The Sunday GPS, Week VI: Why Watson vs. Mahomes may not be shootout we expect
GOLD JACKET GAME OF THE WEEK
HOUSTON @ KANSAS CITY, 1 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Chiefs by 4
The weather: Sunny, high of 64
The story: This is supposed to be heavyweight bout between Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson, and maybe it will be. After all, Mahomes leads the league in passing yards, Watson is second in passer rating and both are tied for second in touchdown passes. But Indianapolis just laid down a blueprint for beating the Chiefs, and it has nothing to do with throwing the ball. Nope, it goes something like this: Run, run and then run some more. The Colts ran 45 times and not only gained 180 yards but kept Mahomes off the field. Result: An upset. I know, Indianapolis ranks fifth in rushing and Houston 10th. But over the past three games the Texans actually outgained Indy (113.7-113.3), and Kansas City ranks 30th vs. the run. Gentlemen, start your engines.
Something to consider: Houston is the most productive third-down offense in the NFL, converting 53.2 percent of its plays.
THREE OTHERS WORTHY OF HALL OF FRAMING
PHILADELPHIA @ MINNESOTA, 1 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Vikings by 3-1/2
The weather: Cloudy, high of 42 (retractable roof)
The story: So the Vikings win one, and all is hunky dory with Kirk Cousins, Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen and Mike Zimmer, right? Not so fast. Cousins backed off critics with last week’s demolition of the Giants, but that was the Giants. Philadelphia is the NFC East co-leader, with a 3-2 record. So what? So Cousins is 4-27 in his career vs. opponents with winning records. The Vikings paid him $84 million to lead them to the Super Bowl, and that’s going to be tough if he can’t beat anyone but cupcakes. So here’s a chance to prove Minnesota smart and critics wrong ... and he will have to. The Eagles are the No. 1 defense vs. the run, with no lead back gaining more than 42 yards this season.
Something to consider: The Vikings have allowed 28 second-half points, second only to New England (24).
WASHINGTON @ MIAMI, 1 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Redskins by 4
The weather: Partly cloudy, high of 84
The story: OK, so the Redskins stink and the Dolphins stink more. But when are you going to find two teams this bad six weeks into the season playing each other? That’s what makes this week's Stupor Bowl so interesting. This isn’t about winning a game. This is about losing out on Tua. The Dolphins have been “processing” all season, which means “tanking for Tua” outside the 305 area code. And the Redskins? They’ve lost their head coach, all their games and what little respect their fans had left. In a perfect world, this would be a 0-0 tie. And maybe that happens ... because it doesn't get much worse than this.
Something to consider: Washington’s Ryan Kerrigan had two sacks and two forced fumbles in his last game at Miami.
SAN FRANCISCO @ L.A. RAMS, 4:05 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Rams by 3
The weather: Sunny, high of 77
The story: The 49ers are one of only two unbeaten teams and are on top of the NFC West. So why is L.A. favored? Easy. Because oddsmakers are telling you what 49ers’ fans won’t: Not many people believe in these guys. Granted, they can plan defense, rank second in total defense, second vs. the pass and fifth vs. the run. But Jared Goff has nine touchdown passes and no interceptions in his last three vs. San Francisco. I know, I know, the Rams aren’t the same, are crippled by injuries (Todd Gurley is out) and have a porous defense sending them to two consecutive losses. But they’re home, they can produce a lot of points in a hurry and … well, San Francisco hasn’t played a Top-15 offense. Now it will.
Something to consider: San Francisco has not allowed a rushing touchdown this season.
OUR BEST BETS
(Picks are made vs. the spread)
RON BORGES – NEW ORLEANS (+1-1/2). Jags are improving and Jalen Ramsey may help, but they aren’t the better team … with or without a cool Brees at the Saints’ backs.
CLARK JUDGE – PHILADELPHIA (+3). Kirk Cousins is 4-27 vs. opponents with winning records. I like the Eagles’ chances.
RICK GOSSELIN – DALLAS (--7). With back-to-back losses, the Cowboys are desperate for a win. The Jets are a present from the schedule makers.
THE WEEKEND OMG
Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota is the only quarterback to start every game through the first five weeks not to lose the ball via an interception or a fumble. Dating back to last season, Mariota has thrown a franchise-record 191 consecutive passes without a pick.
FIVE GUYS TO WATCH
1. DETROIT QB MATT STAFFORD. With 352 yards passing vs. Green Bay, he becomes the fastest quarterback to throw for 40,000 career yards in fewer than 150 games.
2. SEATTLE QB RUSSELL WILSON. He has a passer rating of 100 or better in each of his first five games. If he surpasses 100 again vs. Cleveland on Sunday, he becomes the fourth quarterback in league history to have ratings of 100 or more in his first six games of the season. The others are Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Carson Palmer.
3. CAROLINA RB CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY. With 134 yards from scrimmage Sunday he joins Hall-of-Famers Jim Brown and Marshall Faulk as the only players with at least 1,000 yards from scrimmage through the first six games of a season.
4. TAMPA BAY WR CHRIS GODWIN. With 125 yards in receptions and two TDs he can become the fourth player in league history to produce three consecutive games with at least 125 yards in catches and two TDs.
5. HOUSTON QB DESHAUN WATSON. He aims for his fifth consecutive road game with two or more touchdown passes and a 110 or better rating.
10 THINGS YOU MIGHT WANT TO REMEMBER
1. Jimmy Garoppolo is 12-2 as a starter.
2. The Baltimore Ravens – not the Kansas City Chiefs – lead the league in scoring with 32.2 points per game.
3. The last six Cincinnati-Baltimore games in Baltimore have each been decided by one score.
4. San Francisco’s 127 points through the first four games are its most since the 1998 49ers.
5. The 49ers’ offense leads the league in fewest three-and-outs with three.
6. Kansas City leads the league with 8 passing plays of 40 or more pass plays. Tennessee and Dallas are tied for second with 6 each.
7. In six career games vs. Arizona, Matt Ryan has more interceptions (11) than touchdown passes (10).
8. Arizona’s Kyler Murray is the first player in NFL history with 1,300 passing yards and 200 yards rushing in his first five games.
9. Since 2006, there have been 173 accepted false-start penalties at State Farm Stadium (including preseason and the playoffs) – the most of any home stadium in the NFL.
10. Carolina quarterback Josh Allen is the first NFL quarterback in the Super Bowl era to win his first four career starts and not throw an interception.
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