Week Six is quickly approaching, and division rivalries are starting to get a lot more heated. There are a few big division matchups to watch this week, as well as plenty of big-name player matchups:
Giovani Bernard vs. Luke Kuechly: The Bengals have transformed into a run-first offense this season, relying heavily on Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill. The Bengals will most likely be running a lot more this weekend with A.J. Green likely to sit out with a turf toe injury. It’s always best to keep the ball out of Andy Dalton’s hands, and without his most reliable target on the field it will be even more crucial to run the ball effectively. Luke Kuechly is an absolute beast against the run, but he can’t stop it alone. In fact the Carolina Panthers have been completely ineffective against the run, even against the Baltimore Ravens who have struggled running the ball all season. Bernard and Hill should get a combined 30-35 touches; so if Kuechly is not able to bring some life to this Panthers defense, the Bengals will run their way to another big victory.
Brian Hoyer vs. Dick LeBeau and the Steelers defense: Brian Hoyer and the Cleveland Browns opened their season against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and after leading them back from a 24-point deficit Hoyer was forced to watch from the sideline as the Steelers won the game on the final drive. This time the Steelers travel to Cleveland hoping for the same result. Hoyer is playing beautifully, but Dick LeBeau is a defensive genius. LeBeau and the Steelers defense now have some experience against Hoyer along with four other weeks’ worth of film on the quarterback. Look for the Steelers to take away the Browns running game and force Hoyer to start throwing the ball down the field. As long as Hoyer is throwing against the tough Steelers secondary they will wait for him to make a mistake and capitalize on it.
Dez Bryant vs. Richard Sherman: With Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green both on the sideline this weekend, Dez Bryant may be the best wide receiver out there for Week Six. Bryant leads the league in receiving touchdowns since 2012, and even though the Cowboys have adopted a more run-based offense this season Bryant has still had a great year so far. Bryant and the Dallas Cowboys will be heading to Seattle on Sunday to take on the defending Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks, which means Bryant will most likely be matched up with Richard Sherman for most of the game. Sherman is considered one of the few shutdown cornerbacks in the NFL, and he will also have Earl Thomas III over the top for extra help against Bryant. Expect Sherman to play man defense on Bryant for the entire game and to look for help from Thomas over the top and in the middle of the field. Bryant may not see the ball too much anyways, as Tony Romo will probably shy away from Sherman’s side of the field.