I can't say I expected the Cincinnati Bengals to beat the Patriots, even though I posited as much in my season game-by-game predictions. But much the way I humor myself that the Seattle Seahawks are somehow one of the top two teams in the NFL, when they're clearly not, the Patriots' mystique is becoming more and more questionable, especially down this stretch of top-tier games. I think that's reflected here.
Here are my Week 6 picks.
Giants (+7.5) at Bears (-7.5) -- The Giants lead the NFL with a whopping 20 giveaways (13 interceptions, 7 fumbles) through five games.
My pick: Bears
Packers (-2.5) at Ravens (+2.5) -- The Ravens are 2-0 at home, and the Packers, unfortunately, are without All-Pro linebacker Clay Matthews (broken thumb).
My pick: Ravens
Bengals (-7) at Bills (+7) -- I'm not the only one that was impressed with the Bengals after their win over the Patriots. Quarterback Andy Dalton made some sure-fire throws and A.J. Green is as good as advertised. It helps that the Bills won't have starting quarterback E.J. Manuel (sprained knee).
My pick: Bengals
Lions (-2.5) at Browns (+2.5) -- No more Brian Hoyer (torn knee ligament), no more Cleveland Browns magic.
My pick: Lions
Rams (+7.5) at Texans (-7.5) -- Matt Schaub is still the quarterback for the Texans, meaning to say that the Rams may get the benefit of a defensive touchdown. But the Texans, with a strong group of receivers and running backs, and one of the best defenses in the NFL (third in yards allowed), is still head over heels better than St. Louis.
My pick: Texans
Raiders (+9) at Chiefs (-9) -- Kansas City has "it" right now. The Raiders, who shockingly shut out the Chargers for an entire half Monday night, struggle with the sort of consistency week to week that the Chiefs have exemplified.
My pick: Chiefs
Panthers (+2.5) at Vikings (-2.5) -- I've given up thinking that Cam Newton and Steve Smith are difference-makers for this Panthers offense. Carolina is putting up 18.6 points per game, 27th in the league, and is totaling 329.0 yards per game, good for 24th. That doesn't cut it. Minnesota, for its part, is marginally better. Carolina's tough run defense (92.3 yards per game) will be tested in this one.
My pick: Vikings
Steelers (+2.5) at Jets (-2.5) -- It's bad enough the Steelers can't run the ball (or pass the ball), they're now facing the second-best run defense in the league. And for all the Jets' woes on offense from turnovers, they're getting better. Quarterback Geno Smith had no turnovers in his Monday night win over the Falcons.
My pick: Jets
Eagles (-1) at Buccaneers (+1) -- The Buccaneers have the second-worst offense in the NFL, scoring 11.0 points per game and gaining 274.8 yards. While the Eagles are far from consistent, the Bucs are far from good.
My pick: Eagles
Jaguars (+27) at Broncos (-27) -- This is possibly the record for a spread, opening at 28 points before shaving a point. Why not be a part of history?
My pick: Broncos
Titans (+13.5) at Seahawks (-13.5) -- Unlike the Broncos-Jaguars game, this spread is ridiculous. Expect the Seahawks to win and the Titans to cover.
My pick: Titans
Saints (+2.5) at Patriots (-2.5) -- This may come down to another defensive effort, but it won't be the Patriots' defense that fans in New England should be concerned about. The Saints hold opponents to 14.6 points per game, fourth best in the NFL, and have a passing defense that holds opponents to 221.8 yards per game, good for 12th in the league. Rob Ryan, the defensive coordinator for the Saints and former Patriots linebacker coach, has certainly made a difference here. With the Patriots offense struggling (19.0 points per game, 227.0 pass yards per game), it's hard to see them coming out winners here, even at home.
My pick: Saints
Cardinals (+11) at 49ers (-11) -- The Cardinals (3-2) are the captains of inconsistency, surprising us last week against the Panthers with a 22-6 win. They still have the 30th-ranked offense (306.2 yards per game) and manage only 18.2 points per contest, good for 28th in the league. The 49ers, while they've had their offensive woes, have started to show signs of last year's Super Bowl team despite a spate of injuries.
My pick: 49ers
Washington (+5.5) at Cowboys (-5.5) -- Washington is coming off the bye week and faces an explosive Cowboys offense that is itching for a win after disappointing losses to the Broncos (51-48) and Chargers (30-21). The Cowboys certainly have the motivation here to do well as the pressure mounts on Tony Romo.
My pick: Cowboys
Colts (-1.5) at Chargers (+1.5) -- The Colts have put the league on notice after taking down the 49ers (27-7) and Seahawks (34-28). They have one of the best passing defenses in the league (201.4 yards per game) that will match up well with Philip Rivers and the Chargers.
My pick: Colts
Last week: 6-8