Week 6 of the NFL season will act as a turning point around the NFL. The Jacksonville Jaguars and Los Angeles Rams will take on one another in a game between two surprising winning teams. How will the Jalen Ramsey-Sammy Watkins matchup play a role in the outcome of this one?
Both the Cardinals and Buccaneers have to get back on track after Week 5 hiccups. Can Patrick Peterson shut down Mike Evans en route to helping his team to a .500 mark heading into Week 7? Meanwhile, Melvin Ingram looks to continue his domination against a surprisingly mediocre Oakland Raiders offensive line to help his Chargers notch a second consecutive win.
These are among the top matchups for each Week 6 NFL game.
Philadelphia Eagles at Carolina Panthers: Carson Wentz vs Panthers pass defense
About that sophomore slump? For Wentz, it looked like this was only limited to the second half of his rookie campaign. The former No. 2 pick has been absolutely splendid through the first five games of the season, averaging 272 passing yards with 10 touchdowns and three picks for a 4-1 Eagles team. Consistency has been somewhat of an issue here, but the numbers speak for themselves.
Consistency itself hasn’t necessarily been an issue for a Panthers pass defense that’s also improved leaps and bounds for another 4-1 team. Led by young corners James Bradberry and Daryl Worley, the Panthers boast a top-five pass defense. With that said, they’ve only picked off one pass and have yielded a 98.1 passer rating. That’s where an improvement will need to be made if Carolina wants to stop Wentz and the high-flying Eagles.
Chicago Bears at Baltimore Ravens: Jordan Howard/Tarik Cohen vs Ravens run defense
If there’s one saving grace for the Bears during their 1-4 start, it has been the team’s rushing attack. Through five games, Howard and Cohen have combined for 721 total yards and five touchdowns at a clip of 4.7 yards per touch. The two have combined for 47 percent of Chicago’s yards. This usage will likely continue with rookie Mitchell “Biscuit” Trubisky remaining under center.
Week 6 presents the two with an opportunity to take advantage of a surprisingly lackluster Ravens run defense that ranks in the bottom 10. Flush with the monster that is Brandon Williams upfront, there’s no reason this area of an otherwise tremendous Ravens defense should be struggling at this clip. Should Chicago have success on the ground, it could very well pull off the road upset here.
Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings: Jordy Nelson vs Xavier Rhodes
Despite being banged up with quad and hamstring injuries all season, Nelson continues to make a major impact for the Packers. Prior to missing the final possession of Green Bay’s thrilling win over Dallas in Week 5, Nelson hauled in six touchdowns in five games. He leads the NFL in that category after topping all receivers with 14 a season ago. Talk about a major red-zone threat for MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers.
For his part, Rhodes continues to prove his worth among the game’s best corners. Rhodes was not thrown at against Chicago last week and held Mike Evans to three receptions for 28 yards in Week 4. He’s now yielding a sub 50 percent completion mark and a 62.3 passer rating when targeted. This should be fun.
San Francisco 49ers at Washington Redskins: Pierre Garcon vs former team
If there’s been one positive for the 49ers during an 0-5 start to the season, it’s this griddy veteran receiver. He continues to make the difficult catch and has proven to be a tremendously consistent receiving option for the struggling Brian Hoyer.
In fact, the quarterback’s passer rating is 20 points higher when he throws to Garcon compared to the rest of the team. He also boasts a 76 percent catch rate and is on pace for 90 receptions to go with north of 1,200 yards. We’re pretty sure Garcon will want to make his return to the nation’s capital special after spending five seasons with the Redskins.
Detroit Lions at New Orleans Saints: Darius Slay vs Michael Thomas
In comparison to what we saw last season , Detroit’s pass defense has been stellar. Sure it ranks in the bottom six of the NFL yards allowed, but opposing quarterbacks have thrown as many interceptions as touchdowns (seven) against this unit. And for his part, Slay entered Week 5 having yielded a 24.2 passer rating on 22 targets this season.
Unfortunately both Slay and the Lions’ defense struggled in last week’s loss to Carolina. They allowed Cam Newton to complete 26-of-33 passes for 355 yards and three scores in Week 5’s loss to the Panthers. That’s not good. It will also have to change Sunday against a receiver in Thomas who has put up 15 catches and two touchdowns on 19 targets over the past two games. This is a major test for Slay and Co.
Miami Dolphins at Atlanta Falcons: Cameron Wake vs Ryan Schraeder
If the Dolphins have any hope of going into Atlanta and coming away with a win, they’re going to have to put similar pressure on Matt Ryan as they did against Matt Cassel and the Titans last week. Short of this, and with Miami’s offense continuing to stink it up, there’s no real chance of a win here.
That’s where the ageless Cameron Wake comes into play. The 35 year old has 2.5 sacks through four games this season. He also played a vital role against Tennessee last week, recording one sack, three hurries and two hits in a defensive slugfest. It’s going to be a tad more difficult against the high-flying Falcons. Though, Atlanta has allowed Ryan to be hit on nearly 20 percent of his drop backs this season. That should give Miami some hope here.
Cleveland Browns at Houston Texans: Jason McCourty vs DeAndre Hopkins
McCourty has been absolutely fabulous for an otherwise disastrous Browns defense through the first five weeks. In his first season with the Browns, the nine-year vet has forced two fumbles and intercepted two passes, accounting for over half of the Browns’ takeaways on the season.
This ball-hawk mentality will have to continue in Week 6 if the Browns hope to post their first win of the season. Rookie Deshaun Watson has put up 10 touchdowns over the past two games, leading Houston to an average of 45.5 points during that span. And for his part, Hopkins has been on fire. Since Watson took over as the full-time starter in Week 2, this Pro Bowler has caught 28 passes for 308 yards on four games.
New England Patriots at New York Jets: Patriots pass defense vs Josh McCown
This is absolutely hilarious. Two reasons why. First off, McCown against anyone being a top matchup seemed absurd for the past decade-plus. Secondly, the larger matchup here is between two teams tied for first place. But here we are, the Jets have an opportunity for a fourth consecutive win. They also have a solid matchup against a Patriots defense that has yielded the most passing yards in the NFL and a 109.2 passer rating on the season.
For McCown, it’s been all about managing the game. Nothing more. He’s averaging just north of 200 yards per game with five touchdowns and four interceptions. The vet is, however, completing better than 71 percent of his passes. If he has a relatively mistake-free game, there’s a chance the Jets keep this close.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Arizona Cardinals: Mike Evans vs Patrick Peterson
Most expected Mike Evans to dominate what was a league-worst Patriots defense last week. But continuing with what has been a theme thus far this season, he disappointed. Evans caught 5-of-8 targets for 49 yards in a dreadful offensive performance for the Bucs. Through four games, the Pro Bowler is barely on pace for 1,000 yards. That’s not what Tampa envisioned when it looked to free him up some more by signing DeSean Jackson during the offseason.
In a game the Buccaneers need to win against a bad Cardinals squad, Evans has the one less-than-stellar matchup. Sure Patrick Peterson was abused at times by Alshon Jeffery in Week 5, but here’s a corner that’s allowed five catches for 64 yards when shadowing the opposing team’s No. 1 receiver on the season. That’s about as ridiculous as it gets right there.
Los Angeles Rams at Jacksonville Jaguars: Sammy Watkins vs Jalen Ramsey
Speaking of ridiculous, it’s quite possible that Jalen Ramsey might now be the best cover corner in the entire NFL. It took all of 21 professional games for him to be mentioned among the likes of the aforementioned Patrick Peterson and Richard Sherman. Ramsey has yielded a 38.7 completion percentage to go with two interceptions and a 38.5 passer rating when targeted this season. Teaming up with A.J. Buoye, he’s leading a Jaguars pass defense that ranks third in yards allowed and has yielded a 56.9 passer rating. Whew.
On the other side, Watkins has failed to make much of an impact after putting up a breakout Week 3 performance against the San Francisco 49ers. Since that 106-yard, two-touchdown outing, the newest Rams receiver has caught one pass for 17 yards on six targets in two games. In a game between two surprising 3-2 teams, Watkins will have to step up if the Rams hope to avoid falling to .500 on the season.
Los Angeles Chargers at Oakland Raiders: Melvin Ingram vs Donald Penn
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram represent the best pass-rushing tandem in the NFL. In fact, with both J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus out for the season in Houston, this has to be considered a foregone conclusion. The two Chargers pass rushers combined for four sacks of Eli Manning last week, each recording two. Ingram himself now has 7.5 sacks in five games and ranks in the top five among EDGE rushers in quarterback pressures.
The linchpin on what had been one of the best offensive lines in the NFL over the past two seasons, Penn has seemingly grown frustrated with the otherwise mediocre start to the season for both the Raiders and this unit. Derek Carr and EJ Manuel have gone down a combined 12 times in five games after Raiders signal callers found themselves sacked 18 times all of last season. This must change in Week 6 if Oakland wants to avoid a four-game losing streak.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs: Antonio Brown vs Marcus Peters
Antonio Brown and the Steelers are frustrated. They’re coming off a horrible 30-9 home loss to Jacksonville and just don’t seem to be right in the head. It’s primarily due to the regression we’ve seen from Ben Roethlisberger, who is coming off a five-interception performance.
Though, Brown himself continues to put up numbers. Fresh off a 19-target outing against Jacksonville, the All Pro leads all NFL receivers in catches (40) and receiving yards (545). It’s now at the point where he’s going to have to continue going superhuman if the Steelers’ offense is to get back on track. Sunday against the Chiefs, it will have to come opposite a corner in Marcus Peters who has forced 18 turnovers in 36 career games. That’s a recipe for disaster for the suddenly turnover-prone Big Ben.
New York Giants at Denver Broncos: Eli vs No Fly Zone
This could get ugly pretty darn fast. With receivers Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Dwayne Harris all on injured reserve and Sterling Shepard nursing an ankle injury of his own, Eli Manning almost literally has no one to throw to. The team had to bring up Travis Rudolph and Tavarres King to the active roster just to fill practice spots. That’s bad. Really bad.
It won’t help going up against Aqib Talib, Bradley Roby and Chris Harris in Denver on Sunday. After yielding 13 touchdowns compared to 14 interceptions en route to finishing as the league’s best pass defense last season, this unit has taken somewhat of a step back. But Sunday offers the No Fly Zone with an ability to absolutely dominate. Should that happen, Denver will move to 4-1 on the season with the Giants falling to a disastrous 0-6.
Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans: Colts run defense vs Derrick Henry/DeMarco Murray
The Colts have been dominant against the run this season, yielding less than four yards per rush and forcing five fumbles through five games. It’s this rebuilt defensive front by first-year GM Chris Ballard that has helped the 2-3 Colts remain competitive with Andrew Luck still sidelined. It could also come up big time against one of the best running back tandems in the NFL.
Prior to being held to a combined 155 rushing yards in the past two games, the Titans had tallied an average of 156.3 in their first three games. Primarily due to a unjustifiable game plan last week against Miami, this all came to a screeching haunt. We expect Tennessee to get back to the basics Monday night. That starts with feeding the ball to a running back duo in Henry and Murray who have combined for well over 500 yards and is averaging north of 4.5 yards per rush on the season.