It’s been another volatile week in the NFL. But as the focus shifts to the on-field product in Week 6, one thing is abundantly clear: the NFL owes London an apology.
The 2021 London Series concludes Sunday when the Miami Dolphins battle the Jacksonville Jaguars in what might be the worst of the 30 games the UK has been subjected to since the whole thing started. Both teams are objectively horrible and don’t come close to representing the best the NFL has to offer.
Ultimately, that won’t matter, though, when the stadium is full and we’re all setting alarms to watch the 9:30 a.m. ET kickoff on Sunday morning.
That game is the undoubted lowlight on an admittedly uneven Week 6 slate. Regardless of their opinion on the quality of football this weekend, NESN.com’s Mike Cole and Ricky Doyle are back to make their weekly against-the-spread picks for every game.
Here’s how they fared last week.
Here are their Week 6 picks, with lines courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.
THURSDAY, OCT. 14
(-6.5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Philadelphia Eagles, 8:20 p.m.
Mike: Eagles. This line seems way too high, especially considering the uncertainty of Tom Brady’s injury. Jalen Hurts, on the other hand (no pun intended), has been really good against questionable pass defenses like Kansas City, Dallas and Atlanta, and Tampa has secondary issues.
Ricky: Eagles. The Buccaneers have had some problems covering in regular-season primetime games, going 0-6 ATS in their last six such contests dating back to 2020. If the Eagles (No. 3 pass rush, per Pro Football Focus) can generate pressure up the middle, then we’ll see another Bucs hiccup, this time on the road in a short week.
SUNDAY, OCT. 17
(-3) Miami Dolphins versus Jacksonville Jaguars, 9:30 a.m. in London
Mike: Jaguars. Two really bad teams in London, so I’ll just take the points, especially considering Miami’s bottom-three standing in EPA per play — on both sides of the ball.
Ricky: Dolphins. There’s been some bad London matchups over the years. And this is right down there with the worst. Give me the ‘Fins, if only because they have a competent head coach.
(-6.5) Kansas City Chiefs at Washington Football Team, 1 p.m.
Mike: Chiefs. I’m not ready to say the Chiefs are broken or anything, so this kind of feels like a good spot for KC to bounce back. Washington’s defense has been unexpectedly bad. And while the Chiefs’ defense has been expectedly bad, too, it’s a lot easier to put faith in KC’s offense — despite its injury issues — to take advantage.
Ricky: Chiefs. Kansas City has its issues. But also consider the three teams the Chiefs have lost to this season: the Ravens, Chargers and Bills. That’s some really good competition, whereas this week (and the next two weeks?) seemingly represents a soft spot in the schedule. Don’t jump off the KC bandwagon yet, now that we’re dealing with a reasonable number against a ho-hum opponent.
(-10.5) Los Angeles Rams at New York Giants, 1 p.m.
Mike: Rams. Too much injury uncertainty for the Giants, especially on the offensive side of the ball. The defense also is a major issue, having allowed 200 rushing yards last week to Dallas. The Rams could present similar problems.
Ricky: Rams. To Mike’s point, the Giants lost Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley and Kenny Golladay last week, adding to an injury circus that already included Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton and Andrew Thomas. Now, the G-Men (No. 23 in pass blocking, per Pro Football Focus) face Aaron Donald and a Rams team that’s well-rested after playing last Thursday night. Don’t be scared off by the spread, as the Giants (3-7 ATS in their last 10 home games) usually play better on the road, anyway.
(-4.5) Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears, 1 p.m.
Mike: Bears. The Packers’ offensive line is getting healthier, but it’s not at full strength yet, which might be a problem in Chicago against that pass rush. Green Bay’s offense just isn’t clicking like it did last year, especially in the red zone, which is an even bigger issue when Mason Crosby might have the yips.
Ricky: Packers. Green Bay has had Chicago’s number in recent years, going 10-1 SU and 9-2 ATS in its last 11 trips to the Windy City. And the Bears still have such a low floor offensively — with a rookie quarterback who’s yet to pop — that it’s difficult to back them against good competition.
Los Angeles Chargers at (-3) Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m.
Mike: Ravens. LA’s run defense is basically nonexistent, and while Baltimore’s rushing attack isn’t at the same level it has been in recent years, it’s still a favorable matchup. Also, this is wild: John Harbaugh is 14-4 straight-up and 11-6-1 against the spread on a short week since 2017.
Ricky: Chargers. There might not be many instances in the future where you can catch points with a quarterback playing at Justin Herbert’s level. Enjoy it while you can. The Ravens rank 27th in yards per pass attempt against (8.3) and 25th in expected points contributed by passing defense, according to Pro-Football-Reference, so the Chargers will face little resistance through the air.
Houston Texans at (-9) Indianapolis Colts, 1 p.m.
Mike: Texans. Indy winning by 30 wouldn’t surprise me, nor would an outright Texans win. So let’s just take the points and move on.
Ricky: Colts. This definitely feels like a lot of points. But the Texans giving the Patriots all they could handle in Week 5 — coupled with the Colts ultimately losing to the Ravens — actually presents some value in favor of Indianapolis. Keep in mind: the Texans totaled just nine points in their two games before losing to the Patriots. They lost by 10 points, 15 points and 40 points from Weeks 2 through 4.
(-3.5) Cincinnati Bengals at Detroit Lions, 1 p.m.
Mike: Bengals. The Lions’ secondary is brutal. Detroit ranks 30th in EPA allowed per dropback, and here comes Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase, a duo that has been an absolute terror on deep passes so far. Detroit has offensive line issues, too, losing Frank Ragnow for the season.
Ricky: Lions. The Bengals lost in heartbreaking fashion to the Packers in Week 5 and have a divisional date with the Ravens looming in Week 7. Maybe the pesky Lions feed off their emotional head coach and sneak away with a home win in a tough sandwich spot for Cincinnati?
(-1) Minnesota Vikings at Carolina Panthers, 1 p.m.
Mike: Panthers. Both quarterbacks are going to be under siege here, but Kirk Cousins is truly a mess when he gets uncomfortable. Cousins’ passer rating is 54 points lower when he’s under pressure, and the Panthers lead the league in quarterback pressure rate.
Ricky: Panthers. Carolina’s offense is so much better with Christian McCaffrey — he influences so much of what the Panthers do on the ground and through the air — and it sounds like he could return this week against a wildly inconsistent Vikings team.
Arizona Cardinals at (-3) Cleveland Browns, 4:05 p.m.
Mike: Cardinals. If there’s one thing Arizona does really, really well, it’s throwing the ball, and now the Cardinals get a Cleveland secondary that has myriad injury issues. The Browns’ pass rush is legit, but no one has been better under pressure than Kyler Murray, who has a 110.2 passer rating and leads the league in big-time throws under pressure, per Pro Football Focus.
Ricky: Browns. Cleveland’s recipe for success? Run, run, run. And the Browns (No. 1 in rush EPA) will execute that game plan with relative ease, as Arizona’s defense ranks dead-last in explosive run rate against, per Sharp Football Stats, and 31st in run stop win rate, per ESPN Analytics. The Cardinals have the NFL’s second-worst run defense through five weeks, according to Pro Football Focus.
(-4) Dallas Cowboys at New England Patriots, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Cowboys. There’s a reason Bill Belichick was gushing about Dallas; the Cowboys might have the most talented roster in the league. I’m not putting too much stock into the Patriots’ offense looking halfway decent versus Houston last week and instead will side with a Cowboys offense that is top five in EPA per play and averaging over 30 points per game.
Ricky: Patriots. This line has been climbing, with money pouring in on the Cowboys. I’d wait until the last minute and take the Patriots, who seem to play to their level of competition, for better or worse. New England will want to turn this game ugly — much like it did against Tampa Bay — and some push against the interior of Dallas’ offensive line should be enough to slow Dak Prescott and Co.
Las Vegas Raiders at (-3.5) Denver Broncos, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Broncos. Sometimes, I’m OK being on a very square side, especially when the alternative is the Raiders coming off the week they’ve had. Generally speaking, this is a stay-away, though.
Ricky: Broncos. What Mike said. Good spot for Denver to bounce back, with Teddy Bridgewater having a full week of practice, something he didn’t have last week while in the concussion protocol.
Seattle Seahawks at (-5) Pittsburgh Steelers, 8:20 p.m.
Mike: Seahawks. It’s possible losing Russell Wilson exposes and enhances every single Seattle flaw, especially considering Geno Smith is his understudy. But even in a seemingly convincing win like last week, Ben Roethlisberger looked “meh,” so Seattle it is, getting almost a touchdown.
Ricky: Seahawks. Seattle initially was a three-point favorite for this game in some places before losing Wilson last Thursday night. So, we’re talking about an eight-point swing, which seems excessive given Pittsburgh’s continued problems on offense.
MONDAY, OCT. 18
(-6) Buffalo Bills at Tennessee Titans, 8:15 p.m.
Mike: Bills. It’s a huge letdown spot, but whatever. I know Tennessee housed the Bills almost a year to the date, but Buffalo was careless with the ball in that one and never gave itself a chance. The Tennessee defense isn’t a whole lot better than Kansas City’s, and we saw what Josh Allen and Co. did to the Chiefs las week.
Ricky: Bills. Only six teams in the NFL have a worse overall DVOA than Tennessee, per Football Outsiders: Detroit, Houston, the Jets, Miami, Jacksonville and Atlanta. Not the best company, seeing as those teams own a combined 5-25 SU record — with one of those wins coming against the Titans themselves and three of the other four coming against teams within that aforementioned group of cellar dwellers.