DEN (3-3) @ CLE (3-3) | THU 8:20 PM ET | FOX/NFL Network/Amazon
Broncos-Browns has the makings of a slugfest tonight, and that will mean taking care of the ball is key. I’m excited to see Case Keenum get a shot to play with Baker Mayfield (shoulder) out, though, as he is one of the best backup quarterbacks in the league, and the veteran went 11-3 with the Vikings—when Kevin Stefanski was their quarterbacks coach—back in 2017. Mayfield has definitely missed throws this season (perhaps due to the shoulder), so Stefanski will hope Keenum is able to connect on any downfield opportunities that are there. It will also be fun to see Demetric Felton have an increased offensive role with Nick Chubb (calf) and Kareem Hunt (calf) out, and Cleveland should use him heavily in the screen game to offset Von Miller’s potentially night-wrecking pass rush. Denver is healthier and has more weapons on offense, but the Browns at home can get back on track if the defense doesn’t get run on by Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams.
Winner: Cleveland Browns
CAR (3-3) @ NYG (1-5) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
Taking on the Rams with a bunch of key players injured wasn’t a good spot last week for the Giants, but it was still a deflating loss for them, and the talent level on defense in particular is too high for New York to be as bad as they’ve been. Joe Judge at least has the team continuing to play hard (although that might make the struggles even more concerning since results still haven’t been there), but they will need to come prepared to stop the run with Carolina—trying to end their three-game losing streak—set to feature Chuba Hubbard on the ground this weekend. The defense stepping up is even more important with Saquon Barkley (ankle), Kenny Golladay (knee), Kadarius Toney (ankle), and Andrew Thomas (ankle) all either already out or expected to be out, so the secondary needs to get a jump on Sam Darnold when the Panthers throw; I’d anticipate D.J. Moore will be his clear top target like we saw to begin the season.
Winner: Carolina Panthers
NYJ (1-4) @ NE (2-4) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
New England didn’t end up winning the game, but the sequence of throwing a pick-six to Trevon Diggs and then immediately attacking him for a go-ahead, 75-yard touchdown on a double move could be looked back on as a legendary moment for Mac Jones if he becomes the a championship quarterback for the Patriots. Basically, you have to be a complete hater to be anything other than impressed with Jones to begin his career, and he’s completing 71.1% of his passes through six games. For the Jets’ first-round quarterback, the flashes are what has fans optimistic about Zach Wilson, and that’s really what was expected for anyone who studied him coming out of BYU; I would argue that New York has done a poor job of putting Wilson in a position to succeed, and they need to get Denzel Mims on the field more—which could happen coming off the bye—as the best stylistic fit with Wilson’s game. The Pats will be on the hunt for more turnovers after tagging the rookie with four interceptions in Week 2, but I’d like to see New York unleash Mims and second-rounder Elijah Moore as the starters with Corey Davis and let them all learn/grow together.
Winner: New England Patriots
KC (3-3) @ TEN (4-2) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
It feels like Chiefs-Titans has become somewhat of a rivalry since Marcus Mariota won a playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium back in January of 2018, but the AFC squads have actually faced only twice since then—with Tennessee getting the better of them in a 2019 shootout, and then Kansas City winning the postseason rematch a couple of months later, 35-24. Overall, though, Derrick Henry is 3-1 versus the Chiefs (averaging 6.4 yards per carry and scoring six touchdowns), and his success could continue versus a defense that is allowed 5.2 yards per carry so far this season. Also, A.J. Brown has been contained in two matchups, but I believe that will change on Sunday, as Ryan Tannehill connecting with him for 91 yards in the second half of Monday night’s win over Buffalo can carry over into another huge game for the Titans. If the secondary holds up versus all the firepower of Kansas City to avoid an early deficit, I like Tennessee to win as road underdogs with Patrick Mahomes not being overly sharp and Henry already handling December workloads.
Winner: Tennessee Titans
WAS (2-4) @ GB (5-1) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
The entire scene of Aaron Rodgers scoring a touchdown and telling Chicago fans that he owns them was hilarious (including Elgton Jenkins yelling into the camera), and Green Bay is sort of lying in the weeds in the NFC with a five-game winning streak. Even the defense—with impact players Jaire Alexander (shoulder) and Za’Darius Smith (back) out—has been playing very confident football, so they just can’t avoid a letdown or lookahead with a matchup with the likely 7-0 Cardinals on deck for next Thursday night. Washington, on the other hand, has spiraled some, and they quickly need to get on track with road games versus the Packers and Broncos to close out the month before taking on Tampa Bay following a Week 9 bye; if that’s an 0-3 stretch, Dallas might have the NFC East all but wrapped up by Thanksgiving. Green Bay not having David Bakhtiari (knee) back would increase the chances of Chase Young being able to get to Rodgers, but I don’t think Washington was the options in the secondary to stop Davante Adams.
Winner: Green Bay Packers
ATL (2-3) @ MIA (1-5) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
My first thought when Miami lost to Jacksonville in London was that a complete regime change might be in order, and if that ends up being the case—and I’m not saying it should, as Brian Flores appears to be a very good head coach—the first-round of the 2020 NFL Draft could be the turning point. I will say the revisionist history is hilarious with everyone acting like Justin Herbert was the obvious choice over Tua Tagovailoa (when no one in the media viewed it that way), but No. 18 overall pick Austin Jackson and No. 30 overall pick Noah Igbinoghene were the bigger misses in my opinion (I’d have taken Jonathan Taylor and Antoine Winfield Jr.), and while still early, those selections appear don’t appear to be home runs when the Dolphins had three first-round selections; this is also a warning to the Eagles with Howie Roseman being in charge of their upcoming windfall of draft capital. A rested Atlanta team with legitimate playmakers all over on offense should be able to improve to 3-3.
Winner: Atlanta Falcons
CIN (4-2) @ BAL (5-1) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
Bengals-Ravens should be one of the top games of Week 7 with first place in the AFC South on the line, and I would expect a much closer result than we’ve seen in the past three meetings (wins of 49-13, 27-3, and 38-3 for Baltimore). The biggest reason for that is Cincinnati’s offense being able to put up points to keep up with the improved passing attack of the Ravens, and Joe Mixon being featured again is crucial to keep the pressure off Joe Burrow. On defense, the Bengals have to cover Mark Andrews in the middle of the field—particularly in scoring territory—and Rashod Bateman could be more of a factor after six targets in his debut, so Marquise Brown still has plenty of help with Sammy Watkins (hamstring) likely out again. The Baltimore backfield also has multiple options with Latavius Murray (ankle), Le’Veon Bell, and Devonta Freeman all finding the end zone in Week 6, and the big-game experience of those three shouldn’t be overlooked as the Ravens look to stay hot. I have gone back-and-forth with this pick, but the home team gets the edge.
Winner: Baltimore Ravens
DET (0-6) @ LAR (5-1) | SUN 4:05 PM ET | FOX
Jared Goff said this week that there was a “some disrespect” towards the end of his Rams career, which I agree with, and I just hope the Los Angeles crowd shows him some appreciation for what he did in helping bring the franchise back to relevancy—including a Super Bowl appearance. I know it’s not a popular opinion because people want to give Goff zero credit for LA’s success, but anything other than a championship would have Matthew Stafford falling short of his predecessor, who won some legendary battles (the comeback win at the Superdome in 2018 NFC Championship Game among them). Unfortunately, the perimeter talent simply isn’t there right now for Detroit, and you probably can’t beat the Rams by relying on Jamaal Williams, D’Andre Swift, and T.J. Hockenson to do most of the heavy lifting. I’ll be interested to see the potential pre- and post-game interactions between Goff and Sean McVay, but I hope it’s at least a decent showing for the Lions.
Winner: Los Angeles Rams
PHI (2-4) @ LV (4-2) | SUN 4:05 PM ET | FOX
I remain high on Jalen Hurts and believe he can be the long-term answer at quarterback for the Eagles, but it’s unfair to roll the ball out and expect him to win by throwing on almost every play, so Philadelphia committing more to the run in future weeks—with the help of the fan encouragement—should help evaluate him properly. Miles Sanders will have cutback opportunities available to him versus an aggressive Las Vegas defense this week, and more run-balance can open up the offense in general to set up downfield throws, and then the screen game off of that. The offense will at least have an identity rather than whatever aimless directive is coming from management, and Philly’s defense can get a boost, too. That being said, I’m worried about the Eagles containing Darren Waller and Henry Ruggs III based on their history, and Derek Carr looks to be back on track after a two-week bump in the road.
Winner: Las Vegas Raiders
HOU (1-5) @ ARI (6-0) | SUN 4:25 PM ET | CBS
Houston was able to get a win in the opener, but they are 0-5 with a -96 point differential since then, and the Cardinals have been dominant on both sides of the ball with 31+ points in five-of-six games and 20 or fewer points allowed in five-of-six games. The addition of Zach Ertz gives another weapon to Kyler Murray, and his ability to make plays underneath could open up more downfield routes for the wide receivers—all of whom can win vertically from various alignments. Defensively, it’s a positive that the Cardinals didn’t simply hand first-round pick Zaven Collins a full-time role at linebacker after it sounded like that’s what they were going to do; Jordan Hicks and Isaiah Simmons have been great as the top guys, and trading Hicks would have been a mistake. The Texans should play hard and hope to somehow end Arizona’s undefeated season, but the Deshaun Watson situation being resolved by the November 2nd trade deadline is more important than the results versus the Cardinals and Rams over the next two weeks.
Winner: Arizona Cardinals
CHI (3-3) @ TB (5-1) | SUN 4:25 PM ET | CBS
The run-heavy game plan combined with strong defense is what has kept the Bears competitive with Justin Fields under center, but they will need to open it up and either sink or swim to have any shot of beating the Buccaneers this week. Through four starts, Fields has averaged 140.5 passing yards per game, and while he’s made some nice throws and flashed playmaking talent, the concerns about seeing the whole field remain, and he will also have to deal with Tampa Bay’s pass rush on the road this week, so I’d want the rookie uncork throws to Allen Robinson and Darnell; if it turns into a bad outing, then so be it, but teams aren’t going to beat Tom Brady with less than 200 yards through the air. For the Bucs, TB12 will want revenge for last year’s 20-19 loss (and I bet he throws for four touchdowns to get—as Cousin Greg would say—“good meme-age” based on last year’s ending). The return of Rob Gronkowski (ribs) is still uncertain, but Chris Godwin and likely Antonio Brown (ankle) will be there unlike in 2020, and Brady has been on fire with 14 touchdowns in three home games to begin 2021.
Winner: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
IND (2-4) @ SF (2-3) | SUN 8:20 PM ET | NBC
To me, Sunday Night Football will be all about the linebacker matchup between Darius Leonard and Fred Warner, so whoever stops the run and can do a better job of making stops on third down should win as the Colts and 49ers both hope to climb out of their disappointing starts. Of course, the star defenders won’t actually face off, but Leonard trying to contain the speed of Elijah Mitchell and Warner simply needing to cut down Jonathan Taylor before he gets going will be very fun to watch. Up front, Indy defensive tackle DeForest Bucker will have a bit of a chip on his shoulder facing the team that traded him away, and he should have a good feel for what Kyle Shanahan wants to do after seeing his system in action every day in practice over four seasons. The health of T.Y. Hilton (quad) needs to be monitored and might cause me to end up switching the pick, but for now, I’ll go with the Colts to get a needed win on the back of Taylor and the running game as Carson Wentz—who only has one interception this season—manages the offense and takes opportunistic shots.
Winner: Indianapolis Colts
NO (3-2) @ SEA (2-4) | MON 8:15 PM ET | ESPN/ESPN2
I have talked about it a lot in regards to fantasy football, but the return of Tre’Quan Smith (hamstring) has flown way under the radar for New Orleans, and the big-bodied wideout gives Jameis Winston a target he’s very comfortable with, including down the field (where the offense hasn’t been great). Although they may not have Michael Thomas (ankle) for at least a couple of more weeks, the Saints are getting healthier overall, and Sean Payton’s squad has notably thrived following time off in recent years—going on a six-game winning streak out of the bye in three of the past four seasons. Seattle’s primetime history is well-documented, but Monday night will be the toughest test yet for Geno Smith with New Orleans allowing a 5:9 touchdown-interception ratio through five games, and I wonder what the talk of potentially signing Cam Newton might do to the quarterback’s psyche. While there is always a chance Winston comes out and plays reckless to cost the team, he’s been reigned in the for the most part, and the Seahawks haven’t been good enough defensively (outside of scoring territory) to feel confident.
Winner: New Orleans Saints