The Philadelphia Eagles improved to 5-1 on Thursday night in a very impressive road performance at the Carolina Panthers. One of the keys all season has been Carson Wentz’s ability to execute on third downs. Watch this masterpiece as the second-year QB escapes pressure on a 3rd-and-16 and nails Mack Hollis as Wentz gets pulled to the ground:
Wentz is special!! Pocket presence and toughness to step up and rifle the 3rd-and-16 completion to Hollins, then a perfect toss to Jeffery pic.twitter.com/2ewzvHA0Z7
— The Bitter Birds (@AdrianFedkiw) October 13, 2017
Beautiful play and a real back-breaker for the Panthers defense. Two more long completion at the end of the third quarter – 37 yards to Alshon Jeffery then a 24-yard catch-and-run touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor — put Philly up 28-16 and securely into Cover City as a 3- or 3.5-point underdog. Philly is now tops in the NFC at 5-1 (Green Bay can get there too with a win at Minnesota) and looking like a Super Bowl contender.
Now it’s business time with the Week 6 slate that includes some huge spreads, quite a reversal from Week 5 when nine of 14 games had spreads of 3 or less. (Four teams on bye: Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks.) TPS format once again this week: Game capsules and score predictions first, followed by the survivor pool breakdown.
NFL Week 6 Picks, Score Projections, Steelers-Chiefs Showdown and Saints March Past Lions
Detroit Lions (+4.5) at New Orleans Saints: After Carolina’s win at Detroit last week I feel vindicated for repeatedly doubting the Lions. I think Detroit is about to get ramrodded in the Superdome by a surging Saints team coming off a bye. During the bye, the Saints cut a weak link in Adrian Peterson, meaning more targets and carries for the more explosive tandem of Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara. The Lions have struggled badly in pass protection, especially left tackle Greg Robinson; Matthew Stafford has absorbed 6 sacks in consecutive weeks and he’s playing through ankle and hamstring issues as well. The Saints defense has improved, especially in the secondary with rookie Marshon Lattimore and fellow DB Ken Crawley. Score Projection: Saints 34, Lions 17
Miami Dolphins (+12.5) at Atlanta Falcons: This line opened at 10 and is now out an additional 2.5. I think the Falcons are going to absolutely steamroll a bad Dolphins defense that’s allowed a 73% completion rate and 106 passer rating against. Meanwhile, Miami’s offense is utterly inept and fans are calling for Matt Moore, mainly because he isn’t Jay Cutler. Cutler cannot operate under pressure, which he has had to do constantly given the offensive line’s struggles. Speaking of Miami offensive line struggles, perhaps they’ve received some unspectacular coaching from their now-former coach who was forced to resign after a model leaked a bizarre video in which he snorts several lines of white powder (rhymes with bocaine) and longs for her company. I’m not laying or taking 12.5 points here (although I think it’s a blowout and Atlanta makes a strong survivor pick) although a rested Julio Jones may go Full Julio Jones against Miami’s secondary. Score Projection: Atlanta 34, Dolphins 10
Cleveland Browns (+10) at Houston Texans: The line is out to a key number 10 after opening at nine, but does it matter? Browns opponents always cover! Cleveland is 1-4 ATS this year after a 4-12 ATS record in ‘16. The demotion of struggling rookie QB DeShone Kizer in favor of Kevin Hogan offers some promise, but the Texans offense has been awesome with Deshaun Watson under center (well, also in shotgun and also scrambling). The Browns are capable of stopping the run (only 2.9 yards per carry against) and do have Myles Garrett on the field, while Houston as you know has lost top defenders/pass rushers J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus for the season. But Houston is going to drop 30-plus points here and Cleveland lacks the talent to cross 20. I’m avoiding this spread because I don’t like laying double digits in the NFL, but I like the over. Only problem is that it’s been hammered from a manageable 44 out to 47, so anyone coming in now is late. But it may make for a spicy teaser leg. Score Projection: Texans 31, Browns 20
Los Angeles Rams (+2.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars: Jags head coach Doug Marrone wasn’t lying in June when he said he’d “like to run the ball every play.” Both QB Blake Bortles and stud rookie RB Leonard Fournette have given him reason to approach NO MORE PASSING territory. The Jags are averaging 4.7 yards per carry and rush on over 55% of plays (Buffalo is the only other team above 50 with a 50.6% run rate). Last week in Jacksonville’s 30-9 Steelers smackdown, Bortles attempted a total 14 passes (95 yards, 1 INT) and just a single pass in the second half. Fournette and Chris Ivory battered Pittsburgh for a combined 222 yards. That’s the formula and the Rams have susceptible on the ground, but so has Jacksonville, which ranks 31st in rushing defense DVOA (Football Outsiders). After the Rams went pass-heavy against Seattle (bold decision, Cotton), they’re likely to flip the script against the top-rated pass defense in what should be a low-scoring trench battle. I like the under but it has ticked down from 44 to 42. Perhaps a good teaser leg! Score Projection: Jaguars 20, Rams 17
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New England Patriots (-9.5) at New York Jets: As mentioned every week, the Patriots defense is really bad — ranked 32nd per Football Outsiders. They’ve allowed over 300 yards passing in each of their five games so far due to a nonexistent pass rush, a banged up Dont’a Hightower and confusion in the secondary. New England’s implied team total here is 29. Can the Jets keep up? Maybe, yeah. With RB Bilal Powell on the mend (calf), rookie Elijah McGuire will carry the load against a run defense that also stinks (5.24 yards per carry against). Tom Brady is working through a sprained AC joint in his non-throwing shoulder which may or may not affect him but is certainly suboptimal. The suddenly plucky Jets will show up against a division rival. Score Projection: Patriots 27, Jets 24
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-1) at Arizona Cardinals: Saints castoff Adrian Peterson moves to the top of the Cardinals’ depth chart, which tells you the sorry state of Arizona’s run game. The Cardinals are completely one-dimensional and Carson Palmer is getting beat up like a tackling dummy as Bruce Arians sticks to the vertical passing game. But Arizona’s rushing defense is very good, and CB Patrick Peterson can mostly erase Jameis Winston’s favorite target, Mike Evans. Following extra rest after a Thursday game, the Bucs will return a combination of LB Kwon Alexander, LB Lavonte David, SS T.J. Ward — any/all of whom will make life more difficult for Arizona. The Buccaneers remain haunted in the kicking game. This past week they cut Nick Folk who missed three field goals against New England. And new Bucs kicker Pat Murray is seeing a medium to work through some issues.
True story: PK Pat Murray says he's been consulting with a medium. "She's helped me tremendously with a lot of different things…''
— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) October 10, 2017
Murray: 'Getting stuff off my chest and being able to really feel that positive energy.'
— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) October 10, 2017
Score Projection: Buccaneers 24, Cardinals 21
Pittsburgh Steelers (+4.5) at Kansas City Chiefs: This is a Chiefs “revenge game” for last season’s 18-16 Steelers victory at Arrowhead in an AFC Divisional Game (18 points via six Chris Boswell field goals!). The Steelers are coming off a humiliating home defeat to Jacksonville in which Ben Roethlisberger threw five picks (two returned for scores) and the rush defense got steamrolled. When will the Steelers realize their talent? The Chiefs certainly have — undefeated straight up and against the spread — but they’re dealing with some offensive injuries now with TE Travis Kelce (concussion, likely to play) and WRs Tyreek Hill (hamstring), Albert Wilson (knee) and Chris Conley (achilles) to be determined. Some defenders are banged up too. If the Steelers pound the rock against a susceptible Kansas City rush defense, perhaps KC finally fails to cover, but I’m not betting on it. Score Projection: Chiefs 28, Steelers 23
Green Bay Packers (-3) at Minnesota Vikings: All signs point to backup QB Case Keenum making another start for Minnesota as Sam Bradford continues nursing an ailing knee. After another marvelous Aaron Rodgers performance at Dallas in a 35-31 comeback victory, they’re looking like the top dog in the NFC. And now they have a full-fledged running game with rookie Aaron Jones (19 carries for 125 yards in his first start) and perhaps the first ever NFL Triple Aaron backfield: Rodgers, Jones and fullback Ripkowski. The Pack is rolling even without a fully healthy Jordy Nelson, LT David Bakhtiari, RT Brian Bulaga, RB/WR Ty Montgomery and a pair of key cornerbacks. The public loves the Packers here while some sharp money probably will back the Vikings, banking on a solid defensive performance. I’ll be passing. Score Projection: Packers 27, Vikings 21
Chicago Bears (+6.5) at Baltimore Ravens: This has the makings of a boring defensive slog and another tough matchup for rookie QB Mitch Trubisky in his second career start. The Baltimore offense and Joe Flacco showed some life at Oakland last week and perhaps they will again against a banged up Bears defense. Chicago is 3-0 ATS at home and 0-2 ATS on the road. If Chicago and effectively run the ball it might be a game but my sense tells me the Ravens prey on the rookie. Score Projection: Ravens 24, Bears 17
San Francisco 49ers (+11) at Washington Redskins: This is a huge, tempting line on the winless 49ers. But the Redskins are coming off a bye, returning star TE Jordan Reed (finally off the injury report), WR Jamison Crowder and have a shot to get back LT Trent Williams. Unfortunately DB Josh Norman will miss a few more weeks (ribs). Kirk Cousins and the offense should rip through a Niners defense that’s allowed over 300 yards passing in three straight weeks and surrendered a score on nearly half of opponents’ possessions (48%), per Rotoworld’s Rich Hribar. That’s bad. I only ever take underdogs in this double-digit spread games but can’t bring myself to do it here. Pass. Score Projection: Redskins 33, 49ers 20
Los Angeles Chargers (+3.5) at Oakland Raiders: Derek Carr’s status is wait-and-see but I like the Chargers regardless (the Westgate Las Vegas SuperContest has the Raiders favored by 3.5). The Raiders offense is stuck in the mud as Amari Cooper struggles through an epic slump. Oakland’s passing defense has been brutal, ranked 30th in DVOA, almost equally bad as the Chargers rushing defense. If Marshawn Lynch’s fault lines are still on edge, this is a spot where he could trigger a beastquake. But Philip Rivers and the Chargers passing game should feast, too. Score Projection: Chargers 27, Raiders 24
New York Giants (+11.5) at Denver Broncos: Many Giants fans probably cannot name or recognize any of this week’s wide receivers. Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard and Dwayne Harris all went down last week and all will be out. Enter Roger Lewis, Travis Rudolph, Clayton Foster and Tavarres King. One of those names is fake. It doesn’t even matter. “This is going to be a slaughter on Sunday night in Denver,” said NFL analyst Boomer Esiason. He’s right. The Giants are a disaster and the locker room is near mutiny as CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is suspended indefinitely for some rules violation, possibly a dustup with head coach Ben McAdoo. The Giants are facing the No Fly Zone with a prop plane running on fumes and a pilot nobody trusts. And of course, Big Blue still has not won a game since:
— Rob Mcclellan (@rmacnjit) October 9, 2017
Score Projection: Denver 30, Giants 6
Indianapolis Colts (+6.5) at Tennessee Titans: I like the Colts regardless of whether Marcus Mariota (hamstring) suits up, although I certainly like the Colts better if it’s Matt Cassel under center for the Titans. The line is currently off the board because of Mariota’s uncertain status but the SuperContest has it locked at 6.5. These are two bad defenses but Tennessee’s offense has fallen off while Indy’s has gained some footing thanks to the Jacoby Brissett-T.Y. Hilton connection. Hilton is set up for another 150+ yard game (two out of past three weeks) and rookie RB Marlon Mack (nine carries for 91 yards last week) may deliver a burst that Frank Gore no longer possesses. Tennessee will be without several key players including LT Taylor Lewan (questionable), WR Corey Davis and S Johnathan Cyprien. Against a rough Dolphins defense with Cassel starting last week (he took six sacks), the arrow is pointing down for Tennessee. Give me the points in a game the Colts can win outright. Score Projection: Colts 27, Titans 24
[Get the latest odds at SportsHandle’s live odds page here.]
Best And Most Popular Week 6 Survivor Pool Picks:
Here are the five most popular picks (in Yahoo! and ESPN Survivor Pools). Some great options this week after a scary ride in Week 5 that saw a lot of eliminations on Pittsburgh (a pick I also endorsed).
Broncos vs. Giants: Denver has garnered 33% support in Yahoo! pools and 17% at ESPN. See below.
— Robert Shields (@rshields37) October 2, 2017
Texans vs. Browns: Another pick that’s about as “safe” as they come in survivor pools. The loss of key Houston defensive parts gives me mild pause but only a bit like the mild Taco Bell sauce you can barely taste.
Falcons vs. Dolphins: If the Falcons lose, I am retiring the survivor pool section forever.
Redskins vs. 49ers: In a game with another double digit spread with a solid team off a bye, against a winless team flying cross-country, Washington is another strong selection. Plus the Redskins have a tough schedule ahead, so this looks like a good spot to take them.
No other team is getting very much attention and rightfully so, because you’d be crazy to look elsewhere. Seriously, you are actively trying to lose if you pick another team.
Ready, break! Happy Week 6, everyone! You can hit me me up on Twitter with any thoughts, comments, questions or well-crafted insults. Let’s go!!