THIS WEEK’S HALL-OF-FAME GAME
Denver @ Seattle, 4:25 p.m., EDT
The line: Seahawks by 5
The story: Let’s make this one simple. The last time these two met Seattle won. Correction: The last time these two met the Seahawks sliced, diced and spliced Denver, 43-8, in Super Bowl XLVIII. That was on a neutral field. This one’s in Seattle, where the Seahawks won 18 of their last 19. OK, so Denver is 2-0, but it struggled in the second halves of both victories. The Seahawks are 1-1, but they’re stinging from their first loss since last December — with safety Earl Thomas saying his “championship spirit” is back. Oddsmakers know something, and, now, so do you. The spread is five points for more than one reason.
Hall-of-Fame worthy: In his last 13 games at home, cornerback Richard Sherman has nine interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown.
THREE OTHERS SUITABLE FOR HALL OF FRAMING
San Diego @ Buffalo, 1 p.m., EDT
The line: Bills by 2-1/2
The story: This is the story the NFL wishes you would tell. First, the Buffalo Bills are sold to an owner who promises not to move them; then, they win their first two starts, the only unbeaten team in the AFC East. Unfortunately, nobody trusts them because … well, because we’ve been here before. In 2011 … in 2008 … and in 2003. Buffalo didn’t make the playoffs in those years. In fact, it didn’t even have winning seasons. People tell me this team is different, but call me skeptical. I guess we find out here.
Hall-of-Fame worthy: Buffalo’s EJ Manuel is second to Nick Foles in pass plays of 25 or more yards with six.
San Francisco @ Arizona, 4:05 p.m., EDT
The line: 49ers by 3
The story: This one’s all about the quarterbacks. Colin Kaepernick is 3-0 vs. Arizona, but he’s not the key here. Arizona’s quarterback is, and this just in: It’s Drew Stanton. I know, I know, Stanton won his last three starts, including a defeat of the Giants last week. But that’s the point: He can beat the Giants; he can’t beat San Francisco — even without tight end Vernon Davis.
Hall-of-Fame worthy: The Cardinals scored come-from-behind victories in their first two games by outscoring opponents 27-0 in the fourth quarter.
Pittsburgh @ Carolina, 8:30 p.m., EDT
The line: Panthers by 3-1/2
The story: Defending NFC South champion Carolina was supposed to be on the down escalator, but that hasn’t happened. The Panthers win with Derek Anderson; they win with Cam Newton. It doesn’t matter. What might is that this game is in Carolina. So what? So the Panthers won their last eight regular-season starts there, and Pittsburgh lost seven of its last 10 on the road. Then there’s this: The Panthers lead the league at +6 in the takeaway/turnover differential. Pittsburgh is 31st at -4. Only the Giants (-5) are worse.
Hall-of-Fame worthy: The Steelers are 51-6 when Roethlisberger has a passer rating of 100 or more.
… AND ONE THAT’S NOT
Houston @ N.Y. Giants, 1 p.m. EDT
The line: Texans by 2
The story: Eli Manning vs. Ryan Fitzpatrick is not exactly High Noon. OK, so Fitzpatrick is playing well. Does anyone really trust him? And while Manning looked better last week, his top receiver — Victor Cruz — did not. The guy has more drops than the Stock Market.I don’t know, this just seems to have the makings of a snooze-fest, with the Giants looking for a new No. 3 receiver, a new nickel cornerback and a new starting middle linebacker because of injuries that shredded them last week.
Hall-of-Fame worthy: The Texans lead the AFC in third-down conversions, cashing in on 65.2 percent over the last six quarters.
UPSET OF THE WEEK
Rick Gosselin: San Diego (+2-1/2) over Buffalo. It’s a quarterback league, and San Diego has the elite one in this game.
Ron Borges: Denver (+5) over Seattle. Denver has much to prove after its Super Bowl debacle. This is the chance to do it.
Clark Judge: Green Bay (+2-1/2) over Detroit. I don’t care where they play this game. The Lions don’t beat Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay won 15 of its last 17 vs. the Lions.
LOCK OF THE WEEK
New Orleans (+10) over Minnesota. The Saints won their last eight at home. That;s good. They also have Drew Brees, who, in his last three starts vs. Minnesota, has 9 TD passes and no interceptions. That’s better. And the Vikings? Well, they don’t have Adrian Peterson. What they do have is Cordarrelle Patterson, and Matt Cassel to get him the ball. Check, please.
FIVE GUYS WHO COULD MAKE SUNDAY’S WALL OF FAME
1. Baltimore QB Joe Flacco. He’s 11-1 vs. Cleveland, with 15 TDs and 6 interceptions.
2. San Diego RB Danny Woodhead. He has five career TDs vs. Buffalo, the most of any opponent he faced.
3. Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers. He’s 9-0 vs. Detroit, with 19 TDs, 4 interceptions and a 114 passer rating. Rodgers has rating of 100 or more in eight of his nine starts against the Lions.
4. Dallas QB Tony Romo. He’s 3-0 vs. St. Louis, with 8 TDs and one interception.
5. St. Louis DE Robert Quinn. In his last nine games at home, he has 13 sacks, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
HALL OF NOTES-WORTHY
1. Arizona is 9-2 over its last 11 starts. Only Carolina has more regular-season wins (10) in that time.
2. Since the current playoff format was adopted in 1990, 23 teams that started 0-2 made the playoffs — including last year’s Carolina Panthers. That’s the good news. The bad? The Panthers are the first team since 2008 to qualify after dropping its first two games.
3. Including the playoffs, Kansas City is 2-8 over its last 10 starts.
4. The Denver-Seattle game marks the sixth time in league history — and the first time since 1997 — the Super Bowl teams from the previous season met the following year. In those rematches, Super Bowl champions are 3-2.
5. Since 1990, 75.2 percent of teams that went 3-0 made the playoffs.
6. Peyton Manning has thrown at least three touchdown passes with no interceptions in four consecutive games, tying him with Tom Brady for the longest such streak.
7. Quarterbacks are completing 63.5 percent of their passes, the highest league-wide percentage in the NFL’s first two games.
8. Philadelphia is the first team in NFL history to go 2-0 after trailing by 14 or more points in the second half of each game. The Eagles outscore opponents 58-10 in the second half.
9. In five starts with Cleveland, Brian Hoyer is 4-1, with seven touchdowns, three interceptions and no interceptions in his last 132 attempts.
10. Cincinnati hasn’t allowed a sack or committed a turnover. The Bengals and Houston Texans are the only teams that haven’t allowed a sack.
Photo courtesy of Seattle Seahawks