The Halloween candy’s been eaten and what’s left has gone on sale at half price (better hide it from Connie… she’ll wipe you out. More about her later).

The first half of the NFL season has been packed with thrilling comebacks and close finishes but the excitement is just getting started.

The NFL’s Week 9 schedule features several marquee match-ups, highlighted by New England (6-2) hosting Denver (6-1) and Arizona (6-1) visiting Dallas (6-2). This week marks the first time two games featuring teams with at least six wins each has occurred this early in a season since 1986 (Week 9). Week nine got underway in Charlotte as the Saints beat Carolina and Cam Newton 28-10 last Thursday night.

Several games in Week 8 were decided in the final moments, as four teams on Sunday scored game-winning touchdowns in overtime or with fewer than 90 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter (Arizona, Cincinnati, Minnesota and Seattle), the most such games on a single day since October 19, 2003.

Detroit also kicked a last-second field goal to beat Atlanta 22-21 in London, and Washington capped off the week with a thrilling 20-17 overtime win at Dallas on Monday Night Football.

“Any given day in the NFL can be a win or loss,” says Redskins running back Alfred Morris, who rushed for 73 yards and one touchdown against Dallas. “They just kept fighting back. It was the type of game you get between the Redskins and the Cowboys.”

After trailing Atlanta 21-0 at halftime, Detroit’s victory marked the sixth time a team overcame a deficit of at least 17 points to win in 2014, the second-most such games through Week 8 of any season in NFL history (2011, eight games).

As the season’s midpoint approaches, it’s all still to be decided, with plenty of football still to play.

Since 2000, 34 teams have reached the halfway point of their season with a .500 or below winning percentage and advanced to the playoffs, including at least one in each season.

Of those 34 clubs, five have advanced to the Conference Championship Game, including the 2001 New England Patriots, who won Super Bowl XXXVI.

STILL IN THE MIX: If your team’s below .500, don’t panic! History shows that a losing record at this point in the season does not negate a team’s chances of making the playoffs. Since 2000, 34 teams have reached the halfway point of their season with a .500 or below winning percentage and proceeded to the playoffs, including at least one in each season.

Of those 34 clubs, five have advanced to the Conference Championship Game, including the 2001 New England Patriots, who won Super Bowl XXXVI.

MANNING-BRADY XVI: They meet again. For the 16th time of their storied careers including the postseason, quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will face off as New England hosts Denver on Sunday afternoon.

Brady (129.1) & Manning (127.4) ranked ranked first and second, respectively, among NFL quarterbacks in passer rating for October, as each player threw 14 touchdowns apiece, marking the first calendar month in NFL history in which two different players passed for at least 14 touchdowns.

Brady, who will make his 200th career regular-season start this week, has already won more games (154) than any other starting quarterback in NFL history through his first 200 starts.

The most wins by starting quarterbacks through 200 regular-season starts in NFL history:
QUARTERBACK-WINS THROUGH 200 STARTS
Tom Brady – 154*
Peyton Manning – 136
Brett Favre – 132
Dan Marino – 125
John Elway – 124
* 199 career starts

NOVEMBER MADNESS: Forget March Madness. November can be crazy. The NFL season enters November on Sunday and three active quarterbacks – Dallas’ Tony Romo, New England’s Tom Brady and Baltimore’s Joe Flacco – are among the best in November in terms of winning percentages for the month amongst starting QBs in the Super Bowl era (since 1966, minimum 20 starts).

Romo, who ranks first among the group with an .828 November winning percentage and the Cowboys will host Arizona Sunday.

Brady’s (.761) and Flacco’s (.741) November winning percentages currently rank fourth and fifth, respectively. Brady will aim to improve his November mark late Sunday afternoon against Denver. Flacco and the Ravens will travel to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers on Sunday Night Football.

The quarterbacks with the best records in November in the Super Bowl era (minimum 20 starts):
PLAYER (RECORD IN NOVEMBER, WIN PCT.)
Tony Romo (24-5, 828)*
Daryle Lamonica (19-4-2, .826)
Jim McMahon (18-5, 783)
Tom Brady (35-11, 761)*
Joe Flacco (20-7, 741)*
*Active

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

GOOD LUCK: Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck has passed for at least 300 yards in each of his past six games, surpassing Peyton Manning (five games in 2009) for the longest streak in Colts history.

With at least 300 passing yards against the New York Giants on Monday Night Football, Luck can tie Manning, who passed for 300+ yards in seven consecutive games with Denver in 2012-13, for the third-longest such streak in NFL history.

The players with the most consecutive 300-yard passing games in NFL history:
PLAYER-TEAM, YEAR(S) (CONSECUTIVE 300-YARD GAMES)
Drew Brees-New Orleans, 2011-12 (9)
Drew Brees-New Orleans, 2013 (9)
Peyton Manning-Denver, 2012-13 (7)
Andrew Luck-Indianapolis, 2014 (6)*
Steve Young-San Francisco, 1998 (6)
Kurt Warner-St. Louis, 2000 (6)
Rich Gannon, Oakland, 2002 (6)
* Active streak

Luck leads the NFL with 2,731 passing yards this season. With at least 269 passing yards on Monday night, Luck can join Tom Brady, Drew Brees (twice) and Manning as the only players in NFL history with at least 3,000 passing yards in their team’s first nine games to begin a season.

The players with the most passing yards through their team’s first nine games to begin a season:

PLAYER, TEAM (YEAR-PASSING YARDS THROUGH 9 GAMES)
Peyton Manning, Denver (2013-3,249)
Drew Brees, New Orleans (2013-3,064)
Tom Brady, New England (2011-3,032)
Drew Brees, New Orleans (2011-3,004)
Drew Brees, New Orleans (2008-2,985)
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis (2014-2,731)*
* Through eight games

TIGHTEN UP I: Since entering the NFL in 2010, New England tight end Rob Gronkowski leads all NFL players with 49 touchdown catches during that span.

Gronkowski, who will play in his 59th career game on Sunday, needs one touchdown reception against Denver to tie Randy Moss for the second-fewest games to reach 50 career TD catches in NFL history. Pro Football Hall of Famer Lance Alworth (54 games) is the fastest player in NFL annals to reach the milestone.

Gronkowski can also far surpass the record for fewest games by a tight end to reach 50 career touchdown catches, (Antonio Gates, 92 games).

The players to reach 50 touchdown catches in the fewest games in NFL history:
PLAYER-NO. OF GAMES TO REACH 50 TD REC.
Lance Alworth-54
Randy Moss-59
Jerry Rice-61
Tommy McDonald-63
Bob Hayes-66
Rob Gronkowski-58*
* 49 career TD catches

TIGHTEN UP II: A pair of AFC tight ends – San Diego’s Antonio Gates and Denver’s Julius Thomas – are currently tied for the NFL lead in total touchdowns with nine TD catches apiece this season.

With one touchdown catch against Miami on Sunday, Gates can become the first tight end in NFL history with four seasons with at least 10 TD receptions. He is currently tied with Tony Gonzalez (three) and New England’s Rob Gronkowski (three) for the most such seasons by a tight end in NFL annals.

Thomas, whose Broncos travel to New England on Sunday, needs one more touchdown to join Pro Football Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe (1996, 1998) as the only tight ends in franchise history with multiple 10-touchdown seasons. He would be the ninth tight end in NFL history to accomplish the feat.

The tight ends with the most seasons with at least 10 receiving touchdowns:
TIGHT END, YEAR(S) (SEASONS WITH 10+ TD REC.)
Antonio Gates, 2004-05, 2010 (3)*
Tony Gonzalez, 1999, 2003, 2008 (3)
Rob Gronkowski, 2010-12 (3)
Dallas Clark, 2007, 2009 (2)
Vernon Davis, 2009, 2013 (2)
Jimmy Graham, 2011, 2013 (2)
Shannon Sharpe, 1996, 1998 (2)
Wesley Walls, 1996, 1999 (2)
Julius Thomas, 2013 (1)*
* Nine TD catches in 2014

Week eight had milestones galore…

•Detroit overcame a 21-0 halftime deficit en route to a 22-21 come-from-behind win against Atlanta at London’s Wembley Stadium. The Lions, who overcame a 14-point deficit in last week’s 24-23 win against New Orleans, are the fifth team in NFL history to win back-to-back games when trailing by at least 14 points one week and by 21+ points the following week.

The Lions’ victory marked the sixth time a team overcame a deficit of at least 17 points to win in 2014, the second-most such games through Week 8 of any season in NFL history (2011, eight games).

Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford is one of three quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era (since 1966) to start three games in which his team overcame a deficit of at least 21 points to win (Tom Brady and Drew Bledsoe). Stafford passed for 325 yards with two touchdowns and now has 120 career touchdown passes, surpassing Pro Football Hall of Famer Bobby Layne (118) for the most in club history.

•Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger passed for 522 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions for a 150.6 passer rating in the Steelers’ 51-34 win against Indianapolis. Roethlisberger, whose 522 passing yards tied for the fourth-most ever in a single game, is the first player in NFL history with two 500-yard passing games (503 yards vs. Green Bay on December 20, 2009).

Roethlisberger improved his record to 100-50 (.667) as a starter in the regular season, joining Tom Brady (116) and Pro Football Hall of Famers Joe Montana (108) and Terry Bradshaw (102) as the only quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era (since 1966) to win at least 100 games in their first 150 career starts.

The Steelers (522) and Colts (385) combined for 907 net passing yards, the second-highest combined single-game total in NFL history (971, Detroit vs. Green Bay on January 1, 2012).

•Minnesota earned a 19-13 overtime win at Tampa Bay when rookie linebacker ANTHONY BARR returned a fumble 27 yards for a touchdown in OT. The game marked the fourth overtime contest in NFL history that was decided by a fumble-return touchdown. The score came 17 seconds into the extra period, the quickest of any fumble-return touchdown since regular-season overtime was instituted in 1974.

•In his 100th career regular-season home start, TOM BRADY completed 30 of 35 passes (85.7 percent) for 354 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions for a 148.4 passer rating in the Patriots’ 51-23 win against Chicago. Brady has won 87 home starts, the most of any starting quarterback in NFL history in his first 100 home starts in the regular season. His .870 winning percentage at home is the highest of any starting quarterback in the Super Bowl era (since 1966, minimum 50 home starts).

Brady is the only player in NFL history with at least 350 passing yards, a completion percentage above 85.0 percent, five or more touchdowns and no interceptions in a game. He also accomplished the feat against the Tennessee Titans on October 18, 2009.

Tight end Rob Gronkowski had nine catches for 149 yards and tied a career-high with three touchdowns. Gronkowski’s performance marked the fourth individual game with three touchdown catches by a tight end in 2014, already the most of any season in NFL history.

•Houston running back Arian Foster rushed for 151 yards and two touchdowns in the Texans’ 30-16 win against Tennessee. The performance marked Foster’s 31st career 100-yard rushing game, tying Priest Holmes for the most in NFL history by an undrafted player.

•Buffalo quarterback Kyle Orton completed 10 of 17 passes for 238 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions for a 142.8 passer rating in the Bills’ 43-23 win at the New York Jets. Orton is the first player with at least four touchdown passes and 10 or fewer completions in a game since Pittsburgh’s Bubby Brister against Cleveland on December 23, 1990.

•Kansas City kick returner-running back Knile Davis had a 99-yard kickoff-return touchdown in the Chiefs’ 34-7 win against St. Louis. Davis, who also had a franchise-long 108-yard kickoff return touchdown as a rookie in 2013, is the fifth player in history with a kickoff-return touchdown of at least 99 yards in each of his first two NFL seasons.

BIG BEN: Big Ben struck again (and we’re not talking the clock in London.)

Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger passed for 522 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions for a 150.6 passer rating in the Steelers’ 51-34 win against Indianapolis. Roethlisberger, whose 522 passing yards tied for the fourth-most ever in a single game, is the first player in NFL history with two 500-yard passing games (503 yards vs. Green Bay on December 20, 2009).

Roethlisberger improved his record to 100-50 (.667) as a starter in the regular season, joining Tom Brady (116) and Pro Football Hall of Famers Joe Montana (108) and Terry Bradshaw (102) as the only quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era (since 1966) to win at least 100 games in their first 150 career starts.

The quarterbacks with 100 or more wins in their first 150 starts:

PLAYER, TEAM (WINS-LOSSES, WIN PCT.)
Tom Brady, New England (116-34, .773)
Joe Montana, San Francisco (108-42, .720)
Terry Bradshaw, Pittsburgh (102-48, .680)
Ben Roethlisberger Pittsburgh (100-50, .667)

PROLIFIC PEYTON: Denver quarterback Peyton Manning completed 25 of 35 passes (71.4 percent) for 286 yards and three touchdowns in the Broncos’ 35-21 win over San Diego on Thursday Night Football, marking the 13th-consecutive regular-season game in which he has thrown at least two touchdown passes, a streak that dates back to November 24, 2013 against New England.

Manning tied his own record for the most consecutive multi-touchdown pass games, which he currently shares with New England’s Tom Brady (2010-2011) and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers (2011).

He is the only player in NFL history to have two separate streaks of 13 consecutive games with at least two touchdown passes. Manning also accomplished the feat in 2004 (September 9-December 12).

Manning’s two 13-game streaks with two or more touchdown passes:

DATES (TEAM-GAMES)(WIN-LOSS)(YARDS)(TOUCHDOWNS-INTs)
11/24/2013 – Present (Denver-13)(10-3)(4,039)(43-7)*
9/9/2004 – 12/12/2004 (Indianapolis-13)(10-3)(3,919)(46-9)
* Active streak

CATCHING FORTÉ: Chicago running back Matt Forte caught six passes for 54 yards with one touchdown against New England in Week 8 and ranks second in the NFL with 58 receptions this season. Forté surpassed Pro Football Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk (54, 2002) for the most receptions by a running back through his team’s first eight games.

The last running back to lead the league in receptions was San Francisco’s Roger Craig (92) in 1985. Forté is currently on pace for 116 receptions this season, which would be the highest total for a running back in NFL history.

The most receptions in a single season by a running back:

PLAYER, TEAM (YEAR-RECEPTIONS)
Larry Centers, Arizona (1995-101)
LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego (2003-100)
Larry Centers, Arizona (1996-99)
Roger Craig, San Francisco (1985-92)
Charlie Garner, Oakland (2002-91)
Matt Forté, Chicago (2014-58)*
* Through Week 8

FAST START: Playing in his 40th career game, Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck passed for 400 yards and three touchdowns against Pittsburgh on Sunday. Luck now has 10,927 career passing yards, surpassing Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO for the fourth-most passing yards through the first 40 games of a career in NFL history.

The players with the most passing yards through their first 40 games:
PLAYER, TEAM (PASSING YARDS THROUGH FIRST 40 GAMES)
Kurt Warner, St. Louis (11,457)
Matthew Stafford, Detroit (11,269)
Marc Bulger, St. Louis (10,947)
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis (10,927)
Dan Marino, Miami (10,758)

Week 9 byes this week are Atlanta, Buffalo, Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay and Tennessee. The Giants and 49ers return to action this week after they got to play hooky from school.

9-5 last week. 77-44 for the season. Let’s move on. Here are the Sunday (and Monday) picks for week nine.

Tampa Bay (1-6) at Cleveland (4-3), 1 p.m. (FOX and DirecTV 708) FirstEnergy Stadium. A struggling Tampa Bay team travels to the Buckeye State for a meeting with the resurging Cleveland Browns along the shores of Lake Erie. The Bucs look to climb their way out of the NFC South cellar, while the Browns want to catch and pass Cincinnati in the AFC North.

Tampa Bay trailed Minnesota 3-0 at halftime last Sunday in the Sunshine State and led 13-10 late in the game befoe the Purple Gang scored their last nine points, including a 27 yard fumble return by LB Anthony Barr, who fulfilled the dreams of many a defensive lineman, when he scooped utp the ball and ran in for the winning score in overtime, giving Minnesota the 19-13 win. The Bucs rushed for 66 yards in the contest, while allowing Minnesota to run for 97 and QB Mike Glennon was sacked five times in the loss. Tampa on third down tries were a dismal 1-12 (yes, you read that correctly, 1-12) but were perfect on fourth down at 2-2 and kept the ball for 29:43, while the Vikings were 6-15, keeping the ball for 30:34.

Cleveland added to Oakland’s woes at home last week, sending the Silver and Black to their seventh loss of the 2014 campaign, taking a 23-13 win at home. The Browns led Oakland 9-6 at halftime and never looked back, scoring a pair of TDs in the fourth quarter to not only seal the fate of the Raiders but allowing them to match their win total from 2013. Although they were outrushed 71-39, Cleveland did manage to sack David Carr three times and force three Oakland turnovers in the 10-point win. Neither club did much to call, text or write home about on third down tries in the game (Oakland was 6-19, 3-4 on fourth down; Cleveland was 2-12) and the clock was on the side of the Raiders at 34:52 to Cleveland’s 25:08.

The Browns lead the series 5-3, outscoring the Bucs 166-127. On the other side of the coin, the Bucs have come away winnners of their last three meetings (Tampa’s last win came in 2010 in the Sunshine State by a final of 17-14, while Cleveland’s last win in the brief series came in 1995 along the shores of Lake Erie, with the Brownies coming out on top 22-6.) Cleveland’s a 6 1/2 point favorite and the over/under is 43 1/2. Tampa’s got talent but the Browns are above the .500 mark and they’lll stay that way. Cleveland covers the 6 1/2 along the shores of Lake Erie.

New York Jets (1-7) at Kansas City (4-3), 1 p.m. (CBS and DirecTV 706) Arrowhead Stadium. A struggling New York Jets team, losers of their last seven contests, travel to the great Midwest to take on a Kansas City team that looks to pass Denver in the AFC West. Since their season-opening win at home against Oakland, the J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! have lost seven in a row, the first time that they have done that since 2005. In their latest loss last week to Buffalo, GangGreen trailed 24-17 at the half before the wings and wheels came off as they were outscored 19-6 enroute to their 43-23 loss at home last week. Jets QB Geno Smith was picked off three times in the loss, which forced embattled head coach Rex Ryan to put Michael Vick in his place. Vick didn’t do much better, as he would be picked off once and sacked four times.

As if there wasn’t enough controversy, Vick was named to start against the Chiefs in Sunday’s contest on the road. New York did manage to outrush the Bills 175-67 in the 20-point loss in the Meadowlands but turned the ball over six times. New York were 9-19 on third down conversions (1-1 on fourth down), while keeping the ball for 32:17. Buffalo in the win in upstate New Jersey was 3-12 on third down and held the ball for 27:43.

The Chiefs erased a 7-0 first quarter deficit against St. Louis at Arrowhead last Sunday and scored their 34 points unchallenged in their 34-7 win over the Rams. Kansas City held the Rams to 84 yards on the ground, while rushing for 143 and sacked Austin Davis seven times. Kansas City was 6-12 on third down tries in the win over their in-state rivals and kept the ball hostage for 35:38, while the Rams were 3-11 and 0-1 on third and fourth down and held the ball for 24:22

GangGreen leads the series 17-16-1 (which includes contests when the Chiefs were in Dallas and known as the Texans and the Jets played their home games at Shea Stadium) but the Chiefs have outscored the J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! 771-685. GangGreen won the last meeting with KC in 2011 in the Meadowlands by a final of 37-10, while Kansas City’s last win in the series came in 2005 in Kansas City by a 27-7 count.

Kansas City’s favored by 9 1/2 and the over/under’s 41 1/2. The Chiefs are good but not 9 1/2 good. The J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! aren’t that bad but they’ve been playing that way, to paraphrase Jessica Rabbit. Kansas City’s up to date and wins this one at home, even though they might not cover the 9 1/2.

San Diego (5-3) at Miami (4-3), 1 p.m. (CBS and DirecTV 707) Sun Life Stadium. San Diego treks its way eastward to face Miami in the Sunshine State in an important AFC battle between a pair of contending teams.

San Diego heads to Florida’s East Coast with a 35-21 loss to Denver under their belts. In the 14-point loss to Peyton Manning and the Broncos, Denver held the Chargers to 61 yards, while the Broncos’ Ronnie Hillman accounted for 109 of their 139 in the loss. San Diego stuggled on third down tries, going 4-10 (1-1 on fourth down), while Denver was 8-13. The clock favored Denver, who kept the ball for 30:46, while San Diego held it for 29:14.

Miami returns home after their trip up I-95, where they took Jacksonville to the woodshed, beating the Jaguars 27-13. In the win over their instate rivals, the Dolphins forced three Jacksonville turnovers last Sunday, despite being outrushed 176-148 (with Jaguar RB Denard Robinson accounting for 108 to lead all rushers) and sacked rookie QB Blake Bortles four times. Miami on third down tries was 5-12 and held the ball for 27:37, while Jacksonville kept the pigskin for 32:23 and went 6-15 and 2-2 on third and fourth down tries.

The ‘Fins and the Bolts have met 25 times in the regular season and Miami leads the series 13-12 but San Diego has outscored Miami 574-545. They met last year in the Sunshine State in week 11 and Miami broke a 10-10 tie at the half and won 20-16. In that contest, both teams managed to break the 100-yard barrier, as San Diego’s Ryan Matthews led all rushers with 127 yards (the Bolts ran for 154, while Miami had 104) in the contest. Tannehill and Rivers threw for a TD and interception each in the game, with Rivers being sacked three times and Tannehill four times. Both clubs struggled on third down tries (San Diego was 4-11, Miami 2-10) and the clock was on the side of the Chargers, who held the ball for 31:24 to Miami’s 28:36.

In the week 11 affair in the Sunshine State, San Diego was favored by 1 1/2 and the over/under was 45 1/2. Miami covered the spread with their 4-point win but the over/under came up short, as both teams combined for only 36 points. Miami’s favored by 1 1/2 and the over/under is 44. Both numbers make sense. It’ll be close but not that close. Miami wins at home and covers the 1 1/2.

Philadelphia (5-2) at Houston (4-4), 1 p.m. (FOX and DirecTV 710) NRG Stadium. A pair of hot clubs square off in the Lone Star State as the Eagles face off against the Texans, Arian Foster and J.J. Watt at NRG Stadium.

The Eagles, who trail Dallas by a half game, come into their contest with the Texans after their 24-20 loss at Arizona last Sunday. Philly blew a 17-14 lead after three quarters of play for the 4-point loss. The Desert Angry Birds’ winning score came with 1:21 left to play when WR Jaron Brown caught a 75 yard TD pass from Carson Palmer, sending the home crowd happy. Philly held Arizona to 71 yards on the ground, while they ran for 110 and the Cardinal defense picked QB Nick Foles off twice. Third down tries: Philadelphia 9-20, Arizona 7-17 and both teams were 1-1 on fourth down tries. The clock? It favored the Eagles, who held the ball for 31:10 to Arizona’s 28:50.

Houston got back on the winning track last week in Nashville, taking the Titans 30-16 in the Music City. The Texans erased an early 3-0 Tennessee lead in the first and led 27-9 after 45 minutes of play. Texans RB Arian Foster ran for 151 yards in the contest (Houston rushed for 212), while Tennessee was held to 36. The Texans, who had lost two in a row before their win, were 7-16 on third down tries and won the time of possesion battle, keeping the ball for 35:22 to Tennessee’s 24:38. The Titans, who managed to sack Houston QB Ryan Fitzpatrick five times, were 2-12 and 1-2 on third and fourth down conversions.

Philly leads the series 3-0 and have outscored the Texans 93-51. The Eagles won the last meeting with Houston in Philly in 2010 by a final of 34-24. The Eagles may be the road team but the oddsmakers like them as a 2 1/2 point favorite and the over/under comes in at 48 1/2. Both teams could make the playoffs in the 2014 campaign. Philly barely covers the 2 1/2, although the Texans will try to throw everything at them they can in this one.

Arizona (6-1) at Dallas (6-2), 1 p.m. (FOX and DirecTV 709) AT&T Stadium. Carson Palmer and Arizona travel to Arlrington to take on Dallas in a battle of first place NFC teams that could meet again in the post-season. The two first-place teams (Arizona atop the NFC West, Dallas on top of the NFC East mountain) enter the Sunday afternoon affair in the Lone Star State in different directions.

“We got exactly what we wanted out of the coverage and had the right play call,” says Palmer, who passed for a season-high 329 yards and two touchdowns.

The Desert Angry Birds’ 6-1 start is its best start since 1974 when they were still in St. Louis. The Cardinals rallied late in their 24-20 win over Philadelphia last Sunday. In the win in the desert, Arizona trailed 20-17 late in the game before WR WR Jaron Brown caught a 75 yard TD pass from Palmer with 1:21 left to play. Philly held Arizona to 71 yards on the ground (the Eagles ran for 110) and Arizona picked QB Nick Foles off twice in the contest. Arizona was 7-17 on third down tries (1-1 on fourth down) and kept the ball in their talons for 28:50, while the Eagles were 9-20 and 1-1, holding the ball for 31:10.
Dallas comes off a short week and a heart-breaking overtime loss to their hated NFC East rivals from Washington last Monday night. The Cowboys led the ‘Skins 7-3 at half and would later find themselves trailing 17-10 before Romo and TE Jason Witten connected on a 25-yard TD pass with 9:27 left to play in regulation. Washington and Dallas would eventually finish regulation tied 17-17 and the Monday night contest went into overtime. Washington won the toss and marched down the field, scoring what would prove to be the game-winning score when K Kai Forbath connected on a 40-yard field goal with 9:43 left in the overtime. Dallas then got the ball but could not move it and the game ended at that point. The Cowboys outrushed Washington 166-143 (DeMarco Murray led all rushers with 141) and turned the ball over twice in the loss. Romo, who injured his back in the game, was sacked five times in the contest and his status for this weekend was unknown as of Thursday.  Dallas was 5-12 on third down tries (0-1 on fourth down) and held the ball for 28:37, while Washington, with Colt McCoy under center, went 6-14 and 1-1 on third and fourth, keeping the ball for 38:12.

“We’ve got to put this one behind us quickly and get ready for the next challenge,” says Dallas head coach Jason Garrett. “Regardless of what the outcome is, you’ve got to get on to the next one.”

Dallas leads the series with the Desert Angry Birds 55-30-1 and they may have outscored Arizona 1,999-1,483 but Arizona has won the last three contests with Dallas, including a 19-13 overtime win in the desert in 2011. Dallas’ last win over Arizona came in 2006 in the desert by a final of 27-10. Dallas is favored by 4 1/2 in the Lone Star State and the over/under is 48. They could meet in the post-season if the script they stay on script. Dallas covers the 4 1/2 and wins at home against the Desert Angry Birds.

Jacksonville (1-7) at Cincinnati (4-2-1), 1 p.m. (CBS and DirecTV 705) Paul Brown Stadium

The Jaguars saw their brief 1-game win streak go away at the hands of their downstate rivals from Miami, falling to the Dolphins 27-13. Although they trailed 10-3 at half, Jacksonville’s wheels fell off their bus as Miami would outscore them in the second half by a 17-10 margin. Jaguars RB Denard Robinson accounted for 108 of his team’s 176 yards in the game, while Miami ran for 148 (the Dolphins would sack rookie QB Blake Bortles four times and pick him off twice). Jacksonville on third down tries was 6-15 (2-2 on fourth down) and held the ball for 32:23 to Miami’s 27:37 (Miami was 5-12 on third down)

Cincinnati held off a late Baltimore rally and swept the season series with the Ravens at home by a final of 27-24. Cincy trailed 24-20 late in the contest before Dalton took matters into his own hands (and feet) when he scored on a 1-yard run with 57 seconds left to play. The Bengals then held off a late Baltimore rally that would have given them the win but Flacco’s try on fourth and 20 came up short. Cincinnati was 8-14 on third down conversions in the AFC North rematch with Baltimore (1-1 on fourth) and kept the ball for 30:44, while the Ravens were 5-13, 1-3 and 29:16 on third and fourth down and time of possession.

Jacksonville leads the series 11-8 and have outscored Cincy 423-338. However, in this battle of Nine Lives… the Bengals have taken the last three contests, including a 27-10 win in the Sunshine State in 2012. For Jacksonville’s last win, you would have to go all the way back to 2005, also in the Sunsshine State, when they barely squeaked by with a 23-20 victory.

Washington (3-5) at Minnesota (3-5), 1 p.m. (FOX and DirecTV 711) TCF Bank Stadium. They’re both 3-5. They both won on the road. They both won in overtime. The Redskins travel to the Land of 10,000 Lakes to take on Minnesota in their temporary quarters on the campus of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. The contest also marks the return of Robert Griffin III back under center for the first time since week two, when they beat Jacksonville at home.

Washington allowed a 17-10 fourth quarter lead to get away from them as Dallas’ Tony Romo connected on a 25-yard TD pass to TE Jason Witten with 9:27 left in regulation. The Redskins would then win the toss in overtime and marched their way downfield, with the drive ending on a 40-yard field goal by K Kai Forbath with 9:43 left in the extra period and would go on to hold Dallas in check, stopping the Cowboys on a key fourth down try that would have given them a first down and extended their drive. Washington was outrushed by Dallas 166-123 (Dallas’ DeMarco Murray led all rushers with 141) but sacked Romo five times in the game, while Colt McCoy, playing in his home state for the first time since he was at Texas, threw for 299 yards. This week, Washington announced that RGIII would play against the Vikings.

Minnesota trailed Tampa Bay 13-10 late in regulation before K Brad Walsh connected on a 38 yard field goal as time expired and then LB Anthony Barr fulfilled the dreams of many a defensive lineman when he scooped up a Buccaneers fumble and returned it 27 yards early in the overtime to take a 19-13 win in the Sunshine State. The victorious Vikings outrushed their hosts 97-68 and sacked Tampa Bay QB Mike Glennon five times, picking him off once. Third down tries? Minnesota: 6-15, Tampa Bay: 1-12 (2-2 on fourth down). Yes, it was that bad a game. The clock? It was in favor of the Vikings, who held the ball for 30:34 to Tampa Bay’s 29:43.

The series? Dead even at 9-9 and the Purple Gang has outscored Washington 451-399 in those 18 meetings. They met last year in the Land of 10,000 Lakes in the Metrodome’s final season and Minnesota erased a 24-14 deficit at the half to come out on top 34-27. It was Adrian Peterson that gave Minnesota the lead for keeps with his second TD of the day, a 1 yard run with under a minute left in the third quarter. Peterson led Minnesota with 75 of their 91 yards, while Washington’s Alfred Morris led everyone with 139 of the Redskins’ 191 yards. Griffin III did manage to throw three TDs in the loss but was sacked four times, while Christian Ponder threw a pair of TDs for the Vikings. Both clubs did reasonably well on third down tries in the great indoors of the Metrodome, as Washington was 9-16 (1-2 on fourth down) and Minneosta was 6-10. In the Thursday night contest that would open week 10, Washington was a 2 1/2-point favorite and the over/under was 50. Minnesota covered the spread, winning by 7 and both teams barely covered the over/under, combining for 51 points.

The Vikings are favored by 2 1/2 and the over/under stands at 44 1/2. Both teams aren’t bad, they’re just not quite playoff-quality teams yet. HAIL TO THE REDSKINS! Washington covers the 2 1/2 in the Land of 10,000 Lakes with the win.

St. Louis (2-5) at San Francisco (4-3), 4:05 p.m. (FOX and DirecTV 712) Levis Stadium. They met in St. Louis in week six and that meeting was the 700th in the history of Monday Night Football and for a few brief moments, the 49ers found themselves trailing the Rams in St. Louis 14-0 after the first quarter. San Francisco then went to work, outscoring the Rams 31-3 in the final three quarters for the 31-17 win. St. Louis outrushed San Francisco 93-89 in the MNF affair… that was the good news for Rams fans.

The bad news?

Alex Davis was sacked five times in the loss at home, while Kaepernick threw three TDs with no interceptions. Third down tries were nothing to write home about in the contest, as the 49ers were 6-14 (0-2 on fourth down), while the Rams weren’t much better, going 5-14. St. Louis (ironicially) won the time of possession battle, keeping the ball for 31:22, while the 49ers held it for 28:38. In the Monday game in the Gateway City, the 49ers were favored by 3 1/2 (they won by 14) and the over/under of 43 1/2 was covered by both squads, as they tallied 48 points.

This time, the NFC West rivals meet on the West Coast in a late Sunday afternoon affair in Santa Clara. St. Louis comes off a 34-7 loss at the hands of Kansas City at Arrowhead in the battle of a pair of Show-Me-State teams. In their 34-7 loss to the Chiefs, St. Louis let an early 7-0 first quarter lead get away from them and the wheels came off the St. Louis bus, as Kansas City would gone to score their points unchallenged. The Rams were held to 84 yards rushing and sacked Austin Davis seven times. The Rams were 3-11 on third down tries, keeping the ball for 24:22, while Kansas City, who rushed for 143, was 6-12 on third down tries in the win over their in-state rivals and held the ball for 35:38.

The 49ers return to play after their bye week and their last action on the field was not good for their fans as San Francisco was picked apart by Peyton Manning and Denver like a Thanksgiving goose, losing to the Broncos in the Mile High City in primetime 42-17. San Francisco trailed Denver 21-10 at the half but Denver floored the gas in the second half, outscoing the 49ers 21-7 in the second half. In the contest, Manning threw four TD passes, including a TD pass to WR Demaryus Thomas to set an NFL record for TD passes thrown. Denver also held San Francisco to 62 yards on the ground and sacked Kaepernick six times. San Francisco was 3-13 and 1-2 on third and fourth down, holding the ball for 32:01. Denver, with Manning throwing for 318 yards, was 5-9 on third down conversions, keeping the ball for 27:59.

In the first meeting, San Francisco won by 14 to cover the spread (the 49ers were favored by 3 1/2 and the over/under was 43 1/2) and both teams managed to score 48 points, covering the over/under. In this second meeting, San Francisco’s 9 1/2 point favorite at Levis’ and the over/under this time is 44. The saying goes “familiarity breeds contempt.” The Rams have been playing decent football of late but not great football. The 49ers are looking to get back on track in the NFC West. Something’s got to give here. San Francisco may not cover the 9 1/2 but they sweep the series with the win on the West Coast.

Oakland (0-7) at Seattle (4-3), 4:25 p.m. (CBS and DirecTV 714) CenturyLink Field. Seattle returns to the land of grunge, salmon and Starbucks, breaking a brief 2-game losing streak and hosts a winless and struggling Raiders team that makes the trip up I-5

Oakland only trailed Cleveland 9-6 at half but then the wheels fell off the Raider bus as they would be outscored by the Browns 14-7 in the fourth quarter to lose 23-13. The good news for Raiders fans? They managed to outrush Cleveland 71-39, with RB Darren McFadden leading all rushers with 59 yards on 12 carries. The bad news? They turned the ball over three times and David Carr found himself being sacked twice. Oakland was 6-19 and 3-4 on third and fourth down in their loss along the shores of Lake Erie, keeping the ball for 34:52, while the Browns were 2-12 and held the pigskin for 25:08.

Seattle led Carolina and Cam Newton 6-3 at the break before outscoring the Panthers 7-6 in the last 30 minutes of action to come away from the Tar Heel State 13-9. The Seahawks outrushed Carolina 119-114 and sacked Newton three times and picked him off once. Third down tries? Nothing to keep fans of either club happy (Seattle was 4-11; Carolina was 2-10 and 1-2 on fourth) and the clock was the ally of the Panthers, who kept the ball to themselves for 31 minutes to Seattle’s 29.

Including contests when both teams were in the AFC West and the Raiders were in Los Angeles, Oakland leads the series 28-23 and have outscored the defending Super Bowl champs 1,150-1,078. The two have not faced each other since 2010, when the Silver and Black took Seattle to task, coming away with a 33-3 win in Oakland, while Seattle won in the land of grunge, salmon and Starbucks in 2006, shutting out Oakland 16-0. Seattle’s a 14 1/2 point favorite in the Pacific Northwest and the over/under is 43. The defending Super Bowl champs have been under clouds of controversy in the locker room of late, while the Raiders have been just dismal. Unless you’re a fan of either of these teams, you might be better off scrafing down the rest of that Halloween candy while watching that “NCIS” marathon on USA. Yes, we do find Ducky headslapping Dinozzo to be quite entertaining. Seahawaks may not cover the 14 1/2 but they do win at home in the land of grunge, salmon and Starbucks.

Denver (6-1) at New England (6-2), 4:25 p.m. (CBS and DirecTV 713) Gillette Stadium. Peyton. Brady. They meet again and this time, in western Massachusetts.

The late afternoon affair in western Massachusetts is the first game in the history of the National Football League to  to feature opposing starting QBs with 150+ regular-season wins each.

“Every time we play a Peyton Manning-led team, it comes down to the wire,” says Brady, who has a 10-5 career record against Manning, including the postseason. “Everything is usually at stake.”

Both players are at the top of their games, as Brady (129.1) and Manning (127.4) ranked No. 1 and 2, respectively in passer rating in the month of October, as each player led their teams to identical 4-0 records for the month.

“I think both teams are familiar with each other’s systems, both offensively and defensively,” Denver head coach John Fox told the Rocky Mountain News and KUSA-TV. “It will be a huge test for both teams, obviously an important conference game for both teams and we’re looking forward to the opportunity.”

Both teams are also coming off wins last week.

Denver comes out of their AFC West contest with San Diego with Manning setting the record for most TDs thrown, taking the Chargers to task and beating the Bolts 35-21. Denver led 14-7 at the half after a scoreless first quarter and then proceeded to run away and hide from San Diego, outscoring the Chargers 21-14 in the second half. Manning threw for 286 yards and three TD passes, all to WR Emmanuel Sanders. Denver outrushed San Diego 139-61 (with RB Ronnie Hillman accounting for 109) and picked off Philip Rivers twice (Rivers did throw three TDs in the loss). Denver went 8-13 on third down tries, keeping the ball for 30:46, while San Diego was 4-10 and 1-1 on third and fourth down tries, holding the ball for 29:14.

The Broncos lead the series 25-19 and have outscored the Pats 1,023-940. They met twice, once in regular season and once in the post-season. The week 12 meeting in Foxboro on a Sunday night was one for the ages as Denver took a 17-0 lead over New England before Brady and the Pats rallied to score a 31-28 lead late in regulation. That lead lasted about as long as a plate of chocolate chip cookies in a roomfull of 6-year olds as Denver’s Demaryius Thomas and Manning connected on a 11-yard TD pass with 3:06 left to play. The teams then end regulation tied at 31-31 and neither team could do anything until New England marched down the field and took the overtime win on a 31-yard field goald by Stephen Gostkowski with 1:56 left in the overtime for the win. Denver’s Knowshon Moreno ran for 224 of his team’s 280, while the Pats tallied 116. The two future Hall of Famers combined for five TDs in the contest (Manning with two, Brady with three) and each team turned the ball over three times. On third down tries, the Broncos were 9-18, while New England was 6-14 (0-1 on fourth down). Including the overtime, the Broncos held the ball for 38:58 to New England’s 34:06.

That was round one.

Round two was for all the marbles for the AFC title and the trip to New Jersey.

For all the chips.

Winner moves on.

Loser goes home.

This time, Peyton got revenge.

Denver took a 13-3 lead over the Pats in the Mile High City and never looked back as they would come out on top 26-16. Denver outrushed New England 107-64 and Manning threw for 400 yards and a pair of TDs (Brady threw for 277 and a TD in the contest). Both teams ruled third down tries in the winner-take-all contest in the Mile High City, as the Pats were 6-12 (1-2 on fourth down), while Denver was 7-13 and 1-1 on fourth down conversions. Denver not only ruled the game, they ruled the clock, keeping the ball for 35:44 to New England’s 24:16.

In the first meeting in Foxboro in week 12, the Broncos were favored by 2 1/2 and the over/under was 54 1/2. New England won by a field goal, covering the spread and the 65 points by both teams covered the over/under easily. In the post-season, with everything on the line, Denver was favored by 4 1/2 and won by 10 but both teams scored only 42 points, missing the 55 over/under.

With a pair of future Hall of Famers throwing the football, it’s safe to say that this one’s a “Drill Worthy” contest. (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 adult beverage items in question on Sunday) 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? We mentioned her earlier. 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?”)

Denver’s favored by 3 on the road. The over/under? 55. Brady vs. Manning. Both have Super Bowl rings. Both could have their own wings at Canton one day. The 55 makes a lot of sense. The 3 point spread? Might be a bit on the low side, since these two did play a “last one standing wins” game in Foxboro last year. It’ll be closer than the three but New England comes away with the win at home.

Baltimore at Pittsburgh, 8:30 p.m. (NBC) Heinz Field. They meet again and this time, it’s in the Steel City. Pittsburgh and Baltimore meet again and this time, the Steelers are looking for revenge. They have a score to settle with the birds from Charm City.

An exciting Sunday of NFL action will wrap up as Pittsburgh hosts Baltimore on Sunday Night Football. This marks the second primetime meeting between the AFC North rivals this season, as the Ravens beat the Steelers 26-6 on Thursday Night Football in Week 2. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is coming off a career performance in the Steelers’ 51-34 win against Indianapolis, setting franchise passing records for yards (522) and touchdowns (six) against the Colts.

“The guy was in a zone,” says Pittsburgh tackle Mike Adams of Roethlisberger, who is the only player in NFL history with two career 500-yard passing games. “It was something that was awesome to be a part of. To be the only guy to have two 500-yard games, and to be in there for one of them is something you will never forget.”

Baltimore’s defense, which ranks first in the AFC with 16.4 points per game allowed, will look to slow down the Steelers’ offense this week as the two teams renew their rivalry.

“They have a lot of pride over there,” says Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh of Pittsburgh. “But we’re very comfortable in that rivalry. We’re very comfortable in that stadium. And we understand what it takes to win there.”

Baltimore let a 24-20 lead get away from them against Cincinnati last Sunday afternoon as Andy Dalton scored on a 1-yard run with 57 seconds left, losing to the Bengals for the second time in 2014 by a 27-24 final. The Ravens were outrushed 111-107 in the game and turned the ball over twice (two Flacco interceptions) in the 3-point loss, going 5-13 on third down conversions (1-3 on fourth) and keeping the ball for 29:16. The Bengals? They were 8-14 and 1-1 on third and fourth downs, holding the ball for 30:44.

Pittsburgh took Indy to the woodshed last Sunday in the Steel City and never took their foot off the gas as they beat the Colts 51-34. The Steelers led 35-20 at the half, while Roethlisberger went on his rampage, outpassing Luck 522-400 and held the Colts to 63 yards on the ground. Both clubs did suprisingly well on third down tries in the somewhat lopsided affair, as the Steelers were 8-13 (1-1 on fourth down), while the Colts were 5-10 and the clock was the ally of the Steelers, who kept the ball for 39:43 to Indy’s 20:17.

In the first meeting in Charm City, the Ravens took a 10-3 lead to the intermission and held the Steelers in check, taking a 22-6 win at home. Pittsburgh was held to 99 yards on the ground and Roethlisberger was sacked twice and threw an interception in the contest. Baltimore, who rushed for 157 yards in the Thursday night contest, saw Flacco throw a pair of TDs with no interceptions and forced three turnovers. The Steelers on third down tries were 6-12 and held the ball for 24:52, while the victorious Ravens were 5-12 and 1-1 on third and fourth down tries, keeping the ball for 35:08.

In the first contest in week two, the Ravens were favored by 2 1/2 and won by 20 and the contest had a 44 over/under. Both teams failed to reach that number, scoring only 28 points. As far as being on Sunday nights, Baltimore is 13-10, while the Steelers are 20-20. The home team is favored by 1 and the over/under is 48. Pittsburgh’s won two in a row at home, while the Ravens have been up and down at times. Waiting all day for Sunday night might be in your best interest. This would be a good time to tape “The Good Wife” this week and watch this one. Steelers cover the 1 and get revenge on the Ravens at home in the Steel City.

Indianapolis (5-3) at New York Giants (3-4), 8:30 p.m. Monday (ESPN) MetLife Stadium. A pair of young QBs meet in upstate New Jersey as week 9 wraps up with an interconference match-up on Monday Night Football with the first-place Colts traveling to the Meadowlands to take on the Giants. Indianapolis has averaged 31.3 points per game, which ranks second only to Denver, during its 5-3 start. Quarterback Andrew Luck has an active streak of six 300-yard passing games, which surpassed Peyton Manning (five games in 2009) for the longest streak in franchise history.

“We are at the halfway point,” says Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano. “We know it’s a marathon, not a sprint. We have a big game coming up on Monday night.”

Coming off an impressive three-game winning streak in which they outscored opponents 105-51, the Giants lost back-to-back divisional games heading into their Week 8 bye. With Dallas (6-2) and Philadelphia (5-2) ahead of them in the NFC East, the Giants have reached a pivotal point in their season.

“We’ve got nine games to play as well as we can possibly play,” says Giants head coach Tom Coughlin. “I think anybody in our locker room can do that. Let’s go. One at a time.”

Indy struggled against Pittsburgh last Sunday at Heinz Field and fell to Ben and the Steelers 51-34. Pittsburgh outrushed Indy 117-63 and Roethlisberger (6 TDs, no interceptions) outpassed Luck 522-400 and Luck threw three TDs and a pair of interceptions in the lopsided loss. The Colts on third down were 5-10 and held the ball for 20:17 to Pittsburgh’s 39:43, while the Steelers were 8-13 and 1-1 on third and fourth down tries in the win.

The G-Men return from their bye week after their 31-21 loss at Dallas two weeks ago. Dallas managed to erase a 14-14 tie at the half by outscoring New York 17-7 in the final 30 minutes of action in Arlington. New York pulled to within 7 points when rookie WR Odell Beckham caught a 5 yard TD pass from Manning with 5:28 left to play before Cowboys K Dan Bailey iced the game away and sealed New York’s fate with a 49-yard field goal with 59 seconds left. The Giants were outrushed by Dallas 156-104 (with Dallas’ DeMarco Murray leading all rushers with 128) and Manning outpassed by Tony Romo 279-248, although each man threw three TD passes in the contest (Romo had one interception). New York was 5-13 on third down tries (1-1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 26:11, while the Cowboys, who lead the NFC East, kept the ball for 33:49 and went 9-14 on third down tries.

Including contests when they were in Charm City before moving to the Hoosier State, the Colts lead the series 8-6 and have out scored the Giants 316-248. Indy’s last win over the G-Men came in Indy in 2010 by a 38-14 final, while the Giants’ last win in the series also came in the Hoosier State in 2002 by a final of 44-27. The Colts are favored by 3 1/2 on the road on Monday night and the over/under is 51. Both numbers do make sense. The Giants have been struggling to keep pace with Dallas, mired in third place in the NFC East, while the Colts are trying to restore order in the AFC South. Records on Monday night? Indy’s 21-13. The G-Men? 22-33-1. This might be one of the better Monday night games to watch this year, so you might want to tape “2 Broke Girls” this week. Colts win on the road in the Meadowlands and may cover the 3 1/2.

Advertisements