This Week in the NFL _lowres

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) passes against the St. Louis Rams in the first quarter of an NFL football game Monday, Oct. 13, 2014, in St Louis. (AP Photo/Billy Hurst)

49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick could have a chance to earn superstar status with a big outing against the Broncos

There were snickers among the masses when the San Francisco 49ers signed Colin Kaepernick to a lucrative extension this offseason.

Twitter overflowed with snark, and the talking heads questioned the organization’s thinking. While talented, Kaepernick had not done enough to satisfy the masses. He was on the outer cusp of the upper echelon, knocking on the door but not yet granted admittance.

He still might not be there, but he at least now has the door cracked open. Monday night’s win over the St. Louis Rams was his showcase, and, as he often does, Kaepernick glowed under the lights. He completed 22 of 36 passes for 343 yards with three touchdowns, showing improved touch and a better understanding of how to utilize his immense gifts.

In other words, the rocket-armed quarterback seems to have finally figured out how to put touch on the ball. Still question him? Check out his touchdown pass from Sunday night’s 31-17 win when he rolled to the left and hit Anquan Boldin in the back of the end zone.

Kaepernick still has more to prove, and that cracked door might close again if he falters Sunday night against the Broncos, but it’s also possible that he moves closer to earning the superstar status that was prematurely gifted to him when he first broke onto the national stage.

Underhill’s top five teams in the NFL this week

1. BRONCOS (4-1)

Jets learned nothing lasts forever against Denver, and it’s only a matter of time before Peyton Manning locks in.

2. COWBOYS (5-1)

Went into Seattle and took down the defending champs. This is now the team to beat in the NFC.

3. CHARGERS (5-1)

Took care of business against Raiders, and a Week 8 meeting with Broncos could propel them to top of rankings.

4. EAGLES (5-1)

Sunday night might have been the first time this season the Eagles played their best football.

5. SEAHAWKS (3-2)

Would not make the playoffs if they started today, but the thinking is Seattle gets it together.

This Week’s Games


at BALTIMORE (4-2)

WHEN: Noon Sunday

Line: Ravens by 61/2

Briefly: Three of previous four games between teams were held in Atlanta. Only meeting in Baltimore was in 2006. ... In previous game against Baltimore, Falcons WR Roddy White had 12 catches for 138 yards and 2 TDs. This year, he has 16 catches and 2 TDs in six games. ... Falcons coach Mike Smith launched coaching career as Ravens defensive line coach in 1999.

NICK’S PICK: Ravens 28,

Falcons 24



WHEN: Noon Sunday

Line: Redskins by 6

Briefly: Teams have combined 3-9 record, including two victories vs. winless Jaguars. ... Titans have been outscored 34-10 in first quarter and 47-16 in fourth quarter. ... Tennessee has allowed league-high 151 first downs. ... Titans hope to have QB Jake Locker back after missing one game with sore right thumb. ... Titans haven’t committed turnover in past two games.

NICK’S PICK: Redskins 20,

Titans 13



WHEN: Noon Sunday

Line: Colts by 31/2

Briefly: Bengals have won past two games in series. ... QB Andy Dalton has thrown for 539 yards with four TDs and no interceptions in those wins. ... Bengals have allowed league-low two sacks this season, but defense has given up 80 points in past two games. ... RB Giovani Bernard is only NFL player with 375-plus yards rushing, 175-plus yards receiving and four or more TD runs this season. ... Adam Jones averages 23.6 yards on punt returns this season.

NICK’S PICK: Bengals 27, Colts 24



WHEN: Noon Sunday

Line: Browns by 51/2

Briefly: Teams playing for sixth time in last seven years. ... Last eight games in series have been decided by six points or less. ... Cleveland has outscored its opponents 50-10 over last six quarters. ... After scoring four TDs rushing in 2013, Browns lead NFL with eight in 2014. Cleveland ranks third in rushing, averaging 146.4 yards a game. Browns are only team with three players with 200 or more yards on ground. ... Browns averaging 26.8 points a game, franchise’s highest figure since 1968.

NICK’S PICK: Browns 23,

Jaguars 17


at BEARS (3-3)

WHEN: Noon Sunday

Line: Bears by 3

Briefly: Miami blew seven-point lead in final five minutes at home last week, with Aaron Rodgers taking advantage of mismatch in coverage to throw winning 4-yard TD to TE Andrew Quarless. LB Philip Wheeler was covering him. ... Dolphins averaging 5 yards per carry, third in league. ... Miami has scored on its first possession in three of five games. ... Dolphins have two blocked punts, tied for club record (1972, 1973, 1974, 1978, 1991, 1996, 2011). ... Lamar Miller is third among RBs at 5.2 yards per carry.

NICK’S PICK: Bears 28,

Dolphins 21


at RAMS (1-4)

WHEN: Noon Sunday

Line: Seahawks by 61/2

Briefly: Seahawks have won three straight and 16 of 18 in series. Past two meetings in St. Louis have been close, Seahawks winning 14-9 last year and 19-13 in 2012. ... Seahawks clinched NFC West and top seed in playoffs with home win over Rams in previous meeting. ... Pete Carroll 6-3 against Rams and Jeff Fisher 2-6 against Seattle. ... Seahawks 23-6 in past 29 regular season games.

NICK’S PICK: Seahawks 24,

Rams 20


at BUFFALO (3-3)

WHEN: Noon Sunday

Line: Bills by 5

Briefly: Minnesota has lost two of past three against Bills, including 17-12 loss at Orchard Park in 2006. Vikings are 4-3 at Buffalo, with last win a 34-13 decision in 1997. ... Rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater (1-1) makes first career road start. ... In four losses, Vikings have thrown nine interceptions and been sacked 22 times.

NICK’S PICK: Bills 20, Vikings 17

CAROLINA (3-2-1)


WHEN: Noon Sunday

Line: Packers by 61/2

Briefly: Panthers won previous meeting at Lambeau Field 35-31 on Nov. 30, 2008. ... Carolina coming off first tie in team history. 74 combined points with Bengals were most in an NFL overtime game that ended in tie. ... WR Kelvin Benjamin leads rookies with 416 yards receiving.

NICK’S PICK: Panthers 28,

Packers 24


at SAN DIEGO (5-1)

WHEN: 3 p.m. Sunday

Line: Chargers by 31/2

Briefly: Chargers have won five straight overall and six straight at home. ... Chargers’ past three victories came against teams with combined 1-16 record (Jacksonville, New York Jets, Oakland). ... Overall, Chargers’ six opponents so far are combined 11-22. ... Chargers outlasted KC in OT on Dec. 29 to clinch AFC’s final playoff spot. ... Chargers QB Philip Rivers looking to extend NFL record to six straight games with passer rating of 120 or better.

NICK’S PICK: Chargers 31,

Chiefs 24


at DALLAS (5-1)

WHEN: 3:25 p.m. Sunday

Line: Cowboys by 61/2

Briefly: Giants signed WR Kevin Ogletree this week after losing Victor Cruz for season with torn patellar tendon in right knee. Ogletree spent first four seasons in Dallas and had only career 100-yard game when Cowboys upset defending Super Bowl champion Giants in 2012 season opener. ... Giants QB Eli Manning won first four starts at AT&T Stadium.

NICK’S PICK: Cowboys 24,

Giants 17



WHEN: 3:25 p.m. Sunday

Line: Cardinals by 31/2

Briefly: Cardinals playing third game ever in Oakland, winning in 2001 and losing in 2006. ... That game was Raiders first win of season following 0-5 start. Team lost first five this year for first time since that season. ... Cardinals QB Carson Palmer played 25 games for Oakland in 2011-12, throwing for 6,771 yards and 35 TDs.

NICK’S PICK: Cardinals 20,

Raiders 13


at DENVER (4-1)

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Sunday

Line: Broncos by 6½

Briefly: 49ers and Broncos meeting for first time since London game nearly four years ago. The NFL later fined Denver and then-coach Josh McDaniels $50,000 each because team’s video operations director filmed a San Francisco practice, breaking league rules. ... San Francisco is 13-1 in October under coach Jim Harbaugh.

NICK’S PICK: Broncos 27,

49ers 20



WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Monday

Line: Steelers by 3

Briefly: Texans have lost two straight following 3-1 start. Pittsburgh has alternated wins and losses through first six weeks. ... Houston is 3-4 all-time on Monday night. Pittsburgh is 41-24 on Monday night and 25-5 at home, including an 8-0 at Heinz Field. ... Texans are tied with Patriots for NFL lead with 14 takeaways. Steelers have just six.

NICK’S PICK: Texans 24,

Steelers 20