THIS WEEK’S HALL-OF-FAME GAME
Dallas @ Seattle, 4:25 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Seahawks by 9
The story: Tony Romo complains that he has a home-field disadvantage when Houston comes to town, but look at it this way, Cowboys’ fans: Maybe it can serve as early practice for using the silent count in Seattle, where the N.Y. Giants once committed 11 false starts. But it’s not the noise that’s Romo’s problem. It’s the Seahawks. They’re rolling and lost only once here in the past 20 games. If nothing else, this is where we find out about Dallas. We know the Seahawks are good. Heck, they’re the defending Super Bowl champions. But Dallas? Not so much. Make this a measuring stick for Romo, DeMarco Murray and a defense playing better — much better — than anyone expected.
Hall-of-Fame worthy: Seattle’s Russell Wilson is 19-1 at home (including the playoffs), with 36 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. The Seahawks outscored opponents 584-273 in those 20 starts.
THREE OTHERS SUITABLE FOR HALL-OF-FRAMING
New England @ Buffalo, 1 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Patriots by 3
The story: A week ago, disgruntled Patriots’ fans were throwing dirt on Tom Brady and their favorite team. Now, the Pats have a chance to stand alone at the top of the AFC East, and this just in: The odds are with them. Of course, that can happen when your quarterback is 22-2 vs. his next opponent. Last week’s waxing of Cincinnati doesn’t mean the Patriots don’t still have issues. They do. But they still have Tom Brady, too, and, no, I don’t care that he has an ankle injury. He plays. Bottom line: The Bills have to go a long way to convince me or most anyone outside the 716 area code New England doesn’t walk away with another division championship.
Hall-of-Fame worthy: Both teams are tied for first in the takeaway/giveaway differential at +6.
Pittsburgh @ Cleveland, 1 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Browns by 1-1/2
The story: This is all you need to know about this game: Ben Roethlisberger is 18-1 vs. Cleveland. Yeah, I know, the Steelers are struggling. I also know Cleveland hasn’t lost a game by more than three points, beaten only by last-second field goals — including one by the Steelers. And Cleveland doesn’t commit stupid turnovers. They have one all year. But Big Ben doesn’t lose against these guys, and the Browns’ best cornerback — Joe Haden — wasn’t practicing this week. Uh-oh. The Steelers let Cleveland back in Game One this season. They won’t let the Browns back in again.
Hall-of-Fame worthy: Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin is 20-7 in October and 9-5 on the road.
N.Y. Giants @ Philadelphia, 8:30 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Eagles by 2-1/2
The story: Mathias Kiwanuka says the Giants are “the team to beat” in the NFC East, and based on the last three weeks it’s hard to argue with the guy. Of course, NFL seasons are not decided by three weeks; they’re decided by 16, and this is where Kiwanuka and Co. discover if they’re the competition for Philadelphia in the NFC East. Warning: It won’t be easy. Philadelphia is brutal at home, winning their last seven games there. That’s good. But this isn’t: Its defense leaks like the Costa Concordia. The key here is Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning. He’s beginning to look more like brother Peyton, with eight TD passes, one interception and only three sacks the past three games. If that continues, look for Kiwanuka to start an astrology column in the New York Post.
Hall-of-Fame worthy: The Eagles have seven return TDs through five games, tying them for the most ever through five games with the 1920 Buffalo All-Americans.
… AND ONE THAT’S NOT
Jacksonville @ Tennessee, 1 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Titans by 6
The story: One team’s winless; the other just blew a 25-point lead at home. It doesn’t get much worse than this, but there is a reason to tune in: Jacksonville lost its last 10, and people are wondering when the bleeding stops. This might be the time and place. Jake Locker missed practices this week, and tackle Michael Roos just checked out for the year. Yep, it’s going to be an early winter in Nashville.
Hall-of-Fame worthy: Tennessee linebacker Derrick Morgan has four sacks in his last three games vs. Jacksonville.
UPSET OF THE WEEK
Rick Gosselin: N.Y. Giants (+2-1/2) over Philadelphia. Eli Manning finally has figured out the new offense, and the Eagles are showing no inclination of playing any defense.
Ron Borges: N.Y. Giants (+2-1/2) over Philadelphia. New York’s version of the West Coast offense exhausts the Eagles’ leaky defense long before the fourth quarter. Eli Manning looks like the 2013 version of Nick Foles, while Foles looks like the 2013 version of Eli.
Clark Judge: Minnesota (+1-1/2) over Detroit. I like what Teddy Bridgewater did to the last dome team that played in Minneapolis.
LOCK OF THE WEEK
San Diego (-7) over Oakland. The Chargers are one of the best teams in the NFL; the Raiders are one of the worst. So interim coach Tony Sparano says there’s a fire in the locker room. I’d expect it — with the team burning its playbooks. All I know is that nobody … and I mean nobody … is playing at Philip Rivers’ level now, so tell me how a winless team poses an obstacle for him. Answer: It doesn’t.
FIVE GUYS WHO COULD MAKE SUNDAY’S WALL OF FAME
1. New England QB Tom Brady. He’s 22-2 vs. Buffalo, with 54 touchdowns, 19 interceptions and a passer rating of 100.1.
2. Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger. He’s 18-1 vs. Cleveland.
3. Atlanta QB Matt Ryan. He’s 2-0 at home vs. Atlanta and 38-10 at home in his career.
4. N.Y. Giants WR Victor Cruz. In three starts in Philadelphia he has 19 catches for 305 yards and three TDs.
5. San Francisco QB Colin Kaepernick. He’s 3-0 on Monday Night Football, with 6 touchdowns and no interceptions.
HALL OF NOTES-WORTHY
1. Since the NFL adopted the current playoff system in 1990,14 teams at least three games under .500 through five weeks reached the playoffs.
2. Tight ends are on a record-setting pace, with 752 catches for 8,194 yards and 72 TDs through five weeks of games.
3. Ravens’ linebacker C.J. Mosley leads all linebackers with five passes defensed and all rookies with 47 tackles. He’s also the only defender to have at least 40 tackles, one interception, one fumble recovery and a forced fumble.
4. There’s an average of 46.37 points scored per game, the highest through five weeks of any season since 1970.
5. The Baltimore Ravens have an NFL-high seven rushes for 20 or more yards.
6. San Diego QB Philip Rivers aims for an NFL-record fifth game in a row with a passer rating of 120.0 or better (15 or more attempts).
7. Monday night’s game between San Francisco and St. Louis marks the 700th game in the history of the Monday Night series. With 45 wins, the 49ers have the most victories in the history of the event.
8. The Eagles have at least one takeaway in their last 18 games.
9. Cincinnati won its last 11 regular-season games at home.
10. The San Francisco 49ers won their last six on Monday Night Football, outscoring opponents 164-49.
(Photo courtesy of the Dallas Cowboys)