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Mike Tannenbaum: Week 6 Matchups to Watch

Mike Tannenbaum: Week 6 Matchups to Watch

Here are a few Week 6 matchups we’ve got our eyes on:

Chargers at Ravens

On Monday Night Football, Carson Wentz was able to take advantage of a depleted Ravens secondary, throwing for 402 yards, 2 TDs, and 0 INT with 11.5 YPA. This week, it won’t get any easier for the Ravens as they host Justin Herbert and the surging Chargers. Unless the Ravens can manufacture a good pass rush, this looks to be a favorable matchup for the Chargers offense. On the other side of the ball, the Chargers will be tasked with defending a Ravens offense that can run and throw efficiently. Lamar Jackson’s passing has markedly improved; his average yards per attempt this season is 8.8, and his previous high in a season was 7.5, when he won the MVP in 2019. 

Expect a high-scoring game when these 4-1 division leaders meet in Baltimore. Both teams have great young QBs who could both be in the MVP conversation at the end of the season. This game feels like Browns vs. Chiefs in Week 1. It could very well come down to a kick in the 4th quarter or which defense is able to make a key play. 

Cardinals at Browns

It will be fascinating to watch Cleveland’s balanced offense against Arizona’s underrated defense. Adjusting for garbage time — when Win Probability for both teams is between 5% and 95% — Kevin Stefanski’s Browns have passed the ball 58.6% of the time on early downs. This ranks 26th in the NFL since the start of the 2020 season. I don’t see Stefanski deviating from this formula against an Arizona defense that has been far better against the pass than the run. Per PFF, the Cardinals are top 5 in both pass rush grade and coverage grade, but they are 31st in run defense grade. The question, then, is can the Browns run the ball, stay balanced to control the game, and keep the ball out of Kyler Murray’s hands?

Arizona could be without a few key players, namely C Rodney Hudson (ribs) and ED Chandler Jones (illness). Hudson has been a key leader for Arizona’s offense this year after they sent a third-round pick to Las Vegas for him and a seventh-round pick. With Jones out, it will be easier for the Browns to double team J.J. Watt, who has a pressure rate of 14.9% on the season, which ranks 12th of all defensive lineman with at least 100 pass rushing snaps. 

Cowboys at Patriots

Since Week 1, Dallas has had a good balance on offense, utilizing both Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard in the run game. Excluding their loss to Tampa Bay, the Cowboys are actually 31st in passing on early downs; they were far and away first in this metric in Week 1, passing 82.5% of the time. Given Todd Bowles’ tendency to load the box, the Cowboys were essentially forced into this strategy.

Now, in Week 6, the Cowboys will be faced with another chess match as they go up against Bill Belichick’s defense. What has made Dallas so difficult to defend recently is that they can win either on the ground or through the air. Will Belichick follow the Bucs’ blueprint and load the box to take away the run, or will he try to neutralize Dak Prescott by giving him a lot of split safety looks?  

As for the Patriots offense, Mac Jones will have to make enough plays to beat the Cowboys much improved defense under Dan Quinn. One interesting thing to watch is whether Josh McDaniels will stay away from Trevon Diggs, who thus far has had at least one INT in each game. 

Raiders at Broncos 

How will the Raiders play in light of what’s happened this week with Jon Gruden resigning as their Head Coach? This tragic incident could galvanize the team, giving them an us against the world mentality. It could also end up being a distraction that makes it hard for them to focus on football and their preparation. As for their opponent, Denver has been a very inconsistent team; they thrived in the first three weeks, but they faced Jacksonville and both New York teams. They were able to force rookie QBs Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson to make mistakes, and capitalized with turnovers. 

Quick Hitters

Geno Smith: Smith hasn’t started a game since December 2017, when he was a member of the Giants. However, he showed flashes when he stepped in for Russell Wilson against the Rams, going 10 of 17 for 131 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT. This is now a great opportunity for him to audition for a starting role next season. There may be at least 6 or 7 teams in need of a new starter. 

Sam Darnold: After a strong start to the season, Darnold has struggled the last two weeks. He had his worst game in Week 5 against Philly, throwing for just 177 yards and 3 INT. His most recent PFF Grades of 53.4 and 42.5 are much more in line with the first three seasons of his career than his first three games. 

Giants: What will their offense look like on Sunday? Daniel Jones has had the best season of his career thus far, but he suffered a concussion against the Cowboys and his status for this week against the Rams is uncertain. If he is unable to suit up, Mike Glennon is “ready to go” against one of the best defenses in football.   

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