GOLD JACKET FEATURE
NEW ENGLAND @ JACKSONSVILLE, 4:25 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Patriots by 1-1/2
The weather: PM thunderstorms, high of 94
The story: The last time these two met was the AFC championship game when the Patriots had to rally from a 20-10 fourth-quarter deficit, and since then, the Jags’ Jalen Ramsey has been stewing — maybe because he’s the guy who guaranteed the Jags were going to the Super Bowl. Correction: He guaranteed they would win the Super Bowl … before, of course, taking on New England. OK, so the Brahan Seer he’s not. But that hasn’t stopped him from taking shots at Patriots’ tight end Rob Gronkowski, saying he’s overrated and can’t separate from cornerbacks. Maybe. But now it’s time to put up or shut up, and let’s just say this: Ramsey doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt. Not anymore he doesn’t. If Jacksonville doesn’t have Leonard Fournette (and he’s not expected to play because of a hamstring injury), it’s Tom Brady mano-a-mano vs. Blake Bortles, and I think we know how that one ends. If not, here’s a hint: The Jags are one of seven teams that haven’t beaten Brady (he’s 8-0), who has 19 touchdown passes, two interceptions and a completion percentage of over 70 against them.
Something to consider: Over the past two years, the Patriots are 15-1 on the road. They’re also 7-0 vs. Jacksonville during the regular season, with three of those wins in Florida, and 11-1 including the playoffs.
THREE OTHERS SUITABLE FOR HALL-OF-FRAMING
MINNESOTA @ GREEN BAY, 1 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Vikings by 1
The weather: Mostly sunny, high of 82
The story: This one comes down to one fundamental question: Is Aaron Rodgers playing or not? Following last weekend’s comeback defeat of Chicago, he insisted he was because … well, because playing football is what he does. But that was last weekend, and he hasn’t practiced since. Very simple: If Rodgers plays, the Packers win. If he doesn’t, they don’t. And here’s why: The Packers were 3-6 without him last season and were swept by the Vikings for the first time since 2009 — with Rodgers playing part of one game (he was sidelined by an Anthony Barr hit) and missing the other. Vegas thinks Rodgers won’t start, but the Packers aren’t saying. For now, it’s a game-time decision, with reports suggesting Rodgers has ligament damage and will try to play through the pain.
Something to consider: Vikings’ tight end Kyle Rudolph has four touchdown catches in his last four road games.
KANSAS CITY @ PITTSBURGH, 1 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Steelers by 5-1/2
The weather: Partly cloudy, high of 80
The story: Everyone’s talking about Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and the Kansas City Chiefs, and I get it. That was an impressive defeat of the Chargers. But the Steelers? Uh, not so much. But that’s what happens when you tie Cleveland and commit six turnovers. OK, so this isn’t Cleveland, and the Steelers aren’t committing six gaffes again. Nevertheless, there are a couple of things to remember: 1) Ben Roethlisberger has a bruised elbow and didn’t practice Wednesday or Thursday, and 2) the Chiefs’ defense has more holes than the New Jersey Turnpike. Don’t believe it? Then you weren’t watching Philip Rivers shred Kansas City for 424 yards passing a week ago or listening to him say afterward that he could’ve thrown for 600. He was serious. Roethlisberger says he’ll play, and I believe it. But the Steelers better hope this doesn’t turn into a track meet because nobody’s beating Hill to the end zone.
Something to consider: Roethlisberger is 6-1 vs. the Chiefs and threw for five touchdowns and no interceptions the last time these two met at Heinz Field.
N.Y. GIANTS @ DALLAS, 8:20 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Cowboys by 3
The weather: Retractable roof
The story: Neither of these teams has won, and neither can afford to drop two back of Philadelphia or Washington … whichever is 2-0 after Sunday. Which is one of the reasons to watch this one. But the other is the game within the game. Giants’ safety Landon Collins earlier this week called out Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott, saying the Giants would try to force him to beat them by concentrating on stopping Zeke Elliott — and while that isn’t exactly what coaches like to hear prior to playing Dallas, he’s right. Prescott has failed to throw for 200 yards in seven of his last nine starts, and, granted, part of that is a depleted offensive line and part of it is a lack of playmakers on the outside. But part of it is teams like the Giants stacking the box vs. Elliott to do exactly what Collins said the Giants have planned. So, next move? It’s up to you, Dak Prescott. “Challenge accepted,” he said.
Something to consider: The Giants’ Odell Beckham Jr. has five TD catches in six career games vs. Dallas.
BEATING THE ODDS
RON BORGES — NEW ORLEANS (–9-1/2). The New Orleans defense may stink, but so does the French Quarter … and it’s still a winning place. New Orleans is too much for the Browns to gain another tie. Season record: 1-0.
RICK GOSSELIN — OAKLAND (+6-1/2). For the better part of three quarters, Oakland was the equal of the mighty L.A. Rams, and the Rams are considerably better than Denver. Gruden wins his first game with the Raiders in 17 years. Season record: 1-0.
CLARK JUDGE — N. Y. GIANTS (+3). Landon Collins is right. Stop Zeke Elliott, and you stop the Cowboys. The Giants will. Season record: 0-1.
THE WEEKEND OMG
Most people think Seattle is the most hostile environment for visiting teams, but would you believe it’s … Arizona? Yep, since the opening of State Farm Stadium in 2006, Cardinals’ opponents have drawn 161 accepted false-start penalties, the most in the NFL. The Vikings’ U.S. Bank/Metrodome stadiums are second (142), with Seattle third (141).
Class of 2018 inductees Jerry Kramer and Brian Urlacher will receive their Hall-of-Fame Rings of Excellence in Week Two, with Kramer honored during halftime of the Vikings-Packers game and Urlacher during halftime of Monday’s Seattle-Bears game. The Hall’s CEO and President David Baker will make the presentations.
SUNDAY PLAY LIST
ARIZONA DE CHANDLER JONES — He has at least one sack in each of the five games he’s played in his career vs. the Rams.
PITTSBURGH QB BEN ROETHLISBERGER. With 76 passing yards, he passes John Elway (51,475) for the seventh most passing yards in NFL history.
CHARGERS QB PHILIP RIVERS. He’s 4-1 vs. Buffalo, with 10 touchdowns and one interception. He’s aiming for his fifth straight game against the Bills with a passer rating of 100-plus.
N.Y. GIANTS RB SAQUON BARKLEY. With another 100-yard game, he becomes the first rookie running back since Cadillac Williams in 2005 to rush for 100 or more yards in his opening two games.
DENVER LB VON MILLER. He has 5-1/2 sacks, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery in his last seven games vs. Oakland.
NEW ORLEANS WR MICHAEL THOMAS. He can break Andre Rison’s NFL record for most catches (26) in the first two games of the season. Thomas has 16. He needs 11.
NEW ORLEANS QB DREW BREES. In his last 11 home starts, he has 34 TDs, 6 interceptions and a passer rating of 120.3.
TEN THINGS WORTH REMEMBERING
- Since realignment in 2002, 116 of the 192 playoff teams (60.4 percent) have made the playoffs, including eight last season.
- Tom Brady’s two best completion percentage games have been vs. Jacksonville — a 92.9 mark in the 2008 playoffs and an 88.5 completion percentage in 2009.
- The Bears are seeking their first win in a home opener since 2013.
- Arizona has won 10 of its last 13 road games.
- Larry Fitzgerald has more catches vs. the Rams (176) than any player in history vs. a single opponent.
- The Chargers; 23-10-2 record vs. Buffalo is their best regular-season percentage vs. any team.
- New Orleans was 9-1 last year when it had 100 yards rushing.
- Including the playoffs, Philadelphia is 16-2 in its last 18 starts.
- Since Heinz Field opened in 2001, the Steelers are 15-2 in home openers.
- Including the playoffs, the 49ers have won their last 12 home games vs. Detroit.