GOLD JACKET GAME OF THE WEEK
The line: Packers by 3-1/2
The weather: Dome
The story: Not only are they on a two-game slide and in jeopardy of missing the playoffs, but the Lions have one victory over an opponent that currently has a winning record … and now face an opponent on a five-game tear. Add them up, and what do you have? A daunting task, that’s what – one reason the Lions are a home dog. Aaron Rodgers is gaining MVP momentum with his play the past six weeks (14 TDs, 0 interceptions), and the Packers are one victory from clinching the NFC North. After watching the Lions’ matador defense vs. Dallas, I don’t see how it keeps Rodgers and Co. at bay. That means a shootout, and whom do you trust: Aaron Rodgers or Matt Stafford? Case closed.
Hall-of-Fame worthy: The Packers are 7-1 in their last eight dome games, with Rodgers throwing 25 touchdown passes, with one interception and a 127.9 passer rating.
(Aaron Rodgers photo courtesy of Green Bay Packers)
(Matt Stafford photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)
THREE OTHERS SUITABLE FOR HALL OF FRAMING
The line: Chiefs by 5-1/2
The weather: Partly cloudy, high of 60
The story: The Chiefs won their last 10 AFC West contests. The Chargers lost 10 of their last 11. It doesn’t take an Einstein to figure this one out. The Chiefs have something to play for; the Chargers have no one to play for. They’re expected to announce next month that they’re moving to Los Angeles, and their coach is expected to be fired with the New Year. So plenty of changes are next for the Bolts, but no change is anticipated here. With Kansas City battling for the AFC West and a possible second playoff seed, the Chiefs have the motivation. The Chargers? They have the moving vans, but they don’t move fast enough to keep up with Tyreek Hill.
Hall-of-Fame worthy: The Chiefs scored 95 points off turnovers, tied for second-best in the NFL, and lead the league in red-zone takeaways with seven.
(Philip Rivers photo courtesy of San Diego Chargers)
N.Y. GIANTS @ WASHINGTON, 4:25 p.m. (EST)
The line: Redskins by 7-1/2
The weather: PM showers, high of 52
The story: All the Redskins must do to clinch a playoff spot is win … period. Provided Green Bay and Detroit don’t tie, they’re in … and they should be. With the exception of that dreadful performance vs. Carolina two weeks ago, they’ve been playoff worthy the second half of the season. Well, now is their opportunity to prove it, and I like their chances. The Giants have nothing to play for, and Eli Manning is a turnover waiting to happen. The Giants aren’t winning this season because of him; they’re winning in spite of him, with their revamped defense leading the charge. Nevertheless, Washington has too much incentive and too many weapons for Big Blue, which is why they’re the heavy favorite.
Hall-of-Fame worthy: The Redskins scored 20 or more points in seven straight NFC East contests.
OAKLAND @ DENVER, 4:25 p.m. (EST)
The line: Broncos by 1-1/2
The weather: Partly cloudy, high of 46
The story: Once upon a time, this looked like a huge game. It’s still important, though no as significant as it could have been. Denver is out of the playoff picture, and the Raiders could be out of first place in the AFC West with a loss. Under normal circumstances, Oakland might have been favored, but that was before the Silver and Black became the Black and Blue, losing starting quarterback and MVP candidate Derek Carr to a broken leg. That means it’s up to Matt McGloin, 1-5 as a starter, and here’s why he could pull off the improbable: Denver’s quarterback situation is every bit as unpredictable as Oakland. We don’t know what to expect from Trevor Siemian and/or Paxton Lynch, just as we don’t know what to expect from McGloin. Look for this to be a battle of kickers, but Denver gains the advantage because A) it has the more reliable defense, and B) it does have something to play for, too: Severely cramping the Raiders’ run.
Hall-of-Fame worthy: Oakland leads the league with a +39-point differential in the last three minutes of the fourth quarter.
OUR BEST BETS
Clark Judge — Arizona (-6-1/2). It’s not the the Cards are a powerhouse; it’s that they’re playing the Rams.
Ron Borges – N.Y. Giants (+7-1/2). Even with nothing to play for ad being on the road, how does that defense lose to the Redskins by more than seven?
Rick Gosselin – Arizona (-6-1/2). In a meaningless game (the Cards play L.A.), Arizona brings in a Top-3 defense against a struggling rookie quarterback.
THE WATCH LIST
NEW ORLEANS QB DREW BREES. With 143 yards, he achieves an NFL-record fifth season of 5,000 yards passing.
NEW ENGLAND QB TOM BRADY. With three touchdowns and no interceptions, he sets an NFL record for the highest touchdown-to-interception rate (28-2) in league history for quarterbacks with 20 or more TDs. He also needs just 56 passing yards to move past Dan Marino for fourth in the NFL’s list of career yardage leaders.
DALLAS RB EZEKIEL ELLIOTT. He needs 178 yards rushing to break Eric Dickerson’s rookie rushing record of 1,808. Elliott currently has 1,631. But that’s not all. With six yards from scrimmage he becomes just the third rookie in league history (Dickerson and Edgerrin James are the others) to reach 2,000 yards.
DALLAS QB DAK PRESCOTT. With a victory over Philadelphia, he passes Ben Roethlisberger for the most victories (14) by a rookie quarterback. He also needs four touchdown passes to eclipse Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson for most TDs by a rookie quarterback. Manning and Wilson each threw for 26.
GREEN BAY QB AARON RODGERS. With four touchdown passes vs. Detroit, he becomes the fourth quarterback in NFL history to have 40 or more in multiple seasons. The others are Peyton Manning, Dan Marino and Drew Brees.
PITTSBURGH RB LE’VEON BELL. With 116 yards from scrimmage vs. Cleveland, he becomes the seventh player in league history to have at least 2,000 scrimmage yards in multiple seasons in his first four years in the league. Bell missed the first three games this season due to a league suspension. His average of 157.0 yards from scrimmage per game is third best in league history, behind Priest Holmes (163.4, set in 2002) and O.J. Simpson (160.2, set in 1975).
N.Y. GIANTS WR ODELL BECKHAM JR. With 100 yards in catches, he becomes the first player in league history to have 20 games of 100 or more yards in catches in his first three seasons. He is currently tied with Randy Moss.
SUNDAY’S HALL OF FAMOUS
CINCINNATI DT GENO ATKINS. In his last four games vs. Baltimore, he has six tackles for losses, two sacks and one forced fumble.
CHICAGO WR ALSHON JEFFREY. In his last six games vs. Minnesota, he has 607 yards receiving and six TDs.
GREEN BAY QB AARON RODGERS. In 15 career games vs. Detroit, he has 30 touchdown passes, 6 interceptions and a rating of 108.0.
PHILADELPHIA DT FLETCHER COX. He has 8-1/2 sacks and one forced fumble in his last 10 games at home.
PITTSBURGH QB BEN ROETHISBERGER. He’s 20-2 lifetime vs. Cleveland, including 10-0 at home.
NEW ORLEANS RB MARK INGRAM. He has six touchdowns (5 rushing, 1 receiving) in his last four games vs. Atlanta.
N.Y. GIANTS WR ODELL BECKHAM JR. In five career starts vs. Washington he has 35 catches for 485 yards and 5 TDs.
WASHINGTON PK DUSTIN HOPKINS. With his next field goal, he breaks Mark Mosley’s team record of 33 in one season.
HALL OF NOTES-WORTHY
With a victory, New England would complete an undefeated season on the road.
Anquan Boldin is the sixth player in NFL history to have 60 catches in each of 12 seasons.
Andy Reid has win streaks of five games or more in each of his four seasons in Kansas City.
The Steelers are 9-1 in January, including 6-0 vs. Cleveland.
With just 44 yards vs. Green Bay, Matt Stafford becomes the fastest quarterback to pass 30,000 career passing yards, surpassing Dan Marino and Kurt Warner. Stafford will have done it in 109 games. Marino and Warner did it in 114.
The Chiefs’ defense has 18 sacks, five interceptions and one touchdown in its last five vs. San Diego – all of which Kansass City won.
Ben Roethlisberger’s 35 career touchdown passes facing Cleveland are the most by any quarterback vs. the Browns.
The Redskins have had at least one sack in every game this season.
Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald has more catches (158) vs. the Rams than any other franchise. Only Jerry Rice (175 vs. Atlanta) has more in NFL history against a single opponent.
With a victory over L.A., the Cards improve to 6-0 on the road the past two years vs. division opponents.
Only Pittsburgh, Arizona and New England rank in the top 10 of the NFL in offense and defense.
Dallas and Philadelphia rank 1-2 in time of possession. The Cowboys hold the ball an average of 32:10, while the Eagles are at 32:03.