It’s week 12. It’s almost Christmas time.

It’s also time for Sunday and Monday night football.

Three games were already played last Thursday as Detroit crushed Philadelphia 45-14 behind three TD catches from WR Calvin Johnson, Carolina remaining unbeaten as they took Dallas to the woodshed and Chicago held off a late Green Bay rally at Lambeau to win 17-13 Thursday night.

For week 12, there are three rematches (Miami at New York Jets from Week four, meeting in London; Arizona and San Francisco, along with Washington and the New York Giants meeting in a pair of week three rematches) as well as a Super Bowl rematch between Pittsburgh and Seattle, who met in Super Bowl LX in Detroit.

TD GALORE: There were 44 touchdown passes thrown in Week 11, including 13 individual two-touchdown performances. The 2015 season now has 162 individual two-touchdown performances, the second-most such performances through Week 11 in NFL history.

SEASON – MOST INDIVIDUAL TWO-TOUCHDOWN PERFORMANCES THROUGH WEEK 11
2014 – 164
2015 – 162
2013 – 151
2010 – 147
2012 – 146

The New England Patriots have reached 10-0 for the second time in franchise history and first time since 2007, when they finished the regular season undefeated and advanced to Super Bowl XLII.

“It feels good to win,” Pats QB Tom Brady told the Boston Globe after their 20-13 win against the Bills Monday night. “It’s obviously hard to get to this point (10-0). So, we’ll just keep fighting.”

The Patriots are the fourth defending Super Bowl champion to start a season 10-0, joining Green Bay (13-0 in 2011), Denver (13-0 in 1998) and San Francisco (10-0 in 1990).

This weekend, New England can clinch its seventh consecutive division title, which would tie the 1973-79 Los Angeles Rams for the longest streak in NFL history. The Patriots will travel to Denver to face the Broncos in a battle of first-place teams in primetime on Sunday Night Football at 8:30 p.m. on NBC.

The Patriots, who also won five consecutive division titles from 2003-2007, are the only team in NFL history to win 11 division championships in a 12-year span.

The teams with the most consecutive division titles:

TEAM, SEASONS (CONSECUTIVE DIVISION TITLES)
Los Angeles Rams, 1973-79 (7)
New England Patriots, 2009-14 (6)*
Cleveland Browns, 1950-55 (6)
Dallas Cowboys, 1966-71 (6)
Minnesota Vikings, 1973-78 (6)
Pittsburgh Steelers, 1974-79 (6)
*Active streak; can clinch AFC East title in Week 12

Since the NFL instituted the 16-game schedule in 1978, five teams have clinched a division a title after 11 games. Four of those five teams advanced to the Super Bowl, including the 1985 Chicago Bears, who finished the season 15-1 en route to a Super Bowl XX victory.

The teams to clinch a division title after 11 games since 1978:

TEAM, YEAR (RECORD AFTER 11 GAMES; FINAL RECORD, PLAYOFF RESULT
Chicago Bears, 1985 (11-0; 15-1, Won Super Bowl XX)
San Francisco 49ers, 1997 (10-1, 13-3, Advanced to NFC Championship)
Philadelphia Eagles, 2004 (10-1; 13-3; Advanced to Super Bowl XXXIX)
New England Patriots, 2007 (11-0; 16-0, Advanced to Super Bowl XLII)
Indianapolis Colts, 2009 (11-0; 14-2, Advanced to Super Bowl XLIV)
New England Patriots, 2015 (10-0; ???, ???)
*Through 10 games

Dating back to the 2014 postseason, the Patriots have won 13 consecutive games, the third-longest winning streak in franchise annals.

New England leads the NFL in scoring defense (18.2 points per game) and ranks first in the AFC in scoring offense (32.3 points per game). The Patriots aim to become the first NFL team to lead a conference in both scoring offense and defense in the same season since the 2006 Chicago Bears.

The Carolina Panthers are 11-0 for the first time in franchise history and beat the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day. Dating back to last season, the Panthers have won 14 consecutive regular-season games, the longest active streak in the NFL.

Carolina, who played on the holiday for the first time in franchise history, joined the 2011 Green Bay Packers (10-0) as the only teams in the Super Bowl era to play on Thanksgiving Day with a 11-0 record or better.

“It’s an honor to get to play on Thanksgiving,” says Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who tied a franchise record with five touchdown passes in last week’s 44-16 win over Washington. “It feels great to be 10-0. But we have a short week and we’ve got to get ready for Dallas.”

At 10-0, the Panthers have joined some elite company. Entering 2015, 15 teams started a season 10-0 during the Super Bowl era. Of those 15 clubs, all 15 qualified for the playoffs, nine advanced to the Super Bowl and six of those teams won the Super Bowl.

A look at the teams in the Super Bowl era to start 10-0:

TEAM, YEAR (UNDEFEATED START; FINAL RECORD, RESULT)
Los Angeles Rams, 1969 (11-0; 11-3, Advanced to Conference Championship)
Miami Dolphins, 1972 (14-0; 14-0, Won Super Bowl VII)
Minnesota Vikings, 1975 (10-0; 12-2, Advanced to Divisonal Playoffs)
Miami Dolphins, 1984 (11-0; 14-2, Advanced to Super Bowl XIX)
Chicago Bears, 1985 (12-0; 15-1, Won Super Bowl XX)
New York Giants, 1990 (10-0; 13-3, Won Super Bowl XXV)
San Francisco 49ers, 1990 (10-0; 14-2, Advanced to Conference Championship)
Washington Redskins, 1991 (11-0; 14-2, Won Super Bowl XXVI)
Denver Broncos, 1998 (13-0; 14-2, Won Super Bowl XXXIII)
Indianapolis Colts, 2005 (13-0; 14-2, Advanced to Divisonal Playoffs)
New England Patriots, 2007 (16-0; 16-0, Advanced to Super Bowl XLII)
Tennessee Titans, 2008 (10-0; 13-3, Advanced to Divisonal PlayoffS)
Indianapolis Colts, 2009 (14-0; 14-2, Advanced to Super Bowl XLIV)
New Orleans Saints, 2009 (13-0; 13-3, Won Super Bowl XLIV)
Green Bay Packers, 2011 (13-0; 15-1, Advanced to Divisional Playoffs)
Carolina Panthers, 2015 (???; ???; ???)
New England Patriots, 2015 (???; ???; ???)

“The biggest thing we have to understand is that we have to maintain our focus,” says Panthers head coach Ron Rivera about being 10-0. “Teams are going to come in and give us their best shot so we have to respond by playing our best.”

The Panthers, who finished the 2014 season with a 7-8-1 record, are the first team in the Super Bowl era to start 10-0 in the season following a losing campaign.

NEVER SAY NEVER: Since the current 12-team playoff format was instituted in 1990, 18 teams have reached the postseason despite having a losing record after 11 games, including one team in 10 of the past 11 seasons.

This includes a current streak of three consecutive seasons (2012-2014) and seven consecutive seasons from 2004-2010 in which a team with a sub-.500 record after 11 games reached the playoffs. Nine of the past 12 teams have won at least one playoff game.

The teams with a losing record after 11 games to make the playoffs since 1990:

YEAR, TEAM (RECORD AFTER 11 GAMES; FINAL RECORD, ADVANCED TO)
1990, New Orleans Saints (5-6; 8-8, Wild Card)
1993, Minnesota Vikings (5-6; 9-7, Wild Card)
1994, Detroit Lions (5-6; 9-7, Wild Card)
1994, New England Patriot (5-6; 10-6, Wild Card)
1995, Detroit Lions (5-6; 10-6, Wild Card)
1995, San Diego Chargers (4-7; 9-7, Wild Card)
1996, Jacksonville Jaguars (4-7; 9-7, Conference Championship)
1997, Detroit Lions (5-6; 9-7, wild Card)
2004, St. Louis Rams (5-6; 8-8, Divisonal)
2005, Washington Redskins (5-6; 10-6, Divisonal)
2006, Philadelphia Eagles (5-6; 10-6, Divisonal)*
2007, Washington Redskins (5-6; 9-7, Wild Card)
2008, San Diego Chargers (4-7; 8-8, Divisonal)
2009, New York Jets (5-6; 9-7, Conference Championship)
2010, Seattle Seahawks (5-6; 7-9, Divisional)
2012, Washington Redskins (5-6; 10-6, Wild Card)*
2013, San Diego Chargers (5-6; 9-7, Divisional)
2014, Carolina Panthers (3-7-1; 7-8-1, Divisonal)*

*Won Division

CLINCHING EARLY: New England (10-0) travels to face Denver on Sunday Night Football and can clinch the AFC East with a win and a New York Jets loss. The Patriots can also clinch with losses by the Jets and Buffalo Bills.

Since the NFL instituted the 16-game schedule in 1978, five teams have clinched a division a title after 11 games. Four of those five teams advanced to the Super Bowl, including the 1985 Chicago Bears, who finished the season 15-1 en route to a Super Bowl XX victory.

The teams to clinch a division title after 11 games since 1978:

TEAM, YEAR (RECORD AFTER 11 GAMES; FINAL RECORD, PLAYOFF RESULT)
Chicago Bears, 1985 (11-0; 15-1, Won Super Bowl XX)
San Francisco 49ers, 1997 (10-1; 13-3, Advanced to NFC Championship)
Philadelphia Eagles, 2004 (10-1; 13-3, Advanced to Super Bowl XXXIX)
New England Patriots, 2007 (11-0; 16-0, Advanced to Super Bowl XLII)
Indianapolis Colts, 2009 (11-0; 14-2, Advanced to Super Bowl XLIV)
New England Patriots, 2015 (10-0; ???,???)*
*Through 10 games

3,000 PASS YARDS: Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton has thrown for 2,738 yards this season. With 262 passing yards against St. Louis on Sunday, Dalton would join Peyton Manning as the only players in NFL history with at least 3,000 passing yards in each their first five seasons.

TIGHT (TYLER) END (EIFERT): Cincinnati tight end Tyler Eifert caught two touchdowns last week and has four games this season with at least two touchdown receptions.

With two or more TD catches against St. Louis on Sunday, Eifert would become the third tight end in NFL history with five or more such games in a single season (Rob Gronkowski, seven in 2011; Jimmy Graham, five in 2013).

MARVELOUS MARTAVIS: In Week 10, Pittsburgh wide receiver Martavis Bryant recorded six catches for 178 yards and a touchdown. Bryant now has 13 career touchdown receptions in his first 15 games.

With a touchdown catch on Sunday at Seattle, Bryant would tie for the fourth-most TD catches in a player’s first 16 games. Randy Moss (17 in 1998) holds the record.

As for last week, much better than that horrid 4-10. Going 8-6 means we’re 99-57 for the season and that’s not counting the games from Thursday.

So without any further delay, here are the Sunday and Monday picks.

Minnesota (6-4) at Atlanta (6-4), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 705. Teddy Brigewater and the Minnesota Vikings open Sunday play in Week 12 as they travel to the Big Peach to take on the struggling Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome.

Bridgewater and the Minnesota Vikings fell to Green Bay 30-13 at TCF Bank Stadium on the campus of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities last Sunday. Green Bay broke a 6-6 tie after the first 15 minutes of play and took a 16-6 lead with them to the intermission, holding Minnesota off in the second half for the win. The Vikings were held to 94 yards rushing, with RB Adrian Peterson running for 45 yards and a TD that made it a six-point game (Peterson would later have a fumble which stopped a Minnesota drive late in the game). Packers RB Eddie Lacy ran for 100 yards on 27 carries and Aaron Rodgers threw for 212 yards and a pair of TDs as Green Bay, who was was 6 of 16 on third down conversions and held the ball for 30:22, ran for 124 yards, while the Vikings kept the ball for 29:38 and went 5 of 13 and 0 of 2 on third and fourth downs.

Atlanta lost their third in a row, falling to the Indianpolis Colts 24-21 in the Big Peach. The Falcons led 14-7 at the break and let a 21-14 lead after 45 minutes of play get away from them as the Colts would rally to tie the contest in the Big Peach when LB D’Qwell Jackson lived a defensive linesman’s dream, picking off Ryan and returning the pass 6 yards to tie things up at 21-21. After an Atlanta punt, the Colts marched down the field, forcing Atlanta to burn their timeouts. With that, Matt Hasslebeck, taking over for the injured Andrew Luck (kidney) led a 9-play, 56-yard drive that took 4:02 and ended with K Adam Vinatieri nailing a 43-yard field goal with 52 seconds left. Atlanta would get the ball back and tried to get either into field goal position to tie the contest or a TD that would win the game but that drive would last all of six plays as Ryan’s last-ditch pass was picked off by Cody Fleener to end the game.

Atlanta did outrush the Colts 100-74 and Ryan threw three TDs in the game (two of them to RB Patrick DiMarco) and WR Julio Jones caught nine passes for 160 in the game. The Falcons lost the services of RB DeVonta Freemman, who rushed for 43 yards on three carries to a concussion. Hasslebeck threw for 213 yards and a pair of TDs with a pair of interceptions (Ryan had three interceptions). Both Indy (7 of 14) and Atlanta (8 of 16) were at 50 percent on thrid down tries, while Atlanta failed on their only fourth down try in the Georgia Dome and the Colts won the battle of time, holding the ball for 32:39 to Atlanta’s 27:21. “We just have to keep working,” WR Julio Jones told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and WSB-TV. “We’re still in it. We need to get on a roll.”

Minnesota leads the series 16-10 and the Vikings have outscored Atlanta 623-442. They met last year in the Twin Cities and it was Minnesota coming away with a 41-28 victory. Atlanta’s last win in the series came in 2011 in the Big Peach by a final of  24-14. Atlanta’s favored by 2 and the over/under is 44. It could be closer than the two, given that both teams have improved from last seson. Atlanta gets back on track in the Big Peach and takes down the Purple Gang, covering the 2.

St. Louis (4-6) at Cincinnati (8-2), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 706. It’s an intra-conference contest along the shores of the Ohio River as the Bengals, looking to right its ship after taking two losses in a row host the St. Louis Rams, losers of three in a row.

The Rams lost in the final seconds to Baltimore in Charm City, falling to the Ravens 16-13. St. Louis led 13-3 after three quarters before the Ravens rallied in the final period of play, scoring their last 13 points of the day unchallenged, with the contest coming to an end when Ravens K Jeff Tucker connected on a 47-yard field goal as the clock struck :00. St. Louis had a chance to win the contest on the road in Charm City but Greg Zuerlein missed on a 52-yard try in the fourth quarter. Neither club rushed for 100 yards in the game (Baltimore had 96, St. Louis had 82) and Case Keenum threw for 136 and a TD before suffering a concussion late in the fourth quarter. St. Louis was 3 of 13 on third down conversions and held on to the ball for 27:08, while the Ravens were 4 of 16 and 0 of 1 on third and fourth down, holding the ball for 32:52.

Cincinnati let a 14-7 lead at the half against Arizona get away from them at the start of the third quarter, as the Cardinals scored 21 unchallenged points and trailed 28-14 before they rallied to tied the contest back up on a Mike Nugent field goal with 63 seconds left in regulation before Arizona’s Chris Catanzaro connected on a 32-yarder with 2 seconds left to play. The Bengals did outrushed Arizona 99-82 and Andy Dalton threw for 315 yards and a pair of TDs, despite being sacked four times, while Arizona’s Carson Palmer threw four TDs and a pair of interceptions with 317 yards. Cincinnati, flagged ten times for 108 yards, including an unsportsmanlike foul late in the second quarter, went 5 of 13 on third down (1 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 31:15, while Arizona kept the ball for 28:45, going 5 of 11 on third down tries Sunday night in the desert.

The Bengals hold a 7-5 lead in the series, while the Rams have outscored Cincinnati 228-214 (which includes contests that were played when the Rams were in Los Angeles). Cincinnati has taken two of the last three meetings in the series, including a 20-13 win in St. Louis, while the Rams’ last win over the Bengals came in 2003 (also in the Gateway City) by a final of 27-10. Cincy’s favored by 9 and the over/under’s 42. This one will be a good game to watch but not a great one. St. Louis has stumbled a bit, while the Bengals have lost two in a row after winning the first eight in the 2015 campaign. They won’t lose three in a row. Bengals bounce back from the Houston and Arizona losses and takes this one, even though they might not cover the 9.

New Orleans (4-6) at Houston (5-5), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 707. The Saints make the 348-mile, 6-hour drive along I-10 to face off against the Houston Texans in the Lone Star State.

The Saints square off against the Texans after their bye week and a 47-14 loss at Washington two weeks ago in Landover. New Orleans could never get on track, trailing 27-14 at the intermission and found themselves shut out in the second half. New Orleans found themselves being outrushed by Washington 213-158 and Kirk Cousins outpaced Drew Brees in passing yardage 324-209, with Cousins throwing four TDs to Brees’ two. The Saints went 4 of 11 on third down conversions, 0 of 2 on fourth down and kept the ball for 26:26, while Washington kept it for 33:34, going 6 of 11 on third down.

Houston narrowly escaped their contest with the New York Jets at NRG Stadium, taking a 24-17 win in the process over GangGreen. While rushing for 123 yards, the Houston defense held New York to 70 and sacked Ryan Fitzpatrick three times in the Lone Star State. Houston went 7 of 18 on third down tries and kept the ball for 33:25, while the Jets kept the pigskin for 26:35, while going 3 of 14 and 1 of 2 on third and fourth down conversions in the 7-point loss.

They’ve met only three times and the Saints have taken wins in two of those contests (New Orleans has also outscored Houston 81-66) including a 40-33 in the Big Easy in 2011, while the Texans’ lone win came in the Lone Star State in 2007 by a final of 23-10. Houston is a 3-point favorite and the over/under comes in at 49. The Saints are trying to catch Carolina, who trounced Dallas Thanksgiving afternoon in Arlington, while the Texans are trying to keep pace with the Bengals. It’s brisket vs. etoufee and brisket wins. Houston may not cover the 3 but they win home.

Tampa Bay (5-5) at Indianapolis (5-5), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 708. A pair of .500 teams meet in the Hoosier State as Tampa Bay and Jameis Winston travel to Indy to face the Colts.

The Bucs broke a 7-7 tie with Philadelphia last Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field, outscoring the Eagles 38-10 in the final three quarters to come away 45-17 winners on the road. Bucs RB Doug Martin ran roughshod over Philadelphia, running for 235 of his team’s 283 yards, while the Eagles ran for 136 yards on the afternoon. The Tampa Bay defense made life less than likeable for Eagles QB Mark Sanchez, picking him off three times with three sacks, while Winston came off a five TD afternoon with 246 yards to his credit. Tampa Bay on third down conversions was 10 of 16 (1 of 1 on fourth down) and held on to the ball for 35:54, while the Eagles kept the pigskin for 24:06, going 7 of 15 on third down tries.

The Buccaneers have climbed into the postseason picture and aim for their third consecutive win. Last week, Tampa Bay became the first team in NFL history to have a quarterback (Winston) pass for at least five touchdowns and a running back (Martin) rush for at least 200 yards in a road game. Winston became the second rookie quarterback in NFL history to have five touchdown passes and no interceptions in a game (Ray Buivid, December 5, 1937) and Martin recorded his second career 200-yard rushing game.

“Anybody that knows football can see there’s a bright future here,” Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith told the Tampa Tribune. “We feel like we’re a good football team right now. There’s a lot of football left to go. All of our goals we set at the start of the season are there for us. That is taking it one game at a time. Three wins in a row is what we’re trying to get done this week.”

Colts quarterback Matt Hasslebeck, who turned 40 earlier this year, improved to 3-0 as the team’s starter and joined Pro Football Hall of Famer Warren Moon (four) and Brett Farve (four) as the only quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era to win at least three consecutive starts after their 40th birthday. Indianapolis has now won two games in a row and are tied with Houston for first place in the AFC South.

The Colts, without Andrew Luck (kidney) under center trailed Atlanta 21-14 at the of the third quarter before rallying to beat the Falcons 24-21 in the Big Peach. The Falcons led 14-7 at the break before the Colts would rally to tie the contest in the Big Peach when LB D’Qwell Jackson picked off Matt Ryan, returning the pass 6 yards to tie things up at 21-21. Atlanta then punted after they got the ball and the Colts marched down the field, taking nine plays, 56 yards and 4:02 to take the lead for keeps when K Adam Vinatieri connected on a 43-yard field goal with 52 seconds left to play. The Falcons tried one last time to snatch victory out the jaws of defeat and had six plays to make that happen before Ryan’s last ditch pass fell short and was picked off by Cody Fleener. The Colts were held to 74 yards rushing, while Atlanta tallied 100 in the contest in the Georgia Dome and Matt Hasslebeck, who took over for Luck, threw for 213 yards and a pair of TDs. Both Atlanta and Indy did reasonably well on third down conversions (the Colts were 7 of 14, the Falcons were 8 of 16) and the Colts ruled the clock, keeping the pigskin for 32:39 to Atlanta’s 27:21.

Including contests that took place when the Colts were in Baltimore, Indianapolis leads the series 7-5 and have outscored Tampa Bay 311-265. Indy’s last win in the series came in 2007, as the Colts took a 33-14 win in the Hoosier State, while Tampa Bay’s last win over Indy came in 1997 (also in Indy) by a final of 31-28. The Colts, without Andrew Luck, is favored by 2 1/2 and the over/under is 47. The 2 1/2 makes sense, the 47 doesn’t. Indy’s trying to stay top of the AFC South mountain, while Tampa Bay needs to win to keep up with Atlanta and Carolina in the NFC South. Tampa Bay will make this one closer than 2 1/2 but Indy wins at home in the Hoosier State.

San Diego (2-8) at Jacksonville (4-6), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 710. Divided by 2,340 miles, three time zones and seven states, San Diego travels eastward for a meeting in north Florida with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

San Diego was held to a 53-yard field goal by rookie K Josh Lambo and was manhandled by Kansas City 33-3 at Qualcomm last Sunday. The Bolts were held to 52 yards on the ground and allowed the Chiefs to rush for 153 and Philip Rivers was sacked three times in the loss. San Diego on third and fourth down tries went 4 of 13 and 0 of 1 and kept the ball for 26:32, while the Chiefs was 5 of 12 on third down but hit paydirt on their only fourth down conversion of the contest, keeping the ball for 33:28.

The Jaguars survived Tennessee last Thursday night at EverBank Field, taking a 19-13 win over the Titans in the Sunshine State. Rookie K Jason Myers kicked a pair of second-quarter field goals to tie the contest at 6-6 at the half before Jacksonville managed to outscore Tennessee 13-7 in the final 30 minutes of action and took the lead for good when TE Julius Thomas and QB Blake Bortles connected on a 5-yard TD pass with 3:30 left to play in the contest. Although they were held to 90 yards rushing (Tennesse ran for 104) Jacksonville did manage to sack Titans QB Marcus Mariota four times in the win in orime time. Jacksonville held the ball for 28:25, while going 4 of 13 on thrid down conversions. Tennessee would hold the pigskin for 31:35 and was 5 of 13 on third down tries.

San Diego leads the series with the Jaguars 5-2, have outscored Jacksonville 205-119 and have won the last three contests in the series, including a 33-14 win on the West Coast last year. Jacksonville’s last win over the Bolts came in 2007 in the Sunshie State by a 24-17 count. Jacksonville’s a 3 1/2 point favorite and the over/under is 48 1/2. San Diego’s been struggling, while Jacksonville has looked a lot better than their record. Jacksonville wins their second in a row at home and covers the 3 1/2 in the process.

Buffalo (5-5) at Kansas City (5-5), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 711. Buffalo wings vs. BBQ. A pair of 5-5 teams meet in the great Midwest as the Kansas City Chiefs host Buffalo at Arrowhead.

The Bills enter the Sunday afternoon contest in western Missouri with a 20-13 loss to the defending Super Bowl champions in Foxboro last Monday night. The Bills trailed 10-3 in Foxboro at the half and rallied late to make the contest close. Buffalo did manage to outrush New England 94-85 but Tom Brady did manage to outpass Tyrod Taylor 277-233 in the Monday night AFC East matchup. Buffalo was 3 of 15 and 1 of 1 on third and fourth down tries, keeping the ball for 32:55, while the Pats kept the pigskin for 27:05, going 4 of 14 on third down.

The Chiefs held San Diego to a 53-yard field goal by rookie K Josh Lambo and was manhandled by Kansas City 33-3 at Qualcomm last Sunday. Kansas City led 12-3 at the half and opened the scoring in the contest when Dontari Poe became the heaviest player in the NFL to rush for a TD (William “The Refrigerator” Perry was the heaviest before him). Poe, at 6-3 and tipping the scales at 346 pounds, scored on a 1-yard run to give Kansas City the lead that they would never give up. The Chiefs held the Bolts to 52 yards on the ground, while they rushed for for 153 and sacked Philip Rivers three times in the loss, while Chiefs QB Alex Smith threw for 253 yards. San Diego on third and fourth down tries went 4 of 13 and 0 of 1 and kept the ball for 26:32, while the Chiefs was 5 of 12 on third down but hit paydirt on their only fourth down conversion of the contest, keeping the ball for 33:28.

Including contests that were played when the Chiefs were known as the Texans and played their home games in Dallas, Buffalo leads the series 23-19-1 and have outscored the Chiefs 932-862. On the other hand… the Chiefs took wins in the last two contests, including a 17-13 win in upstate New York last year, while the Bills’ last win over Kansas City came in  2012 by a final of 35-17, also in upstate New York. The Chiefs are favored by 3 3 1/2 and the over/under’s 41. They’re both contending clubs and both are trying to catch up to the kings of the mountains in their respective divisions. Buffalo makes it close but the Chiefs rally at home in the great Midwest. Everything’s up to date for the Chiefs, who take this one at Arrowhead and covers the 3 1/2.

Miami (4-6) at New York Jets (5-5), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 712. It’s a rematch from their first contest in London as the Dolphins trek up I-95 to face off against the Jets in the Meadowlands. Both AFC East teams, trying to catch Brady and the defending Super Bowl champs, come into the contest with losses under their respective belts.

Miami hosted Dallas last Sunday in the Sunshine State and it was the Cowboys breaking a 7-game losing streak at Sun Life Stadium, taking a 24-13 win with QB Tony Romo back under center last Sunday in Miami to complete their Sunshine State swing. After a scoreless first quarter, Miam trailed 14-7 at the half and found themselves tied at 14 after 45 minutes of play before the Cowboys took the lead for good in the final 15 minutes of action. Dallas outrushed Miami 166-70 and Cowboys RB Darren McFadden accounted for the majority of his team’s offense with 129 yards. In his return, Romo threw for 227 yards with a pair of TDs (one to his favorite target, WR Dez Bryrant) and a pair of interceptions. Dallas went 7 of 14 on third down conversions, 1 of 2 on fourth down and held the ball for 38:50, while Miami was 1 of 10 and 0 of 1 on third and fourth downs, keeping the ball for 21:10.

GangGreen lost on the road in the Lone Star State to Houston 24-17. The J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! trailed 10-3 at the half before Houston pulled away to take the win at NRG Stadium. The Jets were outrushed by Houston 123-70 and QB Ryan Fitzpatrick was sacked three times and threw a pair of interceptions in the contest. Houston went 7 of 18 on third down tries and kept the ball for 33:25, while the Jets kept the pigskin for 26:35, while going 3 of 14 and 1 of 2 on third and fourth down conversions in the 7-point loss.

They met in London in week four and GangGreen led 20-7 at the half at Wembly Stadium and came away with a 27-14 win over the Dolphins. It would mark the final game that Joe Philbin would coach for Miami, as he was fired and Dan Campbell, the team’s tight ends coach, took his spot. New York outrushed Miami 207-59, with Curtis Ivory accounting for 166 of their yards, adding a TD to his team’s ledger and the Jets’ defense sacked Ryan Tannehill three times, picking him off twice to seal the win. Miami went 0 of 12 and 0 of 3 on third and fourth down tries on the other side of the Atlantic, while keeping the ball for 22:37, while GangGreen held on to the ball for 37:23 and went 6 of 16 on third down tries.

On the other side of the Big Pond, the Jets were favored by 3 and they covered that, winning by 13. Miami and GangGreen barely missed the over/under of 42 by 1. The J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! are favored by 3 in the Meadowlands and the over/under is 43 1/2. Both are trying to catch Brady and the Pats. Both are coming off losses. Miami could very well make it closer than the 3 but GangGreen sweeps the series and wins at home.

Oakland (4-6) at Tennessee (2-8), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 713. A pair of struggling AFC teams meet in Music City as the Raiders travel east to face off against the Tennessee Titans.

Oakland gave Detroit a scare last Sunday afternoon in the Motor City before falling to the Lions 16-13 at Ford Field. The Silver and Black trailed 9-0 at the half and were held to 50 rushing yards at Ford Field last Sunday, while Detroit would wind up rushing for 109 of their own, with QB Matthew Stafford rushing for Detroit’s only TD, a 5-yard run with 11:04 left to play. Detroit got some more luck in the final period of play as they got a sack of Raiders QB David Carr for a safety after Oakland was called for holding in the end zone. Detroit on third down conversions went 6 of 14 and kept the ball for 36:02, while Oakland went 4 of 18 on third down, keeping the pigskin for 23:58.

Tennessee fell to Jacksonville last Thursday night in north Florida, falling to the Jaguars 19-13. Tennessee let a 3-0 first quarter lead get away from them as Jaguar rookie K Jason Myers kicked a pair of second-quarter field goals to tie the contest at 6-6 at the half before Jacksonville managed to outscore Tennessee 13-7 in the final 30 minutes of action and took the lead for good when TE Julius Thomas and QB Blake Bortles connected on a 5-yard TD pass with 3:30 left to play in the contest. Although the Titans held Jacksonville to 90 yards rushing, running for 104 themselves, Jacksonville did manage to sack Titans QB Marcus Mariota four times in the win in orime time. Jacksonville held the ball for 28:25, while going 4 of 13 on thrid down conversions. Tennessee would hold the pigskin for 31:35 and was 5 of 13 on third down tries.

Including contests that were played when the Titans were known as the Houston Oilers and the Raiders played contests in Los Angeles, the Silver and Black lead the series 23-20 and the Titans have outscored Oakland 1,019-969. Tennessee has won the last three contests in the series, with that win streak including a 23-19 win in Oakland in 2013, while Oakland’s last win over the Titans came in 2005 in the Music City by a final of 34-25. The Raiders are favored by 2 and the over/under is 45. If you are a fan of either team, then by al means, watch this one. Otherwise, beg the wife/girlfriend/significant other to take you Christmas shopping. Tennessee makes it an interesting contest but the Silver and Black find their way back and cover the 2.

New York Giants (5-5) at Washington (4-6), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 709. A pair of NFC East rivals square off as the first-place Giants travel to Landover to take on the Washington Redskins in a week three rematch.

Eli and the Giants return to action after their bye week, coming off a 27-26 loss to New England in the Meadowlands two weeks ago. Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 54-yard field goal with one second remaining to give the Patriots the last sesond win and preserving the defending Super Bowl champs’ undefeated season. New York’s Josh Brown kicked four field goals in the 1-point loss, with his last one giving the Giants a brief 26-24 lead. That lead would not last very long as the Pats marched down the field and Stephen Gostkowski sent the Giants fans home sad as he kicked a 54-yard field goal with one second remaining to take the win. The Giants did manage to outrush New England 80-77 and Manning (361) and Brady (334) each threw for over 300 yards and each threw a pair of TDs in the contest. The G-Men were 7 of 15 on third down conversions and kept the ball for 28:24, while the defending Super Bowl champs were at 50 percent on third down, going 7 of 14 (1 of 1 on fourth down), keeping the ball for 31:36.

The Redskins return to Landover after they were trounced by Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers 44-16 at Bank of America Stadium. Washington trailed 31-14 at the half and Kirk Cousins and the “Skins were outscored 13-2 in the final 30 minutes of play, with their only score in the second half coming on a safety when Panthers P Brad Nortman was sacked in the end zone for a safety with 16 seconds left in the contest, which was decided very quickly. Washington was held to a dismal 14 yards rushing, while Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart ran for 102 of his team’s for 142. Newton threw for 246 yards and five TDs without being picked off, while Cousins had 207 yards in the air with TD and five sacks. Carolina was 7 of 14 on third down (0 of 1 on fourth) and kept the ball for 38:07, while the Redskins stumbled on third down tries, going 2 of 9 (1 of 1 on fourth down) and held on to the ball for 21:53.

They met in week three in the Meadowlands and it was Eli and the Giants coming away 32-21 winners. Big Blue led 15-6 at the intermission and never looked back in the 11-point win, outscoring Washingotn in the final 30 minutes of play 17-15. Washington barely outrushed New York 88-84 but Cousins threw a pair of interceptions, while Manning threw a pair of TDs. The Giants were 4 of 13 on third down conversions (1 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 31:30, while the Redskins in the first meeting kept the pigskin for 28:30, going 6 of 15 and 2 of 3 on third and fourth down.

In that first contest in upstate New Jersey, the Giants won by 11, which allowed them to cover the 3-point spread and both clubs covered the 42 over/under, scoring a combined 53 points. The Giants are favored in Landover by 2 1/2 and the over/under is 47. The Redskings have been hot and cold of late, while the Giants are in somewhat of a foul mood after losing at home to Brady and the Pats. Redskins fans, you might want to duck and cover. Eli’s coming. Giants complete the sweep, causing Washington fans to say “HELL, IT”S THE REDSKINS!” Giants cover the 2 1/2 in Landover and takes the win.

Arizona (8-2) at San Francisco (3-7), 4:05 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 714. They met in the desert in week three and they meet again, this time in wine country. The 49ers return home to host the Arizona Cardinals at Levis’ Stadium in a late-afternoon (Eastern time) NFC West contest.

Arizona, after trailing 14-7 at halftime against Cincinnati, scored 21 unchallenged points and trailed 28-14 before the Bengals rallied to tied the contest back up on a Mike Nugent field goal with 63 seconds left in regulation. That tie would not last long as Arizona’s Chris Catanzaro connected on a 32-yarder with 2 seconds left to play. The Bengals did outrushed Arizona 99-82 and Andy Dalton threw for 315 yards and a pair of TDs, despite being sacked four times, while Arizona’s Carson Palmer threw four TDs and a pair of interceptions with 317 yards. For the Bengals, the yellow flag was their worst enemy, flagged ten times for 108 yards, including an unsportsmanlike foul late in the second quarter and went 5 of 13 on third down (1 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 31:15, while Arizona kept the ball for 28:45, going 5 of 11 on third down tries Sunday night in the desert.

San Francisco were manhandled by Seattle last Sunday afternoon in the land of grunge, salmon and Starbucks, falling to the defending NFC champions 29-13. San Francisco trailed 20-7 at the break and could never get things on track, losing by 16. The 49ers were outrushed by Seattle 255-59 (with Seahawks rookie RB Thomas Rawls doing his best Marshawn Lynch impression, rushing for 209 yards and TD) and Blaine Gabbard, taking over for the injured Colin Kaepernick (knee) being sacked twice. San Francisco on third down tries went 2 of 11, keeping the ball for a mere 22:21, while Seattle ruled the clock and kept the ball for 37:39, while going 8 of 14 on third down tries.

They met in week three in the desert and it was the Desert Angry Birds showing no mercy to the 49ers, manhandling them 47-7 in Glendale. Arizona led from start to finish in the first meeting, holding San Francisco to a second quarter rushing TD by Kaepernick from 12 yards out with 2:03 left before half (Arizona led 31-7 at halftime). Arizona RB Chris Johnson led all rushers with 110 yards and a pair of TDs as his team ran for 139 yards in the somewhat lopsided win at Glendale. Arizona on third down tries was 6 of 13 (1 of 1 on fourth down) and held the ball for 36:32, while San Francisco kept the ball for 23:28 and went 4 of 12 on third down tries.

The Desert Angry Birds easily took the first meeting in Glendale, winning by 40 (the over/under was 45) and covering the 7-point spread in the process and both teams did manage to cover the over/under with 54 points. In this second meeting, Arizona’s favored by 10 in wine country and the over/under is 45. Could history repeat itself? It’s possible. The 49ers are basically playing with house money, while the Cards pretty much control their destiny. San Francisco could make it intersting but Arizona makes it a clean sweep of the series and comes away with the win in northern California.

Pittsburgh (6-4) at Seattle (5-5), 4:25 p.m on CBS and DirecTV 715. A pair of Super Bowl rivals with huge wins at home last week meet in the Pacific Northwest as the Steelers wind their way westward to face off against Russell Wilson and the Seahawks.

For the Steelers, they were 30-9 winners over Cleveland and Johnny Manziel last Sunday at Heinz Field, with Roethlisberger coming off the bench, tossing three TDs in the lopsided AFC North contest. The Steelers led 21-3 at the half and were never threatened at home and held the Browns to 15 yards rushing but rushed for only 60 yards of their own. Cleveland would wind up going 5 of 13 on third down tries (1 of 3 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 32:43, while the Steelers were 3 of 10 and 0 of 1 on third and fourth down, keeping the ball for 27:17.

Seattle made life less than pleasant for San Francisco last week in the land of grunge, salmon and Starbucks, taking the 49ers to the woodshed and taking a 47-7 win in the procecss. Seahawks rookie RB Thomas Rawls was just as good as Marshawn Lynch (sports hernia surgery), rushing for 209 yards and a TD, while the Seahawks ran for 255, holding San Francisco to 59 yards on the ground. Seattle went 4 of 12 on third down conversions in the blowout, keeping the ball for 37:39, while San Francisco was 2 of 11 on third down, holding the ball for 22:21.

The series is even at 8-8 and the Seahawks have outscored Pittsburgh 279-242. The Steelers have won the last two meetings and both were shutouts, with Pittsburgh coming away 24-0 winners in the Steel City in 2011, while Seattle’s last win in the series came in 2003 in the land of grunge, salmon and Starbucks by a 23-16 final. The two clubs met in Detroit in Super Bowl XL to close out the 2005 season and the Steelers picked up their sixth Lombardi, taking a 21-10 win over the Seahawks. Pittsburgh led 7-3 at the break at Ford Field in Detroit and never looked back, outscoring Seattle 14-7 in the final 30 minutes of action. The Steelers outrushed Seattle 181-137, with Roethlisberger throwing for 123 yards, while Matt Hasslebeck threw for 273 and a TD but was sacked three times and picked off once. Pittsburgh in picking up their sixth Lombardi trophy went 8 of 15 on third down conversions and kept the ball for 26:58 (the Steelers did not have a fourth down try), while Seattle was 5 of 17 and 1 of 2 on third down fourth down tries, keeping the ball for 33:02. Seattle is favored by 4 and the over/under is 44. Both numbers make a lot of sense. This one, while not quite “Drill Worthy,” is one that if you change the channel, you will not be happy. Seattle covers the 4 and takes the win in the land of grunge, salmon and Starbucks.

New England (10-0) at Denver (8-2), 8:30 p.m. on NBC. It’s Brady vs. Brock Osweiler. Wait… you’re thinking Manning, right? Nope. Osweiler took over for Manning last week, while Brady led the Pats to their 10th win in as many tries. More about Osweiler later. Both teams won their contests last week in close contests; the defdending Super Bowl champs winning at home, while Denver won on the road in the Windy City.

The defending Super Bowl champs held off a late Buffalo rally at Gillette Stadium last Monday night and took a 20-13 win over the Bills last week. New England led 10-3 in Foxboro at the half before Buffalo rallied late to make the contest close. Buffalo did manage to outrush New England 94-85 but Tom Brady did manage to outpass Tyrod Taylor 277-233 in the Monday night AFC East matchup. Buffalo was 3 of 15 and 1 of 1 on third and fourth down tries, keeping the ball for 32:55, while the Pats kept the pigskin for 27:05, going 4 of 14 on third down.

Denver, without Manning’s services (foot) came away 17-15 winners over Chicago at Soldier Field. His replacement? Football’s probable answer to Wally Pipp, Osweiler. Denver led 10-6 at Soldier Field last Sunday before Da Bears would find themselves rallying to make it a closer contest when rookie RB Jeremy Langford scored on a 2-yard run but they missed the two-point try that would have tied things up. Chicago found themselves outrushed by Denver 170-86 (Denver’s Ronnie Hillman led all rushers with 102) and Osweiler threw a pair of TD passes in the game, including one to WR Demaryius Thomas, which went for 48 yards to open the scoring in the game. Denver on third down conversions went 6 of 14 and on fourth down was 0-1, keeping the ball for 33:13, while Da Bears on third down were not that much better, going 4 of 12 (0 of 1 on fourth down) and held the pigskin for 26:47.  Osweiler, who turned 25 years old on Sunday, is the only quarterback in the Super Bowl era to make his first career start and win on his birthday.

“Winning tastes great,” Denver linebacker Von Miller told the Rocky Mountain News and KUSA-TV. “Nothing tastes like it. It was a great win.”

The Broncos lead the series 25-20, including contests that were played in Boston at Fenway Park and have outscored the defending Super Bowl champs 1,044-983. They met last year in Foxboro and New England and Brady came away 43-21 winners, while the Broncos’ last win over New England came in 2013, when they would need overtime to take a 34-31 win.

Even though there’s no Manning under center in what would have been the battle of two future Hall of Famers, it is a battle of two division leaders, which means that this one is a no-brainer “DRILL WORTHY” contest (For those that know what “The Drill” is, you are excused. Everyone else, pay attention! We do NOT want any rookie mistakes here, k?… After you attend the 9:30 mass on Sunday (if you go to a Vigil Mass on Saturday, that counts as a mass attended. Don’t make us send the nuns after you, because if we do, it is SOOOOOOOOOOO over!… head to your local grocery store or outlet (Target, K-Mart, Sam’s Club, Costco and Wal Mart count) and purchase the vittles, including the adult beverages if your state allows purchase on Sundays and stock up. Be sure you have enough for your friends and co-workers, including that really cute teacher that lives above you and watch out for your cousin Connie… she’s the one that just turned 56, divorced twice and dates a 41-year former Marine that’s now the football coach at the high school. The girl wiped out your Super Bowl party two years ago by downing two bags of Double Stuf Oreos, an entire cheesecake, two 2-liter Cokes and two bacon and cheese burgers and didn’t gain a freaking pound. You look at her and say to yourself, “what the hell?”).

The oddsmakers like the defending Super Bowl champs as a 3-point favorite and the over/under is 45. Could Denver be the threat to New England’s perfect season? The Pats and Carolina are the only two teams that are unbeaten and Denver would like nothing more than to knock off the Pats. Sorry, Denver fans, that’s not going to happen. The Broncos will make it closer than the 3 but the Pats march on and win in the Rocky Mountains.

Baltimore (3-7) at Cleveland (2-8), 8:30 p.m. on ESPN. A pair of slumping teams close out play along the shore of Lake Erie as the Ravens travel to Cleveland to face the Browns in prime time.

Baltimore comes into the Monday night affair 16-13 winners at home in Charm City over the St. Louis Rams, thanks to a 47-yard field goal by Ravens K Jeff Tucker as the clock struck :00. Baltimore trailed 13-3 after 45 minutes of play (10-3 at the half) and rallied in the fourth quarter to tie things up on Tucker’s 20-yard field goal with 5:12 left in regulation. After St. Louis’ Greg Zuerlein missed a 52-yard try late in the final period of play that would have forced the Ravens to tie with a field goal or take the lead with a TD, Tucker connected on the game winning kick, sending Ravens fans home happy. The Ravens suffered a loss in their offense when QB Jeff Flacco suffered a season-ending knee injury in the game. Flacco did manage to throw for 299 yards but was picked off twice but the Ravens mananged to outrush St. Louis 96-82, sacking Case Keenum and picking him off in the win (Keenum would later leave the contest with a concussion). The Ravens, in picking up just their second win of the season, forced five turnovers in the game and went 4 of 16 on third down tries (0 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 32:52, while the Rams kept the pigskin for 27:08 and went 3 of 13 on third down tries in Charm City.

Cleveland returns to play from their bye and a 30-9 thumping at Pittsburgh two weeks ago. In that meeting, the Browns were held to 15 yards rushing and Manziel was sacked six times, while Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger came off the bench and threw for 379 yards and three TDs. Cleveland trailed 21-3 at the half and could never really get back on track in the contest in the Steel City, going 5 of 13 on third down tries (1 of 3 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 32:43, while the Steelers were 3 of 10 and 0 of 1 on third and fourth down, keeping the ball for 27:17. Manziel was tabbed to be the starter for the Browns for the remainder of the 2015 season but after the team got reports that he was not behaving himself in public, he was benched by head coach Mike Pettine and Josh McCown, who he replaced originally, would take his spot.

Baltimore leads the series 24-8, have outscored Cleveland 725-455 and have taken wins in 13 of the last 14 contests, including sweeping the series in the 2014 campaign, while the Browns’ last win over Baltimore came in 2013 along the shores of Lake Erie by a final of 24-18.

As bad as their current records are this season, these two teams have done well on Monday night, with the Ravens going 10-9 (winning their only contest in 2014), while Cleveland is 15-14 but have not been on MNF since 2009, when they played only one contest and lost that one. The Browns are favored by 2 1/2 on Monday night and the over/under is 41 1/2. These two teams are not very good and if you decide that watching that repeat of “Scorpion” is in your best interest, we will understand. Both teams are bad and need to run the table to have any chance of a post-season bid, let alone win their divisions. The Ravens are the lesser evil here and given the Manziel issues, they rise above the storm and win in Cleveland, covering the 2 1/2.

 

 

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