Week 6 in the NFL is the first week of the season that features byes, but it’s a stacked slate on NFL Sunday despite the shorter list of games. This week features an AFC heavyweight matchup between the Chargers and Ravens, a cross-conference game between the undefeated Cardinals and playoff-contending Browns, Chicago quarterback Justin Fields’ first start in the heralded rivalry with Green Bay, and a potential blowout of one of the NFL’s most respected franchises as the Dallas Cowboys travel to New England.
This “Games of the Week” column may not always point to a spread or total, but it will look for an angle for you to bet so you can make the biggest games even more enjoyable. All spreads and totals are provided by DraftKings.
Los Angeles Chargers at Baltimore Ravens (BAL -3, Total 52)
Model Projection: Baltimore 25.0 – Los Angeles Chargers 22.94 (BAL -2.06, Total 47.94)
BET: LAC +3, 2 units
This matchup between quarterbacks Justin Herbert and Lamar Jackson was always going to be a highlight of the NFL season, but these two quarterbacks did everything they could to set the stage for this week’s matchup.
Herbert was more consistent from start to finish on Sunday, digging deep into his bag of tricks as he made play after play in a shootout with the Cleveland Browns. His ability to run played a critical role in evading the Cleveland pass rush, which got home at times despite a relatively strong performance from the Chargers’ offensive line. Herbert also delivered precise throws to every level of the field as he threw for nearly 400 yards; there is nothing that Herbert doesn’t have from an individual talent standpoint and with Mike Williams surpassing the ultra-talented duo of Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler as the most talented skill player on this offense, Herbert certainly doesn’t lack for weapons.
Jackson got off to a slower start against Indianapolis; his team trailed 22-9 entering the fourth quarter, but Jackson proceeded to lead a 22-3 run that gave Baltimore a 31-25 victory in overtime. The Colts bottled up Baltimore’s usually dominant run game, which allowed Jackson to show off his talents as a passer as he threw for 442 yards and four touchdowns. Jackson’s connection with tight end Mark Andrews was critical this week and Marquise “Hollywood” Brown had another big game in what has been a hot start to his third NFL season; it will be interesting to see how Chargers head coach Brandon Staley attempts to contain this group. The Chargers and Ravens both feature playmakers throughout their defenses, but in today’s NFL, the defense doesn’t count for much when quarterbacks like Herbert and Jackson get rolling.
The model suggests that the under could be a play, but the potential for both quarterbacks to put up big numbers is certainly there, so I’ll avoid the total and take the Chargers, who the model has as a 2.06 point underdog, at +3 for two units.
Arizona Cardinals at Cleveland Browns (CLE -3.5, Total 49)
Model Projection: Arizona 25.04 – Cleveland 24.01 (ARI -1.03, Total 49.05)
BET: ARI +3.5, 2 units
The DraftKings line on this game shifted from CLE -3 and a total of 49.5 to CLE -3.5 and a total of 49 as this article was written, with the total dropping off significantly from the look-ahead number of 53. Given what the Browns did on offense last week, this is a strong indication that bettors are not thrilled by Arizona’s meager offensive output in last week’s win over the 49ers.
Cleveland running back Nick Chubb put on an exceptional performance against the Chargers, employing his trademark combination of explosive burst and smooth evasiveness while taking exceptionally efficient run paths. His ability to make defenders miss without sacrificing his vertical path is unrivaled; after his 161 rushing yards on 21 carries this week, his yards per carry average is back up to 5.8 for the season, which would seem unsustainable if he hadn’t run for 5.6 in 2020 and over 5.0 in both of his first two seasons. His backup, Kareem Hunt, has arguably been one of the top fifteen runners in the NFL this season, which allows this Cleveland ground game to overwhelm opponents.
It’s a good thing that part of the offense is working so well because the Browns appear to have no faith in quarterback Baker Mayfield, who consistently had the ball taken out of his hands in critical situations during the matchup with the Chargers. This is particularly concerning because the Browns are supposed to be evaluating whether or not they want to give Mayfield a big contract moving forward; the fact that they’re not even allowing him an opportunity to attempt to be “the guy” would seem to indicate the Cleveland staff is currently on the negative side of that decision. It’s only one game, but Mayfield’s play needs to demand that he gets the opportunity to convert in critical third-down situations, or the Browns can’t pay him.
Mayfield could get another opportunity in a shootout-type game against fellow Oklahoma Alum and Heisman Trophy Winner Kyler Murray. Murray and the Cardinals are coming off their worst offensive performance of the season, but the tape didn’t show a unit in disarray. Arizona missed opportunities, notably when Murray missed an open DeAndre Hopkins in the endzone on a 3rd down, which led to a field goal, and missed a field goal on the drive that followed. They also promptly responded with a long TD drive when the 49ers scored late and maintained control throughout the game, so there appears to be a good chance that the offense will rebound this week.
A key factor to monitor ahead of this game is the status of Cardinals pass rusher Chandler Jones, who is currently on the COVID list. Jones has consistently been a problem for opponent quarterbacks in the NFL this season; J.J. Watt is coming off a strong performance, but this defense is not the same without Jones.
The Browns have an outstanding roster, but for the second straight week, I’m putting my money on their opponent because that quarterback can do more than Mayfield. The model has Arizona as a one-point favorite; I’ll take Arizona at +3.5 for two units.
Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears (GB -4.5, Total 44)
Model Projection: Green Bay 26.77 – Chicago 21.81 (GB -4.96, Total 48.58)
BET: Green Bay -4.5, 2 units
Green Bay and Chicago both played in games that featured comedies of errors last weekend. In Green Bay’s case, it was the five straight missed field goals between the Packers and Bengals before kicker Mason Crosby finally ended the game in overtime. In Chicago’s case, it was the absurd number of roughing the passer calls between them and the Raiders in a game where 15-yard defensive penalties were seemingly a prerequisite for a scoring drive.
Chicago’s defensive front dismantled the Raiders’ offensive line, with edge rusher Khalil Mack putting on a show in his revenge game against head coach Jon Gruden, which ended up being Gruden’s final game in the NFL after this week’s chaos. The Bears will face a more difficult challenge against a Green Bay offensive line that has continued to produce solid results despite mounting injuries and the resulting lack of experience, but Mack and Robert Quinn are a formidable rush tandem.
It helps to have quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who will need to be at his best controlling the tempo of the game to disrupt the pass rush rhythm of Chicago’s edge tandem. Defensive tackle Akiem Hicks missed last week’s game and did not practice on Wednesday; his status is important to monitor, as Rodgers will have an easier time if the Bears are missing their best interior pass rusher. Raiders quarterback Derek Carr did not play particularly well last week and that contributed to the Raiders’ lackluster results, but this Chicago defense has strung together multiple quality performances and will be a challenge for the Green Bay offense.
Green Bay could be without cornerback Kevin King this week after he exited last week’s game, but given the run-heavy nature of Chicago’s offense with offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and quarterback Justin Fields, that could be less of a problem than in other weeks. Isaac Yiadom, who was acquired from the Giants during training camp, is likely to start in King’s place on the outside. The Packers matched rookie Eric Stokes on Bengals lead receiver, Ja’Marr Chase, last week, so it will be interesting to see if defensive coordinator Joe Berry has Stokes do the same this week, and whether Stokes covers lead receiver Allen Robinson or speed threat Darnell Mooney if he does match up.
The model indicates that there isn’t a significant edge on the spread, but the Chicago offense is a work in progress and Rodgers is playing at an exceptionally high level. The model indicates the over might be a play because the Green Bay secondary is banged up, but I don’t know that Chicago’s offense is built to exploit that and will pass on the over. I’ll put two units on Green Bay at -4.5.
Dallas Cowboys at New England Patriots (DAL -3.5, Total 51.5)
Model Projection: Dallas 27.18 – New England 19.52 (DAL -7.66, Total 46.7)
BET: DAL -3.5, 4 units
This game sat at Dallas -1.5 entering the weekend. By Monday morning, it was Dallas -4, though that has come back to -3.5 as the week has progressed. The market may be drifting back toward New England, but this matchup makes my Games of the Weekend column because of the possibility that this weekend is the definitive end of the Patriots Era.
New England would have been in considerably better shape against Houston had running back Damien Harris not fumbled into the endzone, but regardless of last week’s game, it’s evident that this team lacks the talent to be a legitimate NFL title contender, and after this offseason’s massive spending spree, it’s hard to say where head coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots go from here.
Rookie Mac Jones is a nice quarterback prospect, but anyone who thinks he has any chance of surpassing Josh Allen as the best quarterback in this division or joining Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert, and Lamar Jackson at the top of the AFC’s pecking order has a wildly optimistic view of Jones’ potential. His modest physical skillset demands that he be surrounded with talent, but Jones is currently protected by an offensive line that has failed to meet expectations, has a run game that has disappeared for long stretches, and has receiver Jakobi Meyers as his top target, despite the draft pedigree and contract numbers of other skill players on the roster. It’s far from ideal; more than anything, this offense is slow, and that could be a problem against a Dallas defense filled with players who can run.
New England’s defense is solid, but even the NFL’s best defenses aren’t going to slow down quarterback Dak Prescott and the Dallas offense with the way they are clicking right now. Dallas offensive coordinator Kellen Moore’s creativity continues to shine through as this exceptionally talented unit dismantles opponents, with his latest wrinkle coming on a fake toss to Ezekiel Elliott that turned into a swing pass to Elliott for a touchdown. Whether it’s on the ground or through the air, Dallas should put up points this week, and the Patriots lack the offensive talent to keep up against a talented Dallas defense. Patriots fans can only hope that Jones doesn’t throw the ball anywhere near Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs, or this game could get out of hand early. The weather forecast indicates a 0% chance of precipitation, so the weather shouldn’t stop the Dallas offense.
Dallas and New England are not on the same level and the model indicates that the Cowboys are significantly undervalued even after the shift to -3.5. I’ll take Dallas at -3.5 for 4 units.
This article previewed four prominent NFL matchups for the coming week and talked about how to bet them. For more content from The Professor, including the rest of his game previews and his fantasy content, check out The Professor on BeerLife Sports!