N.F.L. Week 6 Predictions:
Our Scatter Choices
The red-hot Browns and Steelers resumes fierce competition. Chiefs and Bills seek to get back on track. The Falcons operate remotely, and Dallas continues the Andy Dalton Era.
The N.F.L. desperately hopes its coronavirus issues are behind it. The Titans made a victorious return to the court, the Patriots have a players back, and at this stage the weekend lineup of games looks much more secure than at the same time last week.
Of note, just as things appeared to calm down, the Atlanta Falcons declared they were operating remotely on Thursday out of caution.
But if things stay on course, here's a peek at N.F.L. Week 6, with all picks made against spreading the point. And we'll comment as things change.
Record last week: 9-5
Best games of the week
Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, 1 p.m.
Steelers -3.5 Total: 51
The rivalry between the Browns (4-1) and the Steelers (4-0) is so fierce and can be so ugly that it began last year when Cleveland was meaningless and Pittsburgh was without its quarterback franchise. A fight ending with Myles Garrett striking Mason Rudolph with his own helmet is one of the feud's most upsetting chapters, but there's reason to think both teams should be less upset this weekend: both are on four-game winning streaks.
The Steelers' new victory came from the stunning appearance of Chase Claypool, a rookie wide receiver who had earned Ben Roethlisberger 's attention in practice before bursting in last week's game for four touchdowns — which only two other rookie receivers had accomplished. It's too premature to draw any firm conclusions, but Claypool looked like Martavis Bryant in a limited study, albeit with less off-field issues.
For Browns, it was an offense squad endeavor. Baker Mayfield was decent (if not spectacular), wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry performed well (and showed off their throwing arms) and Kareem Hunt did a good job filling in to start Nick Chubb last game.
Kansas City Bills Chiefs, 5 p.m. Monday, Fox and NFL
Line: Off Off:
Moved from Thursday after Tuesday's Buffalo playing Tennessee, this is a special Monday game that won't be in prime time. But with both teams coming off a first season defeat, early tuning would be worth seeing what happens.
Last week, against Las Vegas, the Chiefs (4-1) fell prey to the "playing down to competition" trap. Tennessee simply demolished the Bills (4-1). These outcomes can inspire all sides, contributing to lots of yardage and points.
Buffalo will want to feature the running game more than average to leverage Kansas City 's vulnerability in defending it, and Patrick Mahomes will leverage a reeling secondary Bills. When inspired, the Chiefs will beat anybody, so Buffalo could be in trouble. Pick: Heads
Los Angeles Rams at 49ers, 8:20 p.m., NBC
Rams -3.5 Total: 50.5
The winds quickly change in the hyper-competitive N.F.C. West, where the Rams (4-1) were a Super Bowl team in 2018 and off the map in 2019, and the 49ers (2-3) lifted the rear in 2018 and then went to the Super Bowl in 2019. They shifted again, with Los Angeles getting off to a nice start, especially on offense, while injury and disappointment overwhelmed San Francisco.
It makes sense for the Rams to be favoured, even on the road, but assuming San Francisco's humiliating loss to Miami last week was something more complex than Jimmy Garoppolo being shaky on his hurt ankle and the team's defense being speed-bagged by a team that's more offensive than you'd expect.
Garoppolo has another week to make his ankle right, Raheem Mostert is well and the 49ers will pick up big chunks of yard after the catch thanks to Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle. If Richard Sherman will return to defense to help rebuild the unit a little, this game might easily go San Francisco. If the 49ers lose, it might be time to say it's not their year. Choice: 49ers+3.5
Packers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 4:25, Fox
Packers -1.5 Total: 54.5
"Thursday night soccer" is always a messy mess, but the Buccaneers (3-2) brought the idea to the next level when Tom Brady lost track of downs in the waning moments of last week's stunning Chicago defeat. Such a historic attention loss could likely be written off as a fluke for a six-time Super Bowl winner, but Brady would have to be at his best to keep up with Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Jones and the Packers (4-0).
Green Bay returns after an early bye week that could be considered a burden: the team had offensive momentum from Weeks 1 to 4 and will now have to play 12 weeks in a row. But the bye also seems to have helped Packers wide receiver Davante Adams to return to full health, which greatly opens their offense. Choice: Packers -1.5
Other Games Sunday
Baltimore Ravens, Philadelphia Eagles, 1 p.m.
Ravens -7.5 Total: 47
A Ravens distinguishing trait (4-1) is they don't take off play. Facing the wrong team? That's just an opening for 200 yards and 30-plus points. And the team's defense comes into the same act. That's all terrible news for the Eagles (1-3-1), who have a crowded injury report and, when healthy, aren't particularly good teams. It's worth noting for future weeks that the passing of Lamar Jackson, while still effective, took a dip from last season's M.V.P.-level efficiency. That definitely won't matter on Sunday, but maybe when the team comes out in Week 8 to face Pittsburgh. Choice: Ravens-7.5
Texans at Tennessee Titans, 1 p.m. CBS CBS
Line: Off Off:
Re-seeing Texans (1-4) was good. The squad had been lacking in action for the first four weeks, but under Romeo Crennel, who took over as interim coach, it seemed rejuvenated — with a major caveat that the Jaguars won. From the worst team of the A.F.C. South (Jacksonville) to its best (Tennessee), Houston might get whiplash. The Titans (4-0) ended a 16-day layoff by demolishing the highly regarded Bills, looking to stay perfect by picking up another home win. Their protection can send Deshaun Watson another big day, but their offense will make up for that. Choice: Titans
Cincinnati Bengals, Colts, 1 p.m., Fox
Colts -7.5 Total: 46.5
Baltimore reminded Joe Burrow that he was still a novice when the Bengals (1-3-1) scored just 3 points in the blowout last week. Burrow's bad news is the Colts (3-2) aren't much fun to play against. If linebacker Darius Leonard can return, Burrow could be a second straight, quiet outing. But if Leonard is out, that spreading point seems too high. Choice: Bengals+7.5
Miami Dolphins Jets, 4:05 p.m.
Dolphins -8.5 Total: 47
If Sam Darnold will return from a shoulder injury, which could lead to the Jets (0-5) starting Joe Flacco at quarterback and Frank Gore running back, is not yet certain. That's a fitting salute to the Super Bowl 2012 season, but not an ideal game scenario in 2020. Regardless of who's at quarterback, the release of Le'Veon Bell seems to have left Gore, 37, locked in to start running back, defying all purpose. We're sure he'll retire before he gets the 1,176 running yards he needs to pass Walter Payton second on N.F.L. 's career running list — right?
Meanwhile, the Dolphins (2-3) potentially win this game no matter what. But the massive point spread is justified only if Ryan Fitzpatrick 's positive version emerges. And the poor version would definitely come out after last week's stunner against San Francisco. Pick: +8.5 jets
Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, 1 p.m.
Line: Off Off:
This week-long game led to a series of scheduling shifts, disrupted the remainder of the season for these two clubs, and added to the assumption that the N.F.L. lost its hold on its bubbleless life during a pandemic. But if you limit your view to field play, the delay could allow a better game. Drew Lock practiced with the Broncos (1-3), which will be a mild quarterback change from Brett Rypien if things continue to improve. And the Patriots (2-2) can get Cam Newton back from the Reserve / Covid-19 roster, a big upgrade over Jarrett Stidham or Brian Hoyer. If New England has Stephon Gilmore back from the list, the Patriots will effectively return to full size. Choice: Patriots
Chicago Lions, Carolina Panthers, 1 p.m.
Panthers -2.5 Total: 44
Expecting the Bears to make sense is stupid. The squad had extended stretches of absolute incompetence but managed to ride a mixture of good timing, a poor timetable, inconsistent production and luck to one of the better records in the N.F.L. last week, they exacerbated it using their witchcraft to beat a pretty respectable squad (Tampa Bay) in Chicago, but now they're going to be on the road against the Panthers (3-2), who aren't flawless but shouldn't be flawless. Pick:-2.5 Panthers
Atlanta Falcons, Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m.
Vikings -3.5 Total: 54.5
Despite one confirmed positive test for Covid-19, Atlanta is continuing as if the game would happen, but on Thursday the team worked remotely just to be healthy.
The Falcons (0-5) are possibly nostalgic for the weeks when they run up huge leads but crashed. They've been terrible for whole games since. The team's incompetence led to the firing of Coach Dan Quinn, and while a new coach will occasionally give a bounce to a team, traveling to Minnesota to meet the Vikings (1-4) won't be pleasant for Atlanta's fighting defense. Running back Dalvin Cook 's availability is questionable for Minnesota after Week 5's groin injury, but this figure is a pass-heavy game. Choice: Vikings-3.5
Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, 1 p.m.
Line: Lions -3.5 54
This game may have several points. Much. Much. Both teams have explosive passing games, credible running attacks, and terrible defences that might make those nifty highlights even though the calories are zero. The Lions (1-3) have a bye and a clean injury report, while the Jaguars (1-4) have four consecutive defeats, just two of which were close. But things may come down to the team commits an error at the wrong time. Fantasy football players want to start Jacksonville 's James Robinson, as Detroit helps a game to average 170.3 running yards. Choice: Jaguars+3.5
Giants Football Squad Washington, 1 p.m.
Giants -3 Total: 43
Alex Smith created a positive story by returning to the field, but the seasoned quarterback was obviously constrained, which is why Kyle Allen (1-4) is set to start this weekend. It would be an exaggeration to say Allen presents more potential, but at this stage he's marginally more solid than Smith, and the team has seemingly given up on Dwayne Haskins. Washington has the top record, but for a reason the Giants (0-5) are the game 's favorite. In the last two weeks, they've played reasonably close games against the Cowboys and the Rams, and should be able to score a decent amount of points against Washington. New Jersey state eventually had its first season victory. Choice: Giants-3
Dallas Cowboys Arizona Cardinals, 8:15, ESPN
Cardinals -2.5 Total: 54.5
These teams are coming off victories, but the Cardinals (3-2) can't get too enthusiastic about trouncing the horrible jets, and the Cowboys (2-3) had their victory against the lowly Giants (and probably their whole season) ruined by the gruesome injury to Dak Prescott quarterback. Performing the remaining season without Prescott and left tackling Tyron Smith makes Dallas a less explosive offensive side, but becoming a home underdog against an erratic side like Arizona doesn't feel right either.
The cowboys also have an experienced backup in Andy Dalton, who has a ridiculous set of large recipients to pick from plus running back Ezekiel Elliott, but there's every reason to think Dallas will be a middle team or stronger (which might place them in the playoffs in the N.F.C. East). Choice: Cowboys+2.5
How to Bet Lines
A short prim for those unfamiliar with betting lines: Favorites are listed next to a negative number that indicates how many points they would earn to cover the spread. Steelers -3.5, for example , means Pittsburgh must beat Cleveland by at least 4 points to win their bet. Gamblers can also bet on the overall score, or whether the combined score in the game is above or below a preselected number of points.