(Tom Brady photo courtesy of the New England Patriots)
(Darrelle Revis photo courtesy of the N.Y. Jets)
By Clark Judge
Talk of Fame Network
OUR SUNDAY BEST
N.Y. JETS @ NEW ENGLAND, 1 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Patriots by 7-1/2
The story: For weeks … no, for months … the Jets have been telling anyone who’d listen that they’re playoff worthy; that, yes, as a matter of fact, they are capable of taking New England to the mat. Well, then, there’s no better time to prove it. This is New York’s Super Bowl, and if you don’t believe it you weren’t listening to Sheldon Richardson who boasted that “this is going to be another win for us.” Oh, really? The Jets certainly have the defense to win. But they don’t have the offense, and that’s a problem when Tom Brady’s the guy you must beat … with Ryan Fitzpatrick. I know, the Jets are the NFL’s top-rated defense, second vs. the run and the pass and third in takeaways, and that’s great. But Brady doesn’t make big mistakes. He has one interception all year, and that was a gift – put in a defender’s hands after his receiver bobbled the pass. Plus, he makes big plays. A lot of them. But let’s not stop there. The game is in Foxborough, where Brady loses about as often as Bill Belichick smiles. Brady’s record at home is 92-15, and, since 2000, the Patriots are 27-4 there in October. So it’s not just the quarterback the Jets must solve; it’s the calendar. Yes, they have Darrelle Revis on the other side of the ball, and, yes, as Brady acknowledged, Revis has “an intimate knowledge” of what the Patriots do. Swell. Now the question: Is he going to stop Rob Gronkowski … and Julian Edelman … and Danny Amendola … and LeGarrette Blount all by himself? Nope, one reason the line is as high as it is.
Hall-of-Fame worthy: The Patriots have won 76 straight home games when leading at halftime. The last home loss when it led at the half? Try Dec. 24, 2000 vs. Miami, which means … yep, which means they have never lost a home game at Gillette Stadium when leading at the half. They’re 68-0 there.
THREE OTHERS SUITABLE FOR HALL-OF-FRAMING
(Andrew Luck photo courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts)
NEW ORLEANS @ INDIANAPOLIS, 1 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Colts by 4-1/2
The story: That this is one of our top three games tells you about the quality of this week’s games. In a nutshell: P.U. Nevertheless, Saints-Colts is here because it’s one of those make-it-or-break-it games for New Orleans, which beat the reaper with last week’s defeat of Atlanta. The Saints say that’s who they really are, and I say, OK, fine, show it. And they have a chance against an Indianapolis team that isn’t real strong defensively, struggles with its offensive line and commits too many turnovers with Andrew Luck under center. I know, Luck has a bad shoulder. Well, so does Drew Brees. So consider this the Battle of Wounded Arm, with Luck given the edge because he’s home where he seldom loses to anyone not named Brady.
Hall-of-Fame worthy: Drew Brees has thrown for 300 or more yards in his last three starts.
DALLAS @ N.Y. GIANTS, 4:25 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Giants by 3
The story: Just when you want to believe in Eli Manning he goes into the fetal position against a Philadelphia team that’s not good offensively or defensively but still looked like the ’85 Bears vs. New York. No, I’m not sure who the Giants are, but I do know about Dallas. They’re a team in search of an identity. Without Tony Romo they’re 0-3 and just pulled the plug on Brandon Weeden, making Matt Cassel the starter. Weeden says he’s “pissed” by the decision, but this just in: So are Cowboys’ fans … with Weeden’s play. Yeah, he completed a high percentage of passes, but you would, too, if they were long handoffs. For Dallas to win its sixth straight over the Giants, the Cowboys must follow Philly’s script … sans turnovers. Force Eli into mistakes, manufacture a rushing attack and get your wideouts involved. Otherwise, Big D stands for another Defeat in what is rapidly becoming a lost season for the Cowboys,.
Hall-of-Fame worthy: In Manning’s last four starts at home vs. Dallas, he has 9 TDs and one interception.
PHILADELPHIA @ CAROLINA, 8:30 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Carolina by 3
The story: The Eagles feel pretty good about themselves now that they’re on a two-game roll, but just whom did they beat? A Giants team nobody can figure out and a Saints’ club trying to salvage its season. OK, so a win is a win is a win. But Carolina is unbeaten, and they’re legit, legit, legit – proving it last week by beating defending NFC champion Seattle in Seattle. That’s rare. But the Panthers are breathing rarified air, one of five unbeatens in the league. Cam Newton’s not Superman, but he is making big plays. The Eagles’ plan to stop him? “Hit him,” said defensive lineman Fletcher Cox. First, however, you must catch him, and the Eagles believe they’re up to it. Reason: They haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher in their last 18 games and surrendered just 13 runs of 10 or more yards this season. But Newton’s not the only concern. Having Luke Kuechly back to anchor the league’s seventh-ranked defense is a huge plus. He and his teammates will make it difficult for DeMarco Murray to run for another 100 yards, putting the pressure on Sam Bradford to win … and that’s more than risky. Not only does he has as many interceptions (9) as TDs; there are 37 quarterbacks with better passer ratings.
Hall-of-Fame worthy: The Eagles have at least one takeaway in each of their last 12 starts and have a total of 29 during that time. Their 16 forced turnovers this season ranks second to Denver.
MONDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
(Joe Flacco photo courtesy of the Baltimore Ravens)
BALTIMORE @ ARIZONA, 8:30 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Arizona by 7-1/2
The story: The Cards are the best team in a disappointing NFC West, but they haven’t been themselves lately. Not only have they lost two of their last three; their points last weekend went down, and their turnovers just went up. An aberration? Maybe. But this is where we find out. My guess is that they straighten themselves out, mostly because Baltimore isn’t the same without Terrell Suggs. OK, that’s being generous. The Ravens stink on defense, ranking 25th overall, 27th vs. the pass and 28th in average points allowed per game. What’s more, the Ravens can’t win close games – with their average margin of defeat a league-low 4.4 points per and no loss by more than six. Yes, Steve Smith is a load. But so is the Cards’ Larry Fitzgerald. This one comes down to defenses, people, and there’s no comparison. The Cards rank sixth overall, lead the league in interceptions (11) and have three players with two or more. Bottom line: They win because they have make the stops Baltimore can’t … at least not now.
Hall-of-Fame worthy: Joe Flacco is 4-1 on Monday night, with 6 TDs and one interception. Chris Johnson has four 100-yard rushing games in his last six Monday night appearances.
LOCK OF THE WEEK
(Julio Jones photo courtesy of the Atlanta Falcons)
ATLANTA OVER TENNESSEE, 1 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Falcons by 6-1/2
The story: Atlanta may be reeling after that last loss, but that was nine days ago. So the Falcons are rested. And Tennessee? Quarterback Marcus Mariota is out with a knee injury, which means Zach Mettenberger is in. Check, please.
Hall-of-Fame worthy: The Titans sacks opponents on 10.7 percent of their passing plays, highest in the NFL.
Clark Judge. Houston (+4-1/2) over Miami. The Texans have never lost to these guys, they get Jadeveon Clowney back and nobody can cover DeAndre Hopkins. Dan Campbell, the honeymoon is over.
Rick Gosselin. N.Y. Jets (+8) over New England. The Jets lost twice by a total of three points to the Patriots last season. They bring to Foxboro for this game something they didn’t have last year — the NFL’s best defense.
Ron Borges. Detroit (+1-1/2) over Minnesota. Detroit roars again. With some decent officiating they’d be on a two-game winning streak. After this weekend, they will be.
FIVE GUYS ON SUNDAY’S HALL-OF-FAME RADAR
(Adrian Peterson photo courtesy of the Minnesota Vikings)
Minnesota RB Adrian Peterson. In 13 career starts vs. Detroit he has 1392 yards rushing, 1646 yards from scrimmage and 12 TDs.
Carolina DE Jared Allen. In four career games vs. Philadelphia, he has six sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
San Diego QB Philip Rivers. He won six of his last seven vs. Oakland, with 13 TDs and 5 interceptions.
Dallas TE Jason Witten. He has seven touchdowns in his last five starts vs. the Giants.
Baltimore WR Steve Smith. In nine career starts vs. Arizona, he has 54 catches, 8 TDs and four 100-yard games.
HALL OF NOTES-WORTHY
Through the first six weeks 27 of 91 games (or 29.7 percent) have been decided by fourth-quarter comebacks. That puts the league on track for the second-highest percentage of fourth-quarter come-from-behind wins since 1970 (31.3 percent in 1989).
If Carolina and New England win this weekend, there would be an NFL-record five teams at 6-0. The previous high was four in 2009.
With 43 yards, Tom Brady becomes the fifth quarterback in league history to throw for 55,000 yards. The others are Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Dan Marino and Drew Brees.
San Diego’s Philip Rivers has thrown for 350 or more yards in three consecutive games, including a franchise-record 503 last week. Tom Brady threw for the most yards (423) in a game immediately following a 500-yard performance, while Drew Brees is second at 349.
With 140 yards Sunday, the Rams’ Todd Gurley would join Eric Dickerson as the only rookies to rush for 140 or more yards in three consecutive contests.
With his next interception, Oakland’s Charles Woodson ties Ken Riley for the fifth-most in NFL history. Riley has 65. With his next interception for touchdown, Woodson ties another Woodson – Rod (no relation) – for most returns for scores with 12.
Arizona has held opponents to 20 or fewer points in 13 of its last 19 home games. The Cardinals are 13-0 in those games.
In four of their five losses this season, the Baltimore Ravens have held second-half leads.
A win Sunday would run Dallas’ road streak vs. NFC East opponents to eight, the longest in the division’s history.
Houston has never lost to Miami. The Texans hold a 7-0 lead in the series, including a 3-0 record on the road.