Four undefeated teams remain, and both conferences are wide-open with no clear favorites yet. Week 6 will clear the air on how some teams stack up in the eventual NFL playoff race.
In the NFC, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady are set to duel as the 4-0 Green Bay Packers take on the 3-2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In another NFC North vs. NFC South game amongst teams with winning records, Nick Foles and the 4-1 Chicago Bears take on the 3-2 Carolina Panthers, winners of three straight under quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
On Monday Night Football, Andy Dalton will get his first chance to prove the 2-3 Dallas Cowboys aren’t out of the playoff race. Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals will look to improve to 4-2 with a win, and every victory will count if Arizona hopes to stay afloat in a competitive NFC West.
Over in the AFC, the 4-1 Cleveland Browns and 4-0 Pittsburgh Steelers meet in a renewed AFC North rivalry. The Browns aren’t usually a threat, but Cleveland has rattled off four straight victories after an opening week loss to the Baltimore Ravens. In a rescheduled game, the 4-1 Kansas City Chiefs and 4-1 Buffalo Bills meet in an important intra-conference matchup.
MVP Watch: Quarter Season
Week 1: 10-6
Week 2: 11-5
Week 3: 8-7-1
Week 4: 10-5
Week 5: 7-7
Overall: 46-30-1 (61% correct)
Last week I incorrectly predicted:
- Buccaneers over Bears (it was a one-point game, Bears comeback)
- Bills over Titans (Bills dropped the ball on this big matchup)
- Falcons over Panthers (thought Atlanta was due, but their offense has regressed)
- Chiefs over Raiders (thought it would be close but didn’t see an upset)
- Colts over Browns (wasn’t sold on Cleveland, but it’s getting there)
- 49ers over Dolphins (last thing I ever expected was a Dolphins blowout)
- Chargers over Saints (New Orleans had an epic comeback, I don’t feel bad putting faith in Herbert)
Sunday Day Games
Houston Texans (1-4) at Tennessee Titans (4-0)
Line: Tennessee Titans (-3.5)
I’m surprised the Titans are only favored by three and a half points, at home, here. I do like the Houston Texans more than their 1-4 record would suggest (See Also: Three Reasons the 0-4 Texans Can Still Make the Playoffs) but Tennessee appears to be the class of the AFC South, and possibly up there with the best teams in the AFC.
Titans win 27-20, Titans win ATS
Cincinnati Bengals (1-3-1) at Indianapolis Colts (3-2)
Line: Indianapolis Colts (-7.5)
While Joe Burrow got his first NFL win two weeks ago, the Bengals were absolutely shut down by the Baltimore Ravens, 27-3. It won’t be that bad this week, but Indianapolis is clearly the better team.
Colts win 30-20, Colts win ATS
Atlanta Falcons (0-5) at Minnesota Vikings (1-4)
Line: Minnesota Vikings (-4.0)
I keep waiting for the Atlanta Falcons to break through with a win. They scored 25, 39, and 26 points in their first three games of the season. But over the last two weeks, the Falcons have scored just 16 points in both games. For a team that only had their offense going for them, this is a bad sign.
The 1-4 Minnesota Vikings have lost a couple close games: forget one-score, they lost by just one point to both the Tennessee Titans and Seattle Seahawks. Minnesota is better than their record suggests.
Vikings win 33-24, Vikings win ATS
Denver Broncos (1-3) at New England Patriots (2-2)
Line: New England Patriots (-9.0)
This game was delayed a week, actually benefiting both teams. Both Broncos quarterback Drew Lock (shoulder) and Patriots quarterback Cam Newton (COVID-19) are expected to start, while they would’ve likely missed the matchup if it was played in Week 5.
But even with Lock, the Broncos aren’t all that good this year. This is a solid Patriots team that is probably headed to postseason.
Patriots win 26-16, Patriots win ATS
Washington Football Team (1-4) at New York Giants (0-5)
Line: New York Giants (-2.5)
The winless New York Giants are favored here, as Washington Football Team has dropped their last four matchups. Washington was only really good in the second half of their Week 1 win, so if you take that away, they’ve played nine halves of some pretty bad football.
The Giants aren’t great, with turnover machine Daniel Jones at quarterback and no Saquon Barkley. But they showed last week they can score against bad defenses. And luckily for them, Washington’s offense is no where near as dangerous as Dallas’.
Giants win 26-20, Giants win ATS
Baltimore Ravens (4-1) at Philadelphia Eagles (1-3-1)
Line: Baltimore Ravens (-7.5)
The 1-3-1 Philadelphia Eagles are trending in a positive direction. After putting up a decent fight against the Steelers last week, some trendy NFL pickers might see a Philadelphia upset here.
Me? Not so much. In four games not against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Baltimore Ravens are 4-0 with an average margin of victory of 21 points per game. The Ravens did only have to face Washington and Cincinnati over the past two weeks, so the Eagles could make the game just a tad more interesting.
Ravens win 33-20, Ravens win ATS
Cleveland Browns (4-1) at Pittsburgh Steelers (4-0)
Line: Pittsburgh Steelers (-3.5)
This was a contender for Game of the Week: with two four-win teams, one being undefeated, and immediate ramifications in the AFC North. I generally consider the Steelers a weaker 4-0 team, and a win over the Browns would be their first victory over an opponent with a winning record.
Cleveland’s offense has been red-hot, but Pitssburgh’s defense shapes up to be pretty good. Again, this could be a skewed result, as the Steelers have only really played bad teams so far. But I trust that their defense can prevent Baker Mayfield and the Browns from having a 30-point performance.
Steelers win 27-20, Steelers win ATS
Chicago Bears (4-1) at Carolina Panthers (3-2)
Line: Carolina Panthers (-1.5)
The Carolina Panthers are favored here at home, riding on the heels of three straight wins and an impressive offense led by Teddy Bridgewater. But the line still feels like a slight to the 4-1 Chicago Bears, who handled Tom Brady and the Buccaneers last week.
The Bears defense is solid, and should contain Bridgewater for the most part. Carolina’s defense has rebounded since allowing 65 points through the season’s first two weeks, but Foles still should be able to find some success. Don’t call it an upset, but on paper, it’s an upset.
Bears win 24-20, Bears win ATS
Detroit Lions (1-3) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4)
Line: Detroit Lions (-3.0)
The Jacksonville Jaguars started 1-0 after a near-perfect performance from quarterback Gardner Minshew. It’s been progressively downhill for the Jaguars since then, with four straight losses. The Detroit Lions, on the other hand, are trending positively after beating the Cardinals and nearly upsetting the Saints. Coming in off a bye week, Matthew Stafford and the Lions take care of business in Jacksonville.
Lions win 26-18, Lions win ATS
New York Jets (0-5) at Miami Dolphins (2-3)
Line: Miami Dolphins (-9.5)
Don’t look now, but the Miami Dolphins have won two of three games, and actually had a chance late against the Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks in one-score affairs. I wouldn’t necessarily be thinking playoffs, but the Dolphins probably aren’t as bad as you remember.
The Jets, if you haven’t watched them recently, are somehow even worse than you remember. Over on The Athletes Hub, I pondered whether the Jets could go 0-16. This is one potentially winnable game, with a great day from New York and a mistake-filled one from Miami. But barring a miracle, I don’t see it happening in Week 6.
Dolphins win 34-17, Dolphins win ATS
GAME OF THE WEEK: Green Bay Packers (4-0) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-2)
Line: Green Bay Packers (-1.0)
The line couldn’t be much closer as two historically great quarterbacks clash under new circumstances. For the first time, future Hall of Famers Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers are in the same conference, squaring off as the Green Bay Packers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Buccaneers are right in the NFC South race, but fell short late against the Chicago Bears last week. Still, this is a good Tampa Bay team, and this matchup could potentially carry weight later on as a playoff tiebreaker.
The Packers aren’t a perfect team, and won’t go 16-0 or even 14-2. But will they lose to the Buccaneers here? Brady isn’t playing at his highest level just yet, and Rodgers, late in his career, is. Coming off a bye week, the Packers handle the Buccaneers in a high-scoring affair.
Packers win 37-26, Packers win ATS
Sunday Night Football
Los Angeles Rams (4-1) at San Francisco 49ers (2-3)
Line: Los Angeles Rams (-3.0)
On paper, this would be a great Sunday matchup. But the 49ers are reeling, with back-to-back losses, including a Sunday night game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Last week was a 43-17 beatdown at the hands of the Miami Dolphins, even with quarterback Jimmy Garroppolo returning to the field.
There’s a case to be made the Rams are a weak 4-1: their four wins came against the four NFC East teams, none of which hold a winning record. But then again, the Rams didn’t just beat these teams, they blew them out for the most part.
The Rams appear to be back, and for the 49ers, injuries are preventing an NFC title defense so far. A loss here would put San Francisco at 2-4, last place in the division with two losses to NFC West opponents.
Rams win 27-20, Rams win ATS
Monday Night Football
5 PM ET: Kansas City Chiefs (4-1) at Buffalo Bills (4-1)
Line: Kansas City Chiefs (-5.0)
I almost want to reverse course and make this my Game of the Week, but I’ll stick with Packers-Buccaneers for the juicy quarterback matchup. Additionally, this game could get out of hand if the Bills played like they did last week.
Neither Buffalo’s offense nor defense was terrible against Tennessee on Tuesday night, but turnovers and poor special teams play gave the Titans easy chances to score on short fields.
If Buffalo allows Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs to play with short fields? The score could be run up very quickly.
Best case scenario, we get a close game and either Mahomes or Josh Allen seals the victory with a late game-winning drive. The Chiefs are beatable, as seen last week against the Raiders, but the Bills may not be up to the task of stopping the Chiefs offense.
Chiefs win 35-28, Chiefs win ATS
8:15 PM ET: Arizona Cardinals (3-2) at Dallas Cowboys (2-3)
Line: Arizona Cardinals (-1.5)
Both teams have a lot of questions surrounding their identity. Are the Cardinals the promising 2-0 team that started the season, or the team that dropped games to the Lions and Panthers after that? Can the Dallas Cowboys win a game without having to score 37 points?
Dallas’ defense has been historically bad, which could lead to a Kyler Murray field day on Monday night. I don’t think the quarterback transition to Andy Dalton will be too bad, but with just one week of practice as the starter, Dalton may have more progress to make as the season goes on.
Again, in a best case scenario, this could be a fun one. Worst case scenario, both offenses lay a dud game and we get a 17-13 result.
Cardinals win 34-24, Cardinals win ATS
Teams on Bye
- Las Vegas Raiders (3-2)
- New Orleans Saints (3-2)
- Los Angeles Chargers (1-4)
- Seattle Seahawks (5-0)
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Travel and Hiking
Header Photo Credit: AP Photos via Star Tribune