Pittsburgh Steelers (4-5) at Cleveland Browns (0-10)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland. TV: CBS, Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon.
Pittsburgh Steelers (4-5) at Cleveland Browns (0-10) KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland. TV: CBS, Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon.
Pittsburgh Steelers (4-5) at Cleveland Browns (0-10)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland. TV: CBS, Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon.
SERIES HISTORY: 127th regular-season meeting. The Steelers lead the series, 68-58, and have won six of the past seven. The Browns have won two of the past four in Cleveland, including a 31-10 victory in 2014. The Steelers and Browns met in the postseason twice, with the Steelers winning each time in 1994 and 2002.
KEYS TO THE GAME: This is a great matchup for the Steelers. Cleveland has one of the worst defenses in the NFL. The Browns give up 419 yards and 30.1 points per game. Only the 49ers yield more yards and more points. The Steelers haven't lived up to preseason expectations, but they remain dangerous on offense. They have scored 30 points or more in four of nine games, including 30 last week against Dallas.
Pittsburgh can take advantage of a weak Cleveland secondary that has struggled against other top passing offenses. It is also a chance for the Steelers to get their running game healthy. The Steelers have struggled to find room for running back Le'Veon Bell, but the Browns are 31st in the NFL against the rush, allowing 144 yards per game.
Pittsburgh has struggled on defense, especially giving up big plays, but the Browns pose little threat. They average just 17.5 points per game and have a hard time moving the ball reliably running or passing. The Browns have run well against the Steelers in recent years and Isaiah Crowell has had some good moments this year, so that will be something to watch with the Steelers thin along the defensive line.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Steelers WR Antonio Brown vs. Browns CB Joe Haden. Brown has gotten the better of Haden in recent years, and he has posted two 100-yard receiving games in the past three weeks. Against the Cowboys, Brown had 14 receptions for 154 yards and a touchdown. Haden has three interceptions this season, including one last week against the Ravens. He'll have to play well in order for the Browns to keep the Steelers' offense in check.
--Browns WR Terrelle Pryor vs. Steelers CB Ross Cockrell. There haven't been many bright spots for the Browns this season, but Pryor is one of them. He has 51 receptions for 627 yards and four touchdowns. Cockrell has done well when matched up against top receivers from other teams this season. After rookie corner Artie Burns struggled the past two weeks against Mike Wallace and Dez Bryant, the Steelers are likely to have Cockrell shadow Pryor.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Steelers DE Ricardo Mathews. With starting defensive end and team captain Cam Heyward out for the rest of the season with a pectoral injury, Mathews will assume a bigger role. He was signed after spending last season with the Chargers. He has five tackles in just 130 defensive snaps, but he'll get plenty of opportunities now that he's a starter. In 89 games, including 17 starts, Mathews has four sacks and two forced fumbles.
INJURY REPORT: Pittsburgh -- Out: DE Cameron Heyward (pectoral), WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (foot), S Shamarko Thomas (groin), WR Markus Wheaton (shoulder), RB DeAngelo Williams (knee). Questionable: S Jordan Dangerfield (groin), TE Xaiver Grimble (quadricep). Cleveland -- Questionable: CB Tramon Williams (knee).
FAST FACTS: Several Steelers, including QB Ben Roethlisberger and RB Le'Veon Bell, have been critical of the team's practice habits. Bell said last week the Steelers make the same mistakes in practice that take place in games. After the Week 10 loss to the Cowboys, Roethlisberger said players have to be held accountable. ... Roethlisberger is 20-2 vs. the Browns. In the past two meetings, he has passed for 728 yards and six TDs. Last week vs. Dallas, he completed 37 of 46 for 408 yards and three TDs. ... Bell has 100-plus scrimmage yards in five of the last six games. In the last four vs. the Browns, he has totaled 496 yards and scored two rushing TDs. ... Browns rookie QB Cody Kessler has 119 consecutive passes without an interception. He leads rookies and is eighth in the NFL with a 66.9 completion percentage. ... Browns WR Terrelle Pryor leads the team with 51 catches, 627 yards and four TDs. Pryor has a 93-yard touchdown against Pittsburgh, but that was on a run as QB of the Oakland Raiders in 2013.
PREDICTION: The Steelers came close to beating Dallas last week and certainly should be expected to break their losing streak against the Browns.
OUR PICK: Steelers, 38-28.
Baltimore Ravens (5-4) at Dallas Cowboys (8-1)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas. TV: CBS, Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts, Evan Washburn.
SERIES HISTORY: Fifth regular-season meeting. Baltimore leads the all-time series, 4-0. The Cowboys are the only team in the NFL that has not earned a victory against the Ravens, who have scored 30 or more points in three of the four games. Baltimore won the most previous matchup 31-29 on Oct. 14, 2012, at M&T Bank Stadium. The Ravens also handed the Cowboys a loss in the final game at Texas Stadium in 2008.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Rookie Dak Prescott will try for his ninth victory but first as the official starter -- as opposed to a possible place-holder for franchise icon Tony Romo. Expected to suit up this Sunday, Romo openly and graciously acknowledged his role will be as a backup. In a dramatic press conference Tuesday, Romo said Prescott "earned the right to be our quarterback."
On to the game.
The Cowboys have the league's best rush offense and the league's top runner in rookie Ezekiel Elliott, who has 1,005 yards through nine games. The Ravens are giving up just 3.3 yards per carry and 71.3 yards per game. The Cowboys want to run to continue to take pressure off Prescott, control the ball and keep the defense off the field.
The Cowboys will again try to impose their will on the ground against a stingy Ravens front. That's been their formula for success all season. They are not changing now.
The Ravens must set the tone early with defense and let their offense get into sync without needing to play from too far behind. As a result, look for Baltimore to bring the pressure, although measured to fill the gaps or Elliott will find the openings as he did against Pittsburgh.
While the Dallas offense gets the attention, its defense has been solid as well. Baltimore needs to get a run game revved up to control the clock and keep the Cowboys' offense off the field. Ravens offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg has stayed committed to the ground game even when the running backs have struggled to find yards. That will continue against Dallas to take some of the pressure off quarterback Joe Flacco, who is just 3-4 when forced to throw 40 or more passes this season.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott vs. Ravens DT Timmy Jernigan. Jernigan is one the game's top defensive players. He has been a force all season on a Ravens defense that is ranked No. 1 in the league vs. the run. Jernigan and the rest of his unit, however, will face its biggest test against Elliott, who is having an MVP-caliber season and leads the NFL with 1,005 yards and has scored nine touchdowns.
--Ravens receivers vs. Cowboys secondary. Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco likes to take an occasional shot downfield, especially when speedy receivers Breshad Perriman and Mike Wallace get on-on-one matchups. He will have an opportunity to throw deep against a Dallas secondary that is dealing with several injuries. Both safety Barry Church and cornerback Morris Claiborne are expected to miss the game, while veteran cornerback Orlando Scandrick will likely be able to return. Dallas will try to keep the pressure of Flacco to prevent him from looking downfield.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Ravens WR Breshad Perriman. Last year's first-round pick has improved steadily each week and notched his first career touchdown reception against the Browns. Perriman's rookie season ended in training camp when he suffered a partially torn posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Another knee injury in this year's OTAs put him on the PUP until Aug. 18. Perriman is finally starting to look more fluid in his routes and could be a difference maker against the Cowboys.
INJURY REPORT: Baltimore -- Out: TE Crockett Gilmore (thigh), T Alex Lewis (ankle). Doubtful: LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), CB Jimmy Smith (back), RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (thigh). Questionable: LB Kamalei Correa (thigh), DT Timmy Jernigan (shoulder), LB C.J. Mosley (thigh), CB Shareece Wright (thigh), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder). Dallas -- Out: S Barry Church (forearm), CB Morris Claiborne (groin). Questionable: WR Dez Bryant (back), T Chaz Green (foot, back), DE Demarcus Lawrence (back), QB Tony Romo (back), T Tyron Smith (back, hip).
FAST FACTS: Ravens QB Joe Flacco was 30 of 41 for 296 yards and a season-high three touchdowns last Sunday, completing at least 70 percent of his throws for the 29th time in his career. Dallas has allowed opponents to complete at least 70 percent in five straight games, the longest streak in franchise history. ... Cowboys rookie RB Ezekiel Elliott ran for 114 yards and two touchdowns last weekend, going over the 1,000-yard mark and giving him nine rush TDs, tied for second in the NFL. Elliott had an 83-yard scoring catch against the Steelers, becoming the first player with a 60-yard TD run and an 80-yard TD reception in the same season since Gale Sayers in 1965.
PREDICTION: We thought the Steelers just might stop the Cowboys last week in Pittsburgh. But we missed that prediction when Dallas, behind a great OL and MVP candidate Ezekiel Elliott, took the game to a higher level when necessary. Impressive stuff.
OUR PICK: Cowboys, 28-21.
Jacksonville Jaguars (2-7) at Detroit Lions (5-4)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Ford Field, Detroit. TV: CBS, Andrew Catalon, Steve Tasker, Steve Beuerlein.
SERIES HISTORY: Fifth regular-season meeting. Jaguars lead the series, 3-2. The Lions won the last meeting, 31-14, in 2012. The most historic matchup between the teams came in 2004, when Eddie Drummond scored two return touchdowns and the Jaguars won in overtime on a 36-yard pass from David Garrard to Jimmy Smith.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Look for both teams to come out flinging the ball. Neither one has a good ground attack; Jacksonville ranks 26th in rushing, one spot better than Detroit. The Jaguars will try to establish the running game early; but, like so many other games (only twice have they had more than 80 rushing yards), it is likely to get bogged down and they will rely on QB Blake Bortles' arm to get yards through the air. Bortles can get the yards; he just hasn't turned them into points and he is still giving the ball away too much.
The Lions are a better team and don't need to do anything fancy to win. As long as they take care of the football and protect QB Matthew Stafford, the Lions should be able to move the ball downfield against a defense that lacks playmakers.
Look for Theo Riddick to re-emerge as a key factor on offense, both running the ball and as a receiver. On defense, the Lions will try to beat up a struggling Bortles and make the Jaguars' turnover-prone offense play from behind.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Lions WR Marvin Jones vs. Jaguars CB Jalen Ramsey. The odds-on favorite for Defensive Rookie of the Year, Ramsey has held his own in matchups against some of the NFL's top receivers, including Alshon Jeffery, DeAndre Hopkins and Amari Cooper. It's not clear how the Jaguars will deploy Ramsey, if he'll shadow Jones, cover Golden Tate or play primarily on the right side. But if he can take away one of the Lions' top receiving options, he'll make things difficult on an offense that already lacks big-play ability.
--Jaguars TE Julius Thomas vs. Lions LB Tahir Whitehead. The Lions have allowed 10 touchdowns to opposing tight ends this year, and they will have their hands full with Thomas on Sunday. After a slow start to his Jaguars career, Thomas has emerged as one of the team's better red-zone threats. He has 27 catches for 269 yards and four touchdowns. Whitehead has been solid against the run; he leads the Lions with 86 tackles, but he has been exposed in pass coverage by lesser players than Thomas.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Jags LB Telvin Smith. Smith's status for the game is uncertain following the shooting death of his brother in Valdosta, Ga., on Sunday night. Smith was granted a leave of absence from the team to return to his hometown to attend to family matters. The earliest he would join the team would be Thursday and it may not be until Friday. That would leave his playing status in jeopardy for Sunday's game in Detroit. Smith is a team leader and is second on the team in tackles, just eight behind team leader Paul Posluszny. If Smith can't play, the Jaguars will likely move rookie Myles Jack to that spot.
INJURY REPORT: Jacksonville -- Out: DE Chris Smith (eye). Questionable: LB Dan Skuta (back), TE Neal Sterling (foot), WR Bryan Walters (concussion). Detroit -- Doubtful: LB DeAndre Levy (knee). Questionable: DE Ezekiel Ansah (ankle), RB Theo Riddick (ankle).
FAST FACTS: Jags QB Blake Bortles has thrown 30 or more passes in 18 straight games, second-longest active streak in the NFL (Joe Flacco, 24). Bortles also has been sacked in 23 straight games, also the second-longest active streak in the league (Philip Rivers, 28). ... In his first season as a Detroit Lion, WR Anquan Boldin caught his fifth touchdown of the year last week. Boldin is the fourth player in NFL history to have at least five TD catches in a season with four teams (also Terrell Owens, Brandon Marshall, Irving Fryar). ... QB Matt Stafford led the Lions to a game-winning overtime drive, capped by a 28-yard touchdown to Golden Tate, in Week 9. All five of Detroit's wins this season have been a result of game-deciding drives by Stafford. Since 2011, Stafford has 23 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter and overtime, most in the NFL.
PREDICTION: The Lions are quietly becoming a force this season and there is no rational reason to believe they should lose at home to the Jaguars.
OUR PICK: Lions, 28-14.
Tennessee Titans (5-5) at Indianapolis Colts (4-5)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis. TV: CBS, Spero Dedes, Solomon Wilcots.
SERIES HISTORY: 44th meeting. Colts lead the series, 30-13. Indy's dominance has been evident in the series, winning 10 straight and 15 of 16 against the Titans, including a 34-26 win back on Oct. 23 at Nissan Stadium.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Through four weeks, the Titans were tied for the fewest points in the NFL. Since then, coach Mike Mularkey's vision of "exotic smashmouth" has played out. Last week's 47-25 clobbering of the Green Bay Packers marked the most points for Tennessee in a single game since 2009 and also capped a six-week stretch in which the Titans have averaged 34 points.
Tennessee will try to keep lighting up the scoreboard in Indianapolis, where it will play the Colts in a key AFC South matchup. The winner will at least temporarily gain ground on first-place Houston (6-3), which plays the Monday night game against Oakland in Mexico City, while pushing the loser into a difficult spot.
Indianapolis had last week off after dumping Green Bay 31-26 two weeks ago at Lambeau Field, leading wire-to-wire in probably its best performance of the year.
The Colts' second-best outing this year might have been the first time they played the Titans. With three offensive starters sidelined, Indianapolis established a 17-6 second-quarter advantage, saw Tennessee rally to take a fourth-quarter lead and then scored two touchdowns in an eight-second span inside the last two minutes for a 34-26 win.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Titans OLB Brian Orakpo vs. Colts LT Anthony Castonzo. One major reason Indianapolis won last month in Nashville was that the O-line kept Andrew Luck clean most of the day, allowing just two sacks and giving him plenty of time. Orakpo has been the best pass rusher for a defense that has gotten after the opposing QB with consistency this year.
--Titans QB Marcus Mariota vs. Colts pass defense. Mariota has an 0-2 record against the Colts. He has completed 49 of 81 passes for 599 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions for an 89.5 passer rating. Mariota has been sacked six times in his two previous meetings with Indianapolis. He connected on 22 of 37 passes for 232 yards and was sacked three times in the Colts' win earlier this season.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Titans S Kevin Byard. A rookie third-round pick, Byard has moved into the starting lineup for the Titans. Byard, who was already in a rotation, moved into the lineup due to Rashad Johnson's injury, but does not appear to be giving the starting spot back anytime soon.
INJURY REPORT: Tennessee -- No injuries. Indianapolis -- Out: DE Kendall Langford (knee). Doubtful: CB Patrick Robinson (groin). Questionable: DT Arthur Jones (illness).
FAST FACTS: The Titans' last win in the series was on Oct. 30, 2011, a 27-10 decision at home as Indianapolis stumbled to an 0-13 start with QB Peyton Manning on the shelf with neck problems. ... Colts RB Frank Gore ran for two touchdowns in the Week 9 win over Green Bay, giving him 74 career rushing TDs. Gore has 15 career receiving touchdowns; and, with another rushing score, he will join Jim Brown, Walter Payton, Marcus Allen, Marshall Faulk and LaDainian Tomlinson as the only players to record at least 75 rushing touchdowns and 15 receiving touchdowns. ... The Colts have had trouble protecting Luck this year, permitting 33 sacks in nine games. That pace would result in nearly 60 sacks by season's end.
PREDICTION: This will be an interesting battle featuring two young guns at quarterback. The smart money may be on Andrew Luck, but this is a free shot, so we are looking for Marcus Mariota to further validate his arrival.
OUR PICK: Titans, 35-28.
Buffalo Bills (4-5) at Cincinnati Bengals (3-5-1)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati. TV: FOX, Thom Brennaman, Charles Davis, Chris Spielman, Holly Sonders.
SERIES HISTORY: 30th meeting. Buffalo leads 15-14, including a streak of 10 straight wins over the Bengals before 2011. Cincinnati defeated the Bills 34-21 last season in Buffalo. Both Bengals Super Bowl runs in 1981 and 1988 included playoff wins over the Bills.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Bengals were a popular pick against the New York Giants on Monday because they were the more desperate team. Following a 21-20 loss that dropped them to 3-5-1, desperation has reached new heights for the Bengals, who will be playing at Paul Brown Stadium for the first time in almost a month.
It's a common theme each week, but the Bengals' offensive line must play better -- and this week it must do so against a Buffalo defense that leads the NFL in sacks. Rex Ryan's Bills will take some chances. If the Bengals can protect QB Andy Dalton, big plays could be available.
The Bills showed some real progress in the passing game in their 31-25 loss at Seattle as Tyrod Taylor attacked down the field against one of the NFL's best defenses. He'll need to continue doing that; but, in this game, the Bills would like to take advantage of a Bengals rush defense that has struggled all year. They rank 26th in yards per attempt and allowed the Giants -- the second-worst running team in the league -- to pile up 122 yards. The Bills are still second in the NFL at 155 rushing yards per game, LeSean McCoy's hamstring has healed and he's ready to go for the stretch run. One key, though, will be the middle of the line as C Eric Wood is out for the year; Ryan Groy is a big drop-off, so Bengals NT Domata Peko and DT Geno Atkins could create some problems.
The Bills have given up big plays in the passing game -- seven of 50 yards or more in the first nine games. WR A.J. Green and TE Tyler Eifert are going to be difficult matchups. CBs Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby have not held up well in man coverage and Green likely will have an advantage no matter which side he lines up on.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Bengals WR A.J. Green vs. Bills CBs Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby. Both corners have been inconsistent, not playing to the level they were at in 2015 when Rex Ryan said they were the best corner duo in the league. Darby may not start -- Corey White is getting reps this week -- but no matter which side Green goes to, he's going to be a handful for the Bills, who are also struggling at safety. If Gilmore, Darby or White can't hold up, Green could have a very big day.
--Bills RB LeSean McCoy vs. Bengals linebackers. The Bengals have not been very good against the run this season, ranking 25th in yards per attempt. The Bills, as always, must control the ball on the ground, and McCoy -- now with an extra week to rest his injured hamstring -- should be fully healthy and able to resume his Pro Bowl play. One problem the Bills will encounter, though, is that center Eric Wood is out for the year, so there will be a void in the middle of the league's second-ranked rushing game.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Bills C Ryan Groy. The third-year pro may get his first NFL start since his rookie season with the Bears in 2014. Starting center Eric Wood is out for the year with a broken leg suffered in Seattle on Nov. 7. Groy replaced him in that game, and he is in competition this week with Patrick Lewis -- who has been inactive for every game -- to be the starter. Groy played 74 snaps this year as a backup at center and both guard spots, and he's the front-runner to get the nod in Cincinnati.
INJURY REPORT: Buffalo -- Out: DT Corbin Bryant (shoulder). Questionable: DT Marcell Dareus (groin), LB Jerry Hughes (hand), WR Justin Hunter (groin), WR Walter Powell (hip), WR Robert Woods (foot). Cincinnati -- Doubtful: TE C.J. Uzomah (calf). Questionable: DE Wallace Gilberry (calf).
FAST FACTS: Bills QB Tyrod Taylor has five TD passes and two rushing scores in his last four road games. He leads NFL QBs with 362 yards rushing. Since 2015, he is the only QB with 4,500-plus passing yards (4,804) and 900-plus rushing yards (930). ... Bills RB LeSean McCoy rushed for 90 yards and a touchdown in the last meeting and has 100 yards from scrimmage in five of the last six games. Since 2010, he leads the NFL with 7,733 yards rushing. ... Bengals WR A.J. Green needs 36 receiving yards to join Randy Moss as the only NFL players to reach 1,000 in each of their first six seasons. DT Geno Atkins had sack last week. Since 2010, his 47.5 sacks is most among NFL DTs.
PREDICTION: The Bengals are a physically talented team, especially on defense, but they are coming off a tough "MNF" loss at the New York Giants and the Bills had a bye week to heal after their loss in Seattle.
OUR PICK: Bills, 32-21.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-5) at Kansas City Chiefs (7-2)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Mo. TV: FOX, Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Laura Okmin
SERIES HISTORY: 12th regular-season meeting. Bucs lead the all-time series, 6-5. They have won the last four contests. The Bucs last met the Chiefs in 2012 and won 38-10. One of the most memorable games came in 2008, when Jon Gruden's team overcame a 24-3 deficit to win 30-27 in OT. In '93, Joe Montana made his Chiefs debut with a 27-3 win at Tampa Stadium.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Chiefs have won five straight overall and their last 10 home games. To push those streaks to six and 11, Kansas City must find fire and production from the offense.
The Chiefs are winning on the backs of their defense and kicking game. They need quarterback Alex Smith, running back Spencer Ware and pass catchers Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Chris Conley and Jeremy Maclin to find the end zone, convert third downs and hit big plays. So far in the 2016 season, K.C. has just 30 plays of 20 yards or more, while the Tampa Bay defense has given up 43 plays of that length.
The Bucs will try to run the football against the Chiefs, who are 28th against the run but thrive rushing the passer and defending the pass. Bucs RB Doug Martin returned to the lineup for the first time since Week 2 and looked rusty in Week 10, but he did score a touchdown. The Bucs expect his timing and toughness to be much better now that he has a few carries and has tested that hamstring.
Bucs QB Jameis Winston has done a better job of protecting the football of late, with 11 touchdowns and only two interceptions in his last five games.
Defensively, the Bucs used more blitzes to pressure Bears QB Jay Cutler last week and provided tighter coverage. But Smith, the Chiefs' QB, unloads the football quickly and is a threat to run.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Buccaneers WR Mike Evans vs. Chiefs CBs Marcus Peters, Phillip Gaines and Steven Nelson. Evans enters the week ranked No. 6 among NFL receivers with 811 yards and fifth with 59 receptions. No other NFL receiver has been targeted more than Evans -- his 108 targets have been 31 percent of Tampa Bay's attempts. He's tied for the league lead with eight touchdown catches and 18 third-down catches for 278 yards. The numbers for the Chiefs' pass defense are also among the league's best. Peters is tied for the league lead with five interceptions, and the Chiefs lead the NFL with 13 interceptions in nine games. No matter which side of the formation Evans lines up on, the Chiefs must find a way to slow Evans' roll.
--Chiefs RB Spencer Ware vs. Buccaneers LBs Lavonte David and Daryl Smith. Ware has been the engine of the Chiefs' offense in both the run game and the passing attack. His 896 yards on 135 touches rank him No. 9 in the league. It's not just production; it's the way Ware runs the ball that sets a tone for Kansas City. He's a power back without the bulk, and his style fires up teammates. With 46 tackles this season, David is very good at stopping plays behind the line of scrimmage -- 11 tackles for loss. He also has forced two fumbles. Playing the strong side, Smith has 23 tackles, three for loss, and an interception. Whether it's a sweep, or Ware runs straight ahead and breaks it off to either side, keeping Ware from cracking the edge is a must for the Bucs.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Chiefs OLB Dee Ford. With 10 sacks in nine games, Ford is tied for the league lead. He has six in the last three games. Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston is a pocket passer and has been sacked 22 times this season -- 10th most among league quarterbacks. In the Buccaneers' wins, they have allowed one sack per game. In their losses, they have given up almost three. Tampa Bay's offensive line has been dealing with injuries and that could be something that Ford can take advantage of.
INJURY REPORT: Tampa Bay -- Out: T Kevin Pamphile (concussion), RB Jacquizz Rodgers (foot), C Evan Smith (knee). Questionable: C Joe Hawley (knee), WR Russell Shepard (hip), TE Luke Stocker (ankle). Kansas City -- Out: WR Jeremy Maclin (groin). Doubtful: DE Jaye Howard (hip). Questionable: CB Phillip Gaines (neck), LB Justin Houston (knee), LB Derrick Johnson (hamstring), CB Marcus Peters (hip), DT Dontari Poe (knee), LS James Winchester (not injury related).
FAST FACTS: Bucs QB Jameis Winston played his 25th game as a pro last week and reached 6,391 passing yards. That is the fifth-highest tally through 25 games in NFL history. Winston has 11 touchdown passes and only two interceptions over his past five games, after beginning the season with eight of each through his first four starts. ... Bucs TE Cameron Brate established career highs with seven receptions for 84 yards last week. His 375 receiving yards are the most for a player from Harvard, surpassing Kyle Juszczyk's 321 yards for Baltimore last season. ... Chiefs TE Tyreek Hill caught 10 passes last week, the most ever by a K.C. rookie. Hill's 32 receptions are the most by any AFC rookie and third among all NFL first-year players. ... The Chiefs scored 17 points in the fourth quarter to defeat the Panthers 20-17 at Carolina last week. The victory was Kansas City's fifth in a row. At 7-2, the Chiefs are tied with Oakland atop the AFC West, just a half-game ahead of Denver (7-3).
PREDICTION: The Bucs show promise but are not consistent. Meanwhile, the Chiefs are as consistent and hot as any team in the NFL and are atop the torrid AFC West.
OUR PICK: Chiefs, 36-21.
Chicago Bears (2-7) at New York Giants (6-3)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J. TV: FOX, Kevin Burkhardt, John Lynch, Pam Oliver.
SERIES HISTORY: 52nd regular-season meeting. Bears lead series, 30-19-2. The Bears won the last meeting in 2013, 27-21 at Soldier Field. The last meeting in New Jersey, in 2010, was won 17-3 by the Giants.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The troubled Bears are backed into a corner in this game -- they must establish a running game first. They cannot come out firing the ball without receivers Alshon Jeffery (suspended) and Kevin White (on IR). If there were a week when they needed to establish the run, this is it. They need to do what they did last week: run it early and then stick with the run.
Not helping the Bears will be the loss of guard Kyle Long (ankle), who went on IR this week along with NT/DE Will Sutton.
The Bears not only are banged up beyond belief, they are coming off a stinging loss to the Bucs in which they committed five turnovers.
Bears QB Jay Cutler has shown that he doesn't like to be disrupted in the pocket and that he is susceptible to making the errant throw that often winds up in the hands of the opposing team. The Giants' pass rush should be able to have a field day against the mistake-prone QB, especially since his offensive line will be without Long.
The Bears must keep the game close so they can at least try to show a balanced offense. Attacking with stretch plays would be the ideal method against a Giants front with ends who are pass-rush oriented and tackles who can both stuff the run and go upfield.
The Giants are a one-dimensional offense: QB Eli Manning to WR Odell Beckham Jr.
The Giants' offensive line had its share of struggles Monday night against the Bengals' defensive front. This weekend, they could catch a break if Bears nose tackle Eddie Goldman (ankle) can't play. The Giants, whose running game had its best showing last week, could be in line to add to their late-season surge with the big-bodied Goldman out of the lineup.
The Bears' secondary needs to keep the safeties home, provide as much double coverage on Beckham as possible, and let players like Pernell McPhee, Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman worry about any potential rushing plays.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Bears TE Zach Miller vs. Giants LB Keenan Robinson. Last week the Giants' defense was burned yet again by the opposing tight ends as Tyler Eifert and Tyler Boyd combined for five receptions and 108 yards. With Alshon Jeffery suspended, look for the Bears to try to get Miller, their leading receiver (44 catches and three TDs), involved as much as possible.
--WR Odell Beckham Jr. vs. Bears CB Tracy Porter. After posting mere mortal numbers in his first four games -- 75.7 yards per game with zero touchdowns -- Beckham has six touchdowns in his last five games and is averaging 94 yards per game. Porter, who leads the Bears with two picks, will try to hold Beckham down.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Giants RT Bobby Hart. Hart has been hanging in as the starting right tackle since inheriting the job in Week 2. As he continues to grow into the position, he will get a good test against OLB Willie Young, who leads the Bears with 6.5 sacks. Teams have found a way to quiet Young in recent weeks, holding him to just a half-sack in the last three games. If the Giants are to continue that trend, they will most likely devote quite a bit of help on that side of the formation.
INJURY REPORT: Chicago -- Doubtful: CB Deiondre' Hall (ankle), T Bobby Massie (concussion), DE Mitch Unrein (back). Questionable: CB Bryce Callahan (hamstring), DT Eddie Goldman (ankle), LB Pernell McPhee (knee), CB Tracy Porter (knee), WR Eddie Royal (toe), G Josh Sitton (ankle), WR Marquess Wilson (foot), LB Willie Young (ankle). New York -- Out: C Brett Jones (calf), G Justin Pugh (knee). Questionable: RB Orleans Darkwa (lower leg), G Adam Gettis (calf).
FAST FACTS: Bears RB Jordan Howard recorded his fourth 100-yard rushing game of the season last Sunday, one shy of the Bears' franchise record for a rookie. Gale Sayers you say? Nope. Try Beattie Feathers in 1934 and Rashaan Salaam in 1995, who each had five. ... Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. passed the 3,500-yard milestone last week in his 36th game. Beckham reached the milestone in an NFL-record 36 games, besting the previous mark held by Lance Alworth (37 games). After their 21-20 home win over the Bengals on Monday night, the Giants have won four consecutive games. The last five-game winning streak occurred during in 2011, six straight wins from Week 16 to the Super Bowl.
PREDICTION: Although they will need to avoid complacency, the streaking Giants are the logical pick over the troubled Bears.
OUR PICK: Giants, 35-21.
Arizona Cardinals (4-4-1) at Minnesota Vikings (5-4)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis. TV: FOX, Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews.
SERIES HISTORY: 25th regular-season meeting. Vikings lead series, 13-11. Vikings are 7-4 at home and will be playing the Cardinals at U.S. Bank Stadium for the first time. Arizona won the last meeting, beating an injury-riddled Vikings team 23-20 at Arizona in a Thursday night game. The Vikings had won the previous three meetings, all at Minnesota, and are 8-0 at home against the Cardinals since losing to the then-St. Louis Cardinals 27-7 in 1977. The teams have met twice in the playoffs, with the Vikings winning divisional matchups at home in 1974 and 1998.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Cardinals and Vikings were expected to be among the top teams in the NFC, with Super Bowl aspirations and talented rosters coming off last year's playoff appearances. Minnesota started the year 5-0, with QB Sam Bradford acquired in a trade to replace injured Teddy Bridgewater and RB Adrian Peterson out injured. Arizona was 1-3 a month into the season.
Since their undefeated start, the Vikings have lost four in a row. The Cardinals (4-4-1) used two wins against the San Francisco 49ers to jumpstart the middle of their season.
Both teams were counting on top defenses. Arizona owns the league's second-ranked defense in terms of yardage, one spot ahead of Minnesota. The Cardinals are allowing 295.2 yards per game compared to the Vikings' 308.8. But Minnesota is allowing a league-low 16.9 points per game. Arizona is tied for third, giving up 17.8.
The Vikings keep losing players, and that doesn't count cutting kicker Blair Walsh and signing Kai Forbath.
Jake Long tore an Achilles tendon last Sunday, becoming the fourth Vikings offensive tackle with a season-ending injury this season. Left guard Alex Boone asked to play left tackle. He has the build to play there, and some experience at doing so. But all indications are the Vikings will move right tackle T.J. Clemmings back to left tackle, where he was before Long was signed during the bye week, and put Jeremiah Sirles at right tackle, where he started two games earlier this season.
Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu returned to practice on Wednesday but was limited due to a shoulder injury, and it is unclear whether he will help Sunday.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Vikings WR Stefon Diggs vs. Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said he'll put Peterson, his big shutdown cover corner, on Diggs, the shifty receiver who became the first player in NFL history with back-to-back 13-catch games. Diggs had 26 catches for 244 yards in consecutive losses to Detroit and Washington. Peterson, the 6-1 corner with the long arms and a load of confidence, has made five Pro Bowls and been named first-team All-Pro three times.
--Vikings DE Everson Griffen vs. Cardinals LT John Wetzel. Griffen leads the Vikings with eight sacks; but, like all of his fellow Vikings pass rushers, he has been frustrated as teams have been getting rid of the ball more quickly. When the Vikings were 5-0, they led the league with 19 sacks. They have three during their four-game losing streak. Wetzel will be making his second straight start at left tackle since regular starter Jared Veldheer was placed on injured reserve. Wetzel is a journeyman who bounced from the Raiders to the Cowboys to the Colts to the Cardinals' practice squad a year ago. He had never played a down in the NFL regular season until this season. He also has a start at left guard. Griffen, however, was neutralized last week when Washington was forced to start a backup because of Trent Williams' four-game suspension.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Vikings kicker Kai Forbath. Welcome to Minnesota, Kai. No pressure. Just make every single kick you attempt and don't botch any kickoffs, and everything will be just swell. Forbath was signed on Tuesday, the same day the Vikings released Blair Walsh, who missed eight kicks in nine games -- including four PATs, the last in Sunday's loss at Washington. Walsh clearly lost all confidence since his infamous 27-yard miss in the closing seconds of the 10-9 playoff loss to Seattle last season. If Forbath misses so much as one makeable kick, the negativity will shift to him and the questions will begin to flow as to whether he is the guy for the job.
INJURY REPORT: Arizona -- Doubtful: DT Corey Peters (foot). Questionable: S Deone Bucannon (ankle), S Tyrann Mathieu (shoulder), CB Tharold Simon (ankle). Minnesota -- Out: DT Sharrif Floyd (knee). Questionable: LB Eric Kendricks (hip), CB Captain Munnerlyn (ankle), CB Marcus Sherels (ankle).
FAST FACTS: Cardinals QB Carson Palmer has fumbled a league-high 10 times this season, losing three; it is the most fumbles for Palmer since 2006, when he had 15 as a Bengal. In four starts against the Vikings, Palmer has a 105.2 rating, with seven TD passes, one interception and a 3-1 record. The 105.2 rating is his fourth-highest against any opponent. ... Vikings QB Sam Bradford has posted a passer rating of 100 or better in five of eight starts with the Vikings this season. That's a career high, surpassing the four 100-plus games he had with the Rams in 2012 and the Eagles in 2015. ... Vikings WR Cordarrelle Patterson has at least three catches in a career-high six straight games. A year ago, the former first-round draft pick had only two catches for 10 yards. This year, he is one of four Vikings with at least 30 catches. He has 30 for 256 yards and two touchdowns.
PREDICTION: When the schedule came out, this was a game many circled as a big NFC interdivision duel. Now it is a game between two well-coached teams having rough seasons. Hard to pick between them, so we will go with the home team.
OUR PICK: Vikings, 24-18.
Miami Dolphins (5-4) at Los Angeles Rams (4-5)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. TV: FOX, Chris Myers, Ronde Barber, Jennifer Hale.
SERIES HISTORY: 13th regular-season meeting. Dolphins lead series, 12-2. The last time the Dolphins played the Rams at the Coliseum was in 1971 -- Bob Griese completed 13 of 19 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Rams QB Jared Goff will finally make his NFL debut. The Rams intend to play Goff as the starter the rest of the year.
The Rams insist the playbook will not be scaled back now that this year's first overall draft pick is the starting quarterback. With Goff's arm strength superior to Case Keenum's, expect the offense to expand rather than shrink.
That could mean longer routes and more plays downfield -- the upshot being it could open up things more for RB Todd Gurley and WR Tavon Austin. The Rams need that to be the case against an improving Dolphins defense -- especially in the red zone, where the Rams have traded too many touchdowns for field goals.
Miami won't deviate from its physical running game. And, in the last six quarters, the Dolphins are also stopping the run. That's a formula for success.
Miami, which was 30th in the league in run defense last week at 136.1 yards per game, have limited the New York Jets and San Diego Chargers to 100 yards on 33 carries in the last game and a half.
Stopping the run -- Gurley this week -- allows the Dolphins to get quarterbacks -- Goff this week -- into third-and long situations, where Miami can use its ferocious pass rush.
Welcome to the NFL, Mr. Goff.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Rams RB Todd Gurley vs. Miami run defense. This is a key category for a number of reasons -- primarily because it seems to be Miami's kryptonite. The Dolphins are 30th in run defense at 128.8 yards per game, but they seem to be improving -- just 100 yards rushing (3.3 per carry) in the last six quarters. Gurley (515 yards, 3.1 yards per carry) is an explosive runner who can exploit the fundamental errors that have plagued the Dolphins all season. If Gurley gets loose, it will be big trouble for Miami. If Gurley is contained, it will be a big success for Miami.
--Rams QB Jared Goff vs. Miami pass rush. DE Cam Wake (seven sacks) and DT Ndamukong Suh (five) get to welcome Goff, the No. 1 pick of the draft, into the NFL as he makes his first start. It will be crucial for Goff to feel comfortable in the pocket, but Wake, Suh and DE Andre Branch (3.5 sacks) will make that very difficult. Their up-field pursuit and ability to collapse the pocket will put immense pressure on Goff.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: QB Jared Goff. The No. 1 pick in the draft is making his first NFL start, and all eyes will be on him. The Rams' offense is in need of a spark, and the team hopes Goff can provide it.
INJURY REPORT: Miami -- Out: T Branden Albert (wrist), CB Xavien Howard (knee). Doubtful: LB Jelani Jenkins (knee, hand), C Mike Pouncey (hip). Questionable: S Isa Abdul-Quddus (ankle), T Jermon Bushrod (shoulder), LB Mike Hull (knee), DE Jason Jones (knee), WR Jarvis Landry (shoulder), G Anthony Steen (neck), WR Kenny Stills (calf), DE Mario Williams (ankle) Los Angeles -- Questionable: C Tim Barnes (foot), RB Todd Gurley (thigh), CB Lamarcus Joyner (ankle), DE Robert Quinn (illness), DE Eugene Sims (concussion).
FAST FACTS: Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill posted a 130.6 passer rating in last week's win over the Chargers (17 of 24, 240 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INT), his first game with a 100-plus rating this season and the second-highest rating of his career. Tannehill has gone four straight games without throwing an interception for the first time since a four-game streak in his 2012 rookie season. ... Miami RB Jay Ajayi has rushed for 608 yards and four TDs in the past four games and leads the NFL with 5.71 yards per carry. He has 26 runs of 10-plus yards, second in the NFL. ... The Rams are averaging an NFL-low 15.4 points per game. They have ranked last in the NFL just three times: 1937 (6.8, as the Cleveland Rams), 2009 (10.9, St. Louis) and 2011 (12.1, St. Louis). ... Goff will be the first rookie QB to start for the Rams since Sam Bradford in 2010 (also the No. 1 overall pick that year), and first to start for the Rams in Los Angeles since Jim Everett in 1986.
PREDICTION: While the feature of this game is the unveiling of Goff, the dominant factor could be the defenses and the deciding factor may be the running game. This could be a rude awakening for Goff.
OUR PICK: Dolphins, 21-18.
New England Patriots (7-2) at San Francisco 49ers (1-8)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif. TV: CBS, Greg Gumbel, Trent Green, Jamie Erdahl.
SERIES HISTORY: 13th regular-season meeting. The 49ers lead the all-time series, 8-4. The last meeting came in New England in December 2012, when Jim Harbaugh's 49ers took care of business with a 41-34 win. That contest snapped a three-game Patriots winning streak. Tom Brady has never played in his native Bay Area; he missed New England's 2008 victory at Candlestick Park with a torn ACL. The 49ers dominated New England in the rare interconference battles, winning six straight from 1980 to 1995.
KEYS TO THE GAME: New England's reputation as a pass-first offense has been well-earned. But the Patriots have balanced things out a bit this season with LeGarrette Blount, who has topped 20 carries five times. With the 49ers allowing 5.1 yards per carry and 180.4 per game, Josh McDaniels certainly will look to give Blount a chance to get things going early.
That will only open things up through the air for Tom Brady, including the possibility that Martellus Bennett will be an even greater focal point with the lung injury to Rob Gronkowski. The play-action game will help out a New England line that has struggled to protect consistently, although San Francisco is in the bottom third of the league in sacks per pass play. If the offensive line plays its role, New England should be able to run and throw efficiently.
Defensively the Patriots are trying to clean up a lot of areas. The initial goal, as always, will be to keep Carlos Hyde and the 49ers' run game in check. Hyde is getting back to health and averaging just 3.6 yards a carry.
Of course, part of the Patriots' front seven's job in both the run and the pass is dealing with Colin Kaepernick's ability as a runner. The once-again San Francisco starter is averaging 7.1 yards per carry and has been an active force on the ground since his return to the lineup. That means Rob Ninkovich and the rest of the New England edge players will once again be utilizing a controlled rush, much as they have in recent weeks against Russell Wilson and Tyrod Taylor.
The New England back end may have the most to prove, even against a suspect passing attack. The Patriots have played a lot of soft zone coverages of late. There is no reason to believe the approach will be abandoned against Chip Kelly's unique offense, though Devin McCourty and company will strive for much better execution and communication. The players must play stout up front against Kelly's various zone reads and unique option looks. In coverage, dealing with Jeremy Kerley in the slot is key, but Torrey Smith remains a dangerous deep threat despite his limited success this fall.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Patriots TE Martellus Bennett vs. 49ers FS Eric Reid. Normally Reid would have to deal with Rob Gronkowski and Bennett, but the former's injury led to him remaining home. That means Bennett may have an even bigger role on offense, coming off a seven-catch, 102-yard performance. Reid is athletic and has the size to match up with opposing tight ends like Bennett, but Tom Brady has a knack for finding the right matchups and using his versatile weapons.
--Patriots DE Trey Flowers vs. 49ers LT Joe Staley. Staley has been one of the most consistent tackles in the game in his decade in San Francisco. Flowers is coming on strong in his second season, having notched two sacks in each of the last two games. The young player has earned increased reps on the edge, but this matchup with the Pro Bowl veteran Staley will be both a learning experience and an opportunity to once again prove his developing abilities.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Patriots RB Dion Lewis. The receiving back seems poised to make his return after opening the season on PUP recovering from a torn ACL suffered last November. Lewis was inactive on Sunday night after being added to the roster and likely will get limited reps as he works into game action. Still, given his impact as both a runner and receiver early last season, his potential addition to the offense only adds another element to Tom Brady's arsenal.
INJURY REPORT: New England -- Out: TE Rob Gronkowski (chest), WR Chris Hogan (back). Questionable: TE Martellus Bennett (ankle), WR Julian Edelman (foot). San Francisco -- Out: LB Aaron Lynch (ankle). Questionable: CB Rashard Robinson (knee), WR Torrey Smith (shoulder).
FAST FACTS: Patriots QB Tom Brady threw for 443 yards in the last meeting. In the past five games, he has 1,635 pass yards (327 per game) with 12 TDs and one interception. He leads the NFL in completion percentage (72.9) and passer rating (125.5). ... Patriots RB LeGarrette Blount had three rushing TDs last week and leads the NFL with 12. He has scored on the ground in five straight games. ... Patriots DE Trey Flowers has two sacks in each of the past two games. ... 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick threw four TD passes the last time these teams met. ... 49ers LB Gerald Hodges has 24 tackles, two interceptions and a sack in the past three games.
PREDICTION: The Patriots were cruising along until they were stonewalled by Seattle last Sunday. They should have a much easier time against this NFC West club, especially with Brady returning home for the first time in his career.
OUR PICK: Patriots, 31-13.
Philadelphia Eagles (5-4) at Seattle Seahawks (6-2-1)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, CenturyLink Field, Seattle. TV: CBS, Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Tracy Wolfson.
SERIES HISTORY: 15th regular-season meeting. Series tied, 7-7. Seattle has won four of the last five meetings, including a 24-14 victory over the Eagles in 2014.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Cliff Avril and Frank Clark will try to pressure Eagles rookie quarterback Carson Wentz into mistakes and possible turnover opportunities. Seattle will also need to focus on covering tight end Brent Celek and the Eagles' stable of running backs in the passing game.
Offensively, the Seahawks will try to build upon their improved run game performance last week in New England as Thomas Rawls returns to the lineup. The teams that have beaten the Seahawks or played them close all have remained committed to the run during the game. The Eagles, who are coming off their best rushing performance of the season against Atlanta, must do the same on Sunday.
Russell Wilson will also continue to seek big play chances against Philadelphia's secondary. The Eagles need to keep Wilson in the pocket and not let him get outside and extend plays.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Eagles RB Darren Sproles vs. Seahawks MLB Bobby Wagner. Seattle occasionally struggles to cover running backs in the passing game. Sproles will be a bigger factor in the passing game than as a rusher, but Wagner will be responsible for making sure Sproles is held in check.
--Seahawks RT Garry Gilliam vs. Eagles DE Brandon Graham. Graham leads a strong Eagles front against a Seattle offensive line that is still trying to establish consistency. Gilliam has been a liability at times, and Graham will provide a stiff test.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: C Justin Britt. Since moving to his third position in three seasons in Seattle, Britt appears to have settled in at center. He has been the most consistent of Seattle's five offensive linemen and has played his best football since being drafted in the second round of the 2014 draft.
INJURY REPORT: Philadelphia -- Out: S Terrence Brooks (hamstring). Questionable: TE Zach Ertz (hamstring), WR Jordan Matthews (back). Seattle -- Out: DE Michael Bennett (knee), LB Kevin Pierre-Louis (hamstring).
FAST FACTS: A victory against the Eagles will give Pete Carroll his 100th career win. Carroll is 66-38-1 in seven seasons as Seattle's coach, including an 8-4 record in the playoffs. ... Seahawks QB Russell Wilson has 630 passing yards and five TDs in the past two games. He has 17 TDs and just two interceptions in his past eight home games. ... Rookie RB C.J. Prosise totaled 153 yards (66 rushing, 87 receiving) vs. New England in Week 10. His play was so solid that the Seahawks released leading rusher Christine Michael (469 yards) with injured Thomas Rawls (fibula) about to return. ... Eagles QB Carson Wentz has thrown two TD passes in the last five games. He has thrown for 2,121 yards and nine touchdowns this season. ... Eagles coach Doug Pederson grew up about 100 miles north of Seattle and used to attend Seahawks games at the Kingdome.
PREDICTION: While the Seahawks might have some trouble against Philly's defense, it will be nothing compared to what Wentz endures against one of the toughest defenses in the NFL.
OUR PICK: Seahawks, 24-10.
Green Bay Packers (4-5) at Washington Redskins (5-3-1)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET, FedExField, Landover, Md. TV: NBC, Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya.
SERIES HISTORY: 33rd regular-season meeting. Packers lead series, 18-13-1. The teams are meeting again at Washington's FedEx Field after Green Bay rallied for a 35-18 win over the Redskins in the wild-card round of the playoffs Jan. 10. The Packers have won two straight and six of the last seven games against Washington, going back to 2001. The Redskins' only victory in that stretch came in 2010 -- a 16-13 overtime win at home. The Packers won two of the teams' three postseason matchups, highlighted by a 21-6 triumph in the 1936 NFL Championship at New York when the Redskins were in Boston.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Packers potentially could go into the Sunday night game at the Washington Redskins without two key starters on their offensive line: right guard T.J. Lang and left tackle David Bakhtiari, who suffered foot and knee injuries in the last contest. And, there's no telling whether Green Bay will be able to mount any semblance of a ground game after doing little of it last time out as the Titans raced out to a 21-0 lead.
James Starks is considered healthy again and may get more touches than the seven carries he had against the Titans. Plus, Green Bay added some depth Wednesday by claiming fourth-year pro Christine Michael off waivers from the Seattle Seahawks. Yet, the expectations are being tempered for what Michael might be able to offer Sunday on such a quick turnaround.
Those uncertainties in the backfield portend another busy night of throwing for Aaron Rodgers, who has passed the football 188 times in the last four games. If he can play keepaway from Josh Norman, the All-Pro cornerback formerly of the Carolina Panthers, a mostly suspect Redskins secondary should allow Rodgers to have success through the air.
Rodgers' counterpart, Kirk Cousins, has played well of late and could shred a struggling Packers defense with a potent group of pass catchers. Besides having to deal with productive tight ends Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis, the Packers may have to try to contain three big-play wide receivers in DeSean Jackson, Jamison Crowder and Pierre Garcon. The speedy Jackson's status is up in the air because of a shoulder injury that kept him out of Washington's last game.
Green Bay also must pay close attention to versatile running back Chris Thompson. He had eight catches for 89 yards in eight targets out of the backfield in the Packers' win at Washington in the first round of the playoffs in January. Green Bay sacked Cousins six times in that game. However, its pass rush has been nonexistent in recent weeks, though the possible return of outside linebacker Clay Matthews after a three-game absence (hamstring) could provide a lift.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Redskins TE Jordan Reed vs. Packers ILB Blake Martinez. Someone has to try to take Reed out of his game. He had just two catches against Minnesota on four targets, but that's an anomaly. When healthy Reed is a matchup nightmare for any linebacker or safety. The key: Be physical with him before he gets into space. Maybe Martinez can give Reed problems there. But the Packers also remember Reed caught nine passes for 120 yards against them in last year's wild card game.
--Packers WR Jordy Nelson vs. Redskins CB Josh Norman. Norman's physicality can give any receiver problems. But Nelson has a knack for finding space and Rodgers has a knack for finding him. Nelson has 50 catches this season. Expect Green Bay to move Nelson around to keep him from Norman all the time. Minnesota used that tactic last week with Stefon Diggs to great effect. But Nelson also is not fully recovered from his torn ACL last season.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: RB James Starks. The return of the seventh-year pro to game action last Sunday after a four-game absence had mixed results. Coming off knee surgery, Starks reached the end zone on an impressive 13-yard catch-and-run play as the Packers tried to rally from a huge deficit before falling 47-25 at the Tennessee Titans. However, Starks carried the football only seven times and gained just 33 yards as the team's lead back. Even with the news late Wednesday that the Packers claimed fourth-year player Christine Michael off waivers from the Seattle Seahawks, the expectation is Green Bay will need Starks to play a bigger role Sunday night at the Washington Redskins to give a lift to its beleaguered rushing attack.
INJURY REPORT: Green Bay -- Out: G T.J. Lang (foot), CB Damarious Randall (groin), LB Jake Ryan (ankle), C J.C. Tretter (knee). Questionable: TE Jared Cook (ankle), LB Clay Matthews (hamstring). Washington -- Questionable: WR DeSean Jackson (shoulder), T Morgan Moses (ankle), LS Nick Sundberg (back).
FAST FACTS: The Packers have dropped three in a row and four of their last five to tumble to 4-5. ... Green Bay's pass defense ranks 29th in opponent passer rating. Last week at Tennessee, the Titans threw five touchdown passes and only seven incompletions. ... Redskins TE Vernon Davis has 382 receiving yards in nine games -- just 13 yards shy of his total for 15 games last season with the Broncos and 49ers. ... Redskins K Dustin Hopkins became the 29th player in Redskins history to reach 200 points with his four field goals last Sunday vs. Minnesota. Hopkins ranks 10th in field goals made for Washington in just 24 games. ... Redskins WR Pierre Garcon ranks 11th in franchise history in receiving yards (3,985) after his 81-yard performance Sunday vs. Minnesota.
PREDICTION: After back-to-back home losses to Pittsburgh and Dallas to open the season, the Redskins have won five of seven. All but one of those games has been decided by a TD or less, and this one figures to follow that trend.
OUR PICK: Redskins, 31-27.
Houston Texans (6-3) at Oakland Raiders (7-2)
KICKOFF: Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET, Estadio Azteca, Mexico City. TV: ESPN, Sean McDonough, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters.
SERIES HISTORY: 10th regular-season meeting. Texans leads all-time series, 6-3. The Texans won the last meeting 30-14 in Week 2 of the 2014 season, a game that included a 2-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to J.J. Watt. Derek Carr, in his second start, was 27 of 42 for 263 yards. The Raiders' last win was 28-23 in 2013 in Houston, with Matt McGloin throwing a pair of touchdown passes in his first start.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Raiders are rested and feeling good about the way they blocked Denver into oblivion in their previous game. The Texans, without J.J. Watt, are still ranked fourth in total defense but are 25th in rush defense. Look for the Raiders to lean on the Texans heavily with Latavius Murray and let their offensive line punish the Texans in the altitude. With a consistent running game, Derek Carr will be even more dangerous in play-action.
Defensively, the Raiders will likely put Karl Joseph in the box and dare Brock Osweiler to defeat them through the air.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Raiders C Rodney Hudson vs. Texans NT Vince Wilfork. There aren't a lot of centers who can deal with Wilfork without help, but the Raiders feel pretty good about Hudson no matter who he is playing against. Hudson is playing the best football of his career and was at his best in the Raiders' recent win over the Denver Broncos. Wilfork remains adept at tying up blockers (plural), which would in theory free the likes of Jadeveon Clowney as a 3-4 end.
--Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins vs. Raiders CB David Amerson. Hopkins remains the most dangerous threat in the Houston offense. But the Raiders faced a similar challenge in Tampa Bay and fared well against the Bucs' Mike Evans by making sure he was shadowed by Amerson and bracketed all day long. Defensive coordinator Ken Norton will likely look to do the same thing with Hopkins and force Brock Osweiler to look for other receivers, assuming the Texans will struggle without their primary threat.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Raiders WR Andre Holmes. He had two big catches against Denver, including a one-handed grab for a first down. He also downed two Marquette King punts inside the 5-yard line. One of the Raiders' go-to receivers until Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree arrived, Holmes has not only accepted a lesser role without complaint, he has thrived in it.
FAST FACTS: The NFL returns to Mexico for the first time since October 2, 2005, when a crowd of 103,467 witnessed the league's first international regular-season game as the Arizona Cardinals defeated the San Francisco 49ers 31-14 at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. This will be the first "Monday Night Football" game played outside the United States. ... The Raiders have won three consecutive games and six of their past seven. Oakland had a bye in Week 10 after beating Denver 30-20 in Week 9. ... Oakland QB Derek Carr has 17 touchdown passes and three interceptions this season. ... Texans QB Brock Osweiler threw for 308 yards against Oakland last year, when he was with Denver. ... Texans CB Kareem Jackson returned an interception for a TD last week, his third career INT TD. He intercepted a pass in the last game against Oakland.
PREDICTION: The Texans have been blown out in three of four road games and now face the NFL's fifth-ranked scoring team on foreign soil.
OUR PICK: Raiders, 27-17.