Teams on a bye week: DET, HOU
KC (5-1) @ OAK (2-4) | THU 8:25 PM ET | CBS/NFL Network/Amazon
After starting off 2-0, the Raiders have dropped four-straight games and are in danger of falling to 2-5 on Thursday night. Oakland doesn’t seem to have the same chemistry they did in 2016, as Marshawn Lynch hasn’t worked out, Amari Cooper is playing the worst football of his career, and the die-hard fans might not be as committed as they once were with the team eventually heading to Las Vegas. Andy Reid is 7-1 against the Raiders since becoming head coach of the Chiefs, with the lone loss being in 2014 when Latavius Murray ran for a 90-yard touchdown on TNF. This year, I like Alex Smith, Kareem Hunt, and company to run wild with a chance to possibly knock the Silver and Black out of AFC West contention before the middle of October.
Winner: Kansas City Chiefs
BAL (3-3) @ MIN (4-2) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
Baltimore looked like the NFL’s best defense after two weeks, but nose tackle Brandon Williams (foot) hasn’t played in the past four games, and the entire unit has struggled in his absence, particularly against the run. The Ravens are 2-0 and holding opponents to 3.8 yards per carry when Williams is in the lineup, but they’re just 1-3 and allowing 4.32 yards per carry with him out—and all four rushing touchdowns allowed have been in those games. Perhaps even more concerning for Baltimore is that teams aren’t afraid to stick with the run, as they are allowing 87 more rushing yards per game with Williams out of the lineup. Fortunately, he is set to return this week, but I still like the Vikings at home, as they are a confident team that suddenly finds themselves as frontrunners in the division. Plus, Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense isn’t going to turn it around against Mike Zimmer’s defense.
Winner: Minnesota Vikings
NYJ (3-3) @ MIA (3-2) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
For as bad as everyone thought the Jets would be this season, they have three wins, and for as bad as Miami has looked through five games, they also have three wins. The Dolphins’ offense is their biggest concern right now, but they at least have some momentum after feeding Jay Ajayi and making timely throws in a comeback win over the Falcons. New York was able to nearly shut Miami out in Week 3, but I’d be surprised if that happens again, as the Jets will need to travel south after a tough and controversial battle with New England last week. Todd Bowles should already be back as head coach in 2018 based on what he’s done through six games, but I’m taking Adam Gase and the Dolphins in this one.
Winner: Miami Dolphins
ARI (3-3) @ LAR (4-2) | SUN 1:00 PM ET (in London) | FOX
So, Adrian Peterson looks pretty good in a Cardinals uniform. In four games with New Orleans, Peterson rushed 27 times for 81 yards and no touchdowns, but in his first game with Arizona he rushed 26 times for 134 yards and two scores, and I think he and Larry Fitzgerald became best friends in the process. The oldest team in the NFL didn’t look like it when they jumped out to a 31-0 lead against Tampa Bay last week, but they might feel a little older this Sunday when the opposing coach in 31-year-old Sean McVay is younger than Peterson (32), Fitzgerald (34), and Carson Palmer (37). As long as Patrick Peterson is active to guard Sammy Watkins, I like the old guys to get a win in London.
Winner: Arizona Cardinals
TB (2-3) @ BUF (3-2) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
The Bills come off the bye to face an injured Jameis Winston, as Winston has a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder that forced him out of last week’s game against Arizona. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he starts but is unable to finish against Buffalo, and I expect the Bills’ opportunistic defense to take advantage of any shortcoming Tampa Bay’s starter might have. Hopefully Sean McDermott’s team doesn’t have to put up many points offensively, as the running game has yet to get going, and Tyrod Taylor—despite Jordan Matthews’ possible return—is lacking playmakers on the outside. I like Buffalo in a low-scoring game.
Winner: Buffalo Bills
JAC (3-3) @ IND (2-4) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
Colts fans and football fans in general received some bad news this week when the team announced Andrew Luck suffered a setback with his surgically-repaired throwing shoulder, so there’s no telling if/when he will return this season. In his place, Jacoby Brissett has played well, but he faces arguably the top secondary in the NFL this week. On the other side of the ball, Leonard Fournette continues to carry the Jags’ offense, and maybe Blake Bortles can get going against a weak defense—he’s actually thrown 264 yards per game with a 7:0 touchdown-interception ratio over the past two years against Indy—especially with the rookie injuring his ankle at the end of Sunday’s loss. If Bortles continues to hold the offense back though, would Tom Coughlin consider a trade as Jacksonville heads into their bye week?
Winner: Jacksonville Jaguars
NO (3-2) @ GB (4-2) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
2017 has been a brutal year for big-time injuries, and after breaking his collarbone last week, Aaron Rodgers joins All-Pro running back David Johnson and All-Pro wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. as big-time offensive stars that are either out for the season or close to it. And of course, All-Pro defenders J.J. Watt and Eric Berry are also done for the year. It’s obviously awful, but legacies have been made by the next man stepping up, and Brett Hundley gets his chance with the Packers. The 2015 fifth-round pick was excellent at UCLA, and he headlined my “Bargain Bin” quarterback targets this offseason. Even against an improved New Orleans defense, I think Hundley is going to win people over and play great on Sunday, but it might not be enough to outscore Drew Brees and the Saints’ high-powered offense.
Winner: New Orleans Saints
CAR (4-2) @ CHI (2-4) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
Cam Newton has certainly calmed down any talk of him already falling off, as he has been great over the past three games, including when he looked like vintage Cam as a runner in last Thursday night’s loss to the Eagles. It’s lazy to look at the three turnovers and say that Newton had a bad game against Philly, as one interception went right off Jonathan Stewart’s hands, and another came on a miscommunication with Kelvin Benjamin. Other than Newton, Carolina also had no ground game to speak of, but Ryan Kalil’s return will certainly help against a middle-of-the-road run defense. Chicago is going to want to control the game with Jordan Howard, so Luke Keuchly’s status will undoubtedly be a big factor on Sunday afternoon. Whether or not he plays, I like the Panthers.
Winner: Carolina Panthers
TEN (3-3) @ CLE (0-6) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
Imagine being a Cleveland fan (or don’t imagine if you actually are) and watching Deshaun Watson throw for three touchdowns as an opponent after the Browns passed on him twice in April’s draft. As if that’s not bad enough, the quarterback that the franchise did draft has been benched three times already, and he hasn’t completed more than 48.4% of his passes in any game since the season opener. DeShone Kizer is back in the lineup, though, and perhaps the one week as the backup will somehow drastically change things like head coach Hue Jackson hopes. The play of Kizer and Kevin Hogan has only made my belief that recently-promoted Cody Kessler is the best quarterback on the roster, so he should get his chance should the rookie get benched again. For Tennessee, Marcus Mariota should make easy work of a defense that’s allowed a league-worst 111.0 quarterback rating and 14 passing touchdowns in 2017.
Winner: Tennessee Titans
DAL (2-3) @ SF (0-6) | SUN 4:05 PM ET | FOX
Apparently Ezekiel Elliott’s status for Sunday’s game and beyond has changed eight different times since you started reading this article, but he will be out there against the 49ers in Week 7. Dallas already has as many losses as they did a season ago, and while there is plenty of blame to go around, not much of it can be placed on Dak Prescott, as there hasn’t been a noticeable drop in play at all for the 24-year-old. However, his backfield mate looks like he’s in worse shape than he was as a rookie, and that combined with a slightly less dominant offensive line has led to a 3.7 yards-per-carry average for Elliott. Luckily for him/them, the 49ers are a get-right game, especially with rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard set to make his first career NFL start. Coming off a bye, the Cowboys should handle this one on the road.
Winner: Dallas Cowboys
DEN (3-2) @ LAC (2-4) | SUN 4:25 PM ET | CBS
I would assume that not many people on the east coast were able to stay up for the Week 1 matchup between the Broncos and Chargers, as the game finished around one in the morning, but those who did watch know it was a good one that ended on a missed field goal that would have sent it into overtime for Los Angeles. Philip Rivers’ squad has found out a couple different ways to lose since, but they’ve turned the season around with two-straight victories and a chance on Sunday to virtually tie with Denver behind Kansas City in the division. Sadly, home-field advantage doesn’t really exist for the Chargers, as they are 0-3 in LA with almost zero support from the fair-weather fans, but I still think they have the second-best team in the AFC West. Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram should be able to get after Trevor Siemian, so as long as Melvin Gordon and Hunter Henry are featured, Los Angeles should win their third straight.
Winner: Los Angeles Chargers
CIN (2-3) @ PIT (4-2) | SUN 4:25 PM ET | CBS
Pittsburgh has won nearly every game in recent years between the Steelers and Bengals, but they are usually close on the scoreboard, and if not have near-equal intensity levels. Put simply, these teams do not like each other, and while Steelers-Ravens is still the better rivalry, the Steelers-Bengals rivalry probably has a little more hate to it nowadays. Cincinnati has done a nice job containing Antonio Brown, but their biggest concern should be Le’Veon Bell, as when he gets hot and handles 30-35 touches, Pittsburgh usually picks up a victory. Maybe this will be the week that the Bengals unleash Joe Mixon and give him a monster workload of his own, as coming off a bye in a game that would put the AFC North wide open seems like the perfect opportunity.
Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers
SEA (3-2) @ NYG (1-5) | SUN 4:25 PM ET | CBS
New York has been blown out twice by Seattle in the Russell Wilson era, as they lost 23-0 in 2013 and 38-17 in 2014, but their defense is more talented and should be more confident after they looked like last year’s unit in the Week 6 upset over Denver. I would be shocked if the Giants played as well offensively as they did against the Broncos, though, as the Seahawks should be ready coming off their bye week. Look for Jimmy Graham to have a big game against a team that’s allowed a touchdown to a tight end in every single game this season, as Graham is becoming the threat Seattle wanted him to be when they traded for him a couple years ago would be huge for the offense.
Winner: Seattle Seahawks
ATL (3-2) @ NE (4-2) | SUN 8:30 PM ET | NBC
Get ready to hear a lot about Super Bowl LI on Sunday night, as NBC will likely mention “28-3” way too many times leading up to kickoff, and Cris Collinsworth will probably make several comparisons between February’s game and whatever happens on Sunday Night Football—even if it doesn’t make any sense. On the field (which is all that really matters), both teams are significantly different than they were just eight months ago; New England will have Rob Gronkowski and Brandin Cooks added to the offense, but they won’t have Julian Edelman, while Atlanta no longer has Kyle Shanahan as offensive coordinator. I think everyone would agree that the Patriots have the edge in offensive changes, but defensively, they’ve taken major steps back, and the Falcons now have top cornerback Desmond Trufant, whom was injured and didn’t play in the Super Bowl. Overall, these teams matchup pretty evenly, and we should get another classic, but I don’t go against Brady and Belichick at home.
Winner: New England Patriots
WAS (3-2) @ PHI (5-1) | MON 8:30 PM ET | ESPN
The Redskins and Eagles have played in primetime every year for the past few seasons, but it’s been on Thursday night recently. The last time they faced off on Monday Night Football, Chip Kelly’s offense was taking over the league with Michael Vick at quarterback. Now, things are much different, as quarterback Carson Wentz has led the 5-1 Eagles to the best record in the NFC, with their only loss coming against the AFC-leading Chiefs. Philadelphia was able to defeat Washington 30-17 in the season opener, but the game was a lot closer than that, as the Redskins were robbed of a chance to take the lead late on a call that rivals the Jets’ misfortune last Sunday against New England. Like I said when the Eagles needed a 61-yard field goal to escape with a home win against the Giants a few weeks ago, this is not going to be as easy as some might hope (especially if Josh Norman returns), but I like the Eagles in a competitive game.
Winner: Philadelphia Eagles