Chattanooga Times Free Press - - NFL BLITZ -


Are the New Or­leans Saints too hot to stop or ripe for a let­down? Since drop­ping their sea­son opener, 48-40 to the Tampa Bay Buc­ca­neers, they have won seven in a row, with the past three es­pe­cially no­table: 24-23 over the Bal­ti­more Ravens, 30-20 over the Min­nesota Vik­ings and 45-35 over the pre­vi­ously un­beaten Los Angeles Rams. A meet­ing with the Philadel­phia Ea­gles, the reign­ing Su­per Bowl cham­pi­ons, awaits the Saints next week — and the Ben­gals, coming off their open date, have the ad­van­tage of rest. But it might be dif­fi­cult for New Or­leans to find a way to lose this one. In the past three games, the Ben­gals have given up 481 yards to the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers, 551 to the Kansas City Chiefs and 576 to the Bucs. Granted, those are three of the NFL’s top at­tacks. But the Saints are up there, too, and if Cincin­nati gives up 500 yards to­day, it will be­come the first NFL team to al­low that many in three con­sec­u­tive games.


For the Cow­boys to stay real in the NFC East, they need a quick re­ver­sal of for­tune. With four of their five losses coming on the road, vis­it­ing the Ea­gles — who are 17-5 at home un­der coach Doug Ped­er­son — isn’t all that en­tic­ing. These divi­sion ri­vals meet in a Sun­day night game for the 10th con­sec­u­tive sea­son and 12th time over­all. Philadel­phia comes off a 24-18 win against the Jack­sonville Jaguars but has yet to win back-to-back games this sea­son. Nei­ther have the Cow­boys, who are just six days re­moved from a 28-14 home loss to the Ten­nessee Ti­tans.

SEAT­TLE (4-4) AT L.A. RAMS (8-1)

Coming off their first de­feat, the Rams will re­mem­ber they strug­gled to beat the Sea­hawks 33-31 in Seat­tle last month. A vic­tory would give the Rams a 4 1/2-game edge in the NFC West and pretty much shut down the divi­sion ti­tle race. Both teams boast po­tent ground games, with the big star be­ing L.A.’s Todd Gur­ley, who has rushed for 868 yards and 12 touch­downs this sea­son. The Sea­hawks have con­cen­trated on their ground game af­ter start­ing 0-2 and have av­er­aged 159.8 rush­ing yards per game since then.


The Car­di­nals are 0-4-1 at Kansas City, and this isn’t ex­actly the best time to be vis­it­ing. Ari­zona has the NFL’s worst of­fense and ranks 31st in pass de­fense. All the Chiefs do, with QB Pa­trick Ma­homes and Co., is score, score and score some more. Ma­homes has 29 touch­downs passes, seven in­ter­cep­tions and 2,901 yards through the air this sea­son, his first as the starter.

L.A. CHARG­ERS (6-2) AT OAK­LAND (1-7)

Ma­homes de­serves the head­lines he gets, but he’s not the only AFC West quar­ter­back wor­thy of recog­ni­tion for a su­perb pass­ing sea­son. The Charg­ers’ Philip Rivers, 36, just keeps pro­duc­ing — and fac­ing the woe­ful Raiders shouldn’t hurt his ré­sumé. He has com­pleted 75 of 100 passes for 994 yards, six touch­downs and no in­ter­cep­tions in his past three out­ings against Oak­land for a 126.0 rat­ing. The Charg­ers have won five straight for their best record at the sea­son’s mid­point since 2006; the Raiders are such a mess that they have been outscored 55-3 over the past five quar­ters.


Detroit has taken nine of the past 10 in this se­ries, and Chicago hasn’t won an NFC North game in its past 10 at­tempts. But the Li­ons al­lowed 10 sacks — yes, 10 — to Min­nesota last week, and Chicago has an even bet­ter de­fense than the Vik­ings. The Bears’ de­fense scored twice while stomp­ing the Buf­falo Bills 41-9 last week, with Ed­die Jack­son re­turn­ing a fum­ble 65 yards and Leonard Floyd tak­ing an in­ter­cep­tion 19 yards.


The Red­skins were routed at home by the At­lanta Fal­cons last week­end and lost three key play­ers, in­clud­ing both start­ing of­fen­sive guards. Can run­ning back Adrian Peter­son find room to roam be­hind a makeshift of­fen­sive line? Tampa Bay can pass and score with lit­tle trou­ble, but it of­ten falls so far be­hind that it can’t catch up.

MI­AMI (5-4) AT GREEN BAY (3-4-1)

Mi­ami is an AFC wild-card con­tender de­spite be­ing out­gained by 704 yards and outscored by 38 points this sea­son. On the bright side, the Dol­phins rank first in the league with 15 in­ter­cep­tions, in­clud­ing four last week against the New York Jets. Pack­ers quar­ter­back Aaron Rodgers has thrown just one of those this sea­son and has 15 touch­downs, lead­ing the league with a 0.3 per­cent in­ter­cep­tion rate.


Jack­sonville has dropped four in a row and is among the most dis­ap­point­ing teams of 2018. The Colts are giv­ing a de­cent ac­count­ing of them­selves de­spite a lack of tal­ent. There’s plenty of skill at quar­ter­back, how­ever. An­drew Luck, who missed 2017 with a shoul­der in­jury, is back in fine form, hav­ing com­pleted 65.8 per­cent of his passes for 2,187 yards with 23 touch­downs and eight in­ter­cep­tions.

BUF­FALO (2-6) AT N.Y. JETS (3-6)

Jets rookie QB Sam Darnold has re­gressed be­hind cen­ter and has an in­jured foot. Last year’s starter, vet­eran Josh McCown, steps in now, but there’s lit­tle of­fen­sive sup­port with ver­sa­tile run­ning back Bi­lal Powell on in­jured re­serve. As for Buf­falo, well, maybe get­ting rid of quar­ter­back Ty­rod Tay­lor wasn’t such a wise move.


Not much to see in this Mon­day night meet­ing, though at least a na­tional TV au­di­ence gets to watch run­ning back Saquon Barkley, the most dy­namic rookie to hit New York since re­ceiver Odell Beck­ham Jr. — and with­out all the bag­gage.

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