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Your Week 6 Matchup Preview: There’s One Key Difference Between Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes

The 2017 first-rounders square off for the first time on Sunday—but the guys in front of them may decide the game. Plus, the point spreads, injuries, story lines, and everything else you need to know for every Week 6 game.

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Imagine watching all three Lord of the Rings back-to-back-to-back. Then add 2.5 hours. That is how much football there will be on Sunday. The Panthers and Buccaneers kick off in London at 9:30 a.m. ET (plan your fantasy football lineups accordingly). Roughly 14 hours later, the Chargers and Steelers will finish Sunday Night Football. Even Sauron would think that’s a lot of sitting around and watching something.

Plan Your Weekend Around this Game

Washington (0-5) @ Miami Dolphins (0-4)

Kickoff time: 1 p.m. ET
Channel: Fox
Announcers: Sam Rosen, Ronde Barber, Lindsay Czarniak (sideline reporter)
Opening line: Washington -6.5
Over/under: 41
Key Washington injuries and absences: Quarterback Case Keenum (foot), tight end Jordan Reed (concussion), tight end Vernon Davis (concussion), tackle Donald Penn (hamstring)
Key Dolphins injuries and absences: Cornerback Xavien Howard (knee)
What to watch: The Tank for Tua Bowl

Just kidding.

Plan Your Weekend Around this Game, for Real

Houston Texans (3-2) @ Kansas City Chiefs (4-1)

Kickoff time: 1 p.m. ET
Channel: CBS
Announcers: Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts, Evan Washburn (sideline reporter)
Opening line: Kansas City -8.5
Over/under: 54
Key Texans injuries and absences: Receiver Kenny Stills (hamstring)
Key Chiefs injuries and absences: Quarterback Patrick Mahomes (ankle), receiver Tyreek Hill (shoulder), receiver Sammy Watkins (hamstring), left tackle Eric Fisher (groin), guard Andrew Wylie (ankle), defensive tackle Chris Jones (groin), linebacker Anthony Hitchens (groin)
What to watch: Patrick Mahomes vs. Deshaun Watson

This is the first time Mahomes’s Chiefs are playing Watson’s Texans, but it won’t be the last. Kansas City traded up to get Mahomes at no. 10 overall in the 2017 draft. Two picks later, Houston traded up to get Watson at no. 12. Both franchises’ destinies have been dramatically altered for the better since then. Mahomes and Watson accrued remarkably similar numbers in their thus-far spectacular careers, but one massive difference has separated them: pass protection. Opponents have sacked Watson 99 times in 28 games, while Mahomes has been sacked 35 times in 22 starts. Mahomes has been kept clean. Watson was kept off of a plane last year because his bruised lung couldn’t be exposed to higher altitude.

Last week, that reality flip-flopped. Mahomes was sacked four times for just the second time in his career, and his ankle sprain from Week 1 was exacerbated when one of his linemen stepped on it in his matchup with the Colts. Meanwhile, Watson had just the second game of his career in which he wasn’t sacked. With the rare chance to remain upright on all but one play when he was hit, he threw five touchdowns and just five incompletions, for a career-high 426 passing yards at 12.9 yards per attempt while posting a perfect passer rating and no turnovers. Apparently bad things happen when Patrick Mahomes is tackled and good things happen when Deshaun Watson is not. Whichever player takes less punishment on Sunday will likely prevail.

Good, Sexy Football

San Francisco 49ers (4-0) @ Los Angeles Rams (3-2)

Kickoff time: 4:05 p.m. ET
Channel: Fox
Announcers: Dick Stockton, Mark Schlereth, Jennifer Hale (sideline reporter)
Opening line: Rams -5
Over/under: 48.5
Key 49ers injuries and absences: Left tackle Joe Staley (broken fibula), right tackle Mike McGlinchey (knee), fullback Kyle Juszczyk (MCL sprain), defensive end Dee Ford (quadricep)
Key Rams injuries and absences: Running back Todd Gurley (quadriceps), receiver Brandin Cooks (concussion), cornerback Aqib Talib (ribs), linebacker Clay Matthews (broken jaw)
What to watch: San Francisco’s star-studded defensive line vs. L.A.’s struggling offensive line

Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan have been touted as two of the league’s offensive visionaries, but it’s their teams’ defenses that have been extraordinary through Week 5. The Rams lead the league in pressuring quarterbacks (34.4 percent of dropbacks) while the 49ers are fourth (33.6 percent). Both teams have done this while rarely blitzing. Pressuring quarterbacks without sending five or more players is possible when a team has two-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald or has five first-round picks on their defensive line like the 49ers.

Both of these teams’ offensive lines are in a woeful state to face the opposing defense. San Francisco had already lost left tackle Joe Staley to a broken leg. On Monday Night Football, the team also lost right tackle Mike McGlinchey and fullback Kyle Juszczyk (it’s a bigger deal than it sounds—the 49ers lead the NFL in fullback usage, according to Sharp Football Stats). The 49ers are down an edge blocker, but the Rams are down an edge rusher after losing Clay Matthews to a broken jaw against the Seahawks. If the Rams do get pressure, it will be interesting to see how quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo responds. More than 75 percent of his dropbacks have come from a clean pocket, the most in the league this year, and overall he has thrown the fewest passes of any QB to play four full games.

The Rams offensive line is in worse shape than San Francisco’s. Los Angeles is the third-worst-graded pass-blocking team in football, ahead of only Minnesota and Miami. Of the 71 guards who have played 100 or more snaps this season, Rams left guard Joseph Noteboom is the 56th-highest-graded guard by Pro Football Focus, right guard Austin Blythe is ranked 63rd, and reserve guard Jamil Demby is dead last. Considering the Rams pass on two out of every three downs—the fifth-highest rate in the league—and they face a defense featuring defensive end Nick Bosa and defensive tackle DeForest Buckner on Sunday, that could be a problem for Jared Goff, who has struggled mightily behind the Rams’ creaky line.

Good, Unsexy Football

Philadelphia Eagles (3-2) @ Minnesota Vikings (3-2)

Kickoff time: 1 p.m. ET
Channel: Fox
Announcers: Kenny Albert, Charles Davis, Pam Oliver (sideline reporter)
Opening line: Minnesota -3
Over/under: 44
Key Eagles injuries and absences: Receiver DeSean Jackson (abdomen), left tackle Jason Peters (knee), cornerback Ronald Darby (hamstring), cornerback Avonte Maddox (concussion/neck), cornerback Orlando Scandrick (illness), safety Rodney McLeod (knee), defensive tackle Tim Jernigan (foot)
Key Vikings injuries and absences: Guard Josh Kline (foot), cornerback Mackensie Alexander (elbow/groin), cornerback Holton Hill (suspended)
What to watch: Minnesota’s body language

Two weeks ago, Kirk Cousins’s failures against Chicago frustrated teammates enough to spill into the public. Adam Thielen was visibly angry on the field and sideline, Stefon Diggs may or may not have requested a trade midweek, and head coach Mike Zimmer told Cousins to stop podcasting. The Vikings’ 28-10 win against the Giants placated the team for the week, but Minnesota’s issues are mostly just paused, not fixed. New York’s pass defense is among the worst in football. That Cousins found Thielen for 130 yards against the Giants’ glacial secondary is not particularly impressive.

Philadelphia’s secondary is not much better than New York’s considering the Eagles’ injuries, so perhaps the Vikings can find similar success this week at home. But the Eagles had 10 sacks last week against the Jets, and Cousins is notorious for struggling under pass pressure. If Cousins resumes struggling Sunday, the Vikings may be bickering again.

Weirdly Entertaining

Carolina Panthers (3-2) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3)

Kickoff time: 9:30 a.m. ET (!)
Channel: NFL Network
Announcers: Rich Eisen, Kurt Warner, Steve Mariucci, Michael Irvin, Melissa Stark (sideline reporter)
Opening line: Pick ’em
Over/under: 46
Key Panthers injuries and absences: Quarterback Cam Newton (foot), running back Christian McCaffrey (back), offensive tackle Greg Little (concussion), guard Trai Turner (ankle), defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (knee), linebacker Shaq Thompson (ankle)
Key Buccaneers injuries and absences: Receiver Chris Godwin (hip)
What to watch: The inside of your eyelids

Pro football before 10 a.m. is unholy. The people who do tune in can see Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey, the no. 1 running back in fantasy football, and Tampa Bay’s Chris Godwin, the no. 1 receiver in fantasy. McCaffrey’s pace is historic. McCaffrey, who is expected to play Sunday despite a back injury, leads the league in rushing attempts (105), rushing yards (587), and yards from scrimmage (866). Not only does his yards-from-scrimmage mark lead the league, but it is the most since Jim Brown’s 988 yards in 1963. His 159.6 PPR fantasy points are the third most ever through five games.

New Orleans Saints (4-1) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (2-3)

Kickoff time: 1 p.m. ET
Channel: CBS
Announcers: Greg Gumbel, Trent Green, Melanie Collins (sideline reporter)
Opening line: Jacksonville -1.5
Over/under: 43.5
Key Saints injuries and absences: Quarterback Drew Brees (right thumb), running back Alvin Kamara (ankle)
Key Jaguars injuries and absences: Quarterback Nick Foles (collarbone), cornerback Jalen Ramsey (back), cornerback D.J. Hayden (foot), safety Ronnie Harrison (ankle)
What to watch: Gardner Minshew II vs. New Orleans’s defense

Both of these teams are relying on backup quarterbacks, but those players have opposite roles. Without Drew Brees, New Orleans has leaned on its defense. Defensive end Cam Jordan and Co. are tied for sixth in sacks (16) and are pressuring quarterbacks on the third-highest percentage in the league (34.0 percent), despite being only one of six teams that blitzes on fewer than a fifth of their plays. Defensive ends Cam Jordan and Marcus Davenport have three sacks apiece and have done an excellent job at generating pass pressure.

It’ll be key to do so against Jacksonville. The Jaguars’ defensive decline—they are in the top eight in yards allowed after three years of being in the bottom quarter of the league—has forced the team to rely on Minshew. For a sixth-round rookie, he has been shockingly sharp with his accuracy and poised in the pocket, and he innately excels at avoiding pass pressure while keeping his eyes downfield. This year, Jacksonville’s netting 6.9 yards per pass attempt, which across a whole season would be the highest in franchise history.

Looked Way More Fun Before the Season Started

Pittsburgh Steelers (1-4) @ Los Angeles Chargers (2-3)

Kickoff time: 8:20 p.m. ET
Channel: NBC
Announcers: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya (sideline reporter)
Opening line: Chargers -5.5
Over/under: 43.5
Key Steelers injuries and absences: Quarterback Mason Rudolph (concussion), running back Jaylen Samuels (knee), receiver James Washington (shoulder), tight end Vance McDonald (shoulder), linebacker Mark Barron (hamstring)
Key Chargers injuries and absences: Tight end Hunter Henry (knee), safety Derwin James (foot), safety Nasir Adderley (hamstring), cornerback Casey Hayward Jr. (back), defensive end Melvin Ingram III (hamstring), kicker Michael Badgley (groin), center Mike Pouncey (neck)
What to watch: The blue tent

These teams have been ruined by injuries. The Steelers traded third-string quarterback Josh Dobbs to the Jaguars after Week 1, but then Ben Roethlisberger hurt his elbow and was put on injured reserve after Week 2. Last week QB Mason Rudolph suffered a scary concussion, so the Steelers are turning to Devlin Hodges, an FCS quarterback and champion duck caller, to start in front of a national TV audience.

The Chargers haven’t been hurt at quarterback, but they’ve been hurt everywhere else. Their latest news was center Mike Pouncey being placed on injured reserve with a neck injury that ended his season just as he was about to face his twin brother, Maurkice, who is the center for Pittsburgh.

Seattle Seahawks (4-1) @ Cleveland Browns (2-3)

Kickoff time: 1 p.m. ET
Channel: Fox
Announcers: Chris Myers, Daryl Johnston, Laura Okmin (sideline reporter)
Opening line: Cleveland -2.5 (now Seattle -1)
Over/under: 46
Key Seahawks injuries and absences: Left tackle Duane Brown (biceps), offensive lineman D.J. Fluker (hamstring), offensive lineman Ethan Pocic (back)
Key Browns injuries and absences: Tight end David Njoku (concussion/wrist), linebacker Christian Kirksey (chest), cornerback Denzel Ward (hamstring), cornerback Greedy Williams (hamstring)
What to watch: Russell Wilson, MVP front-runner

The Browns have scored fewer than 14 points three times this season. They are not exciting, despite what we said before the season. We’re sorry. Someone who is exciting is Wilson, who has career highs through five games in every passing category that matters.

Winless and Hopeless

Dallas Cowboys (3-2) @ New York Jets (0-4)

Kickoff time: 4:25 p.m. ET
Channel: CBS
Announcers: Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, Tracy Wolfson (sideline reporter)
Opening line: Dallas -7
Over/under: 45
Key Cowboys injuries and absences: Receiver Amari Cooper (ankle/quadricep), left tackle Tyron Smith (ankle), right tackle La’el Collins (knee), linebacker Leighton Vander Esch (illness), defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford (hip)
Key Jets injuries and absences: Quarterback Sam Darnold (spleen), linebacker C.J. Mosley (groin), defensive tackle Quinnen Williams (ankle), guard Kelechi Osemele (shoulder/knee/illness), guard Brian Winters (shoulder)
What to watch: Darnold’s spleen

A week ago, Sam Darnold said he was worried about playing because if his spleen was not properly healed from mono, he could die. He is starting this week. Mama Darnold cannot be thrilled about this. The Eagles sacked Jets quarterbacks 10 times last week, and that was with New York coming off a bye and head coach Adam Gase shuffling the offensive line to maximize performance.

Cincinnati Bengals (0-5) @ Baltimore Ravens (3-2)

Kickoff time: 1 p.m. ET
Channel: CBS
Announcers: Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon, Jay Feely (sideline reporter)
Opening line: Baltimore -8.5
Over/under: 48
Key Bengals injuries and absences: Receiver A.J. Green (ankle), receiver John Ross (shoulder), receiver Alex Erickson (concussion), tackle Jonah Williams (shoulder), tackle Cordy Glenn (concussion), tackle Andre Smith (ankle)
Key Ravens injuries and absences: Receiver Marquise Brown (ankle), tight end Mark Andrews (shoulder), cornerback Jimmy Smith (knee), cornerback Tavon Young (neck), safety Tony Jefferson (ACL)
What to watch: Whoever Andy Dalton can throw to

The Ravens secondary is injured and would be at a disadvantage against most teams this week. Not Cincinnati. The Bengals are the Chargers’ only competition for the most depleted team in football, and their injuries are concentrated on the people who protect and catch passes from Andy Dalton.

Wake Me Up When the Fourth Quarter Ends

Tennessee Titans (2-3) @ Denver Broncos (1-4)

Kickoff time: 4:25 p.m. ET
Channel: CBS
Announcers: Andrew Catalon, James Lofton, John Schriffen (sideline reporter)
Opening line: Pick ’em
Over/under: 40
Key Titans injuries and absences: Tight end Delanie Walker (knee), defensive end Cameron Wake (hamstring)
Key Broncos injuries and absences: Receiver Emmanuel Sanders (knee), receiver Courtland Sutton (leg)
What to watch: Cody Parkey

”It’s 2019, not ’18 anymore.”

Those were the words of new Titans kicker Cody Parkey, the author of Chicago’s infamous double doink in the playoffs last season. Parkey replaces Cairo Santos after Santos missed four kicks, of 33, 36, 50, and 53 yards, in a 14-7 loss to Buffalo in Week 4, though Parkey first got the doink reputation when he doinked four kicks in one game last November.

Atlanta Falcons (1-4) @ Arizona Cardinals (1-3-1)

Kickoff time: 4:05 p.m. ET
Channel: Fox
Announcers: Thom Brennaman, Chris Spielman, Megan Olivi (sideline reporter)
Opening line: Atlanta -2.5
Over/under: 47
Key Falcons injuries and absences: Receiver Julio Jones (hip), cornerback Desmond Trufant (toe), safety Keanu Neal (Achilles)
Key Cardinals injuries and absences: Running back David Johnson (back), receiver Christian Kirk (ankle), linebacker Haason Reddick (shoulder), linebacker Terrell Suggs (back)
What to watch: Air Raid

The Falcons have given up more points (30.4) than every team except Miami. The Cardinals (27.6) are not far behind. Neither of these teams has a good defense. They also both sport pass-happy offenses. The Falcons pass on over 72 percent of their plays, the highest in the league, and the Cardinals are tied for sixth highest at 65 percent. If there was a game for Kyler Murray’s breakout, this could be it.

Monday Night Football

Detroit Lions (2-1-1) @ Green Bay Packers (4-1)

Kickoff time: 8:15 p.m. ET
Channel: ESPN
Announcers: Joe Tessitore, Booger McFarland, Lisa Salters (sideline reporter)
Opening line: Green Bay -5.5
Over/under: 46.5
Key Lions injuries and absences: Defensive tackle Mike Daniels (foot), tight end T.J. Hockenson (concussion)
Key Packers injuries and absences: Receiver Davante Adams (toe), running back Jamaal Williams (concussion), cornerback Kevin King (groin)
What to watch: Matt Patricia’s plan for Aaron Rodgers

After an offseason of discussing the Packers’ new offense, their defense under second-year coordinator Mike Pettine has jelled into one of the best in the league. They’ll need it against Detroit, a surprisingly strong squad coming off of a bye week. The Lions are a legitimate playoff contender, and there’s a real chance that these are the two best teams in the NFC North, which itself could be the best division in football (along with the NFC West). Patricia has not been credited for his defensive schemes, but his plans significantly hindered the Rams at their peak last season and stifled Kansas City for much of their Week 3 matchup. He’s had two weeks to cook something up for Rodgers, who may be missing top target Davante Adams again.

On Bye

Bears, Bills, Colts, Raiders