Perhaps the best Thursday Night Game of the season, sees first place in the AFC West on the line as the Chiefs host the Raiders. The Chiefs come in at 9-3, after winning the first meeting in Oakland, the Raiders who have won six straight since that loss are the best team in the AFC at 10-2. The Raiders have been impressive and resilient in recent weeks rallying to win their last two games, the Chiefs meanwhile are off two strong road wins where they just found ways to win. One thing for sure is Arrowhead Stadium is going to be loud which will be a big advantage. Add to the face the road team has one less day to practice on Thursday and the advantages stack up for a Kansas City win.
Don’t look now but the Steelers are starting to find their groove after a 24-14 win against the Giants last week. The Steelers controlled the game from the start and did a good job keeping the Giants offense in check. The Bills started strong last week but faded in the season half in Oakland. At 6-6 the Bills are the quintessential .500 team, sometimes looking good sometimes looking terrible, but mostly giving mediocre results. The Steelers who are finally getting all their pieces together could be one of the most dangerous teams in the AFC down the stretch as they have a complete balanced attack that is geared for success this time of the year.
After their loss in Super Bowl 50, the Carolina Panthers have been one of the most disappointing teams in the NFL, cultivating with their 40-7 beating last Sunday Night in Seattle. The Chargers meanwhile have been even more frustrating for their fans, losing several games in the fourth quarter. Both teams are all but finished in the playoff chase and will be looking more into building off a strong finish for next season. Finishing strong is something the Chargers are unable to do as Phillip Rivers has been awful in the fourth quarter, throwing several back-breaking interceptions including last week against the Buccaneers.
It has been one year since the Browns won their last game, with Johnny Manziel leading the way in a 24-10 victory over the 49ers. At 0-12 the Browns are looking at 0-16 square in the jaw, with their games against the Bengals being their last best chance to get a win. Cleveland could get a spark as Robert Griffin III who was injured in Week 1, saying he is ready to go. Despite a win over the Eagles last week the Bengals have also had a poor season at 4-7-1. One player who has had a frustrating year is Mike Nugent who has missed a PAT in each of the Bengals last four games. That trend will continue in the Battle of Ohio and this time it will cost the Bengals the game as the Browns 15 game losing streak comes to an end.
Last week the Lions went down to New Orleans and delivered perhaps their most impressive win of the season as they clobbered the Saints 28-13 to improve to 8-4. The Lions can almost smell their first division title in 23 years as they hold a two-game lead in the NFC North. The Lions have won seven of eight since their loss in Chicago. The Bears have been middling at best winning just their third games of the season against the 49ers last week. It is hard to imagine the best team in the NFC North will be swept by the worst team in the division. Add the strong play of the Detroit secondary and this one has blowout written all over it.
The AFC South is awash in mediocrity as three teams are deadlocked at the top at 6-6. Two of those teams meet on Sunday as the Colts coming off a 41-10 ass kicking of the Jets look to avenge an earlier loss. The Texans have gone the other way since beating the Colts in Week 6, losing their last three games as the signing of Brock Osweiler is looking like one big mistake as he has played worse than any of the Texans recent quarterbacks. The play of Osweiler has become a problem for Houston as the Texans have lost three straight. The Texans have been awful on the road all year, while the Colts appear to be hitting their stride.
When Blake Bortles is on the field there is almost as good as chance that the Jaguars will allow a touchdown than score a touchdown as Blake Bortles has been throwing pick sixes at a record pace. Last week’s third quarter interception return by Bradley Roby was a back breaker as the Jaguars lost their seventh straight. In just three seasons, Bortles has had 11 interceptions run back the other way, which is one less than Tom Brady who is in his 16th season. The Vikings secondary has at times been their best offensive weapon with Sam Bradford struggling so badly. The Vikings are a far cry from their 5-0 start, but at least still have a pulse the Jaguars are just looking for an exit and off-season house cleaning.
Last week the Dolphins suffered a major letdown, losing to the Ravens 38-6 to end their six-game winning streak. The Dolphins have always had their struggles against the Ravens and Joe Flacco, and can get back on track with a win. The Cardinals have been flat out awful in early starting games, losing four times this season already and have not looked good in either game. Carson Palmer has been especially bad for the Cardinals and prone to the turnover. The Dolphins meanwhile could have their entire offensive line and healthy and ready to go as they hope a strong finish nets them their first playoff appearance in eight years.
For the second straight season the Eagles are fading away at the season’s conclusion, as they have won just two of their last nine games after starting the season with three straight wins. The Redskins are coming home after losing two straight on the road, and still have a chance at the wild card 6-5-1. Carson Wentz had gone through some growing pains after starting strong, as the Eagles passing game has been hurt by the lack of a reliable receiver. Even in their losses Kirk Cousins has played well and will continue the Redskins recent mastery over the Eagles.
Without playing a game last week, the Titans moved into a first-place tie, amidst the 6-6 mishmash at the top of the AFC South. The Broncos meanwhile rebounded from a tough Sunday Night loss by beating the Jaguars on the road. Once again making a long trip east the Broncos will need their defense to step forward. The Titans have all the looks of a team on the rise as Marcus Mariota is playing better as the season goes on. However, the Broncos defense is one of the best in the league led by likely Defensive Player of the Year Von Miller. The Broncos defense is good at chasing down mobile quarterbacks and taking advantage of any mistake a young quarterback may make.
As the NFL season goes into the final quarter, some games take on an add meeting as it will determine who gets in the playoffs. Other games are glorified exhibitions as both teams are working towards next year and others are just pointless. This one is pointless as both teams are coming off awful performances and looking like they are continuing down the days to the off-season. The 49ers with 11 straight losses were humiliated in the snow last week as Colin Kaeperenick was sacked five times while passing for four yards. The Jets meanwhile had their asses kicked on Monday Night. The Jets appear to have quit on coach Todd Bowles who is suddenly looking like a man in over his head. A loss here and the vultures will be circling Gang Green.
After four straight losses, the Packers have righted the ship and are back in the playoff chase at 6-6. The Seahawks meanwhile coming off a statement win against the Panthers will be a major test for Green Bay. This has become a solid rivalry in recent years, highlighted by the 2014 NFC Championship Game comeback by Seattle. The Packers need this one, but it is hard to determine if their last two wins were the result of weaker opponents as their secondary is far from 100%. The Seahawks will be without Earl Thomas for the rest of the year and if Aaron Rodgers can find an open space he can take advantage. In the end though it will be Russell Wilson who has the answers as the Seahawks win a shootout in Lambeau Field.
As the Christmas season approaches one must think about all the packages and Christmas Cards delivered by our letter carriers, the priceless pictures and Jeff Fisher also has pictures and memories though it’s not Christmas greetings, its black mail. How else can you explain the two-year extension he got from the Rams. The Falcons meanwhile are hoping to avoid another late season collapse, as they are now tied after holding the top spot in the NFC South all season. Last week’s loss was particularly gnawing as Eric Berry’s two-point return was the difference. The Rams defense has been taken apart the last two games and Jared Goff has yet to show he can keep pace with the league’s top passers like Matt Ryan.
With four straight wins the Buccaneers are sailing into playoff contention, as Jameis Winston has really begun to show why he was the top pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Not only have the Buccaneers been sharp on offense, they have been improving on defense as they shut down the Seahawks two weeks ago, and made the difference last week against the Chargers. The next three weeks will be key for Tampa as they have two games with the Saints sandwiched around a Sunday Night showdown against the Cowboys. Look for the Bucs strong play to continue as Winston has another banner day.
The Giants opened the season with a 20-19 win in Dallas. Despite a loss last week, the Giants have been solid in close games, holding a record of 8-4. The Cowboys though have been even better as they have run off 11 straight wins after that opening game loss. The Giants suffered a big blow ahead of the showdown as top pass rusher Jason Pierre Paul underwent hernia surgery. The Cowboys come in the game playing with house money as they are nearly a lock to get the top spot in the NFC playoffs. However, without JPP it is hard to see the Giants getting enough pressure on Dak Prescott who will use Jason Whitten to exploit the Giants troubles against big Tight Ends to get another win.
Joe Flacco is coming off his best performance of the season as the Ravens fight it out with the Steelers for the top spot in the AFC North. However, to continue to keep pace with Pittsburgh the Ravens will have their work cut out for them with a Monday Night game in Foxboro. The Patriots may be a little beat up without Rob Gronkowski, but they still have more weapons than Baltimore. Look for Tom Brady to continue adding to his all-time wins record as the Patriots close in on clinching home field in the playoffs once again.