GOLD JACKET GAME OF THE WEEK
WASHINGTON @ KANSAS CITY, Monday, 8:30 P.M. (EDT)
THE LINE: Kansas City by 7.
THE WEATHER: Clear, 81 at game time.
The story: You can pencil Kareem Hunt in as the early NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year favorite. A third-round pick from Toledo, Hunt leads the NFL in rushing and has scored six touchdowns in his first three NFL games – four on the ground and two through the air. He’s scored from short distance and long, galloping for touchdowns of 78, 69 and 53 yards, and has been a primary reason the Chiefs are 3-0 for the first time since 2013. Kansas City has won the last six meetings with the Redskins. You have to go all the way back to Joe Gibbs, Joe Theismann and John Riggins in 1983 to find Washington’s only win in this nine-game series.
Something to consider: The Chiefs are the most penalized team in football, having been flagged 33 times through three games. Those penalties have cost them three football fields of yardage (301) – yet they are still unbeaten.
THREE OTHERS SUITABLE FOR FRAMING
TENNESSEE @ HOUSTON, 1 P.M. (EDT)
THE LINE: Houston by 2.
THE WEATHER: Dome.
The story: The only two teams to win division titles each of the last two years are New England and Houston. The Patriots appear in no jeopardy of losing their grasp on the AFC East this season but the 2-1 Texans will have their hands full holding off the 2-1 Titans in the AFC South. Mike Mularkey has Tennessee playing old school football. The Titans pound the rock with a potent 1-2 RB tandem of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry and control the clock. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau also will have the luxury of unleashing his pass rush on a rookie quarterback (DeShaun Watson) this weekend.
Something to consider: J.J. Watt is still without a sack three games into the season and now has gone four games in a row without one. It’s the longest drought of his career.
LA RAMS @ DALLAS, 1 P.M. (EDT)
THE LINE: Dallas by 8-1/2
THE WEATHER: Dome.
The story: Two of the best pass rushes in the NFL collide at AT&T Stadium this weekend. The Cowboys rank second in the NFL with 11 sacks and the Rams have 10. Dallas has the sack leader in end DeMarcus Lawrence with 6 ½ but the Rams line up three first-rounders up front in Wade Phillips’ 3-4 scheme – Aaron Donald, Robert Quinn and Michael Brockers. How do you slow down a pass rush? Make those pass rushers play the run. The Cowboys will pound 2016 NFL rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott at the Rams and Los Angeles will throw Todd Gurley at Dallas. Gurley leads the NFL with six touchdowns this season. The team that runs the ball the best will win this one.
Something to consider: The Cowboys fired Wade Phillips as their head coach midway through the 2010 season and replaced him with Jason Garrett. This will be his first game against the Cowboys since then.
PITTSBURGH @ BALTIMORE, 1 P.M. (EDT)
THE LINE: Pittsburgh by 2-½.
THE WEATHER: Clear, high of 66.
The story: Arguably the best current rivalry in the NFL and this game will be for first place in the AFC North. Both teams are 2-1 and coming off embarrassing losses. The Steelers fell in overtime at Chicago and the Ravens were decimated by the Jaguars, 44-7, in London. Pittsburgh has the most dynamic QB-RB-WR combo in the NFL in Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown – yet rank just 22nd in the league in offense. This is a bunch clearly out of sync. The Ravens, however, are even more out of sync. Baltimore has the NFL’s worst offense, averaging only 264 yards per game and 122 passing yards.
Something to consider: The Ravens lead the NFL with eight interceptions…but Roethlisberger hasn’t thrown a pick in his last two games, a streak of 80 consecutive passes.
OUR BEST BETS:
(All choices are made vs. the spread)
RICK GOSSELIN (season record 2-1): Arizona (-7 vs San Francisco). Bruce Arians is 23-8-1 at home as head coach of the Cardinals. Don’t look for him to lose a second consecutive game at the University of Phoenix Stadium.
RON BORGES (season record 1-2): Cincinnati (-3 vs. Cleveland). The Bengals have too much talent to lose every week and the Browns have too little to beat them.
CLARK JUDGE (season record 1-2): Detroit (off board vs. Minnesota). The Lions proved they can play with the big boys last week. They should have beaten Atlanta and be sitting at 3-0 right now.
THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME
That suffocating Miami heat and humidity has always provided the Dolphins a home-field advantage in the month of September. Miami has won 66.2 percent of its all-time home games in September. But no such advantage existed in 2017. That’s because the one home game scheduled in Miami this season was wiped out by Hurricane Irma. So the Dolphins open their home schedule this Sunday against the Saints. The last time the Dolphins failed to play a home game in the month of September was 30 years ago (1987).
SUNDAY’S HALL OF FAMERS
New England QB Tom Brady has thrown 110 passes without an interception this season. He was the only quarterback to pass for 1,000 yards through the first three weeks (1,092) and also led the NFL with his 8 TD passes.
Arizona WR Larry Fitzgerald’s 149 receiving yards against Dallas last Monday night moved him into seventh place in career receiving yards. He needs 98 more against San Francisco this weekend to pass Steve Smith and claim sixth place.
Dallas DE DeMarcus Lawrence collected a career-best 3 ½ sacks last Monday night against Arizona and now has 6 ½ on the season. This from a guy who collected only nine sacks in his first three NFL seasons.
Jacksonville RB Leonard Fournette has rushed for a touchdown in each of his first three NFL games. The Jaguars rushed for only eight touchdowns all of last season.
New Orleans DE Cameron Jordan has five sacks, a forced fumble and an interception in his last five road games against AFC teams. His Saints visit the Dolphins this week.
Carolina WR Kelvin Benjamin has caught a TD pass in all four of his career road games against AFC opponents. His Panthers are at New England Sunday.
TEN THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW
1. Only two teams enter the fourth weekend unbeaten – Atlanta and Kansas City, both at 3-0. Baltimore and Minnesota both started the 2016 season with 3-0 records and neither team finished with a winning record. Both finished out of the playoffs at 8-8.
2. The Walt Anderson crew has called a NFL-high 53 penalties, walking off another league-high 442 yards. This is the toughest crew on road teams, calling 29 penalties on the visitors for 247 yards. Anderson’s crew will be working the Pittsburgh-Baltimore game this weekend.
3. The Patriots have allowed a league-high 95 points, an average of 31.6 points per game. At this pace, New England will allow 505 points this season. Only two teams in NFL history reached the Super Bowl allowing 400-plus points in a season, the 2008 Cardinals (426) and the 2011 Giants (400).
4. The Patriots have had a 100-yard receiver in each of the first three weeks by three different players – Danny Amendola in the first week, Rob Gronkowski the second week and Brandin Cooks the third. New England plays Carolina this week.
5. The Saints have allowed a 100-yard receiver each of the first three weeks to three different positions – WR Adam Thielen the first week, TE Rob Gronkowski the second week and RB Christian McCaffrey the third week. New Orleans plays Miami this week.
6. The Bengals have a sack in 31 consecutive games, the longest such streak in the NFL. Cincinnati visits Cleveland this week.
7. The Denver Broncos lead the NFL in run defense and have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 10 games. The last was Oakland’s Latavius Murray on Nov. 6. The Broncos host the Raiders this week but Murray is gone, replaced in the backfield by Marshawn Lynch.
8. Three games into their head-coaching careers, Kyle Shananan of the 49ers and Anthony Lynn of the Chargers are still looking for their first victories. San Francisco visits Arizona and Los Angeles hosts Philadelphia this weekend.
9. There were 23 300-yard passers in the month of September. Their teams went 12-11 in those 300-yard games. There were 13 100-yard rushers in September. Their teams went 12-1 in those games.
10. The NFC leads the interconference series 6-5 with six more AFC-NFC games on tap this weekend. The AFC won the interconference series last season, 33-30-1.