Game of the week
Kansas City at Las Vegas
The Chiefs are a whopping seven-point road favorite even though the Raiders won 40-32 in Kansas City (Week 5). The Chiefs’ defense has allowed less than 18 points in three of the last four games. One thing these AFC West rivals have in common — they’ve both blown out the Broncos (by a combined 52 points).
Chiefs 34, Raiders 28
Lock of the week
Tennessee at Baltimore
What’s happened to the Ravens’ offense? Baltimore ranks 22nd in yards, 31st in passing and 12th in scoring after steamrolling through opponents all of last year. The Ravens are a 6 1/2-point favorite, but Derrick Henry is fresh after playing 10 days ago and he rushes for 137 yards in win.
Titans 20, Ravens 19
Upset of the week
L.A. Rams at Tampa Bay
The league’s most dominant defensive player (Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald) against the league’s most accomplished quarterback (Tom Brady) on Monday. Pass rush/protection will be the deciding factor — Tampa Bay (33) and the Rams (32) rank second and third, respectively, in sacks.
Rams 27, Buccaneers 21
Around the NFC: Rookie receiver Justin Jefferson making instant impact for Minnesota
Jefferson leading way. When Minnesota traded receiver Stefon Diggs to Buffalo, the return included the Bills’ first-round pick (No. 22). The Vikings didn’t mess around, drafting LSU’s Justin Jefferson to replace Diggs and team with Adam Thielen (tied for league lead with nine touchdown catches). Jefferson leads the NFL with an 18.1-yard average (minimum 40 catches) and has 42 receptions for 762 yards and three touchdowns. Jefferson has three games of at least 135 yards. The Vikings have won three straight to reboot their season and have their next three at home (Dallas, Carolina and Jacksonville — combined record of 6-24).
Eagles still lead division. Philadelphia remains atop the NFC East with a 3-5-1 record despite giving up 35 sacks, having the same number of touchdowns as interceptions (12) and allowing 14 rushing touchdowns. The Eagles play at Cleveland. “We’re all frustrated,” coach Doug Pederson said. “We know we’re so much better (than last week’s loss to the Giants) and just got to buckle in this week. Everything is still right in front of us and we’ve got a great opportunity on Sunday.”
Bears are done. Chicago used mirrors and its defense to build a 5-1 record. But reality has arrived for the Bears, who have lost four straight and didn’t get a lift by coach Matt Nagy handing the play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. Last Monday, the Bears managed only 149 yards offense in their loss to a Minnesota team that entered allowing 413 yards per game. If the season continues to fall apart, it’s time to move on from general manager Ryan Pace, who is on his second coach, and re-enter the quarterback market.
Around the AFC: Unlikely leader in interceptions, J.C. Jackson, nears NFL record
Unlikely INT leader. A New England cornerback has interceptions in five consecutive games and it isn’t reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore. Nope, J.C. Jackson is the first player with a five-game streak since Reggie Nelson in 2015 and he can tie the league record with an interception Sunday at Houston (it’s been done seven times and not since 2003). Jackson leads the league with six interceptions and is on pace to become the first double-digit interception player since the Chargers’ Antonio Cromartie in 2007. The Patriots have won two straight after losing four in a row.
Herbert’s efforts wasted. Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert has 19 touchdown passes but is 1-7 as a starter because the defense can’t stop anybody. Los Angeles has allowed 38, 30, 29, 31, 31 and 29 points in the last six games (five losses). This must be the day for the Chargers to get right or things will really get bad. Arriving off their bye week are the winless New York Jets, who are sticking with old friend Joe Flacco due to Sam Darnold’s shoulder injury.
Top-heavy conference. The AFC could have as many as eight teams after Sunday with at least seven wins. There is no middle class this year in the conference — nine teams are 6-3 or better and five teams have two or fewer wins. Things will get semi-clearer Sunday for the six 6-3 teams — Indianapolis (vs. Green Bay), Las Vegas (vs. Kansas City), Miami (at the Broncos), Baltimore/Tennessee (play each other) and Cleveland (vs. Philadelphia). The Browns and Titans are currently out of playoff position. Meanwhile, in the NFC, only six teams have a winning record.
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