Sunday GPS: Can NFL's No. 1 'D' survive the NFL's No. 1 'O'?
GOLD JACKET FEATURE
NEW ORLEANS @ BALTIMORE, 4:05 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Ravens by 2-1/2
The weather: Partly cloudy, high of 53
The story: This is the latest in the No. 1 scoring offense vs. the No. 1 scoring defense series, with Kansas City's then-No.-1 ranked offense two weeks ago destroying Jacksonville's then No. 1-ranked defense. That was unusual, and I offer the Super Bowl as evidence. Eight times the top-ranked scoring defense has played the top-ranked scoring offense, and six times the defense won. These aren't the 2000 Ravens, but they're better than anyone out there -- especially in the second half, where they've allowed no touchdowns and 15 points. Yeah, I know this is Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara and more points than beignets at Café du Monde, but the Ravens shut down Ben Roethlisberger and just shut out Tennessee. The Saints, meanwhile, are on a four-game roll, three times have scored 43 or more points and average 40 the past three starts. If this is beginning to sound like Kansas City-Jacksonville Part II, it should. Those two teams led the league in scoring offenses and defenses, too, when they met earlier this season, and it wasn't close. The best offense won. Just sayin'.
Something to consider: The Ravens scored 30 or more points in their last three games vs. New Orleans and in four of their last five.
THREE OTHERS SUITABLE FOR HALL-OF-FRAMING
NEW ENGLAND @ CHICAGO, 1 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Patriots by 3-1/2
The weather: Sunny, high of 49
The story: If this were anyone but New England, I'd worry about an emotional letdown. The Patriots come off a 43-40 track meet vs. previously unbeaten Kansas City in a victory that restored skeptics' faith in the NFL's Dorian Gray, Tom Brady. Now they are facing their second division leader in two weeks. But asking about a letdown is kind of like asking Bill Belichick about Lawrence Taylor. To paraphrase coach Hoodie, "These are the Patriots we're talking about." Granted, the Bears can pressure the pocket with Khalil Mack (no, not L.T.), provided he's 100 percent … which he's not, with last week's one tackle and no sacks vs. Miami Exhibit A. But the Patriots will operate without right tackle Marcus Cannon (concussion) and without Gronk. So that leaves us with Brady vs. Mitch Trubisky, mano-a-mano, and check, please. This is the first of an eight-week grind for New England, with the Pats on the road for six of their next eight starts -- and that might be the greater concern. They're 0-2 there this season.
Something to consider: Tom Brady is 4-0 against the Bears. With Khalil Mack limping with a bad ankle 5-0 seems more likely than a Mack truck running over Tom Terrific.
HOUSTON @ JACKSONVILLE, 1 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Jaguars by 4-1/2
The weather: Mostly sunny, high of 72
The story: Another week, another week off for Leonard Fournette. And normally that would be a concern for the Jags. Because then it's all about Blake Bortles, and if there's one thing he can do best it's win a game for either team. But this just in: Carlos Hyde is here to save the day; it's just not this one. He won't play. But getting Hyde means the Jags don't believe they'll be getting Fournette back anytime soon. The Jaguars entered this season thinking they were good enough for the Super Bowl, but now we wonder if they're good enough for the playoffs … period. Nothing about Bortles is new. The guy is a turnover machine, and makes Fantasy owner happy with garbage-time points and yards. But that Jacksonville defense is the revelation. It's leaking so badly it's done the improbable: Shut up Jalen Ramsey.
Something to consider: Houston has won three straight games, but poor Deshaun Watson was hit 19 times, including seven sacks, last Sunday by the Bills. He's been sacked 25 times and hit 91 times in six games. And now the Jaguars? Ouch.
CAROLINA @ PHILADELPHIA, 1 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Eagles by 4-1/2
The weather: Partly cloudy, high of 50
The story: The Panthers league-leading rushing attack entering last week never got anything going in Washington. Partly due to the score, down 17-0 at one point in the first half, Carolina seemed to abandon the run and instead relied on Cam Newton's passing. That ws enough to get them back into the game but needing just five yards for a first down late, three straight incompletions ended their comeback hopes. The Eagles run defense has statistically been better than Washington's through the first six weeks of the season. That doesn't bode well for the Panthers, who have yet to win on the road. Adding to Carolina's problems is that Eagles' tight end Zach Ertz has been nearly unstoppable and will face a Panthers' defense that gave up eight receptions to the tight-end position for 84 yards and a touchdown and has allowed tight end 27 catches, 287 yards and three scores this year.
Something to consider: Cam Newton is the highest rated quarterback in the Red Zone, with a passer rating of 115.7. to go along with his five TD passes and three rushing scores.
BEATING THE ODDS
(Picks are made vs. the spread ONLY)
CLARK JUDGE -- CHARGERS (+6-1/2). Two reasons: 1) The Titans can't score and 2) International games historically are routs. This will be, too. (Season record: 3-3).
RICK GOSSELIN -- BEARS (+3). This won't be Kansas City-esque where the Patriots moved up and down the field at home last Sunday night against a team that can't play defense. The Bears have a Top 10 defense, a Top 10 rushing attack, an emerging quarterback in Mitch Trubisky and Khalil Mack coming off the edge. Chicago also will have the home field. (Season record 2-3-1)
RON BORGES -- RAMS (+10). That's big number to cover, but that Ram defense will feast on C.J. Beathard. Plus, a 49rs' defense that hemorrhages nearly 30 points a game can't and won't slow down the Rams. (Season record 1-5)
THE WEEKEND OMG
Chiefs' quarterback Patrick Mahomes was only a year old the last time Joe's Kansas City Bar-B-Que opened its doors on a Sunday. But for the first time since 1996, Joe's will be open for business from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. so Chiefs' fans can load up on Rocket Pig and other barbeque delights before the night's home showdown vs. Cincinnati.
THE SUNDAY PLAY LIST
INDIANAPOLIS PK ADAM VINATIERI. With 10 points Sunday, he surpasses Hall-of-Famer Morten Andersen as the NFL's all-time leading scorer. Andersen had 2,544 points in his career.
KANSAS CITY WR TYREEK HILL. With his next scoring reception of 50 or more yards, he becomes only the third player in league history to have at least 15 of them before his 25th birthday. The other two are Gale Sayers (16) and Randy Moss (15).
NEW ORLEANS QB DREW BREES. With one touchdown pass, he joins Peyton Manning, Brett Favre and Tom Brady as the only quarterbacks with 500 or more TDs.
INDIANAPOLIS QB ANDREW LUCK. He can become just the third quarterback in league history with four consecutive games of three or more touchdown passes and 300 yards. The other two are Steve Young (5 in 1998) and Peyton Manning (4 in 2012).
DALLAS QB DAK PRESCOTT. Prescott is 4-0 as a starting quarterbck against the Redskins. If he can beat Washington Sunday he will be the first Dallas quarterback since Troy Aikman to win five straight vs. the Redskins.
ATLANTA WR JULIO JONES. Jones is second in the league in receiving yards with 707 but will be looking to catch his first touchdown pass of the season Monday night against the Giants. Giants' WR Odell Beckham, Jr. has thrown more touchdown passes this season than Jones has caught.
MINNESOTA WR ADAM THIELEN. Thielen is looking for his seventh straight 100-yard receiving day out of the slot Sunday, and don't bet against him. He'll be covered by rookie slot corner Perry Nickerson, who has had trouble this season with far less formidable receivers than the fleet-footed Thielen. Thielen has already caught 58 passes, and is on pace to finish with 155 -- shattering the NFL record of 143 held by the Colts' Marvin Harrison.
N.Y. GIANTS' QB ELI MANNING. The struggling 37-year-old Manning was given a vote of confidence this week by head coach Pat Shurmur, but the 1-5 Giants scored 20 or fewer points four times this season, and Manning has been dreadful. He's had 10 days to prepare for the Falcons' depleted defense Monday, and another bad outing could end the Eli Era for good in New York.
DETROIT WR GOLDEN TATE. He hopes to continue his role as a road warrior Sunday in Miami. He has 15 receptions for 241 yards (120.5 per game) and two touchdowns in his past two road games. The last time he saw the Dolphins, Tate had 11 catches for 109 yards.
TEN THINGS YOU MIGHT WANT TO KNOW
- The Ravens are the only team with a Top-5 defense vs. the run and the pass. They rank third against the run and second vs. the pass.
- With a win over the Ravens, Saints' quarterback Drew Brees will become only the third quarterback in NFL history to have beaten all 32 teams. The others are Peyton Manning and Brett Favre.
- Only one team (Philadelphia) has thrown for 300 or more yards on Tennessee this year.
- Carolina has allowed only eight sacks through five games, tied for the fewest in franchise history over its first five starts.
- Just as they did the last two seasons, the Philadelphia Eagles lead the league in time of possession (32:47).
- Broncos' head coach Vance Joseph started 3-1 last season in his rookie year, but is 5-14 since, including 2-9 on the road. He may have saved his job for a while Thursday night by crushing the struggling Arizona Cardinals 45-10 in Phoenix.
- It's not often a team looks forward to playing Tom Brady but the Bears may be after losing last week to Brock Osweiler for the third time last weekend. Osweiler is now 3-0 against them and won in his first start for three different teams vs. Chicago.
- Upon further review, maybe the Bears won't be that happy to see New England. Brady is 4-0 against them lifetime and his last two showdowns with the Bears turned into a combined 87-30 beatdown.
- Credit the Washngton Post with this bit of trivia. The Redskins enter Sunday's showdown with the Cowboys 1-1 in their last two games, 2-2 in their last four, 3-3 in their last six, 5-5 in their last 10, 6-6 in their last 12, 7-7 in their last 14, 10-10 in their last 20, 16-16-1 in their last 33, and 18-18-1 in their last 37 games. Is that consistency or inconsistency?
- Minnesota's Danielle Hunter is the only player to have at least one sack in every game this season.