GOLD JACKET GAME OF THE WEEK
ATLANTA @ DETROIT, 1 p.m. (EDT)
The line: FALCONS by 3
The weather: Dome
The story: This is all about top-end credibility. Atlanta has it. Detroit? Not so much. They’re a good team, and maybe a really good team, but few outside Detroit acknowledge it. So how do you get people to notice? Beat the defending NFC champion, that’s how … and the Lions have just the guy to do it. Quarterback Matt Stafford has nine fourth-quarter comeback wins in his last 18 starts, which is impressive. But check this out: In his last 15 home games he has 32 touchdown passes and six interceptions. Nice, huh? Well, yeah, but he’s not the best quarterback on this field. Defending league MVP Matt Ryan is, and the Falcons are better than they were this time a year ago — with one more win and just two fewer points scored.
Something to consider: In his last nine road games, Ryan averaged 298.2 yards per game, with 20 TD pass and three interceptions.
THREE OTHERS SUITABLE FOR HALL-OF-FRAMING
TAMPA BAY @ MINNESOTA, 1 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Bucs by 2-1/2
The weather: Partly cloudy, high of 86 (retractable roof).
The story: This is all about Sam Bradford. Reports out of Minnesota say that, despite his practicing this week (he was “limited”), he’s expected to miss his second straight start. Uh-oh. That means the Vikings’ chances are about as good as Jets’ playoff tickets, and the betting line reflects it. The Vikes were 2-point favorites Friday afternoon. Then the Bradford news came down, and kaboom! — just like that — they became 2-1/2-point dogs. The Bucs can score in bunches. The Vikings without Bradford? No can do. I know, Minnesota’s defense might be up to the test. But its offense? You saw what happened in Pittsburgh a week ago. Not enough offense and too many penalties — 11 to be exact, for 131 yards. Bottom line: No Sam, no chance.
Something to consider: The Bucs’ Mike Evans has six touchdowns in his last eight road games.
SEATTLE @ TENNESSEE, 4:05 p.m. (EDT)
The line: TITANS by 2-1/2
The weather: Partly cloudy, high of 89.
The story: No, we don’t know how good Tennessee is. But we don’t know how good Seattle is, either. What we do know is that the Seahawks this season have trouble finding the end zone with a sherpa. They have one touchdown, and it took them 113 minutes to get it — one reason Richard Sherman says it’s on the defense to win these games. Maybe that changes here, but history says it probably won’t. Seattle not only is 3-5-1 in its last nine road games but scored 10 or fewer points in five of them, including 6 or fewer in three.
Something to consider: This is matchup of the game’s two best quarterbacks in interconference games from 2015-2017 (minimum 200 attempts). Honest. Russell Wilson has an interconference passer rating of 124.5, and Marcus Mariota is right behind at 121.4. Together, they have 41 TD passes and five interceptions.
OAKLAND @ WASHINGTON, 8:30 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Raiders by 3
The weather: Sunny, high of 90.
The story: The Raiders not only are one of the best teams in the AFC; they’re one of the best teams in the NFL. They win at home, and they win on the road, where they were 6-2 a year ago and 1-0 this season. Derek Carr is a marquee quarterback. Marshawn Lynch is a marquee back. Amari Cooper is a marquee quarterback. So what’s not to like about the Raiders? Their defense, that’s what, though it is improving. If Washington is smart, it relies not so much on Kirk Cousins as it does that rushing attack that last week produced a league-high 229 yards and three touchdowns.
Something to consider: Washington has at least one sack in an NFC-best 26 consecutive games. Cincinnati leads the league with 31.
OUR BEST BETS
(All choices are made vs. the spread)
RICK GOSSELIN (Season record: 1-1). KANSAS CITY (–3). The Chiefs have it up and running. The Chargers don’t. The Chiefs have gone on the road and beaten Tom Brady. I expect them to go on the road to beat Philip Rivers.
RON BORGES (Season record: 0-2). JACKSONVILLE (+4). The Jags rule … in London at least.
CLARK JUDGE (Season record: 1-1)– TAMPA BAY (–2-1/2). It’s Case Kennum vs. Jameis Winston. Check, please.
YES, CLEVELAND, THERE IS A SANTA CLAUS
For the first time since 2015, Cleveland is favored to win a football game, and you can look it up. The winless Browns are a 1-1/2-point favorite over the winless Colts, and that’s a mild surprise if for no other reason than they’re not at home. They’re in Indianapolis, and, normally, home teams get three points. So what experts are telling you is that they see the Browns as four-and-a-half points better than the Andrew Luck-less Colts. But then, of course, there’s this: There is not one quarterback on the Browns’ roster who has started and won an NFL game. You heard me: Zero, or one less than Jacoby Brissett, the Colts’ starter. Of course, his one win was with the Patriots, and all they did a year ago was win another Super Bowl. In case you’re interested, the last time the Browns were favored in any regular-season game was Week 14 of the 2015 season over San Francisco. They won 24-10. And the last time they were favored on the road was Week Seven of the 2014 season vs. Jacksonville. They lost 24-6.
SUNDAY’S HALL OF FAMERS
CAROLINA QB CAM NEWTON. He has four rushing TDs in his last six games vs. New Orleans.
NEW ENGLAND QB TOM BRADY. In his last three vs. Houston he has 893 yards passing, 8 touchdowns and one interception.
MIAMI DE CAMERON WAKE. He has three sacks and three forced fumbles in his last two games vs. the Jets.
NYG WR BRANDON MARSHALL. He aims for his fourth consecutive game vs. Philadelphia with a TD catch.
GREEN BAY QB AARON RODGERS. In his last eight games at home vs. the AFC, he has 23 touchdown passes and one interception.
WASHINGTON LB RYAN KERRIGAN. In his last 11 home starts he has 8-1/2 sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception.
TEN THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW
- The last three games between Arizona and Dallas each were decided on the game’s last play
- Ten of the 17 games played in the London Series have been decided by one score, including the tie involving Washington and Cincinnati.
- The Chiefs’ Kareem Hunt needs 208 yards to surpass Billy Sims (562) for the most yards from scrimmage by a rookie in his first three games.
- With four touchdown passes vs. Washington, the Raiders’ Derek Carr would become the sixth quarterback in NFL history to have 90 TDs in his first 50 games.
- The Carolina Panthers have not allowed more than three points in each of their first two games. If they hold the Saints to three or fewer Sunday they become the first team since the 1937 Chicago Bears to open the season with three games where they allowed no more than a field goal in each.
- With 107 yards rushing Sunday, Frank Gore surpasses Eric Dickerson for seventh among the NFL’s all-time leading rushers.
- Under John Harbaugh, the Baltimore Ravens are tied (with Seattle) for an NFL-high 37 games allowing opponents 10 or fewer points in a game.
- Tennessee’s Ryan Succop has made his last 41 field goals inside 50 yards. His last miss inside 50 was Dec. 7, 2014.
- The Packers are 9-1 in home openers when Aaron Rodgers starts.
- Since 2015, Denver has won all 13 games in which it holds an edge in the takeaway/turnover differential. Houston has won all 11 of its contests during that time where it holds the same advantage. They are the only two NFL teams to win all of their games with an edge in that department since 2015.