The Sunday GPS Week XII: The top of the NFC is about to sort itself out
GOLD JACKET GAME OF THE WEEK
GREEN BAY @ SAN FRANCISCO, 8:20 p.m. (EST)
The line: 49ers by 3
The weather: Sunny, high of 66
The story: The 49ers have the best record in the NFC, but here’s the question: Are they the best team in the NFC? We find out the next three weeks. They have, in order, Green Bay, Baltimore and New Orleans, with two of those games (Baltimore and New Orleans) on the road. Moreover, five of their last six opponents have winning records and are a combined 38-12. Ouch. The 49ers have the league’s top-ranked pass defense, and, guaranteed, Aaron Rodgers tests it – and while the numbers aren’t on his side, history is. Green Bay won five of its last six road games vs. San Francisco and, dating back to 1996, is 11-2 vs. the 49ers. Nevertheless, nothing Rodgers does will be easy. The 49ers have three or more sacks in each of their last seven games.
Something to consider: Green Bay doesn’t have a turnover in its last four games. According to Elias Sports Bureau, that ties the franchise record for most games without a giveaway since 1933, the year turnovers were first tracked.
THREE OTHERS WORTHY OF HALL OF FRAMING
CAROLINA @ NEW ORLEANS, 1 p.m. (EST)
The line: Saints by 9-1/2
The weather: Dome
The story: This could be a blowout, or it could be a desperate last stand for Carolina. I lean toward the blowout, mostly because we just saw what Atlanta did to the Panthers in Charlotte. Of course, we also saw what Tampa Bay did to the Saints in New Orleans. Plus, the Saints were Kyle Allen’s first career victory when he threw for two TDs and scored another in last season’s defeat of New Orleans. Nevertheless, give me the Saints, mostly because they have the league’s third-ranked defense vs. the run and because Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey – a running back – IS Carolina’s offense. Without him, the Panthers are cooked. May be time to pre-heat the oven.
Something to consider: The Saints committed an NFL-low six turnovers this season, including one lost fumble.
SEATTLE @ PHILADELPHIA, 1 p.m. (EST)
The line: Eagles by 1-1/2
The weather: AM showers, high of 48
The story: Only two quarterbacks have thrown touchdown passes in every game this season, and you’re looking at them. But that’s where the similarities end with Russell Wilson and Carson Wentz. Wilson has 23 TD passes; Wentz has 16. Wilson has seven games with two or more TDs; Wentz has four (and none the past four weeks). More important, Wilson has a battery of reliable wide receivers. Wentz has none. In fact, his most dangerous pass catcher is not a receiver at all; it’s running back Miles Sanders. So Seattle, which is the only beaten road team (they’re 5-0), holds the edge … except for this: There is urgency to Philadelphia, and desperate teams that are home are dangerous teams.
Something to consider: Seattle’s Chris Carson has lost a fumble in his last three road games.
DALLAS @ NEW ENGLAND, 4:25 p.m. (EST)
The line: Patriots by 6-1/2
The weather: Ran/Snow showers, high of 43
The story: Zeke Elliott isn’t happy about his new role with the Cowboys, and who can blame him? He’s not The Man in Dallas. Dak Prescott is. He’s the league leader in passing yards, has three 400-yard games this season and is on target to throw for over 5,000 yards. But this just in, people: If you’re going to beat New England you do it with the run, not the pass … and if you don’t believe me, call the Baltimore Ravens. If there’s concern with the Patriots, though, it’s not the run defense; it’s an offense that sputtered last weekend. With wide receivers Mohamed Sanu (ankle) and Phillip Dorsett (concussion) questionable and Tom Brady (elbow) showing up on Friday's injury report, expect a low-scoring game … possibly decided by special teams.
Something to consider: The Patriots are 3-0 vs. the NFC East this season.
OUR BEST BETS
(Picks are made vs. the spread only)
RON BORGES – Oakland (--3). I like the Bills over an improved Denver team not because I trust the Bills or Josh Allen but because the Broncos are about to find out that visiting Buffalo in November generally is a bad idea.
CLARK JUDGE – Atlanta (--4-1/2). Suddenly, and without explanation, the Falcons don’t lay eggs.
RICK GOSSELIN – Oakland (--3). The Raiders are surprisingly in the playoff hunt and aren’t going to let a 3-7 team get in the way.
THE WEEKEND OMG
Since Week 7, no one has more total touchdowns than Buffalo’s Josh Allen. Allen also has no interceptions the past five games.
THE WEEKEND OMG, PART DEUX
Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson has had more 100-yard rushing games (3) than the entire AFC East (1, by Frank Gore).
FIVE GUYS TO WATCH
TOM BRADY, QB, New England. He’s unbeaten vs. five opponents – including Dallas. Brady is 4-0 vs. the Cowboys.
FRANK GORE, RB, Buffalo. With 46 yards he passes Barry Sanders for third place on the career rushing list.
CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY, RB, Carolina. He needs one touchdown reception to join Chuck Foreman as the only players in NFL history with at least 20 touchdowns rushing and 15 receiving in their first three years of the NFL.
ZACH ERTZ, TE, Philadelphia. With eight catches Sunday he becomes the second-fastest tight end to reach 500 career receptions. Ertz will have done it in 102 games. Hall-of-Famer Kellen Winslow did it in 101.
JAMEIS WINSTON, QB, Tampa Bay. He aims for his sixth straight game vs. Atlanta with at least three touchdown passes and a passer rating of 110.0.
TEN THINGS YOU MIGHT WANT TO REMEMBER.
1. The Patriots have allowed one touchdown pass all season.
2. New England and Cleveland are the only two teams not to allow a 300-yard passer this season.
3. The Rams have held five of their ten opponents to no more than one touchdown.
4. Carolina leads the league with 39 sacks, with eight different defenders contributing.
5. Baker Mayfield had 12 interceptions his first seven games. He has none the past three.
6. Matt Ryan leads the NFL with seven 300-yard passing games. The Falcons are 2-5 in those contests.
7. With a victory Sunday, New England achieves its 17th consecutive season with 10 or more victories, breaking a tie with San Francisco (1983-1998).
8. Green Bay hasn’t fumbled in four consecutive games, the first time that’s happened since 1967.
9. The Ravens won their last four games by 14 or more points.
10. The Giants’ Daniel Jones has a league-high 13 fumbles, losing 9.
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