The beautiful thing about the flex game option that NBC has for Sunday Night Football is that they can move a better game into primetime. This week's primetime game is as good as it gets with the 9-0 Chiefs on the road against their division rival Broncos, who are 8-1. Whether you think they're the best teams in the league doesn't necessarily matter. Their records prove that they deserve the praise they've received and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens in that divisional clash. That's not the only big game, though, so let's see what is else on the menu this week.
Before we get to this week's games, here are some thoughts on the Thursday night game.
Indianapolis 30 - Tennessee 27: The Colts tend to play this way a lot. They started slow, were down at the half and they came roaring back to win the game. A 14-0 deficit in the first quarter seems like nothing to this team. They always find a way to bounce back. The spread was three, which is what they won by. I picked the Titans to win, so I'm starting this week off at 0-1. I also think it's safe to say the Colts have pretty much locked up the AFC South with the win because they're sitting at 7-3 with a three game lead over the rest of the division. It was one of those games where even though they put up 57 points it wasn't that exciting to watch. There weren't many big plays on either side, but at least it was more exciting than most Thursday games. I consider that a positive.
Last week straight up: 9-5. Season: 92-55 (.626)
Byes: Dallas, St. Louis
All game times are in the Eastern time zone.
N.Y. Jets (5-4) at Buffalo (3-7) 1:00 pm
I picked the Bills last week. They laid an egg. Brutal offensive game against the Steelers. I think they will play better this week at home, but that Jets defense is legit and Rex Ryan should have them playing at a high level coming off their bye. Keep in mind that four of the five Bills games at home have been decided by 3 points or less. They will keep it close, but I think the Jets win on the strength of their defense. Jets 20-17
Atlanta (2-7) at Tampa Bay (1-8) 1:00 pm
I doubt I'll be flipping over to this game too much on Sunday. Maybe if it's really close at the end. I'll take the Falcons just because they've got the better offense with Matt Ryan at QB and I have no idea what the Bucs are going to do in terms of finding a running back. Is Warrick Dunn available? Mike Alstott? Then again it's not like the Falcons have a run game either. Falcons 24-20
Detroit (6-3) at Pittsburgh (3-6) 1:00 pm
The Lions are coming off a big divisional road win in Chicago as they won their second in a row. If they beat this below average Pittsburgh team, they will set themselves up nicely for the end of the season that sees them with four of their last six at home. Their only two road games after this one are at Philly and at Minnesota. Neither one of those matchups is that scary. I can see the Lions finishing with an 11-5 record and 1st place in the NFC North. They have more talent than the Steelers in every area. I expect them to move the ball well and look for plenty of deep strikes from Matt Stafford to Calvin Johnson as well. I'm all in on the Lions right now. Maybe that's a bad sign for them? Sorry boys! Lions 31-24
Washington (3-6) at Philadelphia (5-5) 1:00 pm
If Washington has any hope of the playoffs they have to win this game. It's a divisional game against a team that's ahead of them. The Eagles are tied with the Cowboys (who are on their bye) atop the NFC (L)East with a 5-5 record, so it's obviously big for them as well. I think Washington has too many problems defensively to make the kind of run they did last year to get in the playoffs. Nick Foles is playing well at QB for the Eagles. They're the better team to me. It should be high scoring too. Eagles 38-27
Arizona (5-4) at Jacksonville (1-8) 1:00 pm
Congrats on the win, Jaguars. That doesn't mean I'm going to pick you to win a game the rest of the way. Sorry. I want them to win because as a Rams fan I don't see how the Cardinals are above .500 (the defense is sneaky good, I admit), but I think the Cardinals will get the job done. Cardinals 23-16
Oakland (3-6) at Houston (2-7) 1:00 pm
Another game with two bad teams. It feels weird seeing the Texans at 2-7 because they should be a lot better. I like Case Keenum at QB because the offense is able to move the ball downfield better with him. They should get the win here. Texans 27-17
Baltimore (4-5) at Chicago (5-4) 1:00 pm
These are two tough teams to get a read on. It's huge for the Ravens because they're coming off a win against the Bengals last week and every game the rest of the way is must win for them. For the Bears, it's going to be tough with backup QB Josh McCown in there for a few weeks. I know he's looked competent for a bit, but there's a reason he's been a backup for most of his career. That Ravens offense is too damn inconsistent for me to pick them. Look for the Bears to find WRs Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey down the field. I can't trust the Ravens to pick them on the road. Bears 24-17
Cleveland (4-5) at Cincinnati (6-4) 1:00 pm
The Bengals are coming off two OT losses in a row. Before that they won four games in a row. When these teams played earlier in the year the Browns won 17-6. That should tell you that the Browns defense is legit. They're 10th against the pass and 6th against the run. With all those draft picks they have next year they are really going to build something strong over there. That's right, Browns fans. You have reasons for optimism. I like the Bengals here, though. They'll play with a sense of urgency to keep that two game lead in their division. It should be close. Bengals 23-20
San Diego (4-5) at Miami (4-5) 4:05 pm
If you're wondering why the Chargers are favored by 1.5 points on the road it's because the Dolphins have only won one of their last six games after a 3-0 start. Neither team is going to make the playoffs, yet neither is that bad either. They're both pretty average. The problem with the Dolphins is that whole Jon Martin/Richie Incognito story is very distracting no matter what they may say in public. Chargers win to keep those playoffs hopes alive. Chargers 26-24
Green Bay (5-4) at N.Y. Giants (3-6) 4:25 pm
Three straight wins for the Giants, so their fans are thinking maybe they can get back in the playoff race. Considering the only really tough opponents left on their schedule are the Seahawks and Lions it's possible that they could get back in there. A few weeks ago I really believed in the Packers, but that Aaron Rodgers injury has killed that optimism. I don't think I can pick the Packers with Scott Tolzien at starting QB just because he's such an unknown. Begrudgingly, I pick the Giants. Giants 24-17
Minnesota (2-7) at Seattle (9-1) 4:25 pm
This will be a predictable blowout as we all expect. I'd be shocked if the Vikings were able to keep it close. I know the Bucs put a scare into Seattle a couple weeks ago. I don't see that happening again. Seahawks 34-10
San Francisco (6-3) at New Orleans (7-2) 4:25 pm
I don't pick against the Saints at home. The same goes for the Seahawks up above. They're an elite team with a significant advantage in the Superdome. The Niners offense looked awful against the Panthers last week. Obviously part of that is due to the Panthers having a great defense, but I also think the Niners have issues in terms of getting their receivers open. They really need Vernon Davis healthy for this game. He should likely be ready, but is it enough? I'm not sure. I think the Saints offense will find ways to score because they can put points on the board in so many ways. I don't expect a blowout. I just think the Saints are the better team. Saints 27-20
Kansas City (9-0) at Denver (8-1) 8:30 pm
There are other good games this week as you can see, but this is the main event on Sunday night. I'm going Broncos. It's not a disrespect thing against the Chiefs. I know there are people out there that think maybe they're not as good as their record because they don't score a lot of points or blow out teams as often as Denver does. To those people I say open your damn eyes. It's not easy to be 9-0. It doesn't happen very often. They earned that record. Playing well in close games means that when the playoffs come they won't be rattled. It makes them very dangerous. That defense is the best in the game and as history has shown us, defense wins championships. What I worry about with them is can they play in a shootout? Can they score enough? Jamaal Charles may be the best back in the game this year, but do they have enough weapons at WR? I'm not sure about that.
With all of said about the Chiefs, I like the Broncos more. They are deep, healthy (relatively) and have the league MVP Peyton Manning running things very well. I love their receivers, especially D. Thomas. If teams focus in on him too much, expect the Broncos to look for Welker, Decker or J. Thomas. That's why they are so tough to beat. Don't sleep on the run game, either. Knowshon Moreno has proven himself to be pretty legit. I think they'll find a way to put up some point, but I don't think they'll score more than 30 because the Chiefs defense is capable of slowing them down at times.
From a betting perspective, I think it's crazy that a 9-0 team is an underdog by 8.5 points. I bet the Chiefs know about it, too. They can use it as motivation by saying "nobody believes in us" and playing with a chip on their shoulder. It wouldn't surprise me to see the Chiefs win. Not at all. Maybe in a few weeks I'll pick the Chiefs when they play this game in KC. I'm picking Denver, though. This should be fun. Broncos 27-23
New England (7-2) at Carolina (6-3) 8:40 pm (MON)
I believe in you, Panthers. I really do. I think they're going to win this game. The Pats are really going to have a tough time handling the physical nature of the Panthers. Carolina's a healthy team on both sides of the ball with a defensive front that is scary (ask the Niners) and will make it difficult to run the ball. If you take away the run from the Pats they're not that difficult to deal with because of their inconsistent passing attack. I expect the Panthers to win by running the ball and dominating defensively in front of a rabid crowd that has been waiting a long time for a playoff team. I think they have one. This Panthers team is legit. Panthers 24-17
That's all for me this week. Enjoy the games and good luck to you.