Itching to watch an underdog try to overcome the odds or triumph against adversity? Simply looking to pass the time reading another NFL.com article while stuck in your cube? Nick Shook offers a bead on four us-against-the-world scenarios to track entering Week 6 of the 2022 NFL season. The order below is determined by confidence rankings, from No. 1 (most confident) to No. 4 (least confident).
I still can't believe I was the only one of my NFL Media colleagues to pick the Cowboys in Week 5.
Dallas brought a stellar defense to Inglewood, California, where the Cowboys met a Rams team that can't get out of its own way offensively. Of course they'd win a low-scoring affair, even if it was on the road.
I don't have the same type of slam-dunk selection for Week 6, but we have some solid candidates, including one featuring an offense that appears to have left a wheel behind in a ditch somewhere along the Oregon Trail.
Luckily for the Jaguars, a carpenter is part of their traveling party. We'll see if they can fashion a replacement before they go to Indianapolis seeking a season sweep of a division rival.
These are the four underdogs I believe in most to score upsets in Week 6.
The lines below provided by DraftKings are current as of 2:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Oct. 12 unless otherwise noted below.
- WHERE: Lucas Oil Stadium Stadium (Indianapolis)
- WHEN: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday | CBS
- SPREAD: Jaguars +2
The Jaguars' offense hasn't been the same since the team took a 14-0 lead over the Eagles in Week 4, and Trevor Lawrence has faded after a strong start to the 2022 season. Some might even say Lawrence has regressed to his 2021 form, flinging risky passes that seem to make little sense in the moment.
Why, then, would I believe in them in an underdog scenario?
Well, there are two reasons. First, the Colts have played quality defense in most of their games this season, but their offense is miles behind. Indianapolis has scored a combined total of 32 points in its two wins, put 17 on the board in a Week 4 loss to Tennessee, managed 20 points in a season-opening tie with Houston, and perhaps most importantly in this conversation, got shut out by the Jaguars in Week 2.
Now, it's tough to beat a team twice. I don't see these underdogs scoring another shutout win the second time around.
But that brings me to my second point: The Jaguars have to figure things out eventually, and if ever there were a reason for Lawrence to regain the confidence with which he was brimming in the first month of the season, a game with the Colts should provide it.
Jacksonville mustered just 6 points last week, but only gave up 13 in a game that was winnable until the very end. The Jags currently rank ninth in total defense, sixth against the run and are tied for 14th against the pass. They're allowing 16 points per game (tied for fourth), and they're facing an offense that ranks dead last in points scored.
Offensively, Jacksonville ranks 13th in yards per game, landing in the middle of the league in rushing and passing. The Jags are facing a Colts team that ranks eighth in total defense and fourth against the run. Points could come at a premium in this one, but if Doug Pederson’s team is looking for a low-scoring win, this is the team to play against.
It's truly that simple. And we shouldn't overlook how the Jaguars rolled to a win over the Colts in Week 2.
- WHERE: FirstEnergy Stadium (Cleveland)
- WHEN: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday | CBS
- SPREAD: Patriots +2.5
No one was expecting the Patriots to post a shutout against the offense that was ranked first in the league entering Week 5. It certainly was a surprising result against Detroit, especially with fourth-round rookie Bailey Zappe playing quarterback for New England, but the Patriots got the job done.
As for the Browns, their defense lacks toughness, consistency and, most of all, any semblance of an identity to be proud of. Cleveland gave up huge gains through the air in the first couple weeks of the season, allowed Atlanta to run right through the defense in Week 4, then failed to stop either offensive element in a Week 5 loss to the Chargers. Scrambling defensively, the Browns traded for Deion Jones (who is on the reserve/designated to return list) this week and signed his former Falcons teammate, defensive tackle Tyeler Davison, to the practice squad.
Things are looking bleak for Cleveland. There is good news, though: Nick Chubb has been an absolute stud. The NFL's rushing leader is the brightest spot for the Browns through five weeks, and he's in line for another big day against the Patriots' 22nd-ranked rushing defense.
That points toward a win for the favorites in this matchup. But I have zero confidence in Cleveland's defense, enough to give the Patriots -- even if Zappe gets another start -- the edge in this one.
- WHERE: Lincoln Financial Field (Philadelphia)
- WHEN: 8:20 p.m. ET on Sunday | NBC, Universo
- SPREAD: Cowboys +6
Oh, look. The Cowboys are once again underdogs.
Mike McCarthy told reporters last week his team is "nobody's underdog," then went out and proved it with a road win over the defending champions. An even tougher opponent awaits Dallas this weekend.
The Eagles own a top-four offense and defense, just scored a nailbiter of a win over the Cardinals in Arizona and return home as the NFL's last remaining undefeated team.
Dallas has shut down opposing offenses this season, ranking third in scoring defense and seventh in yards allowed and passing yards allowed. It has not been as stout against the run -- ranking 19th -- which hasn't mattered all that much thanks to the Cowboys' ability to put opposing offenses behind schedule.
With Micah Parsons -- who leads the NFL with 24 QB pressures, per Next Gen Stats -- leading the way, the Cowboys are allowing just 14.4 points per game through Week 5, their lowest average through the first five games of a season since 1994. That year, the Cowboys finished 12-4 and won the NFC East.
They'll need to take down the Eagles to claim the division crown once again. And while backup quarterback Cooper Rush is expected to start on Sunday, a winning formula exists.
Dallas is pounding it on the ground, going from running the ball on 28.1 percent of plays in Week 1 to 64.2 percent of plays in Week 5. Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard make up quite a one-two backfield punch, and against the league's 10th-ranked rushing defense, the Cowboys will need both to thrive in order to win.
A matchup between the league’s fifth-ranked scoring offense and third-ranked scoring defense means we're in for one heck of a showdown. The Cowboys and Eagles are both rolling. I'll take the team with a defense that has yet to allow 20 points in a game this season.
- WHERE: GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium (Kansas City)
- WHEN: 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday | CBS
- SPREAD: Chiefs +2.5
This one is truly a toss-up.
The AFC's top two teams are set for a rematch of their Divisional Round thriller from last season, and both have a ton of positive momentum going for them. They're both 4-1 and boast explosive offenses capable of outscoring any team in the NFL.
The Bills should have the edge. Buffalo's defense has been one of the league's early season revelations, ranking tied for first in points allowed, second against the run and fourth against the pass, and it's not even fully healthy.
Kansas City, meanwhile, has struggled against the pass, ranking 24th, and just allowed Josh Jacobs to rack up 154 yards and one touchdown on 21 carries in Week 5.
But the potential psychological impact of the last meeting between these two teams matters. Buffalo dominated Kansas City in their regular-season matchup last year, then failed to replicate such a performance in the postseason, a loss that undoubtedly still stings the Bills.
Josh Allen is the MVP favorite for a reason, but I trust Patrick Mahomes to go win a game like this more than any other quarterback who isn't named Tom Brady. The Chiefs have become an offense that spreads the wealth and reaps the benefits, and even against this defense, I can see them finding success.
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