GOLD JACKET GAME OF THE WEEK
NEW ORLEANS @ L.A. RAMS, 4:25 p.m. (EST)
The line: Rams by 2-1/2
The weather: Mostly sunny, high of 77
THE STORY: The Saints are hot. The Rams are home. Both lead their divisions. Both can run. Both can pass. And both score lots of points, with the Rams second in the league (303) and the Saints third (302). This, then, is yet another NFC litmus test, with the winner in the conversation with Minnesota as the second best team in the conference. A victory would give the Saints their first winning season since 2013 and tie them for the second-longest wining streak in franchise history. Nice, huh? There’s more. They’ve already made league history by going on an eight-game run after an 0-2 start. But with another win they will have achieved their fifth undefeated November in franchise history. Once upon a time, the Saints went limp when they left the security of the dome. Not anymore. They’re 4-1 on the road, including the only victory by a visitor this season in Buffalo.
SOMETHING TO CONSIDER: The Saints lead the league with 15 rushing TDs.
THREE OTHERS SUITABLE FOR HALL-OF-FRAMING
CAROLINA @ N.Y JETS, 1 p.m. (EST)
The line: Panthers by 4-1/2
The weather: Mostly sunny, high of 44
THE STORY: Carolina is on a roll, mostly because Cam Newton is on a roll. Plus, the Panthers are 4-1 on the road. Put that together with the AFC East’s bottom feeder, and what do you have? A ballgame, that’s what. That’s because the Jets defied all odds and become a tough out … especially at home where they’re 3-2. No, they don’t have a Top-20 rusher or a Top-40 pass receiver, but they have a quarterback (Josh McCown) who is better than predicted and a defense that can and will force mistakes. Nevertheless, that defense is the second best on this field. Carolina ranks second in the NFL, allowing just 18 points per game, behind only Jacksonville and Pittsburgh, and that’s great. But this isn’t: The Panthers are –7 in the takeaway/turnover differential, mostly because they forced just nine turnovers this season. Only three teams are worse.
SOMETHING TO CONSIDER: The Panthers are working on a streak of back-to-back 200-yard rushing games.
BUFFALO @ KANSAS CITY, 1 p.m. (EST)
The line: Chiefs by 10
The weather: Sunny, high of 63
THE STORY: Rookie coach Sean McDermott made a huge mistake last week when he panicked and benched Tyrod Taylor for rookie Nathan Peterman. Now Taylor’s back, saying he’s not upset, but he has to know what’s going on. Last week’s move was all about the future, and both he and the Bills are running out of one. Not only was Taylor benched in a move that reverberated with his teammates, but Buffalo dropped its third straight game to fall to 5-5 and move dangerously close to life support. So this feels like an elimination game. The good news here is that the Chiefs aren’t much better, dropping four of their last five, but embattled Alex Smith — who suddenly can’t find the end zone with a sherpa — will find this opponent a lot easier to solve. That’s because the Bills are floundering since the Marcel Dareus trade, allowing 135 points the past three starts. They surrendered 115 the first seven when they were 5-2
SOMETHING TO CONSIDER: Smith aims for his fifth straight game at home without an interception.
DENVER @ OAKLAND, 4:25 p.m. (EST)
The line: Raiders by 5
The weather: Rain, high of 61.
THE STORY: OK, I understand these are two teams that may not be going nowhere. We already know Denver is out of gas, but Oakland? The Raiders just got passed by the Chargers in the AFC West, where nobody can win lately. But that’s not all. There’s panic everywhere. The Broncos just fired their offensive coordinator. The Raiders responded by firing their defensive coordinator. The Broncos will start their third quarterback this season, Paxton Lynch, and the club responded by initiating a series of fights at practice … on Thanksgiving Day, no less. Not to be outdone, the Raiders’ Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin left practice a day after coordinator Ken Norton Jr. was canned. I think you get the idea. This looks more like a civil war than a football game. Both head coaches are tight, and that can happen when you lose six straight (Denver) or drop six of your last eight (Oakland), failing to score more than 17 in all six.
SOMETHING TO CONSIDER: The Raiders are making history, and not in a good way. They still have no interceptions and a league-low six takeaways.
OUR BEST BETS
(Picks made vs the spread)
RON BORGES (Season record: 6-5) — NEW ENGLAND (–16-1/2). It doesn’t matter what the spread is against these donkeys from Miami.
RICK GOSSELIN (Season record: 5-6) — CINCINNATI (–8). The Bengals have already beaten the Browns 31-7 in Cleveland, with Andy Dalton having his best game of the year (four touchdowns). The rematch in southern Ohio figures to follow the same script.
CLARK JUDGE (Season record 4-7) — PHILADELPHIA (–13-1/2). The Eagles don’t lose at home (5-0). The Bears don’t win on the road (1-3). Put them together and you have a rout.
SUNDAY’S HALL OF FAMOUS
ARIZONA WR LARRY FITZGERALD. With 53 receiving yards, he passes Isaac Bruce for fourth among the all-time leaders, and with six catches he joins Jerry Rice and Tony Gonzalez as the only receivers with 1,200 career receptions.
NEW ENGLAND QB TOM BRADY. With 272 passing yards, he becomes just the fourth quarterback in history to throw for 65,000 in a career. The others are Peyton Manning, Brett Favre and Drew Brees.
INDIANAPOLIS RB FRANK GORE. With 89 rushing yards, he passes Hall-of-Famer Jerome Bettis for sixth on the all-time list.
ATLANTA QB MATT RYAN. He has 14 touchdown passes and one interception in his last seven at home vs. Tampa Bay.
PHILADELPHIA QB CARSON WENTZ. He’s won his last seven at home.
TENNESSEE RB DEMARCO MURRAY. He aims for his fifth straight game vs. Indianapolis with a rushing TD.
SEATTLE QB RUSSELL WILSON. He’s 4-0, with six TD passes and no interceptions in his last four starts vs. San Francisco.
DENVER LB VON MILLER. He has five sacks, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery in his last six games vs. Oakland.
TEN THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW
- The Jacksonville Jaguars have held opponents to a league-low 14.1 points per game and 10 or fewer points in six of their 10 starts. On Sunday they can become just the fifth team since 1940 to hold opponents to 10 or fewer points in seven of their first 11 games. Three of the previous four won NFL championships.
- Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton has seven touchdown passes and no interceptions in his last four games.
- The Patriots have a league-low five turnovers all season.
- The Chiefs’ Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt combined for only three TDs the last seven games.
- There have been seven shutouts this season, three by Baltimore. No other team has more than one.
- Houston has allowed a league-low three rushing touchdowns.
- Teams with 100-yard rushers in games this season are 44-9.
- Since 2008, the Ravens are an NFL-best 11-1 at home in prime time, winning their last nine there.
- Baltimore and Philadelphia are the only defenses to have 20 sacks and 20 takeaways this season.
- The Eagles have won nine consecutive home games vs. the NFC and have 11 victories in their last 12 vs. everyone, their best stretch over any 12-game span since 2004.