The Sunday GPS, Week IX: Is a road detour on the map for unbeaten New England?
GOLD JACKET GAME OF THE WEEK
NEW ENGLAND @ BALTIMORE, 8:20 p.m. (EST)
The line: Patriots by 3
The weather: Sunny, high of 52
The story: The Patriots are 8-0, but they’ve beaten only one opponent (Buffalo) with a winning record … and then they were fortunate to hang on. So how good are the Pats? Tune in Sunday night, people. The Patriots don’t have weaknesses, but their run defense was exploited last week by Cleveland’s Nick Chubb, who gashed them for 131 yards … and two fumbles. So what happens when the league’s top-ranked run offense, led by the league’s top rushing quarterback, appears on the schedule? Trust me, that question has already been answered by Bill Belichick and his coaching staff. “We’ll see how good they are once we play them,” said Ravens’ tight end Nick Boyle. “I don’t think they’ve seen anyone like our offense or Lamar.” Then again … maybe they have.
Something to consider: Since 2008 (or since John Harbaugh took over as head coach), the Ravens own the best home record in prime-time games. They’re 12-1 and won their last 10.
THREE OTHERS WORTHY OF HALL OF FRAMING
MINNESOTA @ KANSAS CITY, 1 p.m. (EST)
The line: Chiefs by 1-1/2
The weather: Partly cloudy, high of 56
The story: Andy Reid is a smart man. He knows Patrick Mahomes wants to play, and Reid would let him if this were a playoff game. But it’s not. Moreover, while the Chiefs are reeling – losing three of their last four – they’re still the favorite to win the AFC West. So it’s not October that’s the issue. It’s January, and Reid knows he needs a healthy Mahomes then if he’s to go deep in the playoffs. So he will, as he said, be “cautious” with his quarterback, which is smart. Because, who knows? Maybe Matt Moore can do what he nearly did a week ago and pull the upset … but I don’t like his chances. The Vikings are hot, Kirk Cousins is hotter and Adam Thielen (questionable) returned to practice this week. Plus, the Chiefs are at a home-field disadvantage. Dating back to the 2018 playoffs, Kansas City lost four of its last five at Arrowhead.
Something to remember: The Vikings allowed only one rushing touchdown all season, best among NFL defenses.
CHICAGO @ PHILADELPHIA, 1 p.m. (EST)
The line: Eagles by 5
The weather: Sunny, high of 51
The story: The Eagles are in trouble. The Bears are in more trouble. So this is more than a game. It’s an emergency brake for one of these underachievers, and advantage: Philadelphia. At least the Eagles won a game the past month. The Bears? Nope. They’re on a three-game bender, and quarterback Mitch Trubisky is the piñata of choice for Bears’ fans everywhere. Chicago coach Matt Nagy wants to run, and I would, too, if I had Trubisky at quarterback. Only one problem: Philadelphia is far better vs. the run than it is the pass. The Bears better hope this doesn’t come down to a field goal.
Something to consider: Philadelphia is second only to Dallas in third-down conversions, with a 49.1 success rate. Dallas is 51.9.
GREEN BAY @ L.A. CHARGERS, 4:25 p.m. (EST)
The line: Packers by 3-1/2
The weather: Sunny, high of 78
The story: The Chargers win a game and fire their offensive coordinator. Great. If Anthony Lynn thinks Ken Whisenhunt is the reason the Bolts are 3-5 I have a Mideast peace plan I’d like him to sign. Lynn wants to run more than Wiz, which is fine if you have the Dallas offensive line. The Chargers don’t. What they do have is a productive quarterback who’s the centerpiece of the franchise. And, trust me, Lynn’s going to have to turn to him at some point here … because with Aaron Rodgers in town, Davante Adams a potential return and an army of Cheeseheads in the stands this could be a beatdown waiting to happen.
Something to consider: Green Bay is 3-0 on the road, with a plus-24 point differential.
OUR BEST BETS
(All picks are made vs. the spread)
RON BORGES – Jacksonville (+1-1/2). Watt is gone. Watson is rubbing his eye. So why should the Texans cover vs. a better team? They won’t.
CLARK JUDGE – Pittsburgh (+1). No T.Y. Hilton, no chance for Colts.
RICK GOSSELIN – Detroit (+2). Lions went to Philadelphia and beat the Eagles. They can go to Oakland and beat the Raiders.
THE WEEKEND OMG
The Baltimore Ravens are 9-0 when Lamar Jackson rushes for 70 or more yards.
FIVE GUYS TO WATCH
LAMAR JACKSON, QB, Baltimore. With one yard rushing, he surpasses Michael Vick for the most yards rushing by a quarterback through his team’s first eight games of a season. Both are tied at 576 yards.
FRANK GORE, RB, Buffalo. With 100 yards rushing, he surpasses Barry Sanders for third on the all-time rushing chart.
DANIELLE HUNTER, DE, Minnesota. With two sacks vs. Kansas City, he becomes the youngest player (he’s 25) to reach 50 for his career since sacks became an official stat in 1982.
JOSH ALLEN, QB, Buffalo. He has seven rushing TDs in his last nine home starts.
CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY, RB, Carolina. He aims for his sixth straight game with a rushing TD.
10 THINGS YOU MIGHT WANT TO REMEMBER
1. Carson Wentz has touchdown passes in 11 consecutive games, tied for the longest active streak in the NFL.
2. The Jacksonville Jaguars have players who lead the AFC in rushing (Leonard Fournette) and receiving yards (D.J. Chark). The two can become the first two teammates to lead either conference in both rushing and receiving yards since LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson of Philadelphia in 2013.
3. Kirk Cousins has an NFL-best 137.1 passer rating the past four games. Minnesota won all four.
4. Tennessee has not lost an inter-conference game under coach Mike Vrabel.
5. From 1966-2018 there was a 300-yard passing game an average of 2.7 games. This year there’s one an average of every 1.7.
6. The Patriots are the first team since the 1990 Chicago Bears to lead the NFL in most points per game and fewest points allowed per game through the first eight weeks.
7. Deshaun Watson has never lost to Jacksonville. He’s 3-0.
8. Under John Harbaugh, the Ravens are 9-2 following a bye.
9. Chicago has not given up a touchdown to opponents on opening drive in its last 17 games.
10. Green Bay is 10-1 vs. the Chargers, winning all six road games when the Bolts were in San Diego. He .909 winning percentage is tops for the Packers vs. all their opponents.
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