[Stay tuned to this space every Thursday afternoon for a brand new set of predictions for the upcoming week of NFL games!]
NFL’s Week 6 wasn’t as topsy turvy as in previous weeks, but there were still a couple shockers.
The first was Pittsburgh scoring a last minute touchdown — an Antonio Brown 31-yarder where he wasn’t touched — to beat the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Miami Dolphins, who looked cooked before week 6 losing two straight, won a wild game against favored Chicago by a 31-28 count in overtime.
Otherwise, the Dallas Cowboys 40-7 dismantling of the Jacksonville Jaguars was a result and a score no one saw coming at all.
It’s the fourth bye week in the 2018 NFL season, with Pittsurgh, Green Bay, Oakland and Seattle all sitting the proceedings out. Some big games are on tap, including a big tilt in Baltimore as the Saints march in Sunday afternoon, followed by Cincinnati going head-to-head with the Chiefs in Kansas City on Sunday night.
With all that in mind, we are diving in with the Crystal Ball set and putting out our seventh weekly predictions on all games Thursday through Monday (with point spread favorite denoted).
Denver Broncos (-2.0) at Arizona Cardinals – Thursday
Who’s Hot? Broncos rookie LB Bradley Chubb heated up against a good Rams team, logging a season high five tackles and three sacks (giving him 4.5 on the season, second to veteran Von Miller’s 5.5). Arizona SS Budda Baker has been the Cards most impressive defender, leading the team in tackles with 57, along with a pass deflection and a fumble recovery he turned into a TD.
Who’s Not? Denver QB Case Keenum is anything but hot and took it on the chin from the fans after he had a lackluster game Sunday, including a pick and a weird fumble. Most of the rest of the Cardinals team, outside of Baker and couple of others, is not hot, since they are 1-5 and going nowhere.
Key Injuries – Denver: DB Adam Jones (thigh); OT Jared Veldheer (knee); LB Shane Ray (ankle); TE Matt LaCosse (knee).
Key Injuries – Arizona: DB Tre Boston (shoulder); OG Mike Iupati (shoulder); CB Jamar Taylor (back); OG Jeremy Vujnovich (hamstring); OG Justin Pugh (hand).
Pick: Denver should win easily, 20-10.
Tennessee Titans at Los Angeles Chargers (-7.0) – Sunday
Who’s Hot?: Titans’ sophomore linebacker Jayon Brown is the only “hot” Titan at the moment, leading his team with 40 tackles, along with two sacks. The Chargers Melvin Gordon is keeping up with the league leaders in rushing with 466 yards (and six TDs), as well as combined yards with 279 more in the air (and three touchdowns). Rookie safety Derwin James is having himself a season too, recording 36 tackles, 3.5 sacks, an interception and six pass deflections.
Who’s Not?: The Tennessee offence, if last weekend’s shutout at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens is any indication, is stone freaking cold. It mustered just 106 net yards in that embarrassment of a game.
Key Injuries – Tennessee: SS Kenny Vaccaro (elbow); DT Bennie Logan (elbow); LB Wesley Woodyard (shoulder); OG Quinton Spain (shoulder); LB Will Compton (hamstring); LB Derrick Morgan (shoulder).
Key Injuries – Chargers: WR Travis Benjamin (foot); DE Joey Bosa (foot); LB Kyzir White (knee); K Caleb Sturgis (quadriceps); C Mike Pouncey (knee); LB Jatavis Brown (groin); DT Damion Square (shoulder); TE Virgil Green (ribs).
Pick: Chargers cover the spread in a 28-12 victory.
New England Patriots (-3.5) at Chicago Bears – Sunday
Who’s Hot?: Patriots rookie RB Sony Michel is very hot lately, recording his second 100-yard game in the big win over Kansas City, which included two touchdowns. Chicago QB Mitch Trubisky, who was strictly average the first three games of the season, has been great the last two weeks, with nine TD passes and just one interception in two games.
Who’s Not?: New England’s defence is still bottom half of the league in yards allowed (379.2 average/game) and points per game (24.7/game). Chicago RB Jordan Howard, who had consecutive 1,000 yard seasons to start his career, has flatlined in his third, with jsut 272 yards in five games, along with just one touchdown.
Key Injuries – New England: WR Chris Hogan (hamstring); RB Sony Michel (knee); WR Josh Gordon (hamstring); DT Malcom Brown (knee); TE Rob Gronkowski (ankle); DB Eric Rowe (groin); WR Julian Edelman (heel); DE Deatrich Wise (ankle); OT Marcus Cannon (head).
Key Injuries – Chicago Bears: WR Allen Robinson (groin) DB Marcus Cooper (hamstring); OG Eric Kush (neck); CB Prince Amukamara (hamstring); LB Khalil Mack (ankle).
Pick: The Patriots keep up their winning ways with a 27-14 victory.
Buffalo Bills at Indianapolis Colts (-7.5) – Sunday
Who’s Hot?: The Bills lost another game last Sunday, but the defence can’t be blamed. They are top 10 in most key categories (run/pass) and had a great performance against Deshaun Watson and the Texans, recording seven sacks, two interceptions and a forced fumble. Indianapolis’ aerial attack is alive and well, with Andrew Luck’s 16 TD passes second only to Patrick Mahomes’ 18.
Who’s Not?: The Buffalo quarterback situation is deplorable and with Josh Allen out, they have benched Nathan Peterman in favor of journeyman Derek Anderson. He last threw a pass that meant something way back on Sept. 24, 2017 for the Carolina Panthers. The Indianapolis running game is third worst in the NFL with 89.2 yards/game and partly to blame, then for Andrew Luck having to launch more passes, leading to more interceptions (eight, tied for most in the NFL).
Key Injuries – Buffalo: QB Josh Allen (elbow); DE Trent Murphy (ankle); OG Vladimir Ducasse (knee).
Key Injuries: Indianapolis: TE Jack Doyle (hip); TE Erik Swoope (knee); WR Marcus Johnson (ankle – IR); DT Denico Autry (hamstring); DB Matthias Farley (shoulder – IR); CB Arthur Maulet (hip); WR Ryan Grant (ankle); RB Robert Turbin (shoulder).
Pick: Colts win 24-9.
Detroit Lions (-3.0) at Miami Dolphins – Sunday
Who’s Hot: Detroit Lions’ off-season free agent signee, LB Devon Kennard, already has a career high 5.0 sacks and is captain of the D. Miami WR Albert Wilson enters Sunday’s game against Detroit with a tailwind, having caught six passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns in the Dolphins’ victory over Chicago last weekend.
Who’s Not: QB Matthew Stafford isn’t hot, yet, but give him time. Miami’s defence, overall, hasn’t been sharp and is mired in the bottom third in a lot of statistical categories, including yards against/game (396.7), sacks (10) and forced fumbles (4).
Key Injuries – Detroit: RB Theo Riddick (knee); CB Jamal Agnew (knee – IR); TE Michael Roberts (knee); OG T.J. Lang (concussion); DE Ezekiel Ansah (shoulder).
Key Injuries – Miami: QB Ryan Tannehill (shoulder); DE Cameron Wake (knee); DE Andre Branch (knee); CB Bobby McCain (knee); C Jake Brendel (calf – IR); DE Charles Harris (calf); DE Jonathan Woodard (concussion).
Pick: A rested Detroit team beats the spread with a 30-22 victory.
Minnesota Vikings (-3.5) at New York Jets – Sunday
Who’s Hot?: Vikings RB Latavius Murray finally got off the Schneid against Arizona last weekend, rushing for 155 yards and his first TD. WR Adam Thielen is red hot, too leading all NFL receivers with 712 yards and coming off his sixth straight 100-yard plus game. The Jets secondary was pretty good against Andrew Luck and the Colts last Sunday, recording 12 pass defences and three interceptions, including a 17-yard pick six by Morris Claiborne.
Who’s Not?: Minnesota’s pass defence could be better, as it sits 20th in yards allowed with 1,601 and has given up 10 TDs. The Jets D, overall, wasn’t spectacular against Indianapolis and will have to tighten up with Kirk Cousins and gang (Thielen, Stefon Diggs) coming to the Big Apple.
Key Injuries – Minnesota: DT Linval Joseph (ankle); SS Andrew Sendejo (groin); DE Everson Griffen (personal); OT Riley Reiff (foot); CB Mike Hughes (knee).
Key Injuries – Jets: WR Terrelle Pryor (groin); FS Marcus Maye (thumb); LB Josh Martin (concussion-IR); CB Trumaine Johnson (quadriceps); C Spencer Long (knee); RB Isaiah Crowell (foot); CB Buster Skrine (concussion); DE Leonard Williams (back); WR Robby Anderson (hamstring); WR Quincy Enunwa (ankle).
Pick: The Vikes cover the spread in a 21-10 victory.
Carolina Panthers at Philadelphia Eagles (-5.0) – Sunday
Who’s Hot: Contrasted to their tepid passing game, the Panthers runners are flying fairly high, even though Christian McCaffrey doesn’t have a rushing TD yet, but leads the team in yards with 349. Carson Wentz is back in the saddle and riddled the New York Giants secondary last weekend for 278 yards and three TD passes.
Who’s Not: Carolina’s overall pass offence could use a boost, since it is averaging just 222.4 yards per game. Cam Newton could afford to fling the ball a little more, as he’s averaging just 34 attempts per game.
Key Injuries – Carolina: TE Greg Olsen (foot); LB Andre Smith (hamstring); SS Da’Norris Searcy (concussion – IR); DE Kyle Love (shoulder); CB Donte Jackson (groin).
Key Injuries – RB Darren Sproles (hamstring); WR Mike Wallace (IR); FS Rodney McLeod (IR – knee); LB Nate Gerry (ankle); DT Haloti Ngata (calf); DB Corey Graham (hamstring); LB D.J. Alexander (quadriceps); OT Lane Johnson (ankle); QB Carson Wentz (back); DE Derek Barnett (shoulder); CB SidneyJones (hamstring).
Pick: Philadelphia wins a narrow one 19-17.
Cleveland Browns at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3.0) – Sunday
Who’s Hot: The Browns don’t currently have one particularly hot player, especially after the beating they took against the L.A. Chargers. Bucs big free agent acquisition, DE Jason Pierre-Paul, has been reasonably hot, recording 5.0 sacks this season, which is tied for 10th in the NFL.
Who’s Not: Cleveland’s defence has come crashing to earth in the last few weeks and looked particularly vulnerable against the Chargers, giving up 449 net yards and five touchdowns. Tampa Bay’s rush offence is pretty horrid and sits 31st overall in average yards per game at a measly 79.8.
Key Injuries – Cleveland: WR Rashard Higgins (knee – MCL); LB Joe Schobert (hamstring); C J.C. Tretter (ankle).
Key Injuries – Tampa Bay: DB Marcus Williams (hamstring – IR); OT Demar Dotson (knee); DB Carlton Davis (groin); DE Vinny Curry (ankle); DB Jordan Whitehead (hamstring); DT Gerald McCoy.
Pick: It won’t be a classic but the Bucs should prevail 15-10.
Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars (-5.0) – Sunday
Who’s Hot: Houston’s defence stepped up in the Texans win over Buffalo last weekend, with CB Johnathan Joseph scoring the game-winning TD on a pick six. Houston WR DeAndre Hopkins has stayed relatively hot, scoring his third TD of the year against the Bills and sitting third overall in yards with 657.
Who’s Not: The Texans’ offensive line was like Swiss Cheese in the win over Buffalo, allowing seven more sacks on Deshaun Watson to run the total to 25, which is second worst in the NFL. Jacksonville’s previously stout defence sprung a big leak against Dallas, giving up 378 combined yards and four touchdowns in a 40-7 blowout loss. QB Blake Bortles is stone cold, having tossed five interceptions in the last two games and with eight total is tied for the most in the NFL
Key Injuries – Houston: WR Will Fuller (hip); WR Keke Coutee (hamstring); CB Aaron Colvin (ankle); WR DeAndre Hopkins (foot); DB Kayvon Webster (quadriceps – IR); OG Zach Fulton (ankle); LB Brian Peters (ankle).
Key Injuries – Jacksonville: OT Jermey Parnell (knee); C Brandon Linder (knee); TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (abdomen – IR); RB Leonard Fournette (hamstring); DT Calais Campbell (ankle); DB D.J. Hayden (toe); DT Malik Jackson (back); DE Yannick Ngakoue (shoulder); CB Tre Herndon (hamstring); FS Tashaun Gipson (hamstring).
Pick: Jacksonville’s defence gets its game back together in a 17-12 win.
New Orleans Saints at Baltimore Ravens (-2.5) – Sunday
Who’s Hot: No quarterback in the NFL has a higher rating than Drew Brees entering Sunday’s big tilt with Baltimore. He is the only starting pivot not to toss an interception yet and has 11 TD strikes in five games. Joe Flacco is a top 10 quarterback, needing only to get more laser focused in the red zone with his passes (just nine TD passes, tied for 16th).
Who’s Not: The New Orleans pass defence is strictly middle of the pack and will need to be better come crunch time.
Key Injuries – New Orleans – OG Andrus Peat (head); WR Cameron Meredith (knee); OT Terron Armstead (knee); CB Marshon Lattimore (concussion); DT Taylor Stallworth (ankle); WR Ted Ginn (knee).
Key Injuries – Baltimore: CB Maurice Canady (IR); CB Anthony Levine (hamstring); CB Brandon Carr (knee); CB Anthony Averett (hamstring); OG Alex Lewis (neck).
Pick: Saints buck the odds and win a thriller 27-24.
Los Angeles Rams (-10.0) at San Francisco 49ers – Sunday
Who’s Hot: No one offensive player in the NFL right now is hotter than Todd Gurley II. The Rams fourth-year running back is an early favorite for MVP and had a monster game in a 23-20 victory over Denver, rushing for 208 yards and two touchdowns. He leads the NFL in rush yards with 623 and TDs with nine. San Fran wideout Marquise Goodwin rolls into Sunday’s match-up on the heels of a four-catch, 126-yard, two-TD day in a 33-30 loss to Green Bay.
Who’s Not: San Francisco’s defence, overall, hasn’t been great, particularly against the pass where they are 26th in yards against and have surrendered 14 touchdowns.
Key Injuries – Rams: WR Cooper Kupp (knee); WR Josh Reynolds (hand); LB Dominique Easley (knee – IR); NT Michael Brockers (shoulder); OG Rodger Saffold (knee); LB Matt Longacre (back).
Key Injuries – San Francisco: QB Jimmy Garoppolo (knee-IR); RB Matt Breida (shoulder); WR Dante Pettis (knee); C Weston Richburg (knee); CB Jimmie Ward (hamstring); TE George Kittle (knee); OG Mike Person (knee); CB Ahkello Witherspoon (concussion); OT Joe Staley (knee); WR Pierre Garcon (shoulder); DB K’Waun Williams (shoulder); CB Richard Sherman (calf).
Pick: The Rams will blow out the 49ers, 42-13.
Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins (-1.5) – Sunday
Who’s Hot: The two-headed monster of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott combined to have a hand in all four Cowboys touchdowns in a 40-7 drubbing of Jacksonville. Prescott threw for 183 yards and two TDs to Cole Beasley and also ran for 82 yards and a touchdown. Elliott ran for 106 yards and score of his own. Washington’s overall defence has been pretty darned good and is top 10 in many statistical areas.
Who’s Not: The Cowboys aerial game could use some new schemes, since they only have seven TDs via the pass. Washington may have a winning record, but the Redskins offence is only lukewarm. Time to tap into some scoring, and soon.
Key Injuries – Dallas: LB Sean Lee (hamstring); DE DeMarcus Lawrence (shoulder); CB Chidobe Awuzie (ankle); DE Randy Gregory (knee); LB Joe Thomas (foot); WR Tavon Austin (groin).
Key Injuries – Washington: OG Brandon Scherf (knee); WR Paul Richardson (shoulder); RB Adrian Peterson (ankle); DB Troy Apke (hamstring); LB Ryan Kerrigan (chest); WR Jamison Crowder (ankle); RB Chris Thompson (ribs); DB Danny Johnson (forearm).
Pick: The Cowboys win their first road game in a nail-biter, 21-20.
Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs (-6.0) – Sunday
Who’s Hot: Bengals third-year WR Tyler Boyd has been pretty good and got by Pittsburgh defenders for two of his four receiving touchdowns on the year last Sunday. While Kansas City did lose 43-40 to New England last Sunday night, the Patriots didn’t do a whole lot to cool down the likes of Patrick Mahomes (352 yards, four TD), or Kareem Hunt (185 combined yards (TD) or Tyreek Hill (142 receiving yards, 3 TD).
Who’s Not: Cincinnati’s defence was exposed badly in their second divisional game, a last-second 28-21 loss to Pittsburgh. It got burned for 112 rushing yards and two TDs by Pittsburgh’s James Conner and also allowed 369 yards passing and that unbelievable 31-yard TD to Antonio Brown with next to no time left in the game. Kansas City’s porous defence, which has allowed the most yards and yards/game this season, got obliterated by Tom Brady and Co. Enough said.
Key Injuries – Cincinnati: RB Giovani Bernard (knee); C Billy Price (ankle); TE Tyler Kroft (foot); SS Shawn Williams (concussion); DE Carlos Dunlap (upper leg); SS Clayton Fejedelem (thigh); OT Cordy Glenn (ankle); LB Vincent Rey (hamstring); TE C.J. Uzomah (shoulder); LB Jordan Evans (hamstring); LB Nick Vigil (knee).
Key Injuries – Kansas City: SS Eric Berry (heel); LB Justin Houston (hamstring); C Mitch Morse (concussion).
Pick: Kansas City will win a barnburner, 44-35.
New York Giants at Atlanta Falcons (-6.0) – Monday
Who’s Hot?: Giants super-rookie Saquon Barkley keeps putting up good to great numbers, despite his team’s woeful 1-5 record. He had his best game in the 34-13 loss to Philadelphia, with 130 yards rushing (season high), 99 yards receiving (also season best) and his sixth TD of the young season. The Falcons passing game is on point, with Matt Ryan leading the charge. He is third in passing yards with 1,956 and has 14 TD strikes and only two interceptions. WR Julio Jones is second in the NFL with 708 yards, but surprisingly doesn’t have a TD, yet.
Who’s Not?: The Giants offence, and in particular Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. are far from warm right now. The only player doing his part as he is supposed to is Barkley. Only Kansas City’s defence has given up more yards than Atlanta’s. The Falcons D has also been ripped for 32.0 points per game.
Key Injuries – Giants: TE Evan Engram (knee); WR Russell Shepard (neck); TE Rhett Ellison (foot); RB Jonathan Stewart (IR); LB Ray-Ray Armstrong (concussion); WR Cody Latimer (hamstring).
Key Injuries – Atlanta: WR Mohamed Sanu (hip); OG Andy Levitre (triceps IR); DE Derrick Shelby (groin); DT Grady Jarrett (ankle); RB Devonta Freeman (IR); K Matt Bryant (hamstring); WR Calvin Ridley (ankle).
Pick: Falcons win in a walk, 35-14.