This Week in the NFL _lowres

St. Louis Rams running back Tre Mason, center is stopped for a 1-yard gain by a host of Seattle Seahawks during the second quarter of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam)

After a 3-3 start to the season, it’s probably a good bet not to count the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks out of the playoffs

The Seahawks looked like an unbeatable machine after knocking off the Green Bay Packers in the first game of the regular season.

The Lombardi Trophy was theirs to lose, and it looked as though there wasn’t a force strong enough to pry it from their hands. Several weeks later, Seattle, which is now 3-3, would not be in the playoff picture if the season ended today.

Should we count them out and crown the Dallas Cowboys, who are playing as well as anyone in the NFL, the new team to beat in the NFC? Or will Seattle eventually get its act together and reclaim that status?

In a year where there appear to be no elite teams, it’s too soon to declare Seattle’s short run atop the league over. While Dallas appears to be real, at least for now, teams like the Arizona Cardinals (5-1) and Detroit Lions (5-2), which lead their respective divisions, are flawed. Seattle at least has the potential to bounce back and make a run. Some of these teams appear to be hanging on for life for now. If forced to choose four contenders today, the smart bet would be on Seattle, Green Bay, Dallas, and Philadelphia.

And even then, it wouldn’t be shocking if a couple of those teams faded and missed the playoffs. Seattle missing out would still surprise.

Nick Underhill

Underhill’s top five teams in the NFL (this week)

1. Broncos (6-1)

Denver’s offense is as good as it gets, and the defense is starting to raise to that level.

2. Cowboys (6-1)

Tony Romo finally has some help on offense, passing for 1,789 yards, 14 touchdowns and six interceptions.

3. Eagles (5-1)

They’ve managed to win five games without playing great. It seems they’re starting to figure things out.

4. PACKERS (5-2)

No one is playing better than Aaron Rodgers. The Saints will have their hands full.

5. Colts (5-2)

They’re piling up yards, and Andrew Luck has a case for being one of the best two or three QBs in the NFL.

This Week’s Games

DETROIT (5-2) vs. ATLANTA (2-5) at London

WHEN: 8:30 a.m. Sunday

Line: Lions by 31/2

Briefly: Second of three games in 2014 International Series, game has afternoon local kickoff for first time. ... Miami beat Oakland 38-14 in London in Week 4. Jacksonville will be home team against Dallas in Week 10 at Wembley. ... It is first regular-season game outside North America for Atlanta and Detroit.

NICK’S PICK: Lions 24, Falcons 20

MINNESOTA (2-5) at TAMPA BAY (1-5)

WHEN: Noon Sunday

Line: Buccaneers by 2½

Briefly: Buccaneers have won six straight in series Vikings dominated while Tampa Bay and Minnesota were members of old NFC Central from 1977-2001. Bucs have won eight of past nine played in Tampa. ... Since beating Atlanta in rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater’s first career start, Vikings have dropped three in row while scoring 10, 3 and 16 points. ... Bridgewater threw his first touchdown as pro last week against Buffalo.

NICK’S PICK: Vikings 17, Buccaneers 14

BUFFALO (4-3) at NEW YORK JETS (1-6)

WHEN: Noon Sunday

Line: Jets by 3

Briefly: Bills above .500 through seven games for only fourth time since 2000, and first since 2011 — when they opened 5-2 but finished 6-10. ... Bills coming off first victory under new owners Terry and Kim Pegula, getting 2-yard TD catch by rookie WR Sammy Watkins with 1 second left to beat Vikings. ... QB Kyle Orton has won two of three starts since replacing EJ Manuel.

NICK’S PICK: Jets 20, Bills 17

CHICAGO (3-4) at NEW ENGLAND (5-2)

WHEN: Noon Sunday

Line: Patriots by 6

Briefly: Teams meet for fourth time in 13 years, with Patriots winning last three. ... Bears are 3-1 on road. Only Dallas Cowboys, 3-0, are better. ... Jay Cutler has best passer rating of any quarterback Patriots have faced this season, 94.4. ... RB Matt Forte leads NFL with 52 receptions and is fifth with 448 yards rushing. ... DE Willie Young tied for NFC lead with seven sacks.

NICK’S PICK: Patriots 31, Bears 24

SEATTLE (3-3) at CAROLINA (3-3-1)

WHEN: Noon Sunday

Line: Seahawks by 51/2

Briefly: Third straight year Panthers have hosted Seahawks. Seattle won previous two. ... Russell Wilson last week became first QB to throw for 300 yards and run for 100 yards in a game. ... Wilson is 27-11 as a starter in regular season.

NICK’S PICK: Seahawks 27, Panthers 20


WHEN: Noon Sunday

LINE: Dolphins by 6

BRIEFLY: Dolphins haven’t had consecutive wins since Weeks 14 and 15 of last season. ... Dolphins giving up fewest yards per play (4.7) in NFL. ... DE Dion Jordan, coming off six-game suspension, could be active. ... DE Cameron Wake, who has 56 career sacks, needs half a sack to tie Trace Armstrong for sixth most in franchise history.

NICK’S PICK: Dolphins 24, Jaguars 17


WHEN: Noon Sunday

Line: Ravens by 2

Briefly: Bengals won season opener in Baltimore on A.J. Green’s juggling 77-yard TD catch late in fourth quarter. Cincinnati trying for first season series sweep of Baltimore since 2009. ... Ravens trying to improve to 6-2 for fourth time under coach John Harbaugh — also did it in 2010, 2011 and 2012. ... Baltimore has allowed only 14.9 points per game, fewest in NFL; 23 points in season opener were most allowed.

NICK’S PICK: Ravens 24, Bengals 20

HOUSTON (3-4) at TENNESSEE (2-5)

WHEN: Noon Sunday

Line: Texans by 3

Briefly: Sunday is 200th game in Texans history. ... Texans QB Ryan Fitzpatrick started nine of 11 games he played for Titans last season, throwing for 2,454 yards and 14 TDs. Fitzpatrick threw for 225 yards with three TDs and one interception in last game vs. Titans in 2011 with Buffalo. ... RB Arian Foster averaging 136.8 yards from scrimmage in five games vs. Titans. Foster leads AFC this season with 615 yards rushing and average of 4.95 yards per carry.

NICK’S PICK: Texans 20, Titans 14

ST. LOUIS (2-4) at KANSAS CITY (3-3)

WHEN: Noon Sunday

Line: Kansas City by 7

Briefly: Chiefs have won five straight in series dating to Sept. 25, 1994, when Rams were in Los Angeles. ... Teams play for Governor’s Cup, which Rams own by virtue of preseason win. ... Rams coach Jeff Fisher is 4-0 against Chiefs coach Andy Reid. ... St. Louis allowed Seahawks QB Russell Wilson to become first to pass for 300 yards, rush for 100 yards in NFL history.

NICK’S PICK: Chiefs 28, Rams 20


WHEN: 3:05 p.m. Sunday

Line: Cardinals by 11/2

Briefly: Eagles have 16 of their 19 sacks over last three games. ... Linebacking Acho brothers Sam (Cardinals) and Emannuel (Eagles) will play against each other for first time at any level. ... For second year in row, Philadelphia is coming off bye to face Arizona. ... Eagles have seven non-offensive TDs (four special teams, three defense), one shy of franchise record for a season.

NICK’S PICK: Eagles 27, Cardinals 24


WHEN: 3:25 p.m. Sunday

Line: Colts by 31/2

Briefly: Indianapolis has won five straight after starting 0-2. Pittsburgh has alternated wins and losses in each of first seven weeks, winning on odd weeks and losing on even weeks. ... Colts are only team in NFL that ranks in top 5 in total offense and total defense. ... Indianapolis leads NFL in time of possession, averaging 36:56 per game. Steelers are sixth at 32:23. ... Colts are just 2-12 all-time at Pittsburgh, but won last visit to Heinz Field 24-20 on Nov. 9, 2008.

NICK’S PICK: Colts 30, Steelers 21

OAKLAND (0-6) at CLEVELAND (3-3)

WHEN: 3:25 p.m. Sunday

Line: Browns by 61/2

Briefly: Raiders are league’s only winless team. ... Raiders travel to Eastern time zone for third — and final — time this season. ... Oakland has lost 15 consecutive games in East since 2009, with streak starting that season in Cleveland. ... Including trip to London, Raiders will travel 36,106 miles this season, nearly 10,000 more than any team.

NICK’S PICK: Browns 17, Raiders 14

WASHINGTON (2-5) at DALLAS (6-1)

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Monday

Line: Cowboys by 91/2

Briefly: This is 16th Monday night meeting between Cowboys and Redskins, second in frequency behind Raiders-Broncos (17). ... Washington has dropped seven straight prime-time games and is 4-15 on Monday nights since 2000. ... Redskins haven’t won NFC East game since beating Dallas in 2012 regular-season finale with playoff berth on line. They’re also trying to win consecutive games for first time since finishing 2012 with seven straight wins.

NICK’S PICK: Cowboys 28, Redskins 21