The Sunday GPS, Week IV: Solving Brady, history a Mission Improbable for Bills
GOLD JACKET GAME OF THE WEEK
NEW ENGLAND @ BUFFALO, 1 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Patriots by 7
The weather: Mostly sunny, high of 67
The story: The Patriots are undefeated. The Bills are undefeated. So this is billed as … an early AFC East showdown? C’mon, people. Who’s kidding whom? As long as Tom Brady is standing, everyone gets in line behind New England. The guy is 30-3 vs. the Bills, for crying out loud, and won 13 of his last 14 games in Buffalo. Moreover, the Bills haven’t beaten Brady since 2011 in a game where he’s played all four quarters. So he’s 42. So he keeps showing up on injury reports with a calf injury. So his offensive line is beaten up. So Julian Edelman is hurting. So what? New England is favored for a reason: The Patriots have Tom Brady, and the Bills don’t … and please break the news to Bills’ tackle Dion Dawkins. “I love 12 (Brady) and I respect his game,” he said this week, “but I got Josh Allen.” Which is why you’ll be playing for second.
Something to consider: The Patriots rank first in team defense, pass defense, run defense and scoring defense. They also lead the league in third-down conversions, allowing opponents to succeed on 12.8 percent of plays.
THREE OTHERS WORTHY OF HALL OF FRAMING
KANSAS CITY @ DETROIT, 1 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Chiefs by 7
The weather: Dome
The story: Kansas City hasn’t lost. Detroit hasn’t lost. Sound familiar? The Chiefs are no surprise, but Detroit? Never saw this coming. OK, so the Lions tied Arizona earlier this month, but last week’s road win in Philadelphia was a shocker. One problem: These aren’t the Eagles. Another problem: Detroit quarterback Matt Stafford is listed as "questionable" with a hip injury. Uh-oh. You saw what Kyler Murray did to these guys in the fourth quarter of the opener. So what do you think happens when they have to defend Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ 4 X 100 relay? It means Motown is Notown, that’s what.
Something to consider: Mahomes didn’t throw a touchdown pass in his first regular-season NFL start. He’s thrown 60 over the next 19.
MINNESOTA @ CHICAGO, 4:25 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Bears by 2
The weather: Scattered thunderstorms, high of 71
The story: Minnesota has the league’s leading rusher in Dalvin Cook, and as he goes so go the Vikings. Last weekend he went for 110 yards and a TD, Kirk Cousins only had to throw 21 times (he completed 15) and the Vikes won. That’s good. So is this: The Vikings’ seven rushing TDs are only two fewer than their 2018 total. But this isn’t: Chicago is next on the schedule, which means Cousins … not Cook, or any Vikings’ back … will have to win this game. Reason: The Bears defense is Kryptonite to running backs, and you can look it up. The Bears allowed one 100-yard rusher in regulation over the past 37 games. OK, so it was a Viking (Latavius Murray), but he’s gone. Now it’s Cook’s turn, and good luck. This looks like a Cousins-vs-Mitch Trubisky mano-a-mano, and the edge goes to … Eddie Pineiro.
Something to consider: Since the start of 2018 the Bears’ defense has a league-leading seven touchdowns by returns.
DALLAS @ NEW ORLEANS, 8:25 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Cowboys by 2-1/2
The weather: Dome
The line: Dallas is unbeaten, and New Orleans has a backup quarterback. Yet the Cowboys are only a 2-1/2 favorite? I don’t get it. Look, I know Teddy Bridgewater looked like Teddy Ballgame last weekend, and the Saints hung the first September home loss on the Seahawks’ Pete Carroll. I also know the Saints are tough to beat at home and dropped the Cowboys four of the last five there. But that was with Drew Brees. This isn't. Besides, Dallas is the next best thing to the Rams in the NFC. Granted, Amari Cooper is banged up. But he’s playing. So is Dak Prescott. So is Zeke Elliott. Translation: I wouldn’t look for another Saints’ upset.
Something to consider: Elliott has 636 scrimmage yards (159 per game) and four TDs in his past four road games.
OUR BEST BETS
(Picks are made vs. the spread)
RON BORGES – Miami (+14-1/2). The Chargers aren’t two-touchdown favorites over Chico State. Dolphins are a disaster, but this time they’ll float their boat – not to a win for them but to one for me. (SEASON RECORD: 2-1).
CLARK JUDGE – Kansas City (--7). The Lions barely survived Kyler Murray. So how do they stop Mahomes? They don’t. (SEASON RECORD: 2-1).
RICK GOSSELIN – Baltimore (--7). Mr. Mayfield, meet defense. The Ravens will be anxious to face a quarterback not named Mahomes. (SEASON RECORD: 1-2).
THE WEEKEND OMG
Tom Brady has 15 wins in Buffalo … or more than any Bills’ quarterback this century.
THE WEEKEND OMG, PART DEUX
If the Patriots don’t allow a touchdown Sunday, it will be the first time a Bill Belichick-coached defense hasn’t yielded a TD in five consecutive games (Super Bowl LIII and four regular-season starts in 2019). It would also mark the first time in the NFL’s modern era that a team started the season without its defense allowing a touchdown in its first four games.
FIVE GUYS TO WATCH
CAROLINA QB KYLE ALLEN – He can become the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to throw for two touchdowns and no interceptions in each of his first three NFL starts.
MINNESOTA RB DALVIN COOK – With 100 yards rushing and a touchdown he becomes the fifth back in league history to produce 100 yards rushing and at least one score in each of the first four games of a season.
BUFFALO RB FRANK GORE – All he needs is 88 yards rushing to become the fourth back in league history to run for 15,000 in his career. The others (Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton and Barry Sanders) are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
OAKLAND TE DARREN WALLER – With eight catches Sunday, he surpasses Antonio Gates for the most catches by a tight end through the first four games of a season. Waller has 26. Gates had 33 in 2007.
TAMPA BAY LB SHAQUIL BARRETT – With 1-1/2 sacks Sunday he produces the most (9-1/2) through the first four games since 1982 when sacks became an official statistic, surpassing Mark Gastineau, Kevin Greene and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, all with nine each. Barrett currently leads the league with eight sacks.
TEN THINGS YOU MIGHT WANT TO REMEMBER
1. Through the first three weeks 11 quarterbacks have ratings of 100 or better (minimum 20 attempts), the most through three weeks in NFL history.
2. Patrick Mahomes is the first quarterback in NFL history to produce three consecutive weeks of 350 yards passing, at least three TDs and no interceptions.
3. Under John Harbaugh, the Ravens are 10-1 at home vs. Cleveland and are plus-12 turnover in the takeaway/turnover ratio.
4. In two career games vs. Indianapolis, Derek Carr has six TDs, no interceptions and two passer ratings of plus-120.0.
5. Since 2001 New England is 87-2 when it wins the takeaway/turnover margin.
6. The Patriots' defense has delivered five straight first-half shutouts, dating back to the 2018 AFC championship game.
7. Arizona’s Chandler Jones has a sack in seven straight games vs. Seattle.
8. Houston has forced a turnover in 16 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the NFL.
9. The defenses of Minnesota and Carolina are tied for most tackles for losses with 19 each.
10. The Vikings have allowed two sacks, the fewest through Week 3 in team history.
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