Game of the week
Las Vegas at L.A. Chargers
Big-time Monday game between the 3-0 Raiders (plus-3 1/2) and 2-1 Chargers. Las Vegas is averaging a league-best 471 yards, albeit aided by two overtime wins. But we go with Bolts quarterback Justin Herbert throwing a late touchdown.
Chargers 27, Raiders 23
Lock of the week
Tampa Bay at New England
During Tom Brady’s time in New England, the number of times the Patriots were at least a seven-point home underdog: None. The Buccaneers are a seven-point favorite and a guess to Brady’s mindset is simple. He wants to dismantle his old team.
Buccaneers 42, Patriots 20
Upset of the week
Detroit at Chicago
The Bears set offensive football back in last week’s loss at Cleveland, finishing with 47 yards (second-fewest in team history since 1940). The winless Lions (plus-three) are better right now and coach Dan Campbell gets his first win.
Lions 19, Bears 7
Around the NFC: Tom Brady heads back to New England on cusp of all-time passing record
Brady nears record. Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady faces New England for the first time since leaving the Patriots in March 2020. Brady needs 68 passing yards to become the NFL’s all-time leader, a record currently held by Drew Brees (80,358). The top five is Brees, Brady (80,291), Peyton Manning (71,940), Brett Favre (71,838) and Philip Rivers (63,440). A win would also put Brady with Brees, Manning and Favre as the only quarterbacks to defeat all 32 teams. Additionally on the Tampa Bay milestone front, Rob Gronkowski needs 16 yards to climb into fifth all-time in receiving yards by a tight end (currently at 8,558).
Dallas “D” kind of better. New Dallas defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has already made a big impact on the Cowboys’ defense … sort of. They lead the league with eight takeaways and are tied for first with a plus-five turnover margin. The Cowboys had 23 takeaways in 16 games last year. But they enter Sunday’s home game against undefeated Carolina ranked tied for 26th in most yards allowed (402.0) and second-worst defending the pass (331.7). Takeaways, though, cover up a lot of warts.
Surprising Cardinals. Is Arizona for real? The Cardinals are 3-0 and have outscored their opponents 103-65, including 69-27 in road wins over Tennessee and Jacksonville. They aren’t rushing it well (3.9-yard average), but six players have at least 10 catches and quarterback Kyler Murray has a 113.4 passer rating (four interceptions, though). The next three games will help label the Cardinals a contender or also-ran — at the Rams (Matthew Stafford is playing lights out), vs. San Francisco (who will block Nick Bosa?) and at Cleveland (who will block Myles Garrett?).
Around the AFC: Must-win time for Kansas City entering game at Philadelphia? Yes.
Must-win for Chiefs? Kansas City has lost two consecutive games for only the third time in quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ starting career. The Chiefs play at dreadful Philadelphia, which makes it a must-win because 1-3 could mean three games behind the Broncos or Las Vegas. Mahomes has a 39-10 starting record and a win will allow him to join Ken Stabler as the only quarterbacks in the Super Bowl Era to win 40 of their first 50 career starts. Stabler was 40-9-1. Tied for third are Tom Brady and Danny White (38-12), followed by Dan Marino and Jim McMahon (37-13).
Steelers searching. Pittsburgh, so impressive in its Week 1 win at Buffalo, has lost home games to Las Vegas and Cincinnati. Its running game is broken (last in yards per game and per carry at 53.0 and 3.18, respectively) and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is third in the league with 130 pass attempts. It’s so bad that Bengals receiver Tyler Boyd said the Steelers “gave up,” last week. Well, coach Mike Tomlin didn’t like that. “I don’t care about Tyler Boyd’s opinion about what transpired at any point during the game,” Tomlin said. Pittsburgh plays at Green Bay on Sunday.
Month of the sacks. Last year, no NFL player reached 16 sacks (one per game); Pittsburgh’s T.J. Watt was first at 15. But through three games, 16 players are averaging at least one sack per game, led by Cleveland’s Myles Garrett (5 1/2). The Broncos’ Von Miller is tied for fourth (four sacks). Garrett had 4 1/2 sacks in last week’s win over lowly Chicago. Yes, the league has talented edge rushers, but what the early games show is the lack of offensive line depth.
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