Week 6 of the 2020 season kicks off amid plenty of upheaval after Week 5. Dak Prescott's season is done after a gruesome ankle injury, while the Raiders made a major statement by heading into Arrowhead Stadium and knocking the Chiefs from the ranks of the unbeatens. The Steelers stayed perfect, and in the process, Chase Claypool vaulted himself into the early Offensive Rookie of the Year discussion. The Seahawks shocked the Vikings in the waning seconds, while the Browns further validated themselves with a win over Indianapolis. Injuries appear to have caught up with the reeling 49ers, and the Jets and Giants are the clear front-runners in the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes. Week 6 features several marquee matchups, with the Steelers battling the Browns, the Chiefs taking on the Bills, as well as a showdown between all-time quarterbacks when Aaron Rodgers travels to Tampa to take on Tom Brady and the Buccaneers.
(BYE: Las Vegas, New Orleans, Los Angeles Chargers, Seattle)
Point spreads are from BetOnline.ag, and are current as of 11 a.m. ET Friday.
NOTE: Pick with spread is in bold.
Last Week: 9-5 Season: 40-36-1
TV: CBS Line: Pittsburgh -3.5
What you need to know: The Browns' offense might be impressive, but Baker Mayfield hasn't been the driving force. Mayfield has a passer rating of just 88.6 on the season, and while he's been very good in the first half - particularly the second quarter, where he has seven touchdowns, no interceptions and a 124.3 passer rating - he has been atrocious in the second half. Mayfield has just one touchdown and three interceptions after halftime, and just 231 passing yards. Pittsburgh is 4-0 for the first time since 1979, and the Steelers have rookie Chase Claypool to thank. Claypool became the first wide receiver in NFL history with three receiving touchdowns and a rushing touchdown in the same game, and the Eagles had no answer for his size, speed and physicality. The second-rounder is just four games into his pro career, but he might already be Ben Roethlisberger's favorite target.
On the spot: Browns QB Baker Mayfield . Cleveland's offensive line is dominant. The running game is great. If Mayfield can stay within himself and make plays when called upon within the flow of the offense, the Browns have an excellent chance to win.
Steelers FS Minkah Fitzpatrick: Fitzpatrick has been invisible all season, and still hasn't broken out of his slump. Mayfield likes to take chances down the middle of the field; it's up to Fitzpatrick to make him pay.
The pick: Steelers 34 Browns 30
TV: CBS Line: Tennessee -3.5
What you need to know: Houston got themselves a win to start the post-O'Brien era, and delivered their best overall performance on both sides of the ball. The offense rolled up 486 yards and the defense forced two Jacksonville turnovers. Deshaun Watson's play in particular has been encouraging of late, as his passer ratings for the last three games are 110.7, 110.7 and 109.1. What's more, the Texans have surrendered just four sacks in their last two games, after giving up 13 in the first three. The Titans opted to play the "disrespect" card after throttling Buffalo in a battle of unbeatens. It's not so much that NFL fans at large don't respect the Titans, it's that they don't like them. Tennessee scraped by in their first three games this year, but their win over the Bills was a statement, not only that they are a force to be reckoned with, but that Ryan Tannehill's emergence as one of the league's best quarterbacks is no fluke.
On the spot: Texans WR Brandin Cooks . Cooks is probably the most-qualified candidate to succeed DeAndre Hopkins as Watson's go-to target, and he proved it against Jacksonville, with eight catches for 161 yards and a touchdown. More of the same could mean a surprise win for Houston.
Titans RB Derrick Henry: Henry has topped 100 yards twice already this season, but is averaging just 3.7 yards per carry, down from 5.1 last year. If the Titans are going to maintain their fast start, he has to start channeling his unstoppable 2019 self.
The pick: Titans 31 Texans 30
TV: FOX Line: NO LINE
What you need to know: The Bengals had a chance to build off of Joe Burrow's first win and instead got pasted by Baltimore, 27-3. Almost as troubling as the loss was the fact that Burrow was sacked seven times, bringing his total on the season to a league-high 22. Cincinnati can ill-afford to let their franchise cornerstone continue to get hit this much, so they need to either find a consistent running game, get some quicker throws in the playbook, or both. Otherwise, all of Burrow's potential will be beaten out of him. The Colts lost to the Browns in part because Cleveland was the best, most complete offense they've faced this year, but also because Philip Rivers made the kind of inexplicable mistake that has defined him when things have gone bad. Rivers has just four touchdowns and five interceptions on the season, and his Pro Football Focus grades have been poor the last two weeks. If that's the start of a trend, he could submarine a Colts team that is otherwise solid and has shown resilience despite injuries, and now, positive COVID tests that are threatening this matchup.
On the spot: Bengals G Michael Jordan . Jordan shares a name with an all-time great athlete, but nothing else. Of the four Cincinnati linemen to start every game this season, his pass-blocking grade at Pro Football Focus is the worst, at just 45.3.
Colts QB Philip Rivers: It really is all about Rivers for Indianapolis. If he's able to spread the ball around and play mistake-free football, the Colts are very tough to beat. If not, they're a run-of-the-mill team - or worse.
The pick: Colts 26 Bengals 16
TV: FOX Line: Minnesota -4
What you need to know: Raheem Morris will get the first crack at replacing Dan Quinn, as he was named interim head coach in Atlanta. It's doubtful that Morris will seize the job, however, since defense - his side of the ball - has been the Falcons' problem all season. Still, Atlanta has plenty of talent, and their schedule does set up such that they could make things interesting if Matt Ryan can get on a roll and the defense can stop their nasty habit of collapsing completely. The Vikings played to win against Seattle, but suffered a crushing loss after getting stuffed on fourth-and-one and seeing Russell Wilson drive down the field for the winning score. The Vikings' defense remains a problem, and if they start 1-5, with a trip to Green Bay following their bye week, they could be out of the NFC playoff picture before the season hits its halfway point.
On the spot: Falcons WR Calvin Ridley . If Julio Jones can't go - and the Falcons are able to play, in light of a positive COVID test, Ridley will be Ryan's featured target. Ridley has topped 100 yards in four of five games this season, except for a bizarre outlier against Green Bay, when he didn't catch a single pass.
Vikings DE Yannick Ngakoue: Minnesota's pass rush has picked up after a slow start, notching seven of their 11 total sacks this season in last two weeks. Ngakoue is responsible for three of those, and he could short-circuit Atlanta's offense if he is able to get to the relatively stationary Ryan.
The pick: Falcons 33 Vikings 30
TV: CBS Line: New England -9.5
What you need to know: A game that was supposed to happen in Week 5 goes off now, and judging by Denver player reactions when the game was moved, the Broncos will come out fired up. That probably won't matter, though; Denver has major quarterback problems, and though Drew Lock is back and practicing, it's no guarantee he'll start against New England. If Brett Rypien does...let's just say the Broncos are in trouble. New England's season wasn't massively disrupted by their COVID cases; the Pats were scheduled for a Week 6 bye, which means they only had their schedule altered by a week. More importantly, both Cam Newton and Stephon Gilmore should be back and good to go for this game. The Patriots caught a break when Buffalo was thrashed by Tennessee; a win here and the Patriots will be right back on the Bills' heels.
On the spot: Broncos HC Vic Fangio . Fangio has a tough call to make regarding Lock. The long-term play would be to let Rypien start against New England. That said, Fangio needs wins, so it will likely be tempting for him to play Lock and give himself the best chance at an upset.
Patriots QB Cam Newton: New England's loss to Kansas City showed just how valuable Newton had become in only three games as the starter. A big game by Newton would not just make victory likely for the Patriots, but it would also send a message to the Bills.
The pick: Patriots 31 Broncos 14
TV: FOX Line: New York -2.5
What you need to know: Washington's quarterbacking situation is a total mess; Dwayne Haskins missed practice with an illness, and was the subject of some whispered trade rumors this week, and Kyle Allen will start against the Giants. Benching Haskins is a short-sighted move by Washington; there is no real way to know what he is with less than a season's worth of starts under his belt. The Giants fought valiantly against Dallas, but ultimately came up short, and simply don't have enough talent to compete without Saquon Barkley around. The game against the Cowboys did mark one significant occasion, however: The Giants finally made it to 300 yards of offense in a game, exactly on the number. Daniel Jones, obviously, hasn't been very good, but he's been in a particularly tough situation. What the Giants have to try and prevent is a situation where Jones' struggles become so pronounced that his development is permanently stunted.
On the spot: Washington Football Team RB Antonio Gibson . Gibson has yet to crack 60 yards in a game this season, and Washington's complete absence of anything resembling a ground attack is a big reason for their massive offensive woes.
Giants T Andrew Thomas: Thomas has allowed a team-high four sacks so far this season, and his struggles are not only hindering the team's offensive development, they're putting Jones in physical peril.
The pick: Washington Football Team 20 Giants 16
TV: CBS Line: Baltimore -7.5
What you need to know: The Ravens had nowhere near their "A" game against the Bengals, but it was still enough to cruise to a 27-3 win. The Ravens' rushing attack isn't the overwhelming force of nature it was last season, but one thing that should encourage Baltimore fans is the play of the defense, which is tops in the league in points against, and has allowed more than 20 points just once all season. Carson Wentz seemed to emerge from his slump against the Steelers, so he should provide an interesting test. The Eagles are still very much in the conversation in the putrid NFC East, and their stout run defense should be able to hold up well against Baltimore. Philly was outstanding on third down against the Steelers, but what was most interesting about their near-rally was that Travis Fulgham was at the center of it. Fulgham had 10 catches for 152 yards and a touchdown, and was uncoverable. Whether or not the Ravens choose to sic Marlon Humphrey on Fulgham will be an interesting subplot to this game.
On the spot: Ravens WR Miles Boykin . Boykin is the third-most targeted Ravens pass catcher, but he has the lowest catch percentage of any Baltimore receiver with at least one catch. Baltimore's offense could become much more dangerous if Boykin can emerge as a viable third option.
Eagles T Jack Driscoll: Driscoll will start at right tackle if Lane Johnson can't go, and if he does, he can expect the Ravens to go right at him and try to exploit him from the first play of the game.
The pick: Eagles 30 Ravens 24
TV: FOX Line: Carolina -1.5
What you need to know: The Bears are a somewhat surprising (to me, and others) 4-1 thus far, thanks to Tom Brady not knowing what down it was last Thursday night. Still, Chicago didn't set the world on fire offensively, totaling a paltry 243 total yards. The Bears have a brutal stretch of games against winning teams coming up, and they'll need considerably more from their offense in order to maintain contender status. Carolina has also been a surprise, weathering Christian McCaffrey's absence, and in fact going 3-0 since his injury. Mike Davis, averaging nearly five yards per carry, is a big reason why, as is a defense that has forced six turnovers in those three games. Teddy Bridgewater has continued to play steady, efficient football, and Robby Anderson has emerged as an all-around threat at receiver.
On the spot: Bears QB Nick Foles . Chicago can't keep doing a high-wire act forever. Either Foles gets the offense in gear and clicking, or the Bears are going to start losing games with regularity.
Panthers WR Robby Anderson: Anderson has added plenty of variety and nuance to his game at wide receiver, and he'll need it against a talented Bears secondary that is a major reason for the team's defensive and overall success.
The pick: Panthers 24 Bears 20
TV: FOX Line: Detroit -3
What you need to know: The Lions have a chance to make some hay in their next three games, with Jacksonville, Atlanta and even Indianapolis all representing beatable opponents. Thing is, they'll have to fix their defense to take advantage of that schedule. The frustrating thing about the Lions is their historic inability to protect big leads; Detroit has now lost five straight games in which it led by double-digits, an NFL record. The Jaguars have more and more started to resemble a team that is interested in participating in the Trevor Lawrence Sweepstakes, having given up at least 30 points in four straight games. Jacksonville is still getting solid work from both Gardner Minshew and running back James Robinson, but their leaky defense makes winning tough - which might be the point.
On the spot: Lions QB Matthew Stafford . In a season that has seen league-average quarterback play get even more impressive, with the average passer rating hovering at just under 96, Stafford's 93.8 mark stands out for how pedestrian it is. He still must be the engine for any Detroit turnaround.
Jaguars DE Josh Allen: Allen missed Jacksonville's last game with a knee injury, and the Jaguars desperately need him; they only have five sacks on the season, and Allen is responsible for two of them. If he doesn't play, Stafford will have plenty of time to pick them apart.
The pick: Lions 35 Jaguars 27
TV: CBS Line: Miami -9.5
What you need to know: The Jets are miserable and hopefully, Adam Gase rents and doesn't own. New York cut loose Le'Veon Bell, who was promptly picked up by the Chiefs, and everything about the team seems out of sorts. There isn't a worse offense in the NFL, and there aren't many defenses below New York in the rankings. There's nothing positive to say about this team, but hey, at least there are only *checks notes* 11 more games of this drudgery. Miami actually looks competitive after throttling the 49ers, which means it's time for the annual "can Ryan Fitzpatrick really do this" discussion. The answer, if history is any guide, is "probably not," but that shouldn't stop Miami from getting a win this week and evening its record at 3-3. The sneaky story for the Dolphins is that their defense has been good at preventing points, owing primarily to their eight takeaways, ninth-best in the NFL.
On the spot: Jets T Mekhi Becton . Becton missed the Jets' previous game with a shoulder injury, but should go in this one. There's not much to say about this team, so focusing on Becton's development seems as good an idea as any.
Dolphins DE Emmanuel Ogbah: Ogbah leads the Dolphins with three sacks, and should be able to have a big game against an inept Jets line that has already given up 15 sacks this season.
The pick: Dolphins 24 Jets 20
TV: FOX Line: Green Bay -1
What you need to know: Aaron Rodgers and the high-flying Packers haven't needed much help putting up big points, but they get a big boost this week with Davante Adams' return to the lineup. Adams makes the Packers that much harder to defend, but teams have already had plenty to worry about, particularly tight end Robert Tonyan, who leads the team with five touchdown catches this year. The Buccaneers had a chance to pull out a hard-fought victory over the Bears, until Tom Brady forgot what down it was on Tampa Bay's final drive. The miscue leaves the Bucs at 3-2 and in a three-way tie atop the NFC South. Tampa still hasn't fully gotten going on offense, thanks to injuries and the overall nature of Brady learning a new system, but they've got a chance to make a big statement against the Packers, and maintain their status atop the division.
On the spot: Packers RB Aaron Jones . No team defends the run better than Tampa Bay, so Jones' opportunities on the ground might be few and far between, but he could do plenty of damage in the short passing game, particularly on third downs.
Buccaneers QB Tom Brady: Brady had no choice but to take a literal and figurative "L" because of his late-game snafu against the Bears. Despite his social media posts making fun of himself, there's no question that one of the league's all-time competitors is fuming, and desperate to prove critics wrong.
The pick: Buccaneers 35 Packers 31
TV: NBC Line: Los Angeles -3
What you need to know: Thanks to injuries and ineffectiveness from the 49ers, the Rams have moved back up the ladder in the NFC West, though they're still chasing Seattle. Los Angeles has been efficient offensively, but defense has been the real story of its early-season success. The man responsible for most of that? Who else but Aaron Donald. Donald leads the league with 7.5 sacks and looks well on his way towards notching his sixth-straight first-team All-Pro nod. San Francisco has questions at quarterback, and injuries all over the place. The Niners hit a low point last week when they were blown out by Miami, and while Jimmy Garoppolo is healthy for this game, he appears to have taken a clear step backwards this season. Unless San Francisco can find a way to slow Donald, this might be a long night for them in prime time.
On the spot: Rams WR Josh Reynolds . The only thing Los Angeles' offense is missing is a home run threat, but Reynolds, averaging just over 15 yards per reception, might be able to provide exactly that.
49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo: Garoppolo was pulled from the game against Miami after a horrible start that was compounded by injury, but there is no denying that he has been bad this year, and has been unable to overcome San Francisco's major injury woes.
The pick: Rams 27 49ers 19
TV: NFL NETWORK Line: Kansas City -5
What you need to know: The Chiefs had no answers for Las Vegas' offense, and their offense couldn't figure out how to fully crack the Raiders' bend-but-don't-break scheme. Patrick Mahomes and company appear to be disinterested with certain opponents, or at least don't bring their best except when they're playing a legitimate challenger. Kansas City has added Le'Veon Bell to their offensive mix, which means fans should get clarity about whether or not Bell's horrible numbers were Adam Gase's fault or not. Buffalo got humbled by the Titans, and Josh Allen finally came back down to earth. The game might be good for Allen in the long run, as it takes some of the stress off of this matchup, though Bills fans are hoping a chance to get into a shootout with Mahomes brings out the best in Allen. The winner of this game might have a claim as the AFC front-runner, particularly if the Chiefs can score an emphatic victory.
On the spot: Chiefs RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire . Bell won't be able to join Kansas City for this game due to COVID-19 protocols, so Edwards-Helaire has one more game to prove that he deserves the lion's share of touches in the Chiefs' backfield.
Bills QB Josh Allen: Allen can ill-afford to get too hyped up for his matchup with Mahomes. He needs to stick to what he does best and use his legs judiciously to give the Bills their best chance at scoring an upset.
The pick: Chiefs 31 Bills 30
TV: ESPN Line: Arizona -1.5
What you need to know: Arizona got back to their winning ways against the Jets, but Kyler Murray's passing this season has been uneven. Murray's work with his legs has been excellent, but the Cardinals need him to take better care of the football. Murray has thrown at least one interception in four out of five games so far this year, and it cost the Cardinals dearly in their loss against Detroit. Dallas has to recalibrate after Dak Prescott's season-ending ankle injury, but Andy Dalton is good, as insurance policies go. With Dalton under center, the consensus is that the Cowboys will lean more heavily on Ezekiel Elliott, but Dalton has proven in the past that he can make plays when surrounded by a talented supporting cast. He's not as mobile as Prescott, however, which could be a problem, since the Dallas is without both Tyron Smith and La'el Collins.
On the spot: Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald . Fitzgerald has 25 targets this season, still second on the team, but is averaging just 6.8 yards per reception. If he can't do more work downfield, it might be time for Murray to focus more of his attention elsewhere.
Cowboys QB Andy Dalton: Dallas is still in first place in the NFC East, and Dalton was brought in as a high-profile insurance policy. If he plays as he has in the past, Dallas should absolutely still be considered the favorite to win the division.
The pick: Cowboys 38 Cardinals 31
Chris Mueller is the co-host of The PM Team with Poni & Mueller on Pittsburgh's 93.7 The Fan, Monday-Friday from 2-6 p.m. ET. Owner of a dog with a Napoleon complex, consumer of beer, cooker of chili, closet Cleveland Browns fan. On Twitter at @ChrisMuellerPGH – please laugh.