TSX: NFL: GAME SCOUT -- Analysis of Week 11 games -- Who will win and why
DALLAS COWBOYS (4-5) AT ATLANTA FALCONS (4-5)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 PM ET, Mercedes-Benz Stadium; FOX, Kevin Burkhardt, Charles Davis, Pam Oliver (Field reporter)
SERIES HISTORY: 26th regular-season meeting. Cowboys lead series, 14-11. Falcons have won the last three meetings, most recently 27-7 in 2017 at the Georgia Dome. That Atlanta win started a three-game losing streak for the Cowboys.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Quarterback Matt Ryan will be tested by a Dallas defense that plays well against the pass. However, the Dallas defensive front is all beat up, so it remains to be seen how much pressure the Cowboys can get against Ryan. If he's allowed to play without fear it will be a long day for Dallas. Ryan is 3-1 against the Cowboys, completing 66.4 percent of his throws for 1,040 yards and six touchdowns.
It seems vital that the Cowboys start fast on offense, both to capitalize on the momentum they established in Philadelphia and to offset the Falcons' prolific offensive weapons. To do that, Dallas likely needs to utilize wide receiver Amari Cooper, and possibly wide receiver Cole Beasley and/or tight end Geoff Swaim, and quarterback Dak Prescott running the ball early. Doing that will help spread out the Atlanta defense so that running back Ezekiel Elliott can exploit it.
Defensively, Dallas would like to get healthier on the defensive line so it can keep fresh players pressuring Ryan. Atlanta is a pass-heavy offense, especially with running back Devonta Freeman on injured reserve.
FRIDAY INJURY REPORT
--OUT: WR Tavon Austin (groin), DE Taco Charlton (shoulder), DL David Irving (ankle), LB Sean Lee (hamstring), DE Daniel Ross (calf)
--DOUBTFUL: DT Antwaun Woods (concussion)
--QUESTIONABLE: DT Maliek Collins (knee), G Zack Martin (knee), LB Joe Thomas (foot), G Connor Williams (knee)
--OUT: LB Deion Jones (foot)
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Cowboys WR Amari Cooper vs. Falcons WR Julio Jones. Although Cooper and Jones won't be on the field at the same time, the Cowboys-Falcons matchup could come down to which former Alabama star receiver has a bigger day. Cooper, whom Dallas acquired last month for a first-round draft pick, has become quarterback Dak Prescott's favorite target. Meanwhile, Jones has been a prime weapon in the Atlanta arsenal since the Falcons drafted him with the sixth overall pick in the first round in 2011. Jones is riding a streak of four straight 100-yard receiving games.
--Falcons RB Tevin Coleman vs. Cowboys DL. This could be a good chance for Coleman and stablemate Ito Smith to pick up some yardage on the ground with Dallas banged up in the front seven. Coleman has rushed for 442 yards this season, but had just 44 in the loss to Cleveland.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott is getting close to notching the second 1,000-yard season of his NFL career. He came up 17 yards shot of 1,000 in 2017 despite a 6-game suspension. Elliott has 831 through nine games. He has four games over 100 rushing yards and two games in which his combined rushing and receiving topped 180.
FAST FACTS: COWBOYS QB DAK PRESCOTT passed for 270 yards with 1 TD vs. 0 INTs for 102.8 rating & had rush TD last week. Has 9 TDs (6 pass, 3 rush), 1 INT & 101.2 rating in his past 4. Since entering league in 2016, has 11 games with 1+ pass TD & 1+ rush TD, most in NFL over span. ... RB EZEKIEL ELLIOTT had 187 scrimmage yards (151 rush, 36 rec.) & 2 TDs (1 rush, 1 rec.) in Week 10. Ranks 2nd in NFL in rush yards (831) & 4th in scrimmage yards (1,093) in 2018. Since entering league in 2016, is 1 of 3 in NFL (TODD GURLEY II & MELVIN GORDON) with 4,000+ scrimmage yards (4,339) & 30+ TDs (31). ... WR AMARI COOPER led team with 6 receptions for 75 yards last week. ... WR MICHAEL GALLUP ranks 2nd among NFL rookies averaging 18.3 yards per catch (min. 15 receptions). ... DE DeMARCUS LAWRENCE ranks 3rd in NFL since 2017 with 21 sacks. ... Rookie LB LEIGHTON VANDER ESCH led team with 13 tackles & had 1st-career INT last week. Ranks 3rd among NFL rookies with 74 tackles. ... FALCONS QB MATT RYAN passed for 330 yards with 2 TDs vs. 0 INTs for 102.2 rating in Week 10. Ranks 3rd in NFL with 3,015 pass yards & is only NFL player in 2018 with 3,000+ pass yards & 70+ comp. pct. (71.1). Has 1,414 pass yards (353.5 per game) with 10 TDs vs. 1 INT for 115.7 rating in past 4. Aims for his 5th in row with 300+ pass yards & 100+ rating. ... WR JULIO JONES had 7 catches for 107 yards & TD last week. Has 10,094 rec. yards in 104 career games & surpassed CALVIN JOHNSON (115) for fewest games in NFL history to reach 10,000 rec. yards. Has 45 career games with 100+ rec. yards, tied with HOFer RANDY MOSS for most such games by player in his 1st 8 seasons. ... TE AUSTIN HOOPER had career-high 10 catches & rec. TD last week. ... S DAMONTAE KAZEE had INT in Week 10. Leads NFL with 5 INTs in 2018.
PREDICTION: One team will rise to .500 while the loser drops to 4-6. The Cowboys are feeling good about themselves after defeating division-rival Philadelphia, but they won't be able to win their second straight.
OUR PICK: Falcons, 27-16
CINCINNATI BENGALS (5-4) AT BALTIMORE RAVENS (4-5)
KICKOFF: Sunday 1:00 PM ET, M&T Bank Stadium; CBS, Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon, Steve Tasker (Field reporter)
SERIES HISTORY: 46th regular-season meeting. Bengals lead series, 23-22. Cincinnati is 8-2 in the last 10 meetings. In Week 2, the Bengals claimed a 34-23 victory in Cincinnati despite being outgained 425-375. The Bengals built a pair of 21-point leads, sacked Joe Flacco four times and forced three turnovers.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is a game-time decision because of a sore hip. If he doesn't play, Lamar Jackson could make his first career start and change the dynamic of the game. Jackson would run the read-option to avoid the pass rush, and Robert Griffin III could also play to help the ball downfield against a Bengals secondary that has the league's 30th-ranked pass defense. The biggest challenge for Baltimore will be containing Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins, who had two sacks in the earlier meeting.
Cincinnati amassed 373 total yards against the Ravens in the first meeting. The Ravens caught a huge break with receiver A.J. Green being ruled out with a foot injury. However, Baltimore will have to do a better job containing running back Joe Mixon, who had 84 yards on 21 carries in the Week 2 matchup. Baltimore needs to keep quarterback Andy Dalton under constant pressure because he has shown that he can beat them downfield. The Ravens' safeties, Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson, will provide more support to prevent Tyler Boyd from making long receptions downfield.
FRIDAY INJURY REPORT
--OUT: LB Preston Brown (knee), WR Josh Malone (hamstring), LB Nick Vigil (knee), DT Adolphus Washington (knee)
--DOUBTFUL: WR A.J. Green (toe)
--QUESTIONABLE: LB Vontaze Burfict (hip), CB Dre Kirkpatrick (concussion), WR John Ross (groin)
--OUT: T James Hurst (back), LB Tim Williams (ankle)
--DOUBTFUL: QB Joe Flacco (hip)
--QUESTIONABLE: S Tony Jefferson (thigh), T Ronnie Stanley (ankle), CB Tavon Young (ankle)
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Ravens CBs Marlon Humphrey and Brandon Carr vs. Bengals WRs Tyler Boyd and John Ross. Humphrey has overcome a thigh injury and is playing like a top-tier cornerback in just his second year. Carr is a seasoned veteran who will likely be starting his 170th consecutive game. QB Andy Dalton will target both players for much of the night. The Ravens secondary has faded over the last three games. Boyd had six receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown in Week 2 and will look to create matchup problems again.
--Ravens WRs Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead IV and John Brown vs. Bengals CBs Williams Jackson and Dre Kirkpatrick. Crabtree, Snead and Brown have struggled to get open in the last month as opposing defenses have adjusted to the Ravens' downfield schemes. Brown managed four catches for 92 yards and a touchdown in the previous game against the Bengals. However, much of the passing attack hinges on whether quarterback Joe Flacco can play. Rookie Lamar Jackson is still a work in progress throwing the ball downfield. Jackson and Kirkpatrick are both vulnerable to big plays and will get extra support from safeties Shawn Williams and Jesse Bates.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Bengals RB Joe Mixon. It's hard to gauge how well anybody could have played in a 51-14 loss but the numbers indicate Mixon played well as he is averaging 5.8 yards per carry. This week, Mixon is going against the league's 10th-best rush defense in yards allowed. Mixon needs just 56 yards to top the 626 he posted last year.
FAST FACTS: BENGALS QB ANDY DALTON passed for 265 yards with 4 TDs vs. 0 INTs for 107.7 rating in last meeting. Has 7 TD passes vs. 0 INTs for 98.4 rating in his past 2 vs. Bal. ... RB JOE MIXON has 184 scrimmage yards (92 per game) in his past 2 vs. Bal. ... RB GIOVANI BERNARD has 3 rush TDs in his past 3. ... WR TYLER BOYD had 91 rec. yards & TD catch in last meeting. ... WR JOHN ROSS had TD catch in Week 10. Has rec. TD in 2 of his past 3. ... S SHAWN WILLIAMS had 10 tackles in Week 10. Had 8 tackles, sack, INT & FF in last meeting. Has INT in 2 of his past 3 vs. Bal. ... DT GENO ATKINS has 3.5 sacks & 4 TFL in his past 4 vs. Bal. ... DE CARLOS DUNLAP has 3 sacks in his past 3. Has sack in 5 of his past 7. ... Rookie S JESSIE BATES had team-high 11 tackles last week. Had 1st-career INT in Week 2 meeting. Is 1 of 2 NFL players (KIKO ALONSO) with 70+ tackles (71) & 3+ INTs (3). ... RAVENS QB JOE FLACCO passed for 376 yards with 2 TDs vs. 2 INTs in last meeting. Is averaging 273.9 pass yards per game, 2nd-highest total in his career. ... QB LAMAR JACKSON is 1 of 2 rookie QBs (JOSH ALLEN) with 100+ rush yards (139) & rush TD (1). ... RB ALEX COLLINS had rush TD in Week 9. Aims for his 3rd in row with rush TD. Has 4 rush TDs in his past 4. ... WR JOHN BROWN had 92 rec. yards & TD in last meeting. ... WR MICHAEL CRABTREE has 5+ catches & 65+ rec. yards in 3 of his past 5. ... LB C.J. MOSLEY has 11+ tackles in 2 of his past 3. ... LB TERRELL SUGGS had 3 PD in last meeting. Has 4 TFL & 3 sacks in his past 5. ... S TONY JEFFERSON is 1 of 6 NFL safeties with 50+ tackles (54), FF (1) & INT (1).
PREDICTION: The Ravens might be without quarterback Joe Flacco, while Cincinnati fired its defensive coordinator and wide receiver A.J. Green won't play. The uncertainty of Flacco has kept the game off the betting boards in Las Vegas. Anyone have a good coin to flip?
OUR PICK: Ravens, 20-17
PITTSBURGH STEELERS (6-2-1) AT JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (3-6)
KICKOFF: SUNDAY, 1:00 PM ET, TIAA Bank Field; CBS, Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, Tracy Wolfson (Field reporter)
SERIES HISTORY: 24th regular-season meeting. Jaguars lead series, 12-11. The Jaguars won both games last season, each at Heinz Field. They beat the Steelers, 30-9, during the regular season and 45-42 in an AFC divisional round playoff game. The Jaguars are 6-5 against the Steelers in Jacksonville, but the Steelers have won the past two meetings there.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Jaguars won both meetings last season and on each occasion they controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. The Jaguars gained 231 yards on the ground while holding the Steelers to 70 in their regular-season victory at Heinz Field. In the playoff game, also at Heinz Field, the Jaguars rushed for 164 to 83 for Pittsburgh. The Steelers turned the ball over seven times in those two games to just one for the Jaguars.
The Steelers are built around their passing game, but running back James Conner is averaging 4.7 yards per carry and has rushed for 100 yards or more in four of the past five games. The Steelers need Conner and the offensive line to continue their recent surge against a Jacksonville defense that is allowing 118 yards per game. Pittsburgh will air it out with the way QB Ben Roethlisberger is playing, but Jacksonville's pass defense still ranks as the best in the league, allowing 200.6 yards per game -- although that figure has continued to rise during the five-game losing streak.
The Jaguars totaled 415 yards of offense last week, the most the team has had since back-to-back 500-yard-plus games in Weeks 4 and 5.
FRIDAY INJURY REPORT
--OUT: T Marcus Gilbert (knee), DE Stephon Tuitt (elbow)
--OUT: CB Quenton Meeks (knee)
--DOUBTFUL: DT Eli Ankou (calf), G Josh Walker (foot, ankle)
--QUESTIONABLE: G A.J. Cann (hamstring), DT Marcell Dareus (triceps, back)
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
--Steelers DE Cameron Heyward vs. Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette. Heyward is the leader of Pittsburgh's defense and a key to stopping the run. Fournette gashed the Steelers for 290 yards and five touchdowns in two games against Pittsburgh last season. The Steelers are fourth in the NFL in run defense, but they'll have to prove it to the Jaguars, who know pounding the run was a big part of their success against the Steelers last season.
--Steelers WRs Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster vs. Jaguars CB Jalen Ramsey. Elite versus elite when these two All-Pro players go against each other. Brown and Ramsey are considered at the top of the list at their position, although Brown is having the better season with a league-high 10 touchdown catches. As good as Brown has been over the years, Smith-Schuster is nearly matching him in catches (56) and has surpassed him in yards (762). That means Ramsey may not always be blanketing Brown, but may switch off and cover Smith-Schuster on occasion.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: RB Leonard Fournette. Last week was his first action on the field since Week 4, but Fournette responded with a solid but not elite performance. He rushed for 53 yards on 24 carries, only a 2.2 average, but he was more effective as a receiver out of the backfield with a team-high 56 yards on five catches. Now comes Pittsburgh, a team that Fournette torched last year for 290 rushing yards and five TDs in two games. Included in the total was a 90-yard jaunt from scrimmage, the longest such run by a Jaguars player in a regular-season game.
FAST FACTS: STEELERS had 7 different players score TD in Week 10. ... QB BEN ROETHLISBERGER completed 22 of 25 (88 pct.) for 328 yards with 5 TDs vs. 0 INTs for 158.3 rating last week. Is 1 of 4 QBs in NFL history with multiple games with 158.3 rating. In 2017 AFC Divisional playoff vs. Jax., passed for 469 yards with 5 TDs vs. 1 INT for 110.5 rating. Ranks 4th in NFL with 2,888 pass yards. ... RB JAMES CONNER rushed for 65 yards & TD last week. Has 762 scrimmage yards (152.4 per game) & 8 TDs (7 rush, 1 rec.) in his past 5. Is 1 of 2 NFL players (TODD GURLEY II) with 1,100+ scrimmage yards (1,158) & 10+ TDs (11) this season. ... WR ANTONIO BROWN had 96 rec. yards & TD catch last week. Aims for his 8th in row with TD catch. Had 7 catches for 132 yards & 2 TDs in 2017 AFC Divisional meeting. ... WR JuJU SMITH-SCHUSTER had 90 rec. yards, incl. 75-yard TD catch, last week. Is 1 of 3 NFL players (TYREEK HILL & TYRELL WILLIAMS) with multiple 75+ yard TD catches since 2017. ... DT CAMERON HEYWARD had 2 sacks last week. ... LB T.J. WATT had sack & FF in Week 10. Has sack in 2 of his past 3. ... LB VINCE WILLIAMS had 4 tackles, sack & INT-TD last week. ... JAGUARS QB BLAKE BORTLES completed 26 of 38 (68.4 pct.) for 320 yards with 2 TDs vs. 0 INTs for 111.7 rating last week. ... RB LEONARD FOURNETTE had 109 scrimmage yards (56 rec., 53 rush) & 2 TDs (1 rush, 1 rec.) last week. Rushed for 109 yards & 3 TDs in 2017 AFC Divisional meeting. ... RB T.J. YELDON had 51 rec. yards last week. Has 4 TDs (3 rec., 1 rush) in his past 6. ... WR DONTE MONCRIEF had 3 catches for 98 yards & TD last week. ... DE CALAIS CAMPBELL had 2 TFL last week. Aims for his 3rd in row with 2+ TFL. ... CB JALEN RAMSEY has PD in 3 of his past 4. ... LB TELVIN SMITH had team-high 8 tackles & INT last week. ... DE YANNICK NGAKOUE has 5 sacks in his past 6.
PREDICTION: Two teams going in opposite directions. The Steelers dismantled the Carolina Panthers 52-21 and have three extra days to prepare for a revenge matchup against an opponent that has lost five in a row.
OUR PICK: Steelers, 30-22
CAROLINA PANTHERS (6-3) AT DETROIT LIONS (3-6)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 PM ET, Ford Field; FOX, Kenny Albert, Ronde Barber, Jennifer Hale (Field reporter)
SERIES HISTORY: 9th regular-season meeting. Panthers lead series, 6-2. The Panthers won 27-24 last season in October at Detroit. This will be the fourth time during a six-game stretch in the series that the teams play in Detroit.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Panthers have made it clear they're willing to ride running back Christian McCaffrey as he often has a large role on the team. He figures to be fresher for this week's game with the Panthers after having a few extra days to recover after a 52-21 loss at Pittsburgh on Nov. 8. Carolina is aware of the importance of establishing something credible on the ground and look for that to be a priority against a Detroit defense that ranks 28th in the NFL against the run.
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is a big part of the ground game, rushing for at least 30 yards in seven of nine games. The Lions need to heat up their pass rush as Newton is completing a career-best 68.5 percent of his passes in Norv Turner's offense. They are hoping cornerback Darius Slay will return from a one-game absence due to a knee injury.
Detroit also needs to give quarterback Matthew Stafford more help. Stafford has been sacked 16 times in the last two games and he ranks as one of the most turnover-prone quarterbacks (eight interceptions, three lost fumbles) in the NFL. Wide receivers Marvin Jones Jr., TJ Jones and Kenny Golladay aren't winning regularly vs. man-to-man coverage, so it's up to offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter to try and scheme them open more. That hasn't been easy with the lack of pass protection, so if rookie running back Kerryon Johnson can get going early to loosen up the defense, it would be a boost for the Lions.
FRIDAY INJURY REPORT
--OUT: WR Torrey Smith (knee)
--OUT: WR Marvin Jones Jr. (knee), TE Michael Roberts (shoulder), DT A'Shawn Robinson (ankle)
--QUESTIONABLE: DE Ezekiel Ansah (shoulder), DT Damon Harrison (shoulder)
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
--Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey vs. Lions LB Jarrad Davis. McCaffrey leads the Panthers in rushing and receiving yards and rarely comes off the field. He's an excellent pass-catching back, and he has home-run ability, something the Lions have struggled with stopping from the running back position all year. Davis leads the Lions in missed tackles, and he'll have some spy duties on Cam Newton. But he's one of the few sideline-to-sideline players the Lions have on their defense, and keeping McCaffrey in check will fall somewhat on his shoulders.
--Panthers LBs vs. Lions RBs Theo Riddick and Kerryon Johnson. The Panthers have active players in the middle with LBs Luke Kuechly and Shaq Thompson, whose growth has been notable in several areas this season. But the Lions will make this group work in pass coverage in ways some teams might not have done. Riddick and Johnson have 36 and 30 receptions, respectively, giving Detroit the only team with a duo of running backs with 30 or more catches. In total, Lions running backs have 74 receptions (of 223 total catches for the team).
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: RB Christian McCaffrey. He scored all the team's touchdowns last week at Pittsburgh. His seven-touchdown total across the past three games marks the most for a player with the team since RB DeAngelo Williams did it 10 years ago. Through 25 career games, McCaffrey has scored 15 touchdowns.
FAST FACTS: PANTHERS QB CAM NEWTON threw 2 TDs vs. 1 INT for 103 rating in Week 10. Has 2+ TD passes in 8 consecutive games, longest streak in franchise history. Aims for his 5th in row with 2+ pass TDs & 100+ rating. ... RB CHRISTIAN MC CAFFREY had 138 scrimmage yards (77 rush, 61 rec.) & career-high 3 TDs (2 rec., 1 rush) last week. Has 7 TDs since Week 8, tied for most in NFL over span. Aims for 4th in row with 2+ TDs. Is 1 of 3 NFL RBs (SAQUON BARKLEY & ALVIN KAMARA) with 50+ receptions (54) & 1,000+ scrimmage yards (1,018) in 2018. ... TE GREG OLSEN has TD catch in 3 of his past 4. Since entering league in 2007, ranks 3rd among NFL TEs in catches (661) & rec. yards (7,814). ... WR CURTIS SAMUEL has 4 TDs (2 rec., 2 rush) in his past 5. ... LB LUKE KUECHLY has 104 tackles (9.5 per game), 14 TFL, 2 FRs, 2 INTs & 1.5 sacks in his past 11 on road. ... DE MARIO ADDISON has 5 sacks & FF in his past 5. ... CB DONTE JACKSON ties for 2nd in NFL & leads all rookies with 4 INTs. ... LIONS QB MATTHEW STAFFORD since 2011, ranks 3rd in NFL with 34,332 pass yards. ... RB KERRYON JOHNSON (rookie) had 89 scrimmage yards & 2 TDs (1 rush, 1 rec.) in Week 10, his 1st-career multi-TD game. Aims for his 4th in row at home with 85+ scrimmage yards. Ranks 2nd among NFL rookies in scrimmage yards (757) & 4th in rush yards (554). ... RB THEO RIDDICK aims for 3rd in row with 6+ catches. ... WR KENNY GOLLADAY had 6 catches for 78 yards & TD last week. ... DE EZEKIEL ANSAH has 5 sacks & 6 TFL in his past 4 at home. ... Rookie DL DA'SHAWN HAND had sack last week. Is only rookie DL with 2+ sacks (3) & 2+ FFs (2) in 2018. ... CB DARIUS SLAY since 2016, ties for NFL lead with 12 INTs. ... DT DAMON HARRISON has 20 tackles, 4 TFL & sack in 3 games with Det.
PREDICTION: The Panthers were embarrassed by the Steelers, ending a run of three straight impressive wins. They should have enough on offense to sink the Lions, who have been limited to 45 points during a three-game slide.
OUR PICK: Panthers, 23-20
TENNESSEE TITANS (5-4) AT INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (4-5)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 PM ET, Lucas Oil Stadium; CBS, Andrew Catalon, James Lofton
SERIES HISTORY: 47th regular-season meeting. Colts lead series, 31-15. The Titans finally beat the Colts last year, sweeping their two regular-season meetings, but that was with Andrew Luck on the shelf with a shoulder injury. Luck is 9-0 all-time against Tennessee.
KEYS TO THE GAME: How the Colts protect Andrew Luck from the blitzing Titans will be the key factor in whether the home team can continue to score in bunches. Tennessee was most effective getting pressure up the middle against Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, so the Colts will be mindful of stunts and disguises. Guards Quenton Nelson and Mark Glowinski will be tested as much as anyone on the offensive line. Indianapolis' blueprint has been obvious from Day 1: Luck sets the tone in the passing game to open up run lanes. So look for the Colts to try to catch the Titans in blitzes with screens and misdirection plays. Colts head coach Frank Reich has established himself as one of the league's better play-callers, so it will be interesting to see if he can keep the Titans off balance.
Tennessee has been running the football well for the past three weeks, using Dion Lewis as the primary weapon and Derrick Henry as the big back to try and pound late in games. It worked against New England, and the Titans will probably try to exploit a Colts defense that has been very suspect at times this season. Indianapolis' 14th-ranked rush defense (107.8 yards per game) matches up evenly with Tennessee's 15th-ranked rush offense (114.4 yards per game).
FRIDAY INJURY REPORT
--OUT: RB David Fluellen (knee)
--QUESTIONABLE: WR Tajae Sharpe (ankle), G Quinton Spain (ankle), WR Taywan Taylor (foot)
--OUT: TE Ryan Hewitt (ankle), CB D.J. Killings (ankle), TE Erik Swoope (knee)
--QUESTIONABLE: CB Nate Hairston (ankle), S Malik Hooker (hip, illness)
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
--Titans DL Jurrell Casey vs. Colts G Quenton Nelson. Nelson, a first-round pick, is part of a rejuvenated Colts offensive line that has gone from sieve during the previous few seasons to giving Andrew Luck solid protection. Casey is the ring-leader up front for the Titans, because even when he doesn't get to the quarterback, he usually draws a double-team often enough that it frees other pass rushers.
--Colts TE Eric Ebron vs. Titans LB Jayon Brown. Opponents keep failing to cover Ebron with a linebacker. Brown, a second-year pro who excels at covering tight ends, is expected to be the point man for trying to limit the productivity of the Colts' best pass-catcher. Ebron leads all tight ends with nine TD receptions and he's No. 1 on the Colts with 39 receptions for 463 yards. The Jaguars shifted the responsibility to cornerbacks, but even Pro Bowl star Jalen Ramsey got burned in a missed assignment on Ebron's 53-yard TD catch.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Titans RB Dion Lewis. Lewis clearly has become 1A in the team's backfield, relegating Derrick Henry to 1B in that regard. Lewis brings a hard-running style for such a small back, and his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield on screens and check-downs has made him possibly the Titans' most consistent weapon in the offense with TE Delanie Walker on injured reserve.
FAST FACTS: TITANS QB MARCUS MARIOTA completed 16 of 24 (66.7 pct.) for 228 yards with 2 TDs vs. 0 INTs for 125 rating, rushed for 21 yards & had 21-yard catch last week. Is 1 of 3 NFL players (CAM NEWTON & JIM MC MAHON) with 200+ pass yards, 20+ rush yards & 20+ rec. yards in single game. ... RB DION LEWIS has 345 scrimmage yards (115 per game) in his past 3. ... RB DERRICK HENRY rushed for 58 yards & 2 TDs in Week 10. ... WR COREY DAVIS had 7 catches for 125 yards & TD last week, his 2nd-career game with 100+ rec. yards & TD. Leads team with 43 catches & 576 rec. yards. ... TE JONNU SMITH had 45 rec. yards & TD in Week 10. Aims for his 3rd in row with rec. TD. ... WR DARIUS JENNINGS completed 21-yard pass & had 58-yard KR in Week 10. ... LB WESLEY WOODYARD had 10 tackles, 1.5 sacks & TFL in Week 10. Aims for his 3rd in row with 10+ tackles & sack. ... LB JAYON BROWN has sack in 2 of his past 3. S KEVIN BYARD since 2017, ties for NFL lead (DARIUS SLAY) with 10 INTs. ... COLTS QB ANDREW LUCK completed 21 of 29 (72.4 pct.) for 285 yards with 3 TDs vs. 1 INT for 123.5 rating last week. Has 3+ TD passes in 6 consecutive games, 3rd-longest streak in single season in NFL history. Aims for his 4th in row at home with 100+ rating. ... RB MARLON MACK has 125+ rush yards & TD in 2 of his past 3. ... TE ERIC EBRON had 69 rec. yards & 3 TDs (2 rec., 1 rush) last week. Is 2nd TE in NFL history (ROB GRONKOWSKI, 12/4/11) with 2+ TD catches & rush TD in single game. ... TE MO ALIE-COX had TD catch last week. Aims for his 3rd in row with TD. ... LB DARIUS LEONARD (rookie) had 8 tackles & TFL last week. Leads NFL with 96 tackles in 8 games (12 per game). ... CB KENNY MOORE had 6 tackles, 2 PD, TFL & FF in Week 10. Has 5 PD in his past 3.
PREDICTION: Tennessee has never beaten the Colts with Luck under center, but the Titans have played much better since quarterback Marcus Mariota shed a glove on his throwing hand to protect numbness in his fingers. Time for the streak to end.
OUR PICK: Titans, 26-24
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (3-6) AT NEW YORK GIANTS (2-7)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 PM ET, MetLife Stadium; FOX, Thom Brennaman, Chris Spielman, Shannon Spake (Field reporter)
SERIES HISTORY: 21st regular-season meeting. Giants lead series, 13-7. The Giants are 4-2 in regular-season play against the Bucs since 2003 and have won their last two home meetings against them. The Giants are also 1-0 in postseason play, that being the NFC wild-card game played in January 2008.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Despite their struggles, the Buccaneers have the top offense in the NFL, a unit that's averaging 452.8 yards overall and 361.2 yards passing per game. A big part of that surge has been the play of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has thrown for 843 yards (including last week's 406-yard performance) and six touchdowns while completing 64 of 96 pass attempts since relieving Jameis Winston in Week 8. However, Fitzpatrick has committed five turnovers in the past two games, including four interceptions.
The problem for the Giants is that their pass rush has been mostly invisible all season. Last week, they only managed to record three pressures against Nick Mullens, none of them resulting in a sack. With Fitzpatrick dependent on timing patterns with his receivers, New York has to find a way to get after him Sunday to keep him off balance.
Offensively, the Giants caught a big break with Bucs linebacker Lavonte David sidelined with a sprained knee. David is probably their best cover linebacker, so with him missing it would behoove New York to take a page out of last week's game plan and continue to get running back Saquon Barkley in space as much as possible and get tight end Evan Engram up the seam where he might strike gold against a shaky defensive secondary that has contributed to opponents averaging 291.9 yards per game, fourth-most in the NFL. Odell Beckham Jr. could have a big day for the Giants. Safety Justin Evans is injured, so the pass defense is hurting.
FRIDAY INJURY REPORT
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
--OUT: DE Vinny Curry (ankle), LB Lavonte David (knee), S Justin Evans (toe), RB Ronald Jones II (hamstring), CB M.J. Stewart (foot)
--QUESTIONABLE: WR Chris Godwin (ankle), C Ryan Jensen (hamstring), DE Carl Nassib (elbow)
NEW YORK GIANTS
No players listed
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
--Giants RT Chad Wheeler vs. Bucs DE Jason Pierre-Paul. Last week, the Giants were able to help the offensive line by providing max protection and by running the ball more. This took some of the onus off the struggling tackles, most notably Wheeler, who leads the offensive linemen with 26 total pressures allowed. This week, Wheeler should see a lot of Pierre-Paul (as will LT Nate Holder), the former Giants defender who is itching to get back at his old team by showing them that he can still get the job done.
--Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. vs. Buccaneers CB Carlton Davis. Beckham had two touchdowns Monday night at San Francisco. Davis is a rookie but is a fierce competitor and his size could help him against Beckham.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Giants QB Eli Manning. Manning showed some of his old magic in engineering a come-from-behind victory over the 49ers on Monday Night Football with a performance that was just enough to throw some cold water on his ever-increasing hot seat. Can Manning and the Giants make it two in a row against an equally woeful opponent? If he can't, things could get ugly for the Giants very quickly as they look to record their first back-to-back wins since Weeks 14 and 15 of the 2016 season.
FAST FACTS: BUCCANEERS QB RYAN FITZPATRICK ranks 2nd in NFC averaging 314.1 pass yards per game. In 6 starts in 2018, has 2,005 pass yards (334.2 per game) with 15 TDs vs. 9 INTs for 103.4 rating. Passed for 406 yards last week & has 4 games with 400+ pass yards this season, most in NFL. ... RB JACQUIZZ RODGERS had 8 receptions for career-high 102 rec. yards in Week 10. ... WR MIKE EVANS has 13 catches for 217 yards (108.5 per game) & TD in 2 career meetings. ... WR CHRIS GODWIN had 7 catches for 103 yards last week, his 2nd-career 100-yard game. ... DT GERALD McCOY had sack in Week 10. Since entering league in 2010, ties for 3rd among NFL DTs with 51.5 sacks. ... Rookie DT VITA VEA had 1st-career sack last week. ... DE CARL NASSIB has 4 sacks in his past 4. Aims for 3rd in row with sack. ... DE JASON PIERRE-PAUL had 58.5 sacks & 13 FFs in 8 seasons with NYG (2010-17). ... GIANTS QB ELI MANNING threw 3 TDs vs. 0 INTs for 110.7 rating in Week 10. Aims for 5th in row vs. TB with 2+ TD passes. ... RB SAQUON BARKLEY (rookie) had 100 scrimmage yards (67 rush, 33 rec.) last week. Has 8 games with 100+ scrimmage yards in 2018, tied for most in NFL (ADAM THIELEN). Is only player in NFL with 500+ rush yards (586) & 500+ rec. yards (530). ... WR ODELL BECKHAM JR. had 2 rec. TDs in Week 10. Has 20 catches for 352 yards (117.3 per game) & 3 TDs in past 3. ... WR STERLING SHEPARD had rec. TD in Week 10. ... TE RHETT ELLISON had rec. TD in last meeting. ... S LANDON COLLINS led team with 9 tackles last week. Leads team with 71 tackles, tied-3rd most among safeties. ... LB B.J. GOODSON had 6 tackles, 2 PD & 2 INTs in Week 10, his 1st-career INTs. Aims for 3rd in row with 6+ tackles & TFL.
PREDICTION: Tampa Bay's defense helps a lot of offenses get well, and the Giants certainly need an assist in that department. The Buccaneers will come out throwing and New York will have to match them. They won't.
OUR PICK: Buccaneers, 30-27
HOUSTON TEXANS (6-3) AT WASHINGTON REDSKINS (6-3)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 PM ET, FedExField; CBS, Greg Gumbel, Trent Green, Bruce Arians, Melanie Collins (Field reporter)
SERIES HISTORY: 5th regular-season meeting. Series tied, 2-2. Washington won the first two in 2002 and 2006 and Houston has won the past two, the most recent a 17-6 victory in Week 1 of the 2014 season in Bill O'Brien's first game as an NFL head coach.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Texans can throw the ball at will and, even without Will Fuller V, they can force the issue with DeAndre Hopkins, Demaryius Thomas and possibly Keke Coutee. Washington's defense is giving up 270.1 yards through the air, which ranks them 25th in the NFL. Kickoff temperatures are projected at 50 degrees, but Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson has fared well in these colder games in the NFL, throwing for 615 yards with a 66.7 percent completion rate to go along with six touchdowns and three interceptions.
The Redskins need to run the ball with Adrian Peterson. They rank 10th in the NFL in rushing yards per game (121.2) and quarterback Alex Smith has 10 touchdowns to just three interceptions. He doesn't turn the ball over, but can the injury-ravaged offensive line protect Smith? The Texans have 23 sacks, but are a little top heavy and rank 19th in sacks per opponent pass attempt (6.93 percent). When Washington's defense plays well, the Redskins have a chance to win. Turnovers are the key there with nine interceptions and nine fumble recoveries. That has been just enough in narrow victories over Dallas and Carolina. It hasn't been near enough in blowout losses to Atlanta and New Orleans.
Washington is only giving up 90.9 yards a game rushing, which is fifth best in the NFL. Don't expect that to prevent the Texans from running the ball at all costs. Houston is rushing for 120.2 yards a clip (11th in the NFL) and that is even with some really poor games on the ground.
FRIDAY INJURY REPORT
--QUESTIONABLE: CB Aaron Colvin (ankle), WR Keke Coutee (hamstring), LB Zach Cunningham (knee), LB Duke Ejiofor (shoulder), CB Johnathan Joseph (ankle, knee)
--OUT: WR Jamison Crowder (ankle), RB Samaje Perine (knee, calf), RB Chris Thompson (rib)
--QUESTIONABLE: CB Quinton Dunbar (shin), K Dustin Hopkins (right groin), S Montae Nicholson (illness), T Trent Williams (thumb)
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
--Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins vs. Redskins CB Josh Norman. Hopkins will continue to be followed by the defense's top cornerback and this week it is Norman. The Redskins are susceptible to the pass and now it is Hopkins' turn to remain the primary target for QB Deshaun Watson. Coming off a strong performance against the Denver Broncos, Hopkins can get what he wants with his routes to open up space for Watson to find him.
--Texans DE J.J. Watt vs. Redskins RT Morgan Moses. Watt has returned with a vengeance with nine sacks in nine games. Moses is the one experienced offensive lineman remaining for Washington, but he is fighting a knee injury. Expect Watt to take advantage.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Redskins S D.J. Swearinger. Swearinger is ready for some revenge. He was not happy with how Houston moved on after drafting him in the second round in 2013 and says the Texans trashed him publicly. It's been a good two seasons in Washington. Swearinger has solidified the safety spot with four interceptions last season and has four already this year. He's also forced three fumbles in 25 games.
FAST FACTS: TEXANS QB DESHAUN WATSON has 36 TD passes in 16 career games, 2nd-most in NFL history by QB in his 1st 16 career games (HOFer KURT WARNER, 39). Is 1 of 6 NFL QBs with 100+ rating (101.7) since 2017 (min. 400 att.). ... RB LAMAR MILLER has 100+ rush yards & rush TD in 2 of his past 3. ... WR DeANDRE HOPKINS had 10 catches for 105 yards & TD in Week 9. Has 4 games with 10+ catches, 100+ rec. yards & TD catch since 2017, most in NFL over span. Has 5 TD catches in his past 4. Aims for his 5th in row with rec. TD. ... Rookie TE JORDAN THOMAS has 3 TD catches in past 2. ... DE J.J. WATT had sack in Week 9. Has 9 sacks in past 7. Aims for 3rd in row with sack. ... DE JADEVEON CLOWNEY has 3 sacks in his past 3. ... S TYRANN MATHIEU has sack in 2 of his past 3. ... Rookie S JUSTIN REID had career-high 9 tackles with FR in Week 9. Aims for 3rd in row with 8+ tackles. ... REDSKINS QB ALEX SMITH threw for TD & had 100.5 rating last week. ... RB ADRIAN PETERSON has 333 rush yards (83.3 per game) & 2 rush TDs in his past 4 at home. ... TE JORDAN REED is 1 of 4 NFL TEs with 200+ catches (217) & 20+ rec. TDs (20) since 2015. ... WR JOSH DOCTSON had TD catch in Week 10. Aims for 3rd in row with rec. TD. ... WR MAURICE HARRIS has 15 catches for 176 yards (88 per game) in his past 2. Has led team in rec. yards in each of past 2 games. ... S D.J. SWEARINGER has 2 FFs, FR & sack in his past 3 at home. Had 4 FFs & 3 INTs in 2 seasons with Hou. (2013-14). ... CB JOSH NORMAN had INT in Week 10. Aims for 4th in row with PD.
PREDICTION: Washington needs a big game out of Peterson, but its patchwork offensive line will face a test against Houston's defensive front. In what should be a defensive struggle, Watson has more to work with on offense.
OUR PICK: Texas, 23-20
OAKLAND RAIDERS (1-8) AT ARIZONA CARDINALS (2-7)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:05 PM ET, State Farm Stadium; CBS, Spero Dedes, Adam Archuleta
SERIES HISTORY: 10th regular-season meeting. Raiders lead series, 5-4. The Cardinals have won the last two meetings in the series, which dates back to 1973. The last time the teams met, Arizona scored a 24-13 victory in Oakland in 2014. The last time the Raiders visited Arizona, in 2010, they lost when they missed a 32-yard field goal as time expired and the Cardinals held on for a 24-23 win.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Cardinals will want to duplicate what they did in Kansas City as it relates to how they use running back David Johnson, who racked up season highs in yards from scrimmage (183), rushing yards (98) and receiving yards (85). New offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich has been using Johnson more as a receiver, both in the slot and as a wide receiver, and running backs coach Kirby Wilson has been getting on Johnson to run more downhill and eliminate some of his bouncing around at the line. Look for the Cardinals to use more max protection in this game after rookie quarterback Josh Rosen was sacked five times and hit 13 times by the Chiefs. The Raiders don't have much of a pass rush, but head coach Steve Wilks is worried about Rosen absorbing so much punishment.
Defensively, the Cardinals will try to blitz Derek Carr repeatedly and they have the bookends to do it in pass rushers Chandler Jones and Markus Golden. The interior defensive front is ailing a bit, but this would be the perfect time for the hobbled Robert Nkemdiche to get well quick and start making a difference or this could end up being his last year in Arizona. The Cardinals might also be a little thin in the secondary, especially with versatile safety Budda Baker (knee) out.
FRIDAY INJURY REPORT
--OUT: WR Martavis Bryant (knee), WR Jordy Nelson (knee)
--QUESTIONABLE: CB Gareon Conley (groin), CB Nick Nelson (illness), LB Kyle Wilber (knee)
--OUT: S Budda Baker (knee), WR Chad Williams (ankle)
--QUESTIONABLE: K Phil Dawson (right hip), S Rudy Ford (heel), DT Rodney Gunter (not injury related), T D.J. Humphries (knee), G Mike Iupati (back), DT Robert Nkemdiche (calf)
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Raiders CBs Gareon Conley and Daryl Worley vs. Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald. Conley is beginning to show hints of why the Raiders drafted him in the first round (No. 24) out of Ohio State last year, but he was limited in practice Wednesday (groin). Worley began the season on a league-mandated four-game suspension and is also starting to play up to expectations. They will both need to be on top of their game against Fitzgerald, a future Pro Football Hall of Famer, who has caught 40 passes for 407 yards and two touchdowns this year.
--Cardinals WLB Deone Bucannon vs. Raiders TE Jared Cook. Cook is the Raiders' biggest weapon as a pass-catcher, leading the team with 546 receiving yards on 42 catches with three touchdowns. Normally, S Budda Baker might draw the primary assignment here, but with his knee injury, expect the Cardinals to utilize Bucannon more than they have. Last week against the Chiefs, he was only on the field for 10 defensive snaps and has gone through games where he didn't even see half that much time. Bucannon has the leverage and strength to neutralize Cook if the Cardinals let him.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Cardinals CB Bene' Benwikere might be asked to abandon his duties as an outside corner and play inside as a slot defender with some emphasis on playing safety in nickel situations against the Raiders. That will happen if safety Budda Baker can't go because of a knee injury he suffered in Sunday's game at Kansas City. Benwikere is sixth on the team in tackles (35) and has one interception and one forced fumble. Head coach Steve Wilks said Benwikere is versatile enough to play any position on the back end.
FAST FACTS: RAIDERS QB DEREK CARR completed 24 of 37 (64.9 pct.) last week. Ranks 2nd in NFL with 71.5 comp. pct. (228 of 319). ... RB DOUG MARTIN had 92 scrimmage yards (61 rush, 31 rec.) last week. Has 85+ scrimmage yards in 2 of his past 3. ... RB JALEN RICHARD had 5 catches for 52 yards last week. Is 1 of 5 NFL RBs with 45+ catches (48) & 400+ rec. yards (400) in 2018. ... TE JARED COOK is 1 of 4 NFL TEs with 500+ rec. yards (546) in 2018. ... DT MAURICE HURST (rookie) had sack & TFL in Week 10. Is 1 of 2 NFL rookies (DERWIN JAMES) with 3+ sacks (3) & 3+ PD (3). ... LB TAHIR WHITEHEAD led team with 7 tackles last week. Has 6 TFL in his past 3. ... CB DARYL WORLEY had 2 PD last week. Has 2+ PD in 3 of his past 4. ... CARDINALS QB JOSH ROSEN (rookie) aims for 4th in row with TD pass & 3rd in row with 200+ pass yards. Ranks 3rd among NFL rookies in completions (116), pass yards (1,280) & TD passes (6). ... RB DAVID JOHNSON had 183 scrimmage yards (98 rush, 85 rec.) & 2 TDs (1 rush, 1 rec.) last week. Has 4 games with 1+ rush TD & 1+ TD catch since 2015, tied for 2nd-most such games over span. ... WR LARRY FITZGERALD has 15,952 career rec. yards & surpassed HOFer TERRELL OWENS (15,934) for 2nd-most all-time. ... WR CHRISTIAN KIRK is 1 of 3 NFL rookies with 30+ receptions (33) & 400+ rec. yards (418) in 2018. ... DE CHANDLER JONES had 2 sacks in Week 10. Since 2016, leads NFL in sacks (36.5) & TFL (51). ... S ANTOINE BETHEA had FF last week. ... S BUDDA BAKER (74) & Bethea (72) rank 1st & 2nd among NFL safeties in tackles in 2018. ... LB JOSH BYNES had sack last week. Aims for 3rd in row with PD & TFL.
PREDICTION: In their five-game losing streak, the Raiders have scored a total of 50 points with six or less in three games. The Cardinals have their own issues, but nothing like what is affecting Oakland.
OUR PICK: Cardinals, 17-10
DENVER BRONCOS (3-6) AT LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (7-2)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:05 PM ET, StubHub Center; CBS, Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts, Evan Washburn (Field reporter)
SERIES HISTORY: 117th regular-season meeting. Broncos lead series, 64-51-1. The Chargers blanked the Broncos 21-0 in their most recent meeting last December. The shutout stopped the Broncos consecutive game scoring streak that stood out as the second longest in NFL history.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Chargers can let Philip Rivers be Philip Rivers at any time but it's the running game, and that includes short swing passes that mimic a run, that has allowed the Chargers to go on their current roll. The Broncos are mediocre at best in stopping the run and that's just too tempting with Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler. Running well would help slow Denver's pass-rush duo of Von Miller and Bradley Chubb.
The Broncos are averaging 20 points in their last two games, both losses and need to find a way to score more points. Their running game has continued to be productive but they could use more chunk plays in the passing game and they have an inviting target for those downfield passes in rookie Courtland Sutton. If Case Keenum can connect with Sutton downfield at least a couple of times, that could put the Broncos on the doorstep of touchdowns that they'll need to stay on the heels of the Chargers prolific offense.
Wide receiver Keenan Allen has emerged as one of Rivers' favorite targets over the years. That means the Broncos secondary will have its hands full as the Chargers use the run to complement a top-notch passing game. It will fall to cornerbacks Chris Harris Jr. or Bradley Roby to shadow Allen and keep him from fueling the Chargers' big-play offense.
FRIDAY INJURY REPORT
--OUT: G Max Garcia (knee), LB Brandon Marshall (knee), S Dymonte Thomas (ankle)
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
--OUT: CB Trevor Williams (knee)
--QUESTIONABLE: DE Joey Bosa (foot), TE Antonio Gates (knee)
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Broncos TE Jeff Heuerman vs. Chargers S Derwin James. Heuerman is coming off his best game as a pro, with 10 catches for 83 yards and a touchdown in Denver's loss to Houston. However, he'll be facing one of the top safeties in the game in James, a ball-hawking defender with the physical abilities to go toe-to-toe in a matchup with tight ends.
--Broncos LB Josey Jewell vs. Chargers RB Melvin Gordon. The Chargers have been able to keep opposing defenses guessing as to what's coming, a slashing run off the edge by Gordon or QB Philip Rivers hitting a pass route over the middle. With Denver LB Brandon Marshall's status uncertain because of injury, Jewell could be in line to make another start and he'll be at the center of the Broncos' run-stopping effort as an inside linebacker. Gordon has run for 338 yards and four touchdowns in his last three games.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Broncos C Connor McGovern. Denver lost Matt Paradis to a broken leg in their last game against Houston two weeks ago, so McGovern is slated to make his first start Sunday. McGovern stepped in for Paradis after he was injured and had the bye week to become accustomed to quarterback Case Keenum as well getting the first-team practice snaps. Keenum said McGovern has been a quick study. "He's on point," Keenum said. "He showed up ready to go and is a guy that's been working his tail off since I got here. I have complete confidence in him."
FAST FACTS: BRONCOS QB CASE KEENUM passed for 290 yards with 1 TD vs. 0 INTs for 90.4 rating in Week 9. Has 2+ TD passes in 3 of his past 5. ... RB PHILLIP LINDSAY (rookie) had 84 scrimmage yards (60 rush, 24 rec.) in Week 9. Has 90+ rush yards & TD in 2 of his past 3. Leads NFL rookies with 591 rush yards & ranks 3rd with 751 scrimmage yards. Has 110 carries for 591 yards (5.37) & is 1 of 4 NFL RBs averaging 5+ yards per carry (min. 100 att.). ... Rookie RB ROYCE FREEMAN had rush TD in Week 9. ... WR EMMANUEL SANDERS has 100+ rec. yards & TD catch in 2 of his past 4. ... Rookie WR COURTLAND SUTTON aims for his 3rd in row with 50+ rec. yards. Ranks 1st among rookies averaging 19.1 yards per reception (min. 10 catches). ... TE JEFF HEUERMAN set career highs in catches (10) & rec. yards (83) with TD catch in Week 9. Aims for his 3rd in row with rec. TD. ... LB VON MILLER has 5 sacks, 2 FFs & FR in his past 4. Had 2 sacks in last meeting. Is 1 of 3 active players (JULIUS PEPPERS & TERRELL SUGGS) with 90+ sacks (92.5) & 25+ FFs (25). ... LB TODD DAVIS is 1 of 4 in NFL with 65+ tackles (67), 5+ PD (5) & INT (1). ... Rookie LB BRADLEY CHUBB has 6.5 sacks in his past 4. Leads NFL rookies with 8 sacks. ... CHARGERS QB PHILIP RIVERS completed 18 of 26 (69.2 pct.) for 223 yards with 2 TDs vs. 1 INT for 105.1 rating last week. Is 1 of 3 QBs in NFL history (TOM BRADY (2007) & AARON RODGERS (2011) with 2+ TD passes & 95+ rating in each of his team's 1st 9 games of season. ... RB MELVIN GORDON had 165 scrimmage yards (93 rush, 72 rec.) & TD catch last week. Has 120+ scrimmage yards & TD in each of his past 5. Aims for 8th in row with TD. Is 1 of 5 in NFL with 1,000+ scrimmage yards (1,033) & 10+ TDs (11). ... WR KEENAN ALLEN had TD catch last week. Has 4 TD catches in his past 5 vs. Den. ... LB MELVIN INGRAM had sack & FF last week. Aims for his 4th in row with sack. ... LB JATAVIS BROWN had team-high 11 tackles in Week 10. Aims for his 3rd in row with 11+ tackles. ... Rookie S DERWIN JAMES had 9 tackles last week. Is 1 of 3 in NFL with 60+ tackles (64), 3+ sacks (3.5) & INT (1).
PREDICTION: The Chargers are in their home stadium for the first time since Oct. 7, but their travels didn't keep them from compiling a 7-2 record. Still, there will likely be numerous orange-clad Denver fans in attendance.
OUR PICK: Chargers, 23-16
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (4-5) AT NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (8-1)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:25 PM ET, Mercedes-Benz Superdome; FOX, Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews (Field reporter), Kristina Pink (Field reporter)
SERIES HISTORY: 28th regular-season meeting. Eagles lead series, 16-11. The Eagles have won the last two meetings, both of which were in Philadelphia, the most recent being a 29-17 triumph in 2015. The Saints won the last meeting in New Orleans, 28-13, in 2012 and are 8-7 in regular-season meetings in New Orleans.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Saints are used to playing from ahead and one of the Eagles' biggest problems is the frequency with which they have had to play from behind. The Saints have scored touchdowns on their first possession six times in nine games. The Eagles have failed to score at all in the first quarter in seven of nine games. If the Saints can score early and build a lead, there's a good chance they'll keep rolling and the Eagles will keep struggling. New Orleans averages 7.03 yards on first down, which ranks third in the league behind the Chargers (7.56) and Rams (7.35).
The Saints' ability to play with a lead has been partly due to them ranking No. 1 in the NFL in run defense, thus making it difficult for opponents to get off to a fast start offensively, though the last three opponents have scored a touchdown on their first possession. But they mostly have been unable to sustain that success - at least not enough to keep pace with New Orleans. The Saints rank 31st in pass defense, but that is mitigated somewhat by their success defending the run as well as a series of interceptions and sacks at key moments in recent games. The Eagles are just 22nd in rushing, making it likely New Orleans will be able to force Carson Wentz into unfavorable passing situations just as it has done with most opposing quarterbacks.
FRIDAY INJURY REPORT
--OUT: CB Ronald Darby (knee), CB Jalen Mills (foot), TE Joshua Perkins (knee), RB Darren Sproles (hamstring)
--QUESTIONABLE: T Lane Johnson (knee), DT Haloti Ngata (knee)
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
--OUT: T Terron Armstead (shoulder), DE Marcus Davenport (toe)
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Eagles secondary vs. Saints WR Michael Thomas. Due to various injuries, the Eagles' secondary has been a revolving door, and now must try to somehow put the clamps on one of the top receivers in the game. Thomas leads the league in catches (78) and is second in receiving yardage (950). Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said that, despite the heavy rotation, his scheme has not changed and the defensive playbook is still wide open. "We've got some guys hurt, we've got some guys that are working hard to get back," said Schwartz. "We've got some young players that need to fill in and make their way in the league. We've got some guys that aren't coming back, obviously. In my mind, that's the essence of coaching: Take what you have and try to figure it out. It might look different than when we were at 100 percent strength."
--Saints rushing offense vs. Eagles run defense. The Eagles were shredded on the ground by Dallas' Ezekiel Elliott, allowing him to run for 151 yards and a touchdown Sunday night. Now comes Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram II, and Taysom Hill. They have the Saints leading the league in rushing scores with 17, averaging 126 yards rushing per game, which is eighth best in the league, and are coming off a game against the Bengals where they hammered out 244 yards.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Saints T Jermon Bushrod is expected to start in place of injured LT Terron Armstead. Bushrod was away from the team for a couple of weeks after his infant daughter died last month, but he was ready when Armstead was sidelined in the second quarter last week. Bushrod played 51 snaps and performed well, but he'll likely be counted on to play even more snaps this week as he protects Drew Brees' blind side.
FAST FACTS: EAGLES QB CARSON WENTZ completed 32 of 44 (72.7 pct.) for 360 yards with 2 TDs vs. 1 INT for 102.5 rating last week. Aims for 6th in row with 2+ TD passes & 100+ rating. Since Week 5, is 1 of 2 in NFL (DREW BREES) with 70+ comp. pct. (73.1) & 115+ rating (115.8). ... TE ZACH ERTZ led team with 14 receptions for 145 yards & 2 TDs in Week 10. His 14 catches were most by NFL TE in single game since Ertz had 15 receptions on 12/20/14. Leads NFL TEs in catches (75) & rec. yards (789) in 2018. Aims for his 3rd in row with TD catch. ... DE BRANDON GRAHAM had 1.5 sacks in Week 10. ... DE MICHAEL BENNETT had 2 sacks last week, his 1st multi-sack game with Phi. Has 4.5 sacks & FF in his past 4. ... S MALCOLM JENKINS had FF in Week 10. Has 18 tackles, FF, FR & 4 PD in his past 3. ... SAINTS have scored 40+ points in 5 games in 2018 & became 3rd team in NFL history to score 40+ points in 5 of its 1st 9 games of season. ... QB DREW BREES completed 22 of 25 (88 pct.) for 265 yards with 3 TDs vs. 0 INTs for 150.4 rating in Week 10. Has 509 career TD passes & surpassed HOFer BRETT FAVRE (508) for 2nd-most all-time. ... RB ALVIN KAMARA had 102 scrimmage yards (56 rush, 46 rec.) & 2 rush TDs last week. Has 9 games with 2+ TDs since entering league in 2017, tied for 2nd-most in 1st 25 career games in NFL history. Aims for his 4th in row with 2+ TDs. ... RB MARK INGRAM II had 162 scrimmage yards (104 rush, 58 rec.) & TD catch in Week 10. ... WR MICHAEL THOMAS had 8 catches for 70 yards & 2 TDs last week. Aims for his 3rd in row with TD. Ties for NFL lead with 78 catches & ranks 2nd with 950 rec. yards. ... DE CAMERON JORDAN had sack last week. ... DT SHELDON RANKINS has 3 sacks in his past 3. ... LB ALEX ANZALONE has sack, FF & INT in his past 3.
PREDICTION: The Eagles are desperate, but the Saints are among the best teams in the NFL. In New Orleans, it's difficult to see how Philadelphia will be able to keep pace.
OUR PICK: Saints, 34-23
MINNESOTA VIKINGS (5-3-1) AT CHICAGO BEARS (6-3)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 8:20 PM ET, Soldier Field; NBC, Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya (Field reporter)
SERIES HISTORY: 114th regular-season meeting. Vikings lead series, 60-51-2. Minnesota has won the past three meetings between the two teams, including a 23-10 home win to cap last regular season. Latavius Murray ran for 111 yards and two touchdowns, while the Vikings held Chicago to 201 yards of offense. Minnesota has won two of the past three games in Chicago.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Minnesota won't want to expose quarterback Kirk Cousins and the offensive line to too much pressure from Khalil Mack and Chicago's pass rushers. If Cousins has to drop back and throw all game, that plays into the Bears' hands. So, the Vikings will look to use running backs Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray to run the ball. Cousins, as he's done much of the season, can also use the quick, short passing game to slow the pass rush. Receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen have been potent running after the catch.
The Bears defense should recognize what they're seeing when they see Minnesota's offense, since Vikings offensive coordinator John DeFilippo was with the Eagles in their Super Bowl run under Doug Pederson, and the Bears use a similar-styled approach on offense with Matt Nagy. The run portion of the RPO is more pronounced for the Bears, and the Bears will do more power-style running than they use because of Mike Zimmer's preferences, but essentially the idea is to spread out defenses and get upfield in the gaps.
For the Bears, moving quarterback Mitchell Trubisky in the pocket and out of it to vary launch points is essential to keeping him from being sacked as often as Matthew Stafford was by the Vikings (10 times).
FRIDAY INJURY REPORT
--OUT: TE David Morgan (knee), S Andrew Sendejo (groin)
--QUESTIONABLE: LB Anthony Barr (hamstring), G Tom Compton (knee), G Mike Remmers (back)
--OUT: TE Dion Sims (concussion)
--QUESTIONABLE: DT Bilal Nichols (knee), WR Javon Wims (knee)
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Vikings Ts vs. Bears LB Khalil Mack. Mack lines up all over the field, so this responsibility won't fall solely to Minnesota LT Riley Reiff. Rookie Brian O'Neill, who kept his starting spot on the right side after Reiff returned from injury, will also see his share of Mack, who has seven sacks this season. Reiff and O'Neill will have their hands full, and the Vikings would be smart to also bring help with a tight end or back to slow Mack.
--Vikings S Harrison Smith vs. Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky. This isn't your typical one-on-one matchup, but Smith will likely be trying to diagnose where Trubisky is going all game long. Smith will need to come up when Trubisky takes off running and Smith will try to solve Chicago's multiple looks on offense to slow the passing game.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Vikings RB Dalvin Cook. A matchup featuring two of the top-five defenses in the NFL could be turned around with a strong game controlling the ball by Minnesota. Cook showed just what the Vikings were missing when he missed five games with a hamstring injury by taking a handoff for 70 yards against Detroit. Chicago owns the league's second-best run defense this year. If Cook can add some big plays and ball control, Minnesota can keep the Bears' speedy offense off the field and keep Khalil Mack and the pass rushers off quarterback Kirk Cousins.
FAST FACTS: VIKINGS QB KIRK COUSINS is 1 of 4 in NFL (DREW BREES, MATT RYAN & CARSON WENTZ) with 70+ comp. pct. (71.3) & 100+ rating (115.1). ... RB LATAVIUS MURRAY had rush TD in Week 9. Aims for his 5th in row with rush TD. ... RB DALVIN COOK had 109 scrimmage yards (89 rush, 20 rec.) in Week 9. ... WR ADAM THIELEN ties for NFL lead in receptions (78), ranks 3rd in rec. yards (947) & ties for 5th in TD catches (7). Aims for his 7th in row with TD. Has 100+ rec. yards in 8 of his past 9. ... VIKINGS defense recorded franchise-record 10 sacks in Week 9. ... DE DANIELLE HUNTER had 9 tackles, career-high 3.5 sacks & 32-yard FR-TD in Week 9 & became 2nd player with 3.5+ sacks & TD in single game since 1982. Ranks 2nd in NFL with 11.5 sacks. ... DT TOM JOHNSON had career-high 2.5 sacks in Week 9. ... S HARRISON SMITH has 3 INTs in his past 5 at Chi. ... BEARS QB MITCHELL TRUBISKY completed 23 of 30 (76.7 pct.) for career-high 355 yards with 3 TDs vs. 0 INTs for 148.6 rating & had rush TD last week. Is 1 of 2 NFL QBs in 2018 (CAM NEWTON) with 100+ rating (101.6), 300+ rush yards (320) & 3+ rush TDs (3). ... RB JORDAN HOWARD has 427 scrimmage yards (106.8 per game) & rush TD in 4 career games vs. Min. Had career-high 202 scrimmage yards (153 rush, 49 rec.) & rush TD in 10/31/16 meeting. ... RB TARIK COHEN had rush TD last week. Has TD in 5 of his past 6. ... WR ALLEN ROBINSON II had 6 receptions for 133 yards & 2 TDs in Week 10. Has 4 TD catches in his past 4. ... Rookie WR ANTHONY MILLER had 5 receptions for career-high 122 yards & TD last week. Ranks 2nd among NFL rookies with 4 TD catches. ... LB KHALIL MACK had 2 sacks last week. ... Rookie LB ROQUAN SMITH had 10 tackles, sack & PD in Week 10. Aims for his 3rd in row with 10+ tackles. ... CB PRINCE AMUKAMARA had 8 tackles, INT & career-high 2 FFs last week.
PREDICTION: The Vikings can take over first place in the division with a win, while the Bears try to prove their mettle on a big stage in a game flexed to Sunday night by the NFL. Coming off their bye should aid Minnesota.
OUR PICK: Vikings, 23-20
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (9-1) AT LOS ANGELES RAMS (9-1)
KICKOFF: Monday, 8:15 PM ET; Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum; ESPN, Joe Tessitore, Jason Witten, Booger McFarland, Lisa Salters (Field reporter)
SERIES HISTORY: 12th regular-season meeting. Chiefs lead series, 7-4. Kansas City owned the Rams when they were in-state rivals, winning all six contests against the St. Louis Rams. But against the Los Angeles Rams, the Chiefs own just one win in five contests. The Rams also had better luck in the Governor's Cup, however, winning nine of 15 preseason games between the teams in Missouri from 1995 to 2015.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Rams are bracing for a shootout playing against an offense that is every bit as powerful as their own. The key is to remain true to who they are rather than get too far outside of themselves thinking they have to score points in bunches to keep up. Both teams will score points. But the Rams forcing the Chiefs to kick field goals rather than scoring touchdowns on a trip or two into the red zone will go a long way toward giving their offense a chance to create some cushion. Avoiding turnovers - while forcing some on their end - will also be critical. Expect a heavy dose of Todd Gurley II and then Jared Goff attacking the Chiefs downfield off play-action passes. The Chiefs' pass rush can be potent, and slowing it down with play-action will be vital.
The Chiefs do what they do on offense, which centers on Patrick Mahomes distributing the ball to his playmakers, and anyone can have the hot hand any given week. But this could be a big week for Sammy Watkins, who returns from a foot injury to face his former teammates. With the Rams likely to focus on Tyreek Hill, that could leave Watkins space to work, especially over the middle attacking the weakness of the Rams. Running back Kareem Hunt should also be heavily involved in the run and pass game, as the Chiefs look to score early and often.
The injury to wide receiver Cooper Kupp should allow the Chiefs defense to turn more attention to Todd Gurley, particularly as a receiver out of the backfield.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Rams CB Marcus Peters vs. Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill. The Chiefs move their receivers around, but the marquee matchup revolves around anytime the former teammates line up across from one another. Both players appeared headed in opposite directions this season with Hill averaging 89 yards receiving and a touchdown per game. Peters, however, allows a passer rating of 143.7 on balls thrown his direction this season.
--Chiefs OLB Dee Ford vs. Rams RT Rob Havenstein. Ford leads the Chiefs with nine sacks, heading toward a career year in a contract season. But Ford needs to set the edge in this game as much as rushing Jared Goff in making an impact in the run game. The Chiefs need Ford and Justin Houston to contain Todd Gurley II from breaking runs to the outside.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Rams WR Josh Reynolds is in his second year and has played in 26 games with three starts. He will be thrust into the spotlight after a season-ending injury to Cooper Kupp and will be expected to step up. Through Week 10 of 2018, he has caught seven passes for 98 yards (14.0 average), with two touchdowns. The Texas A&M product has also rushed the ball twice for a total of eight yards this season. In his career, Reynolds has posted 202 yards on 18 receptions with three total touchdowns.
FAST FACTS: CHIEFS QB PATRICK MAHOMES completed 21 of 28 (75 pct.) for 249 yards with 2 TDs vs 0 INTs for 125.4 rating last week. Leads NFL with 31 TD passes & surpassed HOFer LEN DAWSON (30 TD passes in 1964) for most in single season in franchise history. Aims for his 5th in row on road with 300+ pass yards & has 100+ rating in 4 of his past 5 on road. Aims for his 6th in row with 110+ rating. ... RB KAREEM HUNT had 96 scrimmage yards (71 rush, 25 rec.) last week. Since entering league in 2017, is 1 of 2 NFL players (TODD GURLEY II) with 2,000+ rush yards (2,081). ... WR TYREEK HILL had 7 catches for 117 yards & 2 TDs last week. Has 7 TDs (6 rec., 1 PR-TD) in 5 road games in 2018. Is only NFL player with 800+ rec. yards (891) & 8+ TD catches (9) this season. ... WR SAMMY WATKINS had 39 catches for 593 yards & 8 TDs in 15 games with Rams in 2017. ... TE TRAVIS KELCE has 3 TD catches in his past 3. ... LB DEE FORD has 5 sacks & 3 FFs in his past 4. ... LB JUSTIN HOUSTON had INT in Week 10. ... DT CHRIS JONES had 2 sacks & FF last week. ... RAMS QB JARED GOFF ranks 2nd in NFL in pass yards (3,134) & 3rd in TD passes (22) in 2018. Passed for 318 yards with 2 TDs vs. 0 INTs for 113 rating last week. Aims for 5th in row with 2+ TD passes & 100+ rating. ... RB TODD GURLEY II had 160 scrimmage yards (120 rush, 40 rec.) & rush TD in Week 10. Has TD in all 10 games in 2018 & joined HOFers O.J. SIMPSON, LENNY MOORE & ELROY "CRAZY LEGS" HIRSCH as only players in NFL history with TD in each of team's 1st 10 games to start season. Leads NFL with 1,390 scrimmage yards, 988 rush yards & 17 TDs. ... WR BRANDIN COOKS had 10 receptions for 100 yards last week. Aims for his 3rd in row with 100+ rec. yards. ... DT AARON DONALD leads NFL with 12.5 sacks & 16 TFL. Had 2.5 sacks, 3 TFL & 5 QBHs in Week 10. Has 7 games with 2+ sacks since 2016, tied for most in NFL over span (CALAIS CAMPBELL). ... LB DANTE FOWLER JR. had sack, FF & FR last week. ... CB MARCUS PETERS had 19 INTs in 3 seasons with KC (2015-17). In his past 3 on Monday, has 2 INTs, incl. 50-yard INT-TD, 2 FFs & FR.
PREDICTION: Whether in Mexico City or Los Angeles, this game is ready for prime time. The NFL has had 15 games this season where both teams scored at least 30 points. It would be surprising is this isn't another.
OUR PICK: Chiefs, 38-35