THIS WEEK’S HALL-OF-FAME GAME
Philadelphia @ Arizona, 4:05 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Cards by 2-1/2
The story: The Arizona Cardinals won 12 of their last 15, and people tell me they’re a mirage. Well, here’s where we find out if they’re right. The team they’re playing won 12 of its last 14 regular-season starts, and something has to give. The Eagles are coming off a bye; Arizona is coming off a defeat of Oakland — which means the Cards are coming off a bye, too. But this is all about location, location, location, and the Cards won seven of their last eight at home. Yeah, OK, so Nick Foles has a history of road success. But his only two regular-season losses the past calendar year were there, too. Granted, Arizona doesn’t overwhelm anyone, but the Cards do find ways to win.
Hall-of-Fame worthy: LeSean McCoy, beware: The Cardinals not only are the only top-ranked run defense; they’re the only team not to allow a rushing TD.
THREE OTHERS SUITABLE FOR HALL-OF-FRAMING
Baltimore @ Cincinnati, 1 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Even
The story: Three weeks ago, the Cincinnati Bengals were the best team in the NFL. Now they’re the Cincinnati Bungles again, with as many points as a dead man in last weekend’s loss to Indianapolis. The Bengals didn’t have wide receiver A.J. Green then, and they may not have him back Sunday. Bad, huh? It gets worse. Now they play Baltimore, a club that won five of its last six — or all but the season opener against — drum roll, please — the Cincinnati Bengals. This one will be determined up front, with Cincinnati’s offensive line trying to hold off a Ravens’ pass rush that has 24 quarterback hits the past two games. If Andy Dalton has the time, he might be able to shred the Ravens as he did in September. I said might. He had A.J. Green that afternoon.
Hall-of-Fame worthy: The Ravens’ +89 point differential is the best in the league.
Indianapolis @ Pittsburgh, 4:25 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Colts by 3
The story: Monday night’s win was supposed to convince frantic Pittsburgh Steelers’ fans to come in off the ledge, but, if I’m one of them, I’m not budging. Pittsburgh won because Houston makes too many mistakes. Period. And Indianapolis won’t. Better yet, Indianapolis has something the Texans don’t, and that’s a franchise quarterback. Ryan Fitzpatrick may not be able to poke holes in the Pittsburgh secondary, but Mike Glennon did. So what do you think happens when Andrew Luck rolls into town? Nothing good from Pittsburgh’s perspective. Luck is working on a streak of five straight with 300 or more yards passing, and don’t say you weren’t warned. Yeah, I know, Reggie Wayne won’t play, but he missed over half the season a year ago and the Colts did just fine. Reason: Andrew Luck. Connect the dots, people. For Pittsburgh to have a chance, it must keep Luck nailed to the bench by extending drives, running the ball and playing error-free football.
Hall-of-Fame worthy: Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin is 12-2 at home during October.
Green Bay @ New Orleans, 8:30 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Saints by 1-1/2
The story: Our Rick Gosselin recently told me he doesn’t worry about the Saints because they still have six games at home, and they don’t lose there. He’s right about that. They’re on a 10-game roll. Moreover, they’re in a division that stinks. Except he forgot to add one thing: The Saints are as bad as the division, unable to close game when opponents are begging to be beaten. Drew Brees isn’t the same, and neither is that offense. Unfortunately for the Saints, the same can’t be said of Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. They’re on a four-game roll, averaging 36 points per game during that run. New Orleans will have trouble keeping up in what could amount to a track meet, with Rodgers the rabbit against a bottom-five defense.
Hall-of-Fame worthy: Rodgers has 23 indoor starts, with 56 touchdowns, eight interceptions and a 117.1 passer rating.
… AND ONE THAT’S NOT
Minnesota @ Tampa Bay, 1 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Bucs by 2-1/2
The story: Here’s all you need to know about this game: Minnesota is on a three-game ride on the down escalator and historically struggles in Tampa. OK, they don’t struggle. They lose … as in six straight. The Bucs aren’t any good, with a minus-84 point differential, but they seem to show up against weak competition … and Minnesota qualifies.
Hall-of-Fame worthy: The Bucs’ Gerald McCoy has seven sacks in his last seven starts at home.
UPSET OF THE WEEK
Clark Judge — Green Bay (+1-1/2) over New Orleans. I don’t care that the Saints have a 10-game winning streak at home. Tampa Bay pushed them to OT there. This Saints team is flawed; these Packers aren’t. When Sean Payton starts posting cartoons in lockers to inspire players — as he did this week — I know the Saints are in trouble.
Ron Borges — Washington (+9-1/2) over Dallas. Washington’s defense shuts down the Dallas running game, forcing the Cowboys to play defense and Tony Romo to throw. That’s a losing combination … for the Cowboys.
Rick Gosselin — Carolina (+5) over Seattle. The Seahawks are a different team on the road … and a different team from the one that last year hoisted the Lombardi Trophy.
LOCK OF THE WEEK
Dallas (+9-1/2) over Washington. The Redskins are rolling out their third quarterback of the season, and just in time. Colt McCoy is going home. But so what? If Russell Wilson and Eli Manning can’t solve these guys, how will Colt McCoy? Answer: He won’t. Dallas will control the clock, DeMarco Murray will hog the ball and the Washington Redskins will stay in Foggy Bottom, buried in the NFC East.
FIVE GUYS WHO COULD MAKE SUNDAY’S WALL OF FAME
1. Atlanta QB Matt Ryan. He’s 3-0 vs. Detroit and threw for four touchdowns the last time he played the Lions.
2. Carolina QB Cam Newton. He won nine of his last 10 starts at home.
3. New England QB Tom Brady. He’s won his last 13 starts at home and in his last three anywhere this season he has nine TDs and no interceptions.
4. New Orleans QB Drew Brees. He’s thrown for at least 300 yards and two touchdowns in each of five starts vs. Green Bay.5.
5. Washington RB Alfred Morris. He averages 120.5 yards rushing in four career games vs. Dallas and has six TDs.
HALL OF NOTES-WORTHY
1. Carson Palmer won 10 of his last 12 starts.
2. Antonio Brown has at least five catches for at least 50 yards in 23 consecutive games.
3. The Cardinals have only one interception in 209 passing attempts.
4. The Atlanta-Detroit game is the first to be played at Wembley Stadium at 9:30 a.m. EDT, and maybe that can shake up the Falcons. Atlanta lost 11 of its last 12 games outside the Georgia Dome.
5. With a defeat of Indianapolis, Ben Roethlisberger becomes the fourth quarterback in league history to have 100 wins in his first 150 starts. The others are Tom Brady, Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw.
6. The Oakland Raiders allow the fewest sacks in the league. They’ve surrendered only five, meaning … meaning Derek Carr will not be the next David Carr.
7. The Baltimore Ravens are 5-0 when rushing for at least 120 yards.
8. The Patriots have a 12-game winning streak vs. the NFC North.
9. The New Orleans Saints won their last 10 at home, but Sean Payton hasn’t lost a game there since the 2010 regular-season finale — a run of 18 straight contests.
10. The Philadelphia Eagles have at least one takeaway in 19 straight games and lead the league with 10 forced fumbles.
(Photo courtesy of the Arizona Cardinals)