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*Team listed in BOLD is my pick to win the game
New England (@ Indianapolis) – We’re all tired of DeflateGate by now and the story has been beaten to death, but let’s face it, it’s a juicy story this week because the Colts were the team that notified the NFL about the air pressure in Tom Brady’s footballs. Prior to the season, Brady had this game circled and marked as his first game of the season, but his suspension was overturned and he has been on fire and nothing short of fantastic. He has completed 72.5% of his passes and has averaged 331 passing yards per game to go along with 11 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. And you know Brady and Belichick want some revenge and a little payback for the Colts reporting them to the league. The Colts’ defense has struggled this season, ranking 29th in total defense. The Patriots have also run the ball extremely well with Dion Lewis and LeGarrette Blount with them averaging 5.0 and 4.7 yards per carry, respectively. Expectations right now are that Andrew Luck should return this week, which is a good thing, but he still hasn’t completely clicked with his receivers this year. Andre Johnson had his best game as a Colt last Thursday night against his former team, the Houston Texans, but Matt Hasselbeck was filling in at quarterback. After weighing everything including how great the Patriots are playing on both sides of the ball, Andrew Luck having struggled up to this point as well as not having played for two weeks and the fact that the Patriots want to stick it to the Colts and will run up the score if given the opportunity, I think that the Patriots are a strong play in Survivor Pools this week.
Next 3 Games:
New England: vs. NY Jets, vs. Miami, vs. Washington
Indianapolis: vs. New Orleans, @ Carolina, vs. Denver
Arizona (@ Pittsburgh) – Arizona’s offense returned to form last week against the Lions scoring 42 total points and 4 of those touchdowns were scored in the 2nd quarter alone. Carson Palmer only threw 14 passes, but 3 of those passes found the end zone. The Cardinals ran the ball extremely well, averaging 7.5 yards per carry and were led by Chris Johnson. Andre Ellington even got in on the action in a limited role. The Steelers came away with a thrilling win over the Chargers on Monday night with Le’Veon Bell scoring the game-winning touchdown while in the Wildcat formation. But the Steelers have to be thankful to have a player like Bell, because had it not been for him, Pittsburgh would have struggled to put points on the board. Without Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers will have an extremely difficult time moving the ball against Arizona. The Cardinals will focus on loading the box in order to stop Bell who is their only threat on offense. Yes, I know, Antonio Brown is a threat at all times, but with Michael Vick starting the last two games, Brown has only caught 8 balls for 87 yards. Unless Bell can break through for a couple of big runs, Pittsburgh won’t be able to keep pace with Arizona’s offense and that’s bad news against an Arizona team that has scored at least 42 points in 3 of their 4 wins.
Next 3 Games:
Arizona: vs. Baltimore, @ Cleveland, BYE
Pittsburgh: @ Kansas City, vs. Cincinnati, vs. Oakland
Green Bay (vs. San Diego) – For a second straight week the Packers’ defense has had a huge hand in yet another win for Green Bay. Granted, they went up against another anemic offense, but they made life miserable for Nick Foles sacking him 3 times and picking him off on four occasions. Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers led the onslaught, sacking him 2.5 times but they also recorded 7 QB hits against Foles. The Packers will need that type of defensive pursuit against Philip Rivers in Week 6. Rivers welcomed back tight end Antonio Gates in Week 5 who finally returned from his suspension. It looked like Gates didn’t lose a beat, racking up 9 catches and 92 yards. I expect Gates will be a focal point to the passing game along with Keenan Allen against the Packers this week. One way to beat Green Bay is on the ground as they’ve struggled to stop the run all year. I’m just not certain Melvin Gordon will be effective enough to keep moving the chains and keep the ball out of Aaron Rodgers’ hands. Although this game features two QBs that like to sling the ball, and do it well, this game could ultimately be decided by the RBs. The Packers and Chargers rank 31st and 32nd, respectively, in defensive yards per rush, so this could end up being the type of game that could finally get Eddie Lacy going. With that being said, you can expect Rodgers and Rivers to throw a lot because that’s what both of these teams do best. The Chargers have not played great football over the course of the last three weeks and I don’t think Chargers stand much of a chance of beating the Packers this week in Lambeau Field.
Next 3 Games:
San Diego: vs. Oakland, @ Baltimore, vs. Chicago
Green Bay: BYE, @ Denver, @ Carolina
Cincinnati (@ Buffalo) – What can you say about Andy Dalton? Over the first five weeks, he is playing at a Pro-Bowl caliber level and continues to mature with each game and it couldn’t have been more evident than in the Bengals’ come-from-behind overtime victory against the Seahawks last Sunday. Trailing by 17, Dalton showed that he had some ice water in his veins and refused to be intimidated by the Seahawks’ defense. The Bengals face another pretty good defense again this week as they square off against the Buffalo Bills. The Bills’ biggest strength is their run defense and they have shown at times that they can be passed on, which is a plus for Dalton. I am not saying Dalton is going to shred the Bills’ secondary, but he will continue to have success once again in this game. Another reason I really like the Bengals this week is due to the fact that Tyrod Taylor could possibly sit out because of a sprained MCL. If Taylor does sit out, the Bills may decide to start E.J. Manuel and that’s not a good thing. Buffalo is already decimated with injuries at wideout and running back and have struggled on offense even with Taylor behind center. Bills offensive coordinator Greg Roman will have to come up with a creative game plan in order to have a chance to score some points and win this game.
Next 3 Games:
Cincinnati: BYE, @ Pittsburgh, vs. Cleveland
Buffalo: @ Jacksonville, BYE, vs. Miami
Denver (@ Cleveland) – Josh McCown has quietly put together a pretty impressive season. McCown had his best game last week against the Ravens passing for 457 yards and completing 70.6% of his passes. Please keep in mind though that he put up these numbers against the Baltimore Ravens’ defense. This week, McCown faces the Denver Broncos and one of the league’s best pass rush units, although the Broncos will be without DeMarcus Ware due to a back injury. Even without Ware, Denver will continue to bring pressure and will force McCown to beat them. Because of their pass rush, McCown could look to check down to Duke Johnson often in this game with the hope that he breaks one for a long touchdown. As for Denver’s offense, Peyton Manning will look to end his interception streak at 5 games. He has now been picked off a total of 7 times on the year while only having thrown a total of 6 touchdowns. Denver has also had a lot of problems running the ball, averaging just 71.6 yards per game and a paltry 3.3 yards per rush, but this could be the one game where they actually run the ball well. The Browns have not been able to stop the run, averaging 5.0 yards per carry and 149.4 rushing yards per game. If C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman can finally be successful running the football, it will make Peyton’s life easier and will open up the passing game which I believe will happen. Additionally, Denver has defeated the Browns in 10 straight games making the Broncos a decent play this week and extending that win streak against Cleveland to 11.
Next 3 Games:
Denver: BYE, vs. Green Bay, @ Indianapolis
Cleveland: @ St. Louis, vs. Arizona, @ Cincinnati
Seattle (vs. Carolina) – Seattle’s road woes continued in Week 5 as they collapsed against the Bengals after leading by 17 in the 4th quarter. Russell Wilson was sacked 4 times but did just enough to put the Seahawks in position to win the game. Thomas Rawls filled in for Marshawn Lynch and ran the ball well, but Lynch is expected to return this week. The not-so-good news for Seattle is that Luke Keuchly is out of concussion protocol and it looks as though he will play this week. This should end up being a defensive battle and could come down to the team that makes the fewest mistakes, which I believe will be Seattle. Carolina is coming off a bye so they’ve had some extra time to game plan for this game. I just doubt that Jonathan Stewart is going to be able to run the ball effectively, thus leaving it in the hands of Cam Newton. I expect Newton will have to rely on Greg Olsen often in this game. Olsen could have some success against the Seahawks’ defense which let Tyler Eifert catch 8 balls for 90 yards and 2 touchdowns. In the end, I think Seattle’s defense will be too much for Carolina to handle.
Next 3 Games:
Seattle: @ San Francisco, @ Dallas, BYE
Carolina: vs. Philadelphia, vs. Indianapolis, vs. Green Bay
NY Jets (vs. Washington) – Washington lost a tough one in Atlanta in Week 5 after Kirk Cousins threw a pick-6 that ended the game. Washington’s offense struggled and couldn’t get their running game going as they averaged just 2.1 yards per carry. Matt Jones sprained his toe in that game and if that toe continues to bother him, he could possibly sit out this week leaving the bulk of the carries to Alfred Morris. But I don’t think it will matter too much who carries the ball because the Jets are going to stuff the run and make it a real struggle for Washington to move the chains. Washington allowed Devonta Freeman to rush for 153 yards on 27 carries and I’m sure the Jets will have a similar game plan, handing the football to Chris Ivory and having him carry the offense. If the Jets can control the clock and dominate the time of possession, which is what Washington loves to do, I expect the Jets to come away with a low-scoring win at home.
Next 3 Games:
Washington: vs. Tampa Bay, BYE, @ New England
NY Jets: @ New England, @ Oakland, vs. Jacksonville
San Francisco (vs. Baltimore) – For just the second time this season, the 49ers’ offense was able to move the ball and Colin Kaepernick looked like a serviceable QB. Although the 49ers ended up losing the game after allowing Eli Manning and the Giants to march down the field for the game-winning drive, overall the defense played well. The 49ers couldn’t register a sack in this game, but they applied a decent amount of pressure on Eli. I expect San Francisco’s defense to have more success getting to Joe Flacco this week with Aaron Lynch leading the way. Baltimore will lean on Justin Forsett and I believe San Francisco’s game plan will be to load the box in order to stop the run. Steve Smith is expected to return this week after sitting out Week 5 and he will be Flacco’s primary target and could come away with 8-10 catches this week if he does play. As long as the 49ers’ secondary doesn’t get burned by Smith on multiple occasions, they should limit the amount of points that Baltimore puts on the board.
Next 3 Games:
Baltimore: @ Arizona, vs. San Diego, BYE
San Francisco: vs. Seattle, @ St. Louis, vs. Atlanta
Minnesota (vs. Kansas City) – On Monday, Kansas City received the news that they had feared; Jamaal Charles tore his ACL and his season is over. This is the kind of devastating injury that deflates a team and could make an already disappointing season even worse. Head coach Andy Reid has said that he will go with a running back-by-committee between Charcandrick West and Knile Davis. Davis had success filling in for Charles last year, but it doesn’t sound like they have complete faith in him at this moment. The good news for West and Davis is that they go up against a Vikings’ run defense that has allowed 4.7 yards per carry and 125.5 yards per game on the season. The bad news for the Chiefs is that the offensive line continues to be their weak link and it seems as though Alex Smith is constantly under pressure and getting sacked. Once Charles went down last week, it seemed as though the Chiefs’ offense just stalled. If they can find a way to run the ball effectively they should be able to keep the game relatively close, but I don’t think they’ll be able to generate enough offense to get the ball in the end zone enough times to pull out the win.
Next 3 Games:
Kansas City: vs. Pittsburgh, vs. Detroit, BYE
Minnesota: @ Detroit, @ Chicago, vs. St. Louis
Philadelphia (vs. NY Giants) – Monday night’s game pits two division rivals against one another in a very important game that will play a factor in determining which team wins the NFC East. The Giants narrowly squeaked by the 49ers last Sunday, as Eli Manning marched the Giants down the field for yet another 4th quarter game winning drive. However, in the process of them winning, the Giants may have lost two major pieces in the passing game, Odell Beckham and Rueben Randle. Both Beckham and Randle hurt their hamstrings last week, and although Beckham came back into the game, he was used primarily as a decoy and it was obvious his injury was bothering him. Both Beckham and Randle are questionable in this game and if they are unable to suit up, Eli’s primary receiver will be Dwayne Harris, who had a productive game against the 49ers, as well as tight end Larry Donnell and running back Shane Vereen. If that is the case, I’d possibly move Philadelphia up a tier. But with the uncertainty of the availability of these players by the time you need to make a selection for your pool, I’d avoid this game at this time.
Next 3 Games:
Philadelphia: @ Carolina, BYE, @ Dallas
NY Giants: vs. Dallas, @ New Orleans, @ Tampa Bay
Detroit (vs. Chicago) – With playoff expectations heading into the season, the Detroit Lions find themselves at 0-5 and the only winless team in the NFL after the Cardinals blew them out at home, 42-17. Adding insult to injury, Matthew Stafford was benched and Dan Orlovsky finished the game. Head coach Jim Caldwell says that Stafford is still their starting QB, but Stafford will need to pick up his play this week. The Bears are coming off a thrilling win in Week 5, scoring 15 unanswered points in their victory against Kansas City. The Bears were once again without Alshon Jeffery and he remains questionable in Week 6. Detroit has had a lot of success against the Bears over the last two years winning all four matchups. I like the Lions to win outright in this game because I believe Stafford will eventually put together a strong game and will end up connecting with Calvin Johnson for over 100 yards, and that could be this game. But due to the fact that no one can completely trust Detroit, I can’t, with complete confidence, endorse them for your Survivor Pool this week.
Next 3 Games:
Chicago: BYE, vs. Minnesota, @ San Diego
Detroit: vs. Minnesota, @ Kansas City, BYE
Tennessee (vs. Miami) – The Dolphins’ disastrous season continued in London in Week 4 which led to the firing of their head coach, Joe Philbin. They have since promoted Dan Campbell to interim head coach for the rest of the season. It was indicated on multiple occasions that the team had quit on Joe Philbin. It will be interesting to see how the team responds to a new leader, and in turn it will be interesting to see if Dan Campbell calls a more aggressive game on the offensive side of the ball. The Titans are riding a 3 game losing streak with the last two having been games they could have won. I don’t like the unpredictability of this game, but if I have to pick one, I think the hometown Titans find a way to finally win this week.
Next 3 Games:
Miami: vs. Houston, @ New England, @ Buffalo
Tennessee: vs. Atlanta, @ Houston, @ New Orleans
Jacksonville (vs. Houston) – Blake Bortles had a productive game against the Buccaneers in Week 5, but mistakes still haunted him which included tossing an interception that set up a Tampa Bay touchdown. Bortles was also sacked 6 times in the game which doesn’t bode well with Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt on the defensive side of the ball, although neither player has been as productive or disruptive as Texans fans had hoped. Bortles has a Grade 1 AC shoulder sprain, but he is hoping to play. If he doesn’t, the Jaguars are in a lot of trouble. Clowney is also expected to play this week even though he is nursing an ankle sprain. This is the type of game that both players would want to play in because they may be able to feast on the Jaguars’ offensive line. I’m suggesting that you avoid this game especially with Bortles’ injury and his availability currently in question.
Next 3 Games:
Jacksonville: vs. Buffalo, BYE, @ NY Jets
Houston: @ Miami, vs. Tennessee, BYE
Atlanta (@ New Orleans) – The 5-0 Falcons head to New Orleans to take on the disappointing 1-4 Saints in Week 6. The word as of right now is that Julio Jones is expected to play Thursday night, although I am worried about how effective he will be in this game. I think he may just be used a decoy. That should mean that Devonta Freeman will be used heavily, but the Saints’ run defense allows 135.8 rushing yards per game. My biggest concern though is the fact that every single Atlanta win has been a nail-biter, with the exception of their win against the Texans. Add in the fact that Atlanta is 3-9 in New Orleans over their last 12 games. At first glance on paper, Atlanta should be listed as a Strong Play. But with all things considered, I’d be careful taking the Falcons this week.
Next 3 Games:
Atlanta: @ Tennessee, vs. Tampa Bay, @ San Francisco
New Orleans: @ Indianapolis, vs. NY Giants, vs. Tennessee
Week 6 Survivor Pool Rankings:
1. New England Patriots
2. Arizona Cardinals
3. Green Bay Packers
4. Cincinnati Bengals
5. Denver Broncos
6. Seattle Seahawks
7. NY Jets
8. San Francisco 49ers
9. Minnesota Vikings
10. Philadelphia Eagles
11. Detroit Lions
12. Tennessee Titans
13. Jacksonville Jaguars
14. Atlanta Falcons