Last weekend will be a difficult one to forget. But now that our latest national nightmare has passed — the Cleveland Browns finally won on a Sunday for the first time in three years — could they do the unthinkable and string together victories for the first time since 2014?
That's just one of nine big questions entering Week 6 of the NFL season:
1. Will the Rams lose? Unlikely, right? The NFC's only unbeaten will roll into Denver to face a Broncos squad freshly steamrolled by the New York Jets … who aren't quite as good as the Rams. But if the Jets can rack up 512 yards against Von Miller and Co., what might an L.A. offense averaging 468 manage? *Asterisk: Since 2011, the Broncos are 12-2 at home against NFC teams, which typically only have to acclimate to the Mile High altitude once every eight years.
2. Will the Chiefs lose? Likely, right? The AFC's only unbeaten will face its sternest test so far, encountering the awakening Patriots in New England. Patrick Mahomes' first Sunday Night Football showcase comes against Tom Brady and Co., who surely haven't forgotten being blown out by the Chiefs in front of the nation while kicking off their title defense to start the 2017 season. Coming off a 10-day break, TB12 will have his full offensive arsenal as he takes aim at K.C.'s league-worst and, so far, Eric Berry-less defense. Brady could also become the first quarterback to notch 200 regular-season wins (context: Roger Clemens had 192 wins in a Red Sox uniform). *Asterisk: Andy Reid is trying to win his third straight regular-season faceoff with Bill Belichick.
3. Is Cincinnati the AFC's best team? Admittedly, that question can't truly be answered this weekend, but … While the Chiefs are garnering most of the conference's hype right now, and the Patriots are the Patriots, the Bengals will stake the very early claim to the AFC's top seed with a win over Steelers combined with a Kansas City loss. But the Stripes have their work cut out for them. They've lost eight of nine at home to Pittsburgh in what may be the AFC's nastiest rivalry — a respect factor that exists between the Steelers and Ravens is missing between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. But the Steelers haven't been the same since linebacker Ryan Shazier's horrific injury — which occurred when these teams met in Paul Brown Stadium last December. Since then, the Pittsburgh defense has been a sieve and Le'Veon Bell has gone MIA, while the Bengals have jelled into a deep, solid team — one of four in the NFL averaging at least 30 points, and one now bolstered defensively by the return of linebacker Vontaze Burfict. *Asterisk: Perhaps no franchise is more allergic to prosperity than Cincinnati.
4. Will anyone step up in the NFC East? This weekend won't be as bad for the division as Week 5 — when its four clubs went 0-4 — but only because somebody has to win the Eagles-Giants game … I think. Long the NFL's sexiest division because of its high-profile members, all based in major media markets, the NFC East also happens to be this year's worst as it's the lone one lacking a team with a winning record. The defending champion Eagles can't block or score enough, the Giants can't channel Odell Beckham's dramatic flair into a positive direction, the Cowboys can't pass the ball, and the first-place Redskins (2-2) looked fraudulent after getting embarrassed in New Orleans … which didn't stop Josh Norman from embarrassing himself further on social media. *Asterisk: One of these teams will make the playoffs … but only because it's an NFL rule.
5. How many yards will the Cowboys gain? Let's put the over-under at about 250. Dallas' receivers, overmatched any given week — perhaps you heard they haven't had a No. 1 for a minute — could be rendered invisible Sunday by Jacksonville corners Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. That would leave the Jaguars' already ferocious, deep and now salty defense free to flood the box to shut down Ezekiel Elliott or blitz Dak Prescott. This has the potential to get very ugly. *Asterisk: Maybe former Jags receiver Allen Hurns has some cheat codes to share with his new Cowboys teammates. Maybe.
6. How many sacks will J.J. Watt get? Let's put the over-under at 2½. To wit … Watt is tied for the NFL lead with six sacks, all of them coming in the last three games as he's reclaimed his defensive MVP baseline after two injury-wasted seasons. Next up? Bills rookie Josh Allen, who's been bagged a league-high 19 times, his inexperience amplified by the general ineptitude of the Buffalo offense. *Asterisk: The Texans actually hold the ball about 32 minutes per game — that figure could spike Sunday — so neither Watt nor Allen may actually be on the field much.
7. Will Marshawn Lynch get his revenge? Spoiler alert: Not in any meaningful way. "Beast Mode" will face the Seahawks, whom he once helped to radically redefine, for the first time since they granted his post-retirement trade in 2017 to the hometown Raiders. But he won't get to battle Pete Carroll and Co. in front of a Black Hole that adores him or even the Seattle fans who still adore him (mostly) … because the NFL exported this game to London. Sigh. Also, the Raiders stink. Also, the Seahawks stink. Also, now Jon Gruden and Derek Carr won't give Lynch the ball at the goal line, either. Second sigh. *Asterisk: Lynch is playing exceptionally well for a 32-year-old running back. He has to show up — "I'm just here so I won't get fined." And we'd certainly embrace any kind of international incident sparked by a crotch-grabbing Beast Quake TD.
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