World-Herald NFL editor John Rodino breaks down the league's Week 6 matchups, including key statistics and what to watch for.
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Game of the Week: Giants (3-2) at 49ers (4-1)
Time: 3:25 p.m.
Line: 49ers by 6½
Last meeting: Giants won 20-17 in OT, Jan. 22 (NFC championship)
Lowdown: It’s a budding rivalry here, 49er red vs. Big Blue — in an election year at that. It’s the third time in 11 months these teams have met on the West Coast, and the past two games have been thrillers. San Francisco won on Nov. 13 when Justin Smith batted down Eli Manning’s fourth-down pass in the red zone in the final minutes. The Giants got revenge on Jan. 22 in the NFC championship game when a fumbled punt led to Lawrence Tynes’ field goal in overtime. There’s plenty of motivation again. The defending Super Bowl champion Giants have beaten three defensively challenged teams, but lost to two decent defenses (Dallas, Philadelphia) within their division. The 49ers are rolling, and their entire divisional schedule is ahead of them — all winning clubs in the no longer NFC Worst.
Prediction: 49ers 24-19
Raiders (1-3) at Falcons (5-0)
Line: Falcons by 9½
Last meeting: Falcons won 24-0, Nov. 2, 2008
Lowdown: The Falcons squeezed a positive out of last week’s struggle with the Redskins. They managed to win on an off day. Quarterback Matt Ryan, believed by many to be the early front-runner for MVP, led a rally that produced the franchise’s first 5-0 start. The rested Raiders are coming off a Sept. 30 pounding from the Broncos. Oakland had no ground game in its three losses and needs a good outing from Darren McFadden to have a chance Sunday.
Prediction: Falcons 28-17
Chiefs (1-4) at Bucs (1-3)
Line: Bucs by 4
Last meeting: Buccaneers won 30-27 in OT, Nov. 2, 2008
Lowdown: All these Chiefs turnovers are undoing the effort of a hard-working defense. Last week’s field goal fest with the Ravens was painful to watch. Kansas City is expected to start Brady Quinn in place of quarterback Matt Cassel, who left the Baltimore game with a concussion. The Buccaneers, coming off a bye, have lost three straight. If someone doesn’t get going in the NFC South soon, the Falcons will clinch around Thanksgiving.
Prediction: Bucs 20-13
Colts (2-2) at Jets (2-3)
Line: Jets by 3½
Last meeting: Jets won 17-16, Jan. 8, 2011 (AFC wild card)
Lowdown: Reggie Wayne is probably headed to the Hall of Fame. His 13-catch, 212-yard receiving performance in the Colts’ victory over the Packers last week was NFL Films and Canton stuff. Andrew Luck had a coming-out party, leading his team back from an 18-point deficit. Now we’ll see if the Colts can build on that against New York. The banged-up Jets had a gritty showing against the Texans last Monday night, but the offense is still lacking.
Prediction: Jets 16-14
Bengals (3-2) at Browns (0-5)
Line: Bengals by 2½
Last meeting: Bengals won 34-27, Sept. 16
Lowdown: It’s the first divisional rematch of the season and key if the Bengals want to stay close to Baltimore in the AFC North. In Week 2, the Bengals didn’t shake the Browns until Andy Dalton’s fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Andrew Hawkins. Bengals backs didn’t run much in last Sunday’s loss to the Dolphins. It might be a good idea to try against the Browns, who gave up 200 yards to Ahmad Bradshaw in last week’s loss to the Giants.
Prediction: Bengals 30-24
Lions (1-3) at Eagles (3-2)
Line: Eagles by 3½
Last meeting: Eagles won 35-32, Sept. 19, 2010
Lowdown: The bye couldn’t have come at a better time for the Lions, who’ve lost three straight. Ndamukong Suh and Co. haven’t looked like a playoff defense with all the big plays they’ve given up. And Detroit’s special teams have been burned for a number of long returns. Most of the Eagles’ games — like last week’s last-second loss to the Steelers — have been ugly, Michael Vick’s fumble problems continue and yet they’re first in the NFC East.
Prediction: Eagles 33-23
Rams (3-2) at Dolphins (2-3)
Line: Dolphins by 4½
Last meeting: Dolphins won 16-12, Nov. 30, 2008
Lowdown: The Rams are trying to stay in the thick of the NFC West. A long time since you’ve heard that. Robert Quinn had three of nine sacks when St. Louis shut down Arizona on Oct. 4, a statement game for the defense. Can Chris Givens or Brandon Gibson take up the slack for injured leading receiver Danny Amendola? After two overtime losses, linebacker Karlos Dansby and the Dolphins’ run-stuffing defense finally finished against the Bengals last Sunday.
Prediction: Rams 20-17
Cowboys (2-2) at Ravens (4-1)
Line: Ravens by 3
Last meeting: Ravens won 33-24, Dec. 20, 2008
Lowdown: If they’ve gotten that ugly win over the Chiefs out of their systems, the AFC North-leading Ravens have a chance to put some distance between themselves and the puzzling Steelers (sorry if that sounds disrespectful toward the Bengals). The Chiefs did run for 214 yards against Ray Lewis and Co. The question is, can DeMarco Murray and the Cowboys do it? Can Dallas’ offense play any worse than it did in that Oct. 1 nightmare with the Bears?
Prediction: Ravens 23-21
Bills (2-3) at Cardinals (4-1)
Line: Cardinals by 4
Time: 3:05 p.m.
Last meeting: Cardinals won 41-17, Oct. 5, 2008
Lowdown: No defense vs. struggling offense. The Bills have allowed 1,201 yards in the past two games, the most in consecutive weeks since the New York Yanks gave up 1,227 in 1950. The Cardinals, meanwhile, are down to their No. 3 running back after Ryan Williams had season-ending shoulder surgery. LaRod Stephens-Howling, returning from a hip injury, is the only experienced backup. He’s been the Cardinals’ primary kick returner.
Prediction: Cardinals 21-17
Patriots (3-2) at Seahawks (3-2)
Line: Patriots by 3½
Time: 3:05 p.m.
Last meeting: Patriots won 24-21, Dec. 7, 2008
Lowdown: It’s the Patriots’ top-ranked offense against the Seahawks’ top-ranked defense. Both teams enter with top 10 rushing offenses and defenses. The Patriots, led by Stevan Ridley, have rushed for 200 yards in consecutive games for the first time since 1978, although Denver and Buffalo are lower-tier run defenses. Seattle features NFC rushing leader Marshawn Lynch, but not a passing game to match Tom Brady’s.
Prediction: Patriots 33-20
Vikings (4-1) at Redskins (2-3)
Line: Redskins by 2½
Time: 3:25 p.m.
Last meeting: Vikings won 33-26, Dec. 24, 2011
Lowdown: Sure, the maturation of quarterback Christian Ponder and receiver Percy Harvin, plus reliable runner Adrian Peterson, have helped the Vikings turn things around. But let’s not forget Chad Greenway and a defense that have allowed just three touchdowns in the three-game winning streak. Kirk Cousins would quarterback the Redskins if Robert Griffin III (concussion) is held out. RGIII did practice after taking that hard hit in the Falcons game.
Prediction: Vikings 28-21
Packers (2-3) at Texans (5-0)
Line: Texans by 3½
Time: 7:20 p.m.
Last meeting: Texans won 24-21, Dec. 7, 2008.
Lowdown: What? The Packers have gone from powerhouse to a spoiler’s role? They were throwing the cliches around after last Sunday’s upset loss to the Colts. “It’s a gut-check,” linebacker Erik Walden told reporters. Something’s wrong, and it has even trickled down to Mason Crosby, who looked like he was panicking when he rushed and pulled a field goal try that could have forced overtime.
Prediction: Texans 26-24
Monday’s game: Broncos at Chargers (7:30 p.m., ESPN). Open date: Panthers, Bears, Jaguars, Saints. Capsules and predictions by John Rodino. Predictions not related to point spreads. Record last week: 12-2 Season: 47-30. Information from the Associated Press was used in this outlook.