NFL Week 6 predictions: Our picks against the spread
By Emmanuel Morgan
The frantic pace of the start of the NFL season may have been a predictor instead of an outlier. So far, 19 of the 80 games have been decided in the final minute of regulation or in overtime. That’s the most ever through five weeks.
Can the trend continue? It’s highly likely. This weekend’s schedule includes a brawl between the Los Angeles Chargers and Baltimore Ravens, two of the AFC’s three 4-1 teams; an NFC rivalry game between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears; and a potential shootout between the unbeaten Arizona Cardinals and the Cleveland Browns (3-2). That’s all after a 9:30 a.m. London game that most will be happy to sleep through.
Below is a look at Week 6, with all picks made against the spread.
Byes: Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers
All times Eastern
Last week’s record: 6-10
SUNDAY’S BEST GAMES
Los Angeles Chargers at Baltimore Ravens
1 p.m., CBS
Line: Ravens -3 | Total: 51.5
Honestly, the NFL should flex this game to 4:25 p.m. or to Sunday night. It is a broadcaster’s dream: two exciting young quarterbacks who’ve led frantic winning rallies in recent games in a battle for who gets to drive the conference with Kansas City abdicating (the Buffalo Bills may also have something to say about it).
Justin Herbert ranks fourth in the NFL in passing yards (1,576), with Lamar Jackson on his heels in fifth (1,519). With the teams so evenly matched, this one should come down to the fine points. The Ravens (4-1) have triaged the running game with free-agent pickups and second-year back Ty’Son Williams, the team’s second-leading rusher behind Jackson. If Chargers coach Brandon Staley, one of the league’s best defensive minds, can shut Williams down and force Baltimore to match their passing, the Chargers (4-1) should win. But another variable will be Los Angeles’ penalties; their 397 yards lead the NFL. Pick: Chargers +3
Arizona Cardinals at Cleveland Browns
4:05 p.m., Fox
Line: Browns -2.5 | Total: 50
To match the Cardinals (5-0), Cleveland needs to be ready for another shootout. The Browns (3-2) narrowly lost, 47-42, an emotionally draining game to the Chargers last weekend, when the teams combined for more than 1,000 yards of offense.
Both Cleveland and Arizona rank in the top 10 in points per game, but the edge here goes to the undefeated team. Pick: Cardinals +2.5
Minnesota Vikings at Carolina Panthers
1 p.m., Fox
Line: Vikings -1 | Total: 51.5
The Panthers (3-2) and the Vikings (2-3) are optimistic that their star running backs will return after multiple-game absences. Carolina coach Matt Rhule said he was “hopeful” Christian McCaffrey would play after attempting to come back last week from a hamstring injury. Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook (ankle) was a game-time decision last week and should play barring any setbacks.
The difference here should be how the quarterbacks fare against each defense. Kirk Cousins struggles under pressure and that should continue against the league’s third-leading sack (16) producer. Minnesota’s defense has given up only six passing touchdowns this season, but if Sam Darnold protects the football (he threw three interceptions last week), Carolina should roll. Pick: Panthers +1
Dallas Cowboys at New England Patriots
4:25 p.m., CBS
Line: Cowboys -4 | Total: 51
Dallas (4-1) is riding a three-game winning streak, Dak Prescott’s 13 touchdown passes are tied for third-best in the league, and the Cowboys’ defense looks legit. The Patriots (2-3) haven’t found such consistency. New England needed a fourth-quarter rally to beat the Texans last week and injuries along the Patriots’ offensive line (tackle Trent Brown went on the injured reserve list this week) mean Mac Jones will have to think fast against pressure — not a good scenario against a team that starts Trevon Diggs in its secondary. Dallas will want to head into its bye week on a high. Pick: Cowboys -4
SUNDAY’S OTHER GAMES
Miami Dolphins at Jacksonville Jaguars (sort of)
9:30 a.m., CBS
Line: Dolphins -3.5 | Total: 45.5
The NFL gifts its London fans with another matchup of sub-.500 teams, a contest most Americans will again probably sleep through.
The Dolphins (1-4) expect Tua Tagovailoa to return from his three-game absence after fracturing his ribs. The Jaguars (0-5) should be a good “welcome-back” assignment, as their defense ranks 26th in passing yards allowed per game (286.6). Miami’s defense is not much better. That unit led the league in turnovers last season, keeping the team in playoff contention, but this season it ranks 24th in rushing defense and 27th against the pass.
Miami’s defense could revive itself against Jaguars rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who has thrown at least one interception in four of his five games. Pick: Dolphins -3.5
Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears
1 p.m., Fox
Line: Packers -4.5 | Total: 45
It’s the NFL’s oldest rivalry but the Packers (4-1) and Bears (3-2) are concerned with entirely different futures. Aaron Rodgers is leading a win-now Green Bay team, while Chicago develops rookie quarterback Justin Fields, who attempted only 20 passes in a win against the Las Vegas Raiders in which the Bears relied on 139 yards rushing from its running backs.
In two of its past three games, Green Bay ended Rodgers’ drives with walk-off field goals. The Packers will want a convincing win this week. Pick: Packers -4.5
Cincinnati Bengals at Detroit Lions
1 p.m., Fox
Line: Bengals -3 | Total: 48.5
After losing their fifth consecutive game last week — their second loss on a last-second field goal — Detroit coach Dan Campbell teared up in the postgame news conference. “Our days of being on the winning side of that are coming,” he said.
Just not this week. The Bengals (3-2) will likely be without running back Samaje Perine after he tested positive for coronavirus this week, putting more of the load on Joe Mixon, who already ranks third in attempts and is battling an ankle injury. Even with an improved offensive line protecting Joe Burrow and receiver Ja’Marr Chase’s emergence as a front-runner for offensive rookie of the year, Cincinnati could struggle to cover against a Lions defense that’s playing for pride. Pick: Lions +3
Los Angeles Rams at New York Giants
1 p.m., Fox
Line: Rams -10.5 | Total: 47.5
With quarterback Daniel Jones (concussion) out and a long list of injuries hindering the entire receiver corps and running back Saquon Barkley, the Giants (1-4) will try to hurry back anyone who can catch a ball from backup Mike Glennon. The Rams (4-1) might look a little shellshocked because of the early East Coast start, but this one should be decided quickly. Pick: Rams -10.5
Kansas City at Washington Footballers
1 p.m., CBS
Line: Kansas City -6.5 | Total: 55.5
Kansas City’s offense has had to be mind-bogglingly efficient to even contend this season, and its three losses have followed a common script: Opponents that can limit Tyreek Hill to under 100 receiving yards and convert aggressive play calls against Kansas City’s defense can come out with a win.
The Ravens, Chargers and Bills wrote the blueprint, but Washington (2-3) is unlikely to execute it well. Its defense has allowed the league’s fifth-most passing yards (1,467) and has only nine sacks in six games, despite the Chase Young-Montez Sweat defensive line pairing. Pat Mahomes, whose six interceptions are tied for third in the NFL, has shown he can quickly find receivers with his shovel pass and Hill gives him a deep target against a less-talented secondary. Kansas City (2-3) should get a confidence boost. Pick: Kansas City -6.5
Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts
1 p.m., CBS
Line: Colts -9.5 | Total: 43
How does a team recover from blowing a 19-point lead? Playing the Texans (1-4) is a start.
Before the Colts (1-4) allowed Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson to rally from behind on “Monday Night Football,” they looked shockingly efficient on both sides of the ball. In surrendering their second-half lead last week to the Patriots, the Texans squandered rookie Davis Mills’ best game (312 yards and three touchdowns). Carson Wentz is more experienced and is working with a better all-around roster. The Colts should cover at home. Pick: Colts -9.5
Las Vegas Raiders at Denver Broncos
4:25 p.m., CBS
Line: Broncos -3.5 | Total: 44
After Jon Gruden’s resignation Monday night, the Raiders (3-2) have to prepare to face a hellish Broncos defense under interim coach Rich Bisaccia. The Broncos (3-2), losers of two straight, will pounce on a Las Vegas team that’s facing organizational turmoil and shuffling offensive linemen, including shifting first-round draft pick Alex Leatherwood from tackle to guard, because of injuries. Pick: Broncos -3.5
Seattle Seahawks at Pittsburgh Steelers
8:20 p.m., NBC
Line: Steelers -4.5 | Total: 42.5
Russell Wilson will miss his first start in his 10-year career with the Seahawks (2-3) after undergoing thumb surgery. Geno Smith will take over the role. It’s unclear whether Seattle running back Chris Carson, who has a neck issue, can play against the Steelers (2-3). Even with Ben Roethlisberger’s struggles, he would be a safer bet than Smith, who has not started since 2017 with the Giants. Pick: Steelers -4.5
Buffalo Bills at Tennessee Titans
8:15 p.m., ESPN
Line: Bills -6 | Total: 54
The Bills’ defense ranks first in turnovers (15), second in passing yards allowed (867) and third in rushing yards allowed (392), showing it can carry its weight while Josh Allen and the offense have their fun. That’s trouble for the Titans (3-2), who lean heavily on running back Derrick Henry, the league’s leading rusher. It’s unclear whether Titans receiver Julio Jones (hamstring) will return after missing two straight games, though he practiced Wednesday. The Bills (4-1) demolished Kansas City and are, along with the Ravens and Chargers, fighting for control of the AFC. Bet accordingly. Pick: Bills -6