Arizona Cardinals (5-0) at Cleveland Browns (3-2)
- Time: 4:05 p.m.
- Line: Browns by 3 (49)
The skinny: Arizona, the league’s only unbeaten team, hits the road to face the high-scoring Browns in a battle between former Heisman Trophy-winning QBs from Oklahoma.
Facts: Cleveland and QB Baker Mayfield were 47-42 losers in LA against the Chargers last week, the second time in 11 games Cleveland lost 47-42. Baltimore beat them by that score in Week 14 last year. According to Pro Football Reference, those are the only 47-42 results in NFL history. Cardinals QB Kyler Murray has been a scrambling and passing wiz this season, but could be slowed Sunday by an injured right shoulder suffered last week at home vs. San Francisco when Arizona only managed 17 points against a team down its top two CBs. Cleveland had a Week 5-high 230 yards rushing in its loss.
Analysis: Murray’s not the only one hurting for the Cards. Three-time Pro Bowl center Rodney Hudson won’t be playing (ribs), and neither will standout TE Maxx Williams (out for season, knee). And starting RB Chase Edmonds has a shoulder issue and leading sacker Chandler Jones is on the COVID list. AND, their two top cornerbacks are questionable. As usual, most will probably play, but they won’t be at 100 percent. Cleveland also will be operating on only some cylinders, with two backups likely along the offensive line and with star RBs Nick Chubb (calf) and Kareem Hunt (wrist/knee) dinged . But somebody’s got to win. Go with the healthier quarterback who’s playing at home.
Forecast: Browns 31, Cardinals 21
Las Vegas Raiders (3-2) at Denver Broncos (3-2)
- Time: 4:25 p.m.
- Line: Broncos by 3.5 (43.5)
The skinny: The Raiders head to Mile High with longtime special teams coach Rich Bisaccia as interim sideline boss after Jon Gruden resigned in disgrace after his insulting string of emails became public.
Facts: Since 1990, teams playing for an interim head coach for the first time have gone 20-23-1 ATS, but last year had a 3-0 mark, including three straight-up victories. An extreme example of first-game success occurred 10 years ago when Romeo Crennel replaced head man Todd Haley on a 5-8 Chiefs team. KC then beat the 13-0 Packers, 19-14, as an 11.5 point underdog. Denver and Las Vegas were among five teams that opened 3-0, but along with Carolina have since hit the skids. Denver lost last week 27-19 in Pittsburgh despite the Steelers having an average starting field position at their 18. Denver’s was the 31. Vegas swept the series last year, including a 32-31 win in the season finale despite a minus-4 turnover differential. It’s the only time the past five years a team with such a negative margin prevailed.
Analysis: Bisaccia will benefit from the assistance of three former head coaches on his staff through this difficult coaching transition. This is still the same Raiders teams that gave the Ravens their only loss and then traveled across three time zones to win at Pittsburgh on short rest. Last week’s 20-9 home loss can be considered an aberration under the cloud created by Gruden, who remained on the sideline until resigning the next day. As for Denver, playing at Mile High isn’t what it used to be, for the Broncos are 3-7 in their home park dating to last year.
Forecast: Raiders 21, Broncos 17
Dallas Cowboys (4-1) at New England Patriots (2-3)
- Time: 4:25 p.m.
- Line: Cowboys by 3.5 (50.5)
The skinny: This will be a rematch of a 2019 game in which the host Patriots won 13-9 in awful weather that included rain, a stiff wind and temps in the 30s.
Facts: New England had a positive turnover differential each year from 2006-20, but this season stands at minus 3. Dallas is the only team that has covered each of its games this season and already has matched last season’s ATS win total when it had a league worst 5-11 mark. In NE’s 25-22 win at Houston last week, the Patriots had only one offensive lineman starting who was in the opening-day lineup, center David Andrew. The Patriots might get a guard back to join him Sunday. In that game between the teams two years ago, with Tom Brady at the helm, the Patriots had a 20-yard edge in average starting field position, with their only TD coming on a drive of 12 yards after a punt block. Dallas RB Zeke Elliott, chastised for his uninspired play last season, is averaging 5.3 yards a carry in 2021, sixth-best among league RBs. Tops is teammate Tony Pollard at 6.4.
Analysis: The Patriots’ close-call victory last week should sound alarm bells considering they had to rally from 13 points down and yielded three TD passes to a rookie QB making only his third start. Now they’ll face Cowboys QB Dak Prescott, the league’s third-ranked passer who’s thrown 13 TD passes. So it certainly looks like the Patriots are headed to their fourth straight home defeat and Dallas’ first victory in NE since 1987. Especially with the improved play of DE Randy Gregory, who has been a ferocious pass rusher the past month and joining rookie sensation Mica Parsons. Patriots rookie QB Mac Jones could be on the run much of the day.
Forecast: Cowboys 27, Patriots 14
Last week: 7-8-1 ATS; 10-6 SU
Season total: 45-33-2 (.577) ATS; 53-27 (.663) SU