MOBILE, ALABAMA: Week 6 of the 2018 NFL season brings several pairings that on the surface fail to offer tremendous appeal. However, in context, historic matchups and team rivalries allow us to reminisce about NFL history back in the day.
Bears and Dolphins: A 1985 Classic
The Bears only play the Dolphins once every four years. But the historic matchup between the Bears vs Dolphins in 1985 went down as a classic. The 1985 Super Bowl champion Bears lost only one game during that season. It was a Monday Night Football affair that saw Dan Marino light up the night sky. More on these two longtime rivals further down.
Colts and Jets: Making history in the first of their historic matchups
Speaking of historic matchups, the Colts and Jets played what may have been the most significant game ever in NFL history: Super Bowl III. The Jets’ Joe Namath guaranteed victory beforehand. Then, as 18-point underdogs, Broadway Joe went out and backed up his boasts on the gridiron. The rest, of course, is NFL history. And legend. The AFL, derided by Vince Lombardi as a Mickey Mouse League, defeated the favored Colts and NFL.
Seahawks and Raiders: Reversals of fortune
In 1983, the Seahawks defeated the Raiders twice during the regular season. Yet in their third matchup in the AFC Title Game, the Raiders triumphed en route to a Super Bowl win. The following year they again played three times, with the Seahawks winning the critical Wild Card playoff game.
Ravens and Titans: Drama Kings
The Ravens and Titans played epic games in 2000, with Ray Lewis stealing a ball from Eddie George in the Divisional Playoff en route to the Ravens winning it all. Three years later, in Baltimore, the Titans gutted out a 20-17 Divisional Playoff victory.
49ers and Packers: The early days of a legend
Truly historic matchups between the 49ers and Packers got underway in earnest in 1995. The two teams fought epic playoff battles starting that year when some raw young gunslinger named Brett Favre shocked Steve Young and the defending champion 49ers. The Packers eliminated the 49ers for three straight years before Young stunned the Packers on the final play of their playoff game following the 1998 season. By 2000, Young had retired and Favre and the Packers had the upper hand in a playoff game.
Chiefs and Patriots: Kings or Chumps?
Other games and rivalries have more recent histories. Last year, the Chiefs went on the road and pummeled the Patriots to start the season. Alex Smith was lauded as the new king, while Tom Brady and the Patriots were finished. But by the end of the year, it was the Patriots reaching the Super Bowl, Brady passing for 505 yards in that game, and Smith being shipped out of town.
Chargers and Browns: Or, getting a Gentlemen’s “C”
The Chargers and the Browns have more ignominious history. Two years ago the Chargers lost to the 0-14 Browns, who finished 1-15 for the year. One year later the Browns went 0-16, including a late season loss to the Chargers. This year the Browns already have two wins, rendering this budding rivalry just a battle of average teams. Rivalries, matchups? Yes. Historic matchups? No. Or at least, not yet.
This week’s NFL hits and misses
Every week can bring new history and the next instant classic. Until then, here is the NFL 2018 Week 6 Preview and Bettor’s Guide, with point spreads provided by OddsShark and all times Eastern.
Thursday, October 11, 2018, 8:20 p.m.
Philadelphia Eagles (-3) at New York Giants — The battle for the NFC Least can be won by anybody except the Giants. They are awful, and this is the week the Eagles right the ship. Eagles cover.
Sunday, October 14, 1:00 p.m.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons (-3.5) — The Buccaneers started with Fitzmagic, but lately they have played like the 1976 Bucs. The Falcons are only 1-4, but they have the firepower at home to start their correction. Falcons cover.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals (-2.5) — The Bengals are 4–1 and playing solid football. The Steelers always seem to have the Bengals’ number. Mike Tomlin outcoaches Marvin Lewis. Until that changes, go with the trend. The Steelers can run the football. Upset special, Steelers win outright.
Los Angeles Chargers (-1) at Cleveland Browns — The Browns have finally learned how to win, but the Chargers have a ton of talent. Cleveland’d defense is for real and so is Baker Mayfield. But Philip Rivers has the weapons and the experience. Chargers cover.
Buffalo Bills at Houston Texans (-8.5) — The spread is way too high for a Texans team that has won two straight games in overtime. Buffalo does not have the weapons to win, but they could get a garbage touchdown to defeat the spread. Texans cover.
Chicago Bears (-3) at Miami Dolphins — Reality has returned and the Dolphins have returned to earth. Mitch Trubisky is gaining confidence, and Ryan Tannehill seems to be regressing. Matt Nagy is innovative. Adam Gase was supposed to be. Bears cover.
Arizona Cardinals at Minnesota Vikings (-10.5) — Josh Rosen got his first NFL win last week, but Minnesota’s defense looked very impressive against Philadelphia. Time will tell if the Buffalo game was just a fluke. The spread is high only because of that game. Mike Zimmer will send everything at Rosen to confuse the rookie. Vikings win but fail to cover.
Indianapolis Colts at New York Jets (-2.5) — The Jets are an up and down team while the Colts are mostly down. Andrew Luck is not getting help, while Sam Darnold sometimes does. At home, give Gang Green a chance against a wounded Colts squad. Jets cover.
Seattle Seahawks (-3) at Oakland Raiders in London. Both these teams should have just run Marshawn Lynch from the one yard line. The Seahawks took the Rams to the limit while the Raiders could only contain them for a half. The Seahawks have improved in recent weeks while the Raiders are one controversial first down call from being 0-5. With rookies on the offensive line and Jon Gruden refusing to commit to the run, this could get ugly early. Seahawks cover.
Carolina Panthers at Washington Redskins (-1.5) — Josh Norman faces his old team, but this one comes down to the quarterbacks. Cam Newton is playing better than Alex Smith when the game is on the line. Upset special, Panthers win outright.
Sunday, October 14, 4:00 p.m.
Los Angeles Rams (-7) at Denver Broncos — The Rams are a serious Super Bowl contender. The Broncos are a shell of what they’ve been in recent years. Rams defensive coordinator Michelin Man Wade Phillips would love to stick it to his most recent team that he won it all with. He will. Denver may keep it close, but the Rams are clicking on all cylinders. Rams win but fail to cover.
Jacksonville Jaguars (-3) at Dallas Cowboys — Jacksonville has a defense, but it is hard to picture Dallas losing a game like this at home. The Cowboys are not great by any stretch, but they are not awful. Ezekiel Elliott is still running the ball well. Upset special, Cowboys win outright.
Baltimore Ravens (-3) at Tennessee Titans — Gone are the bitter, brutal teams led by Brian Bullock and Jeff Fisher. The stars of those teams have retired. Baltimore is just a better team. Joe Flacco is playing better than Marcus Mariota. Baltimore can run the ball. Baltimore has the better defense. Ravens cover.
Sunday, October 14, 8:20 p.m.
Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots (-3) — Forget that the Chiefs throttled the Patriots last year in New England to start the season. This Chiefs team is much better. The Patriots have been rolling after a slow start. Patrick Mahomes is a legitimate MVP candidate, but this is the exact type of game where Tom Brady sends a giant message to the football world. The oddsmakers know the Chiefs are unbeaten, and they do not care. This Chiefs team is great, but Brady’s revenge is real. Patriots cover.
Monday, October 15, 8:20 p.m.
San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers (-9.5) — The 49ers are done for the year. Aaron Rodgers is not getting any help on offense. He is clearly frustrated, but at home against a clearly reeling 49ers team, he will thrive. The 49ers lost at home to previously winless Arizona. Packers cover.
— Headline image: NFL.com splashpage previewing Week 6, 2018. (Via NFL.com, fair use for NFL preview piece.)