The Kentucky Derby this is not, as both teams are far out of the playoff chase, and playing out the string. The Broncos ended an eight-game losing streak last week by blanking the Jets last week at home. The Colts, meanwhile lost a heartbreaker in the snow in Buffalo. The Broncos have not won a game outside of Denver all season and will continue to struggle on the road as the Colts gallop away with a win long after the rest of the field crossed the finish line.
The Chicago Bears played their best game of the season last week pounding the Bengals as Mitchell Trubisky had the best game of his young career. The Detroit Lions meanwhile kept their faint playoff hopes alive with a late field goal in Tampa. Playing a Saturday afternoon game at Ford Field, the Lions face another must win. While the Bears always seem to give them a hard time, but in the end, Detroit gets the win. This week it will be no different.
The AFC West is on the line in Arrowhead Stadium as the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers each enter the game with records of 7-6. After scuffling through November, the Chiefs got back on track with a solid win over the Raider. The Chargers meanwhile, who once were 0-4 are rolling over everyone, coming off a blowout win over the Redskins. Phillip Rivers is playing some of the best football of his career. Look for Rivers to have another big game as the Chargers take over first place.
The Miami Dolphins are coming off the most satisfying win of the year on Monday Night against the Patriots. At 6-7 they have a slight hope for the playoffs but will need to win their final three games and get some help. The Buffalo Bills are coming off a win in a blizzard, but have trouble at quarterback as Tyron Taylor is dealing with a knee injury while Nathan Peterman suffered a concussion. If the Dolphins can come out half as strong in Buffalo, they can easily get the win against the banged-up Bills.
The Carolina Panthers played one of their best games of the year last week beating the Vikings at home. With a 9-4 record, the Panthers are tied with the Saints for the lead in the NFC South. The Green Bay Packers are barely alive in the playoff chase, with Aaron Rodgers cleared to play. However, it is hard to imagine he can go right back on the field and win a game on the road against a quality team like Carolina. Rodgers will keep the game close, but when the game is on the line Cam Newton will come up with the big play at home to deliver another home win.
Despite their heartbreaking loss at Heinz Field, the Baltimore Ravens are still in the Wild Card hunt at 7-6 as they finish with rather easy games in the final three weeks, beginning with the winless Cleveland Browns on the road. The Browns seem to invent new ways to lose every week as they blew a 14-point lead against the Packers last week. The Browns at 0-13 are playing their final home game of the year, with one win in their last 32 games and a record of 4-46 in their last 50 games. With numbers like that it is hard to imagine they can beat any team that has playoff aspirations.
There is a new buzz in Northern Florida as the Jacksonville Jaguars have clinched a winning season and are on the verge of making the playoffs. Adding a cherry on top, the Jaguars are in first place in the AFC South and have the inside track to win the division. The Houston Texans who have been ravaged all season by injury now have serious questions to answers after allowing a concussed Tom Savage to play after suffering convolutions last week. Look for Houston to play it safe, which will make a win come easier for the Jaguars.
The Minnesota Vikings saw a seven-game winning streak come to an end last week as Case Keenum struggled in Carolina. The Cincinnati Bengals meanwhile delivered an uninspired, lackluster loss to the Bears at home. With the division title in reach the Vikings get a boost upon returning and take out the Bengals easily. Don’t be shocked if A.J. McCarron gets a bulk of the snaps for Cincinnati, whose only goal the rest of the way is getting focused for 2018.
The New Orleans Saints were banged up, bruised and battered in their Thursday Night loss to the archrival Falcons last week. Returning home, they have an easier game against the New York Jets, before they have to take on the Falcons again. The Jets themselves were battered in an embarrassing shutout loss to the Broncos, losing quarterback Josh McCown to a broken wrist. With Bryce Petty getting the start, at the Superdome don’t expect much offense from gang green, while the Saints will be all systems go looking to get the division title.
At 11-2 with the division title in the basket, the Philadelphia Eagles hope it will be no Carson Wentz, no problem as they are forced to go with Nick Foles the rest of the way. Foles played well in leading the Eagles to a pair of field goals to beat the Rams. At 2-11 it’s a lost season for the New York Giants, who after a strong start last week sputtered in the fourth quarter as there are way too many holes for them to overcome.
The Arizona Cardinals have played hard in recent weeks, as third-string quarterback Blane Gabbert sensing his career could be nearing an end has played well. The Washington Redskins meanwhile have been hit hard by injuries especially to the offensive line and have seen their season fade away. Look for the Redskins struggles continue as they return home and suffer a loss to the Redbirds.
The NFC West is on the line as the Seattle Seahawks host the Los Angeles Rams. The Seahawks had had their ups and downs as they have lost several key players including most of the Legion of Boom to injuries. The Rams have not made the playoffs since 2004, but a win here will give them a two-game lead in the West, while the Seahawks will hold the tie break if they beat the Rams for the second time. Even with the game in Seattle, the Seahawks will have a tough time handling the Rams offensive weapons.
Perhaps the most important game of the regular season’s final three weeks sees the Pittsburgh Steelers hosting the New England Patriots with home field in the AFC Playoffs on the line. The Patriots come into the game off a stunning Monday Night loss into Miami, while the Steelers have staged back-to-back primetime comebacks in the fourth quarter. As good as the Steelers have been the Patriots have had their number in recent years, including the AFC Championship Game last season. Look for the Patriots with the return of Rob Gronkowski to shred the Steelers secondary as the Steelers fall too far behind this time for a comeback.
After winning his first two starts on the road, Jimmy Garoppolo makes his first start at Levi’s Stadium as the San Francisco 49ers look to finish strong. The Tennessee Titans meanwhile, are in a battle for the AFC South and coming off a gut-wrenching loss in Arizona. While Garoppolo has been everything the 49ers could have hoped for so far, they still have a long way to go to be the type of team that wins against quality teams. Look for the Titans needing a big win to get a big performance out of Marcus Mariota to keep the pressure on the Jaguars.
Two teams barely hanging on to the playoff race meet on Sunday Night with each needing a win to keep their playoff hopes alive. The win is especially big for the Dallas Cowboys who will get Ezekiel Elliott back for the final two games. Last week Dak Prescott carried the Cowboys to a win over the Giants, as their defense got a big boost from the return of Sean Lee. The Oakland Raiders, meanwhile played a sluggish game in Kansas City as their secondary continues to have coverage problems. Look for Jason Witten and Dez Bryant to tear through the Black Hole as Dallas stays alive.
No team has been a bigger disappointment that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who after having high expectations have sunk to the bottom of the NFC South at 9-4. The Atlanta Falcons have had their ups and downs, but are in playoff position at 8-5. Three weeks ago, the Falcons beat Tampa by two touchdowns in Atlanta, look for the result to be the same again as Jameis Winston continues to struggle, while Matt Ryan finds the magic on Monday Night.