Four pivotal games shape Week 6 in the NFL and will either let us know who’s poised to make a run into the playoffs, and who might see their postseason dreams evaporate already.
If you’re struggling to pick your viewing schedule this weekend we’ve got you covered.
Vikings vs. Panthers, Sunday, 1 p.m. — Fox
This is less about the game itself, and more the stakes at play. In a lot of ways this feels like a contest that will determine whether Minnesota and Carolina have a chance to compete in their respective divisions this season.
Since Week 1 I’ve been saying the Vikings are better than their record shows, but that really doesn’t matter when you’re at 2-3. Minnesota needs a win in the worst possible way, and with a brutal stretch coming up against the Cowboys, Ravens and Chargers, this needs to be a win if the team hopes to make it to the playoffs.
Meanwhile the Panthers are just trying to stop the bleeding. An electric start to the season gave way to back-to-back losses, and while they’re definitely missing Christian McCaffrey and Jaycee Horn, injuries are something every team needs to deal with. Based on their trade happiness this year there’s a belief internally they can make a run, so now it’s all about trying to pick up another win, stay on the right side of the ledger, and wait for Stephon Gilmore to be cleared to play after Carolina traded for him.
Chargers vs. Ravens, Sunday, 1 p.m. — CBS
This is just going to be fun. We get to see two of the best young quarterbacks in the league with Justin Herbert and Lamar Jackson, and two of the only teams who look poised to challenge the Bills in the AFC this year.
Los Angeles has been a delightful surprise this season and legitimately one of the feel-good stories this season. I don’t think anyone saw them being legitimate threats in the AFC West, let alone now potentially looking like one of the best teams in the AFC as a whole. This team is young, hungry, and looking to prove itself.
Meanwhile it’s weird, because the Ravens are 4-1 and rolling, but it still feels like an underwhelming season so far. I think a lot of this is because we’ve seen Baltimore really struggle with teams like the Colts and Lions, both of whom would have been assumed to be easy wins. That said, there’s something to sticking around and still winning games — so the proof is in the record. This team is dang good.
Cardinals vs. Browns, Sunday, 4:05 p.m. — CBS
If you went back three years and told me that Cardinals vs. Browns would be one of the best games of the week I’d have laughed, but that’s how quickly both teams have changed their fortunes.
At this point Arizona looks damn near unbeatable. They’ve become a really well-rounded football team in 2021, and not just a passing team without much more to offer.
Meanwhile the Browns haven’t had the hot start to the season Cleveland fans hoped, but in a lot of ways the AFC North still feels wide open, and at 3-2 they’re well within striking distance to make a play for the top.
Bills vs. Titans, Monday, 8:15 p.m. — ESPN
No bones about it, the Titans have been a huge disappointment this season — even with their 3-2 record. Now, it’s not like there’s really anyone else in the AFC South who can challenge Tennessee, but thus far the unbeatable offense they had on paper after trading for Julio Jones.
I honestly don’t know if the Titans can hang with the Bills, who look unbeatable so far, but that begins and ends with Derrick Henry. Unquestionably the best back in the league, Henry is tearing it up again this season, and the Bills have an extremely good run defense, allowing just 3.7 yards per carry. Either way this will be one to watch, just to see Henry run into that defense, and of course, Josh Allen light it up.