The Sunday GPS, Week XI: When is it more than a game? When it's an MVP showdown
GOLD JACKET GAME OF THE WEEK
HOUSTON @ BALTIMORE, 1 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Ravens by 4
The weather: Cloudy, high of 45
The story: Consider this an arms race, with Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson the arms. Both are MVP candidates. Both are on top of their divisions. And both are threats to win with their arms and their legs. Only one, however, survives this game, with the smart money on Baltimore. The Ravens are home. They’re hot. And their five-game win streak is the franchise’s longest since 2006. They had RGIII playing Watson in practice this week, and I don’t know if that makes a difference. What I do know is that the Texans have never won in Baltimore. You heard me: 0-4.
Something to consider: The Ravens are 9-0 when Jackson runs for at least 70 yards and 11-2 when he reaches 60.
THREE OTHERS WORTHY OF HALL OF FRAMING
DALLAS @ DETROIT, 1 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Cowboys by 4-1/2
The weather: (Dome)
The story: Jason Garrett’s job security is a hot topic again, and that can only mean one thing: The Cowboys are teetering. They’re 1-3 vs. opponents with winning records and are tied with Philadelphia at the top of the NFC Least. But this just in: Detroit doesn’t have a winning record and doesn’t have quarterback Matthew Stafford for the second straight game. For one week, at least, Garrett gains a reprieve from vultures.
Something to consider: The Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott has 120 or more scrimmage yards in six of his last seven road games.
NEW ENGLAND @ PHILADELPHIA, 4:25 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Patriots by 3-1/2
The weather: Cloudy, high of 43
The story: The Patriots are coming off a bye, and while they're often rusty after two weeks off they’re 14-5 under Bill Belichick in games immediately following byes. So that’s good. So is this: Their defense. In fact, it's so good that Eagles’ coach Doug Pederson this week compared it to the 2000 Baltimore Ravens. OK, so opponents convert a league-low 18.9 third downs against them, while the Patriots’ 19 interceptions is more than their total in 27 of the previous 59 seasons. But the season is barely half over. Nevertheless, figure Carson Wentz to struggle, not so much because the Patriots suffocate opponents but because his receivers are less than reliable.
Something to consider: The Patriots three times this season produced four or more interceptions in a game, something they haven’t accomplished since 1962.
CHICAGO @ L.A. RAMS, 8:20 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Rams by 6-1/2
The weather: Sunny, high of 89
The story: Mitch Trubisky put up respectable numbers last weekend, but don’t be deceived. He didn’t play well. In fact, had the Bears played almost anyone other than Detroit (OK, Cincinnati, the Redskins and maybe the Giants and/or Jets) they wouldn’t have survived. Well, the Rams are someone other than Detroit, and they absolutely, positively must win if they’re serious about returning to the playoffs. They’ve lost four of their last six and are sinking in the NFC West. Consider this a gift from the NFL schedule makers. The Bears have no identity and a quarterback and head coach in search of answers.
Something to consider: The Rams’ Aaron Donald has 8-1/2 sacks in his last four home games vs. the NFC North.
OUR BEST BETS
(Picks are made vs. the spread)
RON BORGES – Kansas City (--3-1/2). Chiefs coming off a loss that shouldn’t have been vs. a team that looks DOA after that loss to the Raiders.
CLARK JUDGE – Dallas (--4-1/2). No Stafford, no hope for Lions.
RICK GOSSELIN – L.A. Rams (6-1/2). The Rams have lost their Super Bowl swagger with a 5-4 record. This is the ideal week – and the ideal opponent – to regain it.
THE WEEKEND OMG
According to ESPNStatsinfo, the Saints’ Michael Thomas leads all receivers this season in catches without a drop. He has 86. Chris Godwin is second with 60 and Austin Ekeler third with 57.
FIVE GUYS TO WATCH
EZEKIEL ELLIOTT, RB, Dallas. If he produces 163 yards rushing he becomes just the fifth back in league history to hit 5,000 rushing yards in his first 50 games. The other four are all Hall of Famers (Jim Brown, Eric Dickerson, Eric Dickerson and Earl Campbell).
CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY, RB, Carolina. With four catches, he surpasses Hall-of-Famer LaDainian Tomlinson for the most catches (239) by a running back in his first three seasons.
DEREK WOLFE, DE, Denver. He has five sacks in his last three games.
DESHAUN WATSON, QB, Houston. He needs one touchdown to set a franchise record for most rushing scores (6) in one season.
JAMEIS WINSTON, QB, Tampa Bay. He has four straight games with 300 passing yards, the longest in franchise history and the longest active streak in the NFL.
TEN THINGS YOU MIGHT WANT TO REMEMBER
1. The average NFL completion percentage … average … is 64.5 and the average passer rating is 92.1.
2. Houston’s Watson and Baltimore’s Jackson are the first quarterbacks to have 15 passing touchdowns, 5 rushing touchdowns and passer ratings of 100 or higher through their teams’ first nine games of a season.
3. Philadelphia’s Carson Wentz has a touchdown pass in 12 consecutive games, the second longest active streak in the NFL.
4. Over his last six games, Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins has an NFL-best 124.4. passer rating, with 15 touchdowns and one interception.
5. With a victory Sunday, New England achieves its 19 consecutive winning season. That would be the most since the 1970 NFL merger and the second-most all time to the Dallas Cowboys’ 20.
6. Arizona won eight of its last nine games vs. San Francisco.
7. The Cards’ Chandler Jones is tied for the league lead in sacks with 11-1/2 and leads it in forced fumbles (5) and strip sacks (5).
8. The 49ers have three or more sacks in eight of their nine games.
9. No opponent scored an opening-drive touchdown on the Bears in Chicago’s last 19 games.
10. Derek Carr’s 13 fourth-quarter comebacks victories since 2016 are the most in the NFL. He has three this season, tied for third most.
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