GOLD JACKET FEATURE
KANSAS CITY @ NEW ENGLAND, 8:25 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Patriots by 3-1/2
The weather: Partly cloudy, high of 57
The story: Another week, another quarterback milestone … maybe. This time it’s Tom Brady who, with a victory, becomes the first quarterback to reach 200 regular-season victories. Brady already leads everyone with 199, 13 more than runners-up Brett Favre and Peyton Manning, and that’s terrific. But this is about more than history. This is about the two best teams in the AFC (sorry, Marvin Lewis), age vs. youth and homefield advantage … and that may need some explaining. The Chiefs are unbeaten. The Patriots are not. They’re 3-2, which they were this time a year ago. So, no problem there … except with another loss they drop three games behind front-running Kansas City in the AFC — with the Chiefs holding the tiebreaker. So if this feels like a playoff game, it should. Because it is one. Brady has been there before; Mahomes has not. Brady is the teacher; Mahomes is the pupil. Brady is last year’s MVP; Mahomes is this year’s. Brady is TB12; Mahomes is QB1. I’ve heard enough. Start the countdown to kickoff.
Something to consider: Brady has not beaten the Chiefs in the regular season since Andy Reid took over. He’s 0-2. Worse, the Patriots have been outscored 83-41 in those games, with Brady throwing one touchdown and two interceptions. He is, however, 1-0 in the playoffs, with two TDs and no picks.
THREE OTHERS SUITABLE FOR HALL-OF-FRAMING
PITTSBURGH @ CINCINNATI, 1 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Bengals by 2-1/2
The weather: Partly cloudy, high of 62
The story: The Cincinnati Bengals say they believe in themselves, and they should. They just scored impressive come-from-behind victories over Atlanta and Miami and lead the AFC North. But they better believe in this, too: Ben Roethlisberger. I don’t care how much inner turmoil there is with the Steelers, Big Ben is in a good place … and that place is Ohio. He’s 24-4-1 there, including 13-2 against the Bengals, with more completions (563), passing yards (6,654) , touchdown passes (38) and passes for first downs (329) vs. Cincinnati than any quarterback ever. Oh, and then there’s this: The Steelers won nine of their last 10 vs. the Bengals.
Something to consider: With a win or a tie, the Steelers extend their streak of unbeaten road games vs. AFC opponents to 12.
L.A. CHARGERS @ CLEVELAND, 1 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Chargers by 1
The weather: Partly cloudy, high of 60
The story: The standings say the Browns are 2-2-1, but let’s be honest: If they had a reliable kicker, they could be … should be … 5-0. Of course, if the Chargers had a reliable kicker the past eight years they’d still be in San Diego. If ifs and buts were candied nuts … never mind. Bottom line: These are not your Dad’s Cleveland Browns. These guys are competitive and can beat you with defense, Baker Mayfield and a slew of backs who, if they score again, will have more touchdowns rushing (9) than any Browns’ team since 1971. Here’s hoping the game doesn’t come down to a field goal. Then nobody wins.
Something to consider: The Browns have 15 takeaways, their most through five games since 1989 (17), and their eight interceptions are one more than their total for all of last year.
BALTIMORE @ TENNESSEE, 4:25 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Ravens by 2-1/2
The weather: Showers, high of 65
The story: Whatever or whoever you’re playing this weekend, take the under. Tennessee has a Top-10 defense tied for the fewest gains of 20 or more yards by opponents (12), while Baltimore just failed to score a touchdown vs. Cleveland. But that’s not all. The Ravens are all about defense, too, allowing no second-half touchdowns all year. So bring a pillow and book for the third and fourth quarters. Oddsmakers are telling us they don’t trust the Titans, and why should they? Even though they won 12 of their last 14 at home, they haven’t beaten anyone by more than 3 and just bowed to Buffalo.
Something to consider: The Ravens are the league’s only team to have a Top-5 rushing and passing defense.
BEATING THE ODDS
(Picks are made vs. the spread ONLY)
RICK GOSSELIN — Indianapolis (+2-1/2). Andrew Luck is on a roll the last two weeks, completing 78 passes for 829 yards and eight TDs. He’s due to win one of these games. Sunday will be it (Season record: 2-2-1).
CLARK JUDGE — Pittsburgh (+2–1/2). The Steelers like playing Cincinnati in Ohio as much as Chachi likes Joanie … which means they LOVE it. I love their chances of winning outright (Season record: 2-3).
RON BORGES — Chicago (–3-1/2). Even on the road in sultry Miami I like the Bears giving three-and-a-half. Chicago has a stifling run defense and a pass rush that devours lines like Miami’s (Season record: 1-4).
SUNDAY’S RING OF EXCELLENCE
Hall-of-Famer Robert (“Dr. Doom”) Brazile will be honored during halftime of Sunday’s Baltimore-Tennessee game when he’s presented his Hall-of-Fame Ring of Excellence by the Hall’s president and CEO David Baker. The ring is one of three symbols of Hall-of-Fame status, with Brazile — a star linebacker with the Houston Oilers and member of Canton’s Class of 2018 — already given a gold jacket and bronzed bust.
THE WEEKEND OMG
Since moving to Los Angeles, the Chargers have not scored a touchdown on an opening drive — a streak of 21 consecutive games.
SUNDAY’S PLAY LIST
KANSAS CITY QB PATRICK MAHOMES. With a victory he becomes the sixth quarterback since 1970 to begin his career with victories in his first seven starts. Mahomes is 4-0 in his career on the road, with 11 touchdown passes and one interception.
CHICAGO LB KHALIL MACK. He aims for his fifth consecutive game with at least one sack and forced fumble.
PITTSBURGH WR ANTONIO BROWN. Three of his four punt returns for touchdowns occurred vs. Cincinnati.
CAROLINA QB CAM NEWTON. He’s 4-0, with nine touchdown passes, no interceptions and two rushing TDs in four career starts vs. Washington.
DALLAS DE DEMARCUS LAWRENCE. He has seven sacks and one forced fumble in his last seven games at home.
CLEVELAND QB BAKER MAYFIELD. He can become the first quarterback taken No. 1 in the modern-draft era (1967) to score victories in his first two home starts.
BALTIMORE QB JOE FLACCO. He’s completed at least 25 passes in each of his last eight games.
GREEN BAY QB AARON RODGERS. He’s 8-0-1 in his last nine starts at home, with a passer rating of 100-plus in six of those games.
NEW ENGLAND TE ROB GRONKOWSKI. With three catches Sunday, he joins Kellen Winslow (101), Jimmy Graham (106) and Jason Witten (107) as the only tight ends to have 500 catches in fewer than 110 games. This is Gronkowski’s 108th.
MINNESOTA QB KIRK COUSINS. He’s the first quarterback in NFL history to produce at least 30 completions in four consecutive games.
TEN THINGS YOU SHOULD REMEMBER
- Five weeks into the season there are no winless teams for the first time since 1990.
- Baltimore has not allowed a second-half touchdown in its first five games, tying the 1991 49ers, and has allowed only 15 second-half points this season, fewest in the NFL.
- After scoring touchdowns on its first 13 Red Zone possessions this season, the Ravens have failed to produce a TD in their last seven series there.
- Chicago scored touchdowns on three of its first four possessions this season, the first time that’s happened since the 1970 NFL merger.
- The Patriots lead the league in fewest sacks allowed per pass attempt (3.32 percent) and haven’t allowed a sack in three consecutive games. Meanwhile, Kansas City has at least four sacks in each of its last four contests.
- Chicago is the only team not to allow a rushing TD this season and surrendered only one 100-yard the past 22 games (Latavius Murray, 111, Week 17 of 2017).
- The Browns have played three overtime games this season, their most since 1989 when they had four and the most through five games in the Super Bowl era.
- A victory Sunday would raise Cleveland’s home record to 3-0-1, the Browns’ best home start since 1963 when they were 4-0.
- Minnesota’s Danielle Hunter is the only player to produce a sack in each of the first five weeks.
- The home team has won the last six games involving Minnesota and Arizona. This week’s game is in Minneapolis.