Bleacher Report's Expert Consensus Week 6 NFL Picks
Five weird weeks into the 2020 NFL regular season, Bleacher Report NFL correspondents Gary Davenport, Brad Gagnon, Kalyn Kahler, Matt Miller, Brent Sobleski and Master Tesfatsion are all in possession of winning records picking games against the spread.
Most encouragingly, the group consensus is batting .615.
Here are the details:
1. Kahler: 44-29-2 (8-4 last week)
T-2. Gagnon: 44-31-2 (9-5 last week)
T-2. Sobleski: 44-31-2 (9-5 last week)
4. Davenport: 43-32-2 (8-6 last week)
5. Miller: 42-32-2 (6-7 last week)
6. Tesfatsion: 38-37-2 (10-4 last week)
Consensus picks: 40-25-1 (8-3 last week)
And here are 14 fresh selections for Week 6.
Baltimore Ravens (4-1) at Philadelphia Eagles (1-3-1)
DraftKings Line: Baltimore -7.5
When the Baltimore Ravens win, they really win.
Each of Baltimore's last seven victories, and 12 of its last 14, have come by at least 14 points. So while the Ravens are spotting the desperate Philadelphia Eagles slightly more than a touchdown Sunday, most of our writers aren't afraid to lay the points.
"Baltimore hasn't looked quite right in recent weeks and still dropped 58 points during a two-game winning streak against the Washington Football Team and Cincinnati Bengals," Sobleski said. "The Eagles aren't much better than those two teams, and they're decimated by injuries. The statuses for right tackle Lane Johnson and top cover corner Darius Slay remain up in the air, which could only further deplete Philadelphia.
That said, this isn't a clean sweep, and the Ravens have been hit by the injury bug, too. Standout left tackle Ronnie Stanley (shoulder) and playmaking cornerback Marcus Peters (thigh) have both missed practice time this week, and we've seen what the veteran, well-coached Eagles are capable of with their backs against the wall.
Tesfatsion had this to say in defense of his lone-wolf Eagles selection: "Through five weeks, the NFC East is 6-14 against the spread (ATS). So this may feel like another easy call to #FadeTheEast, but it's a home underdog receiving more than a touchdown. The Eagles typically show up for these kinds of games against the best NFL teams, and they were one stop away from likely covering a seven-point spread last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers. They'll keep it close again this week...regardless of who is under center."
Consensus: Baltimore -7.5
Score Prediction: Ravens 28, Eagles 17
Chicago Bears (4-1) at Carolina Panthers (3-2)
DraftKings Line: Carolina -1.5
We have a hung jury in only two games this week, but it's not surprising one of those is Sunday's matchup between the overachieving Chicago Bears and the overachieving Carolina Panthers. Despite their winning records, it's fair to wonder if either team is for real. The Bears still have major offensive concerns, while the Panthers are without star running back Christian McCaffrey and continue to lack proven talent on defense.
And it's close to a pick'em, so there's no major line value to be had here.
Gagnon on his Bears pick: "I don't believe in either team, but the Panthers shouldn't be favored on the road against an opponent that is 4-1. Eventually, McCaffrey's absence is going to catch up with Carolina, and it would make sense for that to happen against Chicago's fourth-ranked scoring defense. Bears win a close one."
And Davenport on his decision to side with the Panthers: "The Bears finally beat a team that wasn't awful in squeaking past the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week, but Carolina has more momentum. Teddy Bridgewater has been red-hot the past two weeks, Robby Anderson is turning out to be a huge addition to the Carolina offense, and Mike Davis has done a fantastic job filling in for McCaffrey. The real difference here is the Carolina offense and Teddy Ballgame vs. Nick Foles and Chicago's sputtering unit. Panthers win by a touchdown and cover with ease."
Score Prediction: Panthers 23, Bears 21
Cleveland Browns (4-1) at Pittsburgh Steelers (4-0)
DraftKings Line: Pittsburgh -3
"I love this Pittsburgh Steelers team," Tesfatsion said of his decision to lay a field goal with Pittsburgh over the Cleveland Browns, along with the vast majority of our experts. "They're good on both sides of the ball and currently 3-1 ATS.
"My biggest concern entering the year was Ben Roethlisberger, and he's currently sitting on a 110.4 passer rating with just one interception on 143 attempts. Cleveland has improved quite a bit this year. Building around the running game and limiting the number of times Baker Mayfield has the ball in his hands was a smart decision, but I don't see the Browns stopping this Steelers pass offense."
Indeed, the Browns pass defense ranks 19th in DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) at Football Outsiders, while the Pittsburgh passing game ranks in the top 10 after Roethlisberger and rookie Chase Claypool put on a show in Week 5.
To boot, on the other side of the ball, Mayfield is dealing with a rib injury that has limited his participation in practice for Cleveland.
Still, this isn't unanimous. And in Kahler's defense, the Steelers' four wins have come against teams that are a combined 3-15-1 this season. Pittsburgh, which is already without right tackle Zach Banner, is also dealing with injuries to veteran offensive linemen David DeCastro and Maurkice Pouncey, and the Browns have been rolling over everyone since Week 2.
Consensus: Pittsburgh -3
Score Prediction: Steelers 31, Browns 24
Cincinnati Bengals (1-3-1) at Indianapolis Colts (3-2)
DraftKings Line: Indianapolis -8
The Cincinnati Bengals haven't been able to protect rookie quarterback Joe Burrow this season, and a lot of that is on an offensive line that will now have to face DeForest Buckner and Justin Houston up front in a daunting Week 6 matchup with the Indianapolis Colts.
But with star linebacker Darius Leonard still nursing a groin injury and quarterback Philip Rivers struggling, the majority of our pickers aren't willing to lay eight whole points with Indy.
"Maybe we're putting a little too much stock into Burrow as a whole," Sobleski said, "but the Bengals can move the ball and score some points when this year's No. 1 overall pick remains upright. The Colts are quite good, but last weekend's loss to the Browns showed there's very little room for error with this squad, especially with Rivers playing sub-par football."
Thanks primarily to strong defensive backs William Jackson III and Jessie Bates III, the Bengals actually have a top-10 pass defense in terms of DVOA. Meanwhile, following a two-interception dud against the Browns, Rivers has now thrown more interceptions (five) than touchdowns (four).
Still, we're one flip short of this being a 3-3 split from the judges. It's pretty tough to trust either team right now, but the Bengals are healthier and getting more than a touchdown.
Consensus: Cincinnati +8
Score Prediction: Colts 26, Bengals 21
Atlanta Falcons (0-5) at Minnesota Vikings (1-4)
DraftKings Line: Minnesota -4
Days after firing their head coach, the Houston Texans looked energized and inspired in an emphatic victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Atlanta Falcons are in a similar spot this week, but our panel is a lot less optimistic about a winless squad on the road against the Minnesota Vikings.
"The Vikings are becoming the hardest team to pick because we just don't know yet if they can be consistent on a weekly basis," Miller admitted. "But I'm feeling lucky, even with Dalvin Cook banged up, because Alexander Mattison and Justin Jefferson have been amazing lately. If Cook is limited or completely out, the Vikings offense is deep enough to cover up his loss."
And, apparently, to cover a four-point spread as the fave against an opponent that is also dealing with a key offensive injury (wide receiver Julio Jones has been missing practice time due to a balky hamstring).
Again, though, we'll give lone-wolf Tesfatsion a chance to justify his decision to go against the grain.
"Atlanta finally fired Dan Quinn, and it's a change the organization has needed for quite some time now" he said. "You'd think at 0-5, this team wouldn't have much to play for. But these Falcons players and coaches are playing for their future roles in this organization under a new regime, so I don't believe they're going to lay down—especially against a Vikings defense that has regressed significantly in talent. This should be a close shootout, and I'll side with Matt Ryan over Kirk Cousins on Sunday."
That's fair, and it's worth noting Atlanta finished 6-2 after a 1-7 start last year. But an argument can be made that had something to do with its belief in Quinn, who is now gone. Besides, more tangibly, that Falcons pass defense has been abysmal, and Cousins, Jefferson and Adam Thielen should be set to pounce, while the Jones injury could make it difficult for Atlanta to counter.
Consensus: Minnesota -4
Score Prediction: Vikings 31, Falcons 20
Washington Football Team (1-4) at New York Giants (0-5)
DraftKings Line: New York -2.5
The second deadlock this week comes in the NFC Least, which—as Tesfatsion mentioned—has collectively fared terribly both straight-up and against the spread this season.
Something has to give in this matchup between the Washington Football Team and New York Giants, at least ATS with a line that contains a non-zero fraction, but our gang essentially recommends you sit this one out.
Gagnon on his Giants selection: "The G-Men are actually 3-2 ATS this season, with three of their losses coming by one score. They're coming off a strong offensive performance against the Dallas Cowboys and are due to finally break through with a win against an opponent that looks lost following four consecutive 14-plus-point losses. I also have a rule of thumb not to get too cute with lines lower than a field goal. I think the Giants will win, so I believe they'll cover."
And Davenport in dissent: "Can I pick none of the above here? Both of these teams are awful, especially on offense—Washington had fewer than 125 yards of total offense last week, while Daniel Jones hasn't thrown a touchdown pass since Week 1. However, Washington at least has a decent defensive front, and it should be able to pressure Jones. This game is going to be unbearable to watch, and the first team to something-teen will probably win. Given that, I'm not laying points. Nope. Ain't doin' it."
Gagnon: New York
Kahler: New York
Tesfatsion: New York
Score Prediction: Giants 23, Washington 20
Detroit Lions (1-3) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4)
DraftKings Line: Detroit -3
If you were quick, you could have had the Jacksonville Jaguars plus a field goal and a hook against the Detroit Lions earlier this week. This line has since shifted toward the Jags, but four of our six analysts still recommend rolling with the home team with a field goal in your back pocket.
"These teams each come into this game with only one win and coaches on the hot seat," Kahler said. "The Lions will be rested coming off their bye week, but I'm picking the Jaguars to cover here because this feels like a close game between two bad teams. Jacksonville quarterback Gardner Minshew II and rookie running back James Robinson can take advantage of Detroit's underachieving run defense."
Detroit ranks 31st in DVOA against the run, while Jacksonville has a top-10 rushing offense primarily thanks to Robinson. However, both teams have proved to be untrustworthy and extremely unpredictable this season, and this has the look and feel of a field-goal game.
The push is certainly in play, and with the Lions coming off their bye, you might not want to risk much pocket change on this matchup.
Consensus: Jacksonville +3
Score Prediction: Lions 28, Jaguars 27
Houston Texans (1-4) at Tennessee Titans (4-0)
DraftKings Line: Tennessee -3.5
Is it time to start taking the Tennessee Titans seriously? Following a blowout victory over the Buffalo Bills on Tuesday under difficult circumstances, the majority of our crew is at least confident enough to lay 3.5 points in Tennessee's favor Sunday against the talented and potentially reinvigorated Houston Texans.
"Houston looked better against the Jaguars last week than it has all year," Davenport noted. "It's amazing what firing a coach can do for a team's disposition. But the Titans looked like a legitimate Super Bowl contender while throttling an undefeated Bills team Tuesday. The Titans are just a better, more balanced team, and the last time Derrick Henry faced the Texans, he peeled off 211 rushing yards and three scores. The hook is a bit of a concern, but not enough for me to consider a talented-but-flawed Texans team."
Gagnon, though, is happy to try to take advantage of that hook as the lone wolf on Houston.
"The Texans looked fired up last week," he said. "Now, they draw a familiar opponent that is on short rest. The Titans absolutely rocked the Bills, but that lack of recent practice and a slew of new injuries could catch up with them here. I'm not sure they can exploit Houston's weak offensive line to slow down Deshaun Watson. The desperate Texans win straight up or fall by a field goal or less."
All of his colleagues who are on the record this week disagree. They're rolling with a squad that has somewhat quietly won 11 of its last 14 regular-season games, even if three of those wins have come this year by three or fewer points.
Miller: No pick
Consensus: Tennessee -3.5
Score Prediction: Titans 30, Texans 24
Denver Broncos (1-3) at New England Patriots (2-2)
DraftKings Line: New England -10
Following a one-week postponement, the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots finally appear prepared to face each other in Week 6. And that extended break is a key factor in why most of our writers are down with laying 10 points with New England in this spot.
"The one big thing this COVID-19-related delay did is give Bill Belichick extra time to scheme up ways to exploit, manipulate and abuse an inferior, banged-up and inexperienced opponent," Gagnon said. "That could spell trouble for the Broncos. With extra time to prepare last year (i.e. Week 1, coming off their bye and coming off a Thursday game), the Patriots outscored their opponents by a combined margin of 83-13.
"Both teams have used this opportunity to get healthier, but the Pats already have two victories by double digits in their two home games this season, while the Broncos are lucky they didn't lose to the laughingstock New York Jets on the road before their unexpected bye. With Cam Newton expected to return for New England, I just don't see this remaining close."
Indeed, Newton was activated from the COVID-19/reserve list this week, but the postponement might also give injured Broncos quarterback Drew Lock a chance to start and excel Sunday, just as he often did down the stretch as a rookie in 2019.
Kahler figures Lock and Co. can at least keep this close by utilizing a strong run defense against a run-oriented Patriots attack, but she's on her own.
Davenport: New England
Gagnon: New England
Miller: No pick
Sobleski: New England
Tesfatsion: New England
Consensus: New England -10
Score Prediction: Patriots 30, Broncos 13
New York Jets (0-5) at Miami Dolphins (2-3)
DraftKings Line: Miami -9.5
We now live in a world in which the Miami Dolphins—who had the league's worst point differential last season—are our predictors' only unanimous selection of the week despite laying nearly 10 points against a divisional opponent.
Maybe that's an indictment on the winless New York Jets, who have yet to cover a single spread this season and appear to be in utter disarray following Le'Veon Bell's release. But this marks just the second time in the last decade that Miami has been favored by more than nine points.
And yet, the rapidly improving Dolphins already have two 10-plus-point victories under their belt this season, and they're also far healthier than the Jets, who won't have quarterback Sam Darnold, might not have rookie left tackle Mekhi Becton, and are already without Bell (cut), C.J. Mosley (opted out), Jamal Adams (traded) and several injured key players.
"Who are the Dolphins?" Miller said. "Last week's absolute beatdown of the San Francisco 49ers could be a lucky outing against a banged-up team, or we could be seeing head coach Brian Flores with another strong stretch of unexpected wins. Either way, the Dolphins should not struggle this week and are a smart pick to cover even though they're heavily favored. That's how bad the Jets are."
Is the Dolphins run defense still exploitable? Yes. Can the Jets do much about that with Frank Gore and his 3.2 yards-per-attempt average? Not likely.
Consensus: Miami -9.5
Score Prediction: Dolphins 31, New York 17
Green Bay Packers (4-0) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-2)
DraftKings Line: Green Bay -1
It isn't a clean sweep as it's often been this season when our crew has picked the Green Bay Packers, but a strong majority is backing Green Bay as an extremely small favorite on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"The Packers have been the best team in the NFL through five weeks of play," Sobleski said. "Plus, they've had two weeks to prepare for Tom Brady and Co. However, Green Bay's running backs will have to contribute in other ways since the Buccaneers defense is ranked No. 1 overall in average rushing yards per attempt. Luckily, the Packers backfield is more than capable of contributing in the receiving game and working in space."
The Bucs do dominate against the run and can apply plenty of pressure on Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, but that screen game could indeed come up big for the well-rested Packers.
Panthers back Mike Davis caught eight passes for 74 yards against the Bucs in Week 2, and New Orleans Saints back Alvin Kamara compiled 51 receiving yards and a touchdown catch against Tampa in Week 1. Meanwhile, Jones and Jamaal Williams have already caught a combined 28 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns for Green Bay.
Throw in that Green Bay used the bye to get a lot healthier with Davante Adams and Kenny Clark expected to return, and it's surprising the Packers aren't laying at least a field goal.
Davenport: Tampa Bay
Gagnon: Green Bay
Kahler: Green Bay
Miller: Green Bay
Sobleski: Green Bay
Tesfatsion: Green Bay
Consensus: Green Bay -1
Score Prediction: Packers 31, Buccaneers 23
Los Angeles Rams (4-1) at San Francisco 49ers (2-3)
DraftKings Line: Los Angeles -3.5
If the depleted San Francisco 49ers can't get within a field goal of the Eagles or Dolphins at home, how can we expect them to hang with the league's fourth-ranked team in terms of DVOA in Week 6? Even with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo likely healthier after bombing against Miami, almost all of our experts don't think San Francisco has been spotted enough points as a 3.5-point 'dog against the Los Angeles Rams.
"The Niners look cooked," Kahler said. "Garoppolo probably isn't the long-term answer at quarterback, and last week's attempted comeback from a high ankle sprain showed how far Garoppolo has to go until he's fully healed. San Francisco has lost back-to-back games at home against opponents (Eagles, Dolphins) that should have been worse teams."
"San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan hasn't named the starter for Sunday yet, but the Rams D leads the league with 20 sacks, so it's safe to assume whoever it is will feel the pressure from L.A.'s defense."
Garoppolo with a healthy George Kittle and Deebo Samuel could give the Niners a shot to compete, but their defense has also been gutted by injuries and is now without veteran linebacker Kwon Alexander as well. They just don't have enough to work with, while the healthier Rams have been pretty close to lights-out on both sides of the ball.
But Gagnon is going solo and fading the heavy public fave, mainly because San Francisco is well-coached and increasingly healthy and should theoretically be able to keep this close at home against a familiar foe that could be due to trip up.
As a result, we don't have a unanimous decision here.
Davenport: Los Angeles
Gagnon: San Francisco
Kahler: Los Angeles
Miller: Los Angeles
Sobleski: Los Angeles
Tesfatsion: Los Angeles
Consensus: Los Angeles -3.5
Score Prediction: Rams 30, 49ers 20
Kansas City Chiefs (4-1) at Buffalo Bills (4-1)
DraftKings Line: Kansas City -4
"The Buffalo Bills are in a tough spot," Gagnon said. "They were exposed in that Tuesday night loss to the Titans, and now they're going up against the defending champions on short rest. Not only that, but the Kansas City Chiefs should be out to make a statement in prime time following their first loss in 11 months. Wrong place, wrong time, especially considering injuries to key players such as John Brown, Zack Moss, Tre'Davious White and Matt Milano."
The Chiefs are banged up as well, with offensive starters Kelechi Osemele and Sammy Watkins both going down in that shocking Week 5 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. So while Kansas City -4 is the consensus pick among our panelists, it isn't surprising there's dissent from Kahler. You just never know how a team is going to react to a tough loss, and neither team has been in this position this year. Heck, the Chiefs haven't felt like this since last November.
But Kansas City responded to that Week 10 loss to the Titans by winning nine consecutive games by at least seven points each, culminating in that Super Bowl victory over San Francisco.
"This is also tough on Buffalo from a matchup standpoint," Gagnon added. "Buffalo has the league's worst offensive DVOA on the ground, which could make it tough to take advantage of K.C.'s issues with run defense. Meanwhile, White's back injury could make it easy for Mahomes to send a message with another epic performance on national television."
The Chiefs have won six consecutive prime-time games, all by at least seven points. Their average margin of victory in those outings was 14.2 points.
Davenport: Kansas City
Gagnon: Kansas City
Miller: No pick
Sobleski: Kansas City
Tesfatsion: No pick
Consensus: Kansas City -4
Score Prediction: Chiefs 34, Bills 27
Arizona Cardinals (3-2) at Dallas Cowboys (2-3)
DraftKings Line: Arizona -2
The Dallas Cowboys have yet to cover a spread this season, and the majority of our correspondents don't see that happening Monday night in their first game without quarterback Dak Prescott.
"It's entirely possible Dallas rallies around Andy Dalton and keeps this close, but this line is still too low, even with the Arizona Cardinals losing star pass-rusher Chandler Jones to a biceps injury," Gagnon said. "To pick the Cowboys, you have to be confident they'll win this game. But how? They have so many injuries on offense and defense that they can't seem to do anything well right now."
Now that depleted defense has to deal with Kyler Murray (who has a 109.5 passer rating and 109 rushing yards over the last two weeks) and All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins (who leads the NFL with 45 catches and 528 receiving yards).
They're at least at home, but that didn't do them much good in an ugly loss to the Browns or two underwhelming performances against the Falcons and Giants. With Prescott, Tyron Smith, La'el Collins, Blake Jarwin, Leighton Vander Esch, Sean Lee, Chidobe Awuzie and Anthony Brown all injured, it's fair to wonder what Dallas has left in it.
Consensus: Arizona -2
Score Prediction: Cardinals 28, Cowboys 24
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