The Sunday GPS: Can Saints go marching to another road win?
GOLD JACKET FEATURE
NEW ORLEANS @ MINNESOTA, 8:20 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Vikings by 1
The weather: Retractable roof
The story: The Saints are 3-0 on the road for the first time since 2009, and I mention that date because it's the last season … OK the only season … they've been in the Super Bowl, which they won. Of course, the last time they were here they should've won, too … but they didn't, and they didn't because of the Minneapolis Miracle. The Saints believe they were the better team then, and they believe they're the better team now. And you know something? So do I. This could be another dress rehearsal for the playoffs, with a lot more points … and here's why: The Saints allow a league-worst 43 percent of passes to go for first downs, while Minnesota's Xavier Rhodes and Anthony Barr may be missing. Yeah, I know, the Vikings expect pass rusher Everson Griffen back. But Drew Brees has been sacked only nine times this season, and the Saints (according to Football Outsiders) allow the fewest percentage of pressures this year. Bottom line: The biggest winners here? Fantasy owners of Brees and Kirk Cousins.
Something to consider: In his last four starts vs. the Vikings, Brees has thrown for 1,233 yards, nine touchdowns and no interceptions.
THREE OTHERS SUITABLE FOR HALL-OF-FRAMING
PHILADELPHIA @ JACKSONVILLE (in London), 9:30 a.m. (EDT)
The line: Eagles by 3
The weather: Sunny, high of 50
The story: The NFL Network is going with a four-man booth for this game. The Jaguars are going with Blake Bortles. You tell me who's smarter. Bortles has been dreadful and was benched a week ago in the Jags' third straight loss. Now he's back and says he's not afraid to make mistakes. Good. Because he makes a lot of them. A smart man once said that misery loves company, and Bortles will have it. He's joined in the huddle by newly-acquired running back Carlos Hyde, and that's the good news. The bad is that the defending Super Bowl champs are next on the schedule and smarting after a heartbreaking loss. At one time, this looked like a potential Super Bowl preview. Now the playoffs are no guarantee for either.
Something to consider: In his past three games in England, Bortles has thrown eight touchdowns and the Jags are 3-0.
BALTIMORE @ CAROLINA, 1 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Ravens by 2
The weather: Sunny, high of 67
The story: The Ravens are coming off a crushing last-minute defeat. The Panthers are coming off a memorable last-minute victory. So why is Baltimore favored on the road? Two words: Cam Newton. He's hurt. Yes, he'll play, but, no, oddsmakers don't think he'll play well enough to solve the league's best defense ... and that can happen when you have an injured shoulder. Granted, he Ravens' offensive line is hurt, too, but handicappers are telling you they trust Baltimore's defense vs. Newton more than they do Carolina's vs. Joe Flacco. Just a hunch, but watching the Ravens sack Marcus Mariota 11 times two weeks ago has something to do with that.
Something to consider: The Ravens have allowed only 101 points, the fewest through the first seven games of any season under John Harbaugh.
GREEN BAY @ L.A. RAMS, 4;25 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Rams by 9-1/2
The weather: Partly cloudy, high of 80
The story: Wake-up call to Houston's DeAndre Hopkins: You don't have the best offense in the NFL; the Rams do. They've scored 33 or more points in six of seven games and have one of the league's most productive quarterbacks, its best touchdown maker and now kicker Greg Zuerlein, back from a groin injury. In short, there's nothing that stops these guys, except maybe ennui. The Rams are lapping the field in the NFC West, and the biggest obstacle isn't Green Bay or anyone else on the schedule. It's themselves. Yeah, sure, the Packers can put up points, too, especially with Aaron Rodgers throwing for another 400 yards, but nobody has as many weapons as the Rams. Make this another track meet, with the Rams first to the tape. Again.
Something to consider: Since 1990, the Packers are 11-2 in California during the regular season.
BEATING THE ODDS
(Picks are made vs. the spread only)
RICK GOSSELIN -- Detroit (2-1/2). The Lions are becoming a complete team. The one area of deficiency was run defense, but Detroit this week acquired one of the NFL's best run defenders in "Snacks" Harrison. The arrow is pointing up in Motown. (Season record: 2-4-1).
CLARK JUDGE -- Kansas City (--10). I believe. I believe. (Season record: 3-4)
RON BORGES -- New England (--14). I don't care if the Patriots were favored by 40, the only thing that would prevent me from taking them would be if Buffalo reacquired Tyrod Taylor between now and Sunday. (Season record: 2-5).
THE WEEKEND OMG
NFL wide receivers have thrown more touchdown passes this season (4) than the Buffalo Bills' quarterbacks (3).
THE SUNDAY PLAY LIST
INDIANAPOLIS PK ADAM VINATIERI. Despite a groin injury, he's expected to play ... and here's why: With five points, he surpasses Hall-of-Famer Morten Anderson as the NFL's career scoring leader.
TAMPA BAY DE JASON PIERRE-PAUL. He aims for his sixth straight game with a sack.
ARIZONA WR LARRY FITZGERALD. With 135 yards, he passes Terrell Owens for second place in career receiving yards. Owens has 15,934.
KANSAS CITY QB PATRICK MAHOMES. He needs three touchdown passes to join Tom Brady (2007) and Peyton Manning (2004, 2013) as the only quarterbacks to throw at least 25 touchdowns in the first eight games of the season.
PITTSBURGH QB BEN ROETHLISBERGER. He's 12-1-1 in his last 14 starts vs. Cleveland.
L.A. RAMS RB TODD GURLEY. With two touchdowns, he becomes just the fifth player since 1970 to score multiple TDs in five of his first eight games of the season. The others are Marcus Allen, Terrell Davis, Emmitt Smith and Eric Dickerson. All are Hall of Famers.
INDIANAPOLIS QB ANDREW LUCK. He's looking for his fifth straight game with three or more TD passes.
ARIZONA WR LARRY FITZGERALD. He has 2,204 receiving yards and 17 TDs vs. San Francisco, both the most of his career vs. any opponent.
MINNESOTA WR ADAM THIELEN. With another 100-yard game, he surpasses Charley Henningan as the only receiver to begin a year with eight consecutive 100-yard performances.
TEN THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW
- The Vikings lead the league in third-down defense, holding opponents to a 23.4 percent conversion rate, best in the NFL.
- The Ravens' John Brown is the NFL's only receiver this season with at least 500 receiving yards, a 19.0 yards-per-catch average and four touchdowns.
- Drew Brees is the only starting quarterback not to have thrown an interception this year.
- The Eagles' Carson Wentz has thrown 173 consecutive passes without an interception, the team's best streak since Nick Foles in 2012-13 (237).
- Kansas City ranks first in the league with 45 plays of 20 or more yards. The Rams are second at 40.
- The Broncos' Brandon McManus and Jacksonville's Josh Lambo are the only kickers who haven't missed a field goal or extra point this season.
- Kansas City and Denver are tied for the most defensive TDs (16 each) over the past three seasons.
- Detroit's Matt Stafford has put up passer ratings of 100 or better in five consecutive starts, the longest active streak in the NFL and the best in Lions' history.
- The Lions and Broncos are tied for the fewest fumbles this year with four. Together they've lost only one.
- Green Bay ranks second only to Houston this season in fourth-quarter sacks. The Packers have eight.