GOLD JACKET GAME OF THE WEEK
BALTIMORE @ KANSAS CITY, 1 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Chiefs by 5-1/2
The weather: Rain, high of 72
The story: He doesn’t throw interceptions. He already has seven touchdown passes. And he’s in charge of the league’s highest-scoring offense. Patrick Mahomes? Nope. It’s Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson, who a year ago looked like the Venus de Milo and now can’t miss. In fact, he's so improved that Ravens' defensive coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale said Jackson-Mahomes may be "the next Brady-Manning matchup." Stay tuned on that one. Jackson not only completes 72 percent of his passes but leads the NFL in passer rating at 145.2 – or nine points higher than Mahomes. The guy has a career 8-1 record during the regular season, and one guess who stuck him with the lone loss. Yep, you’re looking at them. It happened last year in overtime, and oddsmakers think it will be déjà vu all over again. Maybe. But the Ravens believe they should have won that game. This is their chance to prove it.
Something to consider: The Ravens last season had a season-high 15 hits on Mahomes, the most he absorbed in one game. This year Baltimore leads the league with 21 quarterback hits.
THREE OTHERS SUITABLE FOR HALL OF FRAMING
NEW ORLEANS @ SEATTLE, 4:25 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Seahawks by 4
The weather: Showers, high of 65
The story: The Saints were 7-1 on the road last season. Nobody was better. But that was with Drew Brees. This game is not. Instead, Teddy Bridgewater steps into the huddle after Brees stepped out of surgery. Bridgewater is the Saints' starter until Brees recovers -- or for the next six weeks -- and good luck. It's not just that Seattle is a tough out at home; it's that Russell Wilson never seems to lose there. He's 6-0 over his last six home starts, with 12 TDs and two interceptions. But look at it this way, Teddy: It could be worse. It could be … oh, say, Dallas. Uh, check that. The Cowboys are next on the schedule.
Something to consider: Seattle's Chris Carson has seven TDs and 650 yards from scrimmage in his last six home games.
HOUSTON @ L.A. CHARGERS, 4:25 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Chargers by 3
The weather: Partly cloudy, high of 90
The story: Biggest news out of the Chargers this week actually didn’t come from within the Chargers. It came from holdout running back Melvin Gordon, who pledged that he’ll play “somewhere” this year. Swell. In the meantime, the Bolts don’t miss him. What they do miss is their kicker, cornerback Michael Davis, offensive lineman Russell Okung, tight end Hunter Henry and safety Adrian Phillips. Hey, even wide receiver Keenan Allen was limited in practice this week with a knee injury. But relax, people. Help is on the way, and, no, it has nothing to do with Gordon. It has to do with the schedule. After this game, the Chargers play, in order, Miami (0-2), Denver (0-2) and Pittsburgh (0-2).
Something to consider: The Chargers’ Austin Ekeler has 287 yards from scrimmage in the first two games, the most by a Chargers’ running back through Week Two. His four TDs are tied for the most by a Chargers’ back through the first two weeks.
L.A. RAMS @ CLEVELAND, 8:20 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Rams by 3
The weather: Partly cloudy, high of 85
The story: And the best player in the league is … Tom Brady? Patrick Mahomes? Aaron Rodgers. No. No. And no. That’s according to the Cleveland Browns, who dubbed Rams’ defensive tackle Aaron Donald numero uno … partly because he’s next on the schedule and partly because, well, there’s nobody better on defense. That might not be a problem if Donald, listed as "questionable" with a back injury, doesn't play. But, as the Rams' Sean McVay said Friday, "Unless something unforeseen happens, this guy is going Sunday night." Well, then, that’s a problem for Cleveland. The Browns had trouble solving the woebegone Jets’ defense Monday and fizzled vs. Tennessee the week before. You want to tell me which of those defenses approximates the Rams? Right. Which is why the Rams are favored here. Browns’ coach Todd Kitchens says quarterback Baker Mayfield “is taking too many hits,” and that’s vs. Tennessee and the Jets. Don’t leave home without a Kevlar vest, Baker.
Something to consider: Since 2017, the Rams’ Jared Goff has a 14-3 record on the road. Moreover, he has eight consecutive wins vs. AFC opponents.
OUR BEST BETS
RON BORGES – SEATTLE (--4). Pete Carroll must be living right. He played the Bengals, sans A.J. Green; the Steelers without Big Ben; and now the Saints without Tom Thumb (aka Drew Brees). Winning in Seattle is always troubled waters. Trying to traverse them without Teddy Bridgewater is trouble. SEASON RECORD (2-0).
CLARK JUDGE – DALLAS (-22-1/2). Miami just lost by 43 at home. Good luck, Josh Rosen, and good night. SEASON RECORD (1-1).
RICK GOSSELIN -- NEW ENGLAND (--22). If the Patriots were 43 points better than Miami on the road, they'll be 23 points better than the Jets at home playing a backup quarterback**. SEASON RECORD (1-1).**
THE WEEKEND OMG
Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson has a perfect passer rating (158.3) on third downs this season. He completed 13 of 15 attempts for 226 yards and two TDs.
THE WEEKEND OMG, PART DEUX
This is the third straight season the Giants are 0-2 and the sixth in the last seven.
FIVE GUYS TO WATCH
DALLAS QB DAK PRESCOTT – He can do something Sunday only two others have: Produce his fourth consecutive game with three touchdown passes and a 120 or better passer rating. Only Russell Wilson (2015) and Andrew Luck (2018) accomplished that.
L.A. CHARGERS QB PHILIP RIVERS. He’s only 300 yards short of passing Dan Marino for fourth on the all-time career yardage list. Only Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady would be ahead of him.
OAKLAND COACH JON GRUDEN. With a win Sunday he's 5-0 against Minnesota, becoming just the second active coach with an unblemished record) minimum five games) vs. an opponent. The other is Andy Reid, who is 7-0 vs. Cleveland.
ARIZONA WR LARRY FITZGERALD. With 10 catches, he passes Tony Gonzalez for second place on the career receptions list. Only Jerry Rice has more.
NEW ORLEANS WR MICHAEL THOMAS. With one catch, he joins Odell Beckham Jr. and Anquan Boldin as the only receivers with at least 300 catches and 4,000 receiving yards in their first 50 games.
10 THINGS YOU MIGHT WANT TO REMEMBER
1. In 32 games this season, 11 teams have come from behind in the second half to win – including six where a club erased a halftime deficit.
2. The Denver Broncos and Minnesota Vikings each can win their 500th all-time game this week (including playoffs). Carolina can win its 200th.
3. If the New England Patriots win by 24 or more points this week they reach rarified air – joining the top five clubs in point differentials through the first three weeks. Of those five only one didn’t play in 1920 or 1921, and that was the 1968 Dallas Cowboys. They had a point differential of plus-99 through the first three weeks, behind only the 1920 Rock Island Independents (plus-119) and the 1921 Buffalo All-Americans (plus-110).
4. The fewest points allowed through the first three games is 13 by the 2001 Green Bay Packers and 2004 Seattle Seahawks. New England has allowed 3 through two weeks.
5. Dating back to 2018, Chicago has won five of its last six road games.
6. The Bears have allowed just one 100-yard rusher in regulation (not including OTs) over the past 36 regular-season games. The only player to break the string was Latavius Murray (2017).
7. Denver has a league-low 17 offensive possessions during its first two games.
8. The Packers are 5-0-1 vs. Denver at home, scoring 30 or more points in all five victories.
9. Houston has forced a turnover in 15 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the NFL. Seattle is second at 8.
10. With a victory vs. Pittsburgh, the San Francisco 49ers start the season 3-0 for the first time since 1998.
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