With six weeks in the book, it’s becoming clearer who the playoff contenders are. Defending NFC champions Carolina Panthers losing their fourth game in a row opened the NFC to teams, such as the Dallas Cowboys and the Atlanta Falcons. In the AFC, the New England Patriots continue to stay on their throne after winning Tom Brady’s second game back. This week’s matchups will prove who the real playoff contenders are.
Minnesota Vikings (5-0) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-2), 12:00 p.m. Sunday on FOX
Coming off a bye week, the Minnesota Vikings are looking to come out of Lincoln Financial Field with another win to remain undefeated. As for the Philadelphia Eagles, they look to snap their two-game losing streak to keep up with division leader Dallas.
The Vikings allow 287.6 yards per game, giving them the second best defense in the league. If they want to remain undefeated, their defensive line needs to keep playing great and put pressure on the rookie quarterback Carson Wentz to cause him to make mistakes. The Vikings’ rushing defense, which allows 77.8 yards per game, is looking to limit Philadelphia’s running back core, which rushes for 113.6 yards per game.
For Philadelphia, it has to improve from its mistakes from the last two games. The Eagles rushed for an average of 105 yards in its last two games, which is low for the eighth ranked rushing offense in the league. Wentz completed 62 percent of his passes and threw an interception over the losing streak, which may be bad news as he goes up against the sixth ranked passing defense.
Expect a great game, as both teams have something to be playing for, but I expect Minnesota to come out of Philadelphia undefeated.
Minnesota 28, Philadelphia 20
New England Patriots (5-1) at Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2), 3:25 p.m. Sunday on CBS
The Pittsburgh-New England rivalry is always a great game, but with Ben Roethlisberger injuring his meniscus, the game may be less exciting without Big Ben in it.
The Patriots, coming off a 35-17 route against the Cincinnati Bengals, are coming into Heinz Field looking to do the same to the Steelers. In two games, quarterback Tom Brady has already passed for 782 yards and six touchdowns, and it looks like he’s not slowing down as he averages 10.4 yards per pass.
Fourth year quarterback Landry Jones looks to lead the Steelers to victory with Roethlisberger out. Jones attempted 55 passes last season and completed only 58 percent of them. Fortunately for the Steelers, Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams are running the ball well, as offensive coordinator Todd Haley plans to use them to take pressure off Jones.
Bell and Williams will try their best to keep the Steelers in the game, but Brady and Rob Gronkowski may be too much for the Steelers. Expect New England’s defense to cause Jones to struggle as the Patriots route the Steelers.
New England 35, Pittsburgh 14
Seattle Seahawks (4-1) at Arizona Cardinals (3-3), 7:30 p.m. Sunday on NBC
This NFC West matchup may have some playoff implications. The Seahawks and Cardinals were the preseason favorites to come out of this division. As for the Cardinals, they look to live up to the expectation as they made in the conference championship last season.
Seattle looks to improve its record to 5-1, as the Seahwaks escaped a close game against Atlanta on Sunday. Seattle’s defense is ranked No.1 in the league, allowing 283.6 yards per game. Russell Wilson will be throwing into the fifth ranked defense, which allows 191 passing yards per game. Running back Christine Michael has rushed for 354 yards this season, averaging 4.4 yards per carry.
For Arizona, it plans to stay to in the division race by coming out of the game victorious. The Cardinals are the 10th ranked offense in the league and may struggle against the top defense in the league. Arizona is fourth in the league in rushing behind David Johnson, who averages 94 yards a game.. If the Cardinals want to win, quarterback Carson Palmer needs to fix his mistakes. He threw five interceptions this season and has a quarterback rating of 84.1.
This matchup may be a defensive battle, which may cause a low scoring or a close game Sunday. I expect the Seattle Seahawks to continue their win streak against the Cardinals.
Seattle 28, Arizona 24