1 p.m. ET (FOX) | Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Atlanta)
It’s remarkable that the NFL’s second-most efficient passing attack is primarily built on D.K. Metcalf‘s three routes and improvisations between Russell Wilson and Tyler Lockett. It’s even more remarkable that it should be plenty against a Falcons pass defense that sinks lower and plays softer by the week. This Falcons roster isn’t that different or that much worse on paper than the one that made the Super Bowl, but the book is out on how to beat them, and coach Dan Quinn is out of counter moves. I’m not even sure these Seahawks are that good — they’ve won once decisively, lost twice decisively and prevailed in four nail-biters. This isn’t the week we’re going to find out how good they are, however, whether Matt Ryan plays or not.
1 p.m. ET (CBS) | Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis)
The Colts have yet to win or lose a game by more than one score, with this week marking a prime opportunity for their first comfortable win. The Broncos‘ white flag trade of Emmanuel Sanders to the 49ers indicates that John Elway is already looking to 2020 despite playing a quarterback whose supporters mostly look to 2012. That doesn’t mean they’ll get blown out. The Colts‘ defense played with more cohesion a week ago with Justin Houston, Jabaal Sheard, Denico Autry and Darius Leonard finally all playing together on a sound front seven. Still, this isn’t a playmaking group, and the weekly growth in Jacoby Brissett‘s game doesn’t mean the Colts will score 30 most games. Look for a lot of long, slow drives by both teams and a close Colts win, same as it ever was.
1 p.m. ET (FOX) | Nissan Stadium (Nashville, Tenn.)
Ryan Tannehill played the best game by a Titans quarterback all season in his first start of the year. He actually attempted tight-window throws against the Chargers, allowing Tennessee’s underrated wideouts (hello, A.J. Brown!) to make the plays they are capable of. That’s especially relevant this week against a Bucs defense that stuffs the run, but is among the league’s worst at defending mid-range passes. Titansdefensive coordinator Dean Pees and his veteran secondary, on the other hand, are experts at confusing the league’s lesser, mistake-prone quarterbacks. Who knew that the final answer to the Marcus Mariota-Jameis Winston debate would turn out to be Ryan Tannehill?
1 p.m. ET (CBS) | Mercedes-Benz Superdome (New Orleans)
The plan is for Drew Brees to return on Sunday. Whether the Saints could win the game without him is irrelevant: Drew Brees plays if he’s ready, no matter how many Twitter hot-take lemmings with zero medical information think the team should save him until after the bye week. Teddy Bridgewater left on a high note, but it seems unfair for Brees to miss out any longer on the support of the best Saints defense and offensive tackle tandem of his career. When Marshon Lattimore shuts down Larry Fitzgerald on Sunday, whom will Kyler Murray have left to throw to? UPDATE: Drew Brees will start on Sunday.
1 p.m. ET (CBS) | Wembley Stadium (London)
Let’s hope that the Rams’ win in Atlanta allows Sean McVay to build on what his team does well. That is playing with tempo and throwing the ball with abandon to three excellent wide receivers. That is nothanding it off to Todd Gurley, who doesn’t even try to make defenders miss in the secondary when he has a chance for a big play. I want to see more of rookie runner Darrell Henderson and I suspect Ramscoaches agree. The good thing this week is everything should work for Los Angeles vs. Bengals coach Zac Taylor in his Rams reunion. While Cincy’s had awful injury luck, Taylor is reaching depths on both sides of the ball that Marvin Lewis never saw in his 16 seasons at the helm.
1 p.m. ET (FOX) | New Era Field (Orchard Park, N.Y.)
The Eagles‘ three-game road swing is shaping up as a season-crushing disaster if they can’t win in Buffalo. If they can’t stop the run and play mediocre up front on offense, what is their identity? Philadelphia keeps cutting players a day after starting them (Zach Brown, Orlando Scandrick) and benching once-promising options like Sidney Jones. These are signs of a team in tumult. Facing Josh Allen should help the Eagles‘ sagging secondary, although the Bills have done a credible job staying aggressive with the pass despite Allen’s uneven play. Allen’s running ability also helps the Bills stay second in red-zone touchdown percentage. This is a coin-flip game, but I’m taking Philly because a team that trails in the fourth quarter at home to both the Bengals and Dolphins is overdue to get picked off.
1 p.m. ET (FOX) | Soldier Field (Chicago)
Nearly everything Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley has tried this season hasn’t worked. The same is true for Bears offensive guru Matt Nagy, who is still looking for his first 300-yard game. Something has to give in a matchup of teams that are hoping they’ve already hit bottom but won’t know until Sunday. At least the Chargers finally have some good injury news. Left tackle Russell Okung will return against a Bears defense that hasn’t looked the same without Akiem Hicks. Pass rusher Melvin Ingram returned to practice and could help Joey Bosa, who is coming off his best game in an impressive season. With Hunter Henry balling out each week, the Chargers are inching closer to resembling the team they arrived in camp with. I don’t trust Chicago whatsoever as a heavy home favorite because the offensive problems go far beyond injuries.
1 p.m. ET (FOX) | Ford Field (Detroit)
The promise of the unknown often exceeds reality. Daniel Jones‘ numbers (6 touchdowns, 7 picks, 5 fumbles lost, 18 sacks taken) look Eli-esque after five starts, with his glorious debut getting further in the rearview mirror. The Giants‘ offense is averaging 12 points per game since that Bucs win, with Jones’ worst performance coming last week after finally getting Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram on the field together. The Lions‘ season also looked a lot more fun before losing running back Kerryon Johnson to injured reserve and allowing at least 430 yards for three straight bend-but-also-break games. That leaves me with the one known positive in this game as the decisive outcome: Matthew Stafford throwing glorious deep passes to his Inspector Gadget-like wideouts.
1 p.m. ET (CBS) | TIAA Bank Field (Jacksonville, Fla.)
The Jaguars‘ defense has fallen off, especially without Jalen Ramsey. But defensive coordinator Todd Wash and his front-line trio of Calais Campbell, Josh Allen and Yannick Ngakoue are not the ideal opponents for a Jets offense struggling to protect. Offensive line play starts with coaching, and is boosted by quarterbacks who recognize where pressure is coming from and get rid of the ball. It’s safe to say that’s not the strength of Sam Darnold or Adam Gase’s staff right now, and the Jaguars defense should set up Gardner Minshew with some short fields. If they get to 4-4, the Jaguars‘ looming quarterback decision will get a little tougher.
4:05 p.m. ET (FOX) | Levi’s Stadium (Santa Clara, Calif.)
I’m not picking against the 49ers until this potentially historic defensive line faces a quality front or a veteran quarterback able to mitigate their awesome power. Panthers coordinator Norv Turner is nothing if not resourceful, but he isn’t working with either. Carolina’s offensive line hasn’t communicated or protected well all season, a problem exacerbated by playing a green quarterback like Kyle Allen. In a battle of creatively schemed running games, it’s been wise to give the edge to the team coached by a Shanahan for roughly the last 35 years.
4:25 p.m. ET (CBS) | NRG Stadium (Houston)
The Raiders are eighth in offensive efficiency despite using Trevor Davis, Keelan Doss and Hunter Renfrow as their top three receivers with Tyrell Williams still out. That’s a testament to Josh Jacobs, Jon Gruden’s play-calling and an offensive line that could be the league’s best when Trent Brown returns. Facing the Texans‘ defense is no longer a tough matchup. J.J. Watt remains elite, but Whitney Mercilusis fading while being asked to play nearly every snap. The already-shaky Houston secondary will now feature Raiders cornerback Gareon Conley, last seen getting toasted in Green Bay last weekend before one of the most disrespectful trades ever. (“Here’s our player: Use him against us Sunday, please.”) I can’t pick a Raiders upset when Deshaun Watson is playing the best ball of his career, but I can pick a closer, higher-scoring shootout than the consensus expects.
4:25 p.m. ET (CBS) | Gillette Stadium (Foxborough, Mass.)
The Baker Mayfield-Odell Beckham Jr. connection has underwhelmed through six games. OBJ is averaging 8.1 yards per target, significantly less than that of Jarvis Landry or even Ricky Seals-Jones. That’s a result of poor timing from the duo, poor throws from Mayfield and a surprising amount of catchable passes Beckham hasn’t come down with. I’m fascinated to see how Freddie Kitchens and Mayfield will attempt to fix the issue in Foxborough, especially with Beckham likely to draw Stephon Gilmore plenty. New England’s heavy press-man-coverage approach should be susceptible to big plays, but the Pats haven’t faced an offense explosive enough to take advantage of their aggression. This Browns offense is fully capable of spiking for one week and resetting expectations after a shaky start, but I don’t trust their coaches, players or defense to handle all the situational-football pressure Bill Belichick and Tom Brady apply in a surprising thriller.
8:20 p.m. ET (NBC) | Arrowhead Stadium (Kansas City, Mo.)
This prediction hinges on Patrick Mahomes‘ availability. Green Bay’s continued offensive ascent in this new era of Peak Aaron Rodgers does not. I don’t believe the Chiefs defense is fixed because of one great night in Denver, although the return to practice of defensive tackle Chris Jones this week is promising. Blitzing Rodgers every snap like the Chiefs did to Joe Flacco last week won’t work, but Andy Reid relying on his three-headed rushing attack against a Packers defense that is increasingly porous on the ground could give Matt Moore a fighting chance. To put it another way: The NFL should allow games to be flexed into future weeks just to avoid missing the only Mahomes-Rodgers matchup on schedule until 2023.
MONDAY, OCT. 28
8:15 p.m. ET (ESPN) | Heinz Field (Pittsburgh)
If the Steelers don’t allow Mason Rudolph to throw the ball past the line of scrimmage against one of the worst defenses of the last 30 years, it may never happen. Then again, it may not be necessary. James Conner finally looked like his 2018 self in Pittsburgh’s win before the bye and T.J. Watt‘s All-Pro play should cover up Stephon Tuitt‘s season-ending injury for now. Steelers fans — and beat writers — are surprisingly optimistic about this team’s playoff chances, a sanguine narrative that should survive another week.