Just have time for a quick look at some of the big AFC matchups in Week 6.
Chiefs at Patriots (-3)
The Chiefs were already involved in the Game of the Year last week, and used a Blake Bortles pick parade to march towards an easy win. Here they are again in a more legitimate Game of the Year, because it’s Sunday night in New England. With any luck, the Chiefs will have three more Game of the Year events, including a November matchup with the Rams, a potential rematch (JAX/NE) in the AFC Championship Game, and a potential rematch (Rams) in Super Bowl 53.
But before we talk about any Super Bowl with this team, beating New England at least once is crucial to that. Winning on Sunday night would go a long way in making sure a rematch happens at Arrowhead. The Chiefs could then finish 12-4 and the Patriots would have to win out (10-0) to guarantee a playoff seed above KC. That doesn’t look plausible with this roster in a season where few teams are standing out, but you can get a good fight almost any week.
If the game was in Arrowhead — past playoff disasters aside — I think the Chiefs would be an easy pick to win this week. But it’s at Gillette Stadium where you virtually can’t lose the turnover battle, can’t fall behind by 7+ points, and can’t allow 27+ points if you expect to win. Then again, the Chiefs did ALL of those things on opening night in 2017 and still won 42-27 behind big nights for Alex Smith and Kareem Hunt. Now the offense looks even more loaded with Patrick Mahomes taking over and the addition of Sammy Watkins to the wide receivers.
But I’m not sure Andy Reid can win with an offense-first mentality two years in a row in NE. That’s generally not the way to beat Tom Brady at home, and unless Mahomes pulls off some 2012 Colin Kaepernick magic in this one (that crazy 2012 SF game), I think this is a game where KC’s defense gets exposed and he has to play from behind too much, leading to mistakes against Bill Belichick’s defense. This is a game where the Chiefs really miss someone like Eric Berry to cover Rob Gronkowski. Not to mention the Patriots have a full arsenal now with a white security blanket for Brady (Julian Edelman), a receiving back (James White), and a freak athlete (Josh Gordon). That’s a tough matchup for any defense, let alone one that has struggled as much as the 28th-ranked Chiefs. Justin Houston or Dee Ford will have to have a lights out game off the edge in pressuring Brady, but I just don’t see it this time around.
It also should help that the Patriots had a few extra days to prepare for this one after playing last Thursday.
Final: Patriots 34, Chiefs 24
Steelers at Bengals (-1)
Games rarely get much bigger in Cincinnati than this one as it’s a chance for the Bengals to move to 5-1 and give themselves some nice distance over the rest of the AFC North. However, Marvin Lewis is 2-13 at home against Pittsburgh. It’s one of the crazier stats in NFL history, but it’s legit, and a lot of it can be seen in Ben Roethlisberger’s splits in those games. He’s thrown multiple interceptions six times against the Bengals in 30 games, but all six of those games happened at Heinz Field, including some of the worst passing performances of his career (2006, 2012, 2015).
Roethlisberger is 23-2 when his passer rating is at least 75.0 against the Bengals, so it usually takes a poor day from him for the Bengals to win. Cincinnati usually does well against Antonio Brown, but JuJu Smith-Schuster actually has 77 more yards on 13 fewer targets than Brown this season. While Roethlisberger threw two touchdowns to Brown last week, I think he’d be best advised to not force the ball there this week.
Pittsburgh’s defense had been struggling this year, but last week against a very good Atlanta offense it showed some promise. They held the Falcons to 17 points, didn’t let Julio Jones catch a pass until the 3rd quarter, and also got a fumble return TD. The pass rush has been generally good this year, and that will be key to get after Andy Dalton. When the pass rush doesn’t get there, this secondary can look as bad as any in the league. The Bengals also are getting a big third-year boost from Tyler Boyd, who has as many targets as A.J. Green and only trails him by 16 receiving yards. They did lose Tyler Eifert at tight end again, but Boyd is looking like a legit No. 2 option. They need it with receiving back Giovani Bernard out until November.
These teams definitely hate each other, so I wouldn’t dismiss the possibility of several 15-yard flags. That could be bad news for an undisciplined Pittsburgh team that has racked up penalties this season. I understand why the Bengals are a slight 1-point favorite, but I basically don’t know of an NFL universe where Cincinnati wins games like this, so I still lean towards the Steelers pulling off the win. The Bengals have been living on the edge all year and have three fourth-quarter comebacks already to get to 4-1.
Final: Steelers 26, Bengals 23
NFL Week 6 Predictions
I had the Eagles beating the Giants on TNF, and I also thought it’d be a better game than that.
I think the spreads are too high for the Vikings and Texans here. Arizona has been more competitive since benching Sam Bradford, and neither the Vikings nor Texans (two OT wins by 3 points) have beat anyone by double-digits this season. Of course I can be wrong here (see below), but this has been a bad season for double-digit favorites covering and I think that continues here. I don’t however think we see a straight-up loss by any of the four teams favored by a touchdown or more.