NFL Week 6 odds, picks: Philip Rivers leads Chargers past Browns, plus more best bets

Patrick Mahomes and Jared Goff deserve all of the MVP love that's been coming their way. Drew Brees belongs in the MVP conversation after his incredible start to the season. If a defensive player is ever going to win MVP, Khalil Mack is a worthy selection.

But let's not forget about Philip Rivers, the 36-year-old quarterback of the Chargers, father of eight, and ultimate GIF machine.

What Rivers is doing right now is both incredible and MVP-worthy, yet he's being overlooked in the way-too-early MVP conversation. Through five games, Rivers is completing 70.1 percent of his passes and averaging 8.6 yards per attempt. He's thrown 13 touchdowns and only two interceptions, and accumulated a 116.4 passer rating. By Football Outsiders' metrics, he's been the fourth-best quarterback in football behind only ... Brees, Goff, and Mahomes.

And, because you can only win MVP if you're in the playoffs, here's the most important thing: The Chargers are 3-2 and projected to earn a playoff spot. By DVOA, the Chargers are the fifth-best team in football. They finally survived a September. Their only two losses have come against the Chiefs and Rams, two unbeaten teams. 

The Cleveland Browns are not the Chiefs or the Rams. While the Browns have clearly improved now that they actually have an NFL-caliber quarterback under center and a legit defense, they're still a mess -- a team that makes far too many mistakes, a team with a coach who is such a stranger to winning, he doesn't even realize when he's won a game.

With the first of five best bets for Week 6, I'm taking the Chargers (-1) against the Browns in Cleveland.


Yes, it's time to jinx Rivers and the Chargers the way we've all been jinxing them for the past few seasons. Yes, I'm aware that the Chargers are never far away from Chargering away a game. The last time the Chargers went to Cleveland, they gifted the Browns their only win of the 2016 season. Trusting the Chargers is like trusting Walder Frey.

That's what history tells us. But the first five weeks of this season tells us that the Chargers are significantly better then the Browns. They're better by DVOA (fifth vs. 25th) and points scored (eighth vs. 20th). The Chargers might run into trouble if they turn the ball over against the league leader in takeaways, but Rivers is throwing an interception on only 1.1 percent of his passes (which would be the lowest interception rate of his career) and the Chargers have turned the ball over only five times. Assuming Rivers plays the way he's been playing, the Chargers should be able to beat a competitive, but outmanned Browns team.  

Do I feel great about taking the Chargers? Nope. But I'm going to anyways.

Last week: 2-3
This year: 16-8-1 


All odds via SportsLine

Chargers (-1) at Browns

Let's do away with this idea that the Browns should be 5-0, which has been floating around lately. Yes, the Browns nearly beat the Steelers in Week 1. Yes, the Browns lost to both the Saints and Raiders by only three points. But they've also won their two games by a combined seven points. 

2-2-1 is a fair record for the Browns. They're no longer awful. But that doesn't make them good. They're playing a bunch of close games, which means they're competitive. But that in and of itself is progress for a team that got outscored by 176 points last season and 186 points the season prior. They're plus-one so far this season. 

I think they'll be back in the negatives after Sunday's game.

Bengals (-2.5) vs. Steelers

According to SportsLine's Stephen Oh, the Steelers' playoff chances will move from 34.8 percent to above 50 percent if they can leave Cincinnati with a win. This isn't a playoff game. It's only Week 6. But this will certainly feel like a must-win game for the Steelers. 

Those 2.5 points just don't seem like enough for the 4-1 Bengals, who are playing at home against a 2-2-1 Steelers team. I'm not certain the Bengals are much better than the Steelers, but I think they're pretty evenly matched. By DVOA, the Bengals are 11th and the Steelers are 10th. I'll give the edge to the Bengals because they're at home and they might actually have the better quarterback. By Football Outsiders' metrics, Andy Dalton's been the 10th-best quarterback in football -- four spots ahead of Ben Roethlisberger.

Something to keep an eye on: Steelers kicker Chris Boswell is 3 of 6 on field goals and 14 of 17 on extra points. That could matter in what should be a close game.

Bears (-3) at Dolphins

It's time to acknowledge that the Bears are one of the best football teams right now. They're the second-best team by DVOA, trailing only the Rams. And if not for a Week 1 collapse against the Packers, they'd be undefeated. Mitchell Trubisky, the key to the Bears' success moving forward, is trending in the right direction after a six-touchdown explosion before their Week 5 bye. 

The Dolphins are moving in the opposite direction, having lost two straight games. What's concerning is how poorly their offense is playing.

The Bears' defense against the Dolphins' offense is too big of a mismatch in this game. Expect Khalil Mack to get after Ryan Tannehill, who's playing behind an offensive line that is ranked 24th in pass protection, per Football Outsiders. The Bears are second in sacks with 18 even though they didn't play last week. Tannehill's thrown three picks in his past two games. The Bears' defense has grabbed eight interceptions in four games.

Even if Trubisky doesn't break out again, the defense should be more than enough to carry the Bears to a win on the road.

Chiefs (+3.5) at Patriots

The Chiefs are the best team in the AFC. The Patriots might be the second-best team in the AFC. But the gap between them is substantial. The Chiefs are 5-0. The Patriots are 3-2. The Chiefs own a plus-46 point differential. The Patriots are at plus-25. The Chiefs just destroyed the Jaguars (at home). The Patriots got beat up by the Jaguars (on the road). 

My biggest concern for the Patriots is that they won't be able to stop the Chiefs' offense. Their defense still isn't good, ranking 19th in DVOA. And we all know how good this Chiefs' offense is. Going into Foxborough and leaving with a win will be difficult, but the Chiefs are good enough to only lose by a field goal. They might win the game outright too. 

As of right now, the Chiefs are the best team in the AFC and the Patriots look ordinary. Things might change by December, but until the Chiefs look human and the Patriots look like the Patriots, I'll continue backing the Chiefs, especially when they only have to lose by a field goal to cover. Their closest result this season is a four-point win.

My only concern is that with Justin Houston likely out with a hamstring issue, the Chiefs' pass rush might disappear. To this point, the pass rush (15 sacks in five games) has been a bright spot for an otherwise bad defense. Houston has three of those sacks. 

Dee Ford and Alvin Bailey, who have combined for eight sacks, should be able to get after Brady even without Houston around. But Houston will be missed.

Buccaneers at Falcons (Over 57.5)

The Falcons' defense is decimated by injuries. The Buccaneers' defense hasn't been any good for well over a year with their most recent loss, during which they gave up six touchdowns to Trubisky, serving as the latest example. The Falcons' defense is 31st in points allowed (32.6 per game) and 31st in DVOA. The Buccaneers' defense is 32nd in points allowed (34.8) and 32nd in DVOA. So, we've got the two worst defenses in football on one field. 

Meanwhile, despite the Falcons' 1-4 start, Matt Ryan is on an absolute tear right now. During the Falcons' three-game losing streak, he's thrown for 1,078 yards, nine touchdowns, no interceptions, and a 129.2 passer rating. Jameis Winston, in his first start of the season, is more of an unknown, but he couldn't have asked for an easier foe than the banged-up Falcons.

Points will be scored.

CBS Sports Writer

Sean Wagner-McGough joined CBS Sports in 2015 after graduating from UC Berkeley. A native of Seattle, Sean now resides in the Bay Area. He spends his spare time defending Jay Cutler on Twitter. Full Bio

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