Chiefs at Broncos: Thursday, 10.17 8:20 pm ET.
The Chiefs are 4-2 atop the AFC West, but they’ve lost their last two games. The Broncos are 2-4, in the basement, but they’ve won their last two. And this one is being held a mile high.
What to watch for: Can Patrick Mahomes carry the Chiefs against one of the league’s best passing defenses? Denver is a very solid defense, allowing only 196 yards per game in the air. Only San Francisco, New England and Buffalo allow fewer. We know that the Chiefs running game has gone quiet, but this would be a really good week for it to awaken if they want to keep the lead in the division. If the Chiefs drop their third straight game on the road in the division, it’s going to be gut check time in K.C.
Cardinals at Giants: Sunday 10.20 1 pm ET.
Want to see how the new kids do it? This is the game for you…
What to watch for: Neither team is looking good per se, but both of these rookie QBs are. Jones has brought some spark to a New York team that looked listless behind veteran Eli Manning. Murray is getting his feet under him, averaging just over 275 yards per game and leading the Cardinals to upset wins over Cincinnati and Atlanta the last two weeks. I’m keen to see how these two guys handle what will probably be a tight game at the end.
Ravens at Seahawks, Sunday 10.20 4:25 pm ET.
It’s the battle of the birds, so get your popcorn ready. Baltimore is 4-2 and their dynamic offense has produced more yardage than anyone in the league. Only the Patriots have scored more. Seattle is also a top five offensive unit, with Russell Wilson playing at an MVP level. He’s thrown as many TDs as Patrick Mahomes with zero interceptions.
What to watch for: How quickly can Marcus Peters integrate into the Ravens defensive scheme? The All-Pro cornerback will absolutely make Baltimore tougher against the pass than they have been. In truth, it might have been their only real weakness. If he can clamp down right off the bat, Baltimore can make a game of this one, no matter how loud the Twelfth Man gets on Sunday. That being said, I see Seattle having the edge with the emergence of D.K. Metcalf as a legitimate target for Russell Wilson against an underperforming Ravens secondary with new pieces.
Saints at Bears, Sunday 10.20 4:25 pm ET.
The Saints haven’t lost since Drew Brees went down. That’s more about the depth and quality of the roster than about him being replaceable. The Bears are the last solid challenge (they have Arizona next weekend) on their schedule before their week nine bye, after which, Brees is expected to return. The Bears are the third toughest defense to score on thus far, and it’s kept them alive in the NFC North despite missing their franchise quarterback.
What to watch for: Trubisky to return? The QB was a full participant in practice on Wednesday, despite backup Chase Daniel taking a slew of reps. If Chicago loses this home tilt, they’ll drop to 3-3 and it might be a struggle to get rolling for a playoff push. If Trubisky is cleared by the medical team, he’ll go. If he goes, this is probably anyone’s game.
HONORABLE MENTION: The Battle for the Soul of the NFC East
Eagles at Cowboys, Sunday 10.20 8:20pm ET.
OK- I’ll be honest. I’m not a fan of mediocrity bowls like this one, but one team will sink, and one team will swim. Assuming that there isn’t a tie, after this, only one team will be above .500 in the NFC East. Still, it’s a divisional battle with playoff implications down the line.
What to watch for: The Cowboys “should” win this one. They’re at home. They have a better point differential than the Eagles. They’re a top five offense, and they’ve allowed five fewer points per game. So why are the Cowboys only a three-point home favorite (that’s basically a coin flip if the game was played on a neutral field)? Because they’ve dropped three straight games and look very much like a team that isn’t headed to the playoffs. Sorry, Cowboy fans, I see the Eagles flying in this one.