Quick historical note before we get to what you came here for ...
It's been 50 years since the uber relevant 1968 season, a campaign that culminated with one of the biggest upsets in sports history. Perhaps only Buster Douglas knocking out Mike Tyson can compete with the upstart Jets upending the Colts in Super Bowl III following the '68 season. The then-Baltimore Colts had produced arguably the most dominant regular season in NFL history, going 13-1 with an average score of 29-9 in their victories. Although the AFL, a rival league to the older circuit and home to the Jets, was going to merge with the NFL in 1970, and a common draft between the two leagues started in 1967, hordes of fans and media felt a team like New York from this junior league didn't stand a chance against the mighty Colts of the National Football League.
Thus, the Jets were major underdogs. Joe Namath had other plans, though. The brash young quarterback called a masterful game (he called his own plays), while his defense dominated. The NFL-AFL merger may have already been in play, but Gang Green's 16-7 victory let everyone know that this new combined enterprise would be highly competitive, underlined by another AFL team in the Chiefs blowing out the Vikings in the following Super Bowl. It meant the AFL's Bengals, Bills, Broncos, Chargers, Dolphins, Oilers, Raiders and Patriots would also enter their new league with instant street cred. All because the Jets delivered in the biggest game in pro football lore.
Indeed. Atlanta's season might be on the line this week against the Bucs. Ditto the Giants, who also host a division opponent in the Eagles. Feel free to send your take on those games, and all others: @HarrisonNFL is the place.
Elliot Harrison went 9-6 on his predictions for Week 5, bringing his record for the season to 48-28-2. How will he fare in Week 6? His picks are below.
SUNDAY, OCT. 14
1 p.m. ET (FOX) | Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Atlanta)
Put in the simplest terms, this game is the season for the both the Bucs and the Falcons. Tampa went careening into the bye following a 4,800-10 loss (OK, it wasn't *that* bad) and will start Jameis Winston at quarterback. Meanwhile, the Falcons haven't been able to stop any quarterback since Nick Foles in Week 1, and they've already allowed 12 touchdowns passes (second-most in the league), along with a 102.4 passer rating. It's hard to win that way. The issue for the Bucs is that they're worse than Atlanta on the back end: 13:1 TD-to-INT ratio, with a league-worst 130.5 passer rating allowed -- 130.5! Anticipating Matt Ryan to Calvin Ridley on two scoring heaves, while Julio Jones' fantasy owners cry foul.
1 p.m. ET (FOX) | FedExField (Landover, Md.)
Cam Newton certainly is the focal point of the Panthers' organization, but he is off to a quiet start. Don't misunderstand; Newton has performed admirably in Norv Turner's system. It seems the national spotlight has not moseyed Newton's way this season. (Finally.) Last week, Graham Gano's kick and Odell Beckham's criticism(s) dominated the conversation. Carolina was on a bye prior to that and beat the Bengals in Week 3 ... a regional telecast-type game if there ever was one. For his part, Newton has played within the strengths and whatever constraints there are in Norv's offense, completing a career high (by far) 65.4 percent of his passes. Contrary to popular myth in the offseason, the strongest aspect of his game hasn't been taken away, either. Newton is rushing for 41.3 yards per outing, also superior to his career average. The Redskins come into this one reeling after that Monday night shelling in New Orleans. It will be Josh Norman's second career game against his old team. Well, cool. He's not playing anywhere near the level he did for the Panthers, while the entire Washington secondary looked terrible against a highly motivated Drew Brees.
1 p.m. ET (FOX) | Wembley Stadium (London, England)
People always think of the Bo Jackson sprint for the tunnel on "Monday Night Football" when these two franchises lock up, yet there is so much more history to this matchup than that. The Seahawks were part of the old AFC West for 25 years, and they even faced the Raiders in the 1983 AFC Championship Game. Oddly enough, Seattle swept the season series that year despite only being 9-7 before falling to the then-L.A. Raiders in the Coliseum, 30-14. Their first win in Oakland over the Silver and Black came in a 17-16 thriller on a 46-yard Efren Herrera field goal in 1978. The last time these two clubs played as members of the same division, Shaun Alexander went off for 266 yards rushing on "Sunday Night Football." Guessing former Seahawk Marshawn Lynch gets a serious workload in the 2018 version of this matchup -- which takes place across the pond, by the way -- with the Seahawks suffering a letdown following an emotionally draining loss to the Rams.
1 p.m. ET (CBS) | MetLife Stadium (East Rutherford, N.J.)
Another matchup with a robust legacy, Andrew Luck will try to do it by himself on the Eastern Seaboard again. If T.Y. Hilton (chest, hamstring) is a go, Indy owns a great chance. (UPDATE: The Colts announced on Friday that Hilton has been ruled out of Sunday's game.) Luck has been playing well, damn the torpedoes (i.e., guys getting hurt, receivers dropping the ball, poor protection). He's also leading the league in both passing attempts and completions. So after all that worrying about Luck's shoulder, let's hope it doesn't fall off. For his part, Sam Darnold has taken small steps forward, too. Although not recovering from major surgery, a la his counterpart, Darnold endured a few rough weeks after a quick start to the season in Detroit. Central to the outcome of this old AFC East rivalry will be the running game -- the Jets stampeded the Broncos last week to the tune of 323 yards. The Colts can barely trot out of their own backfield. In order for Indy to prevail, Nyheim Hines must be more than the James White for this offense. He needs to contribute on the ground, too.
1 p.m. ET (FOX) | U.S. Bank Stadium (Minneapolis)
Super excited about the Cardinals' one-game winning streak. Really great for them, because it ends this week. The Vikings emerged from whatever morass they were wedged in back in September. Offensively speaking, Kirk Cousins-to-Adam Thielen is the most unstoppable duo in the league right now. Dalvin Cook (hamstring) should be back in the fold at tailback this week, too. Defensively, the pass rush made Carson Wentz move around and rush a few throws at the Linc last week. Think about how they will handle a middling Arizona offensive line. I keep trying to find a way for the Cards to prevail up North. Got it: They need David Johnson to rush for 250 yards and three touchdowns. Next blurb.
1 p.m. ET (CBS) | Paul Brown Stadium (Cincinnati)
Well, this game is more than relevant. If the Bengals topple the Steelers, they will go up 2.5 games on Pittsburgh (plus they'll have the head-to-head tiebreaker). On the other hand, with the Browns upending the Ravens last Sunday, the Steelers can squeeze the accordion again, then open up a division lead down the back stretch like they have in seasons past. There are two guys Pittsburgh must stop to accomplish this. The first is Joe Mixon, which is obvious. (For what it's worth, Keith Butler's group did a number on the Falcons' backs last week.) Less apparent is the importance of containing Tyler Boyd in one-on-one coverage (with A.J. Green presumably bracketed), which is not a Steeler strength. This ain't 1978.
1 p.m. ET (CBS) | FirstEnergy Stadium (Cleveland)
Before the Browns Baker-d the Jetsa few Thursdays ago, a December 2016 victory over the Chargers was the only win Cleveland could hang its hat on for two years. It's going to be a different deal this time around, as Philip Rivers is enjoying one of his finest campaigns to date -- 70.1 completion percentage, 13 touchdowns, a mere two picks and a 116.4 passer rating. Perhaps due to the ascendance of Patrick Mahomes, folks aren't noticing how well the veteran out in Los Angeles is playing. Worth noting that Cleveland is the best defense Rivers has faced this season, other than maybe the Rams. With the Bolts likely without Joey Bosa (foot) again, Baker Mayfield should have ample time to work his headband mojo. (UPDATE: The Chargers confirmed on Friday that Bosa is out this week.) Fun game.
1 p.m. ET (CBS) | NRG Stadium (Houston)
Could the pesky Bills make it two wins in a row? Why not? They aren't much more lowly than the Texans, who eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeked their way to two straightovertime victories. Let's say this: If Sean McDermott has a fourth down on his side of the field in OT, he probably won't go for it. However, if he faces a fourth-and-1 when he's nearly in field-goal range in overtime, he's not gonna punt and then stand there and clap. Nope, Chris Ivory will be chugging it up in there. Which might be the question here: Will Houston have enough oomph after playing 10 quarters in two weeks? They had better. Trusting Deshaun Watson to play even better this week. Quarterback is the decisive advantage for Houston in this game.
1 p.m. ET (FOX) | Hard Rock Stadium (Miami Gardens, Fla.)
The Bears come off the bye rested and hopefully not flat; otherwise, they could become the NFC's version of the Dolphins, who have dropped two straight after winning three in a row to open the season. Miami's passing offense has been nothing but offensive the last two weeks, with 116 and 169 yards in those games. That's what Bob Griese used to throw for when Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris plowed for 250 yards. So, with that as a backdrop, what better opponent to play than Khalil Mack and a Chicago defense ranked second in the league? This game is in Miami, so the Dolphins have a chance, but with tackle Laremy Tunsil in the concussion protocol, this is the wrong defense and wrong pass rusher to face.
The Case Keenum revenge game! Too bad Aqib Talib is dinged, or I could type something really lame here. Keenum, the former Rams quarterback who gave way to Jared Goff, gave his darndest effort to keep the Broncos afloat at the Big Snoopy last Sunday. (Actually, Snoopy often went airborne, so not sure afloat was the right word choice. But I digress.) Can Keenum stay with Goff as the latter continues his assault on NFL record books? Through five games, Goff has averaged 345.4 yards per game, which would be the loftiest figure ever if kept up over a season. Goff might have not have to manufacture anything close to that output on Sunday. Denver's run defense was so awful last week that Todd Gurley might scurry for 150 yards by halftime.
4:25 p.m. ET (CBS) | Nissan Stadium (Nashville, Tenn.)
This has to be the ugliest football game of the week, and the most difficult to pick. Nobody trusts either of these teams. The Ravens often don't play well on the road, while the Titans sometimes don't play well at all. See what I mean? Confounding, I say. Complicating matters, both outfits are stout on the defensive side of the ball (first and third in points allowed per game) but struggle to control the clock running the football, which means that both quarterbacks must create on third down. Baltimore's passing game has easily been superior to Tennessee's this season, although Marcus Mariota's legs offer a dimension to his game that Joe Flacco can't match. Toughest game to pick this weekend, but I'm going with Justin Tucker at the 0:00.
4:25 p.m. ET (CBS) | AT&T Stadium (Arlington, Texas)
Quick, who's your favorite Jags running back? Well, he's not playing Sunday. With Leonard Fournette out and Corey Grant on injured reserve, Jacksonville will be leaning on Blake Bortles to win in Dallas. (Yes, they signed Jamaal Charles, but he hasn't broken the century mark in scrimmage yards since Oct. 4, 2015.) Say what you want about the Cowboys, but they have the fifth-ranked scoring defense in the league right now. And it's not like they are receiving a whole lot of help from their offense. Creating turnovers is about the only thing their defense isn't doing well. But goal-line defense, pressuring the quarterback and improved secondary play make them a formidable unit ... just like the Jags. Taking Dallas in this one, on the legs of Ezekiel Elliott. The quarterbacks are, ahem, even.
8:20 p.m. ET (NBC) | Gillette Stadium (Foxborough, Mass.)
Patrick Mahomes will have a chance to strut his already mature game in front of a national audience once again in what should be a gem of a Sunday-nighter. Tom Brady should go toe-to-toe, er, arm-to-arm with the Chiefs sophomore QB. With Julian Edelman back, Josh Gordon picking up the offense and Sony Michel providing at least the threat of balance, we're staring at an explosive matchup ... on paper, anyway. Justin Houston's likely absence makes it more so, as Brady will be able to pat, pat and pat the ball some more until somebody breaks open. Kansas City's pass rush is oft-absentee, and I'm not talking about ballots. Yes, they have accumulated a healthy number of sacks, but nobody is throwing the ball more than the Chiefs' opponents (well, except for Andrew Luck). That's why involving Kareem Hunt early and often makes sense, much like last year's kickoff game. In case you don't remember ...
MONDAY, OCT. 15
8:15 p.m. ET (ESPN) | Lambeau Field (Green Bay, Wis.)
Perhaps your friendly writer's newfound confidence in C.J. Beathard was, uh, misplaced? Misguided? Yeah, at least a gaggle of Beathard's throws fit that description in the second half of the loss to the Cardinals. With the Packers' wideouts progressing health-wise this week, Aaron Rodgers will have more than an inch within which to fit the ball, meaning he won't be forced to hold it. Otherwise, even the inconsistent 49ers' pass rush will get to him. Historical note: These two franchises have faced off in so many big games over the years. They met in the postseason for the first time in the 1995 season, when Mike Holmgren's upstart Packers upended the 49ers' repeat attempt. They played each other in the '96 playoffs (in a mud pit), '97 playoffs (a Packer blowout) and the '98 playoffs. (He caught it! He caught it! Owens caught it!) Then again in the 2001, 2012 and 2013 postseasons. Recall this run in the 2012 match? How about the next year, when they played in Ice Bowl-esque conditions? Helluva series. My favorite: Packers at 49ers, 1989. Majik. (As in Packers QB Don Majkowski, who led Green Bay to a win in San Francisco that day.)
THURSDAY, OCT. 11
8:20 p.m. ET (FOX/NFL Network/Prime Video) | MetLife Stadium (East Rutherford, N.J.)
The Giants have lost a game on a 60-plus-yard field goal two years running now. Jake Elliott nailed a 61-yarder last year to best Big Blue in Philadelphia, contributing to a rotten start that devolved into a rotten season. New York once again has faltered out of the gate, starting the season at 1-4. (Heyyyyy, better than last year!) In order to rebound, Eli Manning should take more of the vertical shots that Odell Beckham has been wistfully dreaming about. ... Eagles corners Jalen Mills and Sidney Jones have struggled mightily thus far. Look no further than Adam Thielen's highlight reel last week. For Philadelphia, winning starts with running the football consistently. Make third downs manageable; that area has been a veritable black hole for this team (13 for 38 over the last three games).