Why We Watch: Our first look at how the (NFC) West is spun


GOLD JACKET GAME OF THE WEEK

Arians (Sideline)

(Carson Palmer, Bruce Arians photos courtesy of Arizona Cardinals)
SEATTLE @ ARIZONA, 8:30 P.M. (EDT)

The line: Cards by 1-1/2

The weather: Partly cloudy, high of 95 (retractable  roof)

The story: Arizona was a popular pre-season choice to repeat in the NFC West … if, that is, the Cards could squeeze out Seattle. Well, here’s where we find out if they can. Arizona is an unimpressive 3-3, while the Seahawks are who we thought they were – a playoff team waiting to happen. The good news for Seattle: Russell Wilson seems to be over his knee trouble. The bad: Safety Kam Chancellor is doubtful, and you saw the impact his absence had on the Seattle secondary vs. Atlanta. Well, this isn’t Atlanta. This is Carson Palmer, sore hamstring and all, and just a hunch: The Seahawks will make him try to beat them instead of David Johnson.

Hall-of-Fame worthy: The Cards are 9-3 in prime-time games under Bruce Arians, winning seven of their last eight.

THREE OTHERS SUITABLE FOR HALL OF FRAMING

An image from the Oct. 9, 2016 home game against the Houston Texans. The Vikings won 31-13.
An image from the Oct. 9, 2016 home game against the Houston Texans. The Vikings won 31-13.
MINNESOTA @ PHILADELPHIA, 1 P.M. (EDT)

The line: Vikings by 3

The weather: Partly cloudy, windy, high of 65

The story: This is the first step in the Sam Bradford Reunion Tour, with Bradford the latest former Eagles’ quarterback to suffer the jeers of locals. The question here is not how he holds up vs. a defense shredded for nearly 600 yards in Washington but how he holds up vs. the Philly fans. They booed him when he was here, and they will boo him again. Nevertheless, Bradford and the Vikings are favored, and it’s easy to see why: 1) They’re coming off a bye; 2) Bradford doesn’t make mistakes; 3) their defense is superior and 4) their pass rush will pressure Carson Wentz as he hasn’t been pressured before. Bottom line: You gotta like Minnesota.

Hall-of-Fame worthy: The Vikings’ defense holds opposing quarterbacks to a league-low passer rating of 65.3 and is tied for the most takeaways with 12. Philadelphia, meanwhile, leads the league in points allowed (6.5) per home game.

WASHINGTON @ DETROIT, 1 P.M. (EDT)

The line: Lions by 1-1/2

The weather: Dome

The story: The Redskins are on a four-game tear, and it’s clear why. They jump-started two essential elements to success – a sound defense and an effective rushing game. They ran for over 200 yards in their last start, their defense has played lights-out in the second half and Kirk Cousins isn’t committing stupid … and fatal … mistakes. Add ’em up, and you have a legit playoff contender. Detroit, meanwhile, was lucky to beat Philadelphia and lucky to beat L.A., but that’s not the point. This is: The Lions won. Still, if and when it comes down to defense, give me the Redskins. They’re making all the right moves on both sides of the ball.

Hall-of-Fame worthy: A victory would make the Redskins 3-0 on the road for the first time since 1999.

NEW ENGLAND @ PITTSBURGH, 4:25 P.M. (EDT)

The line: Patriots by 7

The weather: Partly cloudy, high of 55

The story: OK, so the Steelers won their last seven at home, and they’re on top of their division. Big deal. There are two significant — and potentially insurmountable — hurdles in their way: 1) No Ben Roethlisberger and 2) too much Tom Brady. They can deal with no Big Ben because they dealt with it before, and that means lots of Le’Veon Bell and a short passing game. That at least is something they can control. But if they can’t get Bell going … and they can’t control the clock … and Landry Jones is what he is … they must deal with Brady, and good luck. He just completed two stops on his Beat the Tar Out of Everyone Tour with six touchdowns, nearly 800 yards passing and two lopsided wins. Don’t expect much to change here.

Hall-of-Fame worthy: In his last five starts vs. Pittsburgh, Brady has 17 TDs, no interceptions and a passer rating of 127.9.

MONDAY NIGHT LIGHTS

siemianHOUSTON @ DENVER, 8:30 P.M. (EDT)

The line: Broncos by 8-1/2

The weather: Mostly cloudy, high of 77

The story: So Brock Osweiler finally looked like a quarterback last week. Good for him. But the impersonation stops here because these are not the Colts, and this is not a team that rolls over in crunch time. No, I don’t have a raft of confidence in Trevor Siemian, either, but I’ll take his defense over Houston in a heartbeat … and that defense will force Osweiler into critical mistakes. Yeah, I know, Lamar Miller was other worldly vs. Indy, but let me repeat: These are not the Colts. If and when the Texans fall behind they will have to rely on Osweiler’s arm, not Miller’s legs. Then, you’ll see why the Broncos didn’t mind letting him walk.

Hall-of-Fame worthy: Beware Von Miller. He has 12-1/2 sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception recovery in his last eight starts, including the playoffs, and 7-1/2 sacks in his last four at home.

(Trevor Siemian photo courtesy of Denver Broncos)

OUR BEST BETS

CLARK JUDGE – MINNESOTA (–3). Once, I thought the Great Wall was in China. Wrong. It’s in Minnesota’s defensive front four.

RON BORGES – BALTIMORE (+2). Anytime you can get the Ravens AND points against the Jets, you take it. If Geno Smith is the answer for the Jets, what question are they asking?

RIC GOSSELIN — MINNESOTA (–3). Minnesota is the only unbeaten team in the league, and Sam Bradford gets a chance to remind the Eagles they made a mistake trading him away.

THE WATCH LIST

GronkowskiRobScoring

(Rob Gronkowski photo courtesy of New England Patriots)

NEW ENGLAND TE ROB GRONKOWSkI. With seven catches he reaches 400 catches for his career and ties Kellen Winslow Jr. as the third fastest tight end to reach 400 for a career. Gronkowski plays in his 85th career game Sunday. Only Kellen Winslow (72) and Jimmy Graham (81) got there faster.

INDIANAPOLIS P ADAM VINATIERI – If he hits his next two field goals he sets a league record (43) for most consecutive three-pointers – eclipsing Mike Vanderjagt, also of New England, who nailed 42 straight field goals in 2002-04.

KANSAS CITY CB MARCUS PETERS – With two interceptions Sunday he ties Hall-of-Famer Rod Woodson and Cleveland’s Ross Fichtner for the most interceptions (7) through the first six games of the Super Bowl era.

BALTIMORE QB JOE FLACCO. Dating back to the third game of this season, he’s thrown 151 consecutive passes without an interception. His streak is a personal best and the third highest in franchise history, behind Eric Zeier (175) and Steve McNair (162).

BALTIMORE COACH JOHN HARBAUGH. With his next victory he passes Brian Billick for most career wins in franchise history. Each has 80.

SUNDAY’S HALL OF FAMOUS

andydalton3

(Andy Dalton photo courtesy of Cincinnati Bengals)

CINCINNATI QB ANDY DALTON. He aims for his fifth straight win vs. Cincinnati. In his previous two games vs. the Browns he has five TDs,  no interceptions and a 142.8 rating.

DETROIT QB MATT STAFFORD. He has passer ratings of 100 or better in seven of his last nine home games, including ratings of 130-plus in his last two.

INDIANAPOLIS QB ANDREW LUCK. He’s 7-0 vs. Tennessee, including 4-0 in Tennessee.

ATLANTA QB MATT RYAN. He has nine TDs and a 120.o rating in his last four home games.

BALTIMORE QB JOE FLACCO. He’s won all three career starts vs. the Jets, including the playoffs.

HALL OF NOTES-WORTHY

Eight of the NFL’s International Series games have been decided by one score.

Through the first six weeks of the season, 50 games have been decided by seven or fewer points – tied (with 1999) for the most through the first six weeks of play.

Adam Vinatieri has not missed a field goal since the second week of 2015. He’s hit 41 straight since.

Sean Payton is 1-4 vs. Kansas City.

The Vikings have allowed 63 points through the first five games, the lowest mark for the franchise since it allowed 49 through the first five in 1977.

Dating back to last season, Arizona has six victories of 25 or more points, most in the NFL.

The Chiefs have won eight straight at Arrowhead.

Baltimore has won eight straight vs. the Jets and is 8-1 lifetime against them.

The Bills have outscored their last four opponents, 123-54. They won all four starts, averaging 211.8 yards rushing per game.

Seattle has a 93-game streak where, in the fourth quarter, it has either led or been within a score of the lead.

Minnesota is first with a plus-11 takeaway/turnover differential and has not committed a turnover on offense this season. Philadelphia is a plus-6, third best in the NFL.

Washington has not allowed an offensive touchdown in the last seven quarters and has not surrendered a second-half TD in any of its last four games, all victories.

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