The first quarter of the NFL season is over and 24 of the league’s 32 teams (75 percent) are currently either in first place or within a game of the top spot in the division. But there’s a lot of season left to be played.

There are only two unbeaten teams remaining – Arizona (3-0) and Cincinnati (3-0). Two left standing. It would appear that the 1973 Dolphins are getting nervous.

And all 32 teams know there’s room for improvement. And while not every club has gotten off to a hot start, nothing is a given in the NFL.

Since 1990, when the current 12-team playoff format was adopted, 106 teams (36.8 percent of the 288 playoff clubs) have advanced to the postseason after starting the season 2-2 or worse. There were six such teams – Carolina (1-3), Cincinnati (2-2), Green Bay (2-2), Philadelphia (1-3), San Diego (2-2) and San Francisco (2-2) – last season, including four division winners (Panthers, Bengals, Packers and Eagles). Byes in week five are Miami and Oakland, who are trying to fight jet lag from that big trip to London.

LANDMARK WINS: A pair of teams with Super Bowl pedigrees reached landmark last Sunday.

Dallas earned their 500th overall victory on Sunday night, defeating New Orleans 38-17. Including the playoffs, the Cowboys now own a 500-374-6 all-time record.

Green Bay topped Chicago 38-17 in Week 4, becoming the second team in NFL history with 700 regular-season victories. With the win over Da Bears, Green Bay joined their NFC North rivals (732-536-45) as the only teams in NFL history to accomplish the feat.

The teams with the most regular-season wins in NFL history:
TEAMS (RECORD, WIN PERCENTAGE)
Chicago Bears (732-536-42, .577)
Green Bay Packers (700-539-37, .565)
New York Giants (663-549-33, .547)
Pittsburgh Steelers (571-521-20, .523)
Washington Redskins (566-549-27, .508)

Note: Ties prior to 1972 did not count in winning percentage.

EARLY VICTORIES: Tampa Bay broke their three-game losing streak and earned their first victory of the season in Week 4, defeating Pittsburgh 27-24 on a last-second touchdown. With the win, the 2014 season is tied for the most teams with one or more victories through four games since realignment in 2002.

The most teams to win at least once through four games in a season since 2002:
YEAR – TEAMS WITH ONE OR MORE WINS THROUGH FOUR GAMES
2014 – 30
2012 – 30
2005 – 30

RISING RODGERS: Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw for 302 yards and four touchdowns in the Packers’ Week 4 win over Chicago. Rodgers (25,196) surpassed 25,000 career passing yards during the contest, his 98th career game, becoming the fourth fastest quarterback to reach the 25,000-yard mark. Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino (92), Peyton Manning (97) and Kurt Warner (97) accomplished the feat in the fewest number of games in NFL history.

Rodgers reached the 25,000-yard mark in 3,065 attempts, the fewest in NFL history. Warner, who previously held the record, reached the feat in 3,076 attempts.

The fastest players to reach 25,000 career passing yards:
PLAYER – TEAM(S) (# GAMES TO 25,000 YARDS, CAREER PASSING YARDS)
Dan Marino – Miami (92-61,361)
Peyton Manning – Indianapolis, Denver (97, 65,778)
Kurt Warner – St. Louis, New York Giants, Arizona (97-32,344)
Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay (98-25,196)

The National Football League has a pattern of unpredictability and on Any Given Sunday, anyone can beat anyone and it does happen. A 7-6 weekend for us makes us 25-20. It’s still early and if one team gets hot, it could be all but over. But as Chris Berman says, “that’s why they play the games.” So entering Week 5, while it certainly helps to be near the top of the standings, don’t count anyone out. Here are week five’s picks, including Monday’s game.

Atlanta (2-2) at New York Giants (2-2), 1 p.m. (FOX and DirecTV 707, MetLife Stadium) Atlanta travels to East Rutherford to take on the Giants at Met Life Stadium in upstate New Jersey.

Atlanta let a 28-27 lead  at Minnesota slip from their hands and fell to the Vikings 41-21. The Falcons allowed RB Jerrick McKinnon to rush for 135 of Minnesota’s 241 (Atlanta ran for 123) and forced a pair of Matt Ryan interceptions, including one that sealed the win for the Purple Gang. The Falcons were 10 of 15 on third down tries and kept the ball for 27:08 to Minnesota’s 32:52 (Minnesota was 6 of 13 and 1 of 1 on third and fourth downs).

Eli and the Giants make quick work of Washington in their contest last Thursday night in Landvoer, downing the Redskins at FedEx Field by a final of 45-14. New York held the Redskins to 86 yards on the ground and sacked QB Kirk Cousins twice and picked him off four times. In the NFC East matchup, NeW York led from start to finish and was never threatened by Washington, who was playing without Robert Griffin III for the second week in a row (ankle). New York was 11 of 16 on third down tries and kept the ball for 37:17, while the Redskins held it for 22:43 and was a dismal 1 of 8 on third down.

Atlanta leads the series 11-10 and the Falcons have outscored the Giants 388-363. Atlanta won the last meeting with the Giants in the Big Peach, shutting out the Giants 14-0 in 2012 at the Georgia Dome, while the Giants’ last regular season win in the series came in 2009 at old Giants Stadium and they would need overtime to win 34-31. The Giants are favored by 4 and the over/under is 50 1/2. The numbers make sense for the early game on the East coast. Giants have played some decent ball at home while the Falcons have struggled on the road with losses at Cincy and Minnesota. Third time won’t be the charm for the Falcons. Birds win on the road in upstate New Jersey.

Houston (3-1) at Dallas (3-1), 1 p.m. (CBS and DirecTV 710, AT&T Stadium) Separated by a 4:17 drive north up I-45, a pair of Lone Star State rivals meet for only the fourth time in Arlington at AT&T Stadium. Both teams found their way to the win column last week at home in front of their home fans.

In Houston’s win over Buffalo last Sunday, Texans defensive end J.J. Watt returned an interception 80 yards for a touchdown. Trailing 10-7 in the third quarter, Watt changed the momentum of the game by picking off a pass and returning it 80 yards for a score. It marked his second career interception-return touchdown and the first in the regular season. He is the only player in NFL history with at least 35 sacks (38.5), an INT-TD and a touchdown reception in his first four seasons.

“It was just a great play,” Houston head coach Bill O’Brien told the Houston Chronicle and KRPC-TV about Watt’s INT-TD. “It really turned the game, no question about it. He’s a very instinctive, great player.” The Texans held Buffalo to 96 rushing yards, while only rushing for 37 of their own yards. Both teams also had their problems with third down tries (Buffalo 5-16, Houston 5-14) and the Texans ruled time of possession, keeping the ball for 30:56, while the Bills held it for 29:04.

Behind the strong play of running back De Marco Murray, the Cowboys are off to a 3-1 start for the first time since 2008. Murray, who leads the league in rushing with 534 yards and five touchdowns, is just the fourth player in NFL history to start a season with at least 100 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown in each of his team’s first four games.

“I have to give credit to the offensive line,” says Murray. “We’re all on the same page. They make it a lot easier for me.” Murray ran for 149 of the Cowboys’ 190, while the Saints had 104. Dallas led New Orleans 24-0 at the half last Sunday night in Arlington and despite being outscored in the second half 17-14 by the Saints, they managed to come away with the 38-17 victory in prime time. Dallas was 8 of 14 on third down tries, keeping the ball for 34:45, while the Saints kept it for 25:15, going 4 of 10 on third down and 1 of 2 on fourth down.

Dallas leads the series 2-1, has outscored the Texans 71-38 and have won the last two meetings, including taking a 27-13 win in Houston in 2010. Houston’s only win in the series was in their first meeting in Houston by a final of 19-10 in 2002. The Cowboys are favored by 6 1/2 with a 47 over/under. The 46? Sounds good. The 6 1/2 is reasonable (unlike most ex-girlfriends) Both teams can put up points when they have to and both teams have been pretty decent of late. The bigger question is which Dallas team will show up? Will it be the Dallas team that got their butts handed to them by San Francisco on opening weekend or will it be the team that took the Saints to the woodshed? Texans fans are hoping that it’s the team that lost to San Francisco. Texans win in Arlington on the road and covers the 6 1/2.

Pittsburgh (2-2) at Jacksonville (0-4), 1 p.m. (CBS and DirecTV 712, EverBank Field) A pair of struggling AFC foes square off in Florida’s first city as the Steelers face their second team from Florida as they travel to the Sunshine State to face off against the Jacksonville Jagaurs.

Both teams limp into EverBank Field with losses under their belts last Sunday. Pittsburgh let a 24-20 lead against Tampa Bay slip out of their hands, allowing the Bucs to rally after a short Steelers punt late in the contest to fall 27-20. The Steelers ran for 85 yards (Tampa Bay had 63) but were flagged 13 times for 125, drawing the ire of head coach Mike Tomlin after the game. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger was sacked five times, despite throwing three TD passes and no picks. The Steelers were 6 of 14 on third down conversions in the loss to Tampa Bay (1 of 1 on fourth; Tampa Bay was 7 of 13 and 0 of 1) and kept the ball for 34:15 to Tampa Bay’s 25:45.

The Jaguars trailed San Diego 17-14 at the half at Qualcomm before the Chargers erupted for 16 unchallegened points in their 33-14 loss on the West Coast. Neither team managed to rush for over 100 yards in the contest (Jacksonville ran for 85, San Diego ran for 42) and Jaguars QB Blake Bortles was sacked three times and threw a pair of interceptions in the loss. Jacksonville was 9 of 14 on third down tries and 0 of 2 on fourth, keeping the ball for 30:34, while the Chargers were 9 of 16, keeping the ball for 29:26.

Jacksonville leads the series 11-10 and has outscored the Steelers 383-358. Pittsburgh has won the last two contests with Jacksonville, with their last win coming in 2011 in the Steel City by a final of 17-13, while Jacksonville’s last win came in 2007 in Pittsburgh by a 29-22 count. Pittsburgh’s favored by 6 and the over/under’s 47. If nothing else, fans at EverBank Field will get some sun and watch some football. Steelers bounds back from last Sunday’s loss at home and wins in the Sunshine State.

Chicago (2-2) at Carolina (2-2), 1 p.m. (FOX and DirecTV 705, Bank of America Stadium) Da Bears take on Cam Newton and Carolina in the Tar Heel State in an early kickoff in Charlotte.

The Panthers were held to 67 yards on the gournd and Newton was sacked twice in their 38-10 loss to Baltimore in Charm City. Baltimore ran roughshod over the Panthers in Charm City, rushing for 127 yards in the contest. Both teams did manage to do well on third down tries in the contest (Carolina was 10-15, Baltimore was 10-13) and the Panthers held the ball for 29:36, while the Ravens kept it for 30:24.

Da Bears lead da series 5-2, have outscored Carolina 155-131 and have won the last three contests with the Panthers. Chicago’s last win came in 2012 in the Windy City by a 23-22 final, while Carolina last beat Chicago 20-17 in Charlotte in 2008.

Buffalo (2-2) at Detroit (3-1), 1 p.m. (FOX and DirecTV 709, Ford Field) A pair of teams that sit on Great Lakes meet in the Motor City Sunday afternoon as Detroit (Lake Michigan) hosts the BUffalo Bills (Lake Erie). Buffalo let a 10-7 lead slip out of their hooves last Sunday in Houston when Texans DE J.J. Watt picked off an E.J. Manuel pass and returned it 80 yards unchallenged for a TD that would eventually give Houston the lead for good. Manuel was sacked twice and threw a pair of intereptions in the contest. The Bills rushed for only 96 yards, which was a lot better than Houston, who ran for a dismal 37. The Bills struggled on third down tries, going 5 of 16 (Houston was 5-14) and kept the ball for 29:04 to Houston’s 30:56.

The Lions roared to a 23-17 win over the Jets in the Meadowlands last Sunday. Even though they were outrushed 132-88 and Matthew Stafford was sacked four times, he did manage to throw a pair of TD passes in the contest to Eric Ebron and Jeremy Ross, while Mega-tron (Calvin Johnson) chipped in with a 35-yard TD run to ice the game. Both clubs struggled on third down tries in the game (Detroit was 6 of 15, New York was 7 of 15) and the clock was the ally of the Lions, who held the ball for 34:53 to GangGreen’s 25:07.

The series is tied at 4-4-1 and Detorit leads Buffalo in scoring 179-167. The two teams have not faced each other since 2010, when the Bills won in Orchard Park by a final of 14-12. Detroit’s last win in the series came in 2006, when the Lions took a 20-17 victory in the Motor City. The Lions are favored by 7 and the over/under is 44. Both teams have improved so far in 2014 but the Lions are a little better. Detroit’s the winner here in the battle of the cities of the Great Lakes.

Baltimore (3-1) at Indianapolis (2-2), 1 p.m. (CBS and DirecTV 711) Lucas Oil Stadium. A pair of teams with a common history meet in the Hoosier State as the current Baltimore team meet in Indianapolis. The former Baltimore team, now residing in Indy, hosts the Ravens, who were in Cleveland.

Baltimore flexed some muscle last week in Charm City against Carolina last Sunday, holding the Panthers and Cam Newton to 67 yards on the ground and sacked Newton twice, while the Ravens ran for 127 yards and QB Joe Flacco threw for 327 yards with three TDs with no picks in the win.

The Ravens have won three in a row, including last week’s 38-10 win over Carolina. Wide receiver Steve Smith, Sr. had seven catches for 139 yards and two touchdowns. He has 429 yards this season, the most ever by a player 35 years old or older through the first four games of a season. Smith, who is the Panthers’ all-time leading receiver with 12,197 yards, is only the second player in NFL history (Torry Holt) to have a 100-yard performance in his first game against a franchise for which he had at least 10,000 receiving yards. Baltimore was 10-13 on third down tries, while the Panthers were 10-15. The Ravens were masters of the clock, holding the ball for 30:24, while Carolina kept the pigskin for 29:36.

“I was ready to play ball once I was out there,” Smith told the Baltimore Sun about facing his former team.

Indianapolis has won two consecutive games and the Colts have scored at least 40 points in each. Quarterback Andrew Luck completed 70.7 percent of his passes (29 of 41) for 393 yards with four touchdowns and one interception for a 123.3 passer rating in last week’s 41-17 win over Tennessee. The previous week in a 44-17 win over Jacksonville, Luck completed 31 of 39 passes (79.5 percent) for 370 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions for a 140.4 passer rating. He is the first player in NFL history to post consecutive games with at least 370 passing yards, four or more touchdown passes, a completion percentage above 70 percent and one or no interceptions.

“We’re blessed with a bunch of great playmakers, guys that need the ball in their hands,” says Luck. “As a quarterback, that’s what you want.” Indy led the Titans 20-10 at the half before the Colts outscored Tennessee 21-7 in the final 30 minutes of play. Indy held Tennessee to 85 yards on the ground and sacked Charlie Whitehurst three times, while forcing three turnovers. Indy was 50 percent on third down conversions at 7 of 14, while Tennessee was 1 of 9 and the Colts kept the ball for 42:21 to Tennessee’s 17:39.

The Colts lead the series 7-3 and have outscored Baltimore 252-197. The Colts’ latest win in the series came in 2009, a 17-15 victory in Baltimore, while the Ravens’ last win over Indy came in 2011 in Charm City by a final of 24-10. Indy’s favored by 3 1/2 and the over/under is 49. Ravens could make things tough for Indy, even without Ray Rice but Colts prevail in the battle of former Baltimore teams and cover the 3 1/2.

St. Louis (1-2) at Philadelphia (3-1), 1 p.m. (FOX and DirecTV 708, Lincoln Financial Field) St. Louis travels to Philly to take on the Eagles in an NFC intra-division contest in the City of Brotherly Love.

The Rams were idle after their loss to Dallas two weeks ago in St. Louis 34-31. St. Louis rallied late in the contest, pulling to within seven with 2:36 left to play but could come no closer. The Cowboys outrushed St. Louis 123-121 and capitalized on three Rams turnovers in the game. St. Louis was 8 of 13 and 1 of 2 on third and fourth down tries, keeping the ball for 32:50, while Dallas was 5 of 10 and held the ball for 27:10.

Philadelphia fell from the ranks of the unbeaten last Sunday in Santa Clara as they blew a 21-10 lead at the break against San Francisco before losing to the 49ers 26-21. The Eagles rushed for a season-low 22 yards, while allowing 49ers RB Frank Gore to rush for 119 of San Francisco’s 218 in the contest. San Francisco scored 16 points in the second half unchallenged, which included a pair of Phil Dawson field goals late in the game.

Philly leads the series that began in 1937 and includes contests when the Rams were in Cleveland and then Los Angeles 18-17-1, while the Rams have outscored the Eagles 706-691. Philly has won the last two meetings with the Rams, including a 31-13 win in 2011 in St. Louis. The Rams’ last win over the Eagles came in 2004 in the Gateway City by a 20-7 final.

Cleveland (1-2) at Tennessee (1-3), 1 p.m. (CBS and DirecTV 713, LP Field) The Titans return to the Volunteer State to host the Browns in Music City.

The Browns were idle last week after they fell at home to Baltimore in the Buckeye State. The Ravens held Cleveland to 91 yards rushing and took the win in the last seconds on a 32-yard field goal by Jeff Tucker as the clock struck :00. The Browns were 5-11 on third down tries, which was a little better than the Ravens, who were 4-12 and 0-1 on fourth down tries. The clock was the ally of Baltimore, who kept it for 30:55 to Cleveland’s 29:05.

The Titans were manhandled by Indianapolis last Sunday in Indy 41-17. The Colts took a 20-10 leat at the half and were never threatened, outscoring Tennessee in the final 30 minutes 21-7. Tennessee was held to 85 yards on the ground and QB Charlie Whitehurst was sacked three times, while the Colts’ defense forced a pair of Tennessee turnovers. As far as third down conversions, the Titans were a dismal 1 of 9, keeping the ball for a mere 17:39, while the victorious Colts were 7 of 14 on third down, keeping the ball to themselves for 42:21.

Cleveland leads the series with Tennessee 33-28, which includes games played when the Titans were in Houston and known as the Oilers and after the Browns returned to the NFL. The Brownies have outscored Houston/Tennessee 1,195-1,184. However, the Titans won the last meeting between the two franchises in 2011 by a final of 31-13 along the shores of Lake Erie, while the Titans last beat Cleveland in 2005, winning in Clevleand 20-14. Tennessee’s favored by 2 and the over/under’s 44. Cleveland’s bad… Tennessee’s really bad. It’s the lesser evil and Cleveland takes this one and covers the 2.

Tampa Bay (1-3) at New Orleans (1-3), 1 p.m. (FOX and DirecTV 706, Mercedes-Benz Superdome) A pair of NFC South foes take to the field in the Big Easy as the Saints host Tampa Bay. Both teams enter the contest in different fashions.

Tampa Bay trailed Pittsburgh throughout their contest at Heinz Field last Sunday and came away with a 27-20 win on the road. Trailing 24-20, the Bucs stopped Pittsburgh on a key third down attempt and after a bad Steelers punt, marched down the field and came awaw with the 3-point win when QB Mike Glennon and WR Vincent Jackson connected on a 5-yard TD pass with seven seconds left. The Bucs sacked Ben Roethlisberger five times defensively and rushed for 63 yards, while keeping the ball for 25:45 and went 7 of 13 on third down (1 of 2 on fourth). Pittsburgh ran for 85 yards and possessed the ball for 34:15, going 6 of 14 and 1 of 1 on third and fourth downs.

The Saints trailed Dallas 24-0 at the half and then proceeded to outscored the Cowboys 17-14 in the final 30 minutes of play but still lost in the Lone Star State 38-17. New Orleans allowed Dallas RB DeMarco Murray to run for 149 of his team’s 190, while the Saints had 104. The one bright side for New Orleans was Drew Brees outpassing Tony Romo in yardage 340-262 and threw a pair of TD passes (Romo had three). On third down tries, the Saints were 4 of 10 (1 of 2 on fourth down; the Cowboys were 8 of 14) and kept the ball for 25:15 to Dallas’ 34:45.

New Orleans holds a 27-17 lead in the series, have outscored Tampa Bay 949-790 and have won five of the last six meetings with the Bucs, including a sweep of the series last season. Tampa’s last win over New Orleans came in 2011. as the  Buccaneers won at home in the New Sombero 26-20.

In the first meeting in the Sunshine State in week two and the Saints squeaked by with a 16-14 win over Tampa Bay. The Saints needed the right leg of Greg Hartley, who connected on a 27-yard field goal as time expired. Although the Saints were held to 75 yards and allowed Tampa Bay RB Doug Martin to run for 144 of the Bucs’ 160. Brees was sacked four times with a pair of interceptions in the contest and neither club did well on third down tries on the day (New Orleans was 5 of 14, 0 of 1 on fourth down; Tampa Bay was 5 of 13). The clock was favorable to the Saints, who held the ball for 32:36 to Tampa Bay’s 27:24.
The Saints made it a sweep of the series in the second meeting in the Big Easy as New Orleans took a 28-14 lead with them to the locker room and won 42-17. In the second meeting in week 17, neither team broke the 100-yard barrier (Tampa Bay 75, New Orleans 98) and Brees threw four touchdowns and had 381 yards with no interceptions in the victory. New Orleans did much better on third down conversions in the second contest on their way to the post-season, going 7 of 13 (1 of 2 on fourth down) and held the ball for 34:12, while Tampa Bay, who would wind up tied with Atlanta for third in the NFC South, went 3 for 13 and 1 of 3 on third and fourth downs and kept the ball for only 25:48.

New Orleans was a 3-point favorite on the road and the over/under was 47 in the week 2 contest in the Sunshine State. Neither team reached the over/under, scoring only 30 points and the Saints failed to cover the spread, winning by 2. In the week 17 contest in the Big Easy, New Orleans won by 25 (they were favored by 12) and both teams easily reached the over/under, scoring 69 points, surpassing the 47 over/under given to the game.

For the Sunday contest in the Big Easy, the Saints are favored by 10 and the over/under is 48. It may be one of those games that you can watch and enjoy or a game that could have you changing the channel and watching that “Family Guy” marathon on Spike. Saints won’t cover the 10 but they will win at home.

Arizona (3-0) at Denver (2-1), 4:05 p.m. (FOX and DirecTV 714, Sports Authority Field) An unbeaten Arizona team travels to Denver to take on a Broncos team that has a chip on their shoulder after an overtime loss two weeks ago in the Pacific Northwest.

Arizona and Denver both had byes last week and both come into the late-afternoon contest from different directions. The Desert Angry Birds erased a 14-6 deficit against San Francisco at home to take a 23-14 win. Arizona would go on to outscore San Francisco in the second half 17-0 and held the 49ers to 82 yards on the ground (Arizona had 84) and was 8 of 13 on third down conversions (1 of 1 on fourth down), while the 49ers were 6 of 13 and 1 of 1 on third and fourth down tries. Time of possesion? That favored the 49ers, who held the ball for 32:20 to Arizona’s 27:40.

Denver traveled to the land of grunge, salmon and Starbucks to face the defending Super Bowl champs and erased a 17-3 halftime deficit to tie things up with the Seahawks before Seattle came away with a 26-20 overtime win. Seattle won it in their second possession in the extra quarter when RB Marshawn Lynch scored on a 6-yard run with 9:14 left. Manning and the Broncos had tied things up in regulation when he and TE Jacob Tammie connected on a 26-yard TD pass with 16 seconds left to make it a 20-18 contest. The future Hall of Famer would then connect with WR DeMaryius Thomas on a 2-point try to tie the contest and send it to overtime. Denver then failed to score in its possession in the extra period and gave the ball back to the home team, who proceeded to ice things away. The Broncos in the overtime loss was held to 36 yards rushing (Seattle had 129, with Lynch leading all rushers with 88) and went 6 of 17 on third down conversions (Seattle was 7 of 17) and held the ball for 27:42, while Seattle ruled the clock, keeping the ball for 38:04.

For just the third time since the 1970 merger, the Cardinals posted an undefeated record in September (1974, 2012). Arizona has allowed just 45 points in three games and leads the NFC in points allowed per game (15.0). In the fourth quarter, the Cardinals have yet to allow a single point, outscoring opponents 30-0.

“It’s good to be 3-0 but we’re not satisfied because we’re trying to get somewhere,” says Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. “We’re trying to get to the playoffs and the Super Bowl.”

Denver quarterback Peyton Manning has thrown eight touchdown passes in three games this season and enters this week’s game just one shy of 500 for his career. Manning is on the verge of joining Brett Farve (508) as the only players in NFL history with 500 touchdown passes.

“I’m just happy I get to catch some of them,” Broncos wide receiver DeMaryius Thomas told the Rocky Mountain News. “Because you know most of those are going to be touchdowns in games you win. They’re going to be plays that mean something for us.”

Denver leads the series with the Desert Angry Birds 7-1-1 (which includes contests when the Cardinals were in St. Louis) and have outscored Arizona 248-129. Arizona won the last meeting against Denver in 2010 in the desert by a final of 43-13, while Denver’s last win in the series also came in the desert in 2006, with the Broncos taking a 37-20 decision.  The oddsmakers like Denver as a 7 1/2 point favorite and the over/under is 48. Given that it’s an unbeaten Arizona team taking on Peyton and the Broncos in their backyard make this one “Drill Worthy.” (For those of you that know what The Drill is, you are excused. Everyone else, pay attention. We don’t want any rookie mistakes here, k?)

After you go to the 9:30 mass on Sunday (the 4:30 vigil mass on Saturday counts as a mass attended, people! Don’t make us send the nuns after you!), head to your favorite store (a trip to Wal Mart, Target, K-Mart or Costco counts) and get the vittles and the beverages (soda, beer, wine, coffee, et al… if you live in a state that allows the purchase of the items in question) and invite the co-workers, the neighbors (including that really cute kindergarden teacher that knows what to do with a cover-2 defense) and your cousin Connie (remember her? She’s the one that’s been married twice that’s 56 and dates a 41-year old ex-Marine, who’s now a football coach at the high school in your town. She’s also the one that ate an entire Oreo cheesecake, two bags of Cool Ranch Doritos, two bacon cheeseburgers with blue cheese and chugged two 2-liter Cokes at your Super Bowl party last year and didn’t gain a pound. You look at her and say to yourself, “what the hell?”

Arizona’s looking to remain unblemished. Denver’s got a chip on their shoulders. Something’s got to give. Arizona will give Peyton and the Broncos fits but Denver bounces back from their overtime loss to Seattle and knock the Desert Angry Birds out of the ranks of the unbeaten, even though they may not cover the 7 1/2.

Kansas City (2-2) at San Francisco (2-2), 4:25 p.m. (CBS and DirecTV 716, Levis Stadium) The Chiefs travel westward to take on San Francisco in the 49ers’ new digs in nearby Santa Clara.

Kansas City led New England 17-0 at the half at Arrowhead and was never really threatened as the Chiefs manhandled Tom Brady and New England 41-14. Brady was sacked twice and threw a pair of interceptions and the Patriots were held to 75 yards rushing, while Chiefs RB Knile Davis ran for 107 yards (Kansas City wound up with 207) for the win. Kansas City went 7-12 on third down tries, keeping the ball for 36:27, while New England, who turned the ball over three times in the Monday night loss, were 2 of 9, holding the ball for 23:33/

The 49ers lead the series 6-5 but the Chiefs have not only outscored San Francisco 219-196, they’ve won the last two contests in the series. The last Kansas City victory came in 2010 in Kansas City by a final of 31-10, while the 49ers last beat Kansas City in old Candlestick Park by a final of 17-13 in 2002. San Francisco’s a 6-point favorite and the over/under is 44. Both numbers make a lot of sense. Both teams are .500 teams and both made the postseason last year. Both their cities have something else in common… their respective baseball teams are in the postseason. But unlike baseball, there is crying in football and San Francisco fans will be shedding some tears. Chiefs may not cover the 6 but they take the win on the road on the Left Coast.

New York Jets (1-3) at San Diego (3-1), 4:25 p.m. (CBS and DirecTV 715, Qualcomm Stadium) GangGreen travels westward to take on the Bolts in sunny Cali.

The J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! trailed 17-3 at the half against Detroit in the Meadowlands and outscored the Lions in the second half but fell short 24-17. New York did manage to outrush the Lions 132-88 and sacked QB Matthew Stafford four times in the contest, while Jets signal caller Geno Smith was sacked twice. GangGreen on the day went 7-15 on third down tries (Detroit was 6-15) and kept the ball for 25:07 to Detroit’s 34:53.

The Bolts took Jacksonville to the woodshed last week at Qualcomm, scoring 16 second half points unchallenged to come away with the 33-14 win. If you were looking for offense in this contest, you would have come away disappointed, as neither team cracked the 100-yard rushing barrier (San Diego with 42, Jacksonville with 85) but the Charger defense did prevail, sacking rookie QB Blake Bortles three times and picking him off twice. San Diego was 9-16 on third down tries, while Jacksonville was 9-14 and 0-2 on fourth downs.

San Diego holds a 20-12-1 lead in the series, which includes games played when the Jets were known as the Titans, then the Jets and played their home games in old Shea Stadium and the Chargers were in Los Angeles. The Bolts have outscored GangGreen 951-698. Both teams won their last meetings on the East Coast with the J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! winning in the Meadowlands in 2011 27-21 and the Chargers also coming away with a win the following year, also in upstate New Jersey by a 27-17 count.

The Bolts are favored by 6 1/2 and the over/under 43 1/2. The J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! have been struggling of late and if things stay the course, Rex Ryan won’t be around long. New York makes it interesting but Chargers win at home and cover.

Cincinnati (3-0) at New England (2-2), 8:30 p.m. (NBC, Gillette Stadium) A 3-0 Bengals team travels to western Massachusetts to face Tom Brady and the struggling New England Patriots in prime time in Foxboro.

The 3-0 Bengals have allowed a league-low 33 points and 11.0 points per game. Cincinnati is the only team in the league to allow 16 points or fewer in every game. Offensively, quarterback Andy Dalton has a 95.4 passer rating and the team has three players with 12 receptions each – wide receivers A.J. Green (233 yards) and Mohamed Sanu (164) and running back Giovani Bernard (148).

“This is nothing more than a good first quarter,” veteran tackle Andrew Whitworth told WBNS-TV. “You can’t let up. October is a month for adjustments. Teams begin to find out who they are. October is a big month.”

New England looks to bounce back from last week’s loss at Kansas City. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has 49,940 career passing yards and needs 60 yards to become the sixth player in NFL history with 50,000. He would join Brett Farve (71,838), Peyton Manning (65,778), Dan Marino (61,361), Drew Brees (52,284) and John Elway (51,475). The Pats were held in check rushing-wise, tallying only 75 yards on the ground, while Brady was sacked twice and picked off twice in the Monday night loss. The Pats were 2-9 on third down tries (Kansas City was 7-12) and kept the ball for 23:33 to the Chiefs’ 36:27.

Cincinnati enjoyed their week off after they manhandled the Tennessee Titans 33-7 at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals led 26-0 after 45 minutes of play, even though they were outrushed by Tennessee 149-116 and outpassed 185-184 in the contest. Cincy was 3 of 9 on third down tries (0 for 1 on fourth) and kept the ball for 28:44, while the Titans kept it for 31:16, while going 2 of 12 and 1 of 2 on third and fourth downs.

New England leads the series 14-9,l while the Bengals have outscored the Patriots 484-446 and won the last meeting between the clubs in 2013, when Cincy came away with a 13-6 win in the Buckeye State. In the week five meeting, both Brady and Dalton were sacked four times and the Bengals broke a 3-3 tie at the half to come away with the win, while they held to 82 yards on the ground. New England was 1 of 12 on third down conversions, while the Bengals were 6 of 15 and 1 of 1 on fourth down tries. Cincy also won the time of possession battle, keeping the ball for 34:16 to New England’s 25:44.

The Bengals, who won the AFC North, were favored by 1 with a 45 over/under. While the Bengals did cover the spread, winning by 7, both teams did not even come close to the over/under, scoring only 19 points. Cincy’s favored by 1 on the road in Foxboro and the over/under is 46. These are two pretty good ballclubs, one has a chance to make history and the other has a future Hall of Famer. The storyline for this contest screams “DRILL WORTHY!” (yes, you can have two games that can declared Drill Worthy. For instructions on “The Drill,” refer to the Arizona-Denver game above.) A lot is at stake here. Cincy’s looking to remain unbeaten. New England looks to restore order. Restoring order wins out. Pats win at home in western Massachusetts and covers the spread.

Seattle (2-1) at Washington (1-3), 8:30 pm Monday (ESPN, FedEx Field) The defending Super Bowl champs make their way east to Landover to take on Washington in a prime time contest under the lights.

The defending Super Bowl champs had a bye last week after their overtime win over Denver in the Pacific Northwest. RB Marshawn Lynch scored on a 6-yard run in overtime to give Seattle the win after the Broncos rallied to tie the contest up on a 26-yard TD pass from Peyton Manning to TE Jacob Tamme a 2-point conversion to WR DeMaryius Thomas with 18 seconds left. Both Mannning and Russell Wilson threw a pair of TD passes in the contest and Seattle held Denver to 36 yards rushing, while tallying 129 yards themselves (Lynch led all rushers with 88). Neither club did anything to text home about on third down tries (Denver was 6 of 16, Seattle was 7 of 17) and Seattle ruled the clock, keeping the ball for 38:04, while Denver had it for 27:42.

The Seahawks have won eight consecutive games on Monday night and quarterback Russell Wilson is 3-0 with seven touchdowns, no interceptions and a 121.6 rating on Mondays. This season, Wilson’s 108.9 passer rating ranks third in the NFL and Seattle is 19-3 (.864) when he has a rating of at least 100 (including the playoffs).

“You have to put him in there,” Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman told KING-TV and KIRO-TV about Wilson being considered the best quarterback in the NFL. “If you’re basing that judgment off of winning, you have to put him in that discussion.”

Washington linebacker Rtan Kerrigan ties for the NFL lead with five sacks and since entering the league in 2011, is one of only two players (Jason Pierre-Paul) with at least 25 sacks and two interception-return touchdowns. Redskins wide receiver De Sean Jackson has scored five touchdowns (four receiving, one rushing) in his past six Monday night games, averaging 62.8 yards per TD.

Washington was without the services of QB Robert Griffin III for the second straight contest and those struggles proved to be their undoing as they fell to NFC East rival New York in Landover 45-14. Backup QB Kirk Cousins was sacked twice and threw a pair of interceptions in the loss. Washington trailed at the half and could never recover, as the Giants outscored them in the second half 21-7. The ‘Skins were held to 86 yards on the ground and struggled on third down conversions, going 1 of 8, while the victorious Giants were 11 of 18 and kept the ball for 37:17, while the Redskins held on to the pigskin for only 22:43.

Washington leads the series 11-4 and has outscored the defending Super Bowl champs 294-222. Washington’s last win over Seattle in the regular season came in 2011 in the land of grunge, salmon and Starbucks by a final of 23-17. Seattle’s last win? 1998, when Bill Clinton was in the White House and the Seahawks played in the Kingdome, coming away with a 24-14 decision.

On Monday night games, the Redskins are 27-36 and lost their two MNF contests last season, while Seattle is 20-8 and won both their games last year. Seattle’s a 7-point favorite in Landover and the over/under is at 45 1/2. This might be the week you tape “Big Bang Theory,” “Scropion” and “Castle” this week. It may wind up being closer than the 7 (which makes a ton of sense) and the 45 1/2 over/under is plausible, given that both teams have better than average offenses. Seahawks will have Washington fans saying “HELL, IT’S THE REDSKINS!” when they leave Fed Ex Field Monday night. The defending Super Bowl champs cover the 7 and win on the road in prime time.

Advertisements