NFL Week 6 game picks: Buccaneers top Packers; Steelers edge Browns

Gregg Rosenthal went 10-4 on his predictions for Week 5 of the 2020 NFL season, bringing his total record to 48-28-1. How will he fare in Week 6? His picks are below.

SUNDAY, OCT. 18

New England Patriots 27, Denver Broncos 23

If this game went off as scheduled last week, the quarterback matchup would have likely been Brett Rypien vs. Jarrett Stidham. Now it is expected to be Drew Lock vs. Cam Newton. Everyone wins! The Broncos will also get Phillip Lindsay and possibly Noah Fant back to an offense ready to be frisky again, though Melvin Gordon's status is up in the air following a DUI arrest. While Newton's return will boost the Patriots' diverse running game, Bill Belichick's respect for Vic Fangio's defense wasn't lip service. The Broncos are a dangerous, well-coached opponent for any team, especially one that has barely practiced in two weeks.

UPDATE: The Patriots cancelled practice Friday after another positive COVID-19 test, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero and Mike Giardi reported, per a source informed.

Tennessee Titans 28, Houston Texans 24

After having 15 days between Games 3 and 4, the Titans face a tricky short week to get ready for a Texans team on regular rest. Firing Bill O'Brien before facing the Jaguars was a brilliant way for Houston to make its ex-coach look like the problem, when the team's lack of playmakers on defense is the bigger concern. Tennessee's insane red-zone production has continued into 2020, and A.J. Brown's return was a reminder that he's more important to the Titans' offense than a slumping Derrick Henry. This feels like the Texans' last chance at AFC South relevance and closer to a toss-up than the records show.

Pittsburgh Steelers 33, Cleveland Browns 30

Baker Mayfield and Ben Roethlisberger have arrived at the biggest Browns-Steelers game since Tommy Maddox roamed the land in surprising ways. Big Ben is playing more like Big Brees, efficiently winning before the snap but struggling to connect deep. I'm not convinced Baker is playing any better than his overly criticized 2019 campaign, but literally every other aspect of the team's offense is superior around him. It's a team game!

If you trust their overall efficiency numbers, neither team has played as well as the record indicates. The Steelers' schedule has been incredibly soft and their struggling secondary could be exposed if the Browns' offensive line continues to dominate up front. Cleveland doesn't have a strong passing game or pass defense, which makes winning complicated in a passing league. I lean Steelers slightly here because they have created a consistent habit of making winning plays in the fourth quarter when games are in doubt.

Baltimore Ravens 30, Philadelphia Eagles 20

The following two points in each statement can be simultaneously true:

  1. Lamar Jackson and the Ravens' offense are playing dramatically worse than they did in 2019, but they are still playing well enough to win with obvious room for improvement.
  2. Carson Wentz and the Eagles' passing game are playing far better the last two weeks, but their ceiling remains closer to average until proven otherwise.
  3. The Ravens' lack of a one-on-one pass rusher could haunt them against a great offense, but their blitz-happy scheme is a nightmare for vulnerable offensive lines like the Eagles' unit, which will be without Lane Johnson.

In short: The Ravens' B game is plenty.

New York Giants 23, Washington Football Team 21

When the No. 2 overall pick (Washington pass rusher Chase Young) lines up against the No. 4 overall pick (struggling Giants left tackle Andrew Thomas), it figures to be a mismatch. That should generally be true of the entire Giants offensive line. My pick here is less about logic and more about these teams both deserving to be 1-5 at day's end. I'll believe Kyle Allen is an upgrade on anyone at quarterback when I see it.

Minnesota Vikings 34, Atlanta Falcons 24

The Vikings are the opposite of the suspect 4-1 Bears, one of the better 1-4 teams in recent memory. While Mike Zimmer's defense is slowly improving, Gary Kubiak's offense is a dangerous combination of great zone blocking and big plays through the air. That should be plenty to dispose of the winless Falcons even if Dalvin Cook is out. Atlanta interim coach Raheem Morris galvanized the Falcons' defense as a play-caller late last year, but there's little reason to think he can stall Matt Ryan's gradual decline.

With the Falcons working remotely on Thursday due to a positive COVID-19 test, this game's status merits monitoring. But as of publishing, NFL vice president of communications Brian McCarthy says there's no scheduling change.

UPDATE: The Vikings announced Friday that Dalvin Cook is ruled out for Sunday's game against Atlanta.

Jacksonville Jaguars 31, Detroit Lions 28

The Jaguars are the NFL's slumpbusters. Three straight winless teams have topped them and every opposing quarterback has enjoyed his best game of the season against their pass rush-deficient defense. For most 1-3 teams, that would represent a grand opportunity. For the Lions, it sounds more like a recipe for maximum pain. Both teams struggle to generate big plays, but I still trust the Jaguars' running game and timing of the passing game a bit more. Matt Patricia survived the bye, but will that stay true if he didn't come up with any defensive solutions during the time off?

Indianapolis Colts 20, Cincinnati Bengals 16

It's not just Philip Rivers' arm strength that's the issue ... It's his feel in the pocket, which was once his superpower. It's the lack of open receivers or speed on an injury-depleted offense. It's the dreadful Colts rushing attack, 31st in the league with 3.6 yards per carry, exacerbated by an extreme run-heavy approach. I'm also not convinced that facing the Bengals is a get-right game. Cincinnati's defense has quietly improved more quickly than the Joe Burrow-led offense, which could make this a rare low-scoring NFL game in the cursed year of 2020.

Carolina Panthers 24, Chicago Bears 21

It's a matchup of one of the worst 4-1 teams ever -- according to the numbers, Bears fans, don't blame me! -- and one of the most unheralded 3-2 teams in memory. Chicago boasts one of the NFL's few difference-making defenses, comprising the best test yet for Carolina's incredibly fast, cohesive testament to how much offensive coaching matters. The Panthers are experts at speeding up tempo, then slowing it down when necessary, a fine recipe to minimize the Bears' pass rush. Losing defensive tackle Kawann Short for the season is a killer for Carolina, and it's worth keeping an eye on the rest of the Panthers' defensive injuries up front, which could reverse this coin-flip pick.

Miami Dolphins 27, New York Jets 13

The Jets haven't kept a game within one score all season. Their offense last week primarily consisted of Joe Flacco trying to make plays off-script outside of the pocket, which went about how you'd expect. Flacco is back again this week and is the younger QB in the matchup. The Dolphins, led by QBR's fifth-ranked quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, are the logical successors to the 2007 Patriots if last week -- and last week only -- was any indication. Brian Flores' defense makes far more sense with No. 1 cornerback Byron Jones back on the field and when it plays with a lead, allowing Flores to dial up creative pressures. Get ready for the 3-3 Dolphins!

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30, Green Bay Packers 27

Leading first-place teams, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers facing off in the only 4:25 p.m. ET game of the week is a gift from the football gods. The Bucs could use a more consistent pass rush from Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul, but this is still easily the toughest matchup for the streaking Packers offense this season because of Tampa's physical play in the secondary. It may also be the easiest matchup Brady's faced. The Packers' defense is quietly 29th in efficiency, still allergic to stopping the run just like every Mike Pettine Packers defense. Don't be surprised if Ronald Jones and the Bucs' offensive line steal the spotlight in an upset.

Los Angeles Rams 28, San Francisco 49ers 22

Bucs-Packers may be the best game of Week 5. So why does this game feel like the biggest? The 2018 NFC Champions have a chance to deliver an early, devastating blow to their rivals, the 2019 NFC Champions. Think back to their Week 6 matchup last season, when the 49ers manhandled the Rams up front on both sides of the ball, serving notice about the new bullies in the NFC West. This time around, it's the 49ers having communication issues up front. It's the 49ers with a slumping quarterback. It's the Rams with the extreme run-heavy offense operating with deadly precision. If the Niners can't change the direction of their season Sunday night, it could be a long season in San Francisco.

MONDAY, OCT. 19

Kansas City Chiefs 35, Buffalo Bills 30

When Kansas City's offense has the ball, this game will be a matchup of sides trying to live up to previous glory. The Chiefs are 12th in net yards per attempt after finishing first and second the previous two seasons. The Bills' defense went from mediocre to Lions status in Nashville, with Matt Milano and Tre'Davious White out of the lineup. K.C.'s offense seems like the far easier fix. Both Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen are constantly trying to balance how much they should improvise versus how much they should stick to structure, and while Mahomes is a little out of whack currently, he's accustomed to being in shootouts. I'm curious if Bills coach Sean McDermott is ready to embrace playing every week in the 30-plus-point range, because that's the type of Bills team he's coaching.

Dallas Cowboys 30, Arizona Cardinals 27

The Cowboys are missing their two Pro Bowl tackles and quarterback Dak Prescott. The Cardinals are now missing their best pass rusher with Chandler Jones out for the season. While that's not a fair trade-off, the biggest mismatch in this game is the same with or without Dak. It's the Cowboys' wide receivers matching up against Patrick Peterson and Dre Kirkpatrick, the Cardinals' struggling cornerbacks. Andy Dalton never saw receivers this open in Cincinnati -- and as Michael Gallup showed last week, Dallas' WRs are open even when they are covered.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter.

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