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Each Tuesday morning, we will preview every NFL game of the upcoming week. All of our NFL content, including our most recent power rankings and links to the pre-season preview are located here.
The inputs to the 10,001 simulations of each upcoming game are based on a rigorous analysis of each team that considers strength-of-schedule-adjusted team and player ratings and then makes modifications for injuries and depth at each position. To see other picks like our Upset and Locks of the Week, as well as our season-to-date performance, click here.
Game of the Week: #2 New York Giants 24 @ #1 New Orleans Saints 30
Just how big of an advantage is playing at home? Well, 11 of 14 games in Week 6 are won by the host team in our projections. And in a week chock full of close, compelling matchups, the home teams will take any advantage they can get.
Through five weeks, there are three undefeated teams in the NFC. After Week 6, at least one of them will be eliminated as the New Orleans Saints host the New York Giants in a battle of the top two teams in our power rankings. To be fair, part of the reason the teams are undefeated - and part of the reason they have been able to put up the numbers to each rank in the top two - is their strength of schedules. The Giants have had the easiest schedule in the NFL to-date and the Saints aren't far behind (their schedule is ranked just 26th toughest through their four games). The inputs to the simulations account for any schedule bias that can occur from playing an extreme schedule like these teams have. Also to be fair, they are both pretty darn good. The Saints haven't been there every week, but both teams were in our top 10 coming into the preseason.
New York's latest blowout victory came against the hapless Oakland Raiders. The Giants have won their last three games by a combined 65 points. Those waxings have helped the G-Men to the sixth-ranked rushing offense in the league (at 4.6 yards-per-carry). Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw are helping the team combine for more than 160 yards-per-game on the ground. That has taken the pressure of Eli Manning, who, despite an injury, played last week and has the Giants' passing offense ranked fourth with 8.5 yards-per-attempt. Still, the New York defense continues to be the talk of the team. The Giants are allowing a league-best 211 yards-per-game and are first against the pass, allowing just 4.9 yards-per-attempt. New York has also posted 14 sacks through four games, including four from star lineman Justin Tuck and three more from Osi Umenyiora. However, Drew Brees is certainly no Jamarcus Russell or Josh Johnson (two of the more recent quartebacks to start agains the Giants), so New York is in for its greatest challenge of the season.
The same, however, could be said for Brees and his Saints. New Orleans got a road victory at Philadelphia when the Eagles were without Donovan McNabb and have otherwise picked on Buffalo and rookie quarterbacks. Coming off the bye, they have had extra time to prepare for the Giants. The Saints rank first in the league in scoring 36 points-per-game, including a top-three rushing offense. Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell each have more than 30 carries and are averaging 4.1, 6.4 and 5.1 yards-per-carry, respectively. After throwing for nine touchdowns in his first two games, Brees hasn't found the end zone in his last two games and could find it hard to get on track against the Giants' defense. On defense, New Orleans ranks seventh in the league in scoring, allowing just under 17.6 points-per-game and is eighth in rushing defense, allowing just 3.7 yards-per-rush on the ground.
In 10,000 simulations (View Boxscore), the home team on extra rest wins the battle of #1 vs. #2 63% of the time by an average score of 30-24. New Orleans is favored in Vegas by just a field goal, so it beats the spread at a 60% clip. The over looks like an even better play. With the total opening at 47 points, the offenses beat out the defenses to top that at a 69% rate.
The Saints' rushing ability gives them the edge. New Orleans runs for just two more yards than New York, but does so on eight fewer carries and also outgains the Giants through the air. All other numbers in the predicted boxscore are very close.
Brees, who averages 1.8 touchdowns per game in those 10,000 simulations, should end his TD drought, but finding out who catches those touchdown tosses is a bit more of a guessing game. Marques Colston and Devery Henderson average 0.4 TDs per game and Jeremy Shockey and Bush average 0.3 Bradshaw and Jacobs share the load almost equally for the Giants, though the former scores at a slightly higher percentage. And wide receiver Steve Smith continues his hot start by leading this game in catches (6.6) and receiving yards (74.3).
Our Against the Spread "Lock of the Week" is now 4-1 on the year and 20-4 all-time. To see other picks like our Upset and Locks of the Week, as well as our season-to-date accuracy, click here. Click on the Boxscores below to see detailed team and player stat projections for every game.
NFL Week 6
|Matchup||Home Win%||Avg Score|
|Cleveland @ Pittsburgh||83.3||14-28||Boxscore|
|Tennessee @ New England||76.9||13-24||Boxscore|
|Detroit @ Green Bay||75.6||16-26||Boxscore|
|St. Louis @ Jacksonville||70.1||15-24||Boxscore|
|Buffalo @ New York Jets||66.0||16-22||Boxscore|
|Houston @ Cincinnati||65.5||20-25||Boxscore|
|New York Giants @ New Orleans||63.0||24-30||Boxscore|
|Chicago @ Atlanta||63.0||20-26||Boxscore|
|Baltimore @ Minnesota||62.7||19-25||Boxscore|
|Kansas City @ Washington||55.9||16-19||Boxscore|
|Arizona @ Seattle||53.6||19-22||Boxscore|
|Denver @ San Diego||43.9||22-21||Boxscore|
|Carolina @ Tampa Bay||30.4||23-18||Boxscore|
|Philadelphia @ Oakland||10.4||27-13||Boxscore|
Other Notable Games in Week 6
Adrian Peterson and Brett Favre move to 6-0 by beating Baltimore 62.7% of the time by an average score of 25-19. Peterson doesn't give Baltimore opponents two consecutive 100-yard rushers, but scores nearly a touchdown per game in 10,000 simulations. Joe Flacco actually outgains Favre through the air, but the Ravens, once the early-season darlings, likely fall to 3-3.
San Diego has a prime opportunity to draw the race in the AFC West closer by handing Denver its first loss. The host Chargers beat the Broncos - who hopefully burned their brown and gold jerseys... again - just 43.9%. Denver wins on Monday Night, on average, by just a 0.4 poitns (21.9-21.5). That's good enough to beat the spread more than 60% of the time as the Chargers are favored in Vegas by four points.
And the NFC West provides the tightest matchup in terms of winning percentage. With San Francisco off and reeling after a blowout loss to Atlanta, the Seahawks and Cardinals battle for a spot as the division's top contender. Seattle wins, but just 53.6% of the time at home and by just a field goal. With the total at 47.5 points, the under is one of the strongest plays of the week, covering 70.9% of the time.
Other Notable Names in Week 6
The Dolphins spoiled Braylon Edwards' debut with the Jets, but the wide receiver looked like a completely different player with New York. Edwards follows up a five-catch, 64-yard, one-touchdown debut in green and white with three catches for 49 yards and scores 0.3 touchdowns per game.
Cincinnati running back Cedric Benson, who notched the aforementioned, rare 100-yard rushing game against Baltimore in Week 5, continues his tear against the Houston Texans. The Texans are allowing a league-worst 5.2 yards-per-carry. Benson leads the Bengals to another victory - in the final minute again? - with 116 rushing yards and a touchdown.
Against the Oakland Raiders, Philadelphia might not need McNabb for very long, but the veteran quarterback should continue his solid return from a rib injury. In a blowout road victory, McNabb follows up a return that included 264 passing yards and three touchdowns with 256 yards and likely two more TD tosses.
Eric Schmoldt is a writer and Paul Bessire is the Product Manager of Content and Quantitative Analysis for WhatIfSports.com, a division of FOX Sports Interactive specializing in fantasy football simulation analysis and football sim games. With any comments, questions or topic suggestions, Paul and Eric can be reached at BtB@whatifsports.com. Thanks!