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Top storylines for NFL Week 6

Christian McCaffrey trade
Oct 6, 2019; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey (22) carries the ball for a touchdown in the third quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Week 6 around the NFL offers a whole host of tremendous matchups. Can the San Francisco 49ers continue their dominating early-season run against the division-rival Rams in Los Angeles?

Over in the AFC, Patrick Mahomes will do battle with Deshaun Watson and the Texans as his Chiefs look to rebound from a bad loss last Sunday night.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Redskins and Dolphins will do battle in the toilet bowl in South Beach on Sunday with potentially the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft on the line.

These are among the top storylines for Week 6 of the NFL season.

Tom Brady looks to get right on Thursday night

Each of the past two games have seen Tom Brady throw an interception in the red zone. That comes after he threw just one red-zone pick in his past 21 games. We’re not ready to panic yet. After all, New England is 5-0 on the season and has outscored its opponents 155-34.

At issue here is competition. Brady has dominated four teams on the schedule that have combined for a 1-17 record. His one game against a good team in that of the Buffalo Bills back in Week 4 saw Brady put up a career-worst performance. Taking on a Giants team Thursday night that’s yielding a 106.7 quarterback rating on the season, Brady should be back to dominating.

Battle for relevance in Tampa Bay

It’s looking more and more like the Drew Brees-less Saints are running away with the NFC South. They have won three consecutive games under a super impressive Teddy Bridgewater and will be getting their future Hall of Famer back here soon. This means there’s pressure on the Panthers and Buccaneers heading into a divisional matchup in London in Week 6.

Carolina has now won three consecutive games since former undrafted free agent Kyle Allen took over for the injured Cam Newton. In fact, he’s 4-0 as a starter for the team. As it relates to the Buccaneers, they have been inconsistent. Coming off a seven-point loss to the Saints in New Orleans, the 2-3 squad must show out here in order to remain relevant in the division. It’s that simple.

Do the Browns have any fight?

This is not a hyperbolic question. Cleveland’s performance this past Monday night in a 31-3 loss to the San Francisco 49ers really has us wondering whether the preseason hype surrounding this team was even remotely sane. Not only did Cleveland lose by four touchdowns, it showed no real fight. Baker Mayfield put up 58 net passing yards on 22 attempts. The Browns had less than 50 total yards in the second half. They couldn’t even manage garbage-time points.

Now set to take on a red-hot Seattle Seahawks team that’s 4-1 on the season, we’re going to find out relatively quickly whether the Browns have any fight in them. They might be 2-3 on the season, but we’re looking at a team that could be on the brink. It will be interesting how the Browns show up early this week.

Chargers must end skid to remain relevant

Following a disheartening home loss to the previously winless Denver Broncos, it’s now time for Philip Rivers and Co. to impose their will against a lesser and injury-plagued team. Los Angeles hosts a one-win Pittsburgh Steelers squad and rookie undrafted free agent Devlin Hodges on Sunday night.

If you’re wondering who Hodges is, you’re certainly not alone. He was signed this past offseason as a camp arm after starring at Samford. Following the scary injury Mason Rudolph suffered last week, Hodges will get the start here. At 2-3 on the season, the Chargers must dominate inferior competition. Even a narrow win will place into question their standing as legit playoff contenders moving forward.

Statement game for the Lions

Following a much-needed Week 5 bye, Matt Patricia and Co. continue to fly under the radar. Detroit remains one of just eight teams with a single loss or fewer heading into mid October. It just recently went tit-for-tat with Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. One game-changing play altered the outcome of that matchup.

Nonetheless, the Lions have a real opportunity to prove a point in Green Bay on Monday night. In the midst of a tremendous season, can Matthew Stafford hang with Aaron Rodgers in a one-on-one duel that’s been lopsided? This will tell us a lot about where the Lions stand as the NFL soon enters the midway point of its season. A win would make them legit threats in the division. A loss, and mediocrity will likely be the name of the game in Motown once again. No pressure!

Needing more from Marcus Mariota

It’s simple. The Tennessee Titans need to see more from their “franchise quarterback” if they want to be considered serious contenders in the pedestrian AFC South. Mariota is coming off a Week 5 outing that saw him complete 13 passes in a 14-7 loss to the Buffalo Bills.

Mariota continues to struggle getting the ball down the field and to his top receivers. Corey Davis and A.J. Brown combined for just 55 yards last week. Set to take on a one-win Broncos team coming off a surprising victory over the Chargers, it will be telling what Mariota has to offer his Titans. Another lackluster performance will tell us what we seemingly already knew. He’s not a starter-caliber quarterback on a playoff-worthy team.

No new narrative in Big D

The Dallas Cowboys should have absolutely no issue disposing of a disastrous New York Jets team in Jersey on Sunday. Dallas’ first three games (all wins) came against squads with a combined 2-12 record. They outscored said teams, 97-45. Since then, the Cowboys have taken on two good teams in that of the Saints and Packers, scoring a combined 34 points while losing both outings.

What does that tell us? Dallas has yet to get up against good teams while taking advantage of lackluster opponents. Nothing the team does this week outside of laying an egg against the Jets will change this narrative. After that, Dak Prescott and the Boys have nine consecutive games against teams that are currently .500 or better. Let that resonate for a second.

Protecting Minshew Mania in Duval

Despite falling to the Carolina Panthers last week, Jacksonville has seemingly found itself a keeper in rookie sixth-round pick Gardner Minshew. The youngster is completing nearly 67% of his passes with nine touchdowns and one interception this season. It’s one of the best starts we’ve seen from a rookie in NFL history.

Minshew and his Jaguars now host a red hot New Orleans Saints team this week. At 2-3 on the season, they want to make a statement in front of their home crowd. A big win here would also go a long way in remaining in the divisional race in what has been an average AFC South this season. Expect Jaguars fans to bring it big time Sunday afternoon.

Battle for the first pick in South Beach

If you are hanging out in South Beach on Sunday and actually attend this game between the Dolphins and Redskins, we have one simple question for you. Where did your life go wrong? The Redskins head into this game at 0-5 and just fired Jay Gruden. They have been outscored by 78 points in five games.

Though, that does not compare in any way to that travesty that are the Miami Dolphins parading around as a real NFL team. Brian Flores’ squad has been outscored by a combined 137 points in four games. The loser of this toilet bowl will have the inside shot at landing the No. 1 overall pick and Tua Tagovailoa. Then again, he might just decide that returning to Alabama is the best life decision.

Lamar Jackson looks to turn it around

Not only has Baltimore’s second-year quarterback hit that proverbial sophomore slump, he slammed right into it and has been thrown for a loop. Jackson has tossed four touchdowns compared to five interceptions over the past two games after opening the season with seven scores and zero picks. He was saved last week by an injury-plagued and mistake-filled Steelers squad.

Heading into Sunday’s game, Baltimore sits at 3-2 and in first place in the AFC North. It will be taking on a winless Bengals squad that just fell to the hapless Arizona Cardinals at home. If this is not a get-right game for Jackson, it could spell doom for his Ravens moving forward on the season.

Statement game for Kirk Cousins

Cousins played so well last week against a bad Giants team that it invited a phone call from President Trump. We’re not too sure what to make of that. What we do know is that this struggling quarterback has been downright disastrous against winning teams throughout his career.

Taking on the 3-2 Eagles at home on Sunday, Cousins has an opportunity to change the narrative. Can he come up big against a good team? A lot is riding on this for the Vikings as they attempt to navigate through what has been a competitive NFC North this season. Another game that sees Cousins lay an egg might invite a different type of call from fans in Minneapolis. The NFL’s version of impeachment.

Dan Quinn fighting for his job

Falcons owner Arthur Blank made it clear following last week’s embarrassment in Houston that Quinn’s job is safe. That’s no surprise. Blank has been a loyal owner during his tenure. He’s also not going to publicly blast his head coach. That’s all fine and dandy. But at 1-4 on the season, Atlanta is on the brink.

Heading into the desert to take on a one-win Cardinals team, Quinn has to be feeling the heat. If his team were to fall to one of the least-talented squads in the NFL, a pink slip could be imminent in the not-so-distant future. Atlanta laid down and took it from Deshaun Watson and Co. last week. A similar performance Sunday would likely spell doom for Quinn’s Falcons career.

No, we have not figured out Patrick Mahomes

It’s amazing. Mahomes completed 22-of-39 passes for 321 yards without an interception in last week’s 19-13 loss to the Colts. It’s led to talking heads somehow concluding that NFL teams have figured out the reigning MVP.

This is about the most ridiculous story of the 2019 season. It joins handshake-gate as the biggest representation of what has been a crazy calendar year. It’s also about as false as can be. Through five games, Mahomes has passed for 1,831 yards with 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions. He now takes on Deshaun Watson and the high-flying Texans on Sunday. Expect Mahomes to shut up those critics in a big way.

Your undefeated San Francisco 49ers

Ask the Cleveland Browns how overrated these 49ers are. Heading into last week with a perfect 3-0 mark, skeptics concluded that Kyle Shanahan’s squad was nothing more than a farce. San Francisco responded by drilling Cleveland to the tune of 31-3, making Baker Mayfield look like a wide-eyed rookie in the process.

The 49ers now have a chance to continue proving their worth as one of the game’s elites against struggling quarterback Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday. Another big win for this up-and-coming team would go a long way in determining San Francisco to be legit Super Bowl contenders. No, that’s not a typo.