Before the Super Bowl invades Miami in February, football fans will be treated to the Toilet Bowl this Sunday on South Beach. Hey-oh!
One of the worst games in NFL history goes down at Hard Rock Stadium when the 0-4 Dolphins welcome the 0-5 Washington Redskins to town. Something has to give, and (save for a hilariously fitting tie) one of these teams will leave the gridiron with its first win — quite possibly its only win — this season.
Oh, and the rest of the slate is pretty darn good this weekend, too.
NESN.com’s Mike Cole, Ricky Doyle and Andre Khatchaturian are back to make their against-the-spread picks, but before they do, here’s how they did last week.
Mike Cole: 6-9 (38-39-1 overall)
Ricky Doyle: 9-6 (40-37-1)
Andre Khatchaturian: 7-8 (38-39-1)
On to the Week 6 picks.
THURSDAY, OCT. 10
New York Giants at (-17) New England Patriots, 8:20 p.m. ET
Mike: Patriots. The weather (rain) and the Patriots’ assorted injuries make me think it could be a, “Get in, get out, don’t get hurt” sort of effort, but the Giants will be without their three best offensive players on the road in a short week against Bill Belichick and the NFL’s best defense.
Ricky: Patriots. This is the largest spread for a Thursday night game in NFL history. And I’m OK with that, because it’s hard to imagine the Giants scoring many points — if any — given their offensive injuries, the Patriots’ dominant defense and Belichick’s track record of stifling rookie quarterbacks.
Andre: Patriots. Once again, the Patriots take on a quarterback with limited experience in Daniel Jones. The Pats are 15-0 SU and 10-5 ATS against quarterbacks with fewer than 20 games of experience since 2016. Opposing QBs have no touchdowns and 11 interceptions with a 44 passer rating against New England this season.
SUNDAY, OCT, 13
(-2.5) Carolina Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 9:30 a.m. ET in London
Mike: Panthers. I find this peculiar: Maybe it won’t matter, but the Bucs are flying to London on Thursday, so they’ll have just a couple days to get their body clocks adjusted to the time change before playing a 9:30 a.m. ET game Sunday morning. Carolina is flying Wednesday, so let’s roll with it.
Ricky: Bucs. I could sit here and tell you about how favorites generally fare well overseas, going 18-6-1 SU and 15-10 ATS in London games since 2007. But that backfired last week, when the Raiders upset the Bears at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, and Tampa Bay’s smothering run defense just might limit Christian McCaffrey, whose heavy workload is something to monitor as this season progresses.
Andre: Bucs. Tampa Bay has held Matt Breida, McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, Todd Gurley and Alvin Kamara to a combined 162 yards on 60 carries (2.7 yards per carry) this season. The Bucs’ elite run defense will limit McCaffrey and force Kyle Allen to be tested.
Cincinnati Bengals at (-12) Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m.
Mike: Ravens. Hard to lay so many points in a divisional game with a team that went to overtime last week, but the Bengals are that bad. Only Miami and the Jets have a worse yards-per-play differential this season, and only Miami has a worse turnover margin.
Ricky: Bengals. Three of Cincinnati’s five losses — on the road against Seattle and Buffalo, and at home against Arizona — have been by a combined eight points. Of course, there were a couple of blowouts mixed in there, too, but Baltimore’s defense is cracked enough to allow a backdoor cover, if nothing else.
Andre: Bengals. The Ravens are historically known for being a great defensive team, but this year’s squad is allowing 6.7 yards per pass attempt — the second-worst mark in the league. They’re also near the bottom of the league in terms of takeaways and sacks. The Bengals stink, but they should be able to make some big plays and keep this one within the number.
(-1.5) Seattle Seahawks at Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m.
Mike: Seahawks. Cleveland’s run defense looked woeful against San Fran, and it won’t get a whole lot easier against the Seahawks, who attempt the fourth-most rushes per game. Seattle also has decisive advantages at quarterback and head coach and has a huge rest advantage, having played Thursday while the Browns played Monday.
Ricky: Seahawks. Seattle has the benefit of some extra rest, having played last Thursday at home, whereas Cleveland is coming off a short week after a blowout loss to the 49ers on Monday night in San Francisco. Expect the Seahawks to deploy some well-designed blitzes, forcing Baker Mayfield into a few poor decisions. The Seahawks have a plus-three turnover differential, while the Browns have a minus-three turnover margin.
Andre: Seahawks. Cleveland allows 5.2 yards per carry and Seattle loves to run the ball (third in rush attempts). Mayfield is also trash, with twice as many interceptions as touchdowns. By contrast, Russell Wilson doesn’t turn the ball over.
Houston Texans at (-5) Kansas City Chiefs, 1 p.m.
Mike: Texans. The Chiefs, Dolphins and Cardinals are the only teams to allow three 100-yard rushers this season. Not great company. Making matters worse, K.C. has injuries on the D-line, so Houston (129.4 rushing yards per game) should follow the script Indy wrote last week.
Ricky: Texans. Everyone’s dumping on the Chiefs’ run defense, and justifiably so. But Kansas City’s pass rush has significantly regressed this season amid major personnel changes. The Chiefs ranked first in sacks (52) and eighth in sack percentage (7.60) in 2018. They currently rank 20th (11) and 21st (5.85), respectively, in those areas, which places a lot of pressure on Kansas City’s mediocre secondary. DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller V could go off.
Andre: Texans. Deshaun Watson’s average time of release in the first four weeks of the season was 2.92 seconds. He shaved that by 0.49 seconds last week against Atlanta and as a result, he finished his first career game with a pressure rate under 10 percent. Watson is clearly making an adjustment to get the ball out of his hands more quickly and when he’s not running for his life on every snap, he’s one of the best in the game.
New Orleans Saints at (-1) Jacksonville Jaguars, 1 p.m.
Mike: Saints. The Saints have Pro Football Focus’ No. 2 pass-blocking grade and No. 8 pass-rushing grade. That travels. It also feels like Sean Payton should be able to replicate some of Christian McCaffrey’s success versus Jacksonville (233 total yards) with Alvin Kamara this week.
Ricky: Saints. Jacksonville’s defense was a mess last week thanks to blown assignments and just an overall lack of discipline. The unit bounced back well earlier this season after similar issues, but those victories came against the Titans and Broncos, neither of whom can match what the Saints do offensively.
Andre: Jaguars. Jacksonville averages the most yards per carry in the NFL this year and Gardner Minshew generally does a great job in protecting the football. He only has one interception in 165 pass attempts. The Saints have won three straight with Teddy Bridgewater, but they have a negative yards per play differential.
Philadelphia Eagles at (-3) Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m.
Mike: Vikings. The Eagles haven’t faced a running attack like Minnesota’s (5.4 yards per carry) this season, and the Vikings are much better at home, averaging 31 points per game in their big glass house.
Ricky: Vikings. Pro Football Focus has Minnesota with the No. 1 run defense grade and No. 1 tackling grade. It also has the Vikings with the No. 5 coverage grade, which is unsurprising when you consider Minnesota ranks first in opponent yards per completion (8.0). The Eagles will have trouble moving the football against the Vikings’ defense, which is supremely talented at all three levels and built to slow Philadelphia’s collection of weapons.
Andre: Vikings. Philadelphia has allowed 3.2 yards per carry this season, but it hasn’t faced a team with a good ground attack yet. The Eagles will be tested this week against Dalvin Cook, who’s averaging nearly six yards per carry. Minnesota also ranks third in net yards per play, while Philly, despite its 3-2 record, is 23rd.
(-3.5) Washington Redskins at Miami Dolphins, 1 p.m.
Mike: Dolphins. When two historically putrid football teams play, you have to take the points. Those are the rules.
Ricky: Dolphins. Normally, I’d lean toward the team that just fired its head coach. But the Redskins are turning to Bill Callahan — not some young upstart — and moving on from Jay Gruden might only compound Washington’s problems.
Andre: Dolphins. The Dolphins are at home, coming off a bye and getting points against a team coming off a coaching change.
San Francisco 49ers at (-3.5) Los Angeles Rams, 4:05 p.m.
Mike: 49ers. Lots of trends going in L.A.’s favor here, but the 49ers’ advantage in the trenches is too much to ignore. Per Pro Football Focus, the 49ers have the NFL’s fifth-best pass rush, while the Rams’ pass-blocking checks in at No. 30. Even worse news for L.A.? Jared Goff has a 68.6 passer rating under pressure this year.
Ricky: 49ers. The loss of fullback Kyle Juszczyk is terrifying, because he’s so integral to what San Francisco does offensively. But the 49ers don’t seem to have a crippling flaw, and this game could go a long way toward elevating Kyle Shanahan’s status in the coaching ranks relative to Sean McVay’s.
Andre: 49ers. San Francisco allows just 3.8 yards per carry and it’s yet to allow a rushing touchdown. The Niners will take Todd Gurley out of the game and force Goff, who has six picks in his last three games, to throw the ball a ton. The 49ers also have the advantage in many metrics. They’re second in net yards per play, fifth in sack rate and fourth in yards allowed per pass attempt.
(-2.5) Atlanta Falcons at Arizona Cardinals, 4:05 p.m.
Mike: Cardinals. The Falcons don’t do much well, especially on defense, with the NFL’s second-worst sack rate, third-worst third-down defense and ninth-worst red-zone defense. Oh, and they also commit more penalties than anyone.
Ricky: Falcons. Sometimes, you just need to break down a game in its simplest form: A falcon would tear a cardinal to shreds if the two birds ever crossed paths in a hostile environment.
Andre: Cardinals. Arizona averages 5.4 yards per carry on the ground, while Matt Ryan leads the league in pass attempts. This could be a game with lopsided time of possession in favor of Arizona, especially if Ryan continues his turnover-happy ways.
(-7) Dallas Cowboys at New York Jets, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Jets. Key Cowboys offensive linemen Tyron Smith and La’el Collins didn’t practice Wednesday, and even if they do manage to play, you have to think Dallas will be trying to get out of the Meadowlands with its health intact as a Week 7 matchup with the Eagles looms. Jets keep it just close enough.
Ricky: Cowboys. Sam Darnold’s return gives reason for hope in the Meadowlands, but the Jets’ offensive line still stinks and the Cowboys should have a hair across their keisters after back-to-back losses to the Saints and Packers extinguished any sort of momentum they were building as NFC contenders.
Andre: Cowboys. Despite losing its last two games, Dallas still averaged a league best 6.7 yards per play and allowed under 4.8 yards per play over the last two weeks. The problem? The Cowboys turned the ball over six times. The metrics show that Dallas is still one of the best teams in football (best yards per play differential) and Prescott should be able to clean up his act against a woeful Jets team.
Tennessee Titans at (-2.5) Denver Broncos, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Titans. Denver got its act together last week on the strength of three Chargers turnovers. Less likely to happen this week against a Titans team that has turned it over once this season and should be able to exploit the Broncos’ run defense that allowed an average of 149 rushing yards per game.
Ricky: Titans. Take the points in what should be a very low-scored affair. While the Broncos’ defense finally stepped up in Week 5 against the Chargers, the Titans’ defense showed against the Bills it’s capable of going stop-for-stop.
Andre: Titans. Marcus Mariota hasn’t thrown a pick all year and although he’s taken more sacks than any other quarterback, the Broncos are dead last in sacks. The Titans have committed one turnover all season and that trend should continue against a Broncos team that has just two interceptions all year.
Pittsburgh Steelers at (-6.5) Los Angeles Chargers, 8:20 p.m.
Mike: Chargers. Maybe I’m a simpleton, but I can’t justify taking “Duck” Hodges, an undrafted product out of SMU, to keep it close on the road in his first career NFL start. Also got this from Odds Shark: L.A. is 11-2-1 against the spread after an ATS loss.
Ricky: Chargers. What Mike said. Until Devlin Hodges proves otherwise, I’m just going to assume he sucks.
Andre: Chargers. Pittsburgh averages just 3.5 yards per carry and you know it’s going to try to run the ball a ton with Hodges as quarterback. Melvin Gordon got his first game action and struggled last week. Maybe he’ll shake the cobwebs off and help lead the Chargers to a much-needed win.
MONDAY, OCT. 14
Detroit Lions at (-4) Green Bay Packers, 8:15 p.m.
Mike: Lions. With or without Davante Adams, the Packers face a stiff test against a solid Detroit secondary, and it’s worth noting the Packers’ defense looked pretty leaky late against Dallas. I think the Lions can do just enough to keep it close and maybe even get in the back door.
Ricky: Lions. Are the Lions legit? I don’t know. But they’re a real pain in the bum. Both teams likely will lean on their rushing attacks in a tightly contested divisional game, in which case Detroit should be able to keep the margin to a field goal or less.
Andre: Packers. The Packers have lost four consecutive games against the Lions. Proud Aaron Rodgers knows this and will provide an aerial assault on Detroit. The Packers’ biggest weakness is their rush defense, but the Lions ground game doesn’t scare anyone.
Thumbnail photo via Reinhold Matay/USA TODAY Sports Images