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Monday, October 21, 2019

15 key questions for NFL Week 6

Sam Darnold

Week 6 of the NFL sees an exciting matchup between winless teams — we had to, sorry. It compensates, though, by pairing Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes up for what could be a shootout, as well as several divisional battles that could have a key say in who gets a division title and a more favorable playoff setting.

Here are 15 key questions for NFL Week 6.

1. Can the Buccaneers halt Christian McCaffrey again?

Only one team has managed to come close to stopping Christian McCaffrey this season, and surprisingly, it’s the Buccaneers. In their Week 2 matchup, McCaffrey was held to just 37 yards on 16 carries in Tampa Bay’s 20-14 victory. That’s in stark contrast to every other game, where McCaffrey has torched opponents, going over 100 rushing yards in three other games. Whether this was a one-off or whether the Buccaneers can successfully do something that other teams haven’t figured out how to do may dictate how this game goes.

2. Will hosting the Seahawks actually be a good bounceback opportunity for the Browns?

It may sound silly, but getting back home and facing a good team might be exactly what the Browns need after their Monday night disaster. The Seahawks’ pass defense isn’t what it used to be, and it could be a very good spot for Baker Mayfield to start to find himself again. Odell Beckham needs a big performance as well, and he should be able to find some joy against that secondary. Containing Russell Wilson will be tough, but the Browns are always talking about embracing expectations — here’s another big game to meet head on.

3. How much of a shootout will Texans-Chiefs prove to be?

This game boasts Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, and two defenses that tend to be very vulnerable to high-performing offenses. That could very well make Chiefs-Texans the game of the weekend. By no means are we predicting a rerun of that epic Chiefs-Rams game from 2018, but this could be a shootout between two of the league’s finest young quarterbacks that comes down to whoever has the last possession. Watch this one if you’re an offensive enthusiast.

4. Can Washington sneak out its first win?

Callahan, the new interim coach of the Redskins, is bringing the disciplinarian approach to the team ahead of his first game in his new role. Luckily for him, that game comes against the winless and hopeless Miami Dolphins. These two factors could combine to help Washington to a first win of the season. It remains to be seen if Callahan’s approach will actually be beneficial — these things can easily backfire — but Washington could not ask for a better matchup to start with.

5. Will the Vikings’ willingness to pass continue against the Eagles?

The uber-conservative Viking offense cut loose in Week 5, as Kirk Cousins had his best game of the season and surpassed 300 yards of passing for the first time. It remains to be seen whether that continues against an Eagles team that’s very good against the run. If Cousins can’t find himself, it could be a nasty day for Minnesota’s offense, even with Dalvin Cook running the ball. Their gameplan here will be interesting to watch.

6. Can the Jaguars cope with Alvin Kamara?

The Jaguars have been hit for 100 yards rushing or more three times in five games so far this season, and a matchup with Alvin Kamara is probably not a great recipe for improvement. Kamara actually hasn’t rushed for 100 yards yet this season, but given the Jaguars’ vulnerability on the ground and the Saints’ likely reliance on Kamara due to the formidable pass defense, this could be a very good spot for him to shake that stat off.

7. Can Lamar Jackson cut down on the turnovers against Cincinnati?

After going three games without an interception, Jackson has thrown five picks in two games, with three of them coming in a win against the Steelers. The good news is that the Bengals look toothless right now and it should be a fantastic bounceback opportunity for Jackson. They’re heavily favored, and the reality is this should be a clear get-right opportunity for the second-year star.

8. Are the Niners and Rams poised for another shootout?

Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan have matched up several times since getting their respective coaching jobs, and it’s twice resulted in some wild games. In 2018, the Rams won a 41-39 decision, and McVay’s team claimed a 48-32 home victory last year as well. The Rams’ offense has been less explosive this year and the 49ers are still more or less being managed by Jimmy Garoppolo. The potential for a high-scoring game seems lower this time, but these are two quality offensive minds.

9. Could Kyler Murray be primed for a breakout against the reeling Falcons?

Murray has had some solid performances this year, but in his best game yardage-wise — 349 yards against Baltimore — he didn’t find the end zone, tarnishing it somewhat. That could change this week. The Falcons are vulnerable defensively, and Murray will be eager to take a shot at them after what Deshaun Watson did to Atlanta’s defense a week ago, throwing for five touchdowns. This may be the performance where Murray gives a glimpse of what he’s capable of.

10. How ugly will Titans-Broncos get for offensive enthusiasts?

Titans-Broncos offers two solid defenses, but two game manager quarterbacks who struggle to produce big performances. Thus, this one could be a big struggle as Joe Flacco and Marcus Mariota try to get the upper hand. There are weapons here — the Broncos, for instance, managed to beat the Chargers last week — but this one doesn’t have a lot of offensive upside. We’ll see if anyone can even make it to 20 points.

11. Will Sam Darnold’s return be enough for the Jets to give Dallas problems?

The Jets’ offense has been thoroughly useless with Luke Falk under center, but luckily for them, that ends this week when Sam Darnold makes his long-awaited return after a bout with mono. Darnold should instantly make the Jets’ offense look a bit more useful, and Dallas is still reeling from what Aaron Jones and the Packers did to them a week ago. The Jets’ defense might not be good enough to hold Dallas, but with Darnold back, the Jets may have enough about them on offense to cause some issues.

12. Are the Chargers already facing a must-win against Pittsburgh?

The Chargers are 2-3 after a disappointing loss to the Denver Broncos. A loss at home against Pittsburgh would leave them 2-4, and if the Chiefs win, the division would be getting away from Los Angeles already. The Steelers are vulnerable, particularly on offense, so this is a matchup that should theoretically benefit the Chargers. The pressure will be on, though — they can’t really afford to fall much further behind.

13. Are the Lions ready to show that they’re for real?

The Lions’ only loss of the season to date came at home to the Kansas City Chiefs in a game where they were one play away from stopping Patrick Mahomes and remaining unbeaten. They now face a road matchup with the Green Bay Packers, who have the early look of the class of the NFC North. The Lions will have something to say about that Monday night. A win would lift them to 3-1-1, and we’d have to start talking about them as potential playoff contenders.

14. Is Patrick Mahomes healthy and ready for a bounceback?

Mahomes will play, of course, but the sight of him limping last week against Indianapolis is enough to make some worry. Add in the fact that he didn’t perform well against the Colts, plus the fact that it came a week after an underwhelming performance against the Lions by his high standards, and there’s a bit of concern here. The Texans do have a pass rush he’ll have to be wary of, but they also have a secondary he could pick apart. If he struggles here against a vulnerable defense, there will be real reason for concern.

15. Are the Miami Dolphins so hopeless that they can’t compete with the Redskins?

Not only are the Dolphins winless, but they haven’t really come close to beating anyone. The Redskins will serve as their weakest opponents yet, coming off a coaching change and sitting winless themselves. There are four winless teams left, and the Dolphins play all three of the others. Washington comes first. How they perform here could demonstrate how much of a chance they have against the others.



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