Bleacher Report's Expert Week 6 NFL Picks
If you've been rolling the dice on NFL games this season, take a moment right now to apologize to your heart. According to the league, 19 of the first 80 games have featured a game-winning score in the final minute of regulation or in overtime, a record for the five-week mark. And 21 games have been decided by three points or fewer, which is tied for the third-most all-time at this point.
No wonder favorites are just 35-44-1 against the spread. And this week looks just as odd. Only five home teams are favored, and only two teams are favored by a touchdown or more.
Here's another attempt at prognostication for every game from Bleacher Report national NFL writers Gary Davenport, Brad Gagnon and Brent Sobleski, B/R Gridiron editors Ian Kenyon and Wes O'Donnell, and B/R Betting host Connor Rogers.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-1) at Philadelphia Eagles (2-3)
DraftKings Line: Tampa Bay -6.5
The public is hitting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers pretty hard as a mere 6.5-point favorite over a clearly inferior Philadelphia Eagles squad this week, but it's possible that line is a red flag for bettors. It's not moving up, which means oddsmakers are begging you to jump on the Bucs.
Why might that be? Well, we're still talking about a 44-year-old quarterback and a veteran team traveling to a tough environment to play a desperate team on extremely short rest. And for what it's worth, the Bucs went just 1-3 on less than a full week's rest last season, with Brady throwing more interceptions (five) than touchdown passes (four) in those three losses (the only win came on a six-day week against the lowly Detroit Lions).
But that isn't scaring off a slim majority of our panel. They're laying the points.
"The Eagles surrendered 41 and 42 points in back-to-back weeks against the Dallas Cowboys and Kansas City Chiefs," Sobleski said. "Sam Darnold and the Carolina Panthers are much improved but they're not the reigning Super Bowl champions. What happens when Brady and the league's top-ranked passing attack comes to town? The Buccaneers are going to put up points, while Philadelphia struggles to generate consistent offense."
If you're going to join them, do your best to get that 6.5 and beware of a 7.5.
Kenyon: Tampa Bay
O'Donnell: Tampa Bay
Rogers: Tampa Bay
Sobleski: Tampa Bay
Score Prediction: Buccaneers 30, Eagles 21
Miami Dolphins (1-4) at Jacksonville Jaguars (0-5)
DraftKings Line: Miami -3
The Miami Dolphins have been a tremendous disappointment during a 1-4 start to what was supposed to be a promising season, and now their backs are against the wall. Does that mean they'll feast as only a three-point favorite in London over a Jacksonville Jaguars squad that has lost 20 in a row overall and has dropped eight of its last nine games by double-digit margins?
Another slim panel majority isn't buying that Miami can turn this around with an emphatic win in what should feel like somewhat of a road game considering Jacksonville's footprint in England.
"Given the teams involved in this year's London games," Davenport said, "the NFL is apparently trying to make the British hate American football. The Dolphins and Jaguars are bad teams with major issues on both sides of the ball, although Miami hopes to have quarterback Tua Tagovailoa back for this one. Still, in this battle of blah, I'll take the points—and keep the Pepto Bismol nearby while watching the game."
And what does the potential return of Tagovailoa really mean? Will he be fully healthy? Will he be rusty? This is a guy who struggled as a rookie and completed just 54.8 percent of his passes for a 74.0 rating before going down in September. If indeed the Dolphins are down and out, Trevor Lawrence might have a shot at his first win here. His team is certainly due.
Score Prediction: Dolphins 24, Jaguars 23
Los Angeles Chargers (4-1) at Baltimore Ravens (4-1)
DraftKings Line: Baltimore -3
This feels a bit like a cop-out, doesn't it? At the very least, oddsmakers are playing it safe. We're looking at two top-10 teams in terms of DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average at Football Outsiders) in Sunday's matchup between the red-hot Los Angeles Chargers and the just-as-red-and-hot Baltimore Ravens. The most likely outcome is the home team wins by a field goal.
But we don't have a deadlocked panel. Another slim majority is backing the underdog.
"Two hot quarterbacks, two hot teams," Kenyon said. "The Chargers ride a three-game winning streak while the Ravens ride a four-game winning streak. The Chargers are 2-0 on the road; the Ravens are 2-0 at home. If you subscribe to the theory that the home team gets three points, then this would be a straight pick 'em on a neutral field. It should be the best game of the weekend, but with two evenly matched teams riding hot streaks, give me the points with the Chargers."
The Bolts do seem to excel outside of L.A., where they've never held much of a home-field advantage when it comes to crowd support. And keep in mind that the Ravens are operating on short rest following a grueling comeback win in overtime Monday night. This could be a tough spot for them.
Davenport: Los Angeles
Kenyon: Los Angeles
O'Donnell: Los Angeles
Sobleski: Los Angeles
Score Prediction: Chargers 27, Ravens 26
Minnesota Vikings (2-3) at Carolina Panthers (3-2)
DraftKings Line: Minnesota -1.5
Our picks for Sunday's tilt between the Minnesota Vikings and Carolina Panthers were originally split evenly before Davenport jumped to the increasingly healthy Panthers just as the line swung away from Carolina (who opened as a small favorite).
Now it's not far from the pick 'em range, and another slim majority is backing the team that has a better record and is getting points at home.
"I don't believe in Sam Darnold or the Panthers," Gagnon said, "but I don't have much faith in an inconsistent Kirk Cousins and the unpredictable Vikings as a road favorite either. The Vikes were lucky to beat the Lions at home, so why are we expecting them to go on the road and take down a Panthers squad that might get superstar Christian McCaffrey back from a hamstring injury?"
But because the panel was originally split on this one, we gave O'Donnell a chance to defend Minnesota.
"Darnold looked like he was back in a Jets uniform in Week 5, while the Vikings needed a last-second field goal to knock off the winless Lions," he said. "That is not good news for either team. The potential returns of McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook almost offset. So, even against a good Panthers defense (though it is starting to slip a bit), I'm simply going to back the better quarterback right now, and that is Kirk Cousins."
Tread carefully here.
Score Prediction: Panthers 24, Vikings 21
Green Bay Packers (4-1) at Chicago Bears (3-2)
DraftKings Line: Green Bay -4.5
The New Orleans Saints shocked the Green Bay Packers in Week 1, but nobody has beaten or covered the spread against Aaron Rodgers and Co. since then. And while the Bears are coming off back-to-back wins and covers themselves, the entire panel is confident the Packers will take care of business against a familiar opponent that is bringing along a rookie quarterback and has the second-worst offensive DVOA in the NFL.
"The Bears' future is bright with Justin Fields, but the Packers are in a much different phase than them right now," Rogers said. "I expect Green Bay to sell out against the run and score enough to cover a pretty underwhelming line."
A 4.5-point spread does seem quite low considering that the Packers have won and covered in four consecutive meetings between the two, with an average margin of victory of 12.5 points in those affairs.
It's healthy to be suspicious when lines like these don't move despite considerable public money going to the favorite. But we still can't recommend hitting Chicago with fewer than five points in your back pocket.
Davenport: Green Bay
Gagnon: Green Bay
Kenyon: Green Bay
O'Donnell: Green Bay
Rogers: Green Bay
Sobleski: Green Bay
Score Prediction: Packers 28, Bears 17
Cincinnati Bengals (3-2) at Detroit Lions (0-5)
DraftKings Line: Cincinnati -3.5
The Detroit Lions are 0-5, but their 3-2 ATS record actually beats that of the upstart Cincinnati Bengals (2-3). They've fallen twice by 19-17 margins after miraculous last-second field goals from their opponents, and now they're getting a field goal plus a hook at home from Cincinnati.
The gang is backing the Bengals, but by another slim margin. And it looked like a close call.
"To be fair, the Lions have kept games close," Sobleski said. "In fact, they lost two of their last three games on the final play of those contests. Dan Campbell's squad competes. However, the defense can't generate any pressure. If a defense can't place Joe Burrow under duress, the quarterback will pick it apart by taking advantage of his impressive weapons at wide receiver, particularly rookie Ja'Marr Chase."
Throw in, however, that the Bengals lost cornerback Trae Waynes last week while star safety Jessie Bates III and standout running back Joe Mixon are both dealing with injuries, and an upset can't be ruled out in Detroit. This is a scary one.
Score Prediction: Bengals 26, Lions 21
Houston Texans (1-4) at Indianapolis Colts (1-4)
DraftKings Line: Indianapolis -9.5
The line for Sunday's weak AFC South matchup between the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts has sunk from well above 10 to 9.5 (at one point dropping as low as nine flat). That could represent a referendum on both teams, as Houston has exceeded expectations and Indy continues to disappoint.
With the Colts coming off a tough road loss Monday night in Baltimore, it's hard for our panel to see them suddenly stepping on the gas pedal against a Houston team that hung with the Cleveland Browns on the road in Week 2 and nearly took down the New England Patriots in Week 5.
"Aside from a Week 4 blowout loss to the Bills on the road, the Texans have proved to be much more competitive than many thought entering the season," Kenyon said. "Entering Week 6, the Texans are 1-4 straight up but 3-2 against the spread. Coming off a three-point loss to the Patriots in which they entered as 8.5-point underdogs, they're getting 9.5 points from a 1-4 Colts team whose lone win was a 10-point victory over a Jacoby Brissett-led Dolphins squad. Expect the Colts to win this game but the Texans to continue to surprise bettors by covering the spread."
Houston will be without left tackle Laremy Tunsil (thumb), but Colts defensive backs Xavier Rhodes and Andrew Sendejo are in concussion protocol. At the very least, those statuses are worth watching closely.
Score Prediction: Colts 23, Texans 17
Los Angeles Rams (4-1) at New York Giants (1-4)
DraftKings Line: Los Angeles -9.5
The Los Angeles Rams have had extra time to prepare for this Sunday's matchup with the New York Giants, while the G-men are quite banged up coming off a one-sided loss to the Dallas Cowboys. With that in mind, nearly all of our pickers are down with laying 9.5 points with the Rams on the road.
"The Rams already have two fairly impressive road wins under their belt," Gagnon said, "and now they have a significant advantage in terms of rest and health considering what the Giants went through in Week 5. Big Blue might be able to hang with teams like Atlanta and Washington and even find a way to beat the inconsistent and depleted Saints, but they were smacked hard by the Broncos and Cowboys, and this should be a similar experience."
Quarterback Daniel Jones (concussion), running back Saquon Barkley (low ankle sprain), wide receivers Kadarius Toney (ankle) and Kenny Golladay (knee) all went down Sunday in Dallas. The Rams have lost corner Darious Williams (ankle), but they're in mighty fine shape compared to their Week 6 opponent.
This line accounts for those injuries to an extent, but that's not an easy task for even the geniuses in Vegas. It's hard to see the Giants keeping up here.
Davenport: Los Angeles
Gagnon: Los Angeles
Kenyon: Los Angeles
O'Donnell: Los Angeles
Rogers: Los Angeles
Sobleski: New York
Score Prediction: Rams 31, Giants 16
Kansas City Chiefs (2-3) at Washington Football Team (2-3)
DraftKings Line: Kansas City -6.5
It's downright shocking that both the Kansas City Chiefs and Washington Football Team have losing records entering their Week 6 showdown. This was supposed to be an unstoppable force against an immovable object, but Kansas City and Washington both rank dead-last in their respective conferences in points allowed.
Should anyone feel comfortable dropping close to a touchdown on the road with a Chiefs squad that hasn't been right this season and has gone just 3-13 against the spread in its last 16 games overall? Heck no, but we're still talking about Patrick Mahomes, and Washington has been just as big of a mess.
A slim majority is backing K.C.
"The Chiefs defense is trending toward historically bad, and that won't change overnight," O'Donnell said. "But outside of Scary Terry McLaurin, or Antonio Gibson in the red zone, the Football Team's offense is a good opportunity to at least try to find some defensive footing. Laying 6.5 points on the road might look like a scary number when a team is allowing a league-worst 32.6 points per game, but I'm willing to roll that dice with Mahomes trying to get Kansas City back in the win column."
Still, beware of the trap. The home team needs this badly, that talented WFT D is likely to eventually explode, and the temptation to fade the Chiefs-backing public is understandable.
Kenyon: Kansas City
O'Donnell: Kansas City
Rogers: Kansas City
Sobleski: Kansas City
Score Prediction: Chiefs 31, Washington 23
Arizona Cardinals (5-0) at Cleveland Browns (3-2)
DraftKings Line: Cleveland -3
In terms of both record and DVOA, the Arizona Cardinals have been much better than the Cleveland Browns this season. And yet, Arizona is getting a field goal from the Browns on Sunday in Cleveland.
It's another close call, but the majority of the panel isn't willing to back Baker Mayfield and Co. as a full three-point favorite in this spot.
"After thumping the undefeated Rams on the road in Week 4, the Cardinals weren't as sharp against San Francisco last week, although the team figured out a way to gut out a win at home," Davenport said. "Meanwhile, the Browns allowed approximately 6,000 yards of offense and 47 points against the Chargers in a Week 5 loss. It's that banged-up Cleveland defense that is the deciding factor here—the Browns are going to be hard-pressed to contain DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, A.J. Green and Rondale Moore. The points are nice, but I think Arizona wins this outright."
Throw in that standout backs Nick Chubb (calf) and Kareem Hunt (wrist, knee) are both hobbled for a run-oriented Browns team, and it's easy to understand why the Cards are the safer pick.
Score Prediction: Cardinals 24, Browns 23
Las Vegas Raiders (3-2) at Denver Broncos (3-2)
DraftKings Line: Denver -3.5
It's probably a coincidence, but the late Sunday games have featured a lot more deadlocks than the early ones. And that's again the case with the next two matchups in this exercise, starting with a divisional battle between the Las Vegas Raiders and Denver Broncos that contains an elephant in the room courtesy of now-former Raiders head coach Jon Gruden.
Denver was laying less than a field goal to start the week, but now oddsmakers are forcing Broncos backers to stare down a hook. It's daunting, especially because there's no way of knowing how the Raiders will react to the sudden resignation of their head coach.
Rogers on Denver: "We all know what kind of week it's been for the Raiders. They now take a trip to Denver where Teddy Bridgewater has been a very efficient passer through five weeks. Derek Carr had his first dud of the year against Chicago last week, and things won't be easier against the Broncos' No. 3-rated defense."
Sobleski on Las Vegas: "One of two things will happen with the Raiders this weekend. Either they'll rally as a team after Gruden's resignation or they'll fall completely apart. After watching the Broncos' embarrassing offensive performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the former seems like a better bet despite the organization's current state of upheaval."
Probably for the best we have a hung jury here.
Gagnon: Las Vegas
O'Donnell: Las Vegas
Sobleski: Las Vegas
Score Prediction: Broncos 23, Raiders 20
Dallas Cowboys (4-1) at New England Patriots (2-3)
DraftKings Line: Dallas -4.5
Bill Belichick hasn't lost four consecutive home games since he was the head coach of the Cleveland Browns 26 years ago, but he faces that prospect with the Patriots getting 4.5 points from the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
Half the panel thinks the Pats will have enough fight to cover if not win, but the other half is finding it hard to believe in a New England team that has played just one impressive game all season (against the New York Jets, at that).
Davenport on Dallas: "We figured that the Cowboys would sport a dynamic offense in 2021, but the play of the defense has been a major surprise. Micah Parsons made the switch from off-ball linebacker to edge-rusher look easy, and cornerback Trevon Diggs has intercepted all the passes ever while staking a case for Defensive Player of the Year honors. Add in a Cowboys offense diverse enough that Belichick can't hobble it by taking one player away, and you have a recipe for a double-digit victory for the visitors."
Rogers on the Pats: The Cowboys have looked every bit of a Super Bowl contender so far, but I still don't expect this game to get out of hand. They've won by 20, 8 and 24 points in their last three matchups, so they're due for a close contest. Will Dak Prescott and Co. grab their fifth win? Highly likely. Does Mac Jones take care of the ball enough in the short passing game to keep it close? I think so."
We suspect this one will be more divisive than most deadlocks.
Gagnon: New England
Kenyon: New England
Rogers: New England
Score Prediction: Cowboys 28, Patriots 23
Seattle Seahawks (2-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (2-3)
DraftKings Line: Pittsburgh -5
Nobody knows for sure how the Seattle Seahawks will react to the loss of quarterback Russell Wilson, because they've never been without Wilson since the superstar quarterback came into the league nearly a decade ago. His replacement, Geno Smith, displayed some good and some bad in relief of Wilson last Thursday, and he and the rest of the team have at least benefitted from extra time to prepare for a road matchup Sunday night with the similarly desperate Pittsburgh Steelers.
Still, nearly the entire panel is willing to lay a handful of points with Mike Tomlin's squad.
"This is more about the Seahawks than the Steelers, who have been as Jekyll and Hyde as any team in the league through five weeks between beating the Bills on the road and losing at home to the Bengals," Kenyon said. "Smith isn't going on the road to Pittsburgh and coming out with a win.
"I'd expect the Steelers to win by at least one touchdown as they seemed to find something last weekend by committing to a more even pass/run split and letting Ben Roethlisberger take the occasional deep shot (hitting Diontae Johnson for a 50-yard touchdown early in the game). If they can continue with that identity, they should be able to win handily at home."
The Steelers did just lose wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, though, and there is a dangerous intangible element at play with Wilson injured. Bettor beware with a line that has swung more than seven points in Pittsburgh's direction.
Score Prediction: Steelers 26, Seahawks 17
Buffalo Bills (4-1) at Tennessee Titans (3-2)
DraftKings Line: Buffalo -5.5
In the last four weeks, the Buffalo Bills have outscored their opponents 156-41. That stretch included some blowouts against weak opponents, but beating the quite talented division-rival Dolphins 35-0 on the road is no joke, putting up 43 points on the defending NFC East champion WFT is legit and taking down the two-time defending AFC champion Chiefs by a three-score margin on the road is jaw-dropping.
Buffalo has the league's top-scoring offense, No. 1-ranked scoring defense and the team is crushing the rest of the league in terms of DVOA.
How can we bet against them right now, even as a 5.5-point road favorite against a strong opponent like the Tennessee Titans?
"The Bills look like Super Bowl favorites right now with a front-running MVP candidate under center and a league-leading defense," O'Donnell said. "They will, however, have a hiccup or two along the way, like their ugly Week 1 performance against the Steelers.
That scares me this week. Derrick Henry, arguably Josh Allen's biggest threat to the MVP award right now, should scare everyone every week. But with the prime-time lights on in back to back weeks, I'll stick with the stampeding Bills to rise to the occasion once more. In fact, I'll continue to roll with Buffalo until the herd stops for water."
Again, though, with that line jumping from 3.5, we can only offer up a decision backed by a slim majority. Just one of those weeks.
Score Prediction: Bills 31, Titans 23
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