A lot of good matchups in Week Six of the NFL season, headlined by Dallas Cowboys-Seattle Seahawks and New York Giants-Philadelphia Eagles. There are also some games with upset potential like Baltimore-Tampa Bay and San Diego-Oakland.
It should be an electric atmosphere in Buffalo, with the upstart 3-2 Bills hosting the 3-2 New England Patriots for first place in the AFC East, in fracking billionaire Terry Pegula’s first game as Bills owner.
Let’s dive into the action . . .
New England Patriots (3-2) at Buffalo Bills (3-2)
The reports of the Patriots demise have been greatly exaggerated.
After a blowout loss to Kansas City in Week Four, some wondered if it was the end of a dynasty.
Far from it, as they proved in their demolition of the previously undefeated Cincinnati Bengals last week.
Pats TE Rob Gronkowski returns home to Buffalo back to his old self, and now once again has a mobile athletic partner at tight end, with the emergence of Tim Wright. This tight end combo had a big game against the Bengals.
The Bills are very banged up on defense, with three key defensive backs and two starting linebackers all questionable.
So while the Bill Nation is flying high these past few days with a new owner who is going to keep the team in Buffalo, it might be hard to put an exclamation point on the excitement by upsetting New England.
Carolina Panthers (3-2) at Cincinnati Bengals (3-1)
The Bengals might be without two key receivers this week–A.J. Green and Marvin Jones–both questionable. Neither practiced all week.
The biggest concern for the Bengals is Green, the best player on the team and one of the best receivers in football. He has a ligament issue under his big right toe, and was in a boot on Friday.
“It’s day to day,” Lewis said. “He’s feeling good, which is a good thing.”
He’s likely out on Sunday.
What should help the Bengals deal with the Green injury is the emergence of Mo Sanu, a third-year wide receiver from Rutgers and Sierra Leone.
Facing a Panthers defense which isn’t nearly as good as last year also helps the Bengals. They have given up 10 touchdowns in the last three games.
It will be surprising if the Bengals don’t win this game.
Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2) at Cleveland Browns (2-2)
Smart decision by Browns coach Mike Pettine to go with Cleveland native Brian Hoyer over hyped rookie Johnny Manziel at quarterback.
It’s highly unlikely the Browns would be 2-2 with Manziel, a project, under center.
Hoyer has thrown six touchdowns this year, to just one interception, and has an impressive 97.1 quarterback rating. The Browns were down 28-3 to the Tennessee Titans last week, and Hoyer led them to 26 unanswered points, for the largest comeback in team history, and the largest road comeback in NFL history.
This week Hoyer faces off against Ben Roethlisberger, who is playing on a very high level.
But this game could come down to defense. Surprisingly the Browns, led by Pettine, who made his name on defense, have the NFL’s 31st-ranked defense.
And not helping matters are some injuries on the defensive front. They will be without defensive ends Phil Taylor (knee) and Billy Winn (quad). Also, nose tackle Ahtyba Rubin (ankle) is questionable.
These injuries could hurt their ability to deal with the Steelers’ emerging star at running back, Le’Veon Bell.
This game is a toss-up.
Green Bay Packers (3-2) at Miami Dolphins (2-2)
Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin was a long-time Green Bay offensive assistant, so his intel and insight on his former team should help the Dolphins, along with having two weeks to prepare coming off a bye-week.
Also the Dolphins welcome back starting tailback Knowshon Moreno from an elbow injury. Moreno should be able to feast on the NFL’s 32nd-ranked run defense.
Keep an eye on the status of Dolphins cornerback Cortland Finnegan who is questionable with a neck injury. If he can’t go, this could really help the Packers. You need all hands on deck at corner against QB Aaron Rodgers.
The Dolphins beat the Oakland Raiders and rookie QB Derek Carr in their last game. Facing the Packers and Rodgers is a quantum leap in challenges.
It’s hard seeing the Dolphins winning a battle between inconsistent QB Ryan Tannehill and the iconic Rodgers.
Detroit Lions (3-2) at Minnesota Vikings (2-3)
The Lions could be without both of their top offensive weapons in this game–WR Calvin Johnson and RB Reggie Bush–due to ankle injuries.
But the Lions have NFL’s #1 defense, and it’s hard seeing a rookie QB, Teddy Bridgewater, making his second career start, doing much against them
But this game comes down to a field goal, and the Lions hope the third signing is a charm, with the addition of former Denver Broncos placekicker Matt Prater. Their first two kickers this year failed them, and they are below 50 percent in field goal percentage, which is almost unheard of in this day and age.
This game is a toss-up.
Denver Broncos (3-1) at New York Jets (1-4)
It’s hard to see the Jets and their 32nd-ranked passing offense keeping pace with Peyton Manning’s scoring machine.
The Jets seem to have prioritized developing a young quarterback (Geno Smith) over winning.
Unless the Jets turn to Michael Vick and he somehow creates some magic with his legs and arm, the Broncos should have no issues winning this game.
Baltimore Ravens (3-2) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-4)
This game has the potential for a Tampa Bay upset, with rifle-armed Mike Glennon throwing to Vincent Jackson and company against the Ravens 27th-ranked pass defense.
The Buccaneers came close the last two weeks against Pittsburgh and New Orleans with near upsets. This could be the week they make it happen.
Jacksonville Jaguars (0-5) at Tennessee Titans (1-4)
The Jaguars have started 0-5 the last two seasons. While the fans know they are rebuilding, this is a little extreme.
One problem now is they are starting a rookie quarterback, Blake Bortles, who is telegraphing passes, including tossing a Pick Six against the Pittsburgh Steelers last week.
While the Titans aren’t great, they are better than the Jaguars and should be able to find a way to win this game.
San Diego Chargers (4-1) at Oakland Raiders (0-4)
The competitiveness of this game might surprise you.
The Raiders have a new sheriff in town, Tony Sparano, a Bill Parcells disciple, who will bring some toughness and accountability to Oakland.
Oakland has had two weeks to prepare and get healthy, coming off a bye-week.
While the Raiders struggle in so many areas, one thing they do well is play pass defense, with a #4 NFL ranking. And throwing is the Chargers’ strength.
Don’t be shocked if this is a close game.
Washington Redskins (1-4) and Arizona Cardinals (3-1)
This game matches two backup quarterbacks, Washington’s Kirk Cousins against Arizona’s Drew Stanton. These two Michigan State signal-callers are pretty even talent-wise.
One factor that helps the Redskins in this road game is the poor health of the Cardinals’ talented defensive line, with perhaps the three best players on that unit out with injuries–Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, and John Abraham.
Also, Cousins, who played very well in a loss to Seattle last week, should be able to get a lot done against the league’s 31st-ranked secondary.
In a must-win game, the Redskins should be able to pull out a close victory, considering the state of the Cards’ D-line.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Carson Palmer, sidelined several weeks with a nerve injury, returns for a surprise start today.
Chicago Bears (2-3) at Atlanta Falcons (2-3)
Former Home Depot chief, and Falcons owner, Arthur Blank, has given his coach Mike Smith plenty of tools to work with, and for the second straight year, the Falcons continue to struggle.
He’s running out of patience.
If the Falcons can’t beat perhaps the most banged-up team in the league, in the George Dome, the heat on Smith’s hot-seat is going to get more intense.
Due to all the Bears injuries, including left tackle Jermon Bushrod (ribs) and star linebacker Lance Briggs, the Falcons should be able to find a way to get a “W.”
Dallas Cowboys (4-1) at Seattle Seahawks (3-1)
This is probably Sunday’s best matchup.
For the first time in years, the Cowboys have balance on offense, equally proficient at running and throwing after being pass happy in recent years.
It will be interesting to see the Cowboys’ star tailback DeMarco Murray face off against the NFL’s #1 rushing defense.
While Seattle has a talented secondary, they are down to three corners with the injury to Tharold Simon, so look for red-hot Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who is completing 69.2 percent of his passes, to have some success throwing in Seattle.
Seattle, led by pocket magician Russell Wilson, who is virtually unbeatable at home, likely finds a way to win, but this game should be close.
New York Giants (3-2) at Philadelphia Eagles (4-1)
This is a bad matchup for the Eagles.
First of all, they are banged up in the interior of the offensive line with center Jason Kelce and guard Evan Mathis out, and the Giants have one of the NFL’s better defensive lines.
Secondly, the Eagles are struggling in pass coverage, and the Giants’ passing attack has been on fire the last three weeks, scoring at least 30 points in each contest.
Plus, both of Philadelphia’s inside linebackers might be out.
Look for the Giants to keep their roll going.
Dan Leberfeld is the co-host of Press Coverage on SiriusXM NFL Radio every Saturday, 11 am-2 pm EST. You can follow him on twitter @jetswhispers.