Each week Zac Hirschbeck will look at the betting odds for each NFL game and then share his pick for each matchup. While hopefully it goes without saying, please don’t hold him accountable if you gamble away your retirement savings or child’s college fund based on his picks.
After incorrectly taking the Broncos on Thursday night, Zac’s season-long record stands at 39-37-2.
Here are his thoughts on the rest of the Week 6 games.
Cincinnati Bengals (+7.5) at New England Patriots
Cincinnati’s disappointing start to the season looks set to continue in Week 6. Although the Bengals only have a single player listed on the injury report (tight end Tyler Eifert remains out), Cincinnati has failed to match the success it had in 2015. Meanwhile, Tom Brady returned in a big way against Cleveland (28 for 40 for 406 yards and three touchdowns) and it’s hard to imagine him slowing down in his first home start of the year. Though it’s tempting to pick the Bengals to cover here due to their performance a season ago, I think a big day from Brady, and an effective game plan to limit A.J. Green will steer the Patriots to a double-digit victory.
Pick: New England (-7.5)
Baltimore Ravens at New York Giants (-3.5)
This matchup features a pair of teams that come into Week 6 on losing streaks. After starting the season with three straight victories, the Ravens have dropped two straight close games to the Raiders and the Redskins. The Giants, who started the season with victories against the Cowboys and Saints, have since lost three straight games to the Redskins, Vikings and Packers. Though I think Baltimore is the better team at this point in the season, I’ll take New York due to the Ravens’ injury issues. Baltimore is set to be without three of its best players in Marshal Yanda, Steve Smith Sr., and C.J. Mosley. Additionally, left tackle Ronnie Stanley is doubtful, right tackle Rick Wagner is questionable, and veteran pass rusher Elvis Dumervil looks set to miss extended time. While the firing of offensive coordinator Marc Trestman may breathe life into Joe Flacco’s offense, it won’t be enough for Baltimore to overcome the absences of so many key contributors.
Pick: New York (-3.5)
Carolina Panthers (-2.5) at New Orleans Saints
Although Cam Newton’s return will provide a notable boost to Carolina’s offense following its poor display with Derek Anderson under center in Week 5, the Panthers secondary will struggle against the Saints. Due to a combination of Josh Norman’s offseason departure, the front office’s decision to cut Bene Benwikere following his struggles against Julio Jones, and injuries to Robert McClain and James Bradberry, Carolina will see rookies Daryl Worley (third-round pick) and Zack Sanchez (fifth-round pick) start at cornerback against the Saints. While it’s difficult to trust New Orleans’ defense against Newton and the returning Jonathan Stewart, I think Drew Brees leads the Saints to a shootout win.
Pick: New Orleans (+2.5)
Pittsburgh Steelers at Miami Dolphins (+7)
The Steelers have one of the best offenses in the NFL, and the Dolphins have one of the worst. With Miami already beginning to bemoan Mario Williams’ lack of interest in playing football, and with Ryan Tannehill continuing to play poorly under first-year head coach Adam Gase’s direction, it’s difficult to see the Dolphins turning their season around this week, or at any point in 2016. In the two games since Le’Veon Bell returned from suspension, the Steelers offense has put up 43 and 31 points. Though injuries to Markus Wheaton and Sammie Coates could weaken Pittsburgh’s receiving options, Ben Roethlisberger should still manage to have a big day in Miami.
Pick: Pittsburgh (-7)
Jacksonville Jaguars (+2) at Chicago Bears
Due to how terrible each team is this is a tough matchup to pick. The home team is looking for their second consecutive win at Soldier Field, and Brian Hoyer has played surprisingly well in Jay Cutler’s absence. However, the Bears have struggled to convert their ability to rack up yards (ninth in the NFL in total yards) into scoring (30th in points per game), and the defense has struggled to pressure opposing quarterbacks and create turnovers. Meanwhile, despite the fact that the Jaguars won their first game in London against the Colts in Week 4, and then benefitted from the rest afforded by their bye week, Jacksonville is 1-16 on the road in their last 17 games. That kind of history, and a continued disbelief in Blake Bortles as a legitimate quarterback, leads me to side with the Bears.
Pick: Chicago (-2)
San Francisco 49ers at Buffalo Bills (-8)
On paper, the Bills should win comfortably against San Francisco. Buffalo’s defense has played well in four out of the season’s five weeks, and the offense has become far more efficient since Anthony Lynn replaced Greg Roman at offensive coordinator. On the other side, the 49ers have lost four straight games and have one of the least talented rosters in the league. However, 49ers head coach Chip Kelly’s decision to replace Blaine Gabbert with Colin Kaepernick gives me hesitation when picking this game. Although Kaepernick has struggled since Jim Harbaugh and Roman left San Francisco two years ago, the 28-year-old’s mobility would seem to make him an ideal fit for Kelly’s fast-paced offense. While I think the Bills will lean on LeSean McCoy against San Francisco’s 31st ranked run defense and ultimately win, the presence of Kaepernick worries me a bit. I think the Bills win, but San Francisco will keep things close.
Pick: San Francisco (+8)
Los Angeles Rams (+3) at Detroit Lions
In another matchup that pits two unimpressive teams against one another, I like the home team a little bit more in this one. Although the Lions have several key contributors (Eric Ebron, DeAndre Levy, Haloti Ngata, Theo Riddick) set to miss out on Sunday, Matthew Stafford should have success against an equally banged up Rams defense. Los Angeles could be without three of its four starting defensive linemen (Michael Brockers, William Hayes, and Robert Quinn are all questionable) for the second consecutive week, and top cornerback Trumaine Johnson will be out due to an ankle injury. I think Stafford and the Lions take care of the ball and manage to make a few more plays than Los Angeles’ pitiful offensive unit.
Pick: Detroit (-3)
Cleveland Browns at Tennessee Titans (-7.5)
This line seems far too generous to the hosts. Although the Titans may now be the favorites to finish atop the lowly AFC South, it’s difficult to believe that they deserve this much favoritism in Week 6. Despite their 0-5 record, the Browns have been very competitive in three out of the five games they’ve played. With Hue Jackson’s preferred option at quarterback (Cody Kessler) returning to the lineup after leaving Week 5 with an injury, the Browns should keep things close against Tennessee. While the Titans defense and running game should ultimately have them win, I like the Browns to cover.
Pick: Cleveland (+7.5)
Philadelphia Eagles (-3) at Washington Redskins
Despite losing their first game of the season last week against the Lions, I’m still a believer in the Eagles. Philadelphia head coach Doug Pederson has designed an effective offense that has maximized the talents of rookie quarterback Carson Wentz, and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has done an outstanding job in molding the Eagles defense into one of the league’s best units. Meanwhile, despite Washington’s three-game winning streak, I struggle to believe that the recent string of victories is indicative of a second straight playoff appearance for the Redskins in 2016. Jay Gruden certainly deserves credit for designing an offense that consistently gets the ball to Washington’s offensive playmakers in spite of Kirk Cousins’ limitations. However, I think Washington’s offense struggles against Schwartz and the Eagles in this matchup.
Pick: Philadelphia (-3)
Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders (+1.5)
Despite sitting atop the AFC West at 4-1 heading into Sunday, the Raiders are home underdogs to the visiting Chiefs. Surely I can understand that belief in the Chiefs to some extent. Kansas City head coach Andy Reid is historically successful coming off the bye week, and the Chiefs are rested and healthy coming into this matchup. Likewise, the fact that the Raiders have won their four games by a combined 12 points is a little concerning. However, I believe in Oakland’s offense. Though running back Latavius Murray was ruled out for a second straight week due to a toe injury, the Raiders have a collection of playmakers surrounding third-year quarterback Derek Carr that should enable Oakland to put up points against any defense. Although the Chiefs will limit their mistakes and force the young Raiders to beat them, I think Oakland will prove up to the task.
Pick: Oakland (+1.5)
Atlanta Falcons (+6.5) at Seattle Seahawks
In an intriguing matchup that pits the league’s best offense through five weeks against one of the league’s more dominant defenses over the last few few years, I’m going to side with the Seahawks ‘D’ in this one. Matt Ryan has had an incredible start to the season, and I’m certainly guilty of not believing in his performance as much as I should have. When you lead the league in points (35.0), total yards per game (457.4), and passing yards per game (333.4) five weeks into the season, it’s unfair to say that the Falcons production on offense has been an aberration. With that said, I think those numbers will come down a bit in Week 6. The Seahawks’ decision to shadow Julio Jones with Richard Sherman is a smart one, and Seattle’s pass rush should cause problems for Atlanta’s suspect offensive line. On the other side of the ball, the Falcons defense has struggled, and a week of rest for Russell Wilson should find Seattle’s quarterback prepared for a big day.
Pick: Seattle (+6.5)
Dallas Cowboys at Green Bay Packers (-4.5)
I can’t bring myself to bet on the Packers again at any point in the near future. After seeing Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense continues to underachieve in Week 5, I would be legitimately worried about my team if I were a Packers fan. Although you can’t help but wonder if a big, bounce-back day from Rodgers is right around the corner due to his immense talent, I think Green Bay is in for a rude awakening against Dallas. The Cowboys have ripped off four consecutive victories after their Week 1 loss to the Giants, and they’ve done so on the strength of their offensive rookies. Quarterback Dak Prescott has been remarkably efficient (69.0 completion percentage) and he has yet to throw an interception in 155 attempts. Running back Ezekiel Elliott has had an even more impressive start to the season as he leads all NFL rushers with 546 rushing yards through five weeks. That two-headed rookie monster should continue to thrive behind the best offensive line in football, and I think Dallas wins in Green Bay on Sunday afternoon.
Pick: Dallas (+4.5)
Indianapolis Colts (+3) at Houston Texans
In yet another thoroughly underwhelming primetime matchup, I like the Texans to defeat their visiting AFC South foe. While Houston certainly has to be worried about Brock Osweiler’s lackluster performance thus far in 2016, the Texans have capable talent around him that should allow him to succeed against subpar defenses such as Indianapolis’. On the other side of the ball, Andrew Luck continues to play well despite constantly taking hits from opposing defenses. Despite being sacked a league-high 20 times for a league-leading 126 yards, Luck still ranks among the top five in completions, attempts, yards, and touchdown passes. Though Luck’s efforts in the face of pressure (and incompetent coaching and management) are admirable, they’ll continue to be wasted in Week 6.
Pick: Houston (-3)
New York Jets at Arizona Cardinals (-7.5)
The Jets are reeling as they enter Week 6. While New York’s demise shouldn’t come entirely as a surprise due to Ryan Fitzpatrick’s career year in 2015 and their impossibly tough schedule this season, three straight double-digit losses are a tough pill to swallow regardless of the quality of their opponents. Unfortunately for New York, things don’t seem likely to get better this week. While the Cardinals have had struggles of their own in 2016, Arizona still possesses a very talented team. With Carson Palmer returning following a one-game absence, I think Arizona wins comfortably to further extend the Jets’ miserable start to the season.
Pick: Arizona (-7.5)