Call this game how the AFC West is won, as the Kansas City Chiefs with an inside track for home-field in the AFC, can clinch the division with a win on Thursday. These are the two top teams record-wise in the AFC, as the Los Angeles Chargers are 10-3. The Chargers, however, can’t seem to buy a win against the Chiefs dropping nine straight, dating back to 2013. It’s hard to ignore trends that big, especially with how well the Chiefs offense has played all year and their big edge at Arrowhead.
Both teams saw long streaks come to an end last week, as the Houston Texans had a nine-game winning streak ended by the Colts, while the New York Jets ended a six-game losing streak by winning in Buffalo. The Jets won the turnover battle in a big way against the Bills, that is going to be a much harder task against Houston. The Texans are a legitimate playoff contender, while the Jets are focused on next year with a coaching change likely to come.
The Denver Broncos appeared to be turning things around as they had a three-game winning streak but stubbed their toe in San Francisco by allowing George Kittle to run wild in the first half. The Cleveland Browns meanwhile are classified as a still being in the hunt after beating the Panthers last week. Both teams are not making the playoffs no matter what the “In the Hunt” graphic says, but they are setting up a strong finish which may keep their current coaching staffs employed.
This game has a fowl smell coming up as both teams are out of the race and playing terrible football. The Atlanta Falcons come in at 4-9 with five straight losses, while the Arizona Cardinals are 3-10 with an offense that has been the worst in the NFL. Losing to Arizona got Mike McCarthy the ax in Green Bay. The Falcons are owned by the founder of Home Depot where they are having a big Christmas ax sale. If the Falcons lose at home to this Cardinals team Arthur Blank may be using one of those axes on Falcons coach Dan Quinn.
The Baltimore Ravens at 7-6 have the best shot at getting the sixth seed, with their easy remaining schedule. Last week they had the Chiefs on the ropes in Arrowhead before Patrick Mahomes happened. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers do not have that weapon in their arsenal. However, the wild card is not Baltimore’s goal as they can even go into first place is the Steelers lose to the Patriots. The Buccaneers have played better on defense as of late, but with the Ravens smelling the postseason, it is hard to imagine them getting this one in the win column.
Last week the Buffalo Bills outplayed the Jets most of the game but had nothing to show for it as they lost on a late touchdown by Sam Darnold. The Detroit Lions meanwhile saw their offense grind to a halt in the desert as they needed a pick-six by Darius Slay to find the end zone. Once again, Detroit takes on a rookie quarterback, this time they take on Josh Allen, who has been running with reckless abandoned. Look for Allen to get another 100 yards on the ground as the Bills slip past the Lions in a defensive battle.
In Week 1, the Chicago Bears had the Green Bay Packers on the ropes, before Aaron Rodgers returned from a sprained knee and led an unbelievable second-half comeback. The Packers though for the most part have been a letdown all season, as they need a miracle to make the playoffs. The Bears defense is one of the best in the NFL, having shut down the Rams last week. The Bears would love to be the one to snuff out that last ember of hope the Packers have as they close in on winning the NFC North.
The Cincinnati Bengals have lost their last five games and six of their last seven, as they have fully been hit by the Hue factor. Last week they played well, losing to the Chargers on the road, as Jeff Driskel was somewhat decent. The Oakland Raiders meanwhile stunned the Steelers at home. Both teams are done and are better off losing. The Raiders never play well in the early kickoff games in the Eastern Time Zone.
The Dallas Cowboys have been re-energized by the arrival of Amari Cooper as they have gone from 3-5 to 8-5 and are on the verge of winning the NFC East after, completing a sweep of the Eagles. The Indianapolis Colts avoided the same fate last week by stunning the Texans and staying alive in the AFC South. The Cowboys look like the more complete team overall and could even be in for a long playoff run the way they are playing in all aspects of the game while the Colts are merely building for the future.
The only win the Jacksonville Jaguars have in the last nine weeks is a 6-0 home win over the Colts two weeks ago. The Washington Redskins have lost their last four games as they have been ravaged by injuries with both quarterbacks Alex Smith and Colt McCoy have suffered broken legs. They also have lost three starters on the line. Josh Johnson will get the start after a terrible game by Mark Sanchez but at this point, things have crashed and burned so it bad it won’t matter.
The Miami Dolphins had the most miraculous of wins last week as Kenyan Drake scored after a series of laterals against the Patriots. The Minnesota Vikings meanwhile have sputtered with two straight road losses leading to a change at offensive coordinator. The Vikings despite their struggles are still in the playoff picture as the sixth seed at 6-6-1. Returning home should help, as the Dolphins have struggled away from Miami. The Vikings are a solid home team and should be able to slip by.
Last week each team had big games from their running backs, as Derick Henry used a 99-yard run to set a franchise record for the Tennessee Titans, as the New York Giants got a big game from Saquon Barkley to slam the Redskins. The Giants have the slimmest of chances to get in the playoffs with four wins in their last five games after a 1-7 start, while the Titans are in the heart of the battle for the sixth seed in the AFC at 7-6. The Titans are in a better position to win, despite being on the road as their defense will create problems for the Giants line, stopping Barkley in his tracks.
Two weeks ago, the Seattle Seahawks blasted the San Francisco 49ers 43-16 at home. The Seahawks with four straight wins are in great position to get a Wild Card spot at 8-5 as the rest of the NFC has imploded from beneath them. The 49ers did get a home win last week against the Broncos, but at 3-10 are still among the worst teams in the NFL. The Seahawks defense has been terrific as of late, while their offense has had its moments. The Seahawks should be able to win this one once easily.
Somehow, I can picture Tom Brady and Bill Belichick saying to opposing teams, don’t come on the field when we are angry, you won’t want to play us when we are angry. It’s hard to imagine them being any angrier than they are after the Miami Miracle. The Pittsburgh Steelers meanwhile have dropped three straight games they should have won and have become experts at shooting themselves in the foot. The Steelers always shoot themselves in the foot against New England, the Patriots are angry this is the perfect storm of bad for Pittsburgh who suddenly is in peril of falling out of first.
The Los Angeles Rams suffered just their second loss of the season last week in chilly Chicago. Back home they face the Philadelphia Eagles who after a loss in Dallas are on the verge of missing the playoffs. Carson Wentz has not looked right all season for Philadelphia and will likely miss the rest of the season. The Eagles perhaps looking to reawaken the mojo from last season are starting Nick Foles. However, with a broken down secondary the Eagles can do little to stop the high-powered Rams offense led by Jared Goff and Todd Gurley.
The New Orleans Saints have already clinched the NFC South and are now focused on getting home-field advantage in the NFC. The Saints play the Carolina Panthers in the last three weeks. The Panthers have stumbled with five straight losses, after a 6-2 start. There is something clearly wrong in Carolina, as Cam Newton has not been throwing the ball well at all. The Panthers could be looking at a new coach as Ron Rivera has come under fire for some of his in-game decisions a loss here and its curtains for Carolina. I sense one more look at Panthers pride on Monday Night.