NFL Predictions Week 6: Upset Picks and Projections

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistOctober 10, 2018

Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton (1) looks to pass against the New York Giants in the second half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Jason E. Miczek)
Jason E. Miczek/Associated Press

It's bad news for those who love the underdogs—it is getting harder by the week to find viable upset picks on the NFL schedule. 

Week 6 should teach this lesson right out of the gates on Thursday Night Football between the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. The latter has won a single game, and on a short week, the Giants don't appear to be in an upset-minded situation. 

There are exceptions to the trend, of course. But this week's slate featuring more big spreads than the last is partially signaling confidence from oddsmakers that the puzzle continues to get solved. 

After outlining the full slate, let's look at the top upset picks. 

      

Week 6 NFL Odds

Philadelphia (-3) at N.Y. Giants | O/U 44

Arizona at Minnesota (-10.5) | O/U 43

Carolina at Washington (-1.5) | O/U n/a

Chicago (-3) at Miami | O/U 42.5

Indianapolis at N.Y. Jets (-2.5) | O/U 45

Pittsburgh at Cincinnati (-2.5) | O/U 53

Seattle (-3) at Oakland | O/U 48

Buffalo at Houston (-8.5) | O/U n/a

L.A. Chargers (-1) at Cleveland | O/U 44

Tampa Bay at Atlanta (-3.5) | O/U 57.5

L.A. Rams (-7) at Denver | O/U 52.5

Baltimore (-3) at Tennessee | O/U 41

Jacksonville (-3) at Dallas | O/U 40.5

Kansas City at New England (-3) | O/U 59

San Francisco at Green Bay (-9.5) | O/U 46.5

      

Arizona at Minnesota (-10.5) 

Ben Margot/Associated Press

This might be a case of oddsmakers adjusting too much. 

The Arizona Cardinals might only have a single win, but it came in Week 5. It's a small sign things are improving by the week, even if the victory came over the one-win San Francisco 49ers. 

Much of the upward swing hinges on rookie passer Josh Rosen, who got the start on the road and went 10-of-25 with 170 yards and a score.

He had to battle drops from his receivers but otherwise showed an uncanny ability to fit throws in tight windows: 

Should Rosen's targets start translating more of these throws into gains while they get on the same page as the new starter, the Cardinals might be going places. 

And it's not like Minnesota has looked great. The Vikings are 1-2-1 over their last four, including a 27-6 blowout to the Buffalo Bills and a 38-point allowance to the Los Angeles Rams. 

It's hard to say which Vikings team will show up, but it's clear the defense, a one-dimensional offense (226 pass attempts, 96 rushes) and ineffective running game means 11 touchdowns and two interceptions from Kirk Cousins doesn't equate to much. 

The strength of a Mike Zimmer-led team was always going to be defense, so it's a red flag his unit ranks 23rd while allowing 26.2 points per game. The Vikings might still get the win at home, but Rosen and a developing attack have enough juice to beat an overzealous spread. 

Prediction: Vikings 28, Cardinals 23

      

Carolina at Washington (-1.5) 

Mike McCarn/Associated Press

This upset pick might not last long if the line swings back in the other direction. 

Blame the Washington Redskins, a team that went out and laid an egg on Monday Night Football in Week 5, losing 43-19 to the New Orleans Saints. Alex Smith could only muster 275 yards and an interception while counterpart Drew Brees casually tallied 363 with three touchdowns. 

The Redskins have now completely failed to show up for two out of their four games this season, with the other being a stunning home loss to the Indianapolis Colts, 21-9. 

Now they have to deal with Cam Newton

The Carolina Panthers quarterback has the team on a two-game tear and boasts seven touchdowns against three interceptions. He's finally getting some help from a running game, too, with Christian McCaffrey totaling 329 yards on a 5.2 yards per carry.

This is having a huge quantifiable effect: 

To top it all off, Smith has only thrown four touchdowns in as many games, and leading running back Adrian Peterson will try to play through a shoulder strain, according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero

Away from home or not, this is a game Newton should dominate, especially against a team with an identity crisis that isn't giving its new quarterback much help. 

Prediction: Panthers 27, Redskins 20 

      

Baltimore (-3) at Tennessee 

Jeffrey T. Barnes/Associated Press

The Baltimore Ravens just lost to the Cleveland Browns. 

It's hard to take the Ravens seriously after the 12-9 overtime debacle, even if the Browns are better than advertised. While 3-2, Baltimore has victories against a terrible Buffalo team (47-3) and 2-3 Denver and 2-2-1 Pittsburgh. 

During the season-opening stretch, Joe Flacco is only completing 61.2 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and three interceptions, and the running game is averaging 3.4 yards per carry. 

Granted, these Tennessee Titans just went on the road and lost to those Bills, 13-12. Buffalo held the ball for more than 33 minutes of play, keeping Marcus Mariota in check to the tune of a 14-of-26 line for 129 yards and an interception. 

Stars like running back Dion Lewis know where there are problems, as captured by ESPN.com's Turron Davenport: "As an offense, we had to help the defense more—score more points, get more yards. Our defense has done a great job, so we've got to complement them a little better."

But otherwise, the Titans have risen to the occasion, only losing to a stout Miami team and taking down—all in a row—Houston, Jacksonville and Philadelphia. The defensive matchup here is a wash (Baltimore is first in points per game allowed, Tennessee third), while the Titans are home and have much more offensive upside with Mariota combining with weapons like Lewis and Corey Davis. 

The spread here negates the three points given to home-field advantage, suggesting the Ravens are the better team by a touchdown. It simply isn't true, so look for Mariota to key a late win. 

Prediction: Titans 23, Ravens 20

        

Odds via OddsShark

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