10-14-2012, 10:53 AM
Week 6 is about the time that teams start to look like who they really are, unless they're the New York Giants. This week features an interesting slate of games, a few big-time battles, and a couple of snoozers that may leave you looking for that honey-do list. In lieu of won-loss records, numbers in parentheses are opponent-adjusted rankings from Football Outsiders for offense/defense/special teams. Oakland Raiders (15/30/29) at Atlanta Falcons (7/10/8) There's no question that the Falcons should be able to move the ball with their high-octane offense, especially against a Raiders defense that appears to be overmatched against advanced passing games and receivers who can consistently get separation after first contact. But the real story with the 5-0 Falcons is Mike Nolan's defense. Atlanta used to be pretty predictable on that side of the ball, but Carson Palmer will see a lot of stuff pre-snap that won't come true after he gets the ball. The Falcons' secondary is benefiting from the new-look schemes in particular, and this one could get ugly in a hurry for the Raiders. Pick: Falcons 35, Raiders 12 Cincinnati Bengals (16/28/7) at Cleveland Browns (25/22/9) The Bengals have a ravenous front four, led by criminally underrated defensive tackle Geno Atkins. Their issues on defense are in the secondary, and that could be troublesome against a Browns offense that throws the ball a lot, if not always effectively. The best available strategy for the Browns in this case might be to run the ball with Trent Richardson down the throats of Cincinnati's defense just enough to open up play action and keep those pass rushers honest, but it's not clear that Cleveland's coaching staff does by the book at all. In the end, the improving rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden should make enough plays to break a Browns losing streak that goes back 11 games, if you count the 2011 season. Pick: Browns 17, Bengals 13 St. Louis Rams (28/8/10) at Miami Dolphins (19/5/18) One underrated aspect of the Dolphins' structure should show up pretty well in this game -- a great defense that will affect Sam Bradford's ability to stay poised in the pocket and make consistent downfield throws to an ever-decreasing group of targets. Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill has improved week by week and is impressing a lot of NFL insiders with his pocket presence and downfield arm, but a killer Rams defensive line led by ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn will test Tannehill's consistency. Add in St. Louis' opportunistic secondary, and the Rams would seem to have a slight edge ... but Bradford has to transcend the troubles around him. This is not the best week to do that. Rookie kicker Greg "The Leg" Zuerlein will be very busy today. Pick: Dolphins 23, Rams 15 Indianapolis Colts (13/25/26) at New York Jets (31/18/1) Among the many things that have people in the league buzzing about Andrew Luck, perhaps the most impressive is the rookie's consistent ability to throw under pressure as well as he does. That doesn't mean that he WILL be pressured in this game; the Jets aren't getting after the quarterback at all, and Rex Ryan's defense is unusually porous against the run (Vick Ballard dynasty owners, take note). The quarterback debacle lies with the other team, of course, and the oft-maligned Mark Sanchez was done dirty by his own coaching staff on Monday night against the Houston Texans. Sanchez played well, making several shot plays when needed,* but Tony Sparano's insistence on turning his offense into a Looney Tunes cartoon affected the curve. The Colts don't have a great defense, but there are times when the people best stopping the Jets' offense are the guys running it. Pick: Colts 24, Jets 17 Detroit Lions (6/20/32) at Philadelphia Eagles (24/6/28) Michael Vick has been carrying a football around the Eagles' facility all week to try and cure his fumbling issues. Lions head coach Jim Schwartz listened to a heavy diet of Philly butt-rock this morning, per his Twitter account. So, both teams have the silly under control. In the actual game, the main thing to watch is how the Eagles' defense, which has no sacks in its last two games, contends with the ever-more-mobile Calvin Johnson. As Greg Cosell told us in this week's matchup podcast, Megatron has lined up all around the formation, and in the slot on about half his targets. Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo has been criticized for his use of elite cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, but moving his best defensive player around might actually make sense in this case. And the Eagles should be able to pin their ears back against quarterback Matthew Stafford, given the Lions' almost complete lack of a run game. Pick: Eagles 33, Lions 20 Dallas Cowboys (23/13/27) at Baltimore Ravens (10/15/13) This may be the first time in franchise history that the Ravens are defined by their offense. That's a credit to offensive coordinator Cam Cameron for discovering the existence of the third receiver, but it should also breed concern about a Ravens defense that has not performed up to historical expectations. Problem is, Dallas' offense has been about as inconsistent as any unit in the league, and taking their defense on the road against Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, and Torrey smith could be a real headache. Pick: Ravens 27, Cowboys 13 Kansas City Chiefs (30/23/23) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (26/14/21) Brady Quinn, Starting Quarterback. That's all you need to know about the Chiefs these days.