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NFL Week 6 survivor pool picks, predictions: Fade dysfunctional Panthers in tough spot

After firing their head coach and losing their starting quarterback, the Panthers are clear fade candidates against the defending champion Rams.

Carolina Panthers quarterback P.J. Walker will be in a tough start as a big road underdog against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Carolina Panthers quarterback P.J. Walker will be in a tough start as a big road underdog against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)Read moreAl Bello / Getty Images

If you followed our top pick in last week’s survivor column, you’ve been eliminated from your pool. If you’ve been following our picks from the beginning, you’ve been eliminated, too. And if you weren’t following our picks at all – well, you’ve likely been knocked out, as well.

It’s been that kind of season in the NFL, where touchdown favorites have as many outright losses (4) as wins against the spread (4) in 14 tries. That’s a key reason why just 838 of 6,133 entries (13.7%) are still alive in the Circa Sports survivor contest, with a whopping 36.7% of the pool choosing the Jaguars in Week 5.

So did we, though our backup pick Buccaneers survived a tense one with the division rival Falcons. If you opted for that play – or really anything else – and are still alive heading into Week 6, we’re here to help you navigate another treacherous with just three big favorites at BetMGM and only two at home. Here’s how we’d attack this week in your survivor pool:

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Top play

Los Angeles Rams

The Rams are clearly in a rut after their Super Bowl run a year ago, and it’s hard to know when you can trust them in your survivor pool. But they’re still one of the 17 best teams in the NFL, and there’s never a better time to use them than against a Panthers team in the midst of complete organizational dysfunction.

Carolina fired head coach Matt Rhule on Monday, one day after the team lost starting quarterback Baker Mayfield to a high-ankle sprain that could cost him several weeks. That puts spot starter P.J. Walker – who has thrown a whopping eight interceptions on 128 career attempts with a 54.5 passer rating – in line to spearhead the NFL’s least efficient offense by yards per game (271.4).

The Rams’ defense hasn’t been as dominant as usual, but it still has the talent to fluster Walker in just the third start of his three-year career. Conversely, this Panthers defense – which lost defensive coordinator Phil Snow in Monday’s exodus – doesn’t have the established pass rush that has given Los Angeles trouble in its three losses this season. Trust the big number here.

» READ MORE: Full sports betting coverage from The Philadelphia Inquirer

Sleeper pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

We recommended Tampa Bay last week as a sleeper pick for those wary (and rightfully so) of the big favorite Jaguars. If you still have the Buccaneers available in your pool, there’s a case to be made for using them this week, too.

There are reasons for concern for this group, which is still banged-up offensively and narrowly escaped last week thanks to a questionable roughing the passer call that sparked 24 hours of outrage. Still, this sets up as a strong matchup for Tom Brady and co. against a Steelers team that seemingly can’t score at all and has shown little resistance defensively without star pass rusher T.J. Watt (pectoral).

Since Brady joined the team in 2020, the Bucs are 20-2 straight up as touchdown favorites, including a stellar 8-1 on the road in that spot. This isn’t the sharpest team available in your pool, but it’s hard to ignore how juicy this matchup is in Kenny Pickett’s second career start.

Team to avoid

Philadelphia Eagles

I’ve started to fall in love with this Eagles team, which seemingly has answers for every situation on both sides of the ball. But this is still a dangerous matchup against a red-hot Cowboys team riding a four game win streak into Sunday night’s divisional duel.

Dallas’ defense has been the catalyst for its stellar start to the season, holding opponents to 14.4 points per game while ranking second in sacks (20) and first in pressure rate (33.6%). Micah Parsons is already running away with the Defensive Player of the Year award in just his second season, and he’s the ultimate game-wrecker in this spot – especially if Philly’s offensive line deals with any more injury concerns like we saw last week.

Cooper Rush has done an admirable job piloting this offense, which has suddenly reinvented itself behind dynamic rushing duo. There’s a lot to like about Philly, but the same can be said about Dallas, and I wouldn’t want my survivor pool riding on either side of this heated rivalry.

» READ MORE: NFL Week 6: An early look at Eagles-Cowboys odds

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