We made it to week six of the NFL season, folks! We don’t quite have the 10-game circus of last week, but this is arguably the best slate of 1 p.m. games we’ve had all season. Whether it’s Seattle vs Cleveland, Patrick Mahomes vs Deshaun Watson, or the Tank-for-Tua Bowl, I’m not leaving my couch. With that being said, here are the critical matchups you need to look out for in each of the early games.
Seattle Seahawks (4-1) vs Cleveland Browns (2-3)
Baker Mayfield vs Seattle Defense
In my opinion, there hasn’t been a more disappointing player from 2018 to 2019 than second-year quarterback Baker Mayfield. Coming into this season, the Browns were picked as a darkhorse Super Bowl contender, largely on the basis that Mayfield would take the next step as a potential MVP candidate after an excellent rookie season. However, he’s thrown for just four touchdowns in five games, while also throwing eight interceptions. If the Browns want to turn things around, it will depend solely on Mayfield being able to get back on track. Seattle’s defense clearly isn’t what it used to be, but this will be a big test for Mayfield, as well as an indicator for this offense’s outlook going forward.
Houston Texans (3-2) vs Kansas City Chiefs (4-1)
Deshaun Watson vs Patrick Mahomes
There cannot be any other matchup more important in this game than Deshaun Watson vs Patrick Mahomes, right? I mean, both teams live and die on the play of their All-Pro quarterbacks. This will be an explosive, high-scoring game, so smash the over on this one as soon as you can. There will be very little defense played in this one, as both Kansas City and Houston have been attacked in the secondary all year long. Thus, this game could come down to who has the ball last.
Washington Redskins (0-5) vs Miami Dolphins (0-4)
Terry McLaurin vs Xavien Howard
Case Keenum is back, and while that may not seem like a big deal to the average viewer, it means a lot for Terry McLaurin. The rookie wideout from Ohio State racked up 16 catches for 257 yards and three touchdowns with Keenum under center for the first three games of the season. It is clear their connection is incredibly strong, and if the Redskins win this game, it will be because of this duo. However, Miami has a neutralizing cornerback in Xavien Howard, who has the talent to shut down the very best in the league. But Howard’s greedy play style makes him vulnerable from time to time, so it will be interesting to see if McLaurin can break through for a couple of big plays downfield.
Philadelphia Eagles (3-2) vs Minnesota Vikings (3-2)
Rasul Douglas/Sidney Jones vs Adam Thielen/Stefon Diggs
Through five games, the biggest question mark about the Philadelphia Eagles has been the play of their cornerbacks. It’s been a rollercoaster ride for Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas, who have been wildly inconsistent so far in 2019, and now they receive one of their toughest matchups of the year against Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. On the other side of the ball, the internal strife between the Vikings and Diggs has plagued the team since the beginning of the season. With the trade deadline looming, this is a huge game for Diggs’ future in Minnesota, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the week he breaks out.
New Orleans Saints (4-1) vs Jacksonville Jaguars (2-3)
Teddy Bridgewater vs Gardner Minshew
Both Teddy Bridgewater and Gardner Minshew were called on by their respective teams to replace injured starters, and they’ve played as well as anyone could have expected. Bridgewater is 3-0 as the Saints’ starter, and he’s playing like a quarterback that will receive a lot of money from some team in free agency. Minshew, meanwhile, is a legitimate offensive rookie of the year candidate, throwing for nine touchdowns and just one interception since replacing Nick Foles in the season opener. Thus, this is the battle of backup quarterbacks who have played their way into starting roles for the foreseeable future.
Cincinnati Bengals (0-5) vs Baltimore Ravens (3-2)
Can the Bengals stop the Ravens’ run game?
This is a matchup between the NFL’s 2nd rushing offense – the Baltimore Ravens – and the NFL’s 31st rushing defense – the Cincinnati Bengals. Quite simply, if the Bengals can’t find a way to contain Lamar Jackson and Mark Ingram from running wild Sunday, they will fall to 0-6. Many Bengals fans are upset with Andy Dalton and the play of the offensive line this season, but their inability to stop the run has been the Achilles heel of this team, not the offense. This will be the key if Cincinnati wants to earn its first victory.