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Phinsider Week 6 Game Previews and Predictions

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Welcome to another edition of Justin Hier’s weekly game previews and predictions!

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Miami Dolphins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

It’s now week 6 of the NFL season and the great teams have begun separating themselves from the pack. This season, some of the same old faces remain at the top of the heap, including the Aaron Rodgers led Green Bay Packers and perennial AFC contender Kansas City Chiefs. However, there are some newcomers as well. The Philadelphia Eagles, who seem to be finally putting their pieces together, are making a run at the NFC East crown, a job that seems easier than some would have though going into the season with Eli Manning’s squad down for the count. Who will continue to climb the ranks this week?

Each week of the NFL season, I’ll be giving you a sneak peak of the action ahead, as well as my own forecast for the outcome of each contest. Feel free to leave your own predictions and opinions in the comments below!

Week 5 prediction record: 8-6

2017 season prediction record: 48-29

Thursday

Philadelphia Eagles (4-1) at Carolina Panthers (4-1) - 8:25 PM ET on CBS/NFLN

What a matchup to start the week! The Eagles and Panthers are both teams on the rise, although for wildly different reasons. Carson Wentz’s offense is riding high, ranked third in the NFL, while for Carolina, it’s Luke Kuechly and the Panthers’ third ranked defense that’s getting the job done. It’s one teams’ strength that’s the other teams’ weakness, as the Eagles’ defense and Panthers’ offense are respectively ranked in the bottom half of the league. This game is shaping up to be a true toss up, but I’m going with the birds here. Wentz has been hot as of late, and I believe he’ll continue to shine en route to an Eagles victory.

Score prediction: Philadelphia 24 - Carolina 17

Sunday

Chicago Bears (1-4) at Baltimore Ravens (3-2) - 1:00 PM ET on FOX

Mitch Trubisky gave it the ol’ college try in his debut last week, but unfortunately, he looked more like a college quarterback than an NFL ready passer against a tough Vikings defense. This week won’t be any easier, as the Ravens’ imposing front will be ready and waiting when the young rookie shows up in Baltimore.

What does Trubisky have on his side coming into this contest? The league’s sixth ranked defense. Chicago’s front seven has been impressive through five weeks and will look to continue their dominant stretch against a Baltimore offense that has been less than stellar. Expect this contest to be a defensive grudge match, but I have the former UNC Tar Heel waiting another week for his first professional victory.

Score prediction: Baltimore 13 - Chicago 10

Cleveland Browns (0-5) at Houston Texans (2-3) - 1:00 PM ET on CBS

Surprise, surprise. The Browns have made a change at the quarterback position. This team launched a full scale rebuild, one that included spending massive amounts of money to fortify their offensive line and construct a quarterback friendly system, and still they can’t seem to get this position right. Hopefully, second round draft pick DeShone Kizer takes advantage of his time on the sideline to refresh and prepare for a shot at starting his career on a new foot whenever Cleveland’s brass is ready to give him a second chance. Until then, Browns fans better get ready for the Kevin Hogan show. It starts this week in Houston, where a tough defense, albeit one without J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus, awaits.

Score prediction: Houston 28 - Cleveland 13

Green Bay Packers (4-1) at Minnesota Vikings (3-2) - 1:00 PM ET on FOX

Aaron Rodgers is a wizard. That’s right. This man is magical. Anyone watching the Green Bay-Dallas game last week knew that Dak Prescott left too much time on the clock when he scampered into the end zone with 1:13 remaining the fourth quarter. Rodgers was going to drive down the field and score, no doubt about it. Watching the living legend play is truly a blessing for football lovers everywhere.

Case Keenum, on the other hand, is not quite on the same level as Mr. Discount Double-Check. It appears the backup QB will be filling in once again for the injured Sam Bradford. It’s a real shame that Bradford’s knee isn’t holding up. He seemed to be really clicking with an improved Vikings offense. The real drama will begin soon though, as Teddy Bridgewater appears close to being healthy enough to suit up. What if Bradford and Bridgewater are healthy at the same time? Who’s going to start then?

Score prediction: Green Bay 30 - Minnesota 20

Detroit Lions (3-2) at New Orleans Saints (2-2) - 1:00 PM ET on FOX

The Lions took a tough loss to the Carolina Panthers last week, one in which Matthew Stafford almost pulled off one of his signature comebacks. Unfortunately, last season’s luck didn’t follow the league’s highest paid player into 2017, but facing a porous Saints defense might be just what Jim Caldwell’s group needs to get back on track.

The Saints are coming off of an early bye, just before which they smacked the Dolphins in London. Both NFC outfits look like legitimate wildcard contenders as long as their franchise quarterbacks play up to par, but in this bout, I’ll take Stafford and his Lions. The squad in Honolulu blue has the better defense, a unit that will be vital to holding Drew Brees and Mark Ingram to field goals.

Score prediction: Detroit 24 - New Orleans 19

Miami Dolphins (2-2) at Atlanta Falcons (3-1) - 1:00 PM ET on CBS

What to make of the Miami Dolphins? This is a team that so many thought would have one of the most exciting offenses in the league going into the season, even with Jay Cutler running the show. Those optimists were clearly wrong, but that doesn’t mean the offense won’t eventually find some rhythm. On the other side of the ball, the defense has surprised fans and analysts as well, albeit for more positive reasons. Matt Burke’s unit is ranked eighth in total defense and fourth in run defense after falling to twenty-ninth and thirtieth in those respective categories in 2016.

Still, that won’t be enough to stop the explosive Atlanta Falcons. If the Dolphins want to have any chance in this game, the offense will need to carry some of the weight, and they just haven’t done enough to prove that they can do so.

Score prediction: Atlanta 26 - Miami 14

New England Patriots (3-2) at New York Jets (3-2) - 1:00 PM ET on CBS

The Patriots are ranked dead last in total defense thus far this season, but in total offense, they’re ranked number one. As long as Tom Brady is quarterbacking this team, New England will be a true threat to score on each and every drive. Bill Belichick’s team may not be as much of a lock to reach the Super Bowl as was expected a few weeks ago, but they are a contender none the less.

The Jets, on the other hand, have a record that very much skews how the state of the team should be viewed. New York is ranked twenty-sixth in total offense and twenty-fifth in total defense. Josh McCown and Co. will not win many more games this season, and certainly not this Sunday.

Score prediction: New England 31 - New York 17

San Francisco 49ers (0-5) at Washington Redskins (2-2) - 1:00 PM ET on FOX

Football fun fact: These two teams have played each other three times in the past six years, and the 49ers won all three contests. I don’t expect the outcome to be as favorable for San Francisco this time around.

The Redskins are a very well rounded football team. They are ranked in the top ten in both total offense and defense with a balanced running game, a strong offensive line, and a defense that doesn’t get pushed over easily. The 49ers are everything but. They sit in the bottom ten of the league in both total offense and defense and don’t have the type of offensive line that can give Brian Hoyer any time in the pocket. Their defense is in a state of rebuild, and I expect Cousins to have an easy time picking it apart.

Score prediction: Washington 24 - San Francisco 13

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-2) at Arizona Cardinals (2-3) - 4:05 PM ET on FOX

The Buccaneers were trendy favorites to make a run at the playoffs for the first time since 2007. So far, they haven’t put the type of defensive product on the field to prove they are capable of reaching the postseason. What does show some promise, however, is the state of their passing game. Jameis Winston has led the way to a third ranked aerial attack, although that type of production may be more a product of the fact that the Bucs can’t run the ball. Tampa Bay has the league’s twenty-seventh ranked rushing attack.

The Cardinals haven’t been any better, as they post the worst rushing attack in the league. But hey, maybe having Adrian Peterson around will change that. He should be the most intriguing aspect of this contest, with a Mike Evans v Patrick Peterson matchup not far behind.

Score prediction: Arizona 23 - Tampa Bay 21

Los Angeles Rams (3-2) at Jacksonville Jaguars (3-2) - 4:05 PM ET on FOX

The Rams and Jaguars are two teams that have far exceeded offseason expectations. The Jaguars defense seems to have finally come together, culminating in a five-interception performance against Big Ben and the Pittsburgh Steelers last week. Now they’ll face Jared Goff’s revitalized Rams. What makes this matchup so interesting is the up and down nature of these two teams. The Rams offense had been firing on all cylinders before running into a brick wall against the Seattle Seahawks, while the Jaguars defense has shut down the Steelers, Ravens, and Texans, while yielding 60 combined points to the Jets and Titans.

Which version of these two teams will show up this weekend? I see the Jaguars defense continuing their dominant run, while the Rams will continue to sputter.

Score prediction: Jacksonville 20 - Los Angeles 17

Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2) at Kansas City Chiefs (5-0) - 4:25 PM ET on CBS

What happened to Pittsburgh’s explosive offense? This was supposed to be the year. Finally, Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, and Martavis Bryant were all going to be on the field at the same time, but combining this group of talented playmakers hasn’t manifested itself into the point churning offense that we expected. Pittsburgh’s offense has been wildly inefficient, and is currently sitting in the bottom half of the league. Mike Tomlin’s squad is just barely getting by on the back of their fourth ranked defense, but Big Ben needs to start putting up big numbers if he wants a shot at bringing the Steel City another Lombardi Trophy.

Meanwhile, things aren’t going to get any easier traveling to Arrowhead Stadium. The rest of the NFL has yet to figure out the formula for stopping Alex Smith, Kareem Hunt, and Travis Kelce. Kelce’s status is up in the air for this contest, but Smith has so many other weapons at hand, and Andy Reid is among the best at game-planning with whatever is at his disposal. I have the Chiefs staying undefeated.

Score prediction: Kansas City 28 - Pittsburgh 20

Los Angeles Charges (1-4) at Oakland Raiders (2-3) - 4:25 PM ET on CBS

The Chargers saved themselves from giving up on the season with victory over the winless Giants last week, while E.J. Manuel failed to fill in adequately for an injured Derek Carr against the Baltimore Ravens. Luckily for the Raiders, head coach Jack Del Rio believes Carr has a good shot at returning this week. Oakland relies on their young gunslinger to move the offense, as he’s quickly developed into one of the league’s better passers. With Carr back under center, maybe Amari Cooper can finally turn around his worst season to date. In a tough AFC West, both teams really need to secure a win in order to keep their respective seasons alive.

Score prediction: Oakland 26 - Los Angeles 21

New York Giants (0-5) at Denver Broncos (3-1) - 8:30 PM ET on NBC

Giants fans have had it rough this season. After starting the year watching one of the most anemic offenses in the league, Big Blue had to suffer through the image of Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall enduring season ending injuries. On top of that, Eli Manning and Co. are traveling to Mile High Stadium to take on the league’s top ranked defense, a task that they are less than prepared for. I have this game pegged as the easiest to call. If the Giants pulled off a win, I’d be utterly shocked.

Score prediction: Denver 27 - New York 10

Monday

Indianapolis Colts (2-3) at Tennessee Titans (2-3) - 8:30 PM ET on ESPN

Marcus Mariota’s availability will have a massive impact on the course of this contest. As evidenced by Tennessee’s inability to move the ball in Miami last Sunday, Matt Cassel simply doesn’t pose a real threat to defenses. Right now, Mariota is hoping to play, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see another game time decision come Monday night. Regardless of Mariota’s status though, I think the Titans can pull out a victory by grinding the Colts defense down with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry.

Score prediction: Tennessee 19 - Indianapolis 13