GOLD JACKET GAME OF THE WEEKEND
KANSAS CITY @ BALTIMORE, 8:20 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Chiefs by 3-1/2
The weather: Sunny, high of 83
The story: Patrick Mahomes vs. Lamar Jackson: One league MVP vs. another. At least that’s how this one’s billed. Except it’s really Groundhog Day all over again. A week ago Cleveland ran its record vs. Andy Reid to 0-9. Now, it’s Baltimore’s turn to run its record vs. Mahomes to 0-4. The Ravens are supposed to be a Super Bowl threat. They didn’t look like it last week. They can change all that here … but history says they won’t. Mahomes is Mr. September. He’s 11-0, with 35 TD passes and no interceptions for the month. Then there's this: The Ravens have a rash of injuries, with tackle Ronnie Stanley one of six listed as questionable. Uh-oh.
Something to consider: Reid is 6-1 vs. the Ravens, including 4-0 with the Chiefs.
THREE OTHERS WORTHY OF HALL-OF-FRAMING
BUFFALO @ MIAMI, 1 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Bills by 3-1/2
The weather: Scattered thunderstorms, high of 86
The story: The two best teams in the AFC East? Maybe. But only one feels the pressure of Miami Heat, and it’s not the Dolphins. The Bills won their last five vs. the Dolphins and seven of the past eight, but they’re the only 0-1 team here. Yes, they lost two straight once last year, but it was to Kansas City and Tennessee. Plus, it was in October. If there's urgency, it's in the Buffalo huddle. Give me Josh Allen over Tua Tagovailoa.
Something to consider: The Bills’ Stefon Diggs has seven or more catches in each of his last nine games, including eight for 153 yards and a TD the last time he was in Miami.
LAS VEGAS @ PITTSBURGH, 1 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Steelers by 6-1/2
The weather: Sunny, high of 80
The story: The Steelers weren’t supposed to challenge anyone this year, but people forget: Mike Tomlin never had a losing season in 14 years there. Plus, the defense that collapsed in 2020 under an onslaught of injuries is healthy again. Combine that with a short week and cross-country flight for the Raiders, and now you know why Pittsburgh should be 2-0 by Sunday night.
Something to consider: Ben Roethlisberger had 18 TD passes and three interceptions in eight regular-season home starts last year.
DALLAS @ L.A. CHARGERS, 4:25 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Chargers by 3
The weather: Sunny, high of 79
The story: The Chargers won their last five starts, and, no, that is not a misprint. Now they’re favored to win a sixth straight. Reason: 1) They have a marvelous quarterback; 2) they don’t have Anthony Lynn as head coach and 3) the Cowboys are beaten up. Tackle La’El Collins has been suspended. Wide receiver Michael Gallup is out 3-5 weeks with a calf injury. And their best pass rusher, DeMarcus Lawrence is out indefinitely with a broken foot. Put it all together, and you have Dak Prescott on the hook to throw for 400 yards for the fifth time in his last six starts.
Something to consider: The Cowboys’ Mike McCarty is 3-0 vs. the Chargers.
OUR BEST BETS
Ron Borges – NEW ORLEANS (--3-1/2). Saints aren’t as good as they looked last week, but neither are the Panthers (SEASON RECORD 0-1).
Rick Gosselin – DENVER (--6). Broncos have a Top-10 defense. Jaguars have a rookie quarterback. Orange Crush all day (SEASON RECORD 0-0-1).
Clark Judge – CHARGERS (--3). I believe (SEASON RECORD 1-0).
STAT OF THE WEEK
New England’s Bill Belichick is 21-6 vs. rookie quarterbacks, including 13-0 at home.
BELIEVE IT OR DON'T
The Saints will play Sunday without seven assistant coaches. All tested positive for COVID.
FIVE GUYS TO WATCH
1. New Orleans QB Jameis Winston. In his last three starts vs. Carolina, he has no interceptions and a passer rating of 90 or better.
2. Buffalo QB Josh Allen. He aims for his fourth consecutive game vs. Miami with three or more TD passes. He’s also thrown for 10 TDs and no interceptions in his last three road starts.
3. Las Vegas TE Darren Waller. He has four consecutive 100-yard games. With another vs. Pittsburgh, he becomes the first tight end in history to make it five.
4. Cleveland RB Nick Chubb. He has rushing TDs in his last seven games, the longest active streak in the NFL.
5. Arizona LB Chandler Jones. Two more sacks Sunday, and he ties Antwan Odom for the most (7) in the first two regular-season games.
TEN THINGS YOU PROBABLY SHOULD KNOW
1. Since 2002, 59.6 percent of playoff teams started the season 1-1 or 0-2, with three of the past four Super Bowl winners opening at 1-1.
2. Baltimore won two of its last three games vs. opponents that played in Super Bowls the previous seasons. The one exception: Yep, Kansas City.
3. The Patriots haven't been 0-2 since 2001 when they lost to ... you guessed it ... the New York Jets.
4. The AFC and NFC West are both undefeated, and if that seems unusual it is. It’s the first time since the NFL merger in 1970 that two divisions are unbeaten after Week One.
5. Road teams last week won eight times, continuing a trend. Two of the three best NFL road records occurred the past two years (128-127-1 in 2020 and 123-132-1 in 2019).
6. Tampa Bay scored 30 or more points in its last eight games, all victories. The only team in league history to do that was the 2007 and 2010 New England Patriots quarterbacked by … who else? … the Bucs’ Tom Brady.
7. With his next 300-yard game, Chargers’ quarterback Justin Herbert ties Mahomes and Hall-of-Famer Dan Marino for the most 300-yard passing games (10) in his first two NFL seasons.
8. With one victory, Seattle’s Russell Wilson becomes the second quarterback in NFL history to win 100 or more games in his first 10 seasons. Only Peyton Manning (105) was the first. Wilson also is the only quarterback to produce 11 games with four touchdown passes and no interceptions.
9. Chandler Jones’ per-game sack average (.816) ranks second all-time, behind only Hall-of-Famer Reggie White (.853).
10. New England has at least one score in the first half of its last 87 games (including the playoffs), an NFL record. The last time they failed to score in the first half was a 16-0 loss to Buffalo on Oct. 14, 2016.