eagles would all be deadlocked at 4-2 after six games.
Giants: Bowen, Davenport, Freeman, Gagnon, Hangst, Hansen, Kruse, McCown, Schalter, Simms
Eagles: Frenz, Miller, Schottey, Sobleski, Tanier, Tomlinson
San Francisco 49ers (3-2) at St. Louis Rams (1-3)
The Pick: San Francisco 49ers (16-0)
After a sluggish start to the year the San Francisco 49ers have peeled off two wins in a row, but all is most certainly not well in Santa Clara.
Despite the streak, rumors continue to swirl that Jim Harbaugh's days as head coach of the 49ers are numbered. In fact, Josh Katzowitz of CBS Sports passed along word that Harbaugh could be done regardless of how the Niners do this year:
Even if Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers win the Super Bowl this year, the San Francisco coach reportedly is on his way out of his job. That's according to Fox Sports' Jay Glazer, who said Sunday that even if the 49ers lift the Lombardi Trophy, Harbaugh won't be back for the 2015 season.
Of course, 49ers owner Jed York quickly refuted the report. "Jim is my coach," York tweeted, "We are trying to win a SB, not a personality or popularity contest. Any more questions?"
It's going to take more than one tweet to quiet all the hoopla swirling around their embattled head coach, but a third straight win certainly wouldn't hurt.
The writers here at Bleacher Report are unanimous in their belief that the 49ers will get that win against the reeling Rams Monday night.
49ers: Bowen, Davenport, Freeman, Frenz, Gagnon, Hangst, Hansen, Kruse, McCown, Miller, Schalter, Schottey, Simms, Sobleski, Tanier, Tomlinson
Rams: Speaking of embattled head coaches, Jeff Fisher's seat isn't exactly freezing.