AFC Supremacy is Up For Grabs in Week 6 of the NFL
Although the biggest games of the week will take place in the AFC, an end of an era in the NFC needs to be discussed first.
The Eli Manning era in New York to be exact.
After a 34-13 drubbing on Thursday night at the hands of their rivals, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Giants walked off the field at MetLife Stadium to a chorus of boos from the home crowd.
Despite a sparkling performance from running back Saquon Barkley (229 total yards and 1 touchdown), the rest of the Giants’ offense was inept. Their defense never made the necessary plays to get the Giants off the field, and the special teams play included blunders on punt returns and a missed field goal just before the half.
The lackluster performance produced another outburst from Odell Beckham Jr., and countless blank stares from Eli Manning.
He was sacked four times, and a number of other plays were over before they could even get started.
The second the game was over, the national media criticized the Giants and their bleak outlook with Eli Manning as their quarterback. They have had a few close losses this season, so going in to Thursday night there was room for optimism.
However, after the embarrassing defeat dropped the Giants to 1-5 this season, everyone who covers and roots for them was left wondering what the next move at quarterback would be for this proud but struggling franchise.
Now let’s move on to teams that have a much brighter outlook moving forward this season.
Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2-1) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (4-1), 1 PM @ Paul Brown Stadium
The hierarchy of the AFC North has long featured the Pittsburgh Steelers at the top. With a stout defense and Hall-of-Famers on both sides of the ball the Steelers have always had what it takes to compete for and win championships.
Ben Roethlisberger is the cornerstone of the franchise and unlike Eli Manning, he seems to be avoiding that dreaded drop-off in talent at the quarterback position.
Antonio Brown has proven to be the second coming of Jerry Rice with his incredible dedication, passion and ability.
The Steelers have come in to the past few seasons as an offensive juggernaut thanks to the addition of LeVeon Bell in the 2013 NFL Draft. Unfortunately, this year things have gone sour. With Bell demanding a contract that reflects what he brings to the table, the Steelers have been forced to play without him through the first five weeks of the season.
There has been a tie to the Cleveland Browns and ugly losses to the Chiefs and their division rivals, the Baltimore Ravens. Promising wins over the Bucs and Falcons has steadied the ship, and the Steelers defense has picked up the slack until the offense finds their rhythm. TJ Watt and Bud Dupree have provided a lethal pass rush for the Steelers, and sacking the quarterback has become their calling card on defense.
The Cincinnati Bengals will be their biggest test yet. Andy Dalton seems to have found his form again early this season, and with an arsenal that includes A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard, the Bengals are putting up over 30 points a game.
They are undefeated at home this season, and with a win here they can put some distance between themselves and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
This game feels like a must-win for Pittsburgh. LeVeon Bell has promised to end his holdout in the coming weeks, and the Steelers want to make sure they still have a division title to fight for when he comes back.
Bet on this one being a high scoring game that comes down to the wire.
Prediction: Pittsburgh, 31-28.
Kansas City Chiefs (5-0) vs. New England Patriots (3-2), 8:20 PM @ Gillette Stadium
As a battle rages for the AFC North in the afternoon, the main event of Sunday goes down where usually all the big games in the AFC take place, Gillette Stadium.
The road to the Super Bowl goes through the New England, and there is no better challenger than the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs.
With a win on Sunday night, the Chiefs can put the AFC on notice as the team to beat. No team wants to play a playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium, let alone the AFC Championship.
Patrick Mahomes keeps dominating on a weekly basis, as the Chiefs rolled the Jacksonville Jaguars last week, 30-14. Their core of Mahomes, Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce makes up the most impressive offense in the league. Averaging 35 points per game and beating their opponents by an average of ten points has vaulted them in to the conversation of the best team in the league. They won’t earn that moniker until they perform in big games like this one on Sunday night.
For Tom Brady and the New England Patriots the task is clear but not simple. Keeping pace with Mahomes and the Chiefs is crucial. With Julian Edelman once again a vital part of the New England offense, it creates room for Sony Michel, James White and Josh Gordon to be more successful. Their offense is back to business as usual, but it will be the defense that will allow them to win this game.
There will be points in the game where the Chiefs falter, and New England has to be ready to pounce. Their defense is not top-tier by any stretch, but they are opportunistic. It has long been known as a “bend, don’t break” style of defense that thrives off turnovers. The only problem this week is that Kansas City is extremely efficient in the red zone, and Patrick Mahomes doesn’t make mistakes.
I just don’t see this stretch of incredible play coming to an end for the Chiefs. The Patriots very well may lose this game, but it won’t send them in to a panic. It is setting up to be a game in which the team that has the ball last maybe the one that wins it.
Prediction: Chiefs, 27-24
In a nail-biting win last Sunday, both Cooper Kupp and Brandin Cooks suffered concussions for the Los Angeles Rams. However, both seemed to have bounced back this week and been able to participate in practice. Look for them to continue making a huge impact on the field for the Rams.
The Texans defense looks to provide another spirited effort at home this Sunday. JJ Watt and Jadeveon Clowney are both healthy and ready to get after rookie quarterback Josh Allen. With the home crowd behind them, they’ll make big plays all afternoon.
Jameis Winston is making his first NFL start this season as the Bucs turn to him after coming off a bye in Week 5. Winston’s career has been underwhelming so far, but the Bucs have given him all the tools to succeed. Can he step up and become a viable QB1 again?
The Monday night game between the 49ers and Packers will feature a player not many casual fans have heard of yet. With an early season injury to Randall Cobb, Marquez Valdes-Scantling has stepped for the Green Bay Packers. He caught seven balls last weekend for 68 yards and a touchdown, and will look to build off that in Week 6.