In a week of a fewer surprises in final scores, there were tons of close games that went down to the wire. More than a handful of overtime games this year has led to the possibility for ties and somehow they’ve been avoided. It seems as though most teams are finding an identity, whether unfortunate or not. Another week of potentially obvious picks makes me feel good about where things are headed. All the unbeatens(save Atlanta) stayed that way while there aren’t any winless teams left.
Week 6. 11-3.
Seattle at San Francisco. These two teams couldn’t be more opposite, besides their records. But for some reason (and it’s not really age yet, nor is it a missing Byron Maxwell-who’s been terrible) the Seahawks defense has been not so mighty. The 49ers knew they were taking hits on defense and in the locker room with the loss of Jim Harbaugh on the sidelines, but the offense is way more inept than anyone could have hoped. San Francisco has shown signs of life the last two weeks, but it was against bad defenses. Seattle has had a tough schedule but can’t take advantage of leads. Both teams need to get the run going and sprinkle in some passing to move the chains, but whose defense will play better? Seahawks 24, 49ers 14
Buffalo at Jacksonville. The Bills ran into the buzz-saw that is the Bengals offense last week but still haven’t been the kind of defense most hoped to see. LeSean McCoy was a bright spot for a team that needs a playmaker on offense, especially with all the recent injuries at running back. Charles Clay has been solid but hasn’t gotten enough out of his targets while Sammy Watkins and Percy Harvin just need to stay on the field. And if TJ Yeldon and Allen Robinson are back this week the Jags offense will have a fighting chance. Bills 27, Jaguars 16
Atlanta at Tennessee. We saw this last week how vulnerable the Falcons defense really is. Yes, they have made improvements over a very weak unit last season. The defensive line has gotten better and younger, but they’ve gotta get more consistent. Matt Ryan was a little iffy under pressure in the pocket but guys need to get open for him on the outside. They will have a chance against the Titans defense and a weaker offense led by last year’s on-again/off-again starter Zach Mettenberger because Marcus Mariota is likely to sit a few weeks. Falcons 34, Titans 20
Cleveland at St. Louis. Keep doubting the Browns. They might not be winning every game, but they are fighting against good teams and really pushing them. Duke Johnson Jr. is really stepping up and Josh McCown has become a solid starter though he needs to cut down on costly mistakes. Getting the ball to Gary Barnidge and Travis Benjamin has been good so far. But what’s up with the pass defense? That was supposed to be much better. The run defense will have their hands full with rookie RB Todd Gurley, who is quickly becoming the feature piece of an offense in dire need of such an impact player. If this game weren’t in St. Louis and Gurley wasn’t present then Cleveland would’ve been a favorite, but the Rams are talented enough to get it done. Rams 27, Browns 23
Minnesota at Detroit. After the Lions got in the win column they stay at home for another divisional foe. This time around the opponent’s defense is very strong and is starting gain traction on offense. In a game where Adrian Peterson was limited to one big run and basically nothing else, the Vikings turned to a young duo of Teddy Bridgewater (obvi) and rookie WR Stefon Diggs (Maryland!) to get things done. Minnesota will probably share the ball a bit more don’t expect this to be the last you hear of Diggs. The Lions have gotten their offense going to a certain degree but still haven’t had much of a run game. This week they need something against a vaunted pass defense. Still, look for Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate to turn in solid performances. However, Matthew Stafford will throw interceptions of the costly variety. Vikings 28, Lions 21
New Orleans at Indianapolis. The Colts give up lots of points. They also happen to play good offensive teams. The Saints like to score a lot of points. The trend will continue. New Orleans needed a win last week and they got it in surprising fashion over previously unbeaten Atlanta. The key was a running game that got things going. Mark Ingram is finally picking up where he left off while CJ Spiller is finding his role in an offense with plenty of open looks. Meanwhile, Andrew Luck had a tough time in his first game back even though the Colts had a brief lead. The defense just isn’t getting enough pressure on the quarterback (even against a demolished o-line for New England) and the cover corners just haven’t been good enough to make up for it. Colts 31, Saints 28
Pittsburgh at Kansas City. Raise your hand if you thought that the Steelers would actually become a better TEAM when Ben Roethlisberger went down with an injury that would sit him down for a month? Well, while Big Ben is still a little ways away from a return, Pittsburgh has done just that. The QB play hasn’t been great but the return of Le’Veon Bell has been all they needed. Antonio Brown hasn’t benefitted from this stretch of play but he will be plenty fine by the time his starting QB returns. Oh yeah, and the defense has become slightly above average. Winning ugly isn’t the most fun, but it’s how the Chiefs tend to win as well. And with Jamaal Charles out for the year this past week just didn’t help. A good defense isn’t going to win in this present-day NFL when your offense isn’t very good. Steelers 17, Chiefs 13
Houston at Miami. Man, the Dolphins should’ve fired Joe Philbin a while ago if they knew the team would respond like this. Lamar Miller as finally featured and Ryan Tannehill even looked like he knew how to play football some (he still threw an INT). The defense was supposed to be much better but what did anyone expect when Suh got all that money? Anyways, this game will depend on whether Miami can contain Arian Foster and DeAndre Hopkins. Both have been explosive recently while the defense struggles without superstar JJ Watt. Dolphins 24, Texans 23
NYJ at New England. Who thought the Patriots would be trying to fend off the Jets a third of the way into the season? Many people were predicting a big year out of the Dolphins or the Bills, but the Jets? Brandon Marshall has proven his worth as an elite receiver who still possesses big-play ability. Eric Decker has been adequate as a secondary receiver. And Chris Ivory has been a top half RB even with an injury or two. The defense has gotten back to where they were a few years ago, in part thanks to Darrelle Revis, and run defense that has been stellar without a returning Sheldon Richardson among others. The Patriots are tough to stop on offense. They stopped themselves with a few drops by WR Julian Edelman, but the run game was good with LeGarrette Blount and Rob Gronkowski hasn’t even been ripping things up recently as expected. That’s scary! Who wins out? The Jets defense or the Patriots offense? Patriots 21, Jets 17
Tampa Bay at Washington. A week off should have done the Bucs some good. Jameis Winston has made rookie mistakes but the re-emergence of Doug Martin has been a good sign for a team in need of some balance. The Redskins haven’t been much more than mediocre, but if Desean Jackson ever comes back there might be a chance. All the mixture of running backs is not what Washington needs. They need more cowbell from Alfred Morris. Then they can mix passes down the field. Redskins 20, Buccaneers 14
Oakland at San Diego. How good is the Chargers’ offense? And yet there are no superstars. Philip Rivers is a great player, but not viewed as an elite talent by any means. Keenan Allen is looked at as a system talent where someone has to get the targets. Danny Woodhead was a D-2 player without enough size or speed to keep up and look at him! And for the last two years Antonio Gates has been on high-alert waiting for Ladarius Green to take his job. And all of these guys have been great (Gates in just two games, but still). Add to that Melvin Gordon, who has recently flashed some ability to catch the ball as well as mash it, and you’ve got a high-octane group that just isn’t putting it in the end zone enough. The Raiders better have used that week off to prep defensively. They’ve been pretty good on both sides of the ball but this week Oakland needs more for Latavius Murray and has got to see something big out of rookie Amari Cooper. Chargers 34, Raiders 24
Dallas at NYG. Every game in the NFC East seems like they are playing for first place. And for the most part, they are. Even without Tony Romo or a consistent option at running back to rely on (though I don’t think they’ve been that bad), the Cowboys are still staying in games. Will Matt Cassel be the answer for now? Probably not. But he won’t force things the way Brandon Weeden began to do when given a longer leash. And last night’s game in Philly saw Eli play more like the Eli of two seasons ago when he couldn’t hit the side of a barn than the Eli of recent. If the defense can withstand a heavy run game then this game should be decisively New York’s to lose. Giants 30, Cowboys 21
Philadelphia at Carolina. I still don’t understand how the Panthers are 5-0. Seriously. They let go controversial pass-rusher Greg Hardy. They parted ways with long-time back DeAngelo Williams. And Kelvin Benjamin was out for the season before it began. Cam Newton wasn’t supposed to be enough on his own. Granted, the defense has been very good in a league where it’s tough to be dominant when everyone can score loads of points. Philadelphia has the goods to win this game, but which team will show up? The one from the preseason, or the one who has luckily stumbled to a 3-3 record thus far? Even in their wins, the Eagles haven’t found a good offensive groove yet. It’s getting better because they’ve slowed the pace down. But they need more than an improvement against Luke Kuechly and the Panther D. Panthers 27, Eagles 20
Baltimore at Arizona. The Baltimore Ravens aren’t mathematically out of contention for a playoff spot yet. But in Week 7, they’ve got little room for error. 9-7 will still likely be enough to make it into the playoffs, but that still means 8 wins in their final 10. And that might be asking too much from a team that many thought had the deepest roster at the beginning of the season. Injuries and bad play in crunch time have hurt this team and this past week’s loss at an equally mediocre San Francisco team just made things worse. With leads in the 4th quarter in 5 of 6 games and only one win, there have been chances to come out on top. On the other side, the Cardinals have shown a depth despite injury to now-returned RB Andre Ellington and a comeback year from franchise all-everything leader Larry Fitzgerald on top of a comeback from injury via Carson Palmer. The Cards have been very good on defense and Patrick Peterson continues to be a main reason why. Cardinals 23, Ravens 20