The Sunday GPS, Week XIV: Can Tom-Not-So-Terrific pick up faltering Patriots?
GOLD JACKET GAME OF THE WEEK
KANSAS CITY @ NEW ENGLAND, 4:25 p.m. (EST)
The line: Patriots by 3
The weather: Mostly sunny, high of 37
The story: Elbow and toe injuries had Tom Brady on this week’s injury report … and, per usual, he says it’s no big deal. OK, maybe. But this is: His pass protection leaks. The Pats have no running game. And the only wide receiver Brady trusts is Julian Edelman. Plus, the Pats’ defense just got schooled by Deshaun Watson. So tell me: What happens when Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs roll into town? I don’t know, either, but I do know this: The Patriots have a way of rebounding from defeats, with Brady 45-12 after losses. Oddsmakers know, too. That’s why New England is favored.
Something to consider: The Patriots won their last 21 games at home, (18 regular season, 3 playoff).
THREE OTHERS SUITABLE FOR HALL OF FRAMING
BALTIMORE @ BUFFALO, 1 p.m. (EST)
The line: Ravens by 5-1/2
The weather: Mostly cloudy, high of 44
The story: The Bills are hot. The Ravens are hotter. Buffalo won its last three; Baltimore won its last eight, and if that seems like a lot it’s because it is. It’s a franchise record. The Ravens have the league’s presumptive MVP, its best running game, its most productive offense and a defense that has been lights out the past month-and-a-half. So why are they favored by less than a touchdown? One word: Defense. Buffalo has it. The Bills aren’t San Francisco, but they’re physical, and they stiffed Tom Brady when he came to town. Quarterback Josh Allen is beginning to make plays with his arm and his legs, the Bills’ run game isn’t Baltimore but it’s not bad and, of course, there’s always the Buffalo weather. Only the Ravens catch a break there.
Something to consider: Josh Allen’s eight rushing touchdowns are more than Lamar Jackson and more than the NFL’s leading rusher, Nick Chubb.
SAN FRANCISCO @ NEW ORLEANS, 1 p.m. (EST)
The line: Saints by 2-1/2
The weather: Dome
The story: So who’s best in the NFC? San Francisco? Seattle? New Orleans? This game will help with that determination, and it’s hard not to like the 49ers. They hadn’t lost a road game this season until last week, and then it was only on a last-second field goal to Baltimore. If that game demonstrated anything, it’s that the 49ers can play physical football with anyone … and maybe that’s where this one is won. Yes, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is an unknown here, but the guy’s 18-4 as a starter and has had to throw only 41 times the past two weeks. Plus, there’s the San Francisco defense. I know, I know, the Saints are tough to beat at home, and they have Drew Brees, Michael Thomas and a Top-10 defense. But in their last two home dates the Saints got waxed by Atlanta and narrowly escaped Carolina.
Something to consider: The 49ers’ defense has forced an NFL-high 17 fumbles and held opposing quarterbacks to a league-low 85 first downs passing.
TENNESSEE @ OAKLAND, 4:25 p.m. (EST)
The line: Titans by 2-1/2
The weather: AM showers, high of 58
The story: Quick now, tell me which quarterback leads the league in passer rating. Lamar Jackson? Nope. Aaron Rodgers? Uh-uh. Patrick Mahomes. Wrong again. It’s Ryan Tannehill at 113.9, with Tannehill winning five of six starts since taking over for Marcus Mariota. And that’s great. Except he’s not the featured attraction with Tennessee. Running back Derrick Henry is. In fact, the past three games he’s run for a league-high 496 yards and scored five times. The past two games the Raiders have been outscored 74-12 by the Chiefs and … the Jets? We don’t make ‘em up, folks.
Something to consider: Raiders' running back Josh Jacobs is the first rookie in franchise history to run for 1,000 yards in a single season. He has 1,061, including five 100-yard performances.
OUR BEST BETS
(Picks are made vs. the spread)
RON BORGES – Kansas City (+ 3). I’ll take the better quarterback, which means the Chiefs on the road. That would be heresy five years ago. This year it’s the smart money bet.
CLARK JUDGE – Tennessee (--2-1/2). With two games left in Oakland, the Raiders already are moving south.
RICK GOSSELIN – Pittsburgh (--2-1/2). A Top-Five defense will give a rookie QB fits.
THE WEEKEND OMG
Tennessee has won four times this season when either trailing or tied entering the fourth quarter – its highest total since the Titans did it four times in 2009.
THE WEEKEND OMG, PART DEUX
Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen have a combined 1,407 yards rushing this season, the most in NFL history for opposing quarterbacks in the same game.
FIVE GUYS TO WATCH
LAMAR JACKSON, QB, Baltimore. With 63 yards rushing Sunday, he passes Michael Vick for the most yards rushing in one season by a quarterback (1,039 in 2006).
MATT RYAN, QB, Atlanta. With 34 yards passing, he becomes the second fastest player to reach 50,000 for his career. Ryan will have done it in 186. Only Drew Brees (183) was faster.
TRAVIS KELCE, TE, Kansas City. With 77 yards receiving Sunday, he becomes the fourth tight end in NFL history to produce four 1,000-yard seasons. The others are Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten and Rob Gronkowski.
T.J. WATT, LB, Pittsburgh. With a half-a-sack he becomes the fifth pass rusher in NFL history to have at least half-a-sack in ten consecutive games.
DERRICK HENRY, RB, Tennessee. With one more 145-yard rushing game he joins Hall-of-Famer Earl Campbell (1980 as the only back in league history to string together four consecutive 145-yard contests.
TEN THINGS YOU MIGHT WANT TO REMEMBER
1. Baltimore has allowed an NFL-low 11 touchdowns during its eight-game winning streak. The Ravens have also produced 15 takeaways and scored five defensive TDs during that time.
2. Since Week 7 Tennessee – not Baltimore – leads the league in yards per play. The Titans average 6.49. Baltimore is second at 6.39.
3. Houston is 3-0 vs. the AFC West this season.
4. Minnesota and New England are the only unbeaten teams at home. Each is 5-0.
5. The Giants and Tampa Bay lead the league in turnovers with 28 each.
6. The Ravens have beaten six opponents with winning records during their eight-game winning streak.
7. The Rams held four of their last six opponents to 10 or fewer points.
8. Jacoby Brissett hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass on the road since Sept. 15 vs. Tennessee.
9. Cleveland and New England are the only two defenses not to allow a quarterback to pass for 300 yards on them this season.
10. Atlanta doesn’t have a sack in its last two games and has been blanked in six of 12 this season.
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