Here’s a look at three things to watch around the NFL this weekend:
FROM SUPER BOWL TO HOME UNDERDOG IN 10 EASY GAMES
The Los Angeles Rams hoped they had a burgeoning dynasty in January, but they are teetering on the brink of playoff elimination despite last Sunday’s win over the Bears — just 27 percent via The New York Times playoff calculator. Those are odds that will drop further if the Rams do what Vegas expects Monday — lose at home to the Baltimore Ravens, who entered the week as three-point favorites. It’s only the second time this season the Rams have been underdogs. The other was their Thursday-night visit to Seattle when they were 1.5-point underdogs. Not that there’s any shame in being a underdog to what may be the hottest team in the NFL and the hottest QB in the game outside Seattle. But with games still remaining at Dallas and San Francisco as well as a visit from the Seahawks, the Rams may not be done playing the role of underdog in a season that hasn’t gone as hoped.
WILL 49ERS-PACKERS PROVE IT TRULY HAS FLEX APPEAL?
It’s hard to fault NBC for its decision to flex out of the Seahawks-Eagles game Sunday night and flex in Green Bay’s visit to San Francisco. The teams are a combined 17-3 and if the season ended today they would be the top two seeds in the NFC playoffs. And there’s the battle of Aaron Rodgers vs., well, Aaron Rodgers Lite? Jimmy Garoppolo is 17-3 as a starting QB in the NFL, 15-3 with the 49ers. But the mistake-filled outing against the Seahawks did nothing to extinguish the idea that he still has some proving to do to show he truly belongs in any listing of elite QBs. More vital for the 49ers, this is the last of three consecutive games at home. San Francisco finishes with three of its last five on the road, each of the away contests against teams currently 8-2 — Baltimore, New Orleans and Seattle.
AMERICA’S TEAM VS. AMERICA’S TEAM
The two teams that may incite the most passion among NFL fans in either direction — the Cowboys and Patriots — meet Sunday in New England. The Patriots continue to plow through the opposition, led primarily by their defense. The Dak Prescott-led Cowboys have moved to the top of the NFC East thanks mostly to their offense. Dallas, in its first year with Prosser native and former Boise State QB Kellen Moore as its offensive coordinator, has scored 31 or more points in each of its six wins this season, while the Patriots have held all but one team to 14 points or fewer (the exception a 37-20 loss to Lamar Jackson and Baltimore). Something has to give in a game that will make a lot of people happy, and a lot of others unhappy.