THIS WEEK’S HALL-OF-FAME GAME
Philadelphia @ San Francisco, 4:25 p.m., EDT
The line: 49ers by 4-1/2
The story: The Eagles are unbeaten. The 49ers are not. In fact, they’re tied for last in the NFC West. So why are they favored here? Answer: They’re overdue, they’re home and people just figure it’s time for them to start acting like … well, like the 49ers. Besides, they were 1-2 a year ago and look what happened. Except there’s a different feel to this 1-2. The 49ers seems distracted, disjointed and undisciplined — especially in the second half, where they’ve been outscored 52-3, including 31-0 in the fourth quarter. Not good. But the story gets better. Philadelphia is the yin to their yang. The Eagles spot opponents first-half leads, then bury them by an NFL-best 50 in the second. If the 49ers have a second-half pulse, they win. Oddsmakers say that happens, and here’s why: Desperate teams at home are dangerous teams, and the 49ers are desperate to find an identity.
Hall-of-Fame worthy: The Eagles won 10 of their last 11 regular-season games and six of their last seven on the road.
THREE OTHERS SUITABLE FOR HALL OF FRAMING
Carolina @ Baltimore, 1 p.m., EDT
The line: Ravens by 3-1/2
The story: Welcome to the Steve Smith Bowl, where, according to the former Carolina star, “there’s going to be blood and guts everywhere.” Now there’s a slogan the marketing department should get behind. Carolina’s defense better show more guts, glory, something, than it did a week ago when it was shredded by Pittsburgh’s running game. Baltimore isn’t Pittsburgh, but the Ravens ran for over 150 yards in each of the past two games. That’s a problem. So is this: The Panthers aren’t in Charlotte anymore. It’s Baltimore, and one thing about the Ravens is they lose at home about as often as it snows in San Diego. They’re 40-10 there under John Harbaugh — including 11-1 vs. the NFC.
Hall-of-Fame worthy: The Ravens have been penalized 12 times this season, tying them with New Orleans for the league’s fewest.
Green Bay @ Chicago, 1 p.m., EDT
The line: Packers by 2
The story: To win this game, the Bears must figure out how to solve Aaron Rodgers, and, yeah, I know, the way he’s playing this season he looks more like a Discount Double-Check salesman than Aaron Rodgers. But Chicago is just what he needs, and not because the Bears are handicapped by injuries. Nope, it’s because Rodgers is money against the Bears and virtually owns Jay Cutler — who has one career victory vs. Rodgers and is 1-9 vs. Green Bay. Chicago’s secondary is beaten up, and that’s not good, either. The Packers are struggling, but they’ve struggled before. This is where they begin their recovery.
Hall-of-Fame worthy: Rodgers is 10-2 vs. Chicago when he has 10 or more attempts, including victories in his last seven starts. Plus, the Packers have scored 20 or more points in eight of their last nine road division games and over 30 in three of their last four.
New Orleans @ Dallas, 8:30 p.m., EDT
The line: Saints by 3
The story: The Saints were a trendy Super Bowl pick. The Cowboys were not. Instead, they were a trendy last-place pick for their own division. So now we find out who’s the imposter. One team is sputtering, and it’s not Dallas. Yet oddsmakers love New Orleans. So do I, and I’ll tell you why: Drew Brees. Dallas can’t defend him. If I were Morris Claiborne, and Brees were next on my schedule, I wouldn’t want to show up for work, either. I mean, if Austin Davis can shred you for a gazillion yards what happens here? Dig a foxhole. You’re about to find out.
Hall-of-Fame worthy: Brees won his last three starts vs. Dallas, with seven TDs and no interceptions in his last two.
… AND ONE THAT’S NOT
Miami@ Oakland in London, England, 1 p.m., EDT
The line: Dolphins by 3-1/2
The story: Not only are the Raiders winless; they’re 5-25 over their last 30 games. Ouch. Miami is a mess, with defensive players calling out the coordinator, and the head coach refusing to acknowledge that, yes, Ryan Tannehill is in fact his starting quarterback. The Raiders’ Dennis Allen is on the hot seat. The Dolphins’ Joe Philbin just asked him to move over. Talk about evenly matched opponents. The Brits give us the Beatles, Laurence Olivier, fish and chips and Premier League Soccer, and this is how we repay them? No wonder the league office is under fire.
Hall-of-Fame worthy: In two career stars vs. Oakland, Mike Wallace has 11 catches for 239 yards (21.7 per reception) and two TDs.
UPSET OF THE WEEK
Clark Judge: N.Y. Jets (+1-1/2) over Detroit. Rex Ryan says he won’t make the same mistake brother Rob did — namely, leaving Megatron uncovered — and let’s hear it for common sense. Defense wins this game, and that’s the only area where I trust Gang Green.
Ron Borges: Philadelphia (+4-1/2) over San Francisco. The Eagles may be 4-1/2-point dogs, but they’ll have some bite against the 49ers, especially in the second half. Lay the points, and watch Chip Kelly’s Eagles lay out the 49ers in the second half.
Rick Gosselin: Kansas City (+3-1/2) over New England. The Patriots are having problems protecting the passer, and the one area the Chiefs excel in is the pass rush.
LOCK OF THE WEEK
San Diego (+13) over Jacksonville. The Chargers are home, where they beat defending Super Bowl champion Seattle. They’re also 2-1, with their only loss a one-point defeat by undefeated Arizona. So, they’re legit. The Jaguars go three time zones to start a rookie quarterback, and forget that they’re winless; this is a team outscored 119- 27 since halftime of the season opener in Philadelphia. So, they stink. Jacksonville should just pocket the airfare, stay home and call in the loss. There’s a better it hosts another Super Bowl than wins here.
FIVE GUYS WHO COULD MAKE THE WALL OF FAME
1. Chicago DE Jared Allen. He has 16.5 sacks in his last 12 starts vs. the Packers, including the playoffs. Since entering the league in 2004, he leads in sacks with 128.5.
2. San Diego QB Philip Rivers. In his last three starts vs. the Jags, he has seven TD passes, two interceptions and a passer rating of 130.6. The Chargers are 39-4 when Rivers starts and has a rating of 115 or more.
3. Philadelphia QB Nick Foles. He has a passer rating of 129.2 in his last eight road games, with 22 TDs and 2 interceptions. Now, he can become the first quarterback in Philadelphia history to throw for 300 or more yards in four consecutive games.
4. Dallas RB DeMarco Murray. He’s run for five touchdowns in his last four home games.
5. New England WR Julian Edelman. He aims for his 10th straight game with at least six catches.
HALL OF NOTES-WORTHY
1. Since 1990 when the NFL adopted its current format, 75.2 percent of the teams that started 3-0 went on to reach the playoffs.
2. Make that eight consecutive division losses for Washington.
3. Baltimore hasn’t allowed a sack in back-to-back games since 2007.
4. The Eagles have at least one takeaway in 16 straight games (including the postseason), their best performance since a streak of 37 in 1993-95.
5. Arizona and Cincinnati are the only teams that allowed 17 or fewer points in all three games this season. Both are undefeated.
6. Since 2012, New England’s Stevan Ridley leads the AFC with 20 rushing touchdowns.
7. The four best teams in second-half differentials are in the NFC: 1) Philadelphia (+50); 2) Chicago (+32); 3) Dallas (+28) and 4) Arizona (+23).
8. There are 29 teams with at least one victory, the second-highest total through three weeks since realignment in 2002. There were 30 in 2012.
9. Through three games, the average league-wide passer rating is 90.6, on schedule to be the highest in league history. The league-wide interception rate is also down — with a 2.15 mark that would also be the lowest in NFL history if it stands.
10. Since 2002, New England has the most games with no interceptions (101). Jacksonville (93) is second, and Philadelphia (89) third.
(Photo courtesy of Philadelphia Eagles)