Week 8 hopes to be more treats than tricks this week as another Super Bowl rematch makes its way onto the docket when the Packers travel to the Rocky Mountains to face off against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in a primetime contest on Sunday night. Week eight began in Foxboro with New England hosting the Miami Dolphins and closes out in Charlotte as Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers host the Colts on Monday night. There are five teams that are unbeaten and by the end of play Monday, there could be four as Green Bay and Denver meet in the Rocky Mountains in prime time on Sunday night. There’s still a lot of football left and there’s one more contest across the pond as Detroit and Kansas City square off at Wembley in London.

FOURTH QUARTER COMEBACKS: Three teams – Jacksonville, New England and Washington – won after trailing in the fourth quarter in Week 7, bringing the season total to 30 times that a team trailing in the fourth quarter has won in 2015, tied for the fifth-most ever through Week 7 in NFL history.

​The most fourth-quarter comeback wins through Week 7 in NFL history:

YEAR – FOURTH QUARTER COMEBACK WINS THROUGH WEEK 7
2012 – 34
1989 – 34
2011 – 33
1999 – 32
2015 – 30
1987 – 30

SO CLOSE: Close games have been a staple of the 2015 season as 57 games have been decided by eight points or fewer, the fourth-most such games through the first seven weeks of a season in NFL history.

Last week, 8 of 14 games were decided by eight points or fewer, including the Jaguars’ 34-31 victory over the Buffalo Bills as part of the 2015 NFL International Series at London’s Wembley Stadium.

The most games decided by eight points or fewer in a season’s first seven weeks:

SEASON – MOST GAMES DECIDED BY EIGHT POINTS OR FEWER
2012 – 62
2010 – 60
1999 – 59
2015 – 57
2011 – 56

PASSING FANCY: Quarterbacks have been historically efficient through Week 7 of the 2014 season, combining for a league-wide passer rating of 90.2 and a completion percentage of 63.9. Both are on pace to be the highest of any season in NFL history and would surpass records set in 2014 (88.9 passer rating; 62.6 completion percentage).

The league-wide yards-per-pass attempt average, currently at 7.32, is also on pace to be the highest of any season in the Super Bowl era.

The seasons with the highest league-wide yards-per-pass attempt average in the Super Bowl era (since 1966):

SEASON – YARDS/PASS ATTEMPT
2014 – 7.21
2011 – 7.20
1983 – 7.18
1989 – 7.15
1984 – 7.14
2015 – 7.32*
* Through Week 7

SCORING HIGHS: NFL teams have combined for 4,893 points in 2015. That total equates to 46.6 points per game. If the current average stays at this pace, it would rank as the second-highest of any season in the Super Bowl era (2013, 46.8 points per game).

Teams have combined to score 553 touchdowns, the most at this point in NFL history (552 in 2014). Of the 553 touchdowns, 337 have been TD passes, the second-most through the first seven weeks of any season. The previous high was 357 last season.

6-0 STARTS: Carolina and New England joined Cincinnati, Denver and Green Bay as the only teams in the NFL with a 6-0 record this season. Carolina won 27-16 on Sunday Night Football against Philadelphia, while New England defeated the New York Jets 30-23. The Bengals, Broncos and Packers all had a bye.

With five 6-0 teams, the 2015 season surpassed 2009 (four) for the most 6-0 teams in a single season.

WINNING GIANT: New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin secured his 100th victory as a Giant with a 27-20 victory over the Dallas Cowboys. Coughlin is the seventh head coach with at least 100 victories and two Super Bowl wins with one franchise in NFL history. In 20 seasons as a head coach (Jacksonville Jaguars, 1995-2002; New York Giants, 2004-15), Coughlin has 180 career victories, the 11th most wins by a head coach in NFL history (including postseason).

The coaches with at least 100 victories and two Super Bowl wins with one franchise:

COACH, TEAM (SEASONS, WINS, SUPER BOWL WINS)
Don Shula, Miami Dolphins (1970-95, 257, 2)
Tom Landry, Dallas Cowboys (1960-88, 250, 2)
Chuck Noll, Pittsburgh Steelers (1969-91, 193, 4)
Bill Belichick, New England Patriots (2000-Present, 181, 4)*
Joe Gibbs, Washington Redskins (1981-92, 2004-07, 154, 3)
Mike Shanahan, Denver Broncos (1995-2008, 138, 2)
Tom Coughlin, New York Giants (2004-Present, 100, 2)*
*Active

QB MILESTONES: Below is a sampling of the quarterback milestones that were reached in Week 7:

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady completed 34 of 54 passes for 355 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 94.3 passer rating in the win. Brady (55,312) surpassed 55,000 career passing yards and is only the fifth quarterback in NFL history to reach the mark, joining Brett Farve, Peyton Manning, Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino and Drew Brees.

The performance marked the 17th time in his career that Brady had at least 350 passing yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, the most such games in NFL history.

Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins completed 33 of 40 passes for 317 yards with three touchdowns for a 124.7 passer rating in the Redskins’ 31-30 victory against Tampa Bay. Cousins’ third touchdown pass, a six-yard completion to tight end Jordan Reed with 24 seconds remaining in the game, was his second game-winning score in the final 30 seconds of regulation this month. Cousins also threw a game-winning score to wide receiver Pierre Garcon with 26 seconds to play against Philadelphia in Week 4 and is the first quarterback since Drew Bledsoe (2005) to throw game-winning touchdown passes in the final 30 seconds of the fourth quarter twice in the same calendar month.

Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan passed for 251 yards in the Falcons’ 10-7 win at Tennessee. Ryan (30,168) surpassed 30,000 career passing yards in his 117th career game, the fifth-fastest in NFL history. The only quarterbacks to reach 30,000 passing yards in fewer games are Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino (114), Kurt Warner (114), Peyton Manning (115) and Aaron Rodgers (116). Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill completed 18 of 19 passes (94.7 percent) for 282 yards with four touchdowns, no interceptions and a 158.3 passer rating – the highest attainable mark – in the Dolphins’ 44-26 win over Houston. Tannehill completed his first 18 passes of the game and, combined with his seven completions in a row to end the Dolphins’ Week 6 game at Tennessee, set an NFL record with 25 consecutive completions (Donovan McNabb, 24 in 2004).

GREAT GRONK: New England tight end Rob Gronkowski had 11 catches for 108 yards and a touchdown in the Patriots’ 30-23 victory over the New York Jets. Gronkowski now has 60 touchdown receptions in 71 career games, the third-fastest player to reach the milestone and the fastest tight end to do so.

The players to reach 60 career touchdown catches in the fewest games:

PLAYER, TEAM-FEWEST GAMES TO REACH 60 RECEIVING TDS

Lance Alworth, San Diego-64^
Jerry Rice, San Francisco-69^
Rob Gronkowski, New England-71
Tommy McDonald, Philadelphia-75^
Bob Hayes, Dallas-78^
Randy Moss, Minnesota-78
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

KEENAN’S CATCHES: San Diego wide receiver Keenan Allen had nine catches for 89 yards against Oakland in Week 7, bringing his season total to 62 receptions, the most of any NFL player through his team’s first seven games to begin a season in NFL history.

HANGIN’ WITH MR. COOPER: Oakland rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper (Round 1, Number 4 overall) had five catches for 133 yards and a touchdown in the Raiders’ 37-29 with at San Diego. It was Cooper’s third 100-yard receiving game this season, making him the first rookie with three 100-yard receiving games in his team’s first six games since Pro Football Hall of Famer MikeDitka in 1961.

PACKERS, BRONCOS IN MATCHUP OF 6-0 TEAMS: On Sunday night on NBC at 8:30 p.m. Eastern, a pair of 6-0 teams will meet when the Green  Bay Packers face the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

It is only the fourth game in NFL history – and the first in primetime – between two teams 6-0 or better.

DATE – VISITING TEAM (RECORD) vs. HOME TEAM (RECORD); RESULT
November 13, 1921 – Akron Pros (7-0) vs. Buffalo All-Americans (6-0); Tie, 0-0
October 28, 1973 – Los Angeles Rams (6-0) vs. Minnesota (6-0); Minnesota, 10-9
November 4, 2007 – New England (8-0) vs. Indianapolis (7-0); New England, 24-20
November 1, 2015 – Green Bay (6-0) vs. Denver (6-0); ????

In the Super Bowl era, 32 teams have started 7-0 and all 32 made the playoffs. Fifteen of those 32 advanced to the Super Bowl with nine of those clubs being crowned champions.

The Packers are one of an NFL-record five 6-0 teams remaining, along with Carolina, Cincinnati, Denver and New England.

Green Bay is 6-0 for the first time since 2011 – when the team won its first 13 games – and for the fourth time since 1945 (10-0 in 1962 and 6-0 in 1965).

“We’re 6-0,” Packers linebacker Clay Matthews told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “It’s only the second time
in 50 years we’ve done that here. So it’s a big accomplishment.”

The Packers are coming off a bye in Week 7. Green Bay has won 15 of its past 19  games immediately following a bye week, including six in a row.

“We have a 6-0 football team and we have a chance to get a lot better,” saysPackers head coach Mike McCarthy. “We’re going to get ready for this second phase of our season.”

McCarthy has posted an 8-1 (.889) record in games immediately after a bye, tied with Pro Football Hall of Famer Marv Levy for the best record by a head coach (minimum eight games).

“We’re 6-0 but there’s room for improvement,” says Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. “At this point, we don’t need to win pretty every week. We’d like to. But they all count the same. We’ll take them all.”

Rodgers leads the NFC with a 115.9 passer rating and is on pace to extend his NFL record streak of consecutive 100+ passer rating seasons to seven. The Packers have scored in the first quarter in 22 consecutive games, the longest streak in NFL history.

“I feel like we still have a lot more to give,” says Green Bay guard T.J. Lang. “So to still be 6-0, it says a lot about the quality of this team.”

The Packers are allowing 16.8 points per game this season, the best mark in the NFL. Green Bay’s red zone defense has played a key role in the team’s success as it has allowed points on just 71.4 percent of its opponent’s drives, the best mark in the NFC and second overall in the NFL.

“Our No. 1 emphasis is scoring defense,” says Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers. “That’s where it all starts. It’s a really good test for our red zone defense.”

The Packers are tied for the NFC lead with 23 sacks and are tied for fifth in the conference with eight interceptions. Green Bay has recorded a sack in 42 consecutive games, the longest streak in franchise history and the longest  active streak in the NFL.

“We’ve been playing fast,” says Packers linebacker Julius Peppers, who leads the team with 5.5 sacks and is the only player in NFL history with at least 100 sacks (131) and 10 interceptions (11). “It’s a good thing to have show up on tape.”

Six different Packers have at least two sacks this season, led by Peppers (5.5) and Matthews (4.5). Six Packers have intercepted at least one pass this year, including two each by rookie Qunten Rollins and veteran Sam Shields.

“The defense is off to a great start,” says Green Bay running back Eddie Lacy. “They’re playing at a real high level right now. From the looks of things, it’s only going to get better.”

With 10 games remaining, the Packers know there is still a lot of football to be played.

“It feels good to be 6-0,” says Packers cornerback Casey Hayward. “You never want to lose. We want to have the mentality that we can win every game.”

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIR: The 2015 International Series resumed in Week 7 as the Jacksonville Jaguars defeated the Buffalo Bills 34-31 at London’s Wembley Stadium. The NFL and Yahoo! Incorporated partnered to make this the first ever live stream of an NFL game to a global audience on a digital platform.

This was the second of three games to be played in London this season. In the first game on October 4, the New York Jets defeated the Miami Dolphins 27-14. The third game, which will also be played at Wembley, features the Kansas City Chiefs against the Detroit Lions in Week 8 this Sunday.

The International Series has seen some very close contests. In the first 13 games, seven have been decided by one score.

The 13 regular-season games played at Wembley Stadium:

DATE – WEEK; Score
October 25, 2015 – 7; Jacksonville 34, Buffalo 31
October 4, 2015 – 4; New York Jets 27, Miami 14
November 9, 2014 – 10; Dallas 31, Jacksonville 17
October 26, 2014 – 8; Detroit 22, ATLANTA 21
September 28, 2014 – 4; Miami 38, Oakland 14
October 27, 2013 – 8; San Francisco 42, Jacksonville 10
September 29, 2013 – 4; Minnesota 34, Pittsburgh 27
October 28, 2012 – 8; New England 45, St. Louis 7
October 23, 2011 – 7; Chicago 24, Tampa Bay 18
October 31, 2010 – 8; San Francisco 24, Denver 16
October 25, 2009 – 7; New England 35, Tampa Bay 7
October 26, 2008 – 8; New Orleans 37, San Diego 32
October 28, 2007 – 8; New York Giants 13, Miami 10

6-0 STARTS: Carolina and New England joined the Cincinnati, Denver and Green Bay as the only teams in the NFL with
a 6-0 record this season. Carolina won 27-16 on Sunday Night Football against  Philadelphia, while New England defeated the New York Jets 30-23. The Bengals, Broncos and Packers all had a bye and return to action this weekend.

With five 6-0 teams, the 2015 season surpassed 2009 (four) for the most 6-0 teams in a single season.

TOM TERRIFIC: New England quarterback Tom Brady completed 34 of 54 passes (63 percent) for 355 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 94.3 passer rating in the Patriots’ 30-23 win over the New York Jets.

​Brady (55,312) surpassed 55,000 career passing yards and is only the fifth quarterback in NFL history to reach the mark.

He joins Brett Farve, Peyton Manning, Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino and Drew Brees as the only quarterbacks with at least 55,000 passing yards.

The NFL players with the most career passing yards:

PLAYER, YEARS (PASSING YARDS)
Brett Favre, 1991-2010 (71,838)
Peyton Manning, 1998-present (71,215)*
Dan Marino, 1983-1999 (61,361)
Drew Brees, 2001-present (57,904)*
Tom Brady, 2000-present (55,312)*
*Active

MATTY ICE: Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan passed for 251 yards in the Falcons’ 10-7 win at Tennessee. Ryan (30,168) surpassed 30,000 career passing yards in his 117th career game, the fifth-fastest in NFL history. The only quarterbacks to reach 30,000 passing yards in fewer games are Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino (114), Kurt Warner (114), Peyton Manning (115) and Aaron Rodgers (116).

The quarterbacks to reach 30,000 career passing yards in the fewest games in NFL history:

PLAYER – TEAM(S) (FEWEST GAMES TO REACH 30,000 PASS YARDS)
Dan Marino – Miami (114)
Kurt Warner – St. Louis, New York Giants, Arizona (114)
Peyton Manning – Indianapolis (115)
Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay (116)
Matt Ryan – Atlanta (117)
Drew Brees – San Diego, New Orleans (120)

ENCORE, ENCORE!: San Diego quarterback Philip River threw for 336 yards against Oakland on Sunday after passing for 503 yards in Week 6 against Green Bay.

Rivers’ 336 yards are the fourth-most yards following a 500-yard performance in NFL history.

The quarterbacks who have passed for 500 yards in a single game and had the most passing yards the following week:

QUARTERBACK – TEAM (YARDS, OPPONENT-DATE; YARDS NEXT GAME, OPPONENT-DATE)
Tom Brady – New England (517, Miami-9/12/11; 423, San Diego-9/18/11)
Drew Brees – New Orleans (510, Cincinnati-11/19/06; 349, Atlanta-11/26/06)
Ben Roethlisberger – Pittsburgh (522, Indianpolis-10/26/14; 340, Baltimore-11/2/14)
Philip Rivers – San Diego (503, Green Bay-10/18/15; 336, Oakland-10/25/15)
Matt Schaub – Houston (527, Jacksonville-11/18/12; 315, Detroit-11/22/12)
Warren Moon – Houston Oilers (527, Kansas City-12/16/90; 288, Cincinnati-12/23/90)
Eli Manning – New York Giants (510, Tampa Bay-9/16/12; 288, Carolina-9/20/12)

PLAY 60: There have been many memorable comeback victories in the NFL so far this season – and it’s only October. Through the first seven weeks, 30 of 104 games (28.8 percent) have been decided by a fourth-quarter comeback victory. That puts the 2015 season on pace for the second-highest percentage of games with a fourth-quarter comeback victory since 1970.

The seasons with the highest percentage of fourth-quarter comeback wins since 1970:

SEASON – GAMES/FOURTH-QUARTER COMEBACK WINS (PERCENTAGE)
1989 – 224/70 (31.3)
2013 – 256/69 (27.0)
2001 – 248/67 (27.0)
1982 – 126/33 (26.2)
2008 – 256/67 (26.2)
2015 – 104/30 (28.8)

UNDEFEATED BENGALS AIM FOR FIRST EVER 7-0 START: The Cincinnati Bengals have reached 6-0 for the third time in franchise history and first time since their 1988 AFC Championship season, when the team advanced to Super Bowl XXIII.

“We have a lot of good players maturing at the same time,” tackle Andrew Whitworth told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “There’s still a long way to go but I think that’s showing.”

As the 2015 NFL season approaches the midpoint, Cincinnati is one of five remaining undefeated NFL teams this season and can become the first Bengals team to reach 7-0 in the history of the franchise. Cincinnati is the only AFC North team to begin a season 6-0 since realignment in 2002.

The three seasons in which the Bengals started 6-0:

YEAR / UNDEFEATED START; FINAL RECORD, SEASON RESULT
1975 / 6-0; 11-3, Advanced to Divisional Playoffs
1988 / 6-0; 12-4, Advanced to Super Bowl XXIII
2015 / 6-0; ???, ???*
*Through six games

Coming off their bye in Week 7, the Bengals will take the short trip to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers in a crucial AFC North Division matchup.

Quarterback Andy Dalton has played a pivotal role in the Bengals’ undefeated start, displaying an ability to perform under pressure at home and on the road, regardless of the score.

In Week 3, he threw two go-ahead touchdown passes in the fourth quarter on the road in Baltimore, including the game-winning seven-yarder to wide receiver A.J. Green with 2:10 remaining to secure the 28-24 win and preserve the Bengals’ undefeated record. In Week 5, he engineered a 17-point fourth-quarter comeback against the Seahawks that culminated in a 27-24 overtime win.

“Andy’s always had that poise,” says Cincinnati’s Marvin Lewis of Dalton, who leads the NFL in passer rating (116.1) this season. “To me, that’s what makes Andy Dalton tick. He hasn’t changed, but the other guys have raised their level around him.”

Since Dalton entered the NFL in 2011, the Bengals’ have a 22-13 (.629) record on the road, the third-highest winning percentage in the NFL during that span.

Dalton (22) needs one more road win this season to tie Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino (23), Ben Roethlisberger (23) and Matt Ryan (23) for the most road wins by a starting quarterback in his first five NFL seasons during the Super Bowl era. Cincinnati has five road games remaining on its schedule.

The Super Bowl-era starting quarterbacks with the most road wins in their first five seasons (since 1966):

PLAYER, TEAM – ROAD WINS
Dan Marino, Miami Dolphins – 23
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers – 23
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons – 23
Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals – 22*
Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia Eagles – 22

The Bengals’ offense, which is currently ranked third in the NFL with an average of 410.3 total net yards per game, has relied on its talented cast of runners and receivers.

Cincinnati is the only team in the AFC with two players who have scored at least six touchdowns apiece this season – tight end Tyler Eifert (six) and running back Jeremy Hill (six).

“I think our success comes from looking at the versatility we have,” says Bengals wide receiver Marvin Jones. “You can’t have enough fingers to count the number of players who can change a game, and we expect greatness from all of them.”

“We know what type of game we’re in for,” says Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak about facing the Packers. “They’re a great football team. We’ve got a big test coming up.”

Since 1990, when the 12-team playoff format was adopted, 29 of the previous 31  teams (93.5 percent) to start 6-0 made the playoffs.

“We have a 6-0 football team and we have a chance to get a lot better,” says Packers head coach Mike McCarthy. “We’re going to get ready for this second phase of our season.”

Since 1990, 220 of the league’s 300 playoff teams (73.3 percent) had a winning record after six games. But nothing is a given in the NFL. More than a quarter of the playoff clubs since 1990 (80 of 300, 26.7 percent) had a .500 record or below after six games.

“It was good to get us going back to doing what we do,” says safety Kam Chancellor of the 3-4 Seahawks, who defeated San Francisco 20-3 last week. “We’re on the verge. We’re headed in the right direction.”

Among the highlights in Week 8 is the third 2015 International Series Game which will feature the Kansas City Chiefs and the Detroit Lions on FOX at 9:30 a.m. Eastern/2:30 p.m. London time. It marks the first time NFL games will be played on consecutive Sundays at London’s Wembley Stadium. Last week, Jacksonville outlasted the Buffalo Bills 34-31 in the UK as rookie running back T.J. Yeldon rushed for 115 yards with a touchdown and quarterback Blake Bortles threw the game-winning touchdown pass (31 yards) to wide receiver Allen Hurns with 2:16 remaining.

The Chiefs will play their first game in London and the team’s first international game since a 1998 preseason contest against Green Bay in Tokyo, Japan.

“It is an honor for Kansas City to represent the NFL on an international stage,” says Chiefs President Mark Donovan. “We are excited for the opportunity this creates for our fans, our city and the global growth of the Chiefs brand.”

The Lions are traveling to London for the second consecutive year. Last season, Detroit knocked off Atlanta in a thrilling 22-21 come-from-behind victory.

“I really enjoyed the entire week,” says Lions wide receiver Golden Tate about last year’s experience. “I can’t say enough great things about everyone who welcomed us into the country. We’re happy to be able to come out and try to expand our game.”

There is some light at the end of the tunnel for Steelers and Cowboys fans… for Pittsburgh, QB Ben Roethlisberger (knee) practiced with the team this week and there’s a chance that he could see some action, as will Dallas WR Dez Bryant, who broke a toe in their opener at home against the Giants.

Byes this week? Buffalo, Jacksonville, Philadelphia and Washington get some much needed time off, while Chicago, Cincinnati, Denver and Green Bay return to the gridiron this weekend. As far as last week, we did a little better, going 11-3 (74-30 for the year) but there’s still a lot of football left to play and we haven’t even gotten to Thanksgiving yet. So if your team is struggling, there’s still hope.

Now that the Halloween candy’s been eaten and what didn’t get sold has gone on sale at half price, here are the Sunday and Monday games for week 8. (You may want to hide the Snickers bars from your cousin Connie… she’s been known to wipe out a candy dish and a Super Bowl party).

Tampa Bay (2-4) at ATLANTA (6-1), 1 p.m., FOX and DirecTV 705. A pair of NFC South and regional rivals meet in the Big Peach as Tampa Bay travels north up I-75, making the 457-mile trip to face off against the Falcons.

The Bucs led Washington 24-7 at the half in Landover before the Redskins rallied in the second half to take a slim 31-30 win at FedEx Field. Washington outscored Tampa Bay 24-6 in the final 30 minutes of action, taking the lead for keeps with 24 seconds left when Kirk Cousins and TE Jordan Reed connected on a 6-yard TD pass that capped an 11-play, 80-yard drive that burned two minutes off the clock. Tampa Bay had one last chance in the contest to take the win with either a field goal or a TD and was three plays into that drive when Jameis Winston and RB Charles Sims connected on a 19-yard pass. Sims then fumbled and Washington recoverd the fumble and proceeded to run out the clock. Tampa Bay did manage to outrush Washington 190-50 and Winston did manage to play turnover-free football, connecting for a pair of TDs in the 1-point loss, while Doug Martin led all rushers with 136 yards. Tampa Bay on third down tries went 7 of 12 and held on to the ball for 31:18, while the Redskins were 5 of 11 and kept the pigskin for 28:42.

Atlanta rallied from 7-3 deficit at the intermission in Nashville and came away 10-7 winners over the Titans. The Falcons took the lead for good in the third quarter when Matt Ryan and WR Julio Jones connected on a 8-yard TD pass. Atlanta then held off two Tennessee drives that would have given the Titans the lead back. Atlanta outrushed the Titans 127-77 (RB DeVonta Freeman led all rushers with 116 yards) and Ryan outpassed Zach Mettenberger (who was in for Marcus Mariotta) 251-187 (each threw a pair of interceptions and a TD pass). Both clubs struggled on third down tries in the contest (Atlanta was 5 of 14, Tennessee was 1 of 9) and both had trouble on fourth down as well (the Falcons were 0 of 2, the Titans went 0 of 1). That was the bad news. The good news? Atlanta ruled the clock, holding the ball for 34:45 to Tennessee’s 25:15.

The Falcons lead the series 22-21, while the Buccaneers have outscored the Falcons 906-863. Atlanta has won three of the last four meetings in the series, including sweeping the series last year. Tampa Bay’s last win in the series came in 2013, when they took a 41-28 win in the Sunshine State.

The first meeting between the two clubs in 2014 took place in the Big Peach on a Thursday night to start week three and for Bucs fans, it was not a good nigt, as Tampa Bay was thumped by the Falcons 56-14. Atlanta led 56-0 after 45 minutes of play before the Bucs scored their 14 points in the fourth quarter unchallenged. Atlanta outrushed Tampa Bay 144-64 and Matt Ryan threw three TDs without being picked off (two of those TD passes went to WR Julio Jones, who caught nine balls for 161 yards), while the Falcons forced five turnovers. Atlanta was 8 of 11 on third down conversions and kept the ball for 32:39, while Tampa Bay struggled on third down, going 3 of 13 but found success in their only fourth down try and kept the ball for 27:21.

That was game one.

Game two found its way to the Sunshine State in week 10 and while things were a bit closer than Falcons fans would have wanted, they did come away with a win, taking a 27-17 win. Atlanta led 13-10 at the half before the Bucs would take their only lead of the contest at 17-16 when TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Josh McCown connected on a 1-yard TD pass early in the fourth quarter. The Falcons would then restore order by scoring the final 11 points of the game unchallenged and again, they would outrush Tampa Bay 110-92 in the second meeting and while McCown did throw a pair of TDs, he was sacked four times and picked off twice. Both clubs did well on third down tries (Atlanta was 6 of 12, Tampa Bay was 11 of 17 and 0 of 1 on fourth down tries). Even though they lost at home, Tampa Bay did manage to rule the clock, keeping the ball for 30:12 to Atlanta’s 29:48.

In the week three matchup in the Big Peach, both teams combined to score 70 points, which covered the 44 1/2 over/under with ease and the Falcons covered the 6 1/2 point spread with their 42-point win. In the second contest in the Sunshine State in week 10, Atlanta was favored by 1 1/2 and won by 10 to cover the spread but both teams barely missed the 46 over/under in the second meeting.

The Falcons are favored by 7 1/2 and the over/under’s 48. Both teams are actually capable of covering the over/under with ease. The 7 1/2’s a bit too high, given that the Bucs have been in a few games of late, while the Falcons have tended to struggle. Jameis and the Bucs may stop in Atlanta but that’s all they’ll do. Falcons take this one at home in the Big Peach, even though they may not cover the 7 1/2.

Detroit (2-5) at Kansas City (1-6) in London, 9:30 a.m. Eastern (1:30 p.m. London), FOX.

Fish and chips, guvernor?

Rule Britainia!

The third and final game in merry old England takes shape and place in London’s Wembley Stadium as the Chiefs take on the Detroit Lions in an early morning contest on the East coast.

Detroit enters the contest with a 28-19 loss at home in the Motor City to Minneosta last Sunday afternoon. The Lions led 17-15 at the half at Ford Field before the Vikings rallied in the second half by outscoring the Lions 13-2 in the final 30 minutes of action. Detroit in the loss at home to their NFC North rivals were held to 77 yards on the ground, while the Vikings ran for 140 (RB Adrian Peterson led all rushers with 98 yards). Although the Lions played turnover-free football, Detroit QB Matthew Stafford had problems with the Purple Gang, as he would be sacked seven times in the loss. Neither Minnesota or Detroit did much for their respective fan bases to discuss over the water fountain on third down conversions, as Minnesota went 5 of 13 (0 of 1 on fourth down) and Detroit was 1 of 10 (0 of 2 on fourth down) and the Vikings owned the clock, keeping the ball for 36:27 to Detroit’s 23:33.

Kansas City also played at home last week but had better results than that of Detroit, taking down Pittsburgh 23-13 at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs led the Steelers 9-3 at the half and held off Pittsburgh, who was playing without the services of Ben Roethlisberger (knee). It was the battle of running backs as Pittsburgh’s LeVeon Bell (121 yards) and Kansas City RB Charcandrick West (110 yards) accounted for the majority of their team’s rushing game, as the Steelers outrushed the Chiefs 147-138. Kansas City was 9 of 16 on third down conversions and held the ball for 32:26, while the Steelers held on to the ball for 27:34, while going 2 of 10 and 1 of 2 on third and fourth downs.

The Chiefs hold a 7-5 lead in the series, while the Lions have outscored Kansas City 283-278 and have won the last two meetings, including a 48-3 win in the Motor City in 2011 (Kansas City’s last win over the Lions would come in 2003, when the Chiefs were 45-17 victors in Kansas City).

While this is the Chiefs’ first trip to merry old England, for the Lions, it’s “been there, done that, got the t-shirts.” They were in London last year and came away 22-21 winners over Atlanta in week eight. The Lions were outrushed by Atlanta 78-60 and both Stafford and Matt Ryan threw a pair of TDs but Detroit came away winners when K Matt Prater connected on a 48-yard field goal as the clock struck :00. Both clubs did quite well on third down tries (Detroit was 8 of 15, Atlanta was 4 of 8) and the clock favored the Lions, who held the ball for 30:55 to Atlanta’s 29:05. As bad as both teams have been this season, the Chiefs are favored by 3 1/2 and the over/under’s 47. If you have an early church service, you might want to tape this one (just don’t whip out the cell phone during the sermon. That would be a bad thing). Detroit makes it a close one but the Chiefs find some inspiration from their neighbors at Kaufman Stadium and cover the 3 1/2 in merry old England.

San Diego (2-5) at Baltimore (1-6), 1 p.m. (CBS and DirecTV 710). A pair of struggling teams at the bottom of their respective divisions meet in Charm City as San Diego heads eastward to Baltimore to take on the Ravens.

San Diego got taken to the woodshed at Qualcomm Stadium last Sunday by Oakland, trailing 30-6 at the half and falling to the Raiders at home 37-29. The one bright spot fot the Chargers was that they did outscore the Raiders in the second half 23-7 to make things a lot close than the score indicated. Chargers QB Philip Rivers did manage to throw for 336 yards and a pair of TDs but was picked off twice in the loss to their AFC West rivals and could never really get on track. Oakland also outrushed San Diego 130-90 in the 11-point road win, while going 5 of 12 on third down tries and keeping the ball for 30:49. San Diego was at the 50 percent mark at 8 of 16 on third down tries and held on to the ball for 29:11.

Baltimore lost another close game in the desert and trailed Arizona 14-10 at the half last Monday night, before they made the contest with the Desert Angry Birds closer but their late-game rally fell short as they lost to the Cardinals 26-18. The Ravens found themselves outrushed by Arizona 150-55 (with Cardinals RB Chris Johnson accounting for 122 of those yards) and turned the ball over twice Monday night in the desert. It was the second turnover that did the Ravens in, as they were driving and out of timeouts late in the contest. With 1:53 left in the contest, the Ravens got the ball back after Arizona punted it to them and the drive that would have tied things up started at their own 24. Baltimore would get as far as Arizona’s 9-yard line and after a Cardnals’ time out, Joe Flacco’s pass attempt was picked off by S Tony Jefferson in the end zone. Flacco on the night threw for 257 yards and a TD in the loss and had a TD pass to FB Kyle Juszczyk to pull the Ravens to within 8 (Arizona’s Carson Palmer had a pair of TDs, while throwing for 275 yards). Baltimore was 5 of 13 on third down tries (1 of 1 on fourth down) and held the ball for 30:24, while Arizona was 5 of 12, holding the ball for 29:36.

The series between the Ravens and Bolts is even at 5-5 and the Ravens have barely outscored San Diego 202-200. San Diego’s last win in the series came last year in Charm City as they Chargers would leave Batlimore with a 34-33 win (Baltimore’s last win in the series came two years earlier on the West Coast as they came out on top 16-13 in overtime.)

In the week 13 affair at M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore led 23-13 after 45 minutes of action before the Chargers rallied to take the lead for good with 38 second left when Eddie Royal and Philip Rivers connected on a 1-yard TD pass for the win. Ravens RB Josh Forsett rushed for 106 of his team’s 125 yards, while the Chargers were held to 64. Rivers threw for 383 yards (3 TDs) in the contest, while Joe Flacco threw for 225 and a pair of TDs. Both clubs did well on third down tries in the contest, with Baltimore going 7 of 12, while San Diego went 9 of 11 and the Ravens were winners in the time of possession battle, keeping the ball for 30:11 to San Diego’s 29:49.

Baltimore was favored by 5 in the week 13 contest but San Diego won by one. That was the bad news. The good news? Both teams managed to cover the 45 over/under by combining for 67 points. This time, the oddsmakers like the Ravens at home as 4 1/2 point favorites with a 50 over/under. This one doesn’t have the “wow” factor that one would expect but it should be a pretty competitive contest. Nevermore, Ravens cover the 4 1/2 and win this one in Charm City.

Minnesota (4-2) at Chicago (2-4), 1 p.m. (FOX and DirecTV 706). A pair of NFC North (or as ESPN Chris Berman calls it the NFC Norris) foes sqaure off in the Windy City as Minnesota travels to Chicago to face off against Da Bears.

Minnesota erased a 17-15 halftime deficit against Detroit last Sunday and came away 28-19 winners. The Vikings rallied in the second half by outscoring the Lions 13-2 in the final 30 minutes of action to take the win in the Motor City. Minnesota rushed for 140 yards, while holding Detroit to 77 (RB Adrian Peterson led all rushers with 98 yards). The Purple Gang also caused problems for Lions signal caller Matthew Stafford, sacking him seven times. Third down tries at Ford Field last Sunday was nothing to write home about (Minnesota was 5 of 13, 0 of 1 on fourth down, Detroit was 1 of 10 and 0 of 2 on third and fourth downs) and Minnesota won the time battle, keeping the ball for 36:27, while the Lions kept it for Detroit’s 23:33.

Da Bears come back home to the Second City after their bye week and a 37-34 overtime loss against Detroit in the Motor City. Chicago led 31-27 with 21 seconds left in regulation when Detroit’s Matthew Stafford and Megatron (aka Calvin Johnson) connected on a 6-yard TD pass to give them a brief 34-31 lead and we mean briefly, because Da Bears’ Robbie Gould connected on a 29-yard field goal as the clock struck :00. Chicago then won the toss in overtime but could not score, allowing Detroit to march down the field and the Lions would send their fans home happy when Matt Prater connected on his third field goal of the day, a 29-yarder with 2:29 left in overtime. Stafford threw for 405 yards and four TDs and the Lions outrushed Chicago 155-91 in the overtime affair, while Jay Cutler threw for 353 yards. Although they turned the ball over three times, Detroit was proficient on third down conversions, going 9 of 17 (1 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 38:57 (including the overtime). Da Bears? 6 of 14 on third down and they kept the ball in hibernation for 33:34.

Including contests that were played at Wrigley Field, Metropolitian Stadium, Soldier Field and the Metrodome, Minnesota leads the series 55-50-2 and have outscored Da Bears 2,232-2,087. The two clubs spilt the season series last year, with each winning at home and each winning by less than 10 points.

First meeting in 2014? Week 11 in the Windy City and it was somewhat nippy. How cold, you ask? 31 degrees with snow flurries and a wind chill of a whopping 22 at Soldier Field and Da Bears took a 21-13 win over Minnesota. Chicago led 14-10 at the intermission and managed to hold off the Purple Gang in the final 30 minutes of action. Chicago, while rushing for 138 yards (of which Matt Forte had 117 of those yards), held Minnesota to 96 in the win along the shores of Lake Michigan. Jay Cutler threw for 330 yards and three TDs passes (two of those passes went to Brandon Marshall), despite getting picked off twice. Da Bears were 10 of 17 and 2 of 3 on third and fourth down tries and kept the ball for 38:38, while the Purple Gang on third and fourth downs went 2 of 11 and 2 of 2 and held the pigskin for 21:22.

Game two would be in the Land of 10,000 Lakes at TCF Bank Stadium on the campus of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and the Vikings would get revenge in 15-degree weather in the elements, taking a 13-9 win. Minnesota broke a 3-3 tie at the half and outscored Chicago 10-6 in the final 30 minutes of play. Minnesota’s Adam Thielen and Bridgewater connected for the contest’s only TD, a 44-yard pass early in the third quarter. This time around, the Vikings outrushed Da Bears 121-99 in the NFC North contest that meant nothing to either team, since both were out of the playoff picture. Minnesota was 8 of 15 on third down (0 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 28:27, while Da Bears, who were 4 of 15 and 2 of 3 on third and fourth downs, kept it for 31:33.

Da Bears covered the 3 1/2 point spread with their 8-point win at home in the Windy City but the 34 combined points in that first meeting fell well short of the 47 over/under. Minnesota in the week 17 meeting in the Twin Cities were 4-point winners (they were favored by 6 1/2) and the 44 1/2 over/under was safe, as both teams only scored 22 points. Minnesota’s a 1-point favorite and the over/under’s 42 1/2. Both teams are looking to try and catch Green Bay in the NFC North. Vikings cover the 1 in the Windy City, although Da Bears will make them earn it.

Arizona (5-2) at Cleveland (2-5), 1 p.m. (FOX and DirecTV 707). Fresh off their close win over Baltimore last Monday night, the Desert Angry Birds trek eastward to face off against a struggling Cleveland team, mired in third place behind their instate rivals from Cincinnati.

Arizona led Baltimore 14-10 at the half last Monday night, then need to hold off the Ravens in the second half and came out on top 26-18 winners. Arizona outrushed Baltimore 150-55, with RB Chris Johnson accounting for 122 of those yards in the 8-point win, while the defense forced a pair of Baltimore turnovers, including an interception by S Tony Jefferson in the end zone, which stopped a late Ravens drive. Baltimore pulled to within 8 when FB Kyle Juszczyk and QB Joe Flacco connected on an 1-yard TD pass with 4:26 left in regulation and eventually would get as far as Arizona’s 9-yard line. Baltimore drove down the field after Arizona punted the ball back to them and after a Cardnals’ time out, Joe Flacco’s pass attempt was picked off, sending Cardinal fans home happy. Flacco on the night threw for 257 yards and a TD in the loss  while Arizona’s Carson Palmer had a pair of TDs, throwing for 275 yards. Baltimore was 5 of 13 on third down tries (1 of 1 on fourth down) and held the ball for 30:24, while Arizona was 5 of 12, holding the ball for 29:36.

A pair of Travis Coons field goals was all the scoring that Cleveland could muster against the Rams in their 24-6 loss to St. Louis. Clevleland was held to 82 yards rushing, while Rams rookie RB Todd Gurley ran for a pair of TDs and 128 yards in the win. Life wasn’t any easier for QB Josh McCown, who was sacked four times and the Rams forced four Cleveland fumbles. Cleveland was 3 of 12 and 0 of 1 on fourth down tries and kept the ball for 35:33, while the victorious Rams were a somewhat dismal 1 of 9, keeping the ball for 24:27.

Including contests that were played in Chicago and St. Louis before the Cards moved westward, Cleveland leads the series 33-13-3 and have outscored Arizona 1,244-879. The Desert Angry Birds have won the last two contests, including taking a 20-17 overtime win in the desert in 2011, whiile Cleveland’s last win in the series came in 2003 along the shores of Lake Erie, coming away 44-6 winners. Arizona’s favor by 5 along the shores of Lake Erie and the over/under’s 46. Given that these two teams are coming from different directions, the 5 makes sense. Cleveland makes this one close but Arizona takes this one in the Buckeye State.

Tennessee (1-5) at Houston (2-5), 1 p.m. (CBS and DirecTV 711). A pair of struggling AFC South teams coming off losses last week meet in the Lone Star State as the current team (Texans) host the former team Titans (who were the Oilers before they departed for Nasvhille).

The Titans let a 7-3 lead against Atlanta get away from them as they fell to the Falcons 10-7. Atlanta sent the home fans home with sadness as they took the lead for good in the third quarter when Matt Ryan and WR Julio Jones connected on a 8-yard TD pass. The Falcons then held off a pair of Titan drives that would have given them the lead back. Tennessee was outrushed by Atlanta 127-77, with Falcons RB DeVonta Freeman led all rushers with 116 yards and Ryan outpassed Zach Mettenberger (who was in for Marcus Mariotta) 251-187 (each threw a pair of interceptions and a TD pass). As far as third downs were concerned in Nashville? Not a lot to sing about in the Music City as both clubs struggled (Atlanta was 5 of 14, Tennessee was 1 of 9) and both had trouble on fourth down as well (the Falcons were 0 of 2, the Titans went 0 of 1). Atlanta in not only winning the game, they ruled the clock, holding the ball for 34:45 to Tennessee’s 25:15.

Houston was manhandled by Miami in the Sunshine State 44-26. The lone bright spot for the Texans was that they did manage to outscore the Dolphins in the second half 26-3 after trailing 41-0 at the break. Houston was held to 71 yards rushing and lost the services of RB Arian Foster (who ran for 58 yards) for the rest of the year to a knee injury (Miami ran for 248 yards, with RB Lamar Miller accounting for 175 to lead all rushers). The Texans were 6 of 15 on third down tries (0 of 1 on fourth down) and held the ball for 27:55, while Miami held the pigskin for 32:05 and went 1 of 9 on third down conversions.

Tennessee leads the series 15-11 and have outscored Houston 586-549. Houston, however, has won five of their last six contests, including sweeping last year’s series (Tennesee’s last win came in 2013 in the Music City by a 16-10 final).

The first meeting took place in Nashville in week eight and Houston took Tennessee to the woodshed, coming away with a 30-16 win. The Texans led 13-3 at halftime and were never really threatened by Tennesee the rest of the contest. Arian Foster ran for 151 yards and a pair of TDs in the victory in the Volunteer State (Houston outrushed Tennessee 212-36) and Houston forced a pair of turnovers to seal Tennessee’s fate. Third down conversions in the first meeting were nothing to write, text or Tweet about in the contest (Houston went 7 of 16, while Tennessee was 2 of 17 and 1 of 2 on fourth down) but Houston did manage to rule the clock, keeping the ball for 35:22 to Tennessee’s 24:38.

Things moved to the Lone Star State in week 13 and Houston took a 45-21 win. Houston led 24-0 at the intermission and played the Titans pretty even in the final 30 minutes of play. This time, neither team breached the 100-yard barrier but the Texans came the closest, tallying 99 and held Tennessee to 83 yards. Houston forced four Tennessee turnovers in the contest and Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 358 yards without being sacked or intercepted. Houston on third and fourth down conversions went 11 of 17 and 1 of 1, keeping the pigskin for 33:16, while the Titans were 3 of 9 on third down, while holding on to the ball for 26:44.

In the week eight contest, Houston covered the 1-point spread with their 14-point win and both teams scored 46 points, allowing them to cover the 43 1/2-point over/under. Houston covered the spread again in front of the home folks in week 13 (they were favored by 6 1/2 and won by 24) and both teams again covered the over/under of 43 by combining for 67 points.

Houston’s favored by 4 1/2 and the over/under’s 43 1/2. This might be interesting to watch or so bad you’ll want to rake leaves outside. Houston covers the 4 1/2 and wins in the Lone Star State.

New York Giants (4-3) at New Orleans (3-4), 1 p.m. (FOX and DirecTV 708). Eli Manning returns to his hometown as the Giants travel to the Big Easy to take on the Saints and Drew Brees.

Both teams enter the contest with wins under their belts in last weekend’s play. Big Blue erased a 13-10 deficit against Dallas last Sunday afternoon in the Meadowlands and came away with a 27-20 win over the Romo-less, Bryant-less Cowboys. New York took the lead at 17-13 in the third quarter when CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie picked off backup QB Matt Cassel and returned it 58 yards for a score. After WR Devin Street connected on a 25 yard TD pass from Cassel to tie the contest, the Giants took control and took the lead back for good when backup WR Dwayne Harris returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards almost untouched. The Giants would then seal Dallas’ fate when they would punt the ball back to the Cowboys late in the contest. KR Cole Beasley then dropped the punt deep in Dallas territory and NeW York recovered the ball near the Cowboys’ 20. Manning and Big Blue then proceeded to run out the clock to take the win. Dallas did manage to rush for 233 yards, with RB Darren McFadden leading the way with 152, while the Giants accounted for 132. Even though he was sacked twice, Manning did manage to play turnover-free football in the late Sunday afternoon contest at Met Life Stadium, throwing for 170 yards, while Cassel threw for 227 but was picked off three times. Dallas on third down went 6 of 11 (0 of 1 on fourth down) and held the ball for 38:04, while the Giants kept the pigskin for 21:56 and was 3 of 11 on third down tries, forcing four turnovers in the win.

New Orleans held off a late Indianapolis rally in the Hoosier State and came away 27-21 winners. The Saints led 20-0 at the half and held off the Colts in the second half to take the win, even though Indy outscored them in the second half 21-7. New Orleans outrushed Indy 183-75 (Saints RB Mark Ingram showed his Heisman-winning form, rushing for 143 yards on 14 carries with a TD) but Andrew Luck (333 yards) outpaced Drew Brees (255 yards) in the air (Luck was sacked four times and picked off twice). The “wow” factor on third down tries in the contest was non-existant as neither team breached the 50 percent barrier (New Orleans was 7 of 20, 1 of 1 on fourth down; Indy was 3 of 13) but the Saints did manage to rule the clock, keeping the ball for 38:23 to the Colts’ 21:37.

Big Blue leads the series 15-12 and have outscored the Saints 598-571. The Giants won the last meeting with New Orleans in 2012, taking a 52-27 win in upstate New Jersey in 2012, while New Orleans’ last win in the series came in the Big Easy in 2011 by a final of 49-24. New Orleans’ a 3 1/2 point favorite in the Big Easy and the over/under’s 49. Archie will get to see one son in person and then head home to watch Peyton on TV later in the evening. He’ll like what he sees as the Giants cover the 3 1/2 and win in the Big Easy.

Cincinnati (6-0) at Pittsburgh (4-3), 1 p.m. (CBS and DirecTV 712). The Bengals and Steelers will meet in an important AFC North showdown at Heinz  Field on Sunday afternoon.

Cincinnati, which had a bye in Week 7, is 6-0 for the third time in franchise history (1975, 1988). Since realignment in 2002, the Bengals are the first AFC North team to start a season 6-0. Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton, who leads the league with a 116.1 passer rating, has 22 career wins on the road. With a victory at Pittsburgh, Dalton will tie Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan for the most road wins by a starting quarterback in his first five seasons during the Super Bowl era (since 1966).

“It’s huge to be 6-0,” says Dalton. “This is exactly where you want to be at this point. You want to win every game that you play so we just have to keep it going. We can’t look back at what we’ve done, we have to keep doing exactly what we have been doing and keep pushing to be the best we can be.”

Pittsburgh will look to rebound after last week’s 23-13 loss at Kansas City. Running back Le’ Veon Bell rushed for 121 yards for the Steelers while wide receiver Antonio Brown had six catches for 124 yards. Brown recorded his 20th career 100-yard receiving game, joining Hines Ward (29) and Pro Football Hall of Famer John Stallworth (25) as the only players in franchise history to accomplish the feat. Pittsburgh trailed 9-3 at the half and Kansas City’s RB Charcandrick West led his club with 110 yards rushing game, as the Steelers outrushed the Chiefs 147-138. Kansas City was 9 of 16 on third down conversions and held the ball for 32:26, while the Steelers held on to the ball for 27:34, while going 2 of 10 and 1 of 2 on third and fourth downs.

Against the Bengals, the Steelers will hope to get quarterback Ben Roethlisberger back, who has missed the past four games with an injury.

Pittsburgh holds a 55-34 lead in the series, have outscored the Bengals 1,957-1,567 and won three of their last four contests, including sweeping last year’s contests (Cincy’s last win in the series came in 2013, along the shores of the Ohio River, with the Bengals coming away 20-10 winners).

The two teams first met in the 2014 campaign in Cincinnati in week 14 at Paul Brown Stadium and the Bengals let a 14-10 half time lead against Roethlisberger and the Steelers get away from them as Pittsburgh rallied to take a 42-21 win. Pittsburgh would go on to outscore the Bengals 32-7 in the final 30 minutes of action. LeVeon Bell ran for 185 yards and a pair of TDs as Pittsburgh outpaced Cincy 193-86, while Roethlisberger threw for 350 yards and pair of TDs, outpacing Andy Dalton’s 302 yards, 2 TD day. Pittsburgh was 8 of 16 on third down tries and held the ball for 32:45, while Cincy was 3 of 11 and 0 of 1 on third and fourth down, keeping the ball for 27:15.

Game two… week 17, Heinz Field in the Steel City. For the Steelers, second verse, same as the first… a Steelers win, this time by a 27-17 final. Pittsburgh led 20-10 at the half after a 7-7 in the first quarter of play. Both teams managed to play pretty even, scoring TDs in the fourt quarter after playing a scoreless third quarter. This time, the Bengals outrushed Pittsburgh in their own backyard, tallying 116 to the Steelers’ 29 (Cincy’s Jeremy Hill led all rushers with 100 yards on 23 carries). Each team turned the ball over three times and each struggled on third down tries (Cincinnati was 6 of 14 and 2 of 3 on fourth down, while the Steelers were 3 of 11 and 0 of 1) and time was on the side of the Bengals, who held the ball for 34:58 to Pittsburgh’s 25:02.

Cincinnati was favored by 3 1/2 in the week 14 contest in the Buckeye State and the Steelers covered the spread, winning by 21. The over/under of 47 1/2 was handled with some ease as both teams combined for 63 points. The Steelers covered the spread again, favored by 3 and won by 10 but in the second meeting, both Cincinnati and Pittsburgh missed the 48 over/under. The Steelers are 3 point favorites and the over/under’s 48 1/2. Both numbers make a ton of sense. The Steelers have actually been playing some pretty decent football lately but Cincy’s unbeatend and they’ll stay that way. Bengals cover the 3 and win in the Steel City.

San Francisco (2-5) at St. Louis (3-3), 1 p.m. (FOX and DirecTV 709). They’re both trying to catch Arizona in the NFC West and they both want to pass the Cardinals. The 49ers and Rams meet in St. Louis in the great indoors.

San Francisco could never get on track last Thursday night in Santa Clara, falling to Seattle 20-3. The Seahawks led 17-0 at the half and never looked back. The 49ers’ only tally in the contest was a 35-yard field goal by San Francisco’s Pat Dawson and the 49ers were outrushed by Seattle 176-61, with Marshawn Lynch leading all rushers with 122 yards and a TD. Things didn’t go any better for Colin Kaepernick, as he was sacked six times in the 17-point loss at home. As far as third down conversions go, there wasn’t a lot to talk about, as San Francisco was a dismal (and that’s being kind!) 1 of 11 (for those that are math majors, that’s 9 percent), while Seattle was 5 of 13 but did find success in their only fourth down try in Thursday’s contest. Seattle not only ruled the roost, they ruled the clock, holdin the ball for 38:05, while San Francsico kept it for 21:55.

St. Louis held the Browns to a pair of Travis Coons field goals in their 24-6 win over Cleveland last Sunday. Rookie RB Todd Gurley ran for a pair of TDs and 128 yards in the win at home (St. Louis ran for 158 yards and held Cleveland to 82) and the Rams defense sacked Josh McCown four times and forced four fumbles. Cleveland was 3 of 12 and 0 of 1 on fourth down tries and kept the ball for 35:33, while the victorious Rams were a somewhat dismal 1 of 9, keeping the ball for 24:27.

San Francisco leads the series, including contests that were played when the Rams were in Cleveland, before heading west to Los Angeles and then to St. Louis and the 49ers played at Keez49ers lead series, 64-63-3ar before heading to Candlestick and moving to Santa Clara, 64-63-3. The two clubs split the series in 2014, with each winning in the other team’s stadium.

San Francisco erased a 14-0 first quarter deficit in week six in St. Louis and went on to outscore the Rams 34-3 in the final 45 minutes of play to win 31-17. In the first contest, the 100 yard barrier was safe as neither team managed to gain that magic number (St. Louis did outrush San Francisco 93-89) and Colin Kaepernick threw for 343 yards and three TDs without being sacked or picked off. Neither club made their fan base happy on third down, as San Francisco was 6 of 14 (0 of 2 on fourth down) and held the ball for 28:38, while the Rams were 5 of 14, holding the pigskin for 31:22.

They loaded up the trucks and moved to Santa Clara (apologies to The Beverly Hillbillies!) and this time it was the Rams that would get revenge in week nine, taking a 13-10 decision. Tied at 10-10 at the half, the two clubs went through the third quarter scoreless before the Rams would take the lead for keeps on a 39-yard field goal by K Greg Zuerlein with 5:25 left in regulation. Again, neither club rushed for 100 yards and once again, the Rams outrushed San Francisco 91-80. St. Louis managed to sack Kaepernick eight times in the 3-point win on the road and force a pair of 49er fumbles in the process. For those third down junkies… yes, both teams struggled again in that catagory, with St. Louis going 4 of 12 and San Francisco going 3 of 12. San Francisco did manage to rule the clock, keeping the ball for 32:26 to St. Louis’ 27:34.

San Francisco covered the 3 1/2 spread in the week six Monday night affair, winning by 14. The 43 1/2 over/under? Covered, as both clubs combined for 48 points. In the week nine affair on the Left Coast, the Rams were 9 1/2 underdogs and barely missed covering the spread and the 44 over/under was safe and sound, as St. Louis and San Francisco combined for 23 points. The Rams are favored by 7 1/2 in the great indoors and the over/under’s 39. You might want to take a pass on this one (unless you’re a fan of either team) and watch that “Pawn Stars” marathon on History Channel (yes, Chumlee does tend to say stupid stuff but he’s funny!). St. Louis takes the win but they won’t cover the 7 1/2.

New York Jets (4-2) at Oakland (3-3), 4:05 p.m. (CBS and DirecTV 713). A pair of AFC rivals with a common network history meet in northern California as the Raiders host the New York Jets.

GangGreen gave the unbeaten Pats a scare in Foxboro last Sunday and fell short, falling to the defending Super Bowl champs 30-23. The J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! trailed 13-10 at the half and made things a lot closer than Pats fans wanted in the AFC East affair, as they outrushed the Pats 89-16, although Brady did burn GangGreen for 355 yards and a pair of TDs, including one to TE Rod Gronkowski (Ryan Fitzpatrick also had a pair of TDs, throwing for 295). Both clubs did quite well on third down conversions, with the Jets going 8 of 14 and New England going 8 of 16 and 1 of 1 on fourth down. Time was on the side of GangGreen, who held the ball for 33:03, while the Pats kept the pigskin for 26:57.

While the J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! lost in Foxboro, such was not the case for the Raiders, who took San Diego to the woodshed at Qualcomm Stadium last Sunday, taking a 37-29 win on the road. The Raiders, despite being outscored 23-7 in the second half and allowed Philip Rivers to throw for 336 yards and a pair of TDs, led 30-6 at the half and were never really threatened. Oakland also outrushed San Diego 130-90, while picking Rivers off twice in the 11-point road win. Oakland was 5 of 12 on third down tries and kept the ball for 30:49, while San Diego was at the 50 percent mark at 8 of 16 and held on to the ball for 29:11.

The Silver and Black lead the series 21-17-2 and have outscored GangGreen 926-878. The J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! have won the last two meetings and took last year’s contest in the Meadowlands under Rex Ryan’s reign, winning 19-14 (Oakland’s last win in the series came in 2011 in northern California when the Raiders just won, baby, taking a 34-24 decision.

Meeting in the Meadowlands in week one, the Jets led 10-3 at the break and then held off a late Raiders rally for the 5-point win over the Silver and Black. Curtis Ivory ran for 102 yards (TD) in the contest as New York outrushed Oakland 212-25 but it was the Raiders that would make things close as WR James Jones and QB Derek Carr would connect on a 30-yard TD pass with 1:21 left in regulation. After Sebastian Janikowski connected on the PAT, the Raiders tried and failed on their onside kick attempt, which gave the ball to GangGreen, who ran out the clock.

Considering that this meeting was the first of the season, neither club was expected to do well on third down tries and it showed (Oakland was 3 of 12, New York was 5 of 12) but time was on the side of the J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS!, who held the ball for 34:50 to Oakland’s 25:10.

GangGreen was favored by 5 1/2 and barely missed the spread, even though they won the contest by 5 and the 40 over/under was safe, as Oakland and New York joined to score 33 points.

There is a little history between these two teams and late afternoon football games and it involves the movie “Heidi.” In what would be forever known as the “Heidi Game,” the two teams met at old Shea Stadium on November 17, 1968 and the game became notable not only for its finish, in which Oakland scored two touchdowns in the final minute to win the game 43–32 but it was also famous (or infamous) for an incident in which NBC controversially broke away from its television coverage of the game on the east coast to broadcast the television film Heidi, causing many viewers to miss the Raiders’ comeback. In the late 1960s, few professional football games took longer than two and a half hours to play the powers that be at the Peacock Network though that the Jets–Raiders three-hour television time slot was to be adequate. There was a small problem. There was a lot of scoring, injuries and penalties, which caused the contest to run longer than planned. As the 7 p.m. hour appoached on the East Coast and while NBC executives originally ordered that Heidi begin on time, it became clear the game would run long, the executives decided to delay the start of Heidi until after the game. This move did not sit well with viewers on the East coast and the Eastern time zone, who tried to call NBC in New York because they wanted to see the rest of the game. Their complaints fell on deaf ears and as a result, Heidi began as scheduled, preempting the final moments of the game in the eastern half of the country—to the outrage of viewers there, who missed Oakland’s last-minute rally. The Heidi Game led to a change in the way professional football is shown on network television; ever since then, games have been shown to their conclusion before evening programming begins. The experience also led television networks to take steps to ensure that network personnel would be able to communicate with each other under similar circumstances in the future: special telephones (dubbed “Heidi phones”) were installed that connected through a separate telephone exchange. In 1997, the Heidi Game was voted the most memorable regular season game in U.S. professional football history. While Jets fans were somewhat irate, Raider fans were almost giddy with joy and their reaction to the game itself was positive, with critics lauding its “exciting” conclusion.

Back to 2015. GangGreen’s favored by 1 1/2 and the over/under’s 44 1/2. There’s a lot of history between these clubs, whether they played at old Shea Stadium, the Coliseum in Los Angeles, the Meadowlands or the Coliseum in Oakland. Both teams have been playing some decent football of late and that makes their fan bases somewhat happy. Raiders will make this one close but GangGreen will not “Heidi” from the Silver and Black. Jets cover the 1 1/2 and wins in northern California.

Seattle (3-4) at Dallas (2-4), 4:25 p.m. (FOX and DirecTV 714). A pair of struggling teams that were in the playoffs last year meet in the Lone Star State as Dallas hosts Seattle in Arlington.

The defending NFC champs scored 17 first half points against San Francisco unchallenged last Thursday night in Santa Clara and cruised to a 20-3 win over Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers. Allowing only a 35-yard field goal by San Francisco’s Pat Dawson, the Seahawks outrushed San Francisco 176-61, with Marshawn Lynch leading all rushers with 122 yards and a TD. Seattle’s defense also made life less than pleasant for Kaepernick, as they sacked him six times (Wilson was sacked five times and was picked off twice) in the Thursday night contest. Neither club wowed their fan base on third down tries last Thursday night in northern California, as the Seahawks were 5 of 13 (1 of 1 on fourth down), while the 49ers were 1 of 11 (You read that right. 1 of 11… for those math junkies, that’s 9 percent) and in addition to ruling the game, the Seahawks ruled the clock, keeping the ball for 38:05 to San Francisco’s 21:55.

Dallas let a 13-10 halftime lead against the New York Football Giants get away from them last Sunday afternoon in the Meadowlands and came away on the short end of a 27-20 loss. New York took the lead at 17-13 in the third quarter when CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie picked off backup QB Matt Cassel and returned it 58 yards for a score. Dallas would tie things back up after WR Devin Street connected on a 25 yard TD pass from Cassel to tie the contest. That tie would last all but a New York minute as the Giants took control and took the lead back for good when backup WR Dwayne Harris returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards almost untouched. Dallas had a chance to tie things up in the final minutes of play as the Giants were forced to punt the ball back to the Cowboys. Dallas’ fate would eventually be sealed when KR Cole Beasley then dropped the punt deep in Dallas territory and NeW York recovered the ball near the Cowboys’ 20. Manning and Big Blue then proceeded to run out the clock to take the win. The one bright spot (aside from the sideline tantrum by Greg Hardy) the Cowboys did manage to rush for 233 yards, with RB Darren McFadden leading the way with 152, while the Giants accounted for 132. While Manning, who threw for 170 yards, played turnover-free football at Met Life Stadium last Sunday, Cassel threw for 227 but was picked off three times. Dallas on third down went 6 of 11 (0 of 1 on fourth down) and held the ball for 38:04, while the Giants kept the pigskin for 21:56 and was 3 of 11 on third down tries, forcing four turnovers in the win.

Dallas holds a 10-5 lead in the series and the Cowboys have outscored the defending NFC champs 387-270. They met last year in the land of grunge, salmon and Starbucks and the Cowboys left Seattle with a 30-23 win (Seattle’s last win over Dallas came in Seattle in 2012 by a final of 27-7).

In the week six contest at CenturyLink Field, Dallas led 17-10 at the half and managed to hold off a late Seattle rally that would have given the Seahawks the win. Dallas RB DeMarco Murray led all rushers with 115 of his team’s 162 yards, while Seattle ran for 80 in the Pacific Northwest, while Tony Romo threw for 250 yards and a pair of TDs. Dallas was 10 of 17 on third down tries and kept the ball for 37:39, while Seattle hung on to it for 22:21 and went 5 of 13 on third down, 0 of 1 on fourth down.
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Seattle was favored by 8 1/2 and Dallas would win up winning by seven in the week six contest in the land of grunge, salmon and Starbucks. However… both teams covered the 47 over/under by combining for 53 points. The defending NFC Champs are favored by 5 and the over/under’s 40. Both numbers make sense. Both teams are struggling, although Seattle flexed some muscle last Thursday night in Santa Clara, while Dallas saw their chances to tie their NFC East rivals literally and figuratively slip out of their hands. While both teams have had their problems, this one might be worth watching. Dallas makes it close, while waiting for Romo and Bryant to return but Seattle comes into the Lone Star State and comes out with the win.

Green Bay (6-0) at Denver (6-0), 8:30 p.m. on NBC. It’s Discount Double Check vs. Nationwide is on your side.

Rodgers.

Manning.

The two faces of the National Football League meet in prime time and both come in unbeaten.

For the fourth time in NFL history, two teams 6-0 or better will meet. Both teams are coming off a bye and aiming to get to 7-0. In the Super Bowl era, 32 teams have started 7-0 and all 32 made the playoffs. Fifteen of those 32 advanced to the Super Bowl with nine of those clubs being crowned champions.

“We’re 6-0 but there’s room for improvement,” says Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who leads the NFC with a 115.9 passer rating. “At this point, we don’t need to win pretty every week. We’d like to. But they all count the same. We’ll take them all.”

Both teams have had offensive success in the past but this year, the defenses have played a vital role in their team’s 6-0 start. The Packers lead the NFL, allowing 16.8 points per game while the Broncos are tied for second at 17.0 points per game. The defenses have excelled in the red zone as Denver leads the league in opponent’s scoring percentage (66.7 percent) and Green Bay ranks second (71.4). And rushing the passer has been key for each team as the Broncos lead the NFL with 26 sacks while the Packers are tied for second in the league with 23. Green Bay led San Diego 17-10 at the half at Lambeau Field two Sundays ago and then held off a late Charger drive to come out 27-20 winners. RB James Starks led all rushers with 112 yards (Green Bay outrushed San Diego 133-60) but it was Chargers QB Philip Rivers that almost stole the show, throwing for 503 yards and a pair of TDs, while Rodgers threw for 255. Green Bay would then send their fans home happy in the land of beer, cheese and bratwurst as they stopped a late Charger drive that would have sent the contest into overtime or given the Bolts the win if they had scored and gone for two. Green Bay was 3 of 9 on third down tries and kept the ball for 22 minutes, while the Chargers were 9 of 18 on third down, 1 of 3 on fourth and held the ball for 38 minutes.

“I’m a firm believer in the idea that defense wins championships,” Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall told the Rocky Mountain News and KUSA-TV. The Broncos needed to rally against Cleveland two weeks ago and needed overtime to win over the Browns 26-23. Manning did throw for 290 yards and a TD but was picked off three times, while RB Ronnie Hillman ran for 111 (Denver ran for 152, while the Browns tallied 109) yards. Neither club did anything to write home about on third down tries (Denver was 4 of 18 and 1 of 1 on fourth down; Cleveland was 6 of 15 and 0 of 1 on third and fourth down) and the Broncos ruled the clock, keeping the ball for 36:44 to Cleveland’s 33:20.

The game also features the only two quarterbacks in NFL history to average at least two touchdown passes per game. Rodgers (2.08; 241 touchdowns in 116 games) has the highest mark in league annals while Denver’s Peyton Manning (2.05; 537 touchdowns in 262 games) ranks second.

Green Bay leads the series 6-5-1 and have outscored Denver 274-211. The two teams last met in regular season play in 2011 and the Packers took a 49-23 win in Green Bay (Denver’s last win over the Packers came in 1999 in the Mile High City with Elway under center versus Farve, taking a 31-10 decision.

They did meet in a Super Bowl, Super Bowl XXXII in San Diego to be exact and it would be the first Super Bowl win for Elway (Denver would add a second SB win the next season against Atlanta in Miami) as the Broncos wound up being 31-24 victors. In that contest, Broncos RB Terrell Davis had 30 carries and 157 yards and was named the game’s MVP. Davis would also be the first player in Super Bowl history to rush for three TDs in a game.

Given that it’s Rodgers vs. Manning, Discount Double Check vs. Nationwide, for this one to not even be considered “DRILL WORTHY” would be downright criminal. Having said that…  (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! If we do, it is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OVER!), 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 56 last June 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?”

Green Bay’s favored by 3 and the over/under’s 45. Green Bay has been playing some decent football of late, even though San Diego gave them a a scare two weeks ago at Lambeau, while the Broncos have struggled but still find ways to win. Denver’s last loss at home came to San Diego in the 2013 season and history does tend to repeat itself. Broncos make it close but Green Bay comes away with the win and covers the 3.

Indianapolis (3-4) at Carolina (6-0), 8:30 p.m. Monday on ESPN. A pair of first-place teams close out the action in week eight as Carolina and Cam Newtwon host Andrew Luck and Indianapolis in prime time in the Tar Heel State.

An Indianapolis rally in the Hoosier State against New Orleans fell short and the Saints came away 27-21 winners. New Orleans led 20-0 at the half before the Colts rallied in the second half, outscoring the Saints 21-7 in the second half. New Orleans outrushed Indy 183-75 (Saints RB Mark Ingram showed his Heisman-winning form, rushing for 143 yards on 14 carries with a TD) but Andrew Luck (333 yards) outpaced Drew Brees (255 yards) in the air (Luck was sacked four times and picked off twice). The “wow” factor on third down tries in the contest was non-existant as neither team breached the 50 percent barrier (New Orleans was 7 of 20, 1 of 1 on fourth down; Indy was 3 of 13) but the Saints did manage to rule the clock, keeping the ball for 38:23 to the Colts’ 21:37.

Carolina thumped Philadelphia Sunday night in Charlotte, taking a 27-16 win over the Eagles. The Panthers led 14-6 at the half and then proceeded to outscore Philly 13-10 in the final 30 minutes of action. Newton threw for 197 yards and a TD, while rushing for a TD of his own, even though he was picked off three times, while the Carolina defense sacked Eagles QB Sam Bradford five times.

They’ve met only five times and the Panthers have taken wins in four of those contests but the Colts have outscored the Panthers 99-97. Indy’s lone victory came in 2007 in Charlotte by a final of 31-7, while Carolina’s last win in the series came in 2011 in the Hoosier State, with the Panthers coming away 27-19 winners.

As far as Monday night goes, both teams have done well under the bright lights of primetime. Indy is 22-14 and split the two meetings they had in the 2014 campaign, while the Panthers are 7-5 but lost their only MNF appearance in 2014. The Panthers are favored by 6 1/2 and the over/under is 46. While the Colts are somewhat floundering, the Panthers are trying to place some distance between themselves and Atlanta in the NFC South. Carolina’s finer on Monday night at home, even though they may not cover the 6 1/2.

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