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Baker Mayfield, Browns Hope to Hand Niners Their First Loss; Packers-Cowboys Could Have Playoff Implications

Baker Mayfield and Jimmy Garoppolo both have something to prove in Browns-Niners boogie down. The Patriots, Chiefs and Niners are the last of the NFL undefeateds, while the Bengals, Broncos, Cardinals, Jets, Redskins, and Dolphins are all seeking their first win.

The Falcons are in free fall, the foundation in Indianapolis is looking mighty shaky, Lizzo’s Truth Hurts may be the highlight of the year for the Vikings, and the Browns appear to be ascendant, so change the batteries in your remote and put the beer in the fridge, ‘cuz another Sunday of NFL Red Zone is fast upon us, with Sunday and Monday Night Football just around the corner. Here are some things to ponder as you watch the action.

Sunday at 1pm ET
Arizona Cardinals (0-3-1) vs Cincinnati Bengals (0-4)
The Cards’ Kyler Murray is on pace to be sacked 80 on the season, which would be an NFL record. Cincy last week allowed the Steelers’ backup QB Mason Rudolph to hit on 24 of 28 passes for 229 yards and two TDs.

Buffalo Bills vs Tennessee Titans: The Bills held Tom Brady to one of the worst days of his career last week, as he completed just 18 of 39 for 150 yards and an interception, but it wasn’t enough as they lost 16-10. The Titans’ Marcus Mariota had himself a day against Atlanta last week, hitting on 18 of 27 for 227 yards and three TD in a 24-10 win and the team has still only committed one turnover all season.

Chicago Bears (3-1) vs Oakland Raiders (2-2)
The Bears’ Khalil Mack leads the team with 4.5 sacks and has forced four fumbles. The Raiders’ Vontaze Burfict has deservedly been suspended for the remainder of the season for a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit on Colts’ tight end Jack Doyle.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-2) vs New Orleans Saints (3-1)
The Rams committed four turnovers last week against the Bucs, including a fumble on the final play of the game that was returned for a touchdown. Teddy Bridgewater is now 2-0 since taking over from Drew Brees as the Saints QB.

Minnesota Viking (2-2) vs New York Giants (2-2)
The Vikes’ offense does as little as possible to keep them competitive, last week managing just 222 yards with two turnovers, only scoring a meaningless TD in the fourth quarter of their loss to Chicago. The Giants are 2-0 since Daniel Jones took over at QB (thanks largely to the defense, but they’re without Saquon Barkley for a month or two and lead the league in turnovers.

New York Jets (0-3) vs Philadelphia Eagles: The Jets have the second-worst offense in the league, scoring just 11 points per game, and average the fewest yards per play, 3.4, and score on the smallest percentage of their drives, 5.6 percent. The Eagles will likely remain without the services of WR DeSean Jackson, who’s dealing with an abdominal strain.

Baltimore Ravens vs Pittsburgh Steelers: The Ravens’ offense leads the league in points per game (33.8), rushing yards (823), yards per carry (5.9), and total yards (1930). The Steelers gave up just 175 yards last week to the Bengals after giving up an average of 332 yards per game — this says more about the Bengals than it does about the Steelers.

New England Patriots (4-0) vs Washington Redskins (0-4): The Pats have given up just 27 points all season, while Washington gives up an average of 29.5 per game. The last time Tom Brady lost to Washington, Eli Manning, Larry Fitzgerald and Ben Roethlisberger were still in college.

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2) vs Carolina Panthers (2-2): The Jags’ rookie QB Gardner Minshew II has completed 69.4 percent of his passes and has 7 TDs and one interception since taking over for the injured Nick Foles. Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey leads the league in carries (86), rushing yards (411), and yards from scrimmage (629).

Atlanta Falcons (1-3) vs Houston Texans (2-2)
Matt Ryan passed for 397 yards last week, but got sacked five times by the Titans and never found the end zone in a 24-10 drubbing. The Texans have so far allowed the second most pass completions. In last week’s 16-10 loss to the Panthers, DeShaun Watson was sacked six times while hitting on 21 of 33 for just 160 yards.

Sunday at 4pm ET
Denver Broncos (0-4) vs Los Angeles Chargers (2-2): Denver’s defense took a big hit last week when Bradley Chubb tore his ACL early in the fourth quarter against the Jags — he was leading the team in solo tackles and was fourth in the league in tackles for a loss with five. The Bolts beat the Dolphins by 20 last week, the Fish’s other foes have won by an average of 39. Philip Rivers is on pace for a career-high 5,016 yards.

Green Bay Packers (3-1) vs Dallas Cowboys (3-1)
The Pack lost 34-27 to the Eagles, despite Aaron Rodgers passing for 422 yards, but he also had a fumble on his own 29 that was converted to a TD four plays later. Then Rodgers’ last pass of the game was picked off on the end line with 28 seconds on the clock. After scoring 30+ in each of their first three games, the Cowboys fell 12-10 to Saints, despite New Orleans not being able to get to the end zone. Dak Prescott was mediocre — 22-for-33 223 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT — Ezekiel Elliot was awful, with just 35 yards on 18 carries and a fumble that was turned into a field goal. It’s easy to imagine a scenario where the outcome of this game is used as a tie-breaker come the playoffs.

Sunday, October 6, at 8:20pm ET on NBC in Select Markets
Indianapolis Colts (2-2) vs Kansas City Chiefs (4-0)
Jacoby Brissett has acquitted himself rather well in Andrew Luck’s absence, with a completion rate of 65.2 percent and a league-leading 10 touchdowns. Marlon Mack left his team’s 31-24 loss to Oakland last week with a bum ankle, hopefully he’ll be back in the saddle by Sunday night. The Chiefs needed a last-minute touchdown to secure a 34-30 victory over the upstart Lions, as Patrick Mahomes endured the third-worst game of his career, according to his passer rating of 81. What’s incredible is that his third-worst day saw him pass for 315 yards with no picks and he is now first in the league in yards, touchdowns, rating, yards per attempt and completion, interception percentage, and sack percentage. He may have a future in this game. WR Tyreek Hill will likely miss this week’s game with a dislocated collar bone.

Monday, October 7, at 8:15pm ET on ESPN
Cleveland Browns (2-2) vs San Francisco 49ers (3-0)
The Browns are back, baby! Cleveland defeated the Ravens 40-25 last week as Baker Mayfield connect on 20 of 30 for 342 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Nick Chubb had 20 carries for 165 yards and three touchdowns. They are now the very essence of a .500 team, having score 89 and allowed 91. Whether last week’s Browns were the “real” Browns remains to be seen. The Niners are the NFC’s last undefeated team and have an average margin of victory of 14 points, also tops in the NFC. Jimmy Garoppolo has been solid with a 69 percent completion rate, but the five TDs to four INTs ratio is, shall we say, suboptimal. Raheem Mostert and Matt Breida have been great as a two-pronged attack out of the backfield, combining for 428 yards on 75 carries.

All stats courtesy Pro-Football-Reference.com