Top storyline for each Week 6 NFL game

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Week 6 of the NFL season offers us so many storylines that it’s almost impossible to put them all together while making sense of everything. It’s a week that will make or break seasons for some teams around the NFL.

Can the Atlanta Falcons somehow make themselves relevant after a 1-4 start to the season? They’ll get their shot against a Buccaneers quarterback in Jameis Winston who is making his first start of the season.

Over in the AFC, the New England Patriots are in need of making a statement against an undefeated Kansas City Chiefs squad. Should that not happen, any thoughts of home-field advantage for Tom Brady’s squad, even at this early point in the season, can be thrown out the window.

These are among the top storylines for each Week 6 NFL game.

Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants: Getting back on track 

This might very well go for both teams. But at 1-4 on the season, there’s no logical reason to believe New York will turn this thing around and become a relevant team moving forward on the season. Instead, it’s all about the Eagles showing their stuff after a less-than-inspiring two-game losing streak.

Despite their recent struggles, the defending champs are just one-half game out of first place in what is quickly becoming one of the NFL’s worst divisions. That doesn’t mean a win here isn’t a necessity. Philadelphia’s next two games consists of matchups against the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars before a Week 9 bye. Losing here would only continue a downward spiral for Carson Wentz and Co.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons: A battle for survival 

At 1-4 on the season, Atlanta’s playoff aspirations are already pretty much dead in the water. They find themselves three games behind New Orleans in what seems to be a competitive NFC South. With a plethora of injuries on defense, the Falcons are also yielding an average of 32.6 points per game. That’s good enough for 31st in the NFL through five weeks.

Facing a Bucs squad that’s at .500, a win here would be the first of many steps back to relevance for Atlanta. Sure, it would be a baby step. But when you win one of your first five games, you have to start somewhere. On the other hand, a loss here would be catastrophic and might force owner Arthur Blank to make a drastic move. Yes, we’re looking at you, Mr. Dan Quinn.

Los Angeles Chargers at Cleveland Browns: Can the Browns really do this thing? 

At 2-2-1 heading into Week 6, Cleveland has an opportunity to be over .500 after six games for the first time since 2001 and just the second time since Bill Belichick was the team’s head coach back in 1994. That’s a long span of futility for an organization that hasn’t had anything to write home about in decades.

Things have certainly changed in Cleveland this season. Baker Mayfield has given the team a bounce to its step. A young core, led by Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward, continue to step up on defense. Taking on a fellow playoff contender at home Sunday, this is an opportunity for the Browns to announce their presence on the broader NFL stage.

Indianapolis Colts at New York Jets: Consistency from Darnold and the Jets

Following a three-game losing streak, New York flew into high gear in a blowout home win over the Denver Broncos last week. The team accumulated north of 500 yards, Sam Darnold tossed for three touchdowns and the ground attack put up a historical performance. It has this young squad at 2-3 on the season with two relatively impressive wins to their resume.

The question here is whether the Jets can add consistency to said resume. They’re taking on a one-win Colts team at home in a game that should be checked off as a win. Whether that actually happens remains to be seen. But it will be the difference between a .500 record heading into Week 7 and the Jets being a complete afterthought in the AFC. No pressure on you, rook.

Seattle Seahawks at Oakland Raiders: Overseas battle for relevance 

London will be in for somewhat of a treat Sunday as Marshawn Lynch takes on his former team. That’s a story in and of itself. But from the broader perspective of the NFL, this game will tell us a story about both teams as the 2018 season progresses. At 1-4 through five games, the Raiders have been a complete dumpster fire under first-year head coach Jon Gruden. Heck, last week’s opponent trolled this team on the field before a play. That’s pretty bad. A loss here, and a continued downward spiral will be the name of the game for Oakland.

The Seahawks are a bit different in that they were competitive at home against a mighty Los Angeles Rams team last week. At 2-3, they still have a fighting chance to be relevant moving forward. But in a stacked NFC and playing in a division that boasts the above-mentioned Rams, a loss here would be catastrophic for Pete Carroll’s squad.

Carolina Panthers at Washington Redskins: Turning the page 

Things were going splendidly in the nation’s capital prior to Washington’s Week 4 bye. Alex Smith looked every part the team leader. Adrian Peterson was playing at a high level. And the Redskins’ defense was performing like one of the best units in the entire NFL.

That changed in a big way this past Monday in New Orleans. Taking on Drew Brees and the Saints during a record-breaking night for the future Hall of Famer, Washington was manhandled in every possible way. It was an embarrassing performance for Jay Gruden’s squad. Despite this, the Skins remain in first place in a bad NFC East. A win here would pretty much make last week’s performance moot. A loss, and we could be witnessing the start of a free-fall in D.C.

Buffalo Bills at Houston Texans: Playing to remain in the hunt  

To most around the NFL world, Buffalo’s 2-3 start to the season is rather surprising. Some had figured this team would be hard-pressed to win a game. Instead, it has victories over two playoff teams from a season ago, Minnesota and Tennessee. In a sign that the NFL is hard to predict, the defending champion Eagles have already lost to both of those squads this season. Is this a sign the Bills are legit playoff contenders? No. It does, however, tell us that Sunday’s game is not going to be easy for Houston.

Speaking of the Texans, they’ve followed up an 0-3 start by winning each of the past two games in overtime. Deshaun Watson’s brilliant performances combined with questionable coaching on the other side has this team on the brink of moving to .500. In a game between two 2-3 teams, one squad will remain in the hunt heading into Week 7 while the other will become a non-factor.

Arizona Cardinals at Minnesota Vikings: Will the real Vikings show up?

Last week’s road win over the defending champion Eagles was a real nice start for Minnesota after this team racked up one victory over the first quarter of the season. Though, it will mean much less if the Vikings that we saw in losses to the Bills and Rams show up on Sunday. At 2-2-1, the time is now for Mike Zimmer’s squad to run off a nice little winning streak.

Week 6 against Arizona represents a stretch of three out of four games versus losing teams leading up to the Vikings’ Week 10 bye. There’s absolutely no reason why this game should even be close. The good news? Kirk Cousins continues to play stellar football. He’s completing north of 71 percent of his passes with 11 touchdowns and just two picks on the season.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals: Home team’s chance to make a statement

As shocking as it might be, Cincinnati heads into Week 6 with the second-best record in the AFC. A win against Pittsburgh on Sunday would give this team a three-game lead over the division rival in the win column heading into the midway point of the season. It would also set up an epic showdown with the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 7.

First things first. In what has been a heated rivalry in recent seasons, Cincinnati has lost each of its past five games against the Steelers. That includes three consecutive home dates. If the Bengals are able to take advantage of a weakened division rival here, it will tell us a whole lot about Marvin Lewis’ squad moving forward. That’s for sure.

Chicago Bears at Miami Dolphins: Battle between surprising winning teams

Having lost their past two games, the time is now for these Dolphins to get back on the winning track. That’s magnified by the team’s fourth quarter meltdown at home against Cincinnati last week. Short of this happening, there’s a darn good chance Adam Gase’s squad will return to the irrelevance we saw last season moving forward into the midway point of the year.

For the Bears, it’s a tad different. Prior to their Week 5 bye, Mitchell Trubisky dominated Tampa Bay to the tune of six touchdown passes. With a 3-1 record and their only loss coming in a narrow manner against Green Bay, Chicago has a chance to cement its status as a top-end NFC Playoff contender. It’s these types of games that teams of the Bears’ ilk should win, especially after an off week.

Los Angeles Rams at Denver Broncos: Case Keenum’s struggles

Denver might not have signed Keenum to be an All-Pro quarterback. But it sure the heck didn’t give him $18 million per season to be a bottom-10 starter. Through the first five games of his Broncos career, that’s exactly what the journeyman has been. He’s tossed just five touchdowns compared to seven interceptions en route to leading the sixth-worst scoring offense in the game.

Denver’s defense might be an issue after what we saw last week. That’s already well known. And in the midst of a three-game losing streak, that unit must step up. But short of Keenum failing to perform better under center than what we’ve seen from Broncos quarterbacks over the past two seasons, that’s going to matter little.

Baltimore Ravens at Tennessee Titans: Early-season playoff hopefuls battle for positioning

They’ve gone about it different ways, but both the Ravens and Titans head into Week 6 with playoff and division championship aspirations on their minds. Fresh off upsetting the defending champion Eagles at home back in Week 4, Tennessee laid an egg on the road against Buffalo last week. At 3-2 on the season, the men from Nashville need Marcus Mariota to step up. He’s tossed just two touchdowns thus far on the season.

For the Ravens, their latest battle came in a losing effort to the upstart Browns. It’s a game that saw Joe Flacco and Co. put up their lowest point total (nine) since Week 4 of last season. That’s led to some concern after a strong start to the season for Flacco and the team’s offense. Both squads are in need of rebounding from bad performances last week. Whoever comes out on top here will be in a great position heading into Week 7.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Dallas Cowboys: Jason Garrett’s job on the line?

We know all about Jerry Jones mentality in Dallas. He has been against the idea of firing head coaches mid-season. He also sees Garrett as somewhat of a lap dog, a coach that he can control from the owner’s box. Even then, there’s going to come a time when Jones has to put this dog to sleep. That time could very well be sooner rather than later.

Garrett’s latest issue with going all conservative in overtime against the Houston Texans last week. It led to the Cowboy losing the game and dropping to under .500 after a strong Week 4 performance against the Lions. If Garrett continues to struggle from coaching standpoint or if the Cowboys are humiliated at home by a vastly superior Jaguars team, calls for his head will start to get louder in the Big D.

Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots: Early AFC Championship Game primer?

Winners of two consecutive after a 1-2 start, it seems that the two-time defending AFC champs have righted the ship. It’s helped getting Julian Edelman back from suspension and seeing newly-acquired Josh Gordon mixed in offensively. We now fully expect these Patriots to go on a run like we’ve seen throughout the Tom Brady era.

The issue here for New England is that it’s facing a record-setting quarterback in Patrick Mahomes who has the Chiefs as an absolute offensive juggernaut through five games. A loss here for the Patriots would enable Kansas City to take an almost insurmountable three-game lead in a head-to-head battle for playoff positioning with New England. Yeah, this is a huge game for both sides. It’s also a potential AFC Championship Game preview.

San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers: What to make of the Packers

There should be no real question about who wins Monday night’s game at Lambeau Field. San Francisco is coming off a humiliating home loss to the previously winless Cardinals and will be sending backup quarterback C.J. Beathard to the pitch against former league MVP Aaron Rodgers.

That’s all fine and dandy. But there’s also no reason Green Bay should have been defeated on the road against what had been a bad Detroit Lions squad last week. This team has been far too inconsistent. Rumblings of issues between Rodgers and head coach Mike McCarthy continue to grow. The offense is a shell of its former self. And it’s led to a 2-2-1 start to the season. A loss here would be almost catastrophic for the home team.