Week 6 presents a turning point for plenty of teams throughout the NFL. Coming out on the losing end on Sunday could potentially put an end to postseason aspirations for the Buccaneers, Packers, Lions, Chiefs, Bills and Jets, among others with high hopes, while a win for some of these teams, among others could potentially save their season.
Let’s look at each of the remaining 13 contests following Tennessee’s surprising 26-23 upset over the Steelers on Thursday night with my predictions for all of the action.
Cincinnati Bengals (3-2) at Cleveland Browns (0-5) – 1:00 p.m., CBS
Brandon Weeden and the Browns are on the cusp of their first win on the year, but the Bengals enter this division collision coming off a disappointing defeat to the Dolphins. Five of the last seven meetings between these two teams have been decided by one score and only one of those wins went to Cleveland. Look for yet another close contest here. Prediction: Bengals 20, Browns 17
Dallas Cowboys (2-2) at Baltimore Ravens (4-1) – 1:00 p.m., FOX
This should shape up to be a fun, marquee matchup. The Ravens’ run defense has seen its share of struggles recently, ranking 20th in the NFL right now in that category. Once upon a time, the Ravens never allowed anyone to rush for over 100 yards. This season, they’ve already allowed this to happen three times in just five contests.
At its core, Dallas is a run-first team, though the Cowboys are currently 29th in run offense, averaging a measly 3.4 yards per carry. Putrid pass protection and miscommunication between quarterback Tony Romo and his receivers have plagued this team and helped cause those five interceptions two weeks ago against the Chicago Bears.
Coming off of a bye week, the Cowboys have an opportunity to quiet the doubters with an impressive win on the road against the Ravens, a team that hasn’t lost at home since Dec. 5, 2010. Joe Flacco and co. prove they’re one of the true teams to beat in the AFC with a hard-fought win right down to the end of the wire. Prediction: Baltimore 24, Dallas 21
Detroit Lions (1-3) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-2) – 1:00 p.m., FOX
Detroit enters this high-stakes affair with a stronger sense of desperation, but beating the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field following a disappointing loss will be a very difficult task. Matthew Stafford and the Lions need a strong showing from running back Mikel Leshoure, who presumably used the bye week to get back into sync, as well as star safety Louis Delmas, who makes his highly-anticipated season debut. In addition, the Lions’ offensive line will have its hands full handling Philadelphia’s filthy front. The Lions will present a tough test for Philly, but Michael Vick and company come up with the win with a fantastic finish in the fourth quarter. Prediction: Philadelphia 30, Detroit 17
Indianapolis (2-2) at N.Y. Jets (2-3) – 1:00 p.m., CBS
The Jets have scored two touchdowns in their past 45 possessions. If Mark Sanchez doesn’t find a way to win this week it’s likely going to be time for Tim Tebow to take over the operation.
“For a team as beat up and offensively inept as the Jets, Tebow should be used on half the offensive snaps, in every position possible,” Peter King of Sports Illustrated writes. ”He should be playing series, not individual snaps. Don’t the Jets see the season slipping away? Forget the confidence of Mark Sanchez. Play to win, not to nurture some guy you’re not sure will be your quarterback of the future anyway.”
Indianapolis is coming off an impressive and emotion-filled upset for their ailing coach against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. This often leads to letdowns. Look for Gang Green to get back to .500 with a tough win in the closing seconds. Prediction: Jets 16, Colts 14
St. Louis Rams (3-2) at Miami Dolphins (2-3) – 1:00 p.m., FOX
Rookie QB Ryan Tannehill is exceeding expectations and the Dolphins defense has been rock-solid against the run. St. Louis is still searching to find some semblance of production on offense and not having its leading receiver Danny Amendola only makes matters worse and puts more pressure on the dominant defense, which has held opponents to just two touchdowns through the air and has picked off eight passes in the process. St. Louis has a chance to come up with its third straight win and start its season with a very impressive 4-2 record, but Miami manages to improve to .500 after coming into the contest with its last three games decided by ten points combined, two of which were lost in OT. Prediction: Dolphins 20, Rams 17
Kansas City Chiefs (1-4) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3) – 1:00 p.m., CBS
Keeping games close has been a day at the beach for Tampa Bay. Each of the Buccaneers’ first four games have been decided by seven points or less. However, getting bead badly through the air on defense has been a big problem, as the team is ranked dead last in the league right now against the pass (345.2 YPG).
They’ll have a chance to fix part of this issue when they welcome a 1-4 Chiefs team that is in a must-win situation and has Brady Quinn lining up under center. Jamaal Charles is still putting up big numbers (551 yards and 2 TDs in the first five weeks), so it should be no surprise that the Bucs’ D will try to force Quinn to throw.
Plus, after allowing a league-high 156.1 YPG in 2011, Tampa Bay has made strong strides in the ground game on defense, giving up just 73.8 yards per game this season (fourth-best in the NFL). There’s still time for them to turn things around, but the Buccaneers must right the ship on Sunday. Prediction: Tampa Bay 23, Kansas City 16
Oakland Raiders (1-3) at Atlanta Falcons (5-0) – 1:00 p.m., CBS
Prediction: Falcons 35, Raiders 10
Buffalo Bills (2-3) at Arizona Cardinals (4-1) – 4:05 p.m., CBS
Prediction: Cardinals 27, Bills 7
New England Patriots (3-2) at Seattle Seahawks (3-2) – 4:05 p.m., CBS
Prediction: Patriots 31, Seahawks 21
N.Y. Giants (3-2) at San Francisco 49ers (4-1) – 4:25 p.m., FOX
Prediction: 49ers 24, Giants 17
Minnesota Vikings (4-1) at Washington Redskins (2-3) – 4:25 p.m., FOX
Prediction: Vikings 23, Redskins 20
Green Bay Packers (2-3) at Houston Texans (5-0) – 8:20 p.m., NBC
Prediction: Texans 28, Packers 24
Denver Broncos (2-3) at San Diego Chargers (3-2) – 8:30 p.m., ESPN
Prediction: Broncos 31, Chargers 27