THIS WEEK’S HALL-OF-FAME GAME
San Francisco @ Denver, 8:30 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Broncos by 6-1/2
The story: This isn’t a game as much as it is a coronation, with Peyton Manning looking to break Brett Favre’s career touchdown record. Manning is three short of setting it, and with him throwing three TDs in four of his five starts and 27 in his last nine games vs. the NFC, the smart money is on him– especially with 49ers’ linebacker Patrick Willis doubtful and the team’s DBs hurting. But let’s not forget: There’s a game to be played here, too, and don’t underestimate San Francisco. The 49rs are good, deep and beginning to gain momentum. Still, there’s something quarterback Colin Kaepernick should remember, and remove the headphones, please. If you want to pull the upset, do what Dallas did in Seattle last week and what the Jets did in New England Thursday — namely, control the clock by controlling the line of scrimmage. Translation: Run Frank Gore, run Colin Kaepernick, run the clock and maybe, just maybe, you postpone Peyton Manning Day one week.
Hall-of-Fame worthy: San Francisco is 13-1 in October under Jim Harbaugh.
THREE OTHERS SUITABLE FOR HALL-OF-FRAMING
Cincinnati @ Indianapolis, 1 p.m., (EDT)
The line: Colts by 3
The story: It’s good to be Cincinnati. The Bengals are on top of the AFC North and in the midst of a five-game swing where they don’t get on a plane. They simply tool on down I-74 for this one, a game that’s no more than two hours away– and that’s nothing but good. But this isn’t: Two weeks ago the Bengals were considered the best team in football. Then they got drilled by New England and tied Carolina in a game they should’ve won … but didn’t, and, suddenly, we were cuing Denny Green: “They are who we thought they were!” Well, here’s another chance to prove they aren’t, and why do I have this feeling they won’t? Answer: Andrew Luck. In his only career game vs. Cincinnati, he threw for four touchdowns, with no interceptions, and he leads the league with 17 TDs. Maybe Vontaze Burfict should try twisting Luck’s arm.
Hall-of-Fame worthy: The Colts lead the league in average time of possession at 36:28 per game.
Carolina @ Green Bay, 1 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Packers by 7
The story: Looks like Aaron Rodgers was right when he told Cheeseheads to relax. The Packers are on top of the NFC North, while the rest of the division looks like a bunch of also-rans jockeying for tee times in January. This game is more a measure of Carolina than it is Green Bay, and, sorry, but I also don’t see how the Panthers survive. It’s not that I don’t trust Cam Newton. It’s that I don’t trust a defense that’s surrendered an average of 34 points the past month — with three of its four opponents scoring 37 or more each.
Hall-of-Fame worthy: The Packers held the last five quarterbacks they faced to passer ratings below 85.0.
N.Y. Giants @ Dallas, 4:25 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Cowboys by 6-1/2
The story: Watching the Giants a week ago I felt I was auditioning for a part in “The Sixth Sense.” I saw dead people … and they all wore blue jerseys. But that was then, and this is now, and now Eli Manning is in a stadium where he is very much alive — winning four of five starts there. I don’t care what Amani Toomer says about his ex-team’s attitude or that there’s fallout from the Victor Cruz injury. The Giants have a chance here because of Manning’s history in Big D, because the Cowboys have a home-field “disadvantage”(ask Tony Romo) and because Romo and tackle Tyron Smith are banged up — with Smith iffy for this game. Of course, none of that matters if they don’t know how to bottle up DeMarco Murray, and this just in: Since Week 4 of the 2013 season the Giants allowed only two backs to rush for 100 yards.
Hall-of-Fame worthy: While Murray leads the league in carries and rushing, he also has four lost fumbles.
… AND ONE THAT’S NOT
Tennessee at Washington, 1 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Redskins by 5-1/2
The story: Jay Gruden says he doesn’t know why Kirk Cousins throws so many interceptions, but the fact is: He does, with seven second-half picks in losses to the Giants and Arizona. Cousins leads the league with 10 interceptions, and Washington is 0-4 with him as its starter. Something needs to change, and something could: Tennessee is next, and the Titans barely held off Jacksonville last week after blowing a 25-point lead at home the week before.
Hall-of-Fame worthy: DeSean Jackson has four catches of 50 or more yards this season, most in the NFL.
UPSET OF THE WEEK
Clark Judge — New Orleans (+3) over Detroit. Calvin Johnson probably won’t play. But Jimmy Graham could. And Mark Ingram almost certainly will. Put them together with the Saints’ 5-o record in games immediately following their last five byes and you have a wake-call New Orleans answers.
Rick Gosselini — Cincinnati (+3) over Indianapolis. The Colts are more prone to turnovers than the Bengals. That will be the difference in this one.
Ron Borges — Tennessee (+5-1/2) over Washington. Tennessee struggled vs. Jacksonville, but the Deadskins are just that. DOA.
LOCK OF THE WEEK
Baltimore (-7) over Atlanta. Let’s make this one simple: Atlanta is 1-10 in its last 11 road games. The Ravens are 12-1 vs. the NFC at home under John Harbaugh. Need I say more? Then try this: All four of Atlanta’s losses have been by double digits. Check, please.
FIVE GUYS WHO COULD MAKE SUNDAY’S WALL OF FAME
1. New Orleans QB Drew Brees. He’s 4-0 vs. Detroit (including the playoffs), with 14 TDs, 1 interception and a passer rating of 133.8.
2. St.Louis DE Robert Quinn. He has six sacks in his last four starts vs. Seattle — including three in his last home start against the Seahawks.
3. San Francisco DL Justin Smith. In his last three games vs. Denver he has four sacks and one forced fumble.
4. San Diego TE Antonio Gates. He has 14 career touchdown catches vs. Kansas City, the most vs. any opponent.
5. Arizona QB Carson Palmer. In five starts vs. the AFC since coming to Arizona he’s 5-0, with nine TDs and one interception.
HALL OF NOTES-WORTHY
1. Don’t underestimate Kansas City this weekend. Andy Reid is 13-2 following byes.
2. Atlanta’s Antone Smith has seven career touchdowns — all over 35 yards each.
3. Through six weeks, quarterbacks complete an average of 63.3 percent of their passes with an average passer rating of 91.0 — both of which would be league records if they don’t change.
4. Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown has at least five catches for 50 or more yards in 22 straight games.
5. Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco, who face each other Sunday for only the second time since they were first-round draft picks in 2008, are two of only five quarterbacks to start at least 100 games since then. The others are Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Drew Brees.
6. Kansas City’s Chandler Catanzaro hasn’t missed a field goal in 14 tries. If he makes two more he sets the record for most consecutive field goals by a rookie to start a season.
7. Someone please explain: Chicago is 3-1 on the road and 0-2 at home.
8. Baltimore’s Justin Forsett leads the league in rushing average (6.38 yards per carry) and is tied with DeMarco Murray for first in runs of 20 or more yards (6).
9. The Cleveland Browns are the only team not to have surrendered a point off a turnover this season. Maybe that’s because the Browns committed only two giveaways.
10. The Broncos will wear their all-blue uniforms. In their 10 previous games in all blue they’re 7-3.
(Photo courtesy of the Denver Broncos)