Sunday playbook: Saints’ unbeaten record to be tested by Patriots - The Buffalo News
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Sunday playbook: Saints’ unbeaten record to be tested by Patriots

Three undefeated teams remain in the National Football League heading into today’s Week Six games. Of the three, only the New Orleans Saints seem in any danger.

Quarterback Drew Brees and the Saints take on the New England Patriots in Foxborough, Mass., in an inter-conference matchup. The Saints could cement their position as the leader of the NFC South, where they enjoy a three-game lead over the other three teams in the division.

Also, New Orleans could do the rest of the AFC East a big favor by knocking off the Pats and bringing them back to the pack in the division. New England has a one-game lead over the New York Jets and Miami, who have two losses each. The Dolphins are off this week while the Jets take on winless Pittsburgh (seems strange to write that) at home.

One big questions in the NFL today is: How badly will the Denver Broncos (5-0) beat the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars (0-5) in the Mile High City? Enough to cover a 26ø-point spread?

A look at the schedule:

Game of the day

Saints (5-0) at Patriots (4-1)

TV: Ch. 29, 4:25 p.m.

The line: Patriots (-1½).

The scoop: Hard-rushing Bengals played pass first and kept Tom Brady and Co. out of end zone for first time since 2008. … This will be a good test as to how improved Saints’ defense really is under Rob Ryan. They are tied for 11th after finishing last in 2012. … With a win Pats’ Bill Belichick can pass Chuck Noll (209) for fifth most on all-time coaches’ list. Brady needs two TD passes to pass Fran Tarkenton (342) all-time.

Outlook: Too bad Rob Gronkowski-Jimmy Graham tight-end duel may not come off. Saints, 42-38.

Top attractions

Titans (3-2) at Seahawks (4-1)

Kickoff: 4:05 p.m.

The line: Seahawks (-13).

The scoop: Tennessee coordinator Gregg Williams has hands full dealing with Seattle offense. … Titans have a chance if Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn’t self-destruct. However, Seattle has won last five at home by 21, 58, 29, 26 and 28 points. Not a pretty picture.

Outlook: Like gritty Titans to keep it close against Seattle team coming off toughies against Texans and Colts. Seahawks, 21-13.

Packers (2-2) at Ravens (3-2)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Packers (-3).

The scoop: Each side is trying to get back to last season’s playoff groove. Packers are 9-0 last two seasons at home, but an ordinary 4-6 on the road. Ravens are 35-7 at home under John Harbaugh. Green Bay hasn’t played in Crabtown since 2005 (a 45-3 loss). … Packers will play without defensive ace Clay Matthews (thumb).

Outlook: Green Bay giving up 34-points a game on the road so far. Baltimore, 27-20.

Lions (3-2) at Browns (3-2)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Lions (-2½).

The scoop: Only old-timers remember when these teams were powerhouses. In the ’50s, Lions went 2-1 against Browns in NFL championship games. Detroit once led series between the teams, 12-2. … Browns are leading AFC in defense (301.8 YPG). Cleveland looking to win fourth in a row for first time since 2009. Lions trying to hold on to a share of lead in NFC North. … Antics of center Dominic Raiola with Wisconsin band at Green Bay adding to Lions’ rep as a bunch of bad actors.

Outlook: Browns defense looks capable of holding down Lions, especially if star receiver Calvin Johnson is hobbled. Cleveland 20-16.

Redskins (1-3) at Cowboys (2-3)

TV: Ch. 2, 8:30 p.m.

The line: Cowboys (-5).

The scoop: Redskins have won last two in one of great NFC rivalries, including 28-18 division title-clincher last Dec. 30. … Dallas leads NFC with 152 points. … Costly late-game INT against Denver in 51-48 loss adding to argument that QB Tony Romo can always be counted on to play just well enough to lose.

Outlook: Cowboys may be emotionally spent after falling to Denver. Shanahan and Redskins won’t be intimidated in House That Jerry Built. Washington, 33-28.

Best of the rest

Bengals (3-2) at Bills (2-3)

TV: Ch. 4, 1 p.m.

The line: Bengals (-6½).

The scoop: Remember the ’80s when the Bengals blocked the Bills’ path twice in the playoffs? After the ’88 loss to Cincy in the AFC championship game, Buffalo won next 10. Streak ended two years ago when Andy Dalton passed Bengals to 23-20 victory. … Practice squad graduate Thaddeus Lewis makes first start for Bills.

Outlook: Bills best hope for upset is if defense comes up big before home crowd. Bengals, 20-10.

Colts (4-1) at Chargers (2-3)

TV: ESPN, Monday, 8:40 p.m.

The line: Colts (-1½).

The scoop: Philip Rivers of Chargers among league leaders in passing yards, touchdown passes and rating. Andrew Luck of Colts just wins. If he holds up physically, Trent Richardson gives Indy complementary back it needs to go with Luck, Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton.

Outlook: Expecting Luck to go back to West Coast and play big. Indianapolis, 31-21.

Cardinals (3-2) at 49ers (3-2)

Kickoff: 4:25 p.m.

The line: 49ers (-10½).

The scoop: Niners have held Cardinals to single digits five times in winning seven of last eight in NFC West series. … Colin Kaepernick of 49ers not performing like the “next best thing,” completing only 56.1 with 81.9 passer rating.

Outlook: SF defense dominated Texans playing at home last week and figure to do the same with the Cards. San Francisco, 24-10.

Rams (2-3) at Texans (2-3)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Texans (-7½).

The scoop: Supposedly a Super Bowl contender, Houston has lost last three and dealing with ineffective play of QB Matt Schaub, who has thrown pick-six last four games. … Texans RB Arian Foster is second in AFC in rushing but team has scored only once on the ground. … Houston leads league in defense (260.2). Rams are a disappointing 23rd.

Outlook: Texas walking on egg shells but … Houston, 23-20.

Raiders (2-3) at Chiefs (5-0)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Chiefs (-8).

The scoop: Both Oakland wins at home but Raiders put up decent showing in road losses to Colts and Broncos. … Chiefs leading the league with plus-10 takeaways. Kansas City hasn’t started 6-0 since 2003 (9-0) under Dick Vermeil.

Outlook: KC pass rush tough when assisted by Arrowhead noise. Terrelle Pryor is nimble enough to scramble away but Oakland QB could get jitters. Chiefs, 30-20.

Steelers (0-5) at Jets (3-2)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Pick ’em.

The scoop: Geno Smith back on path to Canton after leading upset at Falcons on Monday night. Jets are 4-16 all-time versus Steelers, 1-2 with Rex Ryan at helm.

Outlook: Jets are 2-0 at home, but Steelers had extra week to get ready and New York is coming off Monday nighter. Jets, 21-20.

Eagles (2-3) at Buccaneers (0-4)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Eagles (-2½).

The scoop: No. 1 NFC offense, Eagles at 454.8, takes on NFC’s worst (274.8). … Nick Foles most likely to get start for Philly at QB against Bucs rookie Mike Glennon.

Outlook: Bucs had bye week to get more disorganized after l’affaire Freeman. Philadelphia, 28-24.

Jaguars (0-5) at Broncos (5-0)

Kickoff: 4:05 p.m.

The line: Broncos (-26½).

The scoop: Huge point spread on this one, close to all-time Las Vegas record. … Jaguars have some weapons, especially with return of WR Justin Blackmon, but no way can they keep up with Peyton Manning-led offense. … Broncos have won last 16 in regular season and their 230 points through five games is most in NFL history.

Outlook: On top of everything else, Manning is 10-1 in home games with Broncos. Denver, 42-17.

Dog of the day

Panthers (1-3) at Vikings (1-3)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Vikings (-2).

The scoop: Vikes now very deep at backup quarterback with Josh Freeman joining Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel. … Panthers are 0-3 on road and scored in single digit in two of the losses. Lone win was 38-0 over Giants.

Outlook: Not a very exciting matchup hinges on emotional status of Vikes’ RB Adrian Peterson. Vikings, 27-16.

Last week: 7-6 straight up; 8-5 versus spread.

Season’s record: 40-32 straight up; 31-37-4 versus spread.


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