Why We Watch: Pittsburgh, Giants in Steeltown showdown
By Clark Judge
Talk of Fame Network
GOLD JACKET GAME OF THE WEEK
N.Y. GIANTS @ PITTSBURGH, 4:25 p.m. (EST)
The line: Steelers by 6-1/2
The weather: Cloudy, high of 43
The story: This must be a big game for the Giants. Eli's big brother, Peyton Manning, stopped by East Rutherford, N.J., this week to address the team. Well, he picked the right place at just the right time. The Giants are in must-win mode if they want to challenge for the NFC East. They're on a six-game tear, and, at 8-3, pushing for a playoff spot. But look at their next five games: Brutal. Only Philadelphia has a losing record. So now we find out if the Giants are for real. Unlike New York's past six opponents, Pittsburgh can score in bunches -- meaning bottling up Le'Veon Bell and getting to Ben Roethlisberger are crucial to its success. If the Giants can, maybe, just maybe, they force critical turnovers, and hallelujah. The Giants have only 14 this season, or the same number as Pittsburgh. The difference? Their defense can make the stops the Steelers do not.
Hall-of-Fame worthy: The Giants' Odell Beckham Jr. has three TD catches in his last three road games. The Steelers' Antonio Brown has five TDs in his last four games, period.
(Eli Manning cover photo courtesy of N.Y. Giants)
THREE OTHERS SUITABLE FOR HALL OF FRAMING
KANSAS CITY @ ATLANTA, 1 p.m. (EST)
The line: Falcons by 5
The weather: Dome
The story: Atlanta is a big favorite here, mostly because the Falcons are home. But did somebody miss the memo? The Chiefs are coming off a HUGE come-from-behind defeat of Denver a week ago … in Denver … and in overtime. The Chiefs don’t have the offense to try to hold serve with Matt Ryan, but they do have a defense that leads the league in takeaways with 24 – and it's that defense, not Ryan or Julio Jones, that could ... maybe, should ... swing the balance here.
Hall-of-Fame worthy: The Chiefs won 18 of their last 21 regular-season games.
(Matt Ryan photo courtesy of Atlanta Falcons)
HOUSTON @ GREEN BAY, 1 p.m. (EST)
The line: Packers by 6-1/2
The weather: Snow, high of 37
The story: So Aaron Rodgers shows up on the injury report as questionable with a hamstring injury. But c'mon, people. Does anyone honestly believe he doesn’t play? And does anyone honestly believe that Brock Osweiler can trade touchdowns with him or the Packers? That’s why the line is as high as it is. No, the Packers aren’t extraordinary, but they believe they still have a chance to win their division … which they do … and they have one of the best quarterbacks in the business, be it on one leg or two.
Hall-of-Fame worthy: Green Bay is 18-3 at home in December under Mike McCarthy.
MIAMI @ BALTIMORE, 1 p.m. (EST)
The line: Ravens by 3-1/2
The weather: Cloudy, high of 47
The story: Baltimore is tied with Pittsburgh at the top of the AFC North. Miami is making a push to squeeze New England in the AFC East. OK, not really. But Miami is making a push. The Dolphins won their last six, with the last five decided by a total of 26 points, and quarterback Ryan Tannehill is proving that Adam Gase knew what he was doing when he stuck by him. But winning here will be difficult. Yes, Joe Flacco and the Ravens' offense is stuck in neutral (Kicker Justin Tucker is the team's best player), but Flacco doesn’t decide this game. The Ravens' defense does. If it squeezes the pocket and forces Tannehill into hurried throws ... and mistakes ... the Ravens do what they usually do at home this time of year – win.
Hall-of-Fame worthy: This game features the league's two top defenses on third down. Miami is first, allowing opponents to convert 33.3 percent of the time, while Baltimore is second at 33.6.
MONDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
INDIANAPOLIS @ N.Y. JETS, 8:30 p.m. (EST)
The line: Colts by 2
The weather: Partly cloudy, high of 49
The story: This week's story out of the Jets has nothing to do with Ryan Fitzpatrick. Nope, now its all about cornerback Darrelle Revis having lost his interest in playing – or, at least, that’s the report. Hey, I'd lose it, too, if I were part of a 3-8 dump truck stuck in traffic. The Jets are going nowhere. The Colts might be. Plus, the Colts have Andrew Luck. The Jets have the Amish Rifle. Check, please.
Hall-of-Fame worthy: The Colts' T.Y. Hilton ranks second in the NFL with 20 catches of 20 or more yards.
(Andrew Luck photo courtesy of Indianapolis Colts)
OUR BEST BETS
Clark Judge – Chiefs (+5). They not only beat the spread; they beat the Falcons.
Rick Gosselin -- Jets (+2). They are long, long overdue. Underdog at home should be the ticket.
Ron Borges -- Patriots (-- 13-1/2). No better bet than Bill Belichick over Jeff Fisher. He would beat him by 100 if he could. And he might.
THE WATCH LIST
NEW ENGLAND QB TOM BRADY: He becomes the winningest quarterback in league history with his next victory. He's tied with Peyton Manning for 200 career wins (including the playoffs) but breaks that mark with a defeat of the Rams. He also would become the first NFL quarterback with a record 140 games over .500. Brady's winning percentage of .766 is the highest among quarterbacks since the 1970 merger.
ARIZONA WR LARRY FITZGERALD. With seven catches vs. Washington, he surpasses Cris Carter and Marvin Harrison for the third-most catches in NFL history. Harrison has 1,102 career catches; Carter has 1,101.
DETROIT QB MATT STAFFORD. With his next game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime he sets an NFL record for the most (8) in one season. Stafford has seven this year.
NEW ORLEANS QB DREW BREES. With 413 yards Sunday, he becomes the first quarterback in league history to throw for 4,000 yards twice in his career through his teams first 12 games of the season. Brees last did it in 2011.
OAKLAND RAIDERS. With a win they move to 10-2, their best record since 2000 when they advanced to the conference championship game.
(Matt Stafford photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)
SUNDAY'S HALL OF FAMOUS
ATLANTA QB MATT RYAN. He averages 329.6 yards, with 15 touchdowns, 4 interceptions and a 115.5 rating in his last seven starts at home.
BALTIMORE QB JOE FLACCO. He's 4-0 vs. Miami in his career.
BALTIMORE LB TERRELL SUGGS. He has 8.5 sacks in his last six games vs. Miami.
NEW ENGLAND QB TOM BRADY. He has six touchdown passes and a 118.1 rating in two career starts vs. the Rams.
WASHINGTON QB KIRK COUSINS. He's thrown for over 400 yards in his last two road games.
TAMPA BAY WR MIKE EVANS. He has five touchdown catches in his last five road games.
SEATTLE QB RUSSELL WILSON. He has 18 touchdown passes and 2 interceptions in his last nine games at home.
HALL OF NOTES-WORTHY
New Orleans QB Drew Brees has a touchdown pass in an NFL-record 60 consecutive home games.
Nobody has allowed fewer sacks than Oakland. The Raiders have surrendered 13.
Over the past five seasons, the Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers (19-5) have the best records over the last month.
Arizona's Tony Jefferson leads all defensive backs with 11 tackles for losses. No other defensive back has more than six.
Justin Tucker's seven field goals of 50 or more yards this season are a Ravens' record.
With another 500-yard performance, Washington sets a franchise record for consecutive games (3) with 500 or more yards, an achievement reached by only three teams in NFL history.
Arizona leads the league in opponents negative yardage plays this season with a minus-321. Green Bay is second with a minus-317.
Since the start of 2014, Philadelphia is a league-best 9-1 vs. the AFC.
The Titans' Marcus Mariota leads the NFL with eight straight games with multiple touchdown passes. Aaron Rodgers is second with six.
The Raiders allowed a league-low 26 points in the first quarter this season.