JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI, October 12, 2016 — Five weeks in, and this is already appearing to be an NFL season that is totally up for grabs. The Minnesota Vikings at 5-0 remain the league’s lone unbeaten team, and they are winning without their star quarterback and running back. Mike Zimmer’s defense is carrying this team.
In the AFC, the Denver Broncos were knocked from the unbeaten ranks. The New England Patriots lost a game in the B.B. (before Brady) era, but they might go unbeaten in the A.B. era. Tom Brady showed he was rusty by passing for over 400 yards last week. If he was truly prepared, he may have torched Cleveland’s defense for 800 yards.
Overall, the league has never seen so much of what the late Pete Rozelle called competitive balance. The concept that on any given Sunday any team can beat another team is still alive. The main story of the National Football League is not that some backup quarterback on a bad team refuses to salute the nation that made him rich.
It is not about cheerleaders or fantasy football. It is about real football.
So with Week 5 in the books, here is the NFL 2016 Week 6 Preview and Bettor’s Guide. All point spreads are provided by FootballLocks.com and all times are Eastern.
Thursday, October 13, 2016, 8:30 p.m.
Denver Broncos at San Diego Chargers — Although the Broncos were knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten, Paxton Lynch started his very first game against perhaps the league’s best offense. San Diego finds new creative ways to lose games. The Chargers are desperate, and Philip Rivers is still elite, but go with an angry Von Miller and the Denver defense. Broncos cover.
Sunday, October 16, 1:00 p.m.
Cincinnati Bengals at New England Patriots — Tom Brady is back, ready for revenge, and coming off a 400 yard passing game on the road. The Bengals may wish to just forfeit this game. Patriots cover.
Baltimore Ravens at New York Giants — Both teams started hot but have struggled in recent weeks. Joe Flacco and Eli Manning are not putting up tremendous number, so with all things considered equal, give the Giants one more chance at home. Giants cover.
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints — Forget the past, even the very recent past. The Panthers and Saints are bad teams. Cam Newton and Drew Brees are not getting enough help. At home in the dome, go with Brees. Upset special, Saints win outright.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Miami Dolphins — The Steelers are a very good team. The Dolphins are a bad team with a pathetic offense. Although the spread is high, after losing to lowly Tennessee at home, there is no reason to trust Miami against Pittsburgh. Ben Roethlisberger and the running game will get the job done. Steelers cover.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Chicago Bears — Both of these teams are terrible, but Blake Bortles in particular has regressed. He is not getting help. Bryan Hoyer is an underrated commodity, and an ugly win over Detroit at home could be followed by another one. Bears cover.
San Francisco 49ers at Buffalo Bills — Blaine Gabbert has been benched in favor of the backup Mod Squad protester. After starting slow, the Bills have found a groove in backup road wins against teams with winning records. The 49ers may wish to take a knee before the game starts in more ways than one. Meanwhile, football fans everywhere will be cheering as Rex Ryan’s red, white and blue defense belts the San Francisco 49ers quarterback to the ground. Bills cover.
Los Angeles Rams at Detroit Lions — The Rams were not as awful as their opening week shellacking but not as great as their hype heading into last week’s home loss. The Lions are another up and down team. The Rams have the defense, but in a battle of inconsistent teams, give the Lions offense a chance at home. Lions win but fail to cover.
Cleveland Browns at Tennessee Titans — Two of the worst teams in the league saw the Titans win last week against an even worse road team. The Browns are just a mess. In this week’s Stupor Bowl, Tennessee can stumble into another win and keep Cleveland winless. Titans win but fail to cover.
Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Redskins — Despite being knocked from the unbeaten ranks, the Eagles are the better team. Kirk Cousins is playing well enough, and Carson Wentz is impressive for a rookie. Yet Wentz has more help, and better players usually win. Eagles cover.
Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders — The Raiders are winning very close games in dramatic fashion. Yet they always have problems with the Chiefs, especially at home. The Chiefs are not as good as last year, but perhaps the curse of Marcus Allen still lives on. Last year the Raiders collapsed in the fourth quarter at home, so this game will be another test of the new and improves Raiders. Raiders cover.
Atlanta Falcons at Seattle Seahawks — Dan Quinn faces off against his old team. Quinn helped Pete Carroll build the Legion of Boom. Atlanta’s defense is not special, but the offense led by Matt Ryan and Julio Jones is back to elite level. They just defeated Denver’s defense, and will not be intimidated by Seattle. However, Seattle’s offense has improved from early seasons struggles. Russell Wilson is a Super Bowl winner, not a rookie playing his very first game. Seahawks win but fail to cover.
Dallas Cowboys at Green Bay Packers — Dak Prescott is a rookie sensation, but going into Green Bay is a tall order. Aaron Rodgers is not playing like a future half of fame, but he is playing well enough to paper over other Green Bay deficiencies. He should be able to handle the Dallas defense. Packers cover.
Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans — Andrew Luck is carrying a bad Colts team on his back, while Brock Osweiler has not lived up to his $18 million per year contract. In a close game in the fourth quarter, trust Luck to make a play, with help from T.Y. Hilton. Upset special, Colts win outright.
Monday, October 17, 8:30 p.m.
New York Jets at Arizona Cardinals — Both teams have regressed from last year. Todd Bowles does not have the same gang Green defense, while Bruce Arians is not getting the consistent production from Carson Palmer and the offense. The spread is high, but in the desert, go with the Arizona offense. Cardinals cover.