Week 5 in the NFL offered some jarring reminders of what’s at stake for professional football players.
Not only did the league’s players and staffs have to deal with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the wrench it has thrown into the schedule. But on Sunday afternoon, the very real danger that comes with playing football — that your next play could be your last — was evident when Dak Prescott suffered a gruesome ankle injury.
Prescott’s injury is even more unfortunate when you consider his ongoing contract discussions with the Dallas Cowboys that have yet to be completely settled. Here’s hoping Prescott can make a full recovery, return to the field and maximize on his opportunities as one of the league’s top quarterbacks.
Long story short, let’s continue to appreciate what we have as football fans.
With that, we’re on to Week 6, where NESN.com’s Mike Cole, Ricky Doyle and Andre Khatchaturian will make their against-the-spread picks.
First, here’s how they fared in Week 5.
Mike Cole: 6-7 (37-38-1 overall)
Ricky Doyle: 6-7 (30-45-1)
Andre Khatchaturian: 6-7 (38-37-1)
Now, here are their Week 6 picks, with all lines via consensus data.
SUNDAY, OCT. 18
Atlanta Falcons at (-3.5) Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m.
Mike: Vikings. I’m not gonna pretend to know what this means, but Football Outsiders says the Vikings have had the most difficult schedule this season, and despite their 1-4 record, they have 3.1 estimated wins. So a bad Falcons team should get them right? I think?
Ricky: Vikings. Mike Zimmer’s Vikings teams typically take care of business at home, as favorites, against non-divisional opponents, going 19-4-1 ATS in such spots, according to Action Network’s Matthew Freedman. Plus, they’re facing the Falcons, a volatile opponent in its first week following a head-coaching change.
Andre: Falcons. Both of these teams struggle against the pass, so this game could be decided on the ground. Dalvin Cook is banged up and could miss Week 6 with an adductor strain. Minnesota has the second-worst rush defense, according to Pro Football Focus, and Todd Gurley appears to have found his stride.
(-7.5) Baltimore Ravens at Philadelphia Eagles, 1 p.m.
Mike: Ravens. Just not gonna overthink this one. The Eagles have been astonishingly bad across the board, and Baltimore typically beats up on bad teams.
Ricky: Ravens. The Eagles have an NFL-worst 11 giveaways, while the Ravens are tied for second in the league with 10 takeaways. Could be an ugly day for Philadelphia’s ragtag offense.
Andre: Ravens. Carson Wentz is one of the worst quarterbacks this season. He leads the league in interceptions and is last in passer rating and 29th in yards per attempt. If he makes mistakes and puts Baltimore in great field position, the Ravens should have an easy day. In their last 14 regular-season wins, the Ravens have won by an average margin of 20.9 points.
Chicago Bears at (-2.5) Carolina Panthers, 1 p.m.
Mike: Bears. This is the best defense Carolina has faced this season, aside from maybe the Chargers, and the Panthers benefited in that game by forcing four turnovers. If Chicago takes care of the football, the defense should keep this close.
Ricky: Bears. Chicago’s defense ranks fifth in Football Outsiders’ DVOA. You know who ranks first and second? The Colts and Bucs, the two teams the Bears just played back to back. Chicago’s offense will find it much easier to move the football this week against Carolina’s defense, which ranks 23rd in DVOA.
Andre: Panthers. I still don’t believe in Chicago, which has a negative yards per play differential. In their Week 5 win over Tampa Bay, the Bears averaged only 4.1 yards per play and allowed nearly 6 yards per play. That’s not a recipe for success. Carolina ranks 10th in yards per play differential and is third in drive time. The Panthers’ weakness is their rush defense, but Chicago doesn’t pose much of a ground attack.
Cincinnati Bengals at (-8) Indianapolis Colts, 1 p.m.
Mike: Colts. This line would be, what, 10 points if Indy looked halfway decent last week? The Colts didn’t have left tackle Anthony Castonzo last week, and the offense went to hell. He’s practicing this week, so a return looks to be in order, and the Colts should look better against Cincy.
Ricky: Colts. Philip Rivers looks washed up, but that shouldn’t matter this week. The Bengals rank 30th in yards allowed per rush attempt, meaning rookie Jonathan Taylor is positioned to shine as the Colts bounce back.
Andre: Colts. Indianapolis has one of the best rush defenses in the league. Joe Mixon, who averaged fewer than 2.5 yards per carry last week, will struggle and put a ton of pressure on Joe Burrow, who has limitations as a rookie and might have a hard time against the best defense in the league according to yards allowed per play.
Cleveland Browns at (-3.5) Pittsburgh Steelers, 1 p.m.
Mike: Steelers. Cleveland will be without elite offensive guard Wyatt Teller against the NFL’s top pass rush. Baker Mayfield, who is dealing with a rib injury himself, has a 30.9 passer rating under pressure (per Pro Football Focus) this season.
Ricky: Browns. The Teller injury is concerning, no doubt. But the Browns are the NFL’s No. 1 pass-blocking team, per Pro Football Focus, the Steelers’ pass rush has feasted on awful offensive lines thus far. This will be a good test for the back end of Pittsburgh’s defense.
Andre: Steelers. Big Ben has cleaned up his interception game this year. He only has one after throwing 16 in 2018. The Steelers are limiting turnovers and their rush defense, which allows the second-fewest yards per carry, can mitigate Kareem Hunt and put pressure on Mayfield. The Mayfield hype train needs to crash soon. He’s 26th in yards per attempt and has a horrible completion percentage.
Denver Broncos at (-9.5) New England Patriots, 1 p.m.
Mike: Patriots. Hopefully you were able to get this at a lower number, as the spread will continue to climb with the apparent return of Cam Newton and perhaps Stephon Gilmore from COVID-19.
Ricky: Patriots. QB Drew Lock might return for the Broncos this week. Cool. Denver has a bunch of other injuries to worry about, too, and I’m still not even sure if Lock is any good.
Andre: Patriots. Since 2016, the Patriots are 18-1 SU and 13-6 ATS against quarterbacks with fewer than 20 games of experience. The one loss came against Lamar Jackson, who we all can agree is slightly better than Brett Rypien or Drew Lock.
(-3.5) Detroit Lions at Jacksonville Jaguars, 1 p.m.
Mike: Jaguars. Both of these defenses are awful, so I guess I’ll take the points with the home team and hope at the very least the Jags can slide in the back door. An outright win wouldn’t surprise, though.
Ricky: Lions. Detroit’s three losses have come against good competition, with Green Bay, Chicago and New Orleans owning a combined 11-3 SU record. Plus, both of my esteemed colleagues are picking the Jags, so I’ll pick the Lions to spice things up in a game that otherwise holds very little appeal.
Andre: Jaguars. When assessing this game just ask yourself, “Should I ever take the Detroit Lions as a road favorite?” In their last 30 games as road favorites, the Lions are 9-19-2 ATS.
Houston Texans at (-3) Tennessee Titans, 1 p.m.
Mike: Titans. This is a slightly unsettling line, and I suppose Tennessee’s weirdly short week is a factor. However: As Andre has mentioned throughout the season, Houston has a bad run defense (allowing 160 yards per game!), and here comes Derrick Henry.
Ricky: Texans. Letdown game for the Titans, on a short week after a blowout win over the Bills and the Steelers looming next week? Sure, I could see that.
Andre: Texans. Here’s a wild stat: The Texans, despite being 1-4, are third in yards per play differential. The Titans, despite being 4-0, are 25th. Houston had the misfortune of one of the NFL’s toughest schedules in the first four weeks. The Texans’ offensive line stinks, but the Titans have the fewest sacks in the NFL.
Washington Football Team at (-2.5) New York Giants, 1 p.m.
Mike: Washington. As Andre mentions below, the Football Team pass rush can get after it, and it’s almost a given Daniel Jones (22 fumbles in 17 career starts) will put it on the carpet at the worst time.
Ricky: Washington. Here’s a (probably) useless but fun fact: the Giants haven’t won a game in October since Week 6 of 2017 (0-11 SU). Spooky.
Andre: Washington. Washington is fourth in sack rate, and Jones has been sacked 15 times this season. Expect a long day for Daniel, running for his life.
New York Jets at (-9) Miami Dolphins, 4:05 p.m.
Mike: Dolphins. I don’t care about the stats or trends or even the matchups: I’m done taking the Jets until further notice.
Ricky: Jets. New York has lost all five of its games by double digits, and Miami has proven scrappy. But, still, the number. Just don’t like it.
Andre: Jets. The Dolphins were 32nd in yards per play differential prior to Week 5. After their best performance of the season, they jumped to 16th. Don’t let that one game skew your assessment of this team. They’ll probably win, but it’ll be close.
(-2) Green Bay Packers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Packers. The Bucs still are dealing with injuries at key positions, the latest being Vita Vea’s season-ending injury. That’s bad news when the run-heavy Packers come to town. Green Bay is coming off its bye and is the more disciplined team, so expect Aaron Rodgers to take advantage of the NFL’s most-penalized team.
Ricky: Packers. It’s difficult to overstate the Vea injury, seeing as he was PFF’s second-highest-graded defensive lineman this season, in large because of his dominance against the run and rushing the passer. He was a huge part of Todd Bowles’ blitzing schemes, drawing frequent double-teams, and his absence could have a trickle-down effect on Tampa Bay’s defense.
Andre: Bucs. I don’t think the Bucs’ run defense was the best in the league (allowing 2.7 yards per carry) because of only one guy. Vea’s injury hurts, but they have enough to limit Green Bay’s run-heavy attack. Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette have averaged 4.9 yards per carry this season and Green Bay’s rush defense is easily its biggest weakness. If Tampa sticks to the ground, eats clock and keeps the ball away from Rodgers’ hands, this could quickly get away from Green Bay.
(-3.5) Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers, 8:20 p.m.
Mike: Rams. The 49ers, who were embarrassed at home by the Dolphins last week, have two wins — over the Jets and Giants. LA has the weapons to take advantage of a Niners defense that has allowed 5.5 yards per play and nearly 30 points per game since Nick Bosa’s season-ending injury.
Ricky: 49ers. Don’t like laying more than a field goal on a road favorite in a divisional game, much less against the defending NFC champions, who by and large are well coached despite their recent struggles.
Andre: 49ers. This is a huge get-right game for San Francisco. Conventional wisdom says to take LA because it has the biggest yards-per-play differential and the 49ers just lost to Miami. But don’t let that game skew your assessment of the 49ers’ defense. San Francisco had the best yards-per-play differential prior to last week’s game. The Niners need to feed Raheem Mostert (averaging seven yards per carry) against LA’s rush defense that allows 4.7 yards per carry.
MONDAY, OCT. 19
(-3.5) Kansas City Chiefs at Buffalo Bills, 5 p.m.
Mike: Bills. The Kelechi Osemele injury throws the Kansas City offensive line out of whack, and we’ve seen this season that pressure can make Patrick Mahomes look relatively mortal.
Ricky: Chiefs. Might Buffalo’s defense — once a great strength — be a liability this season? Sure looked that way again against Tennessee. The Bills rank 27th in defensive DVOA, a startling reality with the Chiefs coming in looking to recalibrate after their Week 5 loss.
Andre: Chiefs. The Bills really don’t utilize the running game to take advantage of Kansas City’s biggest weakness — its rush defense. The Chiefs will be more rested and are ticked off after allowing a pair of big plays in Week 5 that put them in a hole against the Raiders. You have to trust Mahomes much more than Josh Allen, as well. Allen showed his reckless side still exists in Tuesday night’s loss to Tennessee.
(-2.5) Arizona Cardinals at Dallas Cowboys, 8:15 p.m.
Mike: Cardinals. Taking the Cardinals as road favorites in Dallas is not something I expected to do this season, but I can’t see how the Cowboys’ defense — ranked 26th in defensive DVOA — can stop Arizona enough to give Andy Dalton a chance.
Ricky: Cowboys. Third straight road game for the Cardinals. Third straight home game for the Cowboys. Dallas has weapons that Arizona will struggle to keep up with.
Andre: Cowboys. The drop-off in talent from Dak Prescott to Dalton shouldn’t be too big. Dalton is fighting for a starting job next season and is surrounded by weapons. Chandler Jones’ injury doesn’t help Arizona’s cause, either.