GOLD JACKET GAME OF THE WEEK
GREEN BAY @ DALLAS, 4:25 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Cowboys by 3-1/2
The weather: Mostly sunny, high of 94 (retractable roof)
The story: The Cowboys lost more than a game last week. They lost All-Pro tackle Tyron Smith, too, and right tackle La’el Collins is questionable with a back injury. That’s an issue. So is this week’s opponent. But Green Bay lost last week, too, and they’re minus injured playmaker Davante Adams. Put them together and what do you have? Two fan bases that need to be talked off the ledge. The edge, though, goes to the men who wear the star because 1) they’re home; 2) I trust their defense more and 3) they have … the next Tom Brady? That’s whom owner Jerry Jones likened Dak Prescott to, and now we have a third party that needs to be talked off the ledge.
Something to consider: Aaron Rodgers is 6-2 vs. the Cowboys, with 15 TDs and two interceptions and passer ratings of 120 or more in three of those starts. Dating back to 2008 Rodgers is the NFL’s leading quarterback in passer rating (107.8) and touchdowns (87) in October.
THREE OTHERS WORTHY OF HALL OF FRAMING
CHICAGO vs. OAKLAND @ London, England, 1 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Bears by 5-1/2
The weather: Rain, high of 61
The story: This isn’t about Derek Carr, Chase Daniel, 50 years of Abbey Road or Downton Abbey. Nope, this is all about Khalil Mack, playing his former team for the first time since the Raiders traded him a year ago. “This is the one I’ve been looking forward to,” the Bears’ All-Pro linebacker said. “It’s going to be a big one.” Uh-oh. Consider that a warning for the Raiders in general and Carr in particular. Mack already has 4-1/2 sacks and four forced fumbles. Moreover, he was just named the NFC’s Defensive Player of the Month for the carnage he created in September. The Raiders’ Jon Gruden declined to talk about Mack this week, but, guaranteed, he’ll have something to say after Sunday. Memo to Carr: You’re in London. Mind the Mack.
Something to consider: The Bears allowed touchdowns in only five of 16 quarters this season.
BUFFALO @ TENNESSEE, 1 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Titans by 3
The weather: Scattered thunderstorms, high of 85
The story: Buffalo's Josh Allen has cleared concussion protocol, and that's great. Except I'm not sure it matters. Because it’s not Josh Allen or Matt Barkley that wins this game for the Bills. It’s the Buffalo defense. It shut down Tom Brady and the Patriots a week ago and would've been hailed as the conquering heroes if it weren’t for Allen and Barkley committing five turnovers. Yeah, I know, Tennessee's Marcus Mariota had a career game vs. Atlanta and doesn’t throw interceptions. But that’s not going to happen here. Take the under, with Buffalo a trendy pick for the upset.
Something to consider: Tennessee has committed an NFL-low one turnover all season.
TAMPA BAY @ NEW ORLEANS, 1 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Saints by 3
The weather: Dome
The story: This is intriguing because of what happened a week ago – Teddy Bridgewater outdueled the Cowboys’ Dak Prescott, and Tampa Bay hammered the Rams with a team-record 55 points. The Bucs aren’t going to score 55 here, but that’s not the issue. Jameis Winston is. The guy put up gargantuan numbers the past three games and is beginning to look like the latest fixer-upper for Quarterback Whisperer Bruce Arians. However … the Saints just overcame Russell Wilson in Seattle and the then-unbeaten Cowboys at home. Plus, Winston hasn’t won in New Orleans since his rookie season (2015). So who’s the pick here? The numbers don’t lie.
Something to consider: In five games vs. Tampa Bay, wide receiver Michael Thomas has 47 catches for 535 yards and 6 TDs.
OUR BEST BETS
(Picks made vs. spreads)
RON BORGES – MINNESOTA (--5). I’ll take Mike Zimmer and the Vikings’ D and lay the points vs. a rookie quarterback. Daniel Jones may be the answer for the Giants … but not in this game. (SEASON RECORD: 2-2).
CLARK JUDGE – CHICAGO (--5-1/2). So Mitch Trubisky is out. Khalil Mack and Roquan Smith aren’t. Check please. (SEASON RECORD: 2-2).
RICK GOSSELIN – CHICAGO (--5=1/2). Chase Daniel may be a better fit for this particular Chicago team. (SEASON RECORD: 1-3).
THE WEEKEND OMG
There are only three teams in the AFC with winning records and only three in the NFC with losing records.
FIVE GUYS TO WATCH
NEW ENGLAND DB DEVIN McCOURTY. He has four interceptions this season – one in each game. With another Sunday, he becomes the third player in the Super Bowl era to produce at least one interception in his team’s first five games. The others are Brian Russell (2003) and Lemar Parrish (1979).
PITTSBURGH QB MASON RUDOLPH. With two touchdowns Sunday, he joins Mark Rypien (1988) and Jay Cutler (2006) as the only quarterbacks in league history to throw for two or more TDs in each of his first four starts.
TAMPA BAY LB SHAQUIL BARRETT. With one sack, he joins Hall-of-Famer Kevin Greene as the only two players to have 10 sacks through the first five games of the year.
BALTIMORE QB LAMAR JACKSON. With 67 yards rushing he ties Robert Griffith III as the fastest quarterbacks to reach 1,000 for their careers. Griffin did it in 21 games, and this would be Jackson's 21st.
JACKSONVILLE QB GARDNER MINSHEW. He has the highest passer rating (106.9) in NFL history by a rookie quarterback through his first four games.
TEN THINGS YOU MIGHT WANT TO REMEMBER
1. The Bears and Raiders play at London’s Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, the first time that venue has hosted an NFL game. It becomes the 187th site to host a regular-season NFL game in the 100 years of the league.
2. The last nine teams that won international games earned playoff spots later that season.
3. Kansas City scored 25 or more points in 25 consecutive games, the longest streak in NFL history.
4. Dating back to 2018, Chicago won six of its last seven road games, including the past four.
5. The Raiders are 1-3 in international games, losing their last two by a score of 60-11.
6. Don’t expect a close game in Dallas. Thirteen of the past 15 regular-season games involving the Cowboys and Packers were decided by 10 or more points.
7. Baltimore’s 823 rushing yards are the franchise’s most through the first four games of a season.
8. The Ravens’ Justin Tucker hit 21 of 22 field-goal attempts at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field.
9. Dating back to last season, Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota hasn’t thrown an interception in six consecutive games, a franchise record of 169 straight passes.
10. Since 2000, the New England Patriots are an NFL-best 61-18 in October, including 27-12 on the road.
Follow on Twitter @ClarkJudgeTOF