GAME OF THE WEEK

Patriots (8-0) at Ravens (5-2), 8:20 p.m. Sunday (NBC)

Spread: Patriots by 31/2

Outlook: The 1972 Dolphins who stay up late will be watching Sunday night because this might be the biggest loss-threat left on the Patriots’ schedule. New England lives on short fields by forcing turnovers, but Baltimore minds the ball well. That means Tom Brady may need to work harder than usual for his points. And the Patriots’ insanely good pass defense has feasted on a lot of bad QBs and has not yet faced a threat like Lamar Jackson. Nothing but a bad game would surprise me here. I like the Patriots to find a way, but the Ravens getting that extra half-point on the spread.

Prediction: Patriots, 23-20

UPSET OF THE WEEK

Jets (1-6) at Dolphins (0-7),
1 p.m. Sunday

Spread: Jets by 3

Outlook: These teams are jockeying for the overall No. 1 draft pick, while the winless Bengals watch keenly on their bye week. Why the upset pick? 1) Sam Darnold (who sees ghosts, by the way) has seven interceptions in his last two games. Darnold bad is worse than Ryan Fitzpatrick bad. 2) Dolphins players and coaches are beyond-tired of the accusation they are intentionally trying to lose games. The franchise is tanking, but those in the locker room are not. That is an important distinction. It gives Miami the greater incentive here.

Prediction: Dolphins, 24-21

OTHER GAMES

Texans (5-3, -1) over Jaguars (4-4) in London, 24-20: It’s Breakfast at Wembley as the NFL’s infatuation with London plays on. Houston losing defensive end J.J. Watt is a big blow and helps make this a near pick-’em game, but I’ll ride with the resourcefulness of dual-threat Deshaun Watson.

At Bills (5-2, -91/2 over Washington (1-7), 19-6: With QB Case Keenum iffy (concussion) into Friday, the strong possibility of struggling rookie Dwayne Haskins is another reason to like Buffalo at home. A rebound effort by the Bills’ D will dominate.

Vikings (6-2, even) over At Chiefs (5-3), 30-27: Patrick Mahomes had not been ruled out as of Thursday but appeared doubtful to return from his kneecap injury, swinging this to a pick-’em contest. The Vikings have won four in a row and hope to have receiver Adam Thielen back. Also see a huge game from Dalvin Cook vs. a KC defense that has allowed more rushing yards than anyone but the winless Bengals and Dolphins.

At Eagles (4-4, -5) over Bears (3-4), 23-20: Chicago’s offense and kicking game are a shambles. Philly’s secondary is shaky, but can struggling Mitch Trubisky take advantage? The Eagles need more from Carson Wentz, but the Bears’ big D is a fair bet to keep this inside the Vegas number.

At Steelers (3-4, +1) over Colts (5-2), 21-17: Pittsburgh running back James Conner is iffy, but Jaylen Samuels should be back. The Steelers are 3-1 since an 0-3 start and have won nine of the last 10 at home vs. Indy. Make it a venue call in a near toss-up game.

At Panthers (4-3, -4) over Titans (4-4), 23-20: Look for Kyle Allen to bounce back a bit from last week’s nightmare vs. San Francisco, while Ryan Tannehill (2-0 since replacing Marcus Mariota) faces his toughest test yet. I’m hedging on points, though, expecting a field goal difference.

At Raiders (3-4, -2) over Lions (3-3-1), 30-27: Oakland is playing its first home game in 48 days. The Raiders’ erratic nature makes Detroit a tempting upset play, but Derek Carr should find some wide open spaces in the Lions’ depleted secondary.

At Seahawks (6-2, -6) over Buccaneers (2-5), 31-16: Seattle has unbeaten rival San Francisco on deck, so looking ahead might be a factor here. And the Seahawks are only 2-2 at their once impenetrable home. Still, Tampa is on a 4-18 skid on the road, and Jameis Winston produces more turnovers than most bakeries.

At Broncos (2-6, +3) over Browns (2-5), 19-17: Two disappointing teams wracked by internal turmoil make this a volatile matchup. Brandon Allen makes first career start for the injured Joe Flacco, but that could be a plus for Denver. Bottom line, give me the Broncos’ D at Mile High vs. a Cleveland squad that kills itself with penalties and giveaways.

Packers (7-1, -3) over At Chargers (3-5), 27-20: The Packers have won four in a row (and also four straight on the road), but Philip Rivers vs. a pliable pass defense should make for a fun matchup. One key: Each team’s top receiver, Davante Adams and Keenan Allen, could play or might not. The Chargers fired offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. They still won’t outscore Aaron Rodgers.

Cowboys (4-3, -7) over At Giants (2-6), 34-16: The Cowboys hit the Monday stage off a bye, after beating Philly and with Minnesota on deck. Might they take the reeling Giants lightly? Nah. The Cowboys should be up (enough) for a rival in prime time. Besides, Dallas lost to the Jets. Should they take anyone lightly? The Giants need a turnover-free game to stay in it, a very large ask.

Last week: 15-0 overall, 7-8 vs. spread

Overall: 81-39-1, 64-56-1

– Greg Cote, Miami Herald

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