Week 6 will be without the league’s only unbeaten team, the Minnesota Vikings while Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys takes on the mighty Green Bay Packers’ run defense in a game of strength versus strength. Colin Kaepernick will finally take the field for the San Francisco 49ers and the Tom Brady Revenge Tour continues. Here is a look at Sunday’s matchups and our selections.
Cowboys (4-1) at Packers (3-1)
Selected with the No. 4 overall pick in this year’s draft, Elliott is leading the N.F.L. in rushing yards with 546. At least part of that success is owed to the offensive line, which helped DeMarco Murray lead the league in rushing two seasons ago. Last year, it bulldozed the way for the Cowboys to rank ninth in the league in rushing despite the underwhelming duo of Darren McFadden and Joseph Randle splitting starts at running back. But Elliott deserves credit for showing a veteran’s ability to take full advantage of the opportunities the line affords him.
Here’s the scary part: This year’s success has come with Dallas’s offensive line struggling to stay healthy. For the last two weeks, the Cowboys have been without Tyron Smith, who, according to Pro Football Focus, was the best run-blocking left tackle in the game last season. Smith is expected back this week. He will have to be at the top of his game because the Packers have allowed a league-low 42.8 yards a game on the ground, on an ugly 2.0 yards a carry. The longest run against Green Bay this season was 14 yards, by Bobby Rainey of the Giants, last week, one of only two runs of 10-plus yards the Packers have allowed.
But if there is an offensive line to break through Green Bay’s 3-4 defense, it’s Dallas’s. And if there is a back to take advantage, it is Elliott. If he succeeds, the Cowboys will go into a bye week on an incredible high. They can then begin the hand-wringing over whether Tony Romo should displace Dak Prescott at quarterback for Week 8.
49ers (1-4) at Bills (3-2)
Colin Kaepernick’s critics have been writing him off as the irrelevant backup quarterback of a struggling team. His supporters have pointed out that it was just a few seasons ago that he led his team to a Super Bowl appearance — nearly winning it all — and that at 28 he may be ready to thrive in Coach Chip Kelly’s offense.
Now that his contract has been reworked and he has been declared the team’s starting quarterback, Kaepernick will have a chance to prove one of the two camps correct. (The 49ers have insisted his benching had nothing to do with his contract, but it is worth pointing out that the new deal eliminates their liability in the case of injury.)
Athletically, few players can match Kaepernick’s size, speed and arm strength, but his flaws are many and include a poor ability to work in hostile environments, struggles with getting past his first read in the passing game and an extreme reliance on his running to get him out of trouble.
Buffalo’s defense has been playing great football for the last three weeks, and Coach Rex Ryan will undoubtedly try to fluster Kaepernick, who has not thrown a regular-season pass since last November. The Bills have a great record and McCoy has stepped up of late.
Eagles (3-1) at Redskins (3-2)
Carson Wentz would like a do-over for his last pass in a Week 5 loss to Detroit. Wentz, a rookie quarterback, had not thrown an interception this season when he heaved a ball more than 50 yards downfield in hope of catching the Lions sleeping. The Lions were not asleep, and Wentz’s impressive turnover-free run ended, as did Philadelphia’s undefeated season. Heres a little fun fact many might not know about Josh Norman and Washington, they have only given up 3 touchdown passes in a month. On that note I think they win and Wentz struggles.
Falcons (4-1) at Seahawks (3-1)
Richard Sherman, writing in The Players’ Tribune, recently delved into what makes great cornerbacks great and heaped praise on his rival Darrelle Revis, among others. He also wrote that he would discuss, at a later date, which wide receivers were the most difficult to cover. Perhaps he wanted an up-close look at the Falcons’ Julio Jones first.
Jones has piled up 345 receiving yards over the last three weeks, but that number is misleading because his totals by game were 16, 300 and 29. With Sherman shadowing him, it could be another down week for Jones. If thats the case, Devonta Freeman will need to fill his void. The Seahawks have been less than impressive whilst getting the job done throughout most of the season, they will be fully tested against an offense they beat Denver last week.
Pick: Falcons +7
Bengals (2-3) at Patriots (4-1)
Martellus Bennett is a 6-foot-6, 275-pound tight end who runs and catches like a wide receiver. Last week he scored three touchdowns, including one in which he outraced a defensive back down the sideline and then jumped over another one into the end zone. All three touchdowns came after he had sustained an ankle injury that nearly forced him to leave the game. Asked how he did it, Bennett said he thought about the Marvel superhero Luke Cage and realized leaving the game on the back of a cart would look weak.
“I’m like, What would Luke Cage do right now?” Bennett told reporters. “He’d get up and keep bouncing around.”
In troubling news for the Bengals, Bennett is New England’s second-best tight end.
Pick: Patriots -9
Chiefs (2-2) at Raiders (4-1)
After a 15-sack season last year, Khalil Mack of the Raiders seemed primed to become one of the league’s biggest stars. But switching from outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense to defensive end in a 4-3 has apparently not agreed with him; through five games, he has only one sack, and Oakland’s defense, expected to be competitive, has been awful. Quarterback Derek Carr, with help from his tremendous wide receivers, has put up enough offense to deliver a 4-1 record, but if the Raiders are to be serious contenders, they will need Mack and the defense to start pulling their weight. The Chiefs have an outstanding record after the break, a much needed break to get the troops back to full health.
Steelers (4-1) at Dolphins (1-4)
Le’Veon Bell’s three-game suspension gave the Steelers a chance to make sure the offense worked without him. Now that he is back, the team is clearly comfortable putting the ball in his hands and letting him carry it to victory. The only difference from past seasons is how much he is being used in the passing game. Through two games, he has 38 carries for 210 yards and 14 receptions for 122 yards. If he kept up those numbers, he would set career per-game highs in rushing yards, receptions and receiving yards.
Bell may want to focus on carrying the ball, as the Dolphins have allowed 150.8 rushing yards per game, worst in the league. The Steelers Defence on the other hand has been less than impressive, Miami season is on the line in this game I expect at home Tannehill and Landry to connect. I think the Steelers will win but this contest to be a lot closer than most suggest.
Rams (3-2) at Lions (2-3)
If not for two tremendous plays by cornerback Darius Slay, the Lions would be 1-4 and coming off a disastrous second-half collapse. Instead, Slay’s forced fumble and interception gave a win to a deeply flawed team that may have a false sense of security. With Aaron Donald, the Rams’ dominant defensive lineman, disrupting Detroit’s attack and running back Todd Gurley overdue for a big game, this could be an upset on the road for Los Angeles.
Ravens (3-2) at Giants (2-3)
Jason Pierre-Paul, Olivier Vernon, Landon Collins and Leon Hall have one sack each, yet they are the co-leaders in that category for the Giants’ defense.
The lack of pressure is troubling, but it may not matter this week against a Baltimore offense that is trying to find a new identity. Through five games, the Ravens have heavily favored the pass. But after struggling to score, they have turned to Marty Mornhinweg to be their new offensive coordinator. Even a mistake-prone Giants offense should be able to outscore a team in transition.
Colts (2-3) at Texans (3-2)
The Texans have a winning record but have struggled to meet my expectations so far this season. Lamar Miller through five games has carried the ball 101 times for 371 yards, an unacceptable average of 3.7 yards per carry. He needs to improve for this offense to score. The Colts have been hard to watch at times, on offense theyve struggled to protect Andrew Luck and there Defence let Brian Hoyer walk all over them last week. Enough said.
Panthers (1-4) at Saints (1-3)
Last year, two teams (Houston and Kansas City) made the playoffs after starting the season 1-4, so the Panthers should not be ruled out just yet. But a defense that two weeks ago allowed more than 500 yards passing will be going up against Drew Brees, one of the most productive quarterbacks in N.F.L. history. Even if Cam Newton is fully recovered from a concussion he sustained two weeks ago — he was able to practice and is expected to start — he may not be able generate the offense to keep up with Brees.
Browns (0-5) at Titans (2-3)
The Browns were mocked by Tom Brady and the Patriots last week, heavily beaten up as well. They will come into this matchup with a lot of injury concerns whilst Mariota and the Titans offense are coming off there best game of the season.
Jaguars (1-3) at Bears (1-4)
Brian Hoyer has been an interesting start for the Bears. Asked about his streak of three consecutive games in which he had passed for 300 or more yards without throwing an interception, Brian Hoyer of the Bears bordered on self-deprecating while also making a solid point. He told reporters: “It hasn’t translated to points or victories. I think passing yards is kind of an overrated stat, when it comes down to it.” Well played, Hoyer and Royal have been solid the past few weeks. I still have major doubts on the Jags.