NFL Week 6 Picks

Well, the train didn’t keep its wheels on the track this past week. I maintained an above .500 record by a game, but 8-6 drug down the season total to 47-30. (As a side note: this season has featured nearly a record number of close games and is on pace to be one of the highest scoring.) All that said, the only thing we can do is pick up and move on, and remember that I’m still doing better than a handful of ESPN experts.

On to Week 6 we go.

Your byes this week: Atlanta and Miami

New York Giants (+8) @ Chicago Bears, Thursday, 8:25pm

The Giants defense played some inspired-ish football for a good-ish three-ish quarters last week-ish. Then Eli Manning happened, i.e. three late turnovers that lead to a trouncing in the Meadowlands. This week they get to take their 0-5 record on the road to Chicago where they’ve won their last four contests (granted, the last time they traveled to the Windy City was six years ago). It’s almost unfathomable what would happen in New York if the G-boys fell to 0-6, but one stat really seals their fate on this one: Giveaways and takeaways. New York has the worst turnover differential at -13 (they’ve given the ball away 20 times this season, almost double the next closest team [Cardinals have 11]), while the Bears have the second most takeaways in the NFL (14). Bears win 23-14

Philadelphia Eagles (-1) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1pm

Whether it’s Foles or Vick, the Eagles’ starting QB this week is going to have to be sharp this week. Despite the Bucs 0-4 record, they’ve managed to put together a top-10 rush defense. It’d be interesting to see how that rush D would hold up against the league’s best rushing attach, but with Foles under center (which is how it’s looking right now) things are going to look a whole lot different. As for the defense, the Eagles’ weakest link gets its first crack at a rookie quarterback this season—the likes of which they’ve struggled mightily against in the past. I’m sure this will be closer than it ever should be. Eagles win 34-33

Cincinnati Bengals (-7.5) @ Buffalo Bills, 1pm

Second-year quarterback Thad Lewis, out of Duke, will make just his second start ever, in place of the injured E.J. Manuel as the Bills host the Bengals. Cincy is coming off of an impressive defensive performance, holding Tom Brady and the Pats to just 6 points and bringing Brady’s streak of 51 games with a passing TD to an end. I’ll be looking to see if they can keep that going on the road, where they’ve struggled this year—they’re 0-2. A matchup to look out for in this one: Buffalo’s 3rd-ranked rush offense vs. Cincy’s 10th ranked rush D. It’s cliche, but whoever controls the line should come away with this one. Bengals win 16-14

Detroit Lions (-2.5) @ Cleveland Browns, 1pm

Cleveland comes into this one on a three game hot streak after dropping the first two of the season. The good news? Their defense has been a force all season, holding teams to just under 19 points per game. The bad news? The guy who helped key that turnaround (Brian Hoyer) is done for the season after an ugly injury in the team’s second drive last week. They welcome a Lions team that had been on a roll offensively until they stumbled a bit in Green Bay. The matchups with the Detroit O and Cleveland D are what I’m looking forward to most here, especially if Calvin Johnson gets cleared to play by the end of the week. Lions win 21-10

Oakland Raiders (+9) @ Kansas City Chiefs, 1pm

Holy hell, Andy Reid and the Chiefs have a prime opportunity to improve to 6-0 on the campaign. Alex Smith has been at his best at home, throwing for 511 yards and 5 scores in two games. That should continue against a Raiders team that has the worst completion percentage against in the league (72.3 percent). The Raiders are coming off of a pretty impressive win on late Sunday night against a tough Chargers team, but I don’t see them pulling the same stunt twice in a week. Chiefs win 34-20

Carolina Panthers (+2.5) @ Minnesota Vikings, 1pm

The defense isn’t really to blame for the Panthers 1-3 record, they’ve kept opposing offenses to fairly manageable scores (which includes them blanking the Giants). Their two road games this year were two different tales with a close one in Buffalo going against them and an absolute stinker in Arizona. Cam Newton simply hasn’t stepped up away from home—he’s thrown just two TDs, 4 INTs, and has a 63.6 passer rating. Interesting sidenote: 43 percent of teams that win the NFL’s International Game have gone on to make the playoffs that year; they’re also a combined 32-30 the rest of the season, while losing teams are 18-43-1. Vikings win 23-20

Pittsburgh Steelers (+1) @ New York Jets, 1pm

What’s it going to take for big changes to be made in the Steel City? Maybe a loss in the Meadowlands? An 0-5 record in the middle of October? Both of those things could become realities if Pittsburgh’s passing game (9th best with 283.3 yds/game) can’t find a way to make a splash against the league’s 13th ranked passing defense. You can count the run game out in this one—the Steelers are second to last, while the Jets have the second best rush defense. The extra rest was nice for the Steelers, they get some healthy players back in several departments, but I don’t know that it’ll be enough against a well-balanced Jets attack. Jets win 26-24

Green Bay Packers (-3) @ Baltimore Ravens, 1pm

What to make of this one… If not for Justin Tucker’s golden boot and a defense that stepped up at the right time, the Ravens would’ve dropped their third straight road game of the season. The Pack will look to do the same this weekend in Baltimore. Green Bay has put up good offensive numbers on the road (29 pts and 392 yds per game), but their defense has let them down each time. Something tells me that that’s going to be the case again on Sunday. Ravens win 32-27

St. Louis Rams (+7) @ Houston Texans, 1pm

It’s not going to be a pretty homecoming for Matt Schaub and the Texans. They’ve dropped their last three in pretty awful fashion. Things won’t get any easier for Schaub—the Rams are no slouch on defense, with the league’s best passing defense, statistically; they’re giving up just 134.2 yards through the air per game. If the Texans get out alive in this one, it’ll be all because of their performance on the other side of the ball. Texans win 23-16

Jacksonville Jaguars (+26.5) @ Denver Broncos, 4:05pm

You could double that historically large spread and I’d still take Denver with the points. 154-3

Tennessee Titans (+13.5) @ Seattle Seahawks, 4:05pm

Seattle’s rattled off 10 home victories in a row, dating back to the beginning of last year. That streak, like all, will come to an end at some point. But I don’t think that’ll be this week (even though the last time Tennessee visited the Pacific Northwest, back in 2010, they pulled out a 17-13 win). Tennessee has been a pleasant surprise for Nashville’s football fans this year, but with Ryan Fitzpatrick making only his second start since Jake Locker went down (against a top-5 defense), and with Seattle looking to bounce back after a tough loss in Indy (the Seahawks are going to have a bit of a chip on their shoulder), this one is almost a lock. Seahawks win 35-20

Arizona Cardinals (+11) @ San Francisco 49ers, 4:25pm

Not much analysis needed here. The Cardinals aren’t very good. The 49ers are still looking to get back to form, but they’re a few good steps ahead of Arizona. The Cards will have a chance if their strength (their rush defense—3rd in the NFL) can stand strong against the Niners strength (rush offense—6th in the NFL). It’s a tall order, but not impossible. However… 49ers win 27-19

New Orleans Saints (+2.5) @ New England Patriots, 4:25pm

Interesting stat of the day for you. Tom Brady is just 1-3 in games against Drew Brees—that 1, however, came 14 years ago when Brady was a Senior at Michigan, taking on the Brees-led Purdue Boilermakers. He’s 0-3 at the professional level. That could continue on Sunday as the Saints come into New England. With a young (understatement) receiving core, Brady is on pace to put up some of his worst passing stats since his rookie season—his 80.5 passer rating and 56.6 percent completion percentage are the lowest since he was named the Pats’ starter. Brees, however, has his offense on a roll, and, more importantly, they’re protecting the ball—they have an NFC-low five turnovers through five games. This could be a shootout, though. Saints win 42-38

Washington Redskins (+5.5) @ Dallas Cowboys, 8:30pm

Thankfully, this one’s later in the evening, so there won’t be any ridiculous sun glare to ruin the viewing experience. Though, maybe that’s what the Redskins would prefer. Tony Romo might not be the most clutch quarterback in the league, but he won’t have to be against a secondary that gives up nearly 300 yards passing per game and has the second-worst QB rating against (111.9). Washington used to get incredibly pumped for “Dallas Week,” but right now all I see is a lot of shaky knees. Cowboys win 34-24

Indianapolis Colts (-1.5) @ San Diego Chargers, Monday, 8:30pm

Andrew Luck and Chuck Pagano have the Indianapolis Colts in sole-possession of first place in the AFC South for the first time since that guy who plays for Denver left town after an impressive comeback win against the previously-unbeaten Seattle Seahawks. This week the travel to San Diego to take on a horribly inconsistent Chargers team (aren’t they always, though?) that turned the ball over five times in their loss to Oakland. The running games should dictate the pace for both teams, as each struggles to contain opposing backs (Colts rank 30th, Chargers 24th). San Diego has dominated this series of late, winning five of the last six, and I think they’ll find a way to get it together and not have another five-turnover day. Chargers win 32-27

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