Excuses are out the window in October. No one cares about a slow start to training camp or sabotage via unfortunate injury.
The Saints and Panthers have gone a combined 4-0 since losing quarterbacks Drew Brees and Cam Newton. The Chiefs are perfect despite losing top receiver Tyreek Hill in Week 1. Tom Brady has had elite targets Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown ripped away from his clutches and is still making it happen, albeit not as easily. Major obstacles can be overcome. Next man up.
September closed with 40 percent of the NFL at 2-2 and every team but the dreadful Dolphins having picked up at least a cover, so it’s time to see who separates themselves. October’s opening matchup pits a pair of 3-1 NFC West teams that were expected to vie with one another for the division but probably weren’t counting on beginning the month behind the 49ers, the only unbeaten team in the entire conference.
This duel is where we’ll begin our turnaround to get this column’s profits headed in the right directions for the season. Word is that Jets QB Sam Darnold read the preseason version and somehow, the entire thing caught mono. It’s clearing up now.
Rams at Seahawks -1.5: L.A. surrendered 55 points against the Bucs on Sunday, so running into Russell Wilson isn’t ideal. But it presents an opportunity to bounce right back.
Marcus Peters is miraculously fine after taking a vicious hit on his fourth-quarter pick-six, so the Rams should be at full strength as they seek a fourth straight win in this series. QB Jared Goff is hoping to leave a dreadful September in the rear-view after throwing for 517 yards in the loss to Tampa Bay. Goff is 7-1 in October starts, bringing a six-game winning streak into this one.
Expect the Rams to win a third straight game in Seattle, which has lost to the Teddy Bridgewater and Taysom Hill-led Saints and defeated the Bengals, Steelers and Cardinals, making this a significant step up in caliber of competition. RAMS
Bears -4.5 vs. Raiders (at London): With Mitchell Trubisky likely sidelined by a shoulder injury, backup QB Chase Daniel will be tasked with not screwing things up for the Bears’ defense as they hit the road for the Khalil Mack revenge game.
He probably wasn’t counting on ever returning to Oakland considering the Raiders’ move being in flux when they stunningly traded away the league’s top defender, so London will do just fine as the setting for this revenge game.
Derek Carr could potentially repeatedly pay the price for the organization’s lack of cash on hand once upon a time. Mack has made no secret of having the game circled on his calendar for months and comes in looking to add to his tally of 4.5 sacks and four forced fumbles, so look for Daniel to be the beneficiary of a short field or two. BEARS
Cardinals at Bengals -3.5: This is the worst matchup of the season to date, only to be topped by the fact Washington visits Miami in two weeks and Cincinnati comes through South Florida on Dec. 22.
Neither of these teams are intentionally tanking but both employ first-year head coaches implementing new systems. Top pick Kyler Murray’s on-the-job training has been predictably rocky, but he has at least had time to throw. Andy Dalton could get nothing done on Monday night against Pittsburgh behind an offensive line that is lost without tackle Cordy Glenn and won’t have WR A.J. Green back to help ease his burden for another few weeks.
Kliff Kingsbury beats Zac Taylor to win No. 1 here. CARDINALS
Jaguars at Panthers -3.5: Gardner Minshew and Kyle Allen got extensive work in the preseason that has served them well as fill-ins and it’s wild that the winner of this matchup will be above .500 despite major obstacles.
The Jags escaped defeat in Denver as Minshew led his first fourth-quarter comeback by setting up a Josh Lambo field goal in the final minutes but will be playing their second straight road game and may again be without top corner Jalen Ramsey. Allen is making his home debut after wins in Arizona and Houston and has more weapons at his disposal than the Jags’ rookie. PANTHERS
Vikings -5.5 at Giants: Rookie Daniel Jones has thrived in his first two starts, utilizing his legs and athleticism to make plays Eli Manning couldn’t make a decade ago, much less now. New York’s first-round pick will be facing the best defense he’s seen as a pro with the Vikes coming through, but does get another weapon to work with as veteran Golden Tate comes off suspension.
Unfortunately for the Giants, Saquon Barkley remains out, and while Wayne Gallman played well in relief of him against the ‘Skins, getting it done against Minnesota is a different animal given how effectively they’ve stifled every starting running back they’ve seen so far.
After a dreadful effort against Chicago where he missed throws and contributed to the Vikings’ demise, Kirk Cousins should rebound. VIKINGS
Bills at Titans -3: Tennessee could be the most improved team in football this week due to the return of left tackle Taylor Lewan from a four-game suspension. Marcus Mariota should have a lot more time to make plays with improved offensive line play and has developed chemistry with rookie WR A.J. Brown, who debuted with a 100-yard game in the Week 1 upset of Cleveland and fueled last week’s win in Atlanta with a pair of scores.
Buffalo faces major uncertainty with QB Josh Allen dealing with a concussion and a number of other key offensive players questionable to participate. TITANS
Last week: 2-4