This Week in the NFL _lowres

Associated Press photo by Charlie Riedel) Patriots quarterback Tom Brady points on the line of scrimmage during the third quarter of Monday's game against Kansas City.

Tom Brady and the New England Patriots continue to struggle heading into Sunday’s clash with the Cincinnati Bengals

Is it too soon to declare the window shut for one of the NFL’s signature teams?

For nearly 15 years, the New England Patriots have been held up as the example of what a successful franchise looks like. On Monday night against the Kansas City Chiefs, they looked like a team in disarray.

The offensive line couldn’t keep the pocket clean for Tom Brady, and he has few viable receivers to target. By the end of the game, Alex Smith looked like vintage Brady, and Brady looked like he was nearing the end.

There are personnel problems that are not conducive to the All-Pro quarterback finding success, but he’s also part of the problem. Brady does not appear to be playing with confidence and is making mistakes that he would have never committed in his prime.

Watch the New England offense, which is dependent on receivers running option routes, and you’ll see Brady is throwing after the receivers make their breaks, not before they cut in the direction where their route is supposed to end.

This is a problem and will not likely be cured unless Brady starts regaining or gaining trust in his receivers. Until this happens, it’s likely that New England will continue to struggle.

There almost certainly won’t be a change made this season, but the Patriots’ decision to draft quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round is looking smarter.

Underhill’s Top Five Teams in the NFL This Week

1. SEAHAWKS (2-1)

Robert Griffin III needs to thank Seattle for ending any talk about Kirk Cousins taking his job.

2. BRONCOS (2-1)

Our No. 2 team had the week off and will head to Arizona to try to drop the unbeaten Cardinals.

3. BENGALS (3-0)

Coming up against a struggling Patriots team this week. A statement could move them up a spot.

4. Cardinals (3-0)

Maybe it’s a mirage. But the Cardinals stay in the top five until someone exposes them.

5. Chargers (3-1)

Philip Rivers should be on the short list for the NFL’s MVP award and is the key to San Diego’s success.

This week’s capsules



WHEN: Noon Sunday

Line: Colts by 31/2

Briefly: Ravens have won three straight, by average of 17.3 points, but are 0-4 in Indianapolis. ... Sunday’s game begins stretch of four road trips in next five games for Baltimore ... Ravens set franchise record by converting 10 of 13 third downs (76.9 percent) in last week’s win over Panthers. ... Baltimore has 125 or more yards rushing in three straight games for first time since 2009. ... QB Joe Flacco has not been sacked in past three games.

NICK’S PICK: Colts 27, Ravens 20


at CAROLINA (2-2)

WHEN: Noon Sunday

Line: Panthers by 21/2

Briefly: Jay Cutler has compiled franchise-best career QB rating of 83.9. . Cutler has led 22 career-game winning drives in fourth quarter or overtime, including 15 with Chicago. . Cutler has 10 TD passes, tied for most in NFC. . Bears RB Matt Forte needs 76 yards rushing to reach 7,000 for career. ... Forte’s 6,924 yards rushing since 2008 is third-most in NFL.

NICK’S PICK: Bears 24,

Panthers 21


at DALLAS (3-1)

WHEN: Noon Sunday

Line: Cowboys by 61/2

Briefly: No team has played Dallas fewer times than AFC South-leading Texans, whose first regular-season game was 19-10 home win over Cowboys on Sept. 8, 2002. ... Texans’ only previous game at Dallas was in 2006, at Texas Stadium. ... Texans WR Andre Johnson, who is set for 159th game, is one catch and 77 yards shy of needing second-fewest games in NFL history to reach 950 catches and 13,000 yards. Marvin Harrison reached it in 158 games.

NICK’S PICK: Cowboys 30,

Texans 24


at TENNESSEE (1-3)

WHEN: Noon Sunday

Line: Titans by 11/2

Briefly: Browns 3-22 on road over past three seasons, including road opener this year. ... Browns QB Brian Hoyer 4-2 in six starts. Has thrown for 1,331 yards passing with eight TDs and three interceptions with 90 passer rating. Threw for 290 yards with TD and career-high 127.1 passer rating against Ravens in Week 3. ... Hoyer has thrown 156 passes without an interception, longest streak by Browns QB since Vinny Testaverde (174) in 1995. ... Browns RB Terrance West leads rookies with 204 yards rushing.

NICK’S PICK: Browns 21, Titans 17



WHEN: Noon Sunday

Line: Steelers by 6

Briefly: Steelers have won two in row in series. ... Seven of past eight games have been decided by seven points or fewer. ... TE Heath Miller needs 13 receptions to join Hines Ward (1,000) and John Stallworth (537) as third player in Steelers history with 500 receptions. ... RB Le’Veon Bell has 100-plus yards from scrimmage in all four games this season, a team record. Bell needs 41 yards from scrimmage to pass Jerome Bettis (610) for most by a Steelers player in first five games of a season.

NICK’S PICK: Steelers 24,

Jaguars 20


At DETROIT (3-1)

WHEN: Noon Sunday

Line: Lions by 61/2

Briefly: Despite their proximity and lengthy histories, Lions and Bills are meeting for just 10th time. That’s fewest for Buffalo — and fewest for Detroit, not counting NFL’s most recent expansion additions (Cleveland, Carolina, Houston and Jacksonville). ... Bills defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz went 29-51 in five seasons as Lions head coach before being fired at end of last season. ... Bills are switching QBs, with 10-year veteran Kyle Orton set to make Buffalo debut after second-year starter EJ Manuel was benched.

NICK’S PICK: Lions 31, Bills 24


at N.Y. GIANTS (2-2)

WHEN: Noon Sunday

Line: Giants by 4

Briefly: Game marks return of Falcons DE Osi Umenyiora. Had 75 sacks in nine seasons with Giants before signing with Atlanta last year. ...Falcons have been inconsistent, especially on defense where they are ranked next to last. Offense tied for No. 1 overall. ... Quarterback Matt Ryan threw for three touchdowns and had 142.6 rating in previous meeting.

NICK’S PICK: Falcons 23,

Giants 20

ST. LOUIS (1-2)


WHEN: Noon Sunday

Line: Eagles by 61/2

Briefly: Eagles won past three meetings. ... Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur held same position with Rams in 2009-10. ... Eagles assistant DB coach Todd Lyght played 10 seasons at CB for Rams from 1991-2000. ... Rams coach Jeff Fisher began coaching career as DB coach under Buddy Ryan with Eagles in 1986.

NICK’S PICK: Eagles 31, Rams 23


at DENVER (2-1)

WHEN: 3:05 p.m. Sunday

Line: Broncos by 71/2

Briefly: Cardinals first trip to Denver since Dec. 29, 2002. ... Arizona is NFL-best 10-2 over last 12 regular season games. ... QB Drew Stanton expected to make third straight start with Carson Palmer’s injured throwing shoulder acting up. ... Rookie WR John Brown is first Cardinal with three TD catches in first three games since 1942).

NICK’S PICK: Broncos 28,

Cardinals 20



WHEN: 3:25 p.m. Sunday

Line: 49ers by 5

Briefly: Chiefs won past two matchups, outscoring 49ers 72-10. ... Dating to 1985, home team has won past eight meetings. ... Chiefs first visit to San Francisco since 2002. ... 49ers traded Alex Smith to Chiefs in March 2013 to clear way for Colin Kaepernick. ... Chiefs sacked Smith five times previous meeting in 2010 on way to first 3-0 start since 2003..

NICK’S PICK: 49ers 24, Chiefs 17

N.Y. JETS (1-3)

at SAN DIEGO (3-1)

WHEN: 3:25 p.m. Sunday

Line: Chargers by 61/2

Briefly: Showdown of original AFL teams. ... Series includes Chargers’ largest margin of victory, 46 points (53-7) in 1963. ... Jets have NFL’s No. 3 overall defense, but ranking is a bit deceiving. They’re No. 1 against run but secondary is shaky with safety Antonio Allen and career backup Darrin Walls starting all season at cornerback.

NICK’S PICK: Chargers 27, Jets 20


at NEW ENGLAND (2-2)

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Sunday

Line: Bengals by 1

Briefly: Teams also met in fifth week last season with Bengals winning 13-6. That ended Tom Brady’s streak of 52 games with at least one TD pass. ... Patriots have won seven of last nine meetings. ... Bengals and Patriots tied for AFC lead with six INTs. ... Bengals lead NFL with fewest points allowed per game and plus-6 turnover differential, have given up just three points in first half.

NICK’S PICK: Bengals 24,

Patriots 20



WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Sunday

Line: Seahawks by 7

Briefly: One of NFL’s top night-time teams vs. one of worst. Seahawks hold league’s best Monday night winning rate (20-8, .714) and have outscored opponents 208-65 in past eight appearances, going 8-0 with three shutouts. They are 10-1 in primetime under coach Pete Carroll. Redskins have lost six straight in primetime and are 4-14 on Monday nights since 2000. ... Seahawks have lost six consecutive regular season games vs. Redskins, but Seattle has won all three postseason meetings.

NICK’S PICK: Seahawks 27,

Redskins 21