The Sunday GPS: More COVID chaos moves Bills-Raiders to center stage
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Sunday's featured matchup is New England-Kansas City. One problem: It's not happening Sunday. Reason: COVID-19. The Patriots' Cam Newton tested positive. So did a Chiefs' backup quarterback, Jordan Ta'amu. Result: The game is postponed, with the league pushing it to Monday at 7:05 p.m. EDT. But that's not all. Another marquee game, undefeated Pittsburgh vs. undefeated Tennessee ... also not happening. Reason: COVID-19, come on down. That game won't be played until Week 7. The NFL thought it could outmaneuver the coronavirus pandemic, but the NFL thought wrong. COVID chaos just joined the league, and it's already a game changer. So scratch Cam vs. Mahomes, and scratch Big Ben vs. the Titans. Here's the tentative lineup for Sunday ... with the emphasis on tentative.)
GOLD JACKET GAME OF THE WEEKEND
BUFFALO @ LAS VEGAS, 4:25 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Bills by 3
The weather: Sunny, high of 99 (translucent roof)
The story: The Raiders are in trouble with the league office again. First, it was coach Jon Gruden fined for not wearing a mask. Then it was an unauthorized team employee entering the locker room following the team's win over New Orleans. That drew a $50,000 fine. Now it’s players going unmasked at a crowded public function. It’s always something, and Sunday it’s something else-- something like the Black Hole. Once upon a time the Hole was in the stands. Now it’s in the Vegas defense. The Raiders allow 30 points a game and just surrendered 250 yards rushing to New England. So tell me how they do what no one else has – namely, handcuff the vastly improved Josh Allen? Someone? Anyone?
Something to consider: With a win, the Bills will be 4-0 for the first time since 2008. This is the second straight year they’ve been 3-0.
THREE OTHERS WORTHY OF HALL OF FRAMING
MINNESOTA @ HOUSTON, 1 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Texans by 4
The weather: Sunny, high of 87 (Retractable roof)
The story: Wait a minute, neither of these teams has won, right? Check. And the Vikings just played an opponent (Tennessee) with at least 14 persons who tested positive for COVID-19, right? Correct. Well, that’s what makes this game must-see TV. Both were playoff teams a year ago. Now, both may be out this season. But one thing we know: One of them won’t be winless after Sunday … unless, of course, someone pulls a Doug Pederson and plays for the tie. All things are on the table here. All I know is that these are two of the season’s biggest dumpster fires, and you want to know why? Tune in Sunday.
Something to consider: Dating back to 2017, Houston’s Deshaun Watson has the most passing touchdowns (34) in October, five more than runner-up Carson Wentz (29) and six more than Russell Wilson (28). Over the same period, the Texans lead the league in average points scored (33.1) in October, considerably more than runner-up New England (29.9).
CLEVELAND @ DALLAS, 1:00 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Cowboys by 4-1/2
The weather: Sunny, high of 87 (retractable roof)
The story: Yeah, I know, I'm not all that fired up about this one, either. But I would be if I lived in the Dawg Pound. The Browns are 2-1 and showing a hint ... I said hint ... of a pulse. And Dallas? Dak Prescott has thrown for over 450 yards in consecutive games, which is great ... except both were losses. Someone should remind him ... better yet, coach Mike McCarthy ... that Zeke Elliott doesn't get paid to spectate. This is a yardstick for both teams. Dallas should be better; the Browns may be better. If I'm McCarthy, I look at the Browns and realize they know something I don't: Baby, we were born to run.
Something to consider: The Cowboys' Aldon Smith leads the league in sacks with four. So what? So he's playing for the first time in five years.
INDIANAPOLIS @ CHICAGO, 4:25 p.m. (EDT) *
The line: Colts by 2-1/2
The weather: AM showers, high of 54
The story: The Bears are supposed to be the worst 3-0 team out there. Well, here’s their chance to prove detractors wrong. They haven’t been 4-0 in 14 years, but remember what Bill Parcells told us: You are what your record says you are. The record says the Bears are one of seven unbeaten teams in the NFL and tied with Green Bay for first in the NFC North. Yet the Colts are favored … in Chicago, no less. See what I mean? Nick Foles made a statement last weekend that earned him this start. He and his teammates can make one here vs. the league’s top-ranked pass defense.
Something to consider: Over the last 14 games, the Colts’ T.Y. Hilton does not have 100 yards receiving in any start.
* Start moved from 1 p.m. because of Patriots-Chiefs postponement
OUR BEST BETS
CLARK JUDGE – Buffalo (--3). I believe.
RON BORGES – New Orleans (--4). Both teams stink, and Michael Thomas’ absence hurts the Saints. But the Lions are still the Lions unless they prove otherwise.
RICK GOSSELIN – Seattle (--6-1/2). The Seahawks already made one visit to the East Coast and beat a more talented Atlanta team by 13.
FIVE NUMBERS THAT MATTER
0 – Eagles’ takeaways.
4 – Number of TDs allowed by San Francisco’s defense, fewest in the NFL.
6 – Teams that average 30 or more points per game. They are Green Bay (40.7), Seattle (37.0), Buffalo (31.0), Baltimore (30.3) and Kansas City (30.3).
10 – Games this season where teams overcame deficits of 10 or more points to win. Only the first three games of 2011 had more (11).
2,446 – Points scored through the first three weeks, an NFL record.
THEY SAID IT
“He’s changing the game. I think he’s shining light on the new wave of quarterbacks. It’s fun to watch.” – New England QB Cam Newton on Patrick Mahomes.
“He’s got a lot of John Elway playing style. He can scramble. He’s strong. He’s tough. He’s a big-time player.” – Raiders’ coach Jon Gruden on Josh Allen.
THE SUNDAY OMG
Since Lamar Jackson was drafted in 2018, the Baltimore Ravens are 0-9 when trailing at halftime, including the playoffs. They are the only team not to win during that time when behind at the half.
THE SUNDAY OMG II
Per ESPN’s Field Yates … Dating back to 1999, the Baltimore Ravens have had 38 All-Pros. Washington hasn’t had a first-team All-Pro since punter Matt Turk in 1996.
THE SUNDAY OMG III
Most passing yards for a quarterback in his first nine starts (since 1950): 1) Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City -- 2,810; Andrew Luck, Indianapolis -- 2,631; Nick Mullens, San Francisco -- 2,620.
FIVE GUYS TO WATCH
Arizona WR Larry Fitzgerald. He has more career receptions (65) for more yards (846) vs. Carolina than any opponent outside the NFC West.
Raiders’ QB Derek Carr. With two more TD passes he eclipses Hall-of-Famer Ken Stabler for the club record. Stabler had 150. Carr has 149.
Indianapolis QB Philip Rivers. He aims for his fourth straight game with a completion percentage of 75 or more. His 78.3 completion percentage (minimum 50 attempts) is the third highest in league history through the first three games.
New Orleans RB Alvin Kamara. He’s working on a run of five consecutive games with two or more TDs in each, the longest such streak since Hall-of-Famer LaDainian Tomlinson had eight in 2006.
Seattle QB Russell Wilson. With three TDs he surpasses Peyton Manning for the most scoring passes in the first four games of a season. Manning had 16 in 2013; Wilson has 14.
TEN THINGS YOU MIGHT WANT TO KNOW
1. The Seahawks have won nine consecutive games in the Eastern Time Zone.
2. Arizona lost its last four road games.
3. The Cardinals and L.A. Chargers are the only teams that rank in the top 10 in total defense and offense.
4. The Chargers are 5-0 vs. Tampa Bay when scoring 25 or more points.
5. New England and New Orleans each have 12-game winning streaks in October. Since the 1970 league merger, only three teams (Miami at 14, 1971-74; Denver at 14, 1983-86 and Indianapolis at 13, 2005-08) have longer streaks in the month.
6. Joe Burrow’s 91 completions rank second in the NFL and are the most for an NFL rookie in his first three games.
7. The Chargers-Bucs game features the league’s youngest starting quarterback (Justin Herbert at 22) vs. its oldest starting QB (Tom Brady at 43).
8. The Bills lead the NFL with 59 first-half points. Atlanta is second at 57.
9. The Seattle Seahawks have allowed 1,292 yards in passing over the first three games. Nobody in NFL history has allowed more during that span. The Seahawks also rank last in team defense, allowing an average of 497.3 yards per game.
10. Green Bay is the only team not to commit a turnover this season. Philadelphia leads the league with eight, tying Minnesota with six interceptions.