Rams vs Bears

Rams vs Bears : Two NFC divisional leaders meet up on “Sunday Night Football” as the Chicago Bears host the Los Angeles Rams at 8:20 p.m. ET. At 11-1, the Rams own the NFL’s best record, while the 8-4 Bears lead the Minnesota Vikings by a game-and-a-half in the NFC North.

Rams vs Bears Live

Los Angeles is a three-point road favorite and the Over-Under is at 51 in the latest Bears vs. Rams odds, down from an open of 54. Before you make any Bears vs. Rams picks and predictions for Sunday Night Football, check out what the SportsLine Projection Model has to say.

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The advanced computer model simulates every game 10,000 times, and those who have followed it have seen massive returns. SportsLine’s proprietary computer model went 176-80 last season and beat over 95 percent of CBS Office Pool players in 2016 and ’17. It also performed better than 98 percent of experts tracked by NFLPickWatch.com during that span. Additionally, it went 48-34 on A-rated picks against the spread last season, and $100 bettors who followed it the past two seasons are up nearly $4,000.

The model has continued to nail its top-rated picks in 2018, entering Week 14 on a blistering 14-3 run. For the season, it is 28-12 on all top-rated picks, extending its two-year run to a strong 76-46. And when it comes to all straight-up picks, the model finished Week 13 at 129-61 on the season, ranking in the top two on NFLPickWatch.com.

Now the model has dialed in on Rams vs. Bears (). We can tell you it’s leaning Over, but it’s also generated a strong point-spread pick that’s hitting well over 50 percent of the time. You can only see that one at SportsLine.

The model has factored in that the Rams’ offense is full of weapons, starting with running back Todd Gurley. The MVP candidate is averaging over 137 yards from scrimmage and is tops in the league in rushing yards. Not only is he averaging 5 yards per carry, he’s also netting more than 10 yards per reception. It’s next-to-impossible to tackle him one-on-one in the open field and he has racked up a league-high 19 touchdowns.

Los Angeles also boasts a solid defense capable of maintaining quarterback pressure without having to blitz. Anchoring the Rams’ 3-4 front seven is defensive end Aaron Donald, who leads the league in sacks with 16.5. Outside linebacker Dante Fowler, acquired in a midseason trade, has paid immediate dividends as an edge rusher capable of harassing quarterbacks.

But just because the Rams are stacked on offense and defense doesn’t mean they’ll cover the “Sunday Night” Football spread.

After missing the previous two games with a shoulder sprain, Chicago quarterback Mitchell Trubisky will return on “Sunday Night Football.” He’s thrown for multiple scores in four of his last six starts and topped 300 yards passing three times over that span. He’s also electric with his legs, rushing for 43 yards on 10 carries against the Vikings last time out.

While Chicago’s defense is among the NFL’s best, yielding just 20 points per game, the explosive offense has been the biggest surprise of these 2018 Bears. Tarik Cohen is one of the most potent receiving running backs coming out of the backfield. Last week against the Giants, he hauled in 12 balls for 156 yards and added another 30 yards on the ground.

Who wins Rams vs. Bears? And which side covers in well over 50 percent of simulations? .

Steelers vs Raiders

Steelers vs Raiders : For the third straight week the Raiders (2-10) are double-digit underdogs, this time as the AFC North-best Steelers (7-4-1) venture west for a 1:25 p.m. PST kickoff on Sunday at the Oakland Coliseum.

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Ben Roethlisberger has never won in Oakland in three tries, but he also went 8-1 against Paul Guenther when the Raiders’ defensive coordinator called plays for the Bengals’defense from 2014-17.

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The Raiders currently sit tied for the worst record in the NFL along with their Bay Area partners, but the 49ers own the tiebreaker with a weaker strength of schedule.

As the Steelers play for the playoffs and the Raiders play for pride, let’s have a look at three things to keep an eye on when the two old rivals meet.

When the Raiders signed Anderson early this week, they did so not knowing whether Doug Martin (knee) would play on Sunday after the current starting running back suffered an injury against the Chiefs.

“He’s going to tell you he’s playing no matter what,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said of Martin on Friday. “But he’s got to check out with the trainers and certainly has to come in here Saturday and make sure that we’re all doing the right thing. We have C.J. Anderson. We’re giving him a crash course on our protections and our system. If need be, we’ll have him up. But we’re hoping Doug is ready.”

Anderson played nine games for the Panthers this season before they waived him, tallying 101 yards on 24 carries and catching one pass for a 24-yard touchdown. The Bay Area native, 2015 Pro Bowler and Super Bowl 50 champion is only 27 years old and ran for over 1,000 yards just last season.

The Raiders didn’t cut a running back to make room for Anderson, so Martin, Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington remain as the Raiders’ backfield stands four strong. How they split carries with Anderson, if at all, remains to be seen. But don’t be surprised if he gets his fair share as the Raiders evaluate potential pieces for the future in these relatively meaningless final four games.

“Pretty good,” Gruden said when asked how Anderson looked this week. “He’s a pro’s pro, he really is. A quick learner.”

The Steelers rank eighth in the NFL with only 100.4 rushing yards allowed per game, so the Raiders will need all the backfield help they can get.

In his last five games prior to facing the Chiefs, Nelson combined for five catches, 36 yards and no touchdowns, including no-catch outings against the Chargers in Week 10 and Ravens in Week 12 (he missed Week 11 due to injury). An unsubstantiated report even surfaced following the Raiders’ 20-6 loss to the Chargers claiming Nelson was retiring, and though untrue it almost looked valid if you watched the last couple games.

Then suddenly the 33-year-old wide receiver tapped into his reserve tank and led the Raiders with 10 catches last Sunday, his most since a 12-catch day on Nov. 13, 2016 for the Packers against the Titans. Nelson added 97 yards and a couple acrobatic catches, proving he might not be done wreaking havoc on opposing secondaries just yet.

Perhaps all it took was returning to full health after being hampered by a knee injury.

“I think a big part of it, yeah, that he is healthy,” Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson said Thursday. “I think practicing in the indoor, getting off his feet a little bit because we weren’t able to run full-speed practices. We got a lot above the neck work done and a lot of reps done without the full-speed running. I think he’s healthier and he has his legs back.”

The Raiders’ receiving corps can’t afford to take any more hits – No. 2 wideout Seth Roberts is questionable for Sunday while in the concussion protocol – and keeping Nelson at full health for the rest of the season would be a small victory in a lost year.

All eyes will be on Antonio Brown on Sunday, and understandably so, but the Steelers’ No. 2 receiving threat is equally capable of dismantling the Raiders.

Second-year USC product JuJu Smith-Schuster has 83 catches, 1,104 yards and four touchdowns this season, including a 97-yard touchdown catch two weeks ago in which he outran the entire Broncos defense and stiff-armed two defenders at once en route to paydirt.

Smith-Schuster ranks eighth in the league in receiving yards, and actually has more than Brown, who still leads the NFL with 12 touchdown catches. Whether it be their No. 1 or No. 2, the Steelers will give the Raiders’ secondary fits on Sunday.

“He’s a good player. He’s a physical guy. He’s obviously smart. He’s taken advantage of some of the coverage that Antonio is getting,” Gruden said of Smith-Schuster. “He’s a natural football player. He’s an excellent blocker. He’s outstanding after the catch. He’s, I think, coming into his own as a legitimate go-to guy. They’ve got two of them in Pittsburgh and that’s a problem for us.”

Eagles vs Cowboys

Eagles vs Cowboys : The Dallas Cowboys host the Philadelphia Eagles in a crucial NFC East showdown on Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET. Dallas is 7-5 and has won four in a row, while Philly is 6-6 with two-consecutive victories of its own. Dallas is a field goal favorite in the latest Cowboys vs. Eagles odds, with the over-under for total points scored at 44.5, up from an open of 43. Dallas started its win streak with a 27-20 victory at Philly, so before you make any Cowboys vs. Eagles picks and predictions, you’ll want to see what SportsLine’s Emory Hunt has to say.

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Hunt is the founder and CEO of Football Gameplan, which has been supplying analysis of all levels of football since 2007. The former running back joined SportsLine in 2016 and has provided his followers with winning seasons in college and pro football. He is having another impressive season with his point-spread picks for SportsLine members, and lately has been especially zeroed in on against the spread picks involving the Cowboys.

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Hunt is riding a four-game win streak picking Dallas games, including calling the Cowboys’ surprising upset over the Saints last week. Anyone who followed his advice booked an easy winner.

Now, he has turned his attention to Cowboys vs. Eagles (). Hunt has scoured every aspect of this matchup and released a confident point-spread selection. It’s only available at SportsLine.

Hunt knows the Eagles are beginning to look more like the defending champions that they are. Philly has won two straight and is just a game behind Dallas for first place in the NFC East. The Eagles lost to the Cowboys four weeks ago, but Dallas had no answer for tight end Zach Ertz, who caught 14 passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Carson Wentz passed for 360 yards.

This time around, the Eagles are establishing a running game behind Josh Adams. The rookie out of Notre Dame has received the bulk of carries the last two games, and the Eagles have controlled the clock and won each contest. Adams has 42 carries for 169 yards in wins over the Giants and Redskins.

Just because the Eagles are on the upswing doesn’t mean they can cover against the division-rival Cowboys.

Ezekiel Elliott ran through the Eagles’ defense four weeks ago, gaining 187 yards from scrimmage on 25 touches and hit pay dirt twice. As much as quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receiver Amari Cooper have grabbed the headlines, it’s Elliott who is still the key to the Cowboys’ offense. During the four-game streak, Elliott has 470 yards rushing on a 5.2 average and has scored a total of five times.

The Cowboys’ defense ranks fourth against the run and sixth against the pass, and that complete unit had its moment against the Saints, holding the prolific Drew Brees and Co. to just 10 points.

We can tell you Hunt is leaning under, but he has unearthed a crucial X-factor that causes one side of the spread to hit hard. He’s only sharing what it is, and who to back, at SportsLine.

Who covers in Eagles vs. Cowboys? And what crucial X-factor makes one side of the spread a must-back? .

Broncos vs 49ers

Broncos vs 49ers live: Watch 2018 NFL Week 14 game online originally appeared on nbcsportsbayarea.com .The 49ers can play spoiler on Sunday. .

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Their opponents, the Denver Broncos, are one game back of the AFC’s final playoff spot. Denver entered Week 14 riding a three-game winning streak, with wins over two teams in playoff position (Los Angeles Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers). The Broncos desperately need a win to stay alive in the playoff race, while the 49ers are looking for their first win since Nov. 1.

There’s plenty of familiarity between the squads, too. 49ers tight end George Kittle will square off against a University of Iowa teammate, rookie linebacker Josey Jewell. Kyle Shanahan, meanwhile, will head coach against the Broncos, the team his father coached to two Super Bowls, for the first time.

Here’s how to watch Sunday’s 49ers-Broncos NFL game online.

Start time: Sunday, Dec. 9, at 1:05 p.m. PT
TV channel: CBS
49ers live stream: fuboTV — Get a free trial

The Denver Broncos (6-6) are considered four-point favorites on the road against the San Francisco 49ers (2-10) in Week 14, according to . The total over/under for points scored is 45.5.

That means oddsmakers are taking bets on whether the two teams will combine to score more than or fewer than 45.5 points.

Denver’s last four games have featured combined point totals of 34, 41, 45 and 36 points. If that trend continues, the Broncos and San Francisco will come in under 45.5 points on Sunday afternoon.

As for game picks, most experts are going with the road team.

Six of the eight CBS experts and all seven of SB Nation’s experts . All three of Bleacher Report’s experts as well. Sporting News predicted a 30-17 .

Sunday’s contest will begin at 2:05 p.m. MT on CBS ( ). In-market fans can stream the game online using fuboTV ( ).

Bengals vs Chargers

Bengals vs Chargers : The Los Angeles Chargers are making some decent scratch as of late, going 6-2 against the spread over their last eight games. The Cincinnati Bengals, on the other hand, are proving costly to their financial backers, going 1-6 ATS over their last seven games. Maybe that’s why Los Angeles is favored by so many points for Sunday afternoon’s battle with the Bengals.

Bengals vs Chargers Live

NFL point spread: The Chargers opened as 14.5-point favorites; the total was 54 early in the week, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark. (Line updates and matchup report)

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NFL betting pick, via OddsShark computer: 43.9-5.2 Chargers (NFL picks on every game)

Check out the OddsShark podcast on iTunes or Spotify or at OddsShark.libsyn.com for more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news.

Cincinnati is a tough case to make at the moment, after losing for the fourth time in a row last week, 24-10, to Denver. The Bengals played the Broncos to a scoreless tie late into the second quarter, only trailed 7-3 at the half but gave up the first touchdown out of the locker room and could get no closer.

On the afternoon, Cincinnati actually held a 20-16 edge in first downs and a 31-29 edge in time of possession. But the Bengals lost the turnover battle 3-1, resulting in a minus-13 point difference.

Quarterback Jeff Driskel was serviceable in his first NFL start in place of the injured Andy Dalton, hitting on 25 of 38 throws for 236 yards and a touchdown. But he also threw one pick and lost a fumble at a time when Cincinnati still had a chance to rally. Perhaps another week of practice will help.

At 5-7 overall, the Bengals trail Baltimore by two games in the fight for the second AFC wild-card spot.

The Chargers are 2-0 both SU and ATS the last two weeks, after coming from behind to beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh last week 33-30. Los Angeles fell down to the Steelers 13-0 early and trailed 23-7 at the half. But the Chargers scored the first 23 points out of the locker room to take a lead and eventually won it on a Michael Badgley field goal with no time left on the clock.

On the night, Los Angeles out-gained Pittsburgh 371-336, while the special teams unit chipped in with a 73-yard punt return for a score.

The Chargers have now out-gained eight of their last nine opponents and out-rushed six of their last nine foes. Los Angeles is also 2-0 ATS the last two times it’s been lined as a double-digit favorite.

At 9-3 overall, the Chargers, second on the NFL gambling odds to win the AFC West, only trail Kansas City by one game in both the division and the battle for the best record in the AFC.

These teams are headed in opposite directions this season. Also, Los Angeles already owns five wins this year by double digits, while Cincinnati has lost five games by double digits. Smart money here gives the points with the Chargers.

The total has gone under in the Bengals’ last four games vs the Chargers.

The total has gone under in eight of the Chargers’ last nine games in December.

The Bengals are 3-8 ATS in their last 11 games on the road vs teams with winning records.

All NFL odds and betting trends according to Bleacher Report’s official odds partner, OddsShark. Check out OddsShark on Twitter and Instagram or head to YouTube for more betting picks and analysis on this week’s top games. You can also download the free odds tracker app.

Redskins vs Giants

Redskins vs Giants : Coming off of a deflating loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night – one that most likely knocked the Redskins out of the playoffs – Washington will do their best to bounce back against the New York Giants on Sunday.

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With Mark Sanchez under center after on Monday, it’s safe to say that the Redskins have a tough task ahead of them. The Giants are 4-8 and while they sit in last place in the NFC East, they have won three of their last five games.

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With injuries piling up, and playoff hopes all but gone, the Redskins are playing for little more than pride on Sunday. Here is how you can watch.

If the are going to beat the on Sunday, they’re going to have to do it without .

In a surprising development, the on Saturday that Beckham has been ruled out for this week’s game. Beckham is dealing with a bruised quad, which will keep him from taking the field in Washington. You can stream the game live on fuboTV ().

Giants coach Pat Shurmur revealed on Friday that Beckham in Week 12. However, the quad didn’t give him any issues last week, which is why he was able to play during New York’s 30-27 upset win over the , a game where he caught at touchdown pass and threw a touchdown pass.

Beckham obviously aggravated the injury at some point this week, but it’s not clear when exactly that happened. The Giants receiver was a full participant in practice on both Wednesday and Thursday, before being downgraded to a limited participant on Friday.

After Beckham didn’t make it through Friday’s session, Giants coach Pat Shurmur insisted that the team’s top wide receiver would still be fine for Sunday’s game.

“He’s playing. He’s got a quad bruise. It’s been lingering,” Shurmur said Friday, via quotes distributed by the team. “Remember the last play of the game against Philly, where he got leg whipped?”

The fact that Beckham is sitting out this week is almost ironic and that’s because he just released a video talking about how much money he spends each year to keep his body healthy.

“I take care of my body each and every day. I put, probably, over $300,000 ,” Beckham said, via ESPN.com. “It’s a lot to upkeep. I don’t ever want to decline.”

The loss of Beckham is a big blow for the Giants and that’s mainly because he went off during the team’s first meeting with the Redskins. Back in Week 8, Beckham caught eight passes for 136 yards in a 20-13 loss. Overall, Beckham has 1,052 receiving yards on the season, which ranks 10th in the

Falcons vs Packers

Falcons vs Packers : Between 2016 and 2017, the Falcons and Packers faced each other three times. All three games were either nationally televised or had major implications. The Falcons managed to come out on top in each game, which includes their monumental win in the NFC Championship giving the Georgia Dome a proper send off. Matt Ryan was terrific in each game,

Falcons vs Packers Live

throwing all over Green Bay’s secondary each time out. There were also multiple impressive defensive showings that validated the notion of Dan Quinn knowing how to limit Aaron Rodgers.

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That’s about the only positive for the embattled head coach at the moment. Although there aren’t any indications he should be concerned about his job security, Quinn is enduring his most difficult stretch as a head coach. A four-game losing streak, where the team’s overall effort has been questioned, leaves the entire organization in a state of shock. How can a team known for their unity and spirit look so disinterested?

Despite being out of the playoff race, you’d expect a team to play with more intensity after getting embarrassed by their biggest rival on Thanksgiving. Instead, Quinn’s team looked lifeless against Baltimore. A strong response is needed heading into Green Bay. With Mike McCarthy finally gone, it’s fair to assume the Packers will likely play more inspired football.

It feels bizarre to analyze a game featuring two premier quarterbacks without any real implications. It’s even more peculiar how a battle-tested and strong-minded team has become apathetic. For all their injuries, the Falcons still have numerous active players from their successful 2016 and 2017 teams. Those players experienced all the highs and lows of playing on a great team. They played in five playoff games, including the infamous Super Bowl debacle. Instead of being haunted by their horrifying collapse on the grandest stage, they bounced back and returned to the playoffs. Winning a playoff game in Los Angeles and holding their own in a defensive slugfest against the eventual Super Bowl champions showed more than how much talent is on their roster. It revealed how much fortitude is within the entire team.

To see a team respond from numerous setbacks in 2017 and end up nearly making it back to the Super Bowl in a ridiculously-talented conference was impressive. Their success showed anything is possible under Quinn’s stewardship. Unfortunately for the Falcons, the endless possibilities have turned into the worst possible nightmare. Three of their last four losses have been one-sided. Although they technically remained competitive against Baltimore, nothing about their performance suggested they could win in the second half. Another dreadful all-around showing led to Quinn being questioned about his team’s desire once again. This was a franchise starting to become accustomed to competing for a Super Bowl. It’s now under scrutiny for not playing hard enough. This is something Quinn must address as someone who is known for commanding respect in the locker room.

This is one of the rare times where X’s and O’s aren’t the most important element in previewing a game. The Falcons simply need to show they’re capable of playing with intensity. That means not allowing the opposing team to impose their will by having possession for over 39 minutes. Handling blocking assignments and making open-field tackles are other necessities in playing like a professional team. Not committing four to five unforced careless penalties would be another step in the right direction. These are all simple tasks that should be fulfilled. It’s been some time since they’ve accomplished them. That’s how badly the Falcons have played over the last month. Thankfully for their sake, they have four games left to prove they’re not a fragmented team.

The Falcons haven’t scored more than 19 points in their last four games. After averaging nearly 28 points per game during the first half of the season, they have seen their point total drop to 24.7 points per game. There are many reasons behind their major decline in production. Playing two top-ten defenses in Dallas and Baltimore will limit your chances of producing explosive plays. Fumbling the ball three times in the red zone against New Orleans, who knows how to play at their pace offensively, will leave you befuddled. While each game had their own twists, there was one recurrent issue. Ryan took significant punishment in all three games.

Watching the franchise quarterback succumb to constant pressure brings back murky memories of 2013-2014. No quarterback has been hit more this season, as Ryan has been knocked down 81 times. He has also been sacked 36 times, so it’s not surprising to see Quinn openly talk about his concern. The offensive line’s demise is well-documented by now. With only Jake Matthews playing above expectations, the Falcons are struggling to protect Ryan. Deciding to replace Ben Garland with Zane Beadles only amplified their problems. It’s hard to see how things change for the better up front. What must change is how they schematically prepare for opposing defenses.

As Baltimore continued to relentlessly blitz, Ryan was left in hopeless situations. Steve Sarkisian decided to continue using five wide sets in an effort to create mismatches on the outside. It’s extremely difficult to exploit potential mismatches on the outside when you’re being outnumbered in the trenches, however.

There weren’t many instances where a running back or tight end chipped an edge rusher or picked up a blitzing defender. When a running back was used to pass protect, they opted for Ito Smith instead of Tevin Coleman, who blew several blitz pickups. The offensive line is clearly overmatched, but they shouldn’t be held solely responsible for the staggering amount of hits and sacks being allowed. They’ll need extra support against a Green Bay defense, which is ranked sixth in pressure percentage per ESPN’s NFL Matchup. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine won’t hesitate to dial up some exotic blitzes.

The sight of seeing a great player make his long-awaited return is one of the best feelings in sports. No matter what the circumstances are surrounding the team, everyone gets the luxury to watch an exceptional defender get back to doing what he does best. Seeing Jones accelerate across the field and cover acres of space unlike any other linebacker is a joy to watch. Although the Falcons’ defensive center piece was out of position on a few plays last week, he made his presence felt in nullifying potential big runs. Without his intelligence and speed, Baltimore would have turned five-yard gains into ten yards or more.

This season certified Jones’ status as an irreplaceable player. There wasn’t any doubt about his all-around ability. It was more of a question about how much will the defense regress without their outstanding three-down linebacker (and leader). Close home losses to Cincinnati and New Orleans quickly showed how damaging the loss of Jones was. According to Pro Football Focus, the Falcons have allowed six yards per play with Jones on the field since he entered the league in 2016. The yardage total increases to 7.3 yards per play without him. To go from ranking seventh with their star linebacker to last in the league without him signifies his importance.

It’ll be fascinating to see how much the defense can improve with four games remaining. Jones was integral in giving Rodgers fits during their last two meetings. His range will make Rodgers think twice about making certain decisions. That’s about the only thing to be expected going into an unpredictable game like this. Nobody can predict how much interim coach Joe Philbin will change the offense. On a team lacking talent, they may opt for a more conservative approach by getting the ball quickly out of Rodgers’ hands. That would make for an even busier afternoon for Jones. He was the second-most targeted linebacker in the league last season per Pro Football Focus. For him to handle such a demanding role in Quinn’s defense and be able to flourish is a testament to how good he is. How much he elevates a porous defense will be something to watch as the Falcons build for next year.

In a season filled with disappointment, Hooper’s progression should be considered as a major positive. There were questions about his outlook following a wildly inconsistent second season. After starting to find his niche in the offense, he became an afterthought during Atlanta’s playoff push. A brutal drop turned into an interception against New Orleans forced Ryan to look elsewhere. It was the last of several costly drops, as Hooper finished sixth in drops amongst tight ends. There was internal discussion about the possibility of bringing in competition to challenge him.

The front office ultimately stayed committed to Hooper, which is now proving to be a wise decision. His tendency to drop passes across the middle is no longer a factor. Hooper ranks second in catch rate over the last eight games. It puts him right below stud tight end Zach Ertz. By improving on making contested catches and becoming more physical, the promising tight end has thrived in a more featured role. From working with Ryan during the off-season to being praised by Quinn for his work ethic, it became evident that Hooper wasn’t content on being a secondary option in the offense. Developing into one of Ryan’s most reliable weapons was his main objective. It’s safe to say he achieved that.

Hooper is seven yards away from surpassing his receiving yards total from last year. His yards per catch total is down, but that’s more of a result of how Sarkisian uses him. Between quick outs to hitches, there are instances where Ryan will hit Hooper for a six-yard gain to put the offense in a more favorable position. Hooper is also the main receipt on Sarkisian’s signature bootleg designs, which has become a staple in the offense. These play calls are going to diminish a player’s yards per catch average purely based on the design. One of Hooper’s best attributes is what he does after the catch, where he can make defenders miss with his impressive shiftiness or tremendous hurdle. One stat shouldn’t diminish how well Hooper has played this season. Facing a Packers’ defense that allowed six plays of 20 yards or more to the Cardinals, who have produced the fewest amount of explosive plays this season, should give Hooper more big-play opportunities

Patriots vs Dolphins

Patriots vs Dolphins : The Dolphins have struggled mightily on defense the past couple of seasons. This year, they have struggled against top offenses, as top-tier quarterbacks picked this defense apart with ease.

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The last time the Dolphins played the Patriots in Week 4, the defense made it feel like a 7-on-7 practice instead of a game. This week, may not be any different. The Dolphins enter the contest without their best player on that side of the ball, Xavien Howard. It will be up to the rest of the defense to step up for this game.

These five players need to step up and have the ability to help this defense against an elite offense.

Wake does not care who is in front of him, he believes he can win his one-on-one matchup regardless. This week, Wake will be needed big time this week against Tom Brady. The pass rush is the key to slowing down a high powered offense. The veteran defensive end should disrupt plays enough to cause some issues for Brady.

Over the past two weeks, Wake has recorded just one sack, but he has been in the backfield plenty. Athletic quarterbacks in Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, and Josh Allen were able to escape. However, the Brady is not anywhere near as athletic. It should already be a given that Wake is ready for this game.

When talking defenders against the Patriots, it’s almost impossible to not talk about the pass rush. Quinn is a crucial player to watch for the same reasons Wake is. The former Ram has got going the last few weeks and has been getting to the quarterback consistently.

Quinn’s ability to bend the corner should cause plenty of problems for the Patriots left tackle. If he can finish his pressures and turn them into sacks, it could be a long day for Brady.

The Dolphins were dealt a huge blow this week with Howard being listed as out for this game. Fitzpatrick has played very well outside, inside and at safety this season. With Howard out, Fitzpatrick will have to step up and make plays for the Dolphins defense.

The Patriots will likely target Fitzpatrick quite often, especially after the Colts’ game. Expect to see Fitzpatrick covering Josh Gordon and Phillip Dorsett this week. He has his work cut out for him, but he has the talent to compete.

McCain had a good game against the Patriots in Week four as he even tricked Brady into throwing an interception. With that said, he has not been quite the same corner since coming back from injury. He is going to be forced to play outside again with Howard out.

McCain’s physicality and aggressive style should help him against the Patriots’ receivers.

Throughout the years, McCain has stepped up when the team needed him most. The former Memphis Tiger has his work cut out for him this week, but he should be up for the task.

Last year, in Miami, Godchaux was consistently in Brady’s face causing timing problems. The pressure up the middle is key to slowing down Brady and the Patriots offense. A heavy dose of Godchaux should create problems for the Patriots on passing downs.

The defense will need a spark up front, and the former LSU Tiger should provide that. If he can replicate what he did last season, he could have Brady rattled early on.

The defense has struggled all season in almost every category. If the Dolphins want a chance to beat the Patriots, they are going to need an outstanding defensive game. The five players mentioned can create problems and ruin the timing of the offense. If they can get the offense off base early on, the Dolphins will have a chance to compete in this game.

Chiefs vs Ravens

Chiefs vs Ravens : Have you heard about the Ravens’ top-ranked defense? Have you also heard the Ravens are 3-0 with Lamar Jackson as the starter? If you didn’t, well now you have — and those factors should lead to a pretty interesting game on Sunday.

Chiefs vs Ravens Live

Let’s see what FanPulse has to say about the Chiefs contest this week:

FanPulse is a survey of fans across the NFL powered by SurveyMonkey. Each week, we send 32 polls to 100-plus plugged-in fans from each team.

1. Chiefs’ great offense is better than the Ravens’ great defense. Chiefs still have the individual matchups to exploit the Ravens. Ravens defensive unit is collectively greater than any in the NFL. They lack the amount of elite level players needed to stop the Chiefs offense.

2. Chiefs defense avoid Man Coverage without a short Robber and a QB Spy to eliminate the quarterback scrabble. The Chiefs should dial up the Zone-Blitz scheme

3. Lamar Jackson needs to treated like a running back first and a quarterback second. Make him beat us throwing the ball into right Zone coverage.

4. The Ravens head coach is the Eagles’ former special teams coordinator. Chiefs need to very sharp on every phase of special teams.

Focus and intensity of the Sea of Red is monumental this week. Chiefs fans need to be loud and proud every time the Ravens have the ball. This is the first game of the fourth quarter of the regular season. Let’s go 1-0.

The Ravens have a good defense—I’ve read this all week. You know where else I read that, before the Chargers game, before the Jaguars game, before the Rams game. Guess what, nothing has stopped Big Red and Co. from scoring when and how they want. Why should this week be any different? As always, the key to the game will be the opposing offense trying to grind out long drives on the ground and methodically going down the field to keep Patrick Mahomes on the sidelines. Look, people are always looking for good storylines to make the game more interesting, but I don’t see it here. Despite the Ravens coming to town with several ex-Reid disciples on staff, despite the unknown health of some key players on each side, despite the uncertainty of the running back position, despite everything, why should we expect the outcome to be any different? At home no less. This game will feel like some other games, where others have had some margin of success, but in the end, the result will be the same. Chiefs remain unbeaten at home. Close, but a win.

When Andy Reid calls the opposing offensive coordinator “creative,” that should be a clue that there should be some unexpected turns in this game. In order to win, the Chiefs run defense will have to be on its toes, and the Chiefs offense will have to beat the best all-around defense they have yet faced. I’m tempted to call this one a narrow Ravens win… but then I remember that Patrick Mahomes plays for the Chiefs. So I’ll say that both teams will move the ball well but will often fall short of the end zone.

This is a big game for both teams, as any is down the stretch. The Chiefs are fighting to maintain the one seed in the playoff picture and hold off a surging Chargers who come into Arrowhead on Thursday, while the Ravens have now tied the record of the Steelers in the “win” and are looking to overtake the division lead. Even more than just seeing implications, these two teams boast “top/elite” opposing units in the Chiefs offense against the Ravens defense. It’s a matchup to really test each team’s bread and butter.

When the Ravens have the ball, it’s all about defending the run. Lamar Jackson can make special passes from time to time but he’s far more inconsistent and erratic than he is special as a thrower right now. Instead, Baltimore dials up run after run even on third-and-medium to long and since Lamar Jackson has taken over at QB, they have the best rushing attack in the NFL. It’s going to be huge for the Chiefs defenders, especially on the edge (Ford, Houston, Speaks) to maintain gap responsibility and not try to be a hero. Let the help defenders arrive, who need to flow quickly and with proper angles and help get the Ravens ball control offense off the field.

When the Chiefs have the ball the real fun begins. Both teams have some injuries, Watkins for the Chiefs and Jefferson for the Ravens, so that about evens out. Then what you get a very blitz happy, aggressive defense that has multiple coverage shells and alignments against a creative offense that can attack you on every level form any play. Kelce should have another big day as the Ravens have struggled with TEs all year and some other receivers outside Tyreek Hill may be forced to step up and beat man coverage by scheme or skill. The ultimate key will be the mental matchup of Mahomes against the Ravens’ different blitz packages and how correctly he identifies them, slides the protection and gets the ball out to the right spot.

The loss of Watkins does hurt the Chiefs’ ability to simply ask their players to win matchups but the Chiefs’ overall team speed is a good matchup against the Ravens. The Ravens offense struggles to find consistency with such a limited attack and while they dominate the time of possession early, they fall behind the explosive offensive attack led by Mahomes.

The situations surrounding this game are weird… Run-first opposing quarterback, top defense against a top offense, will Flacco play? The list goes on and on. Fortunately for the Chiefs, they have a coaching staff who performs well under seemingly any circumstance.

I think the Ravens defense will get their licks in, but the Chiefs offense is just too much for the Ravens to overcome at Arrowhead.

The playoff run starts this weekend in Arrowhead. It’ll be cold, the opponents will be tough, and the pressure will be on the Chiefs to win every game to keep their grip on the No. 1 seed and the first-round bye. 10 years ago, we would have said that a team needs a strong defense and to be able to run the football to win in December. Today, we firmly believe that it’s all about the QB. The Chiefs can overcome nearly any matchup problems or deficiencies, simply because of Mahomes and the explosive offense they’ve built around him. In a way, the Chiefs vs Ravens is the future against the past. My money is on the home team, and the future. 38-24 Chiefs. Actually, now that they signed Benjamin…

The Ravens are one of the few teams in the NFL capable of playing defense at a high level (No. 1 in points per game in the league) and run the ball well on offense, especially of late behind Lamar Jackson. The Chiefs offense will have more struggles than against any other defense this year, leaving the Chiefs defense to pick up the slack. Jackson and the pistol offense will be able to move the ball on the ground, but if the Chiefs linebackers can read their keys well on first and second downs, they can force Jackson to be a thrower on third down — not his strong suit. The Chiefs defense sacks Jackson three times and intercepts him twice, doing just enough to counter the Ravens rushing attack. A cold day in KC with the time of possession favoring Baltimore keeps this one closer than most home games this year.

I do expect the Chiefs offense to be slowed down slightly by the league’s best scoring defense. Call me crazy, but I’m expecting a bounce back from the defense as well. Quarterbacks make their money in the red zone and on third downs. I expect the Ravens offense to stall out four times in or near the end zone, leading to four Justin Tucker field goals. Mahomes throws two touchdown passes and Damien Williams runs one in.

The Lamar Jackson-and-Gus Edwards tandem bring their run-first offense to Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday, and unlike some analysts, I don’t love this matchup for the Chiefs. The Chiefs defense against skilled runners has felt like a problem all year, and the Ravens have two of them. Jackson with an option to give it to Edwards does not give me a ton of confidence when I think of the Chiefs and their overall tackling this season. Backed by the No. 1 defense when it comes to points per game in the league, and this could be closer than people imagine it. The problem with all that is this: for that to work for the Ravens, they’ll need the Chiefs to play their game, and at the end of the day, I expect Patrick Mahomes to showcase how talented he is against anybody, even without Sammy Watkins for nearly the third straight game. This game will come down to the wire, with the Ravens coming up just short.

The Ravens seem like a good matchup for the Chiefs — they can run the ball to control the clock and play good defense. But they can’t put up 30-plus points which you need to beat the Chiefs. Lamar Jackson’s 150 passing yards won’t do it.

Rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson is on a roll right now. He’s 3-0 since taking over at starting QB for the Ravens three weeks ago, is dangerous on the run and has helped Baltimore keep an average of 37.5 minutes of possession/game in the last three games. This is particularly worrisome given that the Chiefs defense is ranked No. 22 against the run and has proven inconsistent all season long. In addition to the wonderment that is Lamar Jackson right now, Baltimore also boasts the No. 1 defense in the league. And, while these factors are undoubtedly concerning, the Chiefs’ offense has proven able to disrupt even the most sound defenses, and put opposing offenses in unfavorable comeback situations that force them out of their game. With a home-field advantage and Patrick Mahomes at their offensive helm—the Chiefs win it 38-17.

The Chiefs face a sneaky, tough test this week as a hot Baltimore Ravens team soars into Arrowhead Stadium. It feels like the Chiefs haven’t had a home game in ages and they’ll surely benefit being back for this short home stand. The Ravens defense has been performing surprisingly well this season and their pass defense is really where they make their money. Sunday should be an interesting test to see how Mahomes and the offense will do against the challenge of Baltimore’s secondary. I’m thinking this one will be closer than people expect, but the Chiefs still pull it out in the end.

Lions vs Cardinals

Lions vs Cardinals : Kerryon Johnson will miss his third straight game Sunday because of a knee injury, but the Lions have had two of their four best rushing games this season in the past two weeks. LeGarrette Blount has 149 yards rushing in that span, and should shoulder the workload once again.

Lions vs Cardinals Live

© Provided by Gannett Co., Inc. Lions running back LeGarrette Blount breaks the tackle attempt by the Bears’ Adrian Amos to score a touchdown in the second quarter on Sunday, Nov. 22, 2018, at Ford Field.

The Lions’ improved rushing attack has coincided with a bigger commitment to the run overall. They’ve averaged 24.8 carries per game since the Golden Tate trade, and have had to play more ball-control football with a struggling passing attack.

The Cardinals have the league’s 29th-ranked rushing defense at 140.9 yards per game, though they held an opponent under 100 yards last Sunday for the first time since Week 2. Big plays have been an issue, as Arizona has been gashed for 15 rushes of 20 yards or more. And the Cardinals have allowed more rushing touchdowns (17) than any team in the NFL.

Matthew Stafford’s struggles have been well documented of late. He’s committed four turnovers in the fourth quarters of his last two games, he’s on pace to take a career-high in sacks, and if he’s not careful he might miss out on throwing for 4,000 yards for the first time since his injury-shortened season of 2010.

That’s not to say Stafford is entirely to blame for the Lions’ disappearing passing attack. He has few weapons to throw to outside of Kenny Golladay now that Golden Tate and Marvin Jones are gone, and the Lions have taken the air out of his arm because of their deficiencies in pass protection.

© Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford looks to pass against the Los Angeles Rams during the second half on Sunday, December 2, 2018 at Ford Field in Detroit.

The Cardinals have one of the league’s best edge rushers in Chandler Jones, and they’ve been strong against the pass overall (fourth in the NFL). Patrick Peterson is a perennial Pro Bowler at cornerback, though he seems a bit miscast in Arizona’s zone-heavy scheme. The Cardinals will mix up their pressure packages, but they rank near the bottom of the league with just six interceptions.

The Cardinals have one of the best all-purpose backs in the NFL in David Johnson, yet they rank 31st in the league in rushing at just 86 yards per game. Johnson was severely underutilized early in this season, before Arizona changed coordinators, and the Cardinals can’t get anything going on the ground now as their offensive line is in shambles with three rookie starters.

© Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports Dec 2, 2018; Green Bay, WI, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen (3) hands the football off to running back David Johnson (31) during the first quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

They’ll have their work cut out to run the ball Sunday against an improving Lions defense. Damon Harrison has been a wrecking ball up front in his six games as a Lion, and he’s flanked by another sun-blotter in A’Shawn Robinson.

The Lions have the league’s fourth-best run defense over the past month (74.3 ypg), and they shouldn’t have much trouble against a no-dimensional Cardinals offense Sunday.

Rookie quarterback Josh Rosen will make his 10th start of the season Sunday, and it’s been a learning experience for the 10th overall pick. He’s taken a lot of hits behind a beat-up offensive line, and he will be down his leading receiver after rookie Christian Kirk went on IR this week with a foot injury.

© Provided by Gannett Co., Inc. Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald and Lions receiver Kenny Golladay meet after the Lions’ 35-23 win at Ford Field on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017. In his NFL debut, Golladay scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

The Cardinals have two primary weapons in their passing game. Johnson is one of the more accomplished receiving backs in the NFL. He can split wide like a receiver or run routes out of the backfield. And future Hall-of-Famer Larry Fitzgerald plays primarily out of the slot, but still has some of the best hands in the game.

The Lions know the kind of patience the Cardinals want to on offense because they’ve done the same thing themselves the past two weeks. Nevin Lawson should draw the assignment on Fitzgerald, and Mike Ford has played well as the Lions’ No. 3 cornerback. The Lions are dealing with some key injuries as top cornerback Darius Slay (ankle) and leading sacker Devon Kennard (hip) missed practice time this week.

It’s taken a while, but the Lions are finally starting to come around on special teams. They’ve cut back on penalties and limited big returns, and they’ve gotten solid performances in recent weeks from kicker Matt Prater and punter Sam Martin. Prater hasn’t missed a field goal since Week 5 and remains one of the most reliable legs in the NFL. The Lions don’t offer much game-breaking ability in the return department, but they nearly came away with a punt block last week using Ziggy Ansah on their rush team.

The Cardinals have been similarly unspectacular in the return department, though that could change if they use Peterson regularly on punt returns now that Kirk is out for the season. Arizona had some coverage lapses early in the season, but punter Andy Lee is netting 41.7 yards per punt, his best average since 2013. Zane Gonzalez made both field-goals attempts, including the game-winner, in his first game with the Cardinals as an injury replacement for Phil Dawson last week.

This game isn’t exactly appointment viewing as the Lions and Cardinals have combined for seven wins 13 weeks into the season and have two of the most listless offenses in the NFL. Arizona is the lowest-scoring and worst passing team in the league, and there’s no reason to think they’ll get going Sunday with Kirk out and their offensive line on cinder blocks. The Lions haven’t exactly lit the world on fire without Tate, Jones and Johnson — or with them, for that matter — but they’re the better, more complete team. Historically, the Lions haven’t fared well in Arizona. But they’re trying something different this year, traveling to town on Friday and bringing an improved run defense with them. That should be enough for Matt Patricia to get his fifth win as head coach.

Contact Dave Birkett: dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett. Download our Lions Xtra app for free on Apple and Android!

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: