NY Jets (1-3) vs. Atlanta Falcons (1-3), London
- Time: 9:30 a.m.
- Line: Falcons by 3 (45.5)
The skinny: For the 29th time since 2007, the British will be treated to an NFL game in London, and for the 29th time they won’t get to see a matchup of teams with winning records.
Facts: The Jets broke through with a 27-24 home OT victory against Tennessee last week, catching the Titans without injured star WRs Julio Jones and A.J. Brown. This week, Atlanta will be without its top two wideouts from last year, Calvin Ridley (personal) and Russell Gage (ankle). Atlanta squandered a 10-point second-quarter lead in its 34-30 home loss to Washington last week, yielding a 30-yard TD pass in the final minute. NYJ had seven sacks of Tennessee’s Ryan Tannehill, it’s most in a game the past four seasons. But the unit was on the field for 93 defensive snaps, the most for any team the past three years.
Analysis: It’s bad enough the Falcons will be without those two key WRs, for quarterback Matt Ryan is averaging a paltry 6.2 yards a throw and it’s likely to get worse this week, especially if the Jets’ defense continues to collapse the pocket. The Jets, behind energetic coach Robert Saleh, look to win their second straight against a team going nowhere and coming off a frustrating home loss. It’ll be a long flight home for the Birds.
Forecast: Jets 24, Falcons 20
Philadelphia Eagles (1-3) at Carolina Panthers (3-1)
- Time: 1 p.m.
- Line: Panthers by 3 (45)
The skinny: Carolina and new QB Sam Darnold look to get back on track after their drubbing in Dallas last week.
Facts: The Eagles gave up a total of 23 points in their first two games but have yielded more than 40 points in each of their past two after having one such game the previous five seasons. In their 89-year history, they haven’t given up 40 in three straight. Carolina, which yielded up a total of 321 yards in a pair of wins over New Orleans and Houston, gave up 433 in its 36-28 loss to Dallas last week, dropping from tops on the defensive chart to No. 3… Maybe they need curb feelers: In Philly’s past two home games, touchdowns have been negated when the receiver stepped out of bounds on his route. Carolina never started a possession past its 25 last week, yet still had four TD drives vs. Dallas.
Analysis: The Eagles showed they can move the ball last week against Kansas City, getting at least two first downs on each of their eight possessions in a 42-30 loss. But the Panthers have a much more intimidating defense that will surely have Philly QB Jalen Hurts throwing off his wrong foot on many occasions. And if the Eagles insist on not giving their running backs any carries (13 total the past two weeks) they’re in big trouble yet again. Plus, the Panthers might even have RB Christian McCaffrey back (hamstring). His backup, Chuba Hubbard, would do just fine, too.
Forecast: Panthers 31, Eagles 21
Green Bay Packers (3-1) at Cincinnati Bengals (3-1)
- Time: 1 p.m.
- Line: Packers by 3 (50.5)
The skinny: It’s hard to believe this is a battle between first-place teams. Who would have thought Green Bay would be this good.
Facts: Since the Packers’ 38-3 loss to New Orleans in Week 1, when QB Aaron Rodgers had a sub-Mendoza Line passer rating of 36.8, he’s had eight TD passes and no INTs in Green Bay’s three-game winning streak. Cincinnati has won back-to-back games against Pittsburgh and then Jacksonville last Thursday. It hasn’t won three straight in a season since starting 2015 with eight in a row. Over the past two weeks, teams benefiting from the extended weekend break after a Thursday game have gone 0-4 SU/ATS the next week.
Analysis: Bengals second-year QB Joe Burrow had a sensational game last week in the team’s 24-21 comeback win over Jacksonville with a Week 4-best 132.8 passer rating, just a smidge ahead of Patrick Mahomes, who had five TD passes for KC. But RB Joe Mixon was held out of drills Thursday and his status for Sunday is in doubt. And alarm bells ring when realizing the Bengals easily could have fallen behind the Jaguars 21-0 if they hadn’t stopped them a yard from a TD just before the half.
Forecast: Packers 28, Bengals 19
New England Patriots (1-3) at Houston Texans (1-3)
- Time: 1 p.m.
- Line: Patriots by 8.5 (39.5)
The skinny: New England goes from facing probably the best QB of all time in Tom Brady to Houston’s David Mills, who’s at the bottom of this season’s passer chart.
Facts: The Texans suffered the most lopsided loss of the NFL season last week in Buffalo, 40-0, totaling only six first downs in Mills’ second start. Through two quarters, the Bills had twice as many points as Houston had yards gained (16-8). Last season, there were two instances in which a team lost by at least 40 points, both big losers covered their next game. New England rushed eight times for minus-1 yards last week against Tampa Bay’s No. 1-rated rush defense, the worst performance by anyone the past 14 years. Now the Patriots get to go against a Houston team that’s fifth-worst at stopping the run, allowing 137 yards a game/4.5 a carry.
Analysis: The Texans were horribly ineffective behind Mills in their loss in Buffalo, at one point having four straight possessions in which they went backward. Until QB Tyrod Taylor returns from IR (hamstring) or the team and Deshaun Watson hug and makeup, Houston isn’t going anywhere. It won’t take much for Patriots coach Bill Belichick to befuddle Mills.
Forecast: Patriots 30, Texans 10
Tennessee Titans (2-2) at Jacksonville Jaguars (0-4)
- Time: 1 p.m.
- Line: Titans by 4.5 (48.5)
The skinny: There’s no dancing around the fact Jaguars coach Urban Meyer and his winless team are desperate for a victory when Tennessee visits for an AFC South matchup.
Facts: Jacksonville’s overall losing streak stretched to 19 games with its come-from-ahead 24-21 loss at Cincinnati last Thursday, when the Jags blew a 14-0 second-half lead. Tennessee, which played without WRs Julio Jones and A.J. Brown last week because of hamstring injures, expect Brown (probable) back. Jones remains questionable. Titans RB Derrick Henry is well on his way to a third straight rushing title, with 510 yards. But he’s also on pace to obliterate the record for carries in a season. The record is 416, and he’s on target for 480. Both of the Titans’ losses occurred when they were a touchdown favorite. One of the wins was as a TD underdog.
Analysis: The Titans, whose offensive line is as banged up as any in the league, allowed seven sacks in the 27-24 loss to the winless Jets last week. But the good news is that Jacksonville has the fewest sacks in the league and accordingly has the league’s second-worst defensive passer rating. And more good news is that the Jaguars surely had to deal with all the zany distractions caused by coach Meyer’s escapades last weekend that couldn’t have made life easier on the homefront. Anyway, if Henry’s wheels don’t fall off just yet, Tennessee arrives mean-spirited and re-established itself as the team to beat in the AFC South.
Forecast: Titans 35, Jaguars 14
Denver Broncos (3-1) at Pittsburgh Steelers (1-3)
- Time: 1 p.m
- Line: Steelers by 1.5 (39.5)
The skinny: The Broncos make their third trip to the Eastern time zone already this season to face a Steelers team on a three-game losing streak.
Facts: In Denver’s previous two trips across two time zones this year, they opened the season with wins against the NY Giants and Jacksonville. Pittsburgh had its most productive rushing day last week with 62 yards in a 27-17 loss at Green Bay last week. Every other team in the league averages more yards than that. It appears Denver QB Teddy Bridgewater (concussion) will make a return based on running with the first team in drills Thursday. But as of Friday morning, he hadn’t been cleared to play. If he can’t go (gulp!), last year’s interception leader, Drew Lock, takes over. Flashback: Ten seasons ago, QB Tim Tebow led Denver to a 29-23 OT playoff win over visiting Pittsburgh. He averaged 15.0 yards a throw. No one’s matched that since.
Analysis: The over/under number indicates that the defenses should be king in this meeting. And if there’s the slightest chance Lock will play, and there is at least a slight chance, the choice here is Pittsburgh and increasingly immobile QB Ben Roethlisberger and his bottom-feeder running game.
Forecast: Steelers 16, Broncos 10
Miami Dolphins (1-3) at Tampa Bay Bucs (3-1)
- Time: 1 p.m.
- Line: Bucs by 10 (48.5)
The skinny: After high-profile games vs. the Rams and Patriots, the Bucs return home to face win-starved Miami.
Facts: Coach Brian Flores, who was on coach Bill Belichick’s staff for 15 years before taking over the Miami job in 2019, will face QB Tom Brady for the third time, having split in 2019 when the QB was with New England. The Patriots’ home loss in Week 17 to Miami that season as a 17-point favorite cost them a first-round bye. After the Bucs set an NFL record with nine straight games of 30-plus points in Week 2, they’ve been held to 24 and then 19 in a two-point win at NE on Sunday night. If not for that missed FG try by the Pats last week that hit the left upright, the Bucs would have been the first team in 60 years to lose despite holding a foe to negative rushing yards (-1). Miami was 3-3 straight-up as a double-digit underdog the second half of the season in 2019, going 5-1 ATS. This is the first time they’ve been that heavy a dog since.
Analysis: After crisscrossing the map the past two weeks, first in LA and then at New England for a showdown with Belichick and the Patriots, the Bucs will attempt to fight off complacency against a not-so-fierce rival. The Dolphins give them a scare.
Forecast: Bucs 26, Dolphins 24
Detroit Lions (0-4) at Minnesota Vikings (1-3)
- Time: 1 p.m.
- Line: Vikings by 9.5 (49.5)
The skinny: The Vikings will be looking to extend their winning streak against the Lions to eight games in this NFC North battle.
Facts: In Minnesota’s sweep of Detroit last year, it excelled on the ground one game, with Dalvin Cook having 206 rushing yards, and later through the air, with QB Kirk Cousins throwing for 405 yards. In Detroit’s dreary 24-14 loss at Chicago last week, on its first three possessions, it penetrated the Bears’ 10 and came away with nothing (fumble, downs, fumble). Rookie QB Justin Fields averaged 10.3 yards a throw last Sunday in his second start, a week after his norm was 0.05 yards a pop. Minnesota extended its streak of TDs on first drives to three last week against Cleveland, but never scored again on its final 11 possessions.
Analysis: The Lions are in a heap of trouble with center Frank Ragnow, a second-team All-Pro last year, being put on IR (toe). And leading receiver T.J. Hockenson (knee) is questionable. Not to mention their top two RBs are not at full speed. If the Vikings can hold the Browns to 14 points they should be able to put the clamps on Detroit.
Forecast: Vikings 24, Lions 7
New Orleans Saints (2-2) at Washington Football Team (2-2)
- Time: 1 p.m.
- Line: Saints by 2.5 (43.5)
The skinny: New Orleans hits the road for the fourth time in five weeks to face a Washington club that’s euphoric after its stunning 34-30 comeback win in Atlanta last week.
Facts: The Saints are coming off a 27-21 overtime home loss to the winless Giants, who overcame an 11-point deficit. Washington, meanwhile, overcame a 10-point deficit in its win. Standout Terry McLaurin had 123 yards receiving and scored twice in Football Team’s win last week but caught only six of 13 targeted throws against the league’s worst-rated pass defense. Hmm. A key absence for Washington will be All-Pro right guard Brandon Scherff, who is out with an MCL sprain. The Saints were gouged for 402 yards passing by beleaguered Giants QB Daniel Jones, who didn’t even have his top two receivers.
Analysis: Washington’s defense has been a great disappointment this season after finishing second in the league in 2020. But New Orleans’ offense has been a mess this season, too, such as the time it got six first downs in getting whipped in New England. It doesn’t help that star WR Michael Thomas still hasn’t played this season and defenses can gang up on all-purpose RB Alvin Kamara. Football Team also benefits from the vast experience coach Ron Rivera has going against QB Jameis Winston and the Saints from his days in Carolina.
Forecast: Football Team 27, Saints 21
Last week: 8-8 ATS; 9-7 SU
Season totals: 38-25-1 (.603) ATS; 42-22 (.656) SU