GOLD JACKET FEATURE
L.A. CHARGERS @ L.A. RAMS, 4:05 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Rams by 7
The weather: Sunny, high of 83
The story: The Chargers will focus on trying to stop running back Todd Gurley, and good luck. But Arizona tried the same thing a week ago, and look what happened: He scored three times and had two of the Rams’ three two-point conversions. “A great game plan,” Gurley said, “but they still couldn’t stop me from getting into the end zone.” Now, let’s say the unfathomable happens, and the Chargers (who are still without Corey Liuget and Joey Bosa) somehow minimize Gurley. Well, then, there’s always Jared Goff, and he’s 5-0 vs. the AFC in his last five starts, with 11 TDs and 0 interceptions. Yeah, I know, Philip Rivers is extraordinary, but we saw what happened in the season opener when he ran into a sizzling young quarterback. He couldn’t outscore his own defense. The same could happen here.
Something to consider: The Rams not only have allowed an NFL-low 13 points; they haven’t allowed one since the first half of the season opener.
THREE OTHERS SUITABLE FOR HALL-OF-FRAMING
INDIANAPOLIS @ PHILADELPHIA, 1 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Eagles by 7
The weather: AM showers, high of 71
The story: So Indianapolis coach Frank Reich returns to Philadelphia, where he was the team’s offensive coordinator a year ago, and what are people talking about? Uh-huh, his star pupil. Quarterback Carson Wentz returns for the first time since suffering a season-ending knee injury a year ago, and expectations are so high that teammate Zach Ertz had to warn fans that Wentz isn’t Superman. Well, of course, he’s not. Henry Cavill is. Nevertheless, Eagles’ Nation expects Wentz to pick up where he left off a year ago when he was the MVP frontrunner, and the Eagles lapped the NFC East. Not sure that’s going to happen, but he’s in the right place to launch a comeback. In his last eight home starts, Wentz is 8-0, with 21 TDs and four interceptions … and all without a phone booth.
Something to consider: Dating back to 2016, the Eagles are 16-3 (including the playoffs) at Lincoln Financial Field, the best home record in the NFL during that time. They’ve also won 12 of their last 13 at home.
CINCINNATI @ CAROLINA, 1 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Panthers by 3
The weather: PM thunderstorms, high of 85
The story: Once upon a time, you stopped Cam Newton, and you stopped the Panthers. Not now. With Christian McCaffery, Newton has a dual threat who last week produced 139 yards from scrimmge and caught 14 passes, tying a team record … and who has five TDs in his last seven home games. It’s hard enough to contain Newton, who completed a personal-best 71.1 percent of his passes vs. Atlanta a week ago. But throw in McCaffrey and a defense that pressures the quarterback, and Cincinnati could be in for a long flight home.
Something to consider: The Bengals’ Andy Dalton, coming off a career performance vs. Baltimore (4 TDs, no interceptions) has 10 touchdown passes and three interceptions in his last five road games.
DENVER @ BALTIMORE, 1 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Ravens by 5-1/2
The weather: Mostly cloudy, high of 81
The story: Denver is unbeaten, and don’t ask me why. Case Keenum throws too many interceptions. But he also makes big plays, with his 14 completions of 20 or more yards, the most in the NFL. Both Broncos’ wins were at home, and that’s significant. Denver is a different team there. On the road? Yep, they’re different there, too — with a 1-7 record a year ago. But that’s not all. Under John Harbaugh, the Ravens have the third-best September record in the NFL (23-12) and, dating back to 2017, won five of their last six home games. The key for Denver is simple: Pressure Joe Flacco and force him into mistakes. He made them a year ago, but he doesn’t make them at home. In fact, in his last six games in Baltimore, he’s anything but an ordinary Joe — with 10 touchdowns and one interception. Better yet, he’s 16-2 at home in September, with 31 TDs and 8 interceptions.
Something to consider: In their last three games, the Ravens scored 12 TDs in 13 Red Zone trips and have 23 touchdowns in 29 Red Zone possessions in their last seven starts.
BEATING THE ODDS
RICK GOSSELIN — CHARGERS (+7). The best team in L.A., is the Rams, but they’re not a touchdown better than the Chargers. Take the points. (SEASON RECORD: 2-0).
RON BORGES – CHARGERS (+7). I like the Rams to win, but the Chargers to cover. (SEASON RECORD — 1-1).
CLARK JUDGE — PANTHERS (–3). So the Bengals are unbeaten. I still don’t trust them. (SEASON RECORD — 0-2).
Former Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis is next in line to receive his Hall-of-Fame Ring of Excellence. Lewis, a member of the Hall’s Class of 2018, will be honored during halftime of the Ravens-Broncos game at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium. The ring presentation is one of three steps into Canton, with the gold jacket presentation and bust unveiling the others. Lewis is the third member of the Class of 2018 to be honored with a ring this season. Jerry Kramer and Brian Urlacher were given their rings last weekend.
THE WEEKEND PLAY LIST
NEW ORLEANS QB DREW BREES. With 14 completions Sunday, he passes Brett Favre for the most completions in NFL history. Favre had 6,300.
NEW ENGLAND OWNER ROBERT KRAFT. The Patriots’ next victory will be the 300th of his career as owner of the team. Kraft will have done it in his 431st game and 25th season, making him the fastest owner to reach the milestone. Denver’s Pat Bowlen, a nominee for the Hall’s Class of 2019, did it in 30 seasons and 501 games, while Hall-of-Fame owner Al Davis did it in 495 games and 31 seasons.
NEW ORLEANS WR MICHAEL THOMAS. He needs seven catches vs. Atlanta Sunday to surpass the Falcons’ Julio Jones for the most receptions through the season’s first three games. Thomas has 28. Jones had 34 in 2015.
DENVER LB VON MILLER. In his last nine games on the road, he has 11 tackles for losses, five sacks and two forced fumbles.
JACKSONVILLE DE CALAIS CAMPBELL. He has nine sacks, eight tackles for losses and a forced fumble in his last six division games.
MIAMI QB RYAN TANNEHILL. He’s 9-1 in his last 10 starts.
WASHINGTON RB ADRIAN PETERSON. His 1,779 career rushing yards vs. Green Bay are the most by Peterson vs. any team.
ARIZONA WR LARRY FITZGERALD. In three career games vs. Chicago he has 25 catches for 346 yards and five TDs. He produced over 100 yards receiving in all three games.
NEW ENGLAND QB TOM BRADY. With one touchdown pass he breaks a tie with Hall-of-Famer Warren Moon and becomes the record holder for most scoring passes by a quarterback 40 or older. Moon and Brady currently have 37 each.
THE SUNDAY OMG
The Saints’ Michael Thomas has 28 catches for 269 yards and three touchdowns. The Buffalo Bills have 29 catches for 343 yards and one TD.
TEN THINGS YOU SHOULD REMEMBER
- There have been 174 touchdowns through the first two weeks, the most in NFL history over that time. There have also been 1,506 points scored, the second most (to 1556 in 2012) in the first two weeks.
- Ryan Fitzpatrick can become the first quarterback in history to throw for 400 yards and four touchdowns in each of his first three games when the Bucs play Pittsburgh Monday night. With another 400-yard passing performance, he becomes the first quarterback to throw for that many yards in three consecutive games.
- There have been six 400-yard passing performances in the first two weeks, tied with 2011 and 2013 for the most through the first two weeks of the season.
- Seven teams are 2-0, and since the current playoff format was adopted in 1990. 62.3 percent of all clubs that won their first two starts made the playoffs.
- With Cleveland finally winning, the Houston Texans now are on the clock. They have the NFL’s longest losing streak at eight consecutive games.
- Baltimore has touchdowns on all nine of its Red Zone drives this season (4 rushing, 5 passing). The Ravens and Chiefs (6-for-6) are the only teams to score TDs on all Red Zone drives.
- The Eagles’ Nelson Agholor has eight or more receptions in each of his last three games, including the Super Bowl.
- Minnesota’s Sheldon Richardson (6) and Everson Griffen are one of two tandems tied for the most hits on quarterbacks with 11. The other is Philadelphia’s Fletcher Cox (7) and Chris Long (4).
- In eight home games last season, Carolina ranked first in rushing, first in yards per-carry, first in rushing first downs and second in rushing TDs. The Panthers were also third in fewest fumbles allowed (3).
- The Colts’ Andrew Luck has thrown a touchdown pass in 25 consecutive games, the longest active streak among NFL quarterbacks.