1 p.m. ET (CBS) | New Era Field (Orchard Park, N.Y.)
Josh Allen had one of his best games of the season in Tennessee before the Bills took off for the bye week. Now he gets to face a defense that tries to get stops without a hint of a pass rush. While the return of Ryan Fitzpatrick to Buffalo gives this game more juice than it otherwise would have, the Bills have consistently dispatched the lesser lights on their schedule. Keep that up, and they will be in the playoffs.
1 p.m. ET (CBS) | Paul Brown Stadium (Cincinnati)
Trading Jalen Ramsey away won’t solve all the Jaguars‘ problems. Doug Marrone’s cry for help this week behind the podium hinted at the tension existing in a strange organizational structure where Marrone is left to answer for the front office’s dealings. Facing a Bengals secondary that is operating without William Jackson and Dre Kirkpatrick this week, however, should solve all of Gardner Minshew‘sproblems. Bengals coach Zac Taylor can say that his team continues to play hard, but it isn’t playing well, and A.J. Green may not walk through that door until after the trade deadline.
1 p.m. ET (FOX) | Ford Field (Detroit)
The Lions‘ defense under Matt Patricia is increasingly reminding me of the Patriots‘ defense under Matt Patricia. Those units played good situational football, especially in the red zone. They were smart and able to change depending on the opponent. They also didn’t have much of a pass rush and never threatened to be a top-five unit, relying on their offense to win games. While this Detroit team has been unlucky, so far, the Lions have played just well enough to get their hearts broken against quality competition like the Chiefs and Packers. They face a Vikings team Sunday that is more talented than the Lions on both sides of the ball. Patricia needs to secure more than moral victories; otherwise, Detroit risks falling out of the crowded NFC North race.
1 p.m. ET (CBS) | Lambeau Field (Green Bay, Wis.)
Darren Waller’s contract extension puts a bow on one of the best stories in the NFL this season. The former Ravens practice squad player has overcome addiction problems to become one of the five best tight ends in football. But if Waller and the Raiders are to fully transform from “early season curiosity” to a potential playoff team with staying power, they will have to keep surprising quality opponents away from Oakland. The sneaky-efficient Raiders offense, led by a revived Jon Gruden and a strong offensive line, makes some sense. The team’s talent-poor defense, with no pass rush, holding up week after week — especially against a suddenly-peaking Aaron Rodgers — is harder to believe in.
1 p.m. ET (FOX) | Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Atlanta)
Jalen Ramsey is not just a short-term fix for the Rams. They wouldn’t give up two first-round picks unless they saw Ramsey as a lasting part of the franchise, which shouldn’t be that hard to achieve, with his contract not running out until after the 2020 season and the franchise tag available. Right or wrong, the Rams are saying first-round picks are overrated. They are saying that finding great players is harder than piling up draft picks, and that finding players to spend salary cap space on is harder than staying under the cap. They are aiming for permanent contention, zigging while the rest of the league is zagging. That’s the long-term view. In the short term, they absolutely can’t afford a road loss to a Falcons team that has been curing the offensive ills of every opponent it faces.
1 p.m. ET (CBS) | Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis)
In previous roller-coaster Texans seasons, this is the week where they slip up. Fresh off scoring 84 points in two weeks and knocking off the Chiefs, Bill O’Brien’s crew has a chance to take charge of the AFC South with a road win over a 3-2 Colts team that is healthier coming off a bye week but still thin in the secondary. The Colts feel like a perfect litmus test for nearly any opponent, but especially the Texans. Frank Reich’s charges will give a reliable effort, be well-coached and not beat themselves. But the talent disparity on these two rosters means that the Texans‘ best should be better than the Colts‘ best. Perhaps this is the week Houston shows this season will truly be different.
1 p.m. ET (FOX) | FedExField (Landover, Md.)
This is a revenge game with some actual heat behind it. Kyle Shanahan was happy to get real about his lost years in Washington this week, before noting he didn’t realize that pro teams like the Redskins had “homecoming” games. It’s not that Shanahan needs any extra motivation to capsize a Washington outfit that dreams of one day becoming what the 49ers already are: A nasty defensive front supported by a creative running game that is able to withstand injuries. Shanahan was part of a staff that also included Sean McVay, the type of bright offensive mind that the Redskins will be searching for again this offseason.
1 p.m. ET (FOX) | MetLife Stadium (East Rutherford, N.J.)
Saquon Barkley is back. Evan Engram is back. Golden Tate has been back. Darius Slayton has turned into a legitimate threat. Sterling Shepard (concussion) has a chance to be back. (UPDATE: Shepard officially has been ruled out of Sunday’s game.) The excitement surrounding Danny Dimes has fizzled since his beautiful starting debut in Tampa, but this Giants‘ offense has the firepower to roll over lackluster competition like the Cardinals‘ defense. Kyler Murray — who is coming off his best game yet — gets a similarly tasty matchup in New Jersey. It’s pretty rare to see two top-10 rookie quarterbacks face off in a game where a 40-burger could be on the menu. Fantasy footballers unite: Everyone in the pool!
4:05 p.m. ET (CBS) | Nissan Stadium (Nashville, Tenn.)
It’s hard to imagine the Chargers organization fumbling the end of the Philip Rivers era, but this matchup makes me wonder if there’s any chance that Rivers could be the ultimate successor to Marcus Mariota, a man he was once rumored to be potentially traded for. This meeting of two teams stuck at 2-4 marks the first start for Ryan Tannehill as a Titan, a walking reminder of how difficult it is to find a true franchise quarterback. After 16 seasons, not one missed start and a consistent lack of support from his organization in a variety of ways, it would be fascinating if Rivers were to become the next NFL star to force his way out of town when he hits free agency this offseason.
4:25 p.m. ET (FOX) | Soldier Field (Chicago)
Failing to recognize the magic of the Teddy Bridgewater era in New Orleans is one of the many reasons why my picks have been so terrible this year. I also didn’t have any faith in these Bears until they traveled to London in Week 5, the very moment in which their sluggish offense and great-but-not-as-great defense finally cost them. With Akiem Hicks and Kyle Long both placed on injured reserve this week, there’s no question that the Saints‘ offensive and defensive lines are the superior sides in this game. I’d also take New Orleans’ quarterback over the expected return of Mitchell Trubisky. At least with Teddy, you know what you are going to get.
4:25 p.m. ET (FOX) | CenturyLink Field (Seattle)
It is disarming to see a Ravens-Seahawks game as a matchup of top-five offenses and mediocre defenses. Lamar Jackson and Russell Wilson are the top two fantasy quarterbacks in the land, while Marquise Brown — who missed last week’s game but could return from an ankle injury vs. Seattle — and D.K. Metcalf are two of the top three rookie receivers in yardage. The end-of-days stuff continues with Earl Thomas heading to town in a visiting uniform, surely eager to salute Pete Carroll in a different manner than the last time he was in the stadium. The Seahawks have played four games that came down to the final couple minutes this year and won all of them, a spate of luck that seems destined to run out.
8:20 p.m. ET (NBC) | AT&T Stadium (Arlington, Texas)
The Cowboys‘ offense has improved from its 10-point output in Week 4 despite serious injuries, while the Cowboys‘ defense has fallen all the way to 25th in DVOA despite relative health. Yet, it’s the offense that has taken most of the blame for the team’s struggles. That’s just what life is like when Jason Garrett is the head coach, but I’m encouraged by Dak Prescott‘s performance in the Meadowlandsthrowing to Tavon Austin and Cedrick Wilson. Now it’s time for Leighton Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith, DeMarcus Lawrence and Byron Jones (hamstring permitting) to make some of the big plays they are capable of.
MONDAY, OCT. 21
8:15 p.m. ET (ESPN) | MetLife Stadium (East Rutherford, N.J.)
It was a treat to watch Sam Darnold play quarterback last Sunday. He mixes speeds like a veteran reliever and moves in the pocket so naturally that he sometimes reminds me of a far more athletic version of his adversary on Monday night. The Jets‘ offensive line still has issues, and it’s a problem that Le’Veon Bell‘s longest run of the year is for 13 yards, but the Jets could amazingly be the toughest offensive opponent the diverse Patriots defense has faced all year. It’s been a weird season.