Strange Sunday in the NFL with only one game between teams with winning records: the New York Jets (4-1) travel to Foxboro to face the New England Patriots (5-0). This is a great match-up between Patriots superstar quarterback Tom Brady and the NFL’s #1 defense.
Let’s breakdown this contest and the rest of Sunday’s games . . .
Buffalo Bills (3-3) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5) (Wembley Stadium in London)
The Bills are one of the most banged-up teams in the NFL with eight players listed as “out.” There is no truth to the rumor that the players had to wait in line to get treatment in the England’s healthcare system.
But even with all the injuries, the Bills should be able two to win this game. The Bills are 0-3 at home and 2-0 on the road. Look for them to get to 3-0 on the road at Wembley.
Rex Ryan has a good history of baffling young quarterbacks with his defensive scheme, and Blake Bortles, the second-year Jags QB, should struggle.
New York Jets (4-1) at New England Patriots (5-0)
Woody Johnson didn’t veto a defense spending bill in 2015.
Before the season, the Jets owner spent a fortune on defensive players, including cornerback Darrelle Revis, to help his team deal better with the offensive machine in New England. The Patriots offense is as good as ever, averaging 36.6 points a game this year.
The key for the Jets in this game, aside from their big-money secondary, is for their talented defensive line to take advantage of New England’s patchwork offensive line, and make Tom Brady consistently uncomfortable in the pocket.
If they can do that, they have a real chance in this game, but that is a big “if.”
Dallas Cowboys (2-3) at New York Giants (3-3)
Matt Cassel takes over at quarterback for Dallas. While Cassel isn’t great, he’s better and more experienced than the man he replaces, Brandon Weeden. And Cassel should be able to have success through the air against the Giants’ 30th-ranked pass defense, with a lot of injuries at corner, including starter Prince Amukamura, who will miss this game.
Expect a big game from defensive end Greg Hardy, who has lifted the Cowboys pass rush significantly and should give a pedestrian Giants line fits. The Cowboys coming off a bye-week, now with a quarterback who reads defenses better, should be able to win this game.
Atlanta Falcons (5-1) at Tennessee Titans (1-4)
Titans QB Marcus Mariota sits with a knee injury, but there is no drop-off to Zach Metterberger at this point. Mariota is a rookie and Mettenberger is his second year, so the latter is higher on the growth curve, so this might actually might be slight upgrade.
But regardless of who is under center for Tennessee, this game heavily favors Atlanta. The Falcons’ superstar receiver Julio Jones had 34 catches and four touchdowns in the first three games, but just 15 catches and zero touchdowns in the last three games.
A hamstring injury had a lot to do with the drop-off, but he’s now healthy and should have a huge game in Nashville in helping lead his to team win.
Philadelphia Eagles (3-3) at Carolina Panthers (5-0)
When it comes to Panthers QB Cam Newton, maybe it’s time to just ignore that stats.
Newton has just eight touchdown passes on the year, to go along with an 83.2 QB rating and 55.4 completion percentage. Those are all mediocre numbers, and on top of all that, Carolina is the NFL’s 30th-ranked passing offense. But the guy just figures out ways to win, whether it’s with a clutch last minute TD pass in Seattle last week or with his legs.
The Eagles defense is playing on a high level led by one of the NFL’s best defensive lines. This game could go either way.
Baltimore Ravens (1-5) at Arizona Cardinals (4-2)
Ravens QB Joe Flacco doesn’t seem thrilled with the team’s offensive system under first-year coordinator Mark Trestman.
“Last year’s offense was at a faster pace and it was more detailed,” said Flacco, referring to the play-calling of Gary Kubiak, now the head coach of Denver. Not helping the Ravens offense is a lousy pass defense forcing the team into many shoot-outs. And going to Arizona to face QB Carson Palmer (14 touchdown passes) isn’t going to help the Ravens’ defensive woes.
The Cardinals are 15-4 at home under coach Bruce Arians, and expect them to add to that impressive record.
Oakland Raiders (2-3) at San Diego Chargers (2-4)
The Carson Bowl: a battle of two teams thinking of sharing a new stadium in Carson, California.
Chargers QB Phillip Rivers comes off a 503-yard passing performance in a loss to Green Bay. Now he faces Oakland’s 31st-ranked pass defense. The Raiders are also banged up on the defensive line with two starters out, along with a key backup. So, Rivers should have time to throw.
The Chargers should leave this game with a 3-4 record.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3) at Washington Redskins (2-4)
The Redskins get back two key players – left tackle Trent Williams and tight end Jordan Reed from concussions.
Also the Redskins talented tailback combo of Alfred Morris and Matt Jones should be able to get a lot done against Tampa Bay’s 25th-ranked rush defense.
Washington should be able to win this game at home against a rookie quarterback.
Cleveland Browns (2-4) at St. Louis Rams (2-3)
On paper, it looks like the Browns face big trouble.
Cleveland suffers with the NFL’s worst run defense, and they facing Rams’ talented rookie tailback Todd Gurley, who has rushed for 146 and 159 yards in the last two games. But with the Rams’ awful passing game, and overall inconsitency, you never know what you are going to get from Jeff Fisher’s team.
This game is a toss-up.
Houston Texans (2-4) at Miami Dolphins (2-3)
Texans coach Bill O’Brien named Brian Hoyer starting quarterback for the rest of the season. Hoyer, who was benched after the first game, and then re-emerged two games ago, has a 103 quarterback rating, which is very good.
Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is having a great year, with an NFL-leading 726 yards receiving. He will be a handful for the Dolphins.
While many are just handing this game to the Dolphins, it wouldn’t be shocking if the Texans pull the upset. These teams are very evenly matched.
Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-5)
The Chiefs have underachieved this year, but their schedule hasn’t helped. Three of their losses have come to undefeated teams – Denver, Green Bay and Cincinnati.
This game presents a good chance for the Chiefs to get off the schneid.
The Steelers will start third-string quarterback Landry Jones, and he plays with a backup left tackle against a very good pass rush. Don’t be shocked if the Chiefs pull the upset.
Minnesota Vikings (3-2) at Detroit Lions (1-5)
The Lions get four key players back from the injured list – nose tackle Haloti Ngata, safety James Ihedigbo, tight end Eric Ebron and running back Joique Bell. The return of guard Larry Warford last week helped stabilize an offensive line that had been struggling.
The Lions should be able to get to 2-5 at home against the offensively-challenged Vikings.
New Orleans Saints (2-4) at Indianapolis Colts (3-3)
The Shoulder Bowl: the games features star quarterbacks dealing with shoulder injuries – the Saints’ Drew Brees against the Colts’ Andrew Luck. They will tell you they are 100 percent, but they aren’t.
The Colts will be without the traffic cop of their secondary, safety Mike Adams, along with his backup Clayton Geathers. Brees should be able to take advantage of the Colts messed-up safety situation and pull the road upset.