It’s finally here.

Sunday football.

Sunday MEANINGFUL football.

Everybody is ready for the unique unpredictability of the NFL. And every team enters the new season with hope.

The NFL returns this week and it’s time to get “Back to Football.” That means the next five months will be packed with the sizzle and suspense that comes only with the National Football League and will culminate with Super Bowl 50, which will be played on Sunday, February 7, 2016 at Levi’s Stadium.

America’s favorite sport roared back into action Thursday night as New England hoisted another Super Bowl banner, beating Pittsburgh 28-21 in Foxboro and the 2015 season will be a year-long celebration of the Super Bowl to commemorate Super Bowl 50. Think of it as Lombardi being celebrated like the rock star he already is (more about him later, kittens and pups!)

Last year, nearly 65 percent of the games were within one score (eight points or fewer) in the fourth quarter. And there were five new playoff teams in 2014: Arizona, Baltimore, Dallas, Detroit and Pittsburgh. Since the 12-team playoff format was adopted in 1990, at least four teams have qualified for the playoffs in every season that were not in the postseason the year before.

Over the past 10 years, six NFL teams – New England (122-38, .763), Indianapolis (110-50, .688), Pittsburgh (101-59, .631), Green Bay (98-61-1, .616), San Diego (97-63, .606) and Baltimore (96-64, .600) – have posted a winning percentage of .600 or better. Those six clubs have combined for 43 playoff berths, 10 Super Bowl appearances and six Super Bowl championships during that span.

Since being drafted by Green Bay in 2005, quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers have made seven playoff appearances, winning Super Bowl XLV.

“I’m very proud of Aaron,” Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “He’s at the point in his career now that it seems like every week or every other week he’s breaking a record. He is just a special player.”

The reigning Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, under the guidance of head coach Bill Belichick, have the best regular-season record over the past 10 years, qualifying for the postseason nine times and winning Super Bowl XLIX.

“He’s been a great mentor, a great friend,” Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh told the Baltimore Sun. “I have the utmost respect for him. Bill Belichick is the greatest coach of our generation, without question.”

The teams with the best regular-season records over the past 10 seasons (2005-14):

TEAM (W-L-T, PCT.; PLAYOFF BERTHS-SUPER BOWL BERTHS-SUPER BOWL WINS)
New England (122-38-0, .763; 9-3-1)
Indianapolis (110-50-0, 688; 9-2-1)
Pittsburgh (101-59-0, .631; 6-3-2)
Green Bay (98-61-1, .616; 7-1-1)
San Diego (97-63-0, .606; 5-0-0)
Baltimore (96-64-0, .600; 7-1-1)

HARRIS POLL: PRO FOOTBALL IS AMERICA’S FAVORITE SPORT BY FAR

America’s favorite sport? Once again, professional football claims the top spot.

For more than four decades, according to The Harris Poll, the NFL has been the most popular sport in America.

In its most recent survey, Harris reveals that pro football is the favorite sport for almost one-third of people (32 percent), doubling  the next sport, with 16 percent of people claiming baseball as their favorite. In fact, more people name professional football as their favorite sport than the combined total of the next three professional sports – baseball (16), auto racing (seven) and men’s pro basketball (six).

The third sport in the survey is college football at 10 percent, meaning that football is the favorite sport of nearly half of America’s sports fans (42 percent).

The five most popular sports according to The Harris Poll 2015 (released January 2015):

RANK, SPORT (PERCENT)
1, Pro Football (32)
2. Baseball (16)
3. College Football (10)
4. Auto Racing (7)
5. Men’s Pro Basketball (6)

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN 2015

Green Bay needs nine victories to become the second team in NFL history to reach 750 total victories. The Packers (741-561-37) would join Chicago (752-563-42) as the only teams to accomplish the feat.

The New York Giants need nine victories to become the third team in NFL history to reach 700 total victories. The Giants (691-581-33) would join Chicago (752-563-42) and Green Bay (741-561-37) as the only teams to accomplish the feat.

Washington needs eight victories to reach 600 total victories. Washington’s all-time record is 592-576-27.
Denver needs six victories to reach 450 regular-season victories. Denver’s all-time regular-season record is 444-382-10.
Buffalo needs one victory to reach 400 total victories. Buffalo’s all-time record is 399-458-8.

The New York Jets need 11 victories to reach 400 total victories. The Jets’ all-time record is 389-464-8.
Houston needs 10 victories to reach 100 total victories. Houston’s all-time record is 90-122.

BEST KICKOFF WEEKEND PERFORMANCES, 1933-2014
MOST YARDS RUSHING YARDS, ATT (LG, TD)
O.J. Simpson, Buffalo vs. New England, 9/16/73 – 250 yards on 29 carries (long – 80 yards, 2 TDS)
Arian Foster, Houston vs. Indianapolis, 9/12/10 – 231 yards on 33 carries (long – 42 yards, 3 TDS)
Michael Turner, Atlanta vs. Detroit, 9/7/08 – 220 yards on 22 carries (long – 66 yards, 2 TDS)
Eddie George, Tennessee vs. Oakland, 8/31/97 – 216 yards on 35 carries (long – 29 yards, TD)
George Rogers, New Orleans vs. St. Louis, 9/4/83 – 206 yards on 24 carries (long – 76 yards, 2 TDS)
Gerald Riggs, Atlanta vs. New Orleans, 9/2/84 – 202 yards on 35 carries (long – 57 yards, 2 TDS)
Duce Staley, Philadelphia vs. Dallas, 9/3/00 – 201 yards on 26 carries (long – 60 yards, TD)
Norm Bulaich, Baltimore vs. New York Jets, 9/19/71 – 198 yards on 22 carries (long – 67 yards, TD)
Curtis Martin, New York Jets vs. Cincinnati, 9/12/04 – 196 yards on 29 carries (long – 24 yards, TD)
Alan Ameche, Baltimore vs. Chicago, 9/25/55 – 194 yards on 21 carries (long – 79 yards, TD)

MOST YARDS PASSING YARDS (Completions-Attempts, TDs, Interceptions)
Norm Van Brocklin, Los Angeles Rams vs. New York Yanks, 9/28/51 – 554 yards (27 of 41, 5 TDS, 2 INTs)
Tom Brady, New England vs. Miami, 9/12/11 – 517 yards (32 of 48, 4 TDS, INT)
Dan Marino, Miami vs. New England, 9/4/94 – 473 yards (23 of 42, 5 TDS, INT)
Peyton Manning, Denver vs. Baltimore, 9/5/13 – 462 yards (27 of 42, 7 TDS)
Eli Manning, New York Giants vs. Dallas, 9/8/13 – 450 yards (27 of 42, 4 TDS, 3 INTS)
Matt Ryan, Atlanta vs. New Orleans, 9/7/14 – 447 yards (31 of 43, 3 TDS)
Kurt Warner, St. Louis vs. Denver, 9/4/00 – 441 yards (25 of 35, 3 TDS, 3 INTS)
Peyton Manning, Indianapolis vs. Houston, 9/12/10 – 433 yards (40 of 57, 3 TDS)
Cam Newton, Carolina vs. Arizona, 9/11/11 – 422 yards (24 of 37, 2 TDS, INT)
Drew Bledsoe, New England vs. Miami, 9/4/94 – 421 yards (32 of 51, 4 TDS, 2 INTS)

MOST YARDS RECEIVING (YARDS-Catches, Longest, TD)
Frank Clarke, Dallas vs. Washington, 9/16/62 – 241 yards on 10 catches (long – 58 yards, 3 TDS)
Anquan Boldin, Arizona vs. Detroit, 9/7/03 – 217 yards on 10 catches (long – 71 yards, 2 TDS)
Hugh Taylor, Washington vs. Philadelphia, 9/28/47 – 212 yards on 8 catches (long – 62 yards, 3 TDS)
Lance Alworth, San Diego vs. Denver, 9/11/65 – 211 yards on 7 catches (long – 48 yards, TD)
Irving Fryar, Miami vs. New England, 9/4/94 – 211 yards on 5 catches (long – 54 yards, 3 TDS)
Anquan Boldin, San Francisco vs. Green Bay, 9/8/13 – 208 yards on 13 catches (long – 43 yards, TD)
Wes Chandler, New Orleans vs. Atlanta, 9/2/79 – 205 yards on 6 catches (long – 42 yards, TD)
Don Maynard, New York Jets vs. Kansas City, 9/15/68 – 203 yards on 8 catches (long – 57 yards, 2 TDS)
Marty Booker, Chicago vs. Minnesota, 9/8/02 – 198 yards on 8 catches (long – 54 yards, TD)
Tim Smith, Houston vs. Green Bay, 9/4/83 – 197 yards on 8 catches (long – 47 yards, TD)

BEST KICKOFF WEEKEND PERFORMANCES, PAST 10 YEARS (2014 Performances)

MOST YARDS RUSHING YARDS, ATT (LG, TD)
Arian Foster, Houston vs. Indianapolis, 9/12/10 – 231 yards on 33 carries (long – 42 yards, 3 TDS)
Michael Turner, Atlanta vs. Detroit, 9/7/08 – 220 yards on 22 carries (long – 66 yards, 2 TDS)
LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia vs. Washington, 9/9/13 – 184 yards on 31 carries (long – 34 yards, TD)
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota vs. Cleveland, 9/13/09 – 180 yards on 25 carries (long – 64 yards, 3 TDS)
Chris Brown, Tennessee vs. Jacksonville, 9/9/07 – 175 yards on 19 carries (long – 42 yards)
C.J. Spiller, Buffalo vs. New York Jets, 9/9/12 – 169 yards on 14 carries (long – 56 yards, TD)
Willie Parker, Pittsburgh  vs. Tennessee, 9/11/05 – 161 yards on 22 carries (long – 45 yards, TD)
Darren McFadden, Oakland vs. Denver, 9/12/11 – 150 yards on 22 carries (long – 47 yards)
Carnell Williams, Tampa Bay vs. Minnesota, 9/11/05 – 148 yards on 27 carries (long – 71 yards, TD)
=Mike Bell, New Orleans vs. Detroit, 9/13/09 – 143 yards on 28 carries (long – 22 yards)

MOST YARDS PASSING YARDS (Completions-Attempts, TDs, Interceptions)
Tom Brady, New England vs. Miami, 9/12/11 – 517 yards (32 of 48, 4 TDs, INT)
Peyton Manning, Denver vs. Baltimore, 9/5/13 – 462 yards (27 of 42, 7 TDS)
Eli Manning, New York Giants vs. Dallas, 9/8/13
Matt Ryan, Atlanta vs. New Orleans, 9/7/14 – 448 yards (31 of 43, 3 TDS)
Peyton Manning, Indianapolis vs. Houston, 9/12/10 – 433 yards (40 of 57, 3 TDS)
Cam Newton, Carolina vs. Arizona, 9/11/11 – 422 yards (24 of 37, 2 TDS, INT)
Drew Brees, New Orleans vs. Green Bay, 9/8/11 – 419 yards (32 of 49, 3 TDS)
Chad Henne, Miami vs. New England, 9/12/11 – 416 yards (30 of 49, 2 TDS, INT)
Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco vs. Green Bay, 9/8/13 – 412 yards (27 of 39, 3 TDS)
Tom Brady, New England vs. Buffalo, 9/14/09 – 378 yards (39 of 53, 2 TDS, INT)

MOST YARDS RECEIVING (YARDS-Catches, Longest, TD)
Anquan Boldin, San Francisco vs. Green Bay, 9/8/13 – 208 yards on 13 catches (long – 43 yards, TD)
Randy Moss, New England vs. New York Jets, 9/9/07 – 183 yards on 9 catches (long – 51 yards, TD)
Steve Smith, Carolina vs. Arizona, 9/11/11 – 178 yards on 8 catches (long – 77 yards, 2 TDS)
Calvin Johnson, Detroit vs. New York Giants, 9/8/14 – 164 yards on 7 catches (long – 67 yards, 2 TDS)
Austin Collie, Indianapolis vs. Houston, 9/12/10 – 163 yards on 11 catches (long – 73 yards, TD)
A.J. Green, Cincinnati vs. Chicago, 9/8/13 – 162 yards on 9 catches (long – 45 yards, 2 TDS)
Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis vs. Jacksonville, 9/13/09 – 162 yards on 10 catches (long – 39 yards, TD)
Antwaan Randle El, Washington vs. Miami, 9/9/07 – 162 yards on 5 catches (long – 54 yards)
Demaryius Thomas, Denver vs. Baltimore, 9/5/13 – 161 yards on 5 catches (long – 78 yards, 2 TDS)
Wes Welker, New England vs. Miami, 9/12/11 – 160 yards on 8 catches (long – 99 yards, 2 TDS)

TOTAL MILES TRAVELED & NOTES ON 2015 TRAVEL (2015 regular season)

1. San Francisco – 27,912
2. Miami – 26,622
3. Oakland – 26,268
4. Seattle – 24,976
5. San Diego – 24,328
6. Arizona – 23,496
7. Kansas City – 21,444
8. Baltimore – 20,570
9. Detroit – 20,114
10. New York Jets – 19,814
11. Jacksonville – 18,856
12. Dallas – 16,976
13. Cincinnati – 16,020
14. Denver – 15,624
15. New England – 15,568
16. Green Bay – 15,016
17. Buffalo – 14,956
18. St. Louis – 14,606
19. Minnesota – 14,284
20. Houston – 14,074
21. Pittsburgh – 13,236
22. Cleveland – 12,534
23. New York Giants – 12,414
24. New Orleans – 11,842
25. Chicago – 11,714
26. Carolina – 11,568
27. Tampa Bay – 11,268
28. Atlanta – 10,312
29. Tennessee – 9,228
30. Indianapolis – 8,890
31. Washington – 7,174
32. Philadelphia – 6,890

The total distance traveled by all teams during the regular season will be 518,594 miles. The teams of the NFC West (90,990) have the highest combined mileage total of all divisions. The remaining division totals ranking from highest to lowest are the AFC West (87,664), AFC East (76,960), AFC North (62,360), NFC North (61,128), AFC South (51,048), NFC South (44,990) and NFC East (43,454).

Three teams – San Francisco (27,912), Miami (26,622) and Oakland (26,268) – will “travel around the world” at least once. A trip around the globe is 25,000 miles. Please return your trays to the upright position.

THE NFL IS SO UNPREDICTABLE THAT IN 2014…

Nothing exhibits the unpredictability of the NFL more than the tightness of NFL games:

Games continued to be this close, as 64.5 percent were within one score in the fourth quarter. In 2014, 110 of 256 games (43.0 percent) were decided by eight points or fewer.

GAMES DECIDED BY ONE SCORE

POINTS – GAMES (PCT.)
8 or Fewer – 110 of 256 (43%)
7 or Fewer – 98 of 256 (38.3%)
3 or Fewer – 53 of 256 (20.7%)

GAMES WITHIN ONE SCORE AT ANY POINT IN 4TH QUARTER

POINTS – GAMES (PCT.)
8 or Fewer – 165 of 256 (64.5%)
7 or Fewer – 155 of 256 (60.5%)
3 or Fewer – 103 of 256 (40.2%)

BEST NFL RECORDS, PAST 10 YEARS

Over the past 10 years, six NFL teams – New England (122-38, .763), Indianapolis (110-50, .688), Pittsburgh (101-59, .631), Green Bay (98-61-1, .616), San Diego (97-63, .606) and Baltimore (96-64, .600) – have posted a winning percentage of .600 or better. Those six clubs have combined for 43 playoff berths, 10 Super Bowl appearances and six Super Bowl championships during that span.

Since being drafted by Green Bay in 2005, quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers have made seven playoff appearances, winning Super Bowl XLV.

“I’m very proud of Aaron,” Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “He’s at the point in his career now that it seems like every week or every other week he’s breaking a record. He is just a special player.”

The reigning Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, under the guidance of head coach Bill Belichick, have the best regular-season record over the past 10 years, qualifying for the post-season nine times and winning Super Bowl XLIX.

“He’s been a great mentor, a great friend,” says Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh. “I have the utmost respect for him. Bill Belichick is the greatest coach of our generation, without question.”

The teams with the best regular-season records over the past 10 seasons (2005-14):

TEAM (W-L-T, PCT.; PLAYOFF BERTHS/SUPER BOWL BERTHS/SUPER BOWL WINS)
New England (122-38-0, .763; 9/3/1)
Indianapolis (110-50-0, .688; 9/2/1)
Pittsburgh (101-59-0, .631; 6/3/2)
Green Bay (98-61-1, .616; 7/1/1)
San Diego (97-63-0, .606; 5/0/0)
Baltimore (96-64-0, .600; 7/1/1)

Unpredictable NFL? It sure seems that way!

In the 13 seasons since realignment in 2002, 28 different teams have won division titles.

“It felt great,” said Carolina running back Jonathan Stewart, who helped lead the Panthers to the team’s second-consecutive division title. “I mean, it’s a blessing and you just have to cherish those moments. We just believed and played our hearts out.”

Last season, Dallas head coach Jason Garrett guided the Cowboys to their first division title since 2009.

“In so many ways, this is such a long journey and to get to a point to achieve your first goal of winning the division title, a lot goes into that,” Garrett told the Dallas Morning News, after the team finished 12-4 in 2014. “I think the way you play in securing that matters and I thought we played really, really well.”

The teams that have won their divisions in the 13 seasons since realignment in 2002:
TEAM, DIVISION TITLES/PLAYOFF BERTHS
New England, 11/11
Indianapolis, 9/12
Green Bay, 8/10
Seattle, 7/9
Philadelphia, 6/8
Pittsburgh, 6/8
Denver, 5/7
San Diego, 5/6
Baltimore, 4/8
Carolina, 4/5
Atlanta, 3/6
New York Giants, 3/6
Cincinnati, 3/6
New Orleans, 3/5
Dallas, 3/5
San Francisco, 3/4
Chicago, 3/3
Tampa Bay, 3/3
Kansas City, 2/4
Minnesota, 2/4
Tennessee, 2/4
Arizona, 2/3
Houston, 2/2
New York Jets, 1/5
Washington, 1/3
St. Louis, 1/2
Miami, 1/1
Oakland, 1/1

SCORING REACHED RECORD HIGHS IN 2014: Nine teams scored at least 400 points in 2014 – Green Bay (486), Denver (482), Philadelphia (474), New England (468), Dallas (467), Indianapolis (458), Pittsburgh (436), Baltimore (409) and New Orleans (401) – tying the 2009 and 2012 seasons for the second-most all-time. Those nine teams combined for a .674 winning percentage, while seven qualified for the playoffs.

A record 807 touchdown passes were also recorded in 2014, surpassing the league-wide record of 804, which occurred in 2013.

YEAR- TOUCHDOWN PASSES
2014 – 807
2013 – 804
2012 – 757
2010 – 751
2011 – 745

Led by the NFC North champion Green Bay Packers, who finished 12-4 and scored an NFL-high 486 points in 2014, many of the NFL’s top-scoring offenses translated those points into wins.

“Teams are really balanced on offense,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers told USA Today, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and the Assoicated Press. “If it takes 38-plus points to win, then that’s what teams have to do. There are no excuses any longer with the way offense is trending today.”

The teams that scored at least 400 points in 2014:
TEAM, POINTS (W-L-T, WIN PCT.)
Green Bay, 486 (12-4-0, .750)*
Denver, 482 (12-4-0, .750)*
Philadelphia, 474 (10-6-0, .625)
New England, 468 (12-4-0, .750)*
Dallas, 467 (12-4-0, .750)*
Indianapolis, 458 (11-5-0, .688)*
Pittsburgh, 436 (11-5-0, .688)*
Baltimore, 409 (10-6-0, .625)*
New Orleans, 401 (7-9-0, .438)
*Playoff team

WINNING IS A HABIT: Thirty-eight of the 49 Super Bowl champions (77.6 percent) finished the preseason with a winning percentage of at least .500.

Since 2000, the 15 Super Bowl champions have combined for a 38-22 (.633) preseason record during their championship seasons.
SUPER STARTERS: History indicates that the best way for a team to start its drive toward a Super Bowl championship is to win in Week 1.

The 49 Super Bowl winners have a 39-9-1 record in the Kickoff Weekend games of their title seasons. The Super Bowl XLIX-champion New England Patriots, who  hosted and defeated Pittsburgh 28-21 in the spotlight Kickoff 2015 game on Thursday night, have a 16-1 regular-season record at Gillette Stadium over the past two seasons. New England has won 12 of its past 13 Kickoff Weekend games.

Since 1978, when the NFL adopted the 16-game schedule, and excluding the abbreviated season of 1982, teams that are victorious in their season opener are more than twice as likely to reach the playoffs as losers of their opening game:
· Of the 538 teams which won openers…281 went to the playoffs (168 won division titles, .597).

· Of the 539 teams which lost openers…129 went to the playoffs (74 won division titles, .573).

Note: There are a different number of winning and losing teams in season opening games due to the fact the NFL had 31 teams in each season from 1999 to 2001, which creates an odd number for the total number of results.

TEAMS OF THE DECADE: The 2015 season-opening Thursday night game between New England and Pittsburgh featured two of the three winningest teams over the past 10 seasons (2005-2014). New England (123-38, .814) owns the best regular-season winning percentage in the NFL during that span, while Pittsburgh ranks third (101-60, .627).

The Patriots and Steelers have combined for 15 playoff berths, six AFC Championships and three Super Bowl titles over the past decade.

The teams with the best regular-season records over the past 10 seasons (2005-14):

TEAM (W-L-T, Pct. PLAYOFF BERTHS; SUPER BOWL BERTHS; SUPER BOWL WINS)
New England (123-38-0, .814; 9; 3; 1)
Indianapolis (110-50–0, .688; 9; 2; 1)
Pittsburgh (101-59-0, .631; 6; 3; 2)
Green Bay (98-61-1, .616; 7; 1; 1)
San Diego (97-63-0, .606; 5; 0; 0)
Baltimore (96-64-0, .600; 7; 1; 1)

OUT OF THE BLOCKS: Dallas hosts the New York Giants Sunday night in Arlington at 8:30 Eastern on NBC. The contest will feature two of the NFL’s most successful teams in season openers. The Cowboys’ .667 winning percentage (36-18-1) is the highest of any team in NFL history, while the Giants’ .576 winning percentage in Week 1 ranks fifth all-time. The Giants also have the third-most wins on Kickoff Weekend (49).

The teams with the best winning percentage on Kickoff Weekend:

TEAM, KICKOFF WEEKEND RECORDS (WIN PCT.)
Dallas, 36-18-1 (.667)
Denver, 35-19-1 (.648)
Houston Texans, 8-5-0 (.615)
Chicago, 54-36-5 (.600)
New York Giants, 49-36-5 (.576)
Note: Ties prior to 1972 did not count in winning percentage.

The teams with the most wins on Kickoff Weekend:
TEAM – KICKOFF WEEKEND WINS
Chicago – 54
Green Bay – 52
New York Giants – 49
Detroit – 46
Pittsburgh – 41

HOME SWEET HOME: Denver, who begins the season at home against Baltimore on Sunday afternoon, has posted a 41-13-1 (.759) record in home openers, the top mark in the NFL. Denver has also won 18 of its past 20 home openers.

The teams with the best winning percentage in home openers:

TEAM (RECORD IN HOME OPENERS, WIN PCT.)
Denver (41-13-1, .759)
Chicago (65-26-4, .714)
Miami (34-14-1, .708)
Dallas (37-17-1, .685)
Baltimore Ravens (13-6-0, .684)
Note: Ties prior to 1972 did not count in winning percentage.

PEYTON’S PLACE: Denver quarterback Peyton Mannins ranks second all-time with 69,691 career passing yards. With 309 passing yards on Sunday against Baltimore, Manning can join Brett Farve (71,838) as the only players in NFL history with 70,000 career passing yards.

The NFL players with the most career passing yards:
PLAYER – COMPLETIONS
Brett Favre – 71,838
Peyton Manning – 69,691*
Dan Marino – 61,361
Drew Brees – 56,033*
Tom Brady – 53,258*
*Active

COOL BREES: Entering Kickoff Weekend, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees ranks fourth all-time with 396 career touchdown passes.

Brees, who will play in his 203rd career game on Sunday when the Saints travel to Arizona, can become the fastest player to reach 400 careertouchdown passes in NFL history. He would join Peyton Manning (530), Brett Farve (508) and Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino (420) as the only players in NFL history to reach the milestone.

Manning (209 games) reached 400 touchdowns in the fewest games.

The fewest games to reach 400 touchdown passes:

PLAYER – TEAM(S) (GAMES)
Peyton Manning – Indianapolis and Denver (209)
Dan Marino – Miami (227)
Brett Favre – Green Bay, New York Jets and Minnesota (228)
Drew Brees – San Diego and New Orleans (202)*
*396 career touchdowns

Brees, who also ranks fourth all-time with 4,937 career completions, needs 31 completions to surpass Marino for third on the all-time list.

PLAYER – COMPLETIONS
Brett Favre – 6,300
Peyton Manning – 5,927*
Dan Marino – 4,967
Drew Brees – 4,937*
Tom Brady – 4,551*
*Active

SUCCESSFUL OPENING: New England’s Tom Brady has an
12-2 (.857) career record in season-opening games, the best among quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era (minimum 10 starts). Denver’s Peyton Manning is 12-4 (.750) in season-openers, which is tied with Pro Football Hall of Famers John Elway (12-4, .750) and Dan Fouts (9-3, .750) for the second-highest during that span.

The quarterbacks with the best records in season-opening games in the Super Bowl era (minimum 10 starts):
PLAYER (BEST RECORD IN SEASON OPENERS, WIN PCT.)
Tom Brady (12-2, .857)*
Peyton Manning (12-4, .750)*
John Elway (12-4, .750)
Dan Fouts (9-3, .750)
Many tied at .667
*Active

Some clubs have excelled in openers. Here is a sampling of notable active NFL Kickoff streaks:
· The Super Bowl XLIX-champion New England Patroits, who hosted Pittsburgh and came away with a 28-21 win in the spotlight Kickoff 2015 game on Thursday night, have a 17-1 record at Gillette Stadium over the past two seasons. The Patriots have the fifth-most Kickoff Weekend wins among AFC teams (31).

· The AFC North champion Pittsburgh Steelers, who lost to New England Thursday night of Kickoff Weekend, have the most wins (41) among AFC teams on Kickoff Weekend.

· The NFC North champion Green Bay Packers, who travel to Chicago on Kickoff Weekend, hold the record for the most wins in road openers (53) in the NFL and the fourth-best winning percentage in openers on the road (.576, 53-39-2).

· The AFC West champion Denver Broncos, who start the season at home against Baltimore, have posted a 41-13-1 (.759) record in home openers, the top mark in the NFL. Denver has won 18 of its past 20 home openers.

· The NFC East champion Dallas Cowboys begin the year by hosting the New York Giants on Sunday Night Football with a 37-17-1 (.685) record in openers at home, the fourth-best winning percentage in NFL history.

· The AFC South champion Indianapolis Colts start the season at Buffalo with a 33-29-0 (.532) record in road openers, the second-best winning percentage in the AFC.

· The Arizona Cardinals, who host New Orleans on Kickoff Weekend, have the third-longest current winning streak among NFC teams in home openers (five).

·  The Atlanta Falcons and San Francisco 49ers start the season at home against Philadelphia and Minnesota, respectively, during a Monday Night Football doubleheader. Atlanta has won its past seven home openers – the longest active streak in the league – while San Francisco has won 14 of its past 20 home openers.

· Phladelphia, who visits Atlanta to open the 2015 campaign, have won six consecutive road openers, the longest active streak among NFC teams.

· HOME SWEET HOME: The Chicago Bears (65-26-4), who host the Green Bay Packers on Kickoff Weekend, have a .714 winning percentage in home openers, the second-best mark in the NFL. Meanwhile, the New York Giants, who host the Falcons in Week 2, have won 49 openers at home, the fourth-most wins in home openers in the NFL. Houston, who hosts Kansas City on Kickoff Weekend, have won their past five home openers, the longest current streak in the AFC The NFC champion Seattle Seahawks, who host Chicago in Week 3, have won six consecutive home openers, the second-longest streak in the league.

· HEAD COACHES: New England’s Bill Belichick is 14-7 (.667) on Kickoff Weekend and his 13 wins are the most among active head coaches…Belichick, St. Louis’ Jeff Fisher (11-8; .579) and the New York Giants’ Tom Coughlin (10-9; .526) are the only active head coaches who have won at least 10 Kickoff Weekend games and own an opening weekend winning percentage above .500…Denver’s GARY KUBIAK (5-3), Buffalo’s REX RYAN (5-1) and Tennessee’s Ken WhisenhuntT (5-2) each has a four-game winning streak on Kickoff Weekend, the longest current streak among active head coaches Chip Kelly (2-0) of the Eagles, Bill O’Brien (1-0) of the Texans and Mike Zimmer (1-0) of the Vikings are the only active head coaches with perfect records on Kickoff Weekend…and three head coaches – the New York Jets’ Todd Bowles, Atlanta’s Dan Quinn and San Francisco’s Jim Tomsula – make their Kickoff Weekend debuts in 2015.

The 2015 season promises more of the same.

As the season begins, it comes packed with changes, quests and questions:

CAN THE SUPER BOWL CHAMPION PATRIOTS REPEAT?: It’s tough. It’s happened only eight times since the first Super Bowl in 1967. But the last team to accomplish the feat? The Patriots in 2004 (Super Bowls XXXVIII and XXXIX).

MILESTONES ON THE HORIZON: Records are made to be broken…So what records will be set this year?  Some milestones that can be reached this season: Denver QB Peyton Manning needs 2,148 passing yards and 374 completions to be the all-time leader…New Orleans QB Drew Brees (396) and New England QB Tom Brady (392) can reach 400 touchdown passes, a milestone only three others have achieved… Minnesota RB Adrian Peterson can become the third player to rush for 10+ TDs in eight different seasons…Indianapolis RB FRANK GORE can be the fifth player with at least nine 1,000-yard rushing seasons…Detroit WR Calvin Johnson (aka Megatron) needs one 200-yard receiving game for sole possession of first all-time…and Houston DE J.J. Watt can record his NFL-record third 20-sack season.

NEW COACHES/PLAYERS IN NEW PLACES: There are seven new head coaches hired to lead their teams in 2015 – Todd Bowles with the New York Jets, Jack Del Rio in Oakland, John Fox in Chicago, GARY KUBIAK in Denver, Dan Quinn in Atlanta, Rex Ryan in Buffalo and Jim Tomsula in San Francisco.

And there are a lot of well-known players with new teams, including quarterbacks Sam Bradford (Philadelphia) and Nick Foles (St. Louis), running backs Frank Gore (Indianapolis), Le Sean McCoy (Buffalo) and De Marco Murray (Philadelphia), wide receivers Andre Johnson (Indianapolis), Jeremy Maclin (Kansas City), Brandon Marshall (New York Jets) and Mike Walllace (Minnesota), tight ends Jimmy Graham (Seattle) and Julius Thomas (Jacksonville), defensive backs Antonio Cromartie (New York Jets), Darrelle Revis (New York Jets) and Tramon williams (Cleveland), linebackers Kiko AlonsoO (Philadelphia) and BRIAN ORAKPO (Tennessee) and defensive linemen Haloti Ngata (Detroit), Ndamukong Suh (Miami) and Vince Wilfork (Houston).

ON-THE-FIELD TRENDS IN 2014: Close games and comeback victories…new teams making the playoffs…consistent teams excelling again…records falling…young players making their mark…and QBs performing at record levels.

There were five comeback victories of 21+ points, the most in NFL history, and 43 comeback wins of 10+ points, tied for the most in a season (2013)…Four teams averaged 400+ total yards per game, the most ever…

League records were set for highest completion percentage (62.6), best passer rating (88.9), most touchdown passes (807), highest net passing average (473.6) and lowest interception percentage (2.52)…Nine quarterbacks had 30+ touchdown passes, the most ever…There were 58 individual performances with at least three touchdown passes without an interception, the most in any season…

Peyton Manning became the NFL all-time leader in career touchdown passes (530)…

Aaron Rodgers registered his league-record sixth consecutive season with a 100+ passer rating…

De Marco Murray had 12 100-yard rushing games, the second-most ever in a season…Four players, led by Antonio BrownN (1,698), had 1,500+ receiving yards, tied for the most ever…Three rookies, led by Odell Beckham, Jr. (1,305), had 1,000+ receiving yards, the most in a season…and J.J. Watt recorded his second 20+ sack (20.5) season, an NFL record.

NEW RULES: There are several new rules and points of emphasis in 2015.

Extra point: The extra point attempt will now be snapped from the 15-yard line. Two point-conversions will remain at the two-yard line. Additionally, the defense will be able to return a blocked kick, interception or fumble for two points.

Injury timeout: The independent ATC (certified athletic trainers) spotters located in the press box are allowed to notify game officials to stop the game if a player exhibits obvious signs of disorientation or is clearly unstable and it becomes apparent that the player will remain in the game. The game will be stopped immediately and the player will leave the game to be evaluated by the medical staff. This process will only take place if both the game officials and the medical staff fail to recognize the potential injury. Game officials have been directed to be diligent in this area and will stop the game when a player appears to be disoriented so he can get medical attention.

Unnecessary roughness: In the interest of player safety, several adjustments were made to the unnecessary roughness rule…Defenseless player protections are expanded to the intended receiver of a pass following an interception or potential interception. A receiver who is clearly tracking the football and is in a defenseless posture will receive defenseless player protections…Rules prohibiting illegal “peel back” blocks extend to all offensive players…

All chop blocks involving a back are eliminated to give defenders additional protection from low blocks…The prohibition against pushing teammates into the offensive formation is extended to punt plays.

All rules that encourage player safety will continue to be strictly enforced. The focus is on eliminating these tactics from the game. Players must avoid hitting or blocking opponents in the head or neck area or using the crown or hairline parts of the helmet to make forcible contact anywhere on the body.

Sportsmanship is always a point of emphasis. The use of abusive, threatening or insulting language directed at opponents, teammates, coaches, officials or representatives of the league is covered under unsportsmanlike conduct playing rules. This includes racial slurs, comments regarding sexual orientation or other verbal abuse.

The language pertaining to a catch was clarified to provide a better understanding of the rule. In order to complete a catch, a receiver must clearly become a runner. He does that by gaining control of the ball, touching both feet down and then, after the second foot is down, having the ball long enough to clearly become a runner, which is defined as the ability to ward off or protect himself from impending contact. If, before becoming a runner, a receiver falls to the ground in an attempt to make a catch, he must maintain control of the ball after contacting the ground. If he loses control of the ball after contacting the ground and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, the pass is incomplete. Reaching the ball out before becoming a runner will not trump the requirement to hold onto the ball when you land. When you are attempting to complete a catch, you must put the ball away or protect the ball so it does not come loose.

GLOBAL AUDIENCE: The NFL and Yahoo! Inc. have partnered to deliver the first ever live stream of an NFL game to a global audience on a digital platform. The October 25 game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills – played at London’s Wembley Stadium in the United Kingdom (9:30 a.m. Eastern) – will be shown worldwide on a digital platform across devices for free. In keeping with the league’s longstanding commitment to make its games available on free, over-the-air television, this game will also be televised live in both the Jacksonville (WTEV-TV) and Buffalo (WIVB-TV) markets.

INTERNATIONAL NFL: In response to outstanding and growing fan support of football in the United Kingdom, the NFL will once again play three regular-season games at London’s Wembley Stadium. The Miami Dolphins will face the New York Jets on October 4 in the first division game played in the UK. The next two London games will be played on consecutive weekends – another first in the UK – with the Jacksonville Jaguars meeting the Buffalo Bills on October 25 and the Kansas City Chiefs opposing the Detroit Lions on November 1. All three games will kick off at 9:30 a.m. Eastern, so set that VCR if you’re going to the early mass.

NFL ON TV: Among the television highlights in 2015 include the continuation of expanded flexible scheduling and “cross-flexing.”

Flexible scheduling: For the second consecutive year, flexible scheduling may be applied in Weeks 5-10. During that period, flexible scheduling can be used in no more than two weeks by shifting a Sunday afternoon game into primetime and moving the Sunday night game to an afternoon start time.

Cross-flexing: Also for a second time, a select number of games are being “cross-flexed,” moving between CBS and FOX to bring potentially under-distributed games to wider audiences.

This time, the games count. It’s for real. It’s no longer a dress rehearsal. The curtain went up last Thursday night in Foxboro as the Patriots got their Super Bowls.

This time, it’s for keeps. Those weeks of training camp, fighting the heat and each other are over. The march to Super Bowl 50 began in Foxboro last Thursday night and ends in San Francisco with Super Bowl 50. If you were watching any of the pre-season contests, you may noticed some gold on the field. That’s because it’s the 50th anniversary or the Golden Anniversary of the Super Bowl and the Lombardi Trophy (more about him at a later date and time). All 32 teams will have gold in their uniforms this year and there are several contests that feature Super Bowl matchups from years past.

31 teams fighting for one trophy. One trying to keep it. Things got underway in Foxboro last Thursday night and ends in San Francisco with Super Bowl 50 in February.

Make sure you do that shopping for the tailgate party and make sure that there’s plenty of food on hand, especially if you give Connie an invite… there’s no time or excuse for rookie mistakes.

It’s the first Sunday of the 2015 National Football League season. It’s the first of 17 in the regular season and four in the post-season. Make sure the cable or dish bill is paid and if you have to get a new TV, do it.

Here’s week one’s contests for Sunday and Monday.

Indianapolis (11-5) at Buffalo (9-7), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 705. The Colts and Andrew Luck travel to upstate New York to face off against a Bills team that was much improved from their 2014 campaign and face a somewhat familiar face as Rex Ryan is now prowling the sidelines along the shores of Lake Erie instead of upstate New Jersey.

LuckK led the NFL with 40 TD passes in 2014 & has 12,957 career pass yards, more than any player in 1st 3 NFL seasons. 1 of 3 players in NFL history with 4,000+ pass yards in 2 of 1st 3 seasons, while RB Frank Gore makes Colts debut after a stop in San Francisco. Gore finished 10-year career with 49ers (2005-14) as all-time leading rusher in SF history (11,073 yards).

Let’s not forget Rex. After all those years in Jersey, he was given his walking papers by GangGreen. It didn’t take him long to find the new gig he has now and is the head man in upstate New York.

Including contests when the Colts played in Baltimore, the Bills hold a 35-31-1 lead in the series and have outscored Indy 1,390-1,298. Buffalo’s last win in the series came in upstate New York in 2009 30-7. Their last meeting came in 2012 with the Colts taking a win in the Hoosier State 20-13. Indy led 13-6 at halftime and held the Bills off in the last 30 minutes of football. Chris Spiller ran for 107 of Buffalo’s 135 yards, while holding the Colts to 87. Andrew Luck was sacked four times but did manage to outpace Ryan Fitzpatrick in passing yards 240 to 180 in the win in the great indoors. Indy on third down tries was 8 of 16 and held the ball for 31:38, while the Bills held it for 28:22 and went 4 of 13 on third down. The Colts are favored by 2 1/2 and the over/under comes in at 45. Both numbers make a lot of sense. Bills will make this one interesting but the Colts will have Luck on their side (feel free to boo and groan!) and come away with the win, even though they may not cover the 2 1/2.

Green Bay (12-4) at Chicago (5-11), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 709. It’s an early classic NFC North (NFC Norris, as ESPN’s Chris Berman calls it) matchup as Green Bay travels to the Windy City to take on Da Bears. For the Packers, it’s a chance to repeat at NFC North champs, while Da Bears need to right their ship. Green Bay won the division for 22nd time in team history & 4th in row and head coach Mike McCarthy has led team to playoffs in 7 of his 9 seasons as head coach. Meanwhile, in the Windy City, John Fox comes East after his tenure in the Rockies to make his Chicago debut. In 13 seasons as head coach with Carolina and Denver, Fox has a 127-96 (.570) overall record, 7 playoff berths, 6 division titles & 2 Super Bowl berths, one with Carolina and one with Denver.

Da Bears lead the series with Green Bay (including contests when the Monsters of the Midway played their home games among the ivy of Wrigley Field and the Packers played some games in Milwaukee) 92-90-6 and have outscored Green Bay 3,207-3,200. On the other hand, Green Bay has won the last three meetings, including a series sweep last year (Da Bears’ last win over the Packers? 2013 in Green Bay by a final of 27-20.).

In the first meeting in Chicago, the Packers led 21-17 at halftime and then outscored Da Bears in the second half fpr the 38-17 win. Chicago’s Matt Forte ran for 122 of his team’s 235, while holding the Packers to 56 yards on the ground. It was Aaron Rodgers that outpaced Jay Cutler in passing 302-256 with four TDs in the first meeting. Both teams did well on third down tries (Green Bay was 4 of 8; Chicago was 7 of 11 and 2 of 3 on fourth down) and Da Bears won the time of possession battle, keeping the pigskin for 36:22 to Green Bay’s 23:38.

The second meeting was in the land of dairy, beer and bratwurst and it was Green Bay scoring 42 first half points unchallenged, taking a 55-14 win at Lambeau in the process. Although they were outscored in the second half 14-13, the Packers did manage to hold Chicago to 55 yards rushing, sacking Cutler three times and picking him off twice, while Rodgers threw for 315 yards and six TDs without an interception before stepping aside to let backup Matt Flynn finish the day in the lopsided win. Neither club did anything to write, tweet or text home about on third down tries but Green Bay outpaced Chicago in that catagory, going 6 of 13, while Da Bears were 3 of 12 (Green Bay was perfect on fourth down, going 2 of 2, while Chicago was 0 of 4) and Chicago won the time of possession battle again, keeping the ball for 30:19 to Green Bay’s 29:41.

In the first meeting in the Windy City, the Packers were favored by 1 1/2 and the over/under was 50. Both teams covered the over/under by scoring 57 points and Green Bay covered the spread winning by 19. The Packers in the second meeting at Lambeau covered the 7 point spread, winning by 41 and the over/under of 53 1/2 was covered as both teams combined for 69 points. In this early meeting, the Packers are favored by 6 1/2 and the over/under is 49 1/2. Chicago could prove to be a problem in the NFC North for the Packers but Green Bay leaves the Windy City with the win and covers the 6 1/2.

Kansas City (9-7) at Houston (9-7), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 706. A pair of 9-7 teams meet in Houston as the Texans and J.J. Watt host the Kansas City Chiefs. Both clubs look to improve on 9-7 records that saw them miss the playoffs last year.

The Chiefs will have Alex Smith under center this week in the Lone Star State. Since joining KC in 2013, Smith is 19-11 (.633) as starter, the most wins by QB in 1st 2 seasons with club. Since 2011, is 38-16-1 (.700) as starter & has passed for 11,453 yards & 71 TDs vs. 23 INTs with 92.7 rating, while RB Jamaal Charles has 14 TDs in past 13 overall (9 rush, 5 receiving), averaging 5.5 yards per attempt for his career, highest of any NFL RB in history (minimum of 750 att.)…For Houston, QB Brian Hoyer makes his Texans debut after a season along the shores of Lake Erie wit the Browns. Hoyer started 13 of 14 games with Cleveland last year, passing for career-high 3,326 yards & 12 TDs for Cleveland…

The series is tied at 3-3 and the Chiefs have outscored Houston 159-126. They last met in 2013 and the Chiefs escaped with a 17-16 win over the Texans at Arrowhead (Houston’s last win in the series came in the Lone Star State in 2010 by a final of 35-31). Kansas City led 14-10 at the break and held off the Texans in the second half for the win. Although the Texans were outrushed 126-73, Houston’s Case Keenum outpaced Kansas City’s Alex Smith 271-240 in passing. Third down tries in the contest at Arrowhead? Not a lot to talk about, as the Chiefs were 7 of 15 (0 of 1 on fourth down), while the Texans were 4 of 12 and the clock was the ally of the Chiefs, who held the pigskin for 32:12 to Houston’s 27:48. Houston’s favored by 1 with a 41 over/under. This one, while not the best game of the week, is one worth watching. Houston, you have a problem. Chiefs cover the 1 and win in the Lone Star State.

Carolina (7-8-1) at Jacksonville (3-13), 1 p.m. on (FOX and DirecTV 710. A pair of Southeastern teams meet in the Sunshine State as Cam Newtown and the Carolina Panthers travel to North Florida to face off against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Panthers won the NFC South for the 5th time (1996, 2003, 2008, 2013, 2014) last year and Newton had 3,127 pass yards & 539 rush yards in 2014, making him the only player in NFL history to start career with 4 consecutive seasons with 3,000+ pass yards & 500+ rush yards…In past 7 games (including playoffs). Carolina got as far as the second round of the post-season party before they were eliminated by the Seahawks 31-17 in Seattle. Jacksonville struggled through a 3-13 campaign in 2014 but did have one bright spot as QB Blake Bortles set club rookie records in 2014 for pass yards (2,908) & completions (280) & passed for 11 TDs. Bortles led all NFL QBs with a 7.5 rush average (419 yards, 56 att.) in 2014. Rookie RB T.J. Yeldon (No. 36 overall) rushed for 3,322 yards for Alabama, 4th-most in school history will hopefully help the Jaguar rushing game in 2015.

They’ve only met five times and Jacksonville leads the series 3-2 and outscoring Carolina 116-80. Carolina won the last meeting in 2011 by a 16-10 final in Charlotte. Jacksonville’s last win in the series came in 2007 in north Florida by a 37-6 final. Carolina’s favored by 3 with a 41 1/2 over/under. Panthers cover the 3 and win in the Sunshine State.

Cleveland (7-9) at New York Jets (4-12), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 707. A pair of AFC foes who look to improve their somewhat dismal seasons meet in upstate New Jersey as the J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! host the Browns.

For Cleveland, it won’t be Johnny Manziel under center; instead, it’s Josh McCown, who has started 49 of 69 career games, passing for 11,033 yards & 61 TDs. McCown tarted 11 games last season with Tampa Bay and passed for 2,206 yards & 11 TDs, while picking up 978 career completions, needing 22 to reach 1,000…

Meanwhile, GangGreen will have a new man prowling the sidelines in Todd Bowles. Bowles was named the head coach of the New
York Jets on January 14, 2015, returning to the team with which he began his NFL coaching career. He’s not the only one making his Jets debut. Geno Smith (broken jaw) will not be under center. That honor will go to Ryan Fiztpatrifk, who has started 89 of 97 career games for 5 teams (St.Louis, Cincinnait, Buffalo, Tennesse & Houston), passing for 19,273 yards & 123 TDs. In 2014, Fitzpatrick started 12 games for Texans, passing for 2,483 yards & 17 TDs with career-best 95.3 rating.

Cleveland holds a 12-9 lead in the series and have outscored GangGreen 438-407. The J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! won the last meeting in the Meadowlands 24-13 in 2013. (Cleveland’s last win in the series, which includes contests that were played when the Jets played their home games at Shea Stadium, came in 2007 in the Meadowlands by a final of 24-18). GangGreen trailed 13-10 at the half before outscoring the Browns 14-3 in the second half to take the win. Curtis Ivory ran for 109 of New York’s 208 yards (the Browns had 115) and Geno Smith outpaced Josh Campbell (two sacks) in passing 214-178 with a pair of TDs. GangGreen was 12 of 18 and 0 of 1 on third and fourth down tries, keeping the ball to themselves for 32:43, while Cleveland was 5 of 12 and 1 of 2 on third and fourth down and held the ball for 27:17. The Jets are favored by 3 1/2 and the over/under’s 40. As bad as both teams were last year, the 3 1/2 and the 40 make sense. GangGreen stumbled through the 2014 season, while the Browns were basically in the hunt until about the last three weeks. GangGreen gives Bowles his first win as a head coach at home and covers the 3 1/2.

Seattle (12-4) at St. Louis (6-10), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 711. Seattle travels to the great Midwest and the Great Indoors to take on a Rams team that was a lot better than their 6-10 record in 2014.

Seattle advanced its way to the postseason, including its second Super Bowl, eventually losing to New England in the final seconds. QB Russell Wilson has 42 overall wins, 36 regular-season wins & 6 playoff wins, all most by QB in 1st 3 NFL seasons. As starter, is 42-14 (.750), including 6-2 (.750) in postseason. Meanwhile, RB Mashawn Lynch was in “Beast Mode”, rushing for rushed for 1,306 yards & 13 TDs in 2014, giving him his 4th consecutive season with 1,200+ yards & 10+ TDs. Lynch led the NFL last year with 17 total TDs & tied for 1st with 13 rush TDs. Since 2011 (incl. playoffs), he leads NFL with 6,141 rush yards & 56 rush TDs. WR Doug Baldwin led Seattlewith career-high 66 catches & 825 yards in 2014. Since 2011, TE Jimmy Graham leads NFL TEs in catches (355), yards (4,396) & TDs (46). Seattle’s defense led NFL in points allowed (15.9), total defense (267.1) & pass defense (185.6) in 2014, while. CB RICHARD SHERMAN leads NFL with 26 INTs since entering in 2011 (inclunding  playoffs).

For the Rams, Nick Foles flew the nest in Philly and landed in St. Louis to make his first start as a Ram. In three seasons in the City of Brotherly Love (2012-2014), Foles played 28 games (24 starts) & had 46 TDs, 17 interceptions. On the other side of the ball, DE Chris Long has seven sacks in past four meetings and since entering NFL in 2009, LB James Laurinatis  is only player in NFL with 15+ sacks (15.5) & 9+ Interceptions (9), while LB Alec Ogletree led team with 111 tackles in 2014 & has led club in tackles in each of 1st 2 NFL seasons.

The defending NFC champs lead the series 21-12 and have outscored the Rams 736-645. The two teams spilt the two meetings between the NFC West foes and each won in their home parks. In the week seven meeting in St. Louis, the Rams led 21-6 and then held off the Seahawks in the second half to win 28-26, although Seattle won the second half, outscoring the Rams 20-7 in the final 30 minutes of play. Seattle managed to outrush St. Louis 171-102 (Russell Wilson led all rushers with 106 yards and a TD) and Wilson somehow managed to outpass the Rams 313-152. Seattle in the first meeting in the Gateway City went 6 of 12 on third down tries and kept the ball for 32:24, while the Rams went 4 of 9 and 1 of 1 on third and fourth down conversions, keeping the ball for 27:36.

Game two went to the Pacific Northwest, back to the land of salmon, grunge and Starbucks and it was Seattle that got their revenge in the second meeting at CenturyLink Field, rallying from a 6-0 halftime deficit to come away with a 20-6 win to close out the regular season. Seattle scored their 20 points in the second half unchallenged as they held the Rams to 42 yards rushing and sacked QB Sean Hill four times while picking him off twice, even though he did manage to throw for 243 yards. Third down tries in the second contest? A yawn fest, as both teams failed to reach the 50 percent plateau (Seattle was 7 of 15, while the Rams were 3 of 12) and neither team was succesful on fourth down, with both club going 0 for 1. Time was on the side of Seattle (apologies to Mick Jagger fans!), as the Seahawks kept the ball for 31:11, while the Rams kept the ball for 28:49. The defending NFC champions are favored by 4 with a 41 over/under. St. Louis was a lot better than the 6-10 mark they posted last year but Seattle covers the 4 and wins in the great indoors.

Miami (8-8) at Washington (4-12), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 708. A pair of old Super Bowl foes meet in Landover as the Dolphins take on the Washington Redskins.

The ‘Fins were in the hunt to unseat Brady and the Pats from the AFC East throne before they spun out toward the end of the season. Still, the season on South Beach was pretty decent. Ryan Tannehill is only QB in club history to pass for 3,000+ yards in each of 1st 3 NFL seasons. His 66.4 completion pct. in 2014 was 2nd-highest single-season mark in Dolphins history (Chad Pennington at 67.4 pct. in 2008) RB Lamar Miller led Dolphins with career-high 1,099 rush yards on 216 att. (5.1 avg.) with 8 TDs. 1 of 2 players in club history to rush for 1,000+ yards & 8+ TDs with 5.0+ avg. in same season (Mercury Morris)…In 2014, WR Jarvis Landry set club rookie record for catches (84), 4th-highest total of any player in Dolphins history, with 758 yards & 5 TDs, while WR Mike Wallace led team with 10 TD catches in 2014 & needs 3 to reach 50 career (47)… TE Jordan Cameron makes his Miami deburt, coming in with 5 TD catches in past 6 vs. NFC, including. career-high 3 vs. Minnesota on 9/22/13 (with Cleveland)…

For the Redskins… controversy. Some wanted RGIII to start, some wanted Kirk Cousins. Griffin suffered a concussion in the pe-season and Cousins got the lion’s share of the playing time. Griffin did recover but Cousins will get the nod this Sunday under center, making his 10th career start & 1st on KO Weekend. Has posted 100+ rating in 4 games (minimun 20 attempts)… Washington did have some bright spots in a somewhat otherwise dismal 2014 campaign as RB Alfred Morris rushed for 1,074 yards in 2014, his 3rd consecutive 1,000-yard rush season to start career. Since entering NFL in 2012, Morris is 2nd in league with 3,962 rush yards & 28 rush TDs…Since 2013, WR Pierre Garcon has 181 catches, tied for 2nd most in NFC. Scored 1st career TD (48 yards) vs. Miami (9/21/09 with Indianapolis) and WR-PR De Sean Jackson had 1,169 rec. yards last year, his 4th 1,000-yard season. Had 34-yard TD catch in only game vs. Miami (12/11/11 with Philadelphia).

Miami leads the series 7-4 and have outscored Washington 208-189. The ‘Fins and Skins last met in 2011 in the Sunshine State and the Dolphins were victorious, taking a 20-9 win on South Beach. Washington’s last win came in Landover in 2007 and they needed overtime to take a 16-13 win that season.

As far as Super Bowls go, they met twice and split the two meetings. In the first meeting (Super Bowl VII) at Los Angeles’ Coliseum, Miami came out on top 14-7 to complete the only undefeated season in league history. It was also the contest where Dolphins K Garo Yapremian tried to throw a pass on a botched field goal attempt, which was picked off by Mike Bass, who ran the attempt back 49 yards for Washington’s only score in the contest. Miami led 14-0 at halftime and never looked back aside from the only Washington score.

In the second contest just down the road in Pasadena’s Rose Bowl, it was “Hail To The Redskins,” as Washington got revenge on Miami and took a 27-17 win in Super Bowl XVII. Fullback John Riggins set a Super Bowl-record as he rushed for 166 yards on 38 carries in the contest, erasing a 17-10 halftime deficit in the contest to take the win. Miami’s a 3 1/2 point favorite and the over/under’s 43. Washington fans will be saying “HELL, IT’S THE REDSKINS!” as Miami takes the win on the road, although they may not cover the 3 1/2.

New Orleans (7-9) at Arizona (11-6), 4:05 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 712. New Orleans and Drew Brees take to the desert to face the Arizona Cardinals.

For the Saints, who struggled in the NFC South, Drew Brees had 4,952 pass yards in 2014, his NFL-record 9th consecutive 4,000-yard season. Since joining NO in 2006, leads NFL with 43,685 yards & 316 TDs. Brees has 396 career TD passes & needs 4 to become 4th QB in NFL history with 400… RB MARK INGRAM rushed for career-high 964 yards & 9 TDs last year. RB C.J. SPILLER makes his Saints debut. In 5 years with Buffalo, he scored 20 TDs (12 rush, 6 recieveing and 2 KR).

The Desert Angry Birds won 11 games in 2014, tied for most in franchise history and Bruce Arians was named 2014 NFL Head Coach of Year, his second time winning the award (2012 with Indianpolis) and he has won award in past 3 seasons… QB Carson Palmer is 16-6 (.727) as starter with Arizona, including 6-0 mark in 2014. Palmer has won 10 of 12 home starts with the Cards, which includes a 4-0 record in 2014… RB Andre Ellington picked up 1,055 scrimmage yards in 2014 and is only 2nd Cardinal with 1,000+ scrimmage yards in each of 1st 2 NFL seasons, while WR Larry Fitzgerald has at least one catch in 170 consecutive games, including playoffs. Since entering NFL in 2004, Fitzgerald has 98 recieving TDs (including the playoffs), tied for most in NFL.

The Desert Angry Birds lead the series 14-13 (including contests when the Cards were in St. Louis) and have outscored New Orleans 599-576. The Saints won the last meeting between the clubs in 2013 in the Big Easy by a 31-7 final. (Arizona last beat the Saints in the Desert in 2010 by a final of 30-20.) In that meeting in the Bayou, the Cards were held to a first quarter TD in the contest as New Orleans scored their 31 points unchallenged. Carson Palmer was picked off twice in the contest and Arizona was held to 86 yards rushing, while Brees (342 yards) threw three TDs while being picked off once. The Saints were 7-13 on third down tries and held the ball for 35:31, while the Cards were 5-13 and kept the pigskin for 24:29. The oddsmakers in Vegas like the Desert Angry Birds at 2 1/2 and the over/under’s 48 1/2. The over/under’s a bit on the high side but the 2 1/2 makes sense. New Orleans will make this one interesting but the Desert Angry Birds win in their nest and cover the 2 1/2.

Detroit (11-5) at San Diego (9-7), 4:05 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 713. Looking to go back to the playoffs again, the Lions travel to San Diego to face off against the Chargers in San Diego. While one team made the post-season party last year, the other looks to extend their season further.

Detroit Won 11 games last year and advanced to the post-season for the first time since the Clinton adminstration, losing to Dallas in the first round. The 11 wins tied them for 2nd most in season in team history and QB Matthew Stafford passed for 4,257 yards in 2014, his 4th consecutive 4,000-yard season. Has 18,912 pass yards since 2011, 2nd most in NFL. RB Joique Bell led team in 2014 with 860 rush yards & 7 rush TDs and reached 1,000+ scrimmage yards (1,182) for 2nd consecutive year. RB Theo RiddickO had 4 recieving TDs in 2014, tied for most by NFC RB. WR Calvin Johnson had 1,077 rec. yards in 2014, his 5th consecutive 1,000-yard season. Since 2011, leads NFL with 6,214 rec. yards & 105.3 rec. yards per game. WR Golden Tate led team last year with career-high 99 catches & 1,331 yards, his 1st 1,000-yard season.

Once again, Philip Rivers will be under center for San Diego. Since 2006, Rivers has won 4 division titles & ranks 2nd in NFL with 36,507 pass yards. Has started 145 consec. games, 2nd-longest active streak among QBs (Eli Manning, 167). In past 8 vs. NFC, Rivers has passed for 2,579 yards (322.4/game) with 20 TDs vs. 8 interceptions with 104.9 rating… Mike McCoy enters his third season under the helm of the Chargers, carrying a 19-15 record with him into the 2015 campaign.

The Bolts led the series 6-4 but Detroit has outscored San Diego 222-211. Detroit’s last win over the Chargers came in 2011 in the Motor City by a final of 38-10, while the Chargers’ last win came in sunny Cali in 2007 by a 51-14 count. The Chargers are favored by 3 with a 46 over/under. Both teams can put up points, so that’s not the issue. Both teams are trying to unseat Green Bay and Denver in their respective divisions and that’s not going to be an easy task. Still, the Chargers win at home but Detroit could make this one closer than the 3.

Baltimore (10-6) at Denver (12-4), 4:25 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 714. Flacco vs. Peyton. Both with Super Bowl rings. They meet in the thin Rocky Mountain air of Denver. Both their teams faced playoff action and both lost.

The Ravens come into this contest after their 35-31 loss to New England in last year’s playoffs. In that contest in Foxboro, the Ravens led twice against Brady and the Pats before they would eventually give up the lead for good. Baltimore led 21-14 at halftime and 28-21 after 45 minutes of play before the wheels came off their bus. Justin Fossett ran for 129 of the Ravens’ 136 yards (Baltimore held New England to a dismal 14 yards rushing) but Tom Brady out-passed Flacco (a pair of interceptions) in the air 367-292 with both men combining to throw seven TD passes (Flacco with 4, Brady with 3). New England on third down was 6 of 11 and kept the ball for 27:21, while the Ravens were 1 of 9 and 3 of 3 on third and fourth down, holding the ball for 32:39. Head coach John Harbaugh is the only head coach in NFL history to win a playoff game in 6 of 1st 7 seasons.

Denver also fell in the post-season, losing to Indy 24-13. The Broncos let a 7-0 first quarrter lead slip from their hooves, scoring only six points the rest of the contest. Neither club rushed for 100 yards (Baltimore came the closest, rushing for 99, while Denver had 88) and Luck out-paced Manning 265-211 in passing yards. As far as third and fourth down tries? Not a lot to write home about, as the Colts were 5-13 and Denver went 4 of 16 (the Broncos were 1 of 2 on fourth down) and the Ravens were masters of the clock, holding the ball for 34:01 to Denver’s 25:59.

The series is even at 5-5 and Baltimore has outscored the Broncos 232- 219. Denver won the last meeting against the Ravens in 2013 in the Mile High City by a 49-27 count. (Baltimore’s last win in the series? Go all the way back to 2010, when the Ravens won in Charm City by a final of 31-17.) The Broncos erased a 7-0 first quarter deficit and trailed 17-14 at the intermission before outscoring Baltimore 35-10 in the final 30 minutes of play. Manning (462 yards) outpaced Flacco with seven TD passes to two, while Flacco (362 yards) was sacked four times and picked off twice. Neither club did anything to write home about in the rushing department (Denver won that battle with 65 yards to Baltimore’s 58). On third down tries, the Broncos won that matchup, going 8 of 15, while the Ravens were 8 of 22 (0 of 1 on fourth down) and the clock was the ally of Baltimore, who kept the pigskin for 33:48 to Denver’s 26:12. Denver’s favored by 4 1/2 and the over/under comes in at 49. Both numbers make a lot of sense and both teams were in the post-season but Baltimore advance a little further. It could get closer than the 4 1/2 and this one could go to overtime but in the end, it’s Denver that comes out on top at home. Broncos win this one but they won’t cover the 4 1/2, even with the Peytonicus.

Cincinnati (10-5-1) at Oakland (3-13), 4:25 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 715. A pair of opposites meet on the Left Coast as the Bengals travel westward to face the Raiders.

Once again, the Bengals went to the post-season party (they ave qualified for playoffs in 4 consecutive seasons (2011-14), the longest streak in club history) and once again, they were taken to the woodshed in the first round against Indianapolis in Indy in the first round 26-10. Cincy trailed 13-10 after the first 30 minutes of play before the Colts pulled away, scoring their final 13 points unchallenged. The Bengals were outrushed 114-110 and Andy Dalton was sacked three times in the game. Third down conversions were nothing to write, e-mail, text or tweet home about in the post-season contest (Cincinnati was 6 of 15; Indy was 6 of 14) and the clock was the ally of the Colts, who kept the ball for 34:10 to the Bengals 25:50.

The Silver and Black are trying to “just survive baby!,” let alone “Just win baby” in the AFC West. There was one bright spot in a dismal 2014 season as QB Derek Carr CARR led NFL rookies in pass attempts (599), completions (348), yards (3,270) & TDs (21), all franchise rookie records. His 348 completions were 2nd most by rookie in NFL history (Sam Bradford, 354 in 2010)…In 3 career starts.

The Raiders lead the series 18-9 and have outscored Cincy 630-514 (which includes contests that were played when the Silver and Black was in Los Angeles). Oakland’s last win in the series came in 2009 on the left coast by a final of 20-17, while the Bengals’ last win over Oakland came in the Buckeye State in 2012 34-10. Cincy led 24-0 at the half and played Oakland evenly in the second half for the win. Oakland found themselves held to 99 yards on the ground and sacked Raiders QB Carson Palmer four times, while Cincinnati’s BenJarvis Ellis ran for 129 yards (the Bengals had 221) and Andy Dalton threw for three TDs and 210 yards. The victorious Bengals were 9 of 17 on third down tries and kept the ball for 30:46, while the Silver and Black was 3 of 12 and 0 of 2 on third and fourth down conversions, holding on to the ball for a whopping 29:14.

The Bengals are favored by 3 1/2 and the over/under is 43. If you’re a Bengals fan, feel free to watch this one. On the other hand, if you’re a Raiders fan, you might be better off watching that “NCIS” marathon on USA (yes, we still think that Ziva smacking the hell out of Tony is funny). Bengals cover the 3 1/2 on the Left Coast.

Tennessee (2-14) at Tampa Bay (2-14), 4:25 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 716. Marcus Mariota vs. Jameis Winston. They last met in the Rose Bowl in the College Football Championship, which Oregon won handily. The past two Heisman winners meet again and this time, it’s for pay instead of a trophy. Both look to improve their team’s seasons from being in the basement of their respective divisions.

For the Titans, Mariota will be 1st rookie QB in franchise history to start on KO Weekend. WR HARRY DOUGLAS makes his Titans debut Sunday, catching TDs in 4 of past 5 vs. Tampa Bay, while doing it in a Falcons jersey. TE Delanie Walker led Tennessee with career-highs in catches (63) & recieving yards (890) with 4 TDs in 2014. Meanwhile, the Bucs look to right their ship in the NFC South and overtake Carolina for the top spot in the division.

Including contests that were played when the Titans were in Houston and known as the Oilers, Tennessee leads the series 8-2 and has outscored the Bucs 231-164. They last met in 2011 in the Music City and the Titans came away 23-17 winners, while Tampa Bay’s last win over the Titans/Oilers came in the Sunshine State in 2007, taking a 13-10 win. Tampa Bay’s favored by 3 and the over/under’s 41. It’s Mariota vs. Winston, Round 2 and while both teams were a combined 4 and 28 in 2014, these two won the last two Heismans. This one could actually be worth watching. Bucs cover the 3 and win at home.

New York Giants (6-10) at Dallas (12-4), 8:30 p.m. on NBC. They meet again in the Lone Star State. Manning vs. Romo. Dallas hosting the New York Giants. Sunday night football. Enough said.

The Giants struggled through a 6-10 season that actually had some bright spots. Manning passed for 4,410 yards last year, his 4th career 4,000-yard season. Reached 30 pass TDs for 2nd time in career. Has 12 pass TDs in past 4 vs. Dal…In last game vs. Dallas, RB Rashad Jenkins rushed for 120 yards & had 8 catches for 68 yards. RB SHANE VEREEN had 838 scrimmage yards & 5 TDs with NE last year. Meanwhile WR Odell Beckham, Jr. was named 2014 offensive Rookie of Year with 91 catches & 1,305 recieving yards, most ever in 1st 12 games to begin career. Beckham has 90+ rec. yards in 9 consecutive games, tied for longest streak in NFL history with 12 TDs in 12 career games and 2 recieving. TDs in both career meetings. Beckham led NFL in recieving yards in each of the last six weeks.

Dallas, without DeMarco Murray, won the NFC East last year and QB Tony Romo led NFL with franchise-record 113.2 rating. Romo  2 of 3 100+ rating seasons in team history and a career 97.6 rating, 2nd highest mark in NFL history. The “Boys took care of Detroit in the first round of the post-season at home 24-20 before falling to Green Bay in the land of cheese and bratwurst 26-21. Dallas led Green Bay 14-10 at the half before the Packers pulled away to take the contest. Murray outrushed Eddie Lacy 123-101 and Aaron Rodgers out-paced Romo 316-191 (Romo had 2 TDs in the game, while Rodgers had three). Green Bay on third down tries went 9 of 14, while the Cowboys were 4 of 8 (0 of 1 on fourth down) and the clock actually favored Dallas at 30:39 to Green Bay’s 29:21. The game was known for a controversial call late in the game as WR Dez Bryant thought he had a catch. Such was not the case as after the play was reviewed and ruled no catch.

Dallas leads the series 61-42-2 (which includes contests that were played at old Yankee Stadium and the Cotton Bowl), have outscored Big Blue 2,376-2,036 and have won the last four meetings, including sweeping the series last year.

In the first meeting in the Lone Star State, Dallas broke a 14-14 tie at the half to take a 31-21 win. DeMarco Murray ran for 128 of Dallas’ 156 yards in the contest (the G-men rushed for 104), while Manning (248 yards) and Romo (279 yards) each threw three TDs in the win and Cowboys WR Dez Bryant led all recievers with 151 yards in the contest. Dallas on third down conversions? 9 of 14, keeping the ball for 33:49, while the Giants were 5 of 13 on third down tries and 1 of 1 on fourth down and held the ball for 26:11.

Meeting two was in the Jersey Meadowlands and the world was introduced to Odell Beckham Jr. and THE CATCH, which would wind up on every sports show in the country. Dallas would win that contest 31-28 after trailing 21-10 at halftime. The Cowboys would outscore the G-men 21-7 in the second half to win the game and the series. Murray again ran amok on the Giants, rushing for 121 yards, while the Giants were held to 89. Manning (7 TDs) again outpaced Romo (4 TDs) in passing yardage 338 to 275 and Beckham outpaced Bryant 146-86 in recieving yardage in the Sunday night affair. In the second meeting in upstate New Jersey, the Giants were 11 of 16 on third down tries, 0 of 1 on fourth down and kept the ball for 35:07, while Dallas was 4 of 10 on third down and held on to the ball for 24:53.  Dallas in the first meeting in Arlington was favored by 6 and won by 10 to cover the spread and both teams covered the 48 over/under with 52 points. In the second meeting in New Jersey on a Sunday night before Thanksgiving, Dallas did win but did not cover the 3 1/2 spread and that’s the bad news. The good news? Both teams managed to cover the 47 1/2 over/under as they combined for 59 points.

Because it’s a pair of NFC East rivals and because it’s Romo vs. Manning, to say that this one’s not DRILL WORTHY would be like saying Taylor Swift can’t sing. To that end, we present THE DRILL! (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 just turned 55 and dates a 40-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?” Dallas is favored by 6 with a 51 over/under. Dallas has won the last four meetings in this series and looks to make it five in a rown. They’ll do it but it’s going to be closer than the 6.

Philadelphia (10-6) at ATLANTA (6-10), 7:10 p.m. Monday night on ESPN. It’s the first of two Monday night games as Philadelphia travels to the Big Peach to take on the Atlanta Falcons in the great indoors. The Dan Quinn era begins in the Big Peach on a Monday night. It’s a game of new faces and new places as a new coach takes over for the Falcons and a new signal caller and running back take the field for Philly. It’s cheesesteak vs. peach pie.

QB Sam Bradford makes his Philadelphia debut after coming over from St. Louis. Bradford Was the number one overall pick by the Rams in the 2010 Draft. Another new face in the Eagles offense is RB De Marco Murray, who left Dallas for the City of Brotherly Love. Murray won 2014 offensive player of the Year with Dallas and led NFL in rushing with 1,845 yards. In past 6 contests in September, Murray has rushed for 779 yards (129.8 per game) & 6 TDs.

For Atlanta, Quinn led Seattle’s defense to the top spot in the last two years of action and QB Matt Ryan had 4,694 pass yards in 2014, his 4th consecutive 4,000-yard season. Has 4 of 5 4,000-yard seasons in team history. Ryan’s favorite target, WR Julio Jones led the NFC last year with 104 catches & 1,593 recieving yards, both career highs. Jones had 7 100-yard games in 2014, incldiing 259 yards in Week 14. WR Roddy White is 1 of 7 in NFL with 10,000+ recieving yards (10,357) since 2005. WR-PR-KR Devin Hester has 37 TDs (16 recieving, 14 PR, 5 KR, 1 rush, 1 miss FG)…

Both teams came close to the post-season but could not crash the post-season party. The Eagles beat Dallas in Arlington in week 13 and then faded, losing three of their last four contests, while the Falcons had all but ran amok in the NFC South before losing badly at home to Carolina in the final contest of the season, which was a “winner take all” contest. Atlanta would lose that game at home to Carolina 34-3, which in turn cost Mike Smith his job.

The Eagles hold a 15-12-1 lead in the series and have outscored Atlanta 604-521. However… the Dirty Birds won the last two meetings, with their last win coming in the City of Brotherly Love in 2012 by a final of 30-17. (Philly’s last win in the series was in 2010 in the City of Brotherly Love by a 31-17 final.) In that matchup, it was Ryan vs. Vick with Ryan coming out on top with three TDs and no picks (262 yards), while Vick was sacked three times and the Eagles held to 92. Atlanta on third and fourth down went 7 of 13 and 0 of 1, keeping the ball for 32:55, while the Eagles went 6 of 13 and 1 of 3 on third and fourth down and held the ball for 27:05. The Eagles are favored by 3 in the Big Peach, with the over/under at 55. Both teams are the reverse of each other and both teams had the playoffs in their talons, so to speak. Both teams are seeking redemption in their respective cities. Falcons win their third in a row against the Eagles at home and cover the 3.

Minnesota (7-9) at San Francisco (8-8), 10:20 p.m. Monday night on ESPN. The second of two Monday night contests takes place in the land of sourdough bread as the 49ers host Minnesota at Levis Stadium.

The Vikings were much better in 2014 than they were in 2013, despite the distraction of RB Adrian Peterson being put on the shelf by the NFL for an off-the-field incident involving his son. Minnesota will also move into their new stadium, US Bank Fiedl, built on the site of their former home, the Metrodome in 2016 and have been in the elements at TCF Bank Stadium on the campus of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities for the last two seasons.

The second Monday night affair presents a pair of young arms in Teddy Bridgewater for the Vikings and Colin Kaepernick for San Francisco. Bridgewater has completed 101 of 140 (72.1 pct.) for 1,230 yards with 8 TDs vs. 5 interceptions last year for 103 rating…Since entering NFL in 2007, Peterson leads NFL with 10,190 rush yards & 86 rush TDs. Averages 98 rush yards per game in career…

For the 49ers, who struggled to eventually reach the .500 mark last year, there’s no Harbaugh. Jim departed for Michigan to lead his alma mater and Jim Tomsula, who took over, now has the reigns in the Bay Area. As for Kaepernick, he has posted 100+ 17 times as starter (including playoffs) & 49ers are 16-1 (.941). Since 2012, Kaepernick is 1 of 2 in NFL with 90+ rating (90.7) & 1,500+ rush yards (1,578).

Minnesota holds a 21-18-1 lead in the series and San Francisco has outscored the Purple Gang 905-902. Minnesota has won the last three contests in the series, including a 24-13 win in the Twin Cities in 2012 (San Francisco’s last win came in 2008 at Candlestick Park, taking a 9-3 win). The Vikings are favored on the Left Coast by 2 1/2 and the over/under is 41. The Vikings got better in 2014, while the 49ers struggled to keep pace with Seattle in the NFC West. The 2 1/2 makes a lot of sense and the 41 is not a bad number, either. This one’ll be a good one to watch but not a great one and if you chose to watch that rerun of “Castle” or “NCIS: Los Angeles,” we’ll understand. 49ers cover the 2 1/2 and win at home.

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