The NFL season marches on to Week 6 with two undefeated teams remaining, backup quarterbacks winning left and right, and plenty of intriguing matchups yet to play out.
Daniel Jones gets his first crack at actually replacing Eli Manning: he has to beat an undefeated New England Patriots team. The NFL’s other undefeated team, the San Francisco 49ers, gets their toughest test of the season so far in Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams.
The Philadelphia Eagles look for their 3rd straight win, but Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings need a win to keep pace in a packed NFC North. That division will be showcased on Monday Night, when the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions square off for (virtually) first place in the North.
Otherwise throughout the NFL, we have the long-awaited Tank Bowl: a matchup between two of the league’s absolute worst teams (I actually have the Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins as the 31st and 32nd best teams in this week’s power rankings.)
There’s still a long football season ahead, but if you lost last week, you’re already on notice. That goes especially for the Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles Chargers, and Atlanta Falcons. These four teams, and to a much lesser extent, the Kansas City Chiefs, need wins to keep their seasons on course.
Week 1: 9-6-1
Week 2: 9-7
Week 3: 11-5
Week 4: 6-9
Week 5: 10-5
Overall Record: 45-32-1
Would you look at that: when the league isn’t producing upsets left and right, I can put up a decent record. Shocking, I know.
The biggest advancement for me personally was not making any dumb picks. I pretty much stand by by incorrect picks, and the close outcomes basically justified them.
I finally picked a New York Giants game right, predicting they’d fall to the Vikings after four straight incorrect picks in their games. The Baltimore Ravens barely held on for a 26-23 OT win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. That one would’ve hurt if it went the other way.
In Week 5 I incorrectly predicted:
- Rams over Seahawks
- Bears over Raiders
- Titans over Bills
- Chargers over Broncos
- Chiefs over Colts
Thursday Night Football
New York Giants (2-3) at New England Patriots (5-0)
Line: New York Giants (-17.0)
A 17-point spread makes the New York Giants massive underdogs in this Thursday night matchup with the New England Patriots. The Giants are basically getting the treatment usually expected by the Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, and Washington Redskins.
The worst part is, I can’t confidently say the Giants will cover this spread. The Patriots have been blowing opponents of the water this season (albeit with three wins coming against teams that are currently winless.) New York is 2-1 with Daniel Jones under center, but he’s regressed in each of his three starts.
It would be a great story if Daniel Jones could pull off this upset, invoking his inner Eli Manning. But with Saquon Barkley doubtful/not playing, and other injuries piling up on offense, Jones will likely have a very hard time moving the ball against Belichick’s defense. It will be the toughest challenge Jones has faced yet.
The matchup itself is a fun one, and I’m sure the coverage will flash highlights of Super Bowl 42 and 46 throughout. But this Giants team isn’t nearly capable enough of pulling off this unlikely road upset.
Patriots win 38-17, Patriots win ATS
NFL in London: Week 2
Carolina Panthers (3-2) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3)
Line: Carolina Panthers (-2.0)
Game Time: 9:30 AM ET
Both teams are pretty hot coming into a London edition of their NFC South rivalry. Tampa Bay is coming off a loss, but it was to a good New Orleans Saints team. A week earlier, they beat the other team in last year’s NFC Conference Championship Game, the Los Angeles Rams.
Carolina is riding on three straight wins since the injured Cam Newton was replaced with Kyle Allen. In what should be considered good news for Carolina fans, Allen starts again in London with Newton ruled out.
This should be a great football showcase for the European fans, as the matchup is pretty even on paper. The Panthers may need Christian McCaffery to go off in order to secure a win. Some teams need a lot more things to break right for a win, but if CMC is eating, Carolina is winning their fourth straight.
Panthers win 27-23, Panthers win ATS
Sunday Day Games
Seattle Seahawks (4-1) at Cleveland Browns (2-3)
Line: Seattle Seahawks (-1.5)
The Browns have alternated wins and losses for five straight games this season. If the trend continues, they are due for a win against the Seahawks.
Seattle plays extremely close games, even in wins, which I suppose is why Vegas only has the Seahawks as 1.5-point favorites.
I think Cleveland’s up and down season has been exactly that: up and down. Which team will show up at home against the Seahawks? Can the Browns capitalize on the West Coast Seahawks playing a 1 PM game in the Eastern timezone?
Personally, the Browns just haven’t given me enough reasons to pick them against an even opponent, let alone the superior Seahawks. Baker Mayfield improves on his career-worst Week 5 outing, only because there’s no where to go but up.
Seahawks win 26-17, Seahawks win ATS
Houston Texans (3-2) at Kansas City Chiefs (4-1)
Line: Kansas City Chiefs (-5.0)
A huge AFC matchup here with plenty on the line. The Kansas City Chiefs are looking to bounce back from just their 5th loss in their last 21 regular season games. The Texans are coming off a breakout win over the Atlanta Falcons where they topped 50 points.
Deshaun Watson and his weapons against Patrick Mahommes and his. This should be a fun one. Mahommes-Jackson in Week 3 lived up to the hype, so hopefully this game does too.
If you’re looking at the tape, the Texans obviously played much better football last week. The Chiefs only mustered 13 points at home against the Colts. In theory, the Texans have a great chance in this game.
But I’m going with guts over brain. Though the Chiefs didn’t look great at all last week, they’ll bounce back to form and be fine for the rest of the season. They’ll finish 14-2 or 13-3.
Chiefs win 33-26, Chiefs win ATS
Washington Redskins (0-5) at Miami Dolphins (0-4)
Line: Washington Redskins (-3.5)
TANK BOWL 2019 IS HERE! In one corner, the team that traded half their starters away right as the season began, the team that traded for a sophomore quarterback but then started Ryan Fitzpatrick instead, the Miami Dolphins!
In the other corner, a team that has utilized not one, not two, but three quarterbacks this season! Rookie Dwayne Haskins reportedly ran some plays for the first time in his life in-game against the New York Giants. You want dysfunction, you got dysfunction. And now with head coach Jay Gruden out of the way, we give you, the Washington Redskins!
This game honestly could go either way, and should be “fun” for all the wrong reasons. Both defenses are bad, but the offenses aren’t much better. I’ve seen a bit more life out of Washington’s offense. I also think they may rally behind Gruden’s firing, as well as the rare opportunity to actually win a game.
Luckily, both teams play the New York Jets this year, so this won’t be their only shot at a win this season.
Redskins win 16-13, Dolphins win ATS
Philadelphia Eagles (3-2) at Minnesota Vikings (3-2)
Line: Minnesota Vikings (-3.0)
The Vikings bounced back last week with a road win over the Giants. That’s not to say there still isn’t question marks surrounding the team. But the Philadelphia Eagles season can also be summed up in a big question mark.
Once 1-2, the Eagles broke out with a Thursday Night Football win over the Packers to turn their season around. Last week, the birds preyed on the weakened Jets squad in dominating fashion.
Both teams have the ability to play great football, but they’ve struggled to do so every game this season. If both teams show up and play to their full capabilities, this should be a thrilling NFC duel.
The Vikings get to be three point favorites by virtue of being the home-team, in a neutral situation this would be a pick ’em. I like what the Eagles offense has been doing for the past two weeks, but will Minnesota’s defense be able to stonewall them?
My gut says Vikings, then my second gut says take the Eagles because the matchup is so close. But I’m actually going to stick with the Vikings: they’re 2-0 in Minnesota this year and push that record to 3-0.
Vikings win 27-24, PUSH ATS
New Orleans Saints (4-1) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-3)
Line: Jacksonville Jaguars (-1.0)
I know the Saints are still forced to roll with Teddy Bridgewater instead of Drew Brees (though Bridgewater is 3-0 as a starter this year) but how in the world are the Jaguars the favorites in this game?
I’ve learned recently that in making the point spreads, home teams get three points in their favor. By that logic, in a neutral site, the Saints would be two point favorites.
Don’t get me wrong, the Jaguars have exceeded my expectations and may be a bit better than their 2-3 record suggests. Gardner Minshew is an opportunistic quarterback, and may get a couple good shots in against the Saints defense.
But Sean Payton leads a balanced Saints attack to a road win in Jacksonville. I’m not saying it will be easy, but I still can’t believe the Jaguars are favorites at time of writing. I have the Saints as the 3rd-best team in the NFL, and there’s some that would even argue they’re #2.
Saints win 27-20, Saints win ATS
Cincinnati Bengals (0-5) at Baltimore Ravens (3-2)
Line: Baltimore Ravens (-11.0)
Me and my brother argue over if the Baltimore Ravens are a legit AFC threat this year. At 2-0 and even 2-1 with a loss to the Chiefs, I thought they looked like they belonged in the AFC’s top class. My brother reasoned they only beat the Dolphins and Cardinals to get to 2-0.
The past two weeks haven’t exactly helped my case. The Ravens dropped a game to the Browns by 15 points. They beat the Steelers last week, but needed overtime to do so.
This week should be an easy win to get the Ravens to 4-2. Their wins will still be considered weak, but a win is a win and they need to win to prevent the AFC North from becoming a multi-team race.
Ravens win 30-17, Ravens win ATS
San Francisco 49ers (4-0) at Los Angeles Rams (3-2)
Line: Los Angeles Rams (-3.0)
While the Saints-Jaguars line upset me, I’m happy to see the Rams remain favorites at home despite two straight losses and an undefeated opponent. The Rams are the better team. But it will still be a struggle.
This 49ers team is no joke, with a high-scoring offense and a turnover-hungry defense. The Rams will be their toughest opponent this year.
If we’re being honest and looking at the tape, San Francisco has been playing better football over the past few weeks. This pick is mainly based in faith the Rams won’t drop a third straight game. They played down to the wire against the Seahawks, losing by just a point. The Rams could easily have four wins just like the 49ers.
This game could also come down to the fourth quarter, but I have the Rams handing the 49ers their first loss of the season.
Rams win 31-27, Rams win ATS
Atlanta Falcons (1-4) at Arizona Cardinals (1-3-1)
Line: Atlanta Falcons (-2.5)
I’ll be honest, I haven’t watched a ton of tape on either of these two teams. I saw the Falcons defeat the Eagles, and thought they would be a good team this year. I’ve seen Kyler Murray highlights, and also games that just looked like sack reels for the opposing defense.
Like I said, I’m no expert on either of these teams. I just don’t think the Falcons are that bad, and even though they’re on the road, Atlanta beats the rookie quarterback. I’m not sure if it will be Atlanta’s offense or defense that wins the game, just that I trust Matt Ryan more than Murray at this point.
Falcons win 24-18, Falcons win ATS
Tennessee Titans (2-3) at Denver Broncos (1-4)
Line: Denver Broncos (-2.5)
There are a slew of NFL teams just below average: not horrible, but good enough that they can stay in most games unless they’re facing an elite opponent.
Here, we get two of them. The Titans have a better record, but that doesn’t exactly make them the better team. With one of their wins coming in Week 1 over the Browns, that also makes Tennessee 1-3 in their last four contests.
The Broncos aren’t a bad team. Their defense is still high-octane with some players remaining from their Super Bowl run. Joe Flacco’s offense isn’t flashy, but it could be enough to beat the Titans at home.
Marcus Mariota leading the Titans to a win wouldn’t shock me at all, this is basically a toss-up. I’ve got the Broncos in yet another close game: Week 6 is full of them.
Broncos win 20-17, Broncos win ATS
Dallas Cowboys (3-2) at New York Jets (0-4)
Line: Dallas Cowboys (-7.0)
We talked about some of the point spreads earlier; this one I find funny. The Jets have been featured as 15+ point underdogs twice this season. Sam Darnold does return in Week 6, and they are at home, so I guess I can see why the spread isn’t astronomical. But still, the Cowboys “only” being 7-point favorites tells me Vegas doesn’t have much faith in them after back-to-back losses.
The Cowboys will definitely win this game, so if you’re just skimming for the pick, there it is. Dallas feasted on opponents like the Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins this season, and at this point, there’s no reason to believe the Jets are much better.
Getting Darnold back is definitely a boost, and in a best-case scenario he could improve the team’s overall morale. But the return from injury I’m more interested to see is linebacker CJ Mosley: the Jets played their best defense the one half he played this season against Buffalo.
If you have the chance in fantasy, I would start Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliot, the Cowboys D/ST… coming off two straight losses, they have no reason to take this game lightly.
Cowboys win 37-16, Cowboys win ATS
Sunday Night Football
Pittsburgh Steelers (1-4) at Los Angeles Chargers (2-3)
Line: Los Angeles Chargers (-6.5)
Sunday Night Football, in the national spotlight, we get not one… but two teams with losing records.
Neither team is a laughing stock. The Chargers were 12-4 last season, tied with the Chiefs before tiebreakers. They returned most of the same team this year (with Melvin Gordon just returning) and are better than the 2-3 record suggests. Still, a 20-13 loss to the Broncos last week leaves questions about if the Chargers can repeat with another playoff appearance.
The Steelers are 1-4, but I’m willing to throw away their first three games and say their season started two weeks ago. In those two weeks, they dominated the Bengals and forced the Ravens into overtime before falling just short.
Mason Rudolph left that game with a concussion, and is questionable to play on Sunday night. I write these picks on Wednesdays, so I’ll actually provide two predictions: if Rudolph does start, and if he doesn’t start.
Rookie Delvin Hodges (I still can’t believe there are quarterbacks younger than me: he was born 11 days after me in 1996) would get the call if Rudolph can’t go. If he can go, I actually think he’s built enough momentum in the past two weeks to propel the Steelers to a road upset. But if he’s out, the pendulum quickly swings the other way.
Rudolph starts: Steelers win 27-24, Steelers win ATS
Hodges starts: Chargers win 27-13, Chargers win ATS
Monday Night Football
Detroit Lions (2-1-1) at Green Bay Packers (4-1)
Line: Green Bay Packers (-4.0)
This is a good Monday night matchup that I won’t be missing. Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford have just two losses this season between them. The Lions loss was in last-minute fashion to the Chiefs; they could easily be undefeated.
Green Bay’s defense has been a bright spot, and the offense has been able to move the ball and score with relative ease. Though I predicted them to go 8-8 in the preseason, I’m already eating my words as they look like one of the NFC’s best teams.
The Lions are still a solid football team, but they may be outclassed in Green Bay. Just as easy as Detroit’s loss against the Chiefs could have been a win, their matchup with the Eagles could have been a loss if not for a 100-yard kickoff return.
I like Green Bay’s offense over Detroit’s, and their defense is superior as well. The Lions will have a chance, because this is football, the better team doesn’t always win. But the sports writer usually picks the better team.
Packers win 27-21, Packers win ATS
Teams on Bye
Buffalo Bills (4-1): Buffalo enters their bye week a confident 4-1, with their only loss being a narrow one to the Patriots where they prevented Tom Brady’s offense from scoring. I’m still not completely sold on their longevity: because they’re the Bills.
If they can string together a few more wins, maybe my reasoning can be thrown aside. The Bills defense is obviously legit, but I’m also not sold on Josh Allen as a consistent NFL starter.
Of course, playing in the AFC East, the Bills can’t actually win their division. A wildcard berth is likely the best-case scenario. After the bye week, the Bills get the Dolphins twice, the Redskins, the Browns, and a tougher opponent in the Eagles. If they can win even three of those five games, they would be 7-3 with remaining winnable games against the Broncos, Steelers, and Jets.
The Bills just might make their way into the playoffs this season.
Chicago Bears (3-2): The Bears get a much-needed week off after losing in London with Mitch Trubisky on the sideline. They had chances to beat the Raiders, but couldn’t capitalize.
Chicago should hardly be in panic mood, as 3-2 is a decent record at this point in the season. But with an intimidating slate of upcoming games, the Bears will have to find ways to win to keep pace in the NFC North.
The Bears host the Saints and the Chargers, travel to Philadelphia, host the Lions, and then play in Los Angeles against the Rams. With the way Chicago has been playing offensively, it’s hard to chalk up any of those five games as automatic wins. NFC North head-to-head games will be especially crucial.
Chicago’s December schedule is also brutal, with the Vikings, Packers, Cowboys, and Chiefs on the docket.
Indianapolis Colts (3-2): If I could be any of these four teams on bye, I’d pick the Colts in a heartbeat. Indy’s Sunday Night Football win over the Kansas City Chiefs was shocking, and showed the Colts are a real threat every time they take the field.
I also like their situation because while the AFC South is crowded, it’s also ripe for the taking. The Texans match the Colts 3-2 record for 1st place, with the Titans and Jaguars just behind at 2-3.
Jacoby Brissett is a capable NFL starter, and he’ll have a chance to shine this season. They’ll get their first shot at the Texans in Week 7, in Indianapolis. Follow-up games include the Broncos, Steelers and Dolphins in the next three weeks, so the Colts could grab command of the AFC South with a few wins.
Oakland Raiders (3-2): I ranked the Raiders a little low in my power rankings, but maybe it’s time for me to take a little more notice of them.
The next few weeks will tell more about if Derek Carr and the Raiders can stay afloat. Their next game is a tough matchup against the Packers, followed by Texans, Lions, and Chargers. By my best guess, the Raiders will go 1-3 in this stretch and fade away in the season’s second half.
Your move, Jon Gruden. Prove me wrong.
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Header photo credit: Via NBC Sports