DEN (2-4) @ ARI (1-5) | THU 8:20 PM ET | FOX/NFL Network/Amazon
Barring an unforeseen turnaround that causes Arizona to be flexed into a Sunday Night Football game later in the year, tonight will almost certainly be the final primetime appearance for the legendary Larry Fitzgerald, and that alone is reason enough to tune in. The future Hall of Famer is as classy as it gets, so you won’t hear any complaints out of him, but if there ever was a time to complain, this would be it; Fitz is tragically wasting the twilight of his career on a team that bailed on the season in Week 3, and the new coaching staff simply isn’t getting the most out of a roster that definitely has talent. But again, Larry is one of the best in the business and will keep playing as hard as he can for as long as he can, and some of the prima donna receivers that still have plenty of years left to compete for championships—or what they mostly care about, put up numbers—should look to the longtime Cardinal great as an example of football character on and off the field. Two bad teams on Thursday Night Football makes this game a toss up, but the Broncos will be missing their starting left guard (Ron Leary) and right tackle (Jared Veldheer), while struggling left tackle Garett Bolles might not stand much of a chance against star pass-rusher Chandler Jones. Also, for what it’s worth, Case Keenum was sacked six times with three turnovers in a loss to Steve Wilks and the Panthers in 2017.
Winner: Arizona Cardinals
TEN (3-3) @ LAC (4-2) | SUN 9:30 AM ET (in London) | CBS
The only thing more unpredictable than a TNF game is an early London game, but I doubt anyone will whine about waking up and watching football for 14 hours, especially considering the Sunday slate gets started with a meeting between two playoff hopefuls. The Chargers are flying under the radar through six weeks (their only losses have come against the 6-0 Rams and 5-1 Chiefs) as a legitimate Super Bowl contender that’s going to eventually get Joey Bosa (foot) back, and dismantling the surging Browns last week might be evidence of this year being different for a franchise that has often struggled with east-coast trips and slow starts to the season in general. This weekend will be the real test, though, as coming in as touchdown favorites for what is basically a 6:30 AM kickoff could lead to sleepwalking against a team that’s dropped two in a row. The Titans obviously didn’t look good at all last week as they allowed Marcus Mariota to be sacked 11 times last week in a shutout loss, but their power running game—despite not showing up so far this year—should travel well if they commit to Derrick Henry in order to keep Philip Rivers and Melvin Gordon off the field for the Chargers. I’m taking Tennessee in a close game.
Winner: Tennessee Titans
HOU (3-3) @ JAX (3-3) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
It’s odd for a run-first, defensive football team that was a stop away from making the Super Bowl last season to struggle against other physical teams, but that’s been the case for Jacksonville over the past two years, which is why I picked them to lose to the Cowboys in Week 6. Now, the overconfident Jaguars are suddenly in a battle for first place in the AFC South after Houston rattled off three nail-biting victories in a row, and a loss could be a big blow to the psyche of a squad that thought they had all the answers following a 31-20 win over New England in Week 2. Looking back to last season, Deshaun Watson didn’t start either matchup between these two division rivals, but the Texans were blown out by an average of 25.0 points per game with a combined 14 sacks allowed, and the biggest weakness (offensive line) remains for Bill O’Brien’s team. I’m not really a believer in the Jags, but I would be surprised if they didn’t have a chip on their shoulder following a 40-7 defeat, and a banged-up Watson is unlikely to have the same success that Dak Prescott did a week ago as a dual-threat playmaker. Houston probably needs to force Blake Bortles (five interceptions over the past two games) to make multiple mistakes if they want to improve to 4-3.
Winner: Jacksonville Jaguars
CAR (3-2) @ PHI (3-3) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
They have only faced once since Doug Pederson was hired by the Eagles, but Carolina and Philadelphia feels like a budding rivalry between two NFC elites. The Birds were able to get a 28-23 victory on the road last year in a Thursday night clash, but the Panthers might feel the game—and in turn, their season—could have gone differently if Luke Kuechly wasn’t forced to leave with a concussion. Fortunately, all the key names on both sides are expected to play this weekend (including Eagles left tackle Jason Peters through a torn biceps), and the outcome could have serious playoff implications, whether it be seeding or making/missing the postseason altogether. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of game plan offensive coordinator Norv Turner has in store, but Cam Newton, who has tossed three interceptions in each of the past three games against Philly, needs to be better as a passer if Carolina is going to come out of Lincoln Financial Field with a huge win. I think the Panthers also need to feed Christian McCaffrey in a variety of ways to take advantage of a defense that doesn’t always tackle well in space, but I don’t see Carson Wentz allowing his guys to lose back-to-back home games.
Winner: Philadelphia Eagles
MIN (3-2-1) @ NYJ (3-3) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
The Vikings have been able to tie the Packers at Lambeau, go blow-for-blow against the Rams at the Coliseum, and beat the Eagles in Philly, but for a team with championship aspirations, I would be concerned about their inability to dominate lesser opponents at home. So far, Minnesota hasn’t been an imposing matchup for either rookie quarterback they’ve faced, as Josh Allen carried the Bills to a 27-6 victory, while Josh Rosen didn’t appear overwhelmed last week in what turned out to be a respectable 27-17 loss. Those games could bode well for Sam Darnold, who is coming off arguably his best performance as a pro, and the Jets should be confident as they look to complete the sweep of their three-game home stand following wins over the Broncos and Colts. New York’s franchise quarterback has thrown seven interceptions in six games, but he’s yet to lose a fumble, so hopefully the turnover issues that were the big concern with Darnold coming out of USC will fade away once he gets better skill-position players around him. For Kirk Cousins, weapons aren’t an issue at all, as the white-hot Adam Thielen has gone for lines of 6/102, 12/131/1, 14/105, 8/135/1, 7/116/1, and 11/123/1 in a historic start to the season, and Stefon Diggs is on pace for a career best 107/1,160/8 line. I think New York will put up a fight, but injuries to the secondary will be too much to overcome.
Winner: Minnesota Vikings
NE (4-2) @ CHI (3-2) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
The Bears are fortunate to only face Tom Brady once every four years, as in two matchups this decade, he’s absolutely torched them; most recently, Brady completed 30-of-35 passes for 354 yards, five touchdowns, and zero interceptions in a 51-23 victory, and Chicago needs to record more than the zero sacks they did for that matchup in October of 2014 to have any chance of slowing New England down on Sunday. It was amusing to hear the usually-complimentary Bill Belichick shoot down comparisons between Khalil Mack and Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor this week, and it might take an L.T.-like effort from the league’s highest-paid defender to wreck the game. Fantasy football players should know that the Patriots try to take away the opponent’s top offensive threat, but Belichick also does the same thing on the other side of the ball, so Mack is going to get plenty of chips and double teams, and it might be up to Leonard Floyd on the other side to make an impact if Vic Fangio’s defense is going to get to Brady. On the ground, the Bears might be difficult to run on for first-round pick Sony Michel (316 yards over the past three games), but this will probably be an aerial attack for the Pats anyway, and I have a feeling Josh Gordon and/or Rob Gronkowski will breakout.
Winner: New England Patriots
BUF (2-4) @ IND (1-5) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
With all due respect to veteran signal-caller Derek Anderson, the Bills are likely going to be a lot less competitive for however long Josh Allen (elbow) is out of the lineup, as he covered up some major offensive flaws based on his ability to make off-script plays. It’s no mistake that Buffalo’s 47-3 loss in the season opener was the only game Allen didn’t start, and it will take some outstanding defensive outings to remain competitive, including this Sunday against the Colts. That said, the matchup isn’t terrible for Sean McDermott’s team, as Tre’Davious White should be able to contain T.Y. Hilton if he returns from a two-game absence, and the front seven showed what they could do last week in Houston when they sacked Deshaun Watson seven times and forced three turnovers, so Indianapolis needs to protect Andrew Luck as he continues to knock off the rust by throwing early and often. This week, though, I think they should try to establish the running game with Marlon Mack while making Anderson beat them. Look for 2017 first-rounder Malik Hooker to be a ball hawk on the backend after getting his first interception of the season last week.
Winner: Indianapolis Colts
CLE (2-3-1) @ TB (2-4) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
In the summer, Cleveland was loaded with pass-catching talent—Josh Gordon, Jarvis Landry, Corey Coleman, Antonio Callaway, Rashard Higgins, David Njoku, Duke Johnson, etc.—but whether it be due to release (Gordon and Coleman), injury (Higgins), inefficiency (Callaway), or coaching (Johnson), the group is suddenly a weakness. Of course, things could be worse for Baker Mayfield, as Josh Allen, Dak Prescott, and Marcus Mariota would kill for Landry or Njoku, and this week, Tampa Bay’s subpar coverage might give the No. 1 overall pick flashbacks to Big 12 action. On the other side of the field, Jameis Winston (five interceptions) has wasted no time turning the ball over since taking his starting job back from Ryan Fitzpatrick, and there’s no excuse for that to keep happening on a loaded offense in a make-or-break year for the organization. However, it seems that Jameis is who he is at this point (interestingly, it’s basically the antithesis of Mayfield), and I trust the rookie to bounce back more than I do Winston to finally play mistake-free football. For the sake of Cleveland fans, I hope last week’s blowout loss isn’t a permanent return to normalcy.
Winner: Cleveland Browns
DET (2-3) @ MIA (4-2) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
As a fan with no rooting interest, it was relieving to see the Dolphins come out victorious last week after Kenyan Drake fumbled at the goal line in overtime, as it could have literally been a career-defining moment if he fell out of favor with the coaching staff and saw less work than he already was. Mercifully and perhaps wisely, Adam Gase stuck with the Alabama product when they got the ball back in OT, and Drake ripped off a couple plays to help set up the game-winning field goal, which combined with backup quarterback Brock Osweiler coming in and throwing for 380 yards and three touchdowns, should only build team chemistry. Say what you want about Gase, but there are plenty of coaches in the league that would have immediately put a young runner in the doghouse for a costly fumble, and the decision not to do that should lead to the entire locker room buying in if they haven’t already. Matt Patricia and the Lions have been hot and cold to start the year, but they’ve knocked off Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers in their two wins, and the former Belichick pupil should be prepared coming out of the bye week. I think we will get a complete showing by Detroit’s offense if Kerryon Johnson is featured to open things up for Matthew Stafford and the talented trio of wideouts.
Winner: Detroit Lions
NO (4-1) @ BAL (4-2) | SUN 4:05 PM ET | FOX
A win this week in Baltimore would make Drew Brees just the third quarterback in NFL history to beat all 32 NFL teams (joining Brett Favre and Peyton Manning), and this could be an exceedingly momentous month with that feat combined with the career passing yardage record from Week 5 and the probable 500-touchdown benchmark that he’s one score away from. But if there’s a team that could crash the party, it’s the Ravens, who lead the league in yards per attempt allowed (6.0), passing yards per game allowed (188), sacks (26), and quarterback rating (73.1); and excluding a 28-point half by Cincinnati back in Week 2, they are surrendering just 2.22 points per quarter. I highly doubt those numbers will hold against Sean Payton coming off the bye, but putting up points away from the Superdome will be tough, and New Orleans has some major holes on the backend that Joe Flacco should be able to exploit. As I said yesterday, the Saints have been torched by speed receivers DeSean Jackson (5/146/2) and Calvin Ridley (7/146/3) already this year, and John Brown is a game-breaking weapon that is could change momentum on any given play. It could go either way, but I think Drew Brees might need to hope for a Super Bowl matchup to join Favre and Manning on another list.
Winner: Baltimore Ravens
DAL (3-3) @ WAS (3-2) | SUN 4:25 PM ET | CBS
Dallas is 3-0 at home and 0-3 on the road, but the Redskins have alternated promising wins and discouraging losses through five games, so something has to give. Washington’s underrated front led by former Alabama stars Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne should be an entertaining battle against Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas offensive line for the next handful of years, but as we saw a couple weeks ago, it’s best to attack the Redskins through the air, and Dak Prescott could have more confidence with the game in his hands after last week’s thrashing of Jacksonville. Defensively, the Cowboys are expected to get some reinforcements with Sean Lee (hamstring) set to return, but I’m pumped to see Alex Smith in his first NFC East game, as he’s the division’s wild card and a proven winner that will do whatever it takes to move the ball. Fans should expect another slugfest, so whoever makes more plays out of Dak and Smith has a good chance of coming out on top. Overall, I have more faith in Jay Gruden and his coaching staff than I do Jason Garrett and his coaching staff, so give me the Redskins in a down-to-the-wire victory.
Winner: Washington Redskins
LAR (6-0) @ SF (1-5) | SUN 4:25 PM ET | CBS
Looking ahead is dangerous for NFL teams, but we have that luxury, and Los Angeles gets a fun stretch of games (v GB, @ NO, v SEA, v KC) before their bye week. First, they need to handle business against the 49ers and gritty quarterback C.J. Beathard, who is the perfect backup as a guy that can win games off the bench, whether it be coming out cold due to an injury or taking over for an extended period of time. It’s the latter this season, but the 24-year-old is gaining valuable experience that will pay dividends for either San Francisco or someone else down the line. The moment not looking too big for Beathard against Green Bay on Monday night might actually work against the Niners this week, as Sean McVay will have the Rams ready to play on both sides of the ball to remain the league’s last undefeated. Todd Gurley ran wild for 208 yards in a chilly Week 6 victory over Denver, but I think Jared Goff (292 yards and three touchdowns last season in San Francisco) and the passing attack will get back on track this weekend. To pull off an upset, the 49ers need to win the turnover battle and make Marcus Peters bite on some double moves, which is definitely possible against track star Marquise Goodwin.
Winner: Los Angeles Rams
CIN (4-2) @ KC (5-1) | SUN 8:20 PM ET | NBC
It would have been awesome to see Kansas City remain undefeated until their Week 11 matchup with the potentially 10-0 Rams, but despite their loss in Foxborough on Sunday night, you had to be impressed by the Chiefs and second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who left the field with things tied up 40-40. “Showtime” certainly has shown a penchant for performing under the bright lights so far in his young career, and the first primetime game at Arrowhead Stadium should be crazy. Opposing him, Andy Dalton was already able to toss four touchdowns (all in the first half) against Baltimore in a primetime matchup this year, but that came at home, and there might not be a louder environment than Arrowhead, especially when the fans are cheering for a contender. Still, despite being touchdown underdogs, the Bengals definitely have a great shot on Sunday night, and the formula should be to feed Joe Mixon (just 11 carries for 64 yards and the go-ahead score last week) against one of the worst-tackling defenses in football. Plus, A.J. Green should be able to do damage against a cornerback group that starts sub-six-footers Kendall Fuller, Steven Nelson, and Orlando Scandrick. Chiefs win, “but don’t cover.” (*Lee Corso voice*)
Winner: Kansas City Chiefs
NYG (1-5) @ ATL (2-4) | MON 8:15 PM ET | ESPN
People can get caught up in fantasy points, or yards per carry, or some other misleading statistic that keeps lazy analysts and casual fans from realizing just how good a player is, but check out this short breakdown by NFL Network’s Brian Baldinger to see Tevin Coleman—who is now Atlanta’s clear starter with at least ten games to showcase his talents before hitting free agency after the season—demonstrate his value for something that won’t show up in the box score. I’ve been a huge fan of Coleman since he entered the league, and I’m excited to see him get extended playing time the rest of the way, including on Monday night against a collapsing Giants team. Maybe Odell Beckham Jr. will be able to consistently get loose against an injury-ravaged defense, but there’s no chance I’m picking against the Falcons at home in a “Blackout”.
Winner: Atlanta Falcons
Last week: 6-9 /// Overall: 40-53
Recommended picks last week: 3-2 /// Overall: 18-12
Broncos @ Cardinals (+1.5)
Titans (+6.5) @ Chargers
Texans @ Jaguars (-5)
Panthers (+5) @ Eagles
Vikings @ Jets (+3.5)
Patriots (-3) @ Bears
Bills @ Colts (-7.5)
Browns (+3) @ Buccaneers
Lions @ Dolphins (+3)
Saints (+2.5) @ Ravens
Cowboys @ Redskins (-1.5)
Rams (+9.5) @ 49ers
Bengals (+6) @ Chiefs
Giants @ Falcons (-5.5)
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