By Mike Crum
Dallas Cowboys Team Analyst and Co-Host of the Across The Cowboys Podcast
Another average set of picks at only 8-6 in week five. And to be honest, I'm not in love with this week's slate, but I am 48-28 overall and that is acceptable. Let’s try for a big week six.
Denver Broncos (DEN) at New England Patriots (NE)
Cam Newton should be back, Bill Belichick had an extra week to prepare because of a COVID-related schedule switch, and he always does a great job vs young QBs. Whether it's Drew Lock or Brett Rypien under center for Denver, they're in for a very long night. The Patriots get the W in this one.
Houston Texans (HOU) at Tennessee Titans (TEN)
Houston did just finally get a win, so they are 1-0 under new leadership, but that win came against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Titans just blew the doors off an undefeated Buffalo Bills team. I just don’t think Deshaun Watson can overcome how much better the Titans are compared to the Texans. Statistically speaking, Ryan Tannehill has outperformed even Patrick Mahomes this year. There’s a reason the Titans are undefeated and the Texans only have one win. Watson will make it closer than it seems, but the Titans will win.
Cleveland Browns (CLE) at Pittsburgh Steelers (PIT)
What a battle this should be. The Browns are loaded and are playing great football. People can’t use their opponents not being great competition against them anymore now that they beat a really good Indianapolis Colts team. However, they are walking into the stadium of an equally hot Steelers team who are second in the league against the run. This is another close call, but for the third straight week I’m going against the Browns. They’ve already made me eat my words twice, but I like the Steelers at home. I believe in Ben Roethlisberger’s ability to score on Cleveland's defense more than I do Baker Mayfield's to score on Pittsburgh. Also, Pittsburgh should be able to slow down the Browns strength - running the ball - thus making Baker's arm the focal point of this game. He hasn't exactly been stellar against pressure or in the fourth quarter this year, and that will give Pittsburgh the leg up. I hope this game is as good on the field as it looks on paper. Steelers by three.
Baltimore Ravens (BAL) at Philadelphia Eagles (PHI)
The Eagles almost put it all together last week. The run game hit a big play against a great Steelers run defense. Carson Wentz found a new go-to target in Travis Fulgham. The Eagles pass rush remains lethal. They are only missing some playmakers in the back end of their defense. This matchup is tougher than the record suggests because the Ravens strengths match what the Eagles stop well defensively. The Eagles are more susceptible to good passing attacks than solid rushing offenses. So for me, this game comes down to Wentz, and oh boy has he been awful this season. But if he can somehow manage to get hot again the Eagles could take off in a big way. Asking him to do that against a rock solid Ravens defense feels basically impossible, so I’m thinking it’ll be two more weeks before he really gets going. The Ravens will do enough to hit some big pass plays and I think they'll hold on to a late lead. Baltimore will win, but I don’t think they cover the point spread.
Washington Football Team (WAS) at New York Giants (NYG)
The Giants got just what the doctor ordered by playing the Dallas Cowboys defense. They put up 27 points on offense, and the defense added seven more on their way to a 34-37 loss. Can they carry that offensive momentum into a game versus the Washington Football Team? I can’t know that for sure, but Washington is playing so bad that they may not need to. This could be a game that Daniel Jones gives away, as he is often known to do, but I’m gonna bet he doesn’t. These are two very bad teams who are both coming off losses, but I feel like the Giants did show some improvement. I’m going with Jason Garrett to win another NFC East game.
Atlanta Falcons (ATL) at Minnesota Vikings (MIN)
The Vikings played by far their best game of the season against the Seattle Seahawks last Sunday night and frankly, they should have won that game. They gave Russell Wilson life late though and he ripped out their hearts. The Falcons have been awful. Just like the Vikings last week against Seattle, Atlanta has blown two games (so far) this year and that got their head coach fired. So how do you pick between two teams with no wins? The easy thing to do is go with the home team, but I’m not picking Minnesota just because they are at home. Teams that make coaching changes like the Falcons have, typically don’t win their first game with the new coach. The Texans already pulled that feat off last week, but I’m not gonna pick it to happen again this quickly. The Vikings win (if this game isn't postponed due to COVID-19, of course).
Detroit Lions (DET) at Jacksonville Jaguars (JAX)
This feels like a game the Lions could give away. They are the better team and they had a bye week to prepare and get healthy, but I’m still nervous about picking them. The Jaguars haven’t won a game since they shocked the Colts in week one. They have already lost to other teams with bad records like the Dolphins, the Bengals and the Texans. I hate trusting the Lions here, so I’m not going to. I’m just going to trust the Jaguars even less. Lions, hopefully comfortably.
Cincinnati Bengals (CIN) at Indianapolis Colts (IND)
The Colts were a little short-handed in their loss to the Browns last Sunday. Not having a defensive player the caliber of Darius Leonard is hard to overcome vs an opponent that runs the ball like Cleveland does. Fortunately for them the Bengals aren’t Cleveland. I expect Joe Burrow to make some plays, especially after how they were trounced by the Ravens, but they won’t be able to hold up against this Colts team. Indianapolis is just better. Period. Cincinnati's only chance is if Phillip Rivers gives this game away (as lately he is VERY known to do), but I don’t believe that he will. The Colts win by double digits.
Chicago Bears (CHI) at Carolina Panthers (CAR)
I don’t deserve to pick between these teams. I continue to pick against both of them and they continue to give me an L week after week. Regardless, I still don't trust either of them. Carolina is 3-0 since their star running back was injured. They've won games against the Chargers, Cardinals and Falcons since Christian McCaffrey has been on IR. The Bears haven’t beaten great teams, but last Thursday they did take care of the Buccaneers, so I’m stuck. I think I’m gonna take the Bears because I do believe in their defense. I’m thinking that Chicago’s defense will simply get more stops than Carolina's defense will. And I'll probably be wrong again somehow.
New York Jets (NYJ) at Miami Dolphins (MIA)
The Jets lose another player, the Jets lose another game. The Dolphins will definitely win this one. The only uncertainty is who does the Jets organization cut or trade after week six? hopefully Quentin Williams to the Cowboys.
Green Bay Packers (GB) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (TB)
After the week of scrutiny that Tom Brady has faced for forgetting it was fourth down, I expect him to bounce back and shut people up. I can see Tampa winning this game just on that motivation alone. I’m not going that way though, and the reason is that I hate the matchup of the Buccaneers offensive tackles against the edge rushers from Green Bay. Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith are monsters off the edge and they will affect Brady in the pocket. I think Brady will have a difference-making turnover and that will be why they lose the game. Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay’s offense keeps rolling, and while Tampa should keep up fairly well - especially since both Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are trending towards playing this weekend - a late turnover by Brady will end it.
Los Angeles Rams (LAR) at San Francisco 49ers (SF)
The 49ers are well-coached and they have a lot of talent, but injuries catch up to everyone. After being embarrassed by the Miami Dolphins, the Niners will face a Rams teams that, simply put, is playing better football right now. I typically always pick good teams after they get beat down the way the 49ers did, but I just think they are too beat down by injuries. People will call it a Super Bowl hangover, and that’s fine, but I’m taking the Rams because of San Francisco's injury issues.
Kansas City Chiefs (KC) at Buffalo Bills (BUF)
Both of these teams are very good and both are coming off week five losses. Buffalo got stomped by the Titans, and as I just mentioned in the Rams-Niners breakdown, I typically pick good teams to bounce back after embarrassing losses. This week though, the Bills are running into a juggernaut Chiefs team who are also coming off a shocking loss, and they have the best QB in the league. Buffalo has a banged up defense - especially in the secondary - and has looked poor versus passing attacks. KC will win comfortably by more than one score.
Arizona Cardinals (ARI) at Dallas Cowboys (DAL)
Man, my Cowboys have a horrible defense. They just allowed an offense to score 27 points to a team that only averaged under 12 points per game. Before the Dak Prescott injury I had this as a Cowboys win. The Cardinals offense doesn't have a style, or the players frankly, to attack Dallas' main deficiency on defense - runs up the middle. This should allow the Cowboys to put Arizona in third and long situations more often, and even though my Boys will give up some conversions to Kyler Murray's running and passing, they'll make some stops, too. If Dak were available in this one, the Cowboys could probably just outscore Arizona. Additionally, the schedule favors Dallas as well, as the Cardinals are dealing with having to play their third straight road game, while the Cowboys are about to play their third home game in a row. Adjusting for this scheduling quirk, and, anatomically speaking, with Dak's two feet both facing in the correct direction, I had the Cowboys winning this one.
So how much does that change with Andy Dalton now starting at QB? Weirdly, it hardly changes anything for me. The Cardinals just lost Chandler Jones for the season with a biceps injury. That will dramatically help Dallas' young offensive tackles. Arizona also has no tape on the Dallas version of Dalton. Any film they've watched has been of a Dak-led Cowboys offense, and this will obviously not be the same thing. I think Dalton and the Cowboys will look good on offense, at least for the next two or three weeks while defenses have little tape on Dallas' Dalton-helmed offense. I think this is an upset now, but I’m taking Dallas.
Okay y'all, those are the picks. Am I crazy for picking the Cowboys with that defense and no Dak? Any other games you guys disagree with? Let me know.
Enjoy your football Sunday!
Week Six Pick Summary:
NE over DEN
TEN over HOU
PIT over CLE
BAL over PHI
NYG over WAS
MIN over ATL
DET over JAX
IND over CIN
CHI over CAR
MIA over JETS
GB over TB
LAR over SF
KC over BUF
DAL over ARI
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