GOLD JACKET GAME OF THE WEEKEND
KANSAS CITY (9-1) @ TAMPA BAY (7-4), 4:25 p.m. (EST)
The line: Chiefs by 3-1/2
The weather: Partly cloudy, high of 82
The story: The Chiefs are hot, the Bucs are not. Worse, Tom Brady is under fire again … and it’s not just Brady haters throwing darts. It’s his head coach, Bruce Arians, and stop if you heard this before. Following three of the Bucs’ losses this season Arians has been critical of his quarterback. But this time is different. Because this time there are rumors of a rift between quarterback and coach. Brady is 3-0 this season following losses, but a win here would be an upset because … well, frankly, because the Chiefs are better and so is their quarterback. So the question is: Can Brady pull another reappearing act, this time vs. the defending Super Bowl champions and MVP favorite Patrick Mahomes when support within his own organization seems lukewarm? We’ll see. He’s done it before and responds best to adversity. But keep this in mind: He and the Bucs are 2-4 vs. opponents with records of .500 or better, and the Chiefs have the second-best record out there. Plus, Brady already has more interceptions this season (9) than he did in all of 2019 (8).
Something to consider: Kansas City is 5-0 on the road this season.
THREE OTHERS WORTHY OF HALL OF FRAMING
TENNESSEE (7-3) @ INDIANAPOLIS (7-3), 1 p.m. (EST)
The line: Colts by 3
The weather: Mostly cloudy, high of 47 (retractable roof)
The story: A month ago, critics wanted to bury Philip Rivers and the Colts. Now they rush to praise them. What happened? Two games, that’s what. First, the Colts held off Tennessee and then they rallied from a 14-point deficit to outlast Green Bay. That should get attention, and it did – with the Colts now considered a front runner for their first AFC South title since 2014. A win here would put them a game-and-a-half up on the Titans (via head-to-head tiebreaker) with five games left and would cement their reputation as a legitimate playoff threat. One problem: Rivers, who has a streak of 245 consecutive starts (including the playoffs), suffered a painful toe injury last weekend. Nevertheless, he practiced this week and will play. Defensive lineman DeForest Buckner and Denico Autry, however, will not -- with both put on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Linebacker Bobby Okereke won’t make it, either, out with an ankle injury. Which begs the question: How does a depleted front-seven contains Derrick Henry? I don’t know, either.
Something to consider: Rivers has not thrown an interception in five previous games vs. the Titans.
ARIZONA (6-4) @ NEW ENGLAND (4-6), 1 p.m. (EST)
The line: Cardinals by 2
The weather: Sunny, high of 53
The story: This is a big game for Arizona, with the Cards a game behind front runners L.A. and Seattle in the NFC West. But it’s a bigger game for New England, which is on life support in the AFC East. One more loss here … or anywhere … virtually guarantees its exit from the playoff picture for the first time since 2008 – or the last time the Patriots finished a season without Tom Brady. Arizona is the favorite here for one reason: The Cards’ quarterback can beat you with TD passes; the Patriots’ quarterback can’t … and you can look it up. Kyler Murray has 29 total TDs (including 19 passes) and is an MVP candidate. Cam Newton has four scoring passes, including one to a wide receiver. One. I know, Newton can beat you with his legs. But so can Murray. Only question: How is Murray's right shoulder? He hurt it last week but doesn't show up on the injury report today. If he's OK, I don’t see how the Patriots keep up with Arizona’s Air Raid offense. Apparently, oddsmakers don’t, either.
Something to consider: Murray (10) and Newton (9) rank 1-2 in touchdown runs by quarterbacks this season. The single-season record is 14, set by Newton in 2011.
NEW ORLEANS (8-2) @ DENVER (4-6), 4:05 p.m. (EST)
The line: Saints by 16-1/2
The weather: Sunny, high of 52
The story: This game intrigues me because of what happened Saturday. And what happened Saturday was that all three of Denver's quarterbacks were ruled ineligible because of exposure to COVID. Meaning? You got it: Meaning that the Broncos go into this game -- if there is a game -- without a quarterback. Funny, the heat was supposed to be on the Saints without Drew Brees, but they won a week ago with Taysom Hill and are 6-0 the past two years sans Brees. Now it's the Broncos that must improvise if the league doesn't postpone the game, and let your imagination run wild. Without a quarterback on the roster, a Broncos' position player would have to take charge -- and running back Royce Freeman is the leading candidate. Good luck, guys. You're going to need it.
Something to consider: The Saints have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 53 consecutive games, the longest streak since the 1970 league merger.
OUR BEST BETS
(Picks made vs. the spread only)
CLARK JUDGE – N.Y. Giants (--6-1/2). Bah-humbug!!! No Joe, no hope for Bengals (Season record: 4-7).
RON BORGES – Buffalo (--4). Bills have better personnel, and when the Chargers look out their windows Sunday and get a peek at dreary Buffalo they’ll wish they were in L.A. … or San Diego (Season record: 8-3).
RICK GOSSELIN – Las Vegas (--3). Too much Derek Carr, not enough Matt Ryan. (Season record: 6-5).
THE WEEKEND OMG
Only one quarterback the past four seasons has more regular-season victories than the Rams’ Jared Goff (40) -- Tom Brady at 43.
THE WEEKEND OMG II
Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins and Adam Thielen are the league’s top quarterback-receiver combination in the red zone with 10 TDs this season. Tom Brady and Mike Evans are second with eight.
FIVE GUYS TO WATCH
Tom Brady, QB, Tampa Bay. With 45 yards passing he reaches 3,000 for the 18th season. That ties Hall-of-Famer Brett Favre for the most in NFL history.
Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota. He’s run for a touchdown in 10 straight home games. With another scoring run Sunday, he ties Hall-of-Famer LaDainian Tomlinson for the fourth most consecutive home games with a rushing TD. Hall-of-Famer Emmitt Smith holds the record at 17.
Chargers’ QB Justin Herbert. He needs just one scoring pass to set the all-time rookie record for November. Herbert has 11.
Tennessee RB Derrick Henry. He’s working on a streak of seven consecutive 100-yard rushing games on the road … and he’s doing in the stadium where the current streak started: Lucas Oil in Indianapolis. Henry’s streak is tied for the third longest of its kind. Hall-of-Famer Barry Sanders holds the record at 10.
Buffalo QB Josh Allen. He has 15 touchdowns (11 passes, four runs) in five home games this year.
THEY SAID IT
"Our job is to get the job done. So there are no excuses for when we don't get it done." -- Tampa Bay QB Tom Brady.
"He's a tough kid. I don't think this is something that we're too worried about." -- Miami coach Brian Flores on Tua Tagovailoa's thumb injury.
"What means most to me is just having an opportunity to come back and be there for my guys when we just need to find a way to win." -- Chicago QB Mitch Trubisky on his return to the starting lineup.
FIVE NUMBERS THAT MATTER
0 – Daniel Jones turnovers the past two games.
7 – Straight games with two or more touchdown passes by Chargers’ rookie Justin Herbert, the longest current streak in the NFL.
13 – Consecutive games where Arizona scored 21 or more points, the longest such streak in franchise history.
17 – Combined touchdown receptions by Seattle’s DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, the most of any NFL wide-receiver duo.
71-10 – Patriots’ record since 2008 when not committing a turnover.
TEN THINGS YOU MIGHT WANT TO REMEMBER
1. There have been 12 games this season where teams overcame deficits of 14 points or more to win and 33 contests where they overcame 10-point deficits.
2. Tennessee’s Derrick Henry leads the NFL with 660 yards after contact.
3. Cleveland is 4-0 in games decided by seven or fewer points.
4. The Chargers have 10 interceptions in their last four games vs. Buffalo, all victories.
5. The Vikings’ Adam Thielen has an NFL-best four games this season with two or more TD catches in each.
6. Tennessee won four games this season after trailing in the fourth quarter, most in the NFL. The Titans also lead the league with five victories where they either scored the game-winning points in overtime or the last two minutes of regulation.
7. The Chargers are 9-5 since 2017 in the Eastern Time Zone or London.
8. Las Vegas leads the NFL by converting 51.6 percent rate of its third downs.
9. Cam Newton’s three multi-rush TD games this season are tied for the most by a quarterback in one season.
10. Green Bay’s Aaron Jones has eight TDs, but only two at home -- both in one game.