The NFL season continues into an odd Week 6. There was no Thursday night game, but tonight’s game features the Los Angeles Rams at the San Francisco 49ers. The Rams should remain competitive in the NFC West, while the 49ers are still recuperating from their demoralizing defeat in Week 5. This Monday night showcases two premier matchups: the Kansas City Chiefs at the Buffalo Bills, and the Arizona Cardinals at the Dallas Cowboys. Will Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs be able to bounce back against a vicious Buffalo defense? Can Dallas overcome a monstrous injury to quarterback Dak Prescott, in order to beat the Cardinals (who have a chance to make their first playoff appearance since 2015)? During an unorthodox week, expect some unorthodox predictions.
Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers
As a divisional matchup between the Rams and the 49ers, tonight’s game should greatly impact the rest of the season. The Rams missed the playoffs last year, and the 49ers were the runner-up team for the Super Bowl. This year, it appears as if the situation could switch, given the records and trajectory of both teams.
The Rams stand just a game back in the division, behind an undefeated Seattle Seahawks team at 4-1 on the year. Quarterback Jared Goff has been solid this season, throwing for eight touchdowns to just three interceptions with a 108.8 QBR rating. The team’s offense has been great overall at 5th in yards per game. Their defense has been even better. The Rams defense only gives up 304 yards and 18 points per game, good for fourth and third in the league.
The 49ers are vastly different from both the Rams and their own 2019 squad. The 2020 49ers’ team has already lost as many regular season games as the 2019 49ers lost in the entire year. Jimmy Garoppolo, the starting quarterback, is second on the team in passing yards, despite only seven less attempts on the year than the leading passer, Nick Mullens. Overall, the offense is 18th in points per game at 24.8, and the defense fairs worse with the 23rd best scoring defense at 22.8 points per game.
Otherwise stated, the 49ers are struggling. This was made clear after the team’s 43-17 loss to the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins are supposed to be mediocre at best, and Ryan Fitzpatrick is meant to be a placeholder for Tua Tagovailoa. But last year’s Super Bowl runners-up could not even keep up. This season, the 49ers are on life support.
The Rams believe they can compete for the title and the number one seed in the NFC playoffs. In order to do so, the Rams just have to keep pace with Seattle by winning tonight. The 49ers need to rebound from their abhorrent loss in Week 5, but the Rams are just playing too well. The Rams are 3.5 point favorites, and they will cover Sunday.
Prediction: Rams 27- 49ers 21
Kansas City Chiefs at Buffalo Bills
The matchup of two first-place teams in the NFC is bound to have some influence on the general playoff race. The Patrick Mahomes-led Chiefs have started off strong at 4-1, continuing to be a top contender for the championship. Meanwhile, Josh Allen and his Buffalo Bills have gotten off to one of the best starts in Buffalo history at 4-1. And they appear poised for a relatively easy path to a divisional crown. This week’s matchup could therefore put the game’s winner in a prime position, in order to claim the top seed in the AFC and be held as one of 2020’s strongest playoff contenders.
During Week 5, the Chiefs remained strong on the offensive side of the football, against the Las Vegas Raiders. The Chiefs scored 32 points, but their defense nonetheless let them down. Derek Carr and the Raiders’ offense won the day in the 40-32 win, leaving the Chiefs with questions concerning what they have on the defensive side of the ball. However, these worries may be overblown. The Raiders possess a young and fierce offense and an oddball head coach, Jon Gruden. Yet, if the broader schedule is considered, only the upstart Justin Herbert and the L.A. Chargers kept Kansas City in a game at 23-20. The Chiefs’ defense should be fine. The team’s offense is top ten in both yards and points per game, and the team should be able to move the ball effectively.
The Buffalo Bills had a different story in their matchup against the Tennessee Titans. The Bills were utterly dominated in a 42-16 defeat, when Josh Allen seemed to regress as a passer by throwing two interceptions. The story in that game is penalties and turnovers. And the Bills had plenty of each. However, it should not be forgotten that the Bills beat an extremely competitive Raiders team. For this reason, the Titans game seems like an outlier incident, so not underestimate the ability of the Bills to keep up with the Chiefs offensively. The Bills have a top five offense in terms of yards per game and the team scores 27.8 points per game. The Bills are a legitimate competitor to the defending Super Bowl champions.
This game will come down to turnovers and defense. The Chiefs have the edge in scoring defense and turnover differential, which bodes well for the chances of Kansas City winning. The Bills are no slouch and they proved their merits against the only common opponent on the schedule for both teams, so far. Stats give Kansas city the edge, but watch out for the Bills playing with a major chip on their shoulder, after getting worked by the Titans on national television.
The Chiefs have a special quarterback, a special wide receiving core, and an uber-talented running back in Clyde Edwards-Helaire. These components should make the ultimate difference. The line is -3.5 points to the Chiefs. However, it’s likely that this matchup boils down to less than a field goal of difference.
Prediction: Chiefs 31- Bills 28
Arizona Cardinals at Dallas Cowboys
The second Monday night competition is bound to provide an offensive fireworks show. Kyler Murray is playing well with DeAndre Hopkins, and the Cowboys have potentially the best wide receiving core in the league. Of course, the Cowboys will be without quarterback Dak Prescott, who was lost to a gruesome ankle injury for the year. This game could enable Arizona to remain competitive in the NFC playoff hunt, or it could enable Dallas to strengthen its grip on the NFC East.
Arizona is off to a great start. At 3-2 on the year, the team is on trajectory to compete for a playoff position. Wide receiver Deandre Hopkins leads the league in receiving yards, and quarterback Kyler Murray leads all quarterbacks in rushing, while amassing 1,300 yards and eight touchdowns through the air. Arizona’s offense is a top 12 offense in the league in yards per game, and the team should be able to move the ball.
The Cowboys are a similar story, but their offense is actually better statistically than Arizona’s offense. Dallas has the number one offense in yards per game and the number three scoring offense in the league. Even with Prescott out for the rest of the season, Andy Dalton, the backup, played very well in last week’s 37-34 win over the New York Giants, leading a drive to win the game. Dalton had an 81% completion percentage, passing for 111 yards with a QBR rating of 108.7. The Red Ryder BB Gun can play in this offense with the slew of weapons at his disposal.
With both teams having competent offenses, this game should come down to defense. Arizona’s defense is 10th in yards and 5th in points allowed. Take this with a grain of salt, however, because the Cardinals have played teams with a combined win total of 7 games; two of those games occurred against the last place Detroit Lions and last place New York Jets. Arizona’s defense may be good statistically, but it is somewhat stat-padded by the competition that the team has played. Dallas, on the other hand, doesn’t appear able to stop anyone. Dallas is in the bottom 10 in yards allowed and dead last in scoring defense at 36.0 points per game. Dallas couldn’t even stop the New York Giants, who only scored three touchdowns all season before the Week 5 matchup. And it seems that Dallas’ defense is incapable of stopping even the worst of offenses.
Dallas has tons of offensive firepower, but regrettably little help from its defense. Meanwhile, Arizona has a better defense and the team can keep up with all the offensive pieces. Arizona is favored by 2.5 points, and the team should be able to just barely make that line in a shootout.
Prediction: Cardinals 38- Cowboys 35
Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans (-2.0): 28 – 10 Tennessee Win
Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts (-7.5): 24 – 21 Indianapolis Win
Atlanta Falcons at Minnesota Vikings (-3.5): 28 – 24 Minnesota Win
Denver Broncos at New England (-9.0): 23-10 New England Win
Washington Football Team at New York Giants (-3.5): 21 – 10 Washington Win
Baltimore Ravens (-7.5) at Philadelphia Eagles: 34 – 21 Baltimore Win
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers (-3.5): 28 – 24 Pittsburgh Win
Chicago Bears at Carolina Panthers (-2.5): 23 – 21 Chicago Win
Detroit Lions (-3.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars: 27 – 24 Jacksonville Win
New York Jets at Miami Dolphins (-8.5): 30 – 13 Miami Win
Green Bay Packers (-1.5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 34 – 31 Green Bay Win
All lines provided by https://www.espn.com/nfl/lines