I was going to include a couple of prominent NFL games at the end of my college football picks for this week, as I’ve done a couple of times for some of the bigger NFL games throughout the year. However, I ran out of time to write the extra material for these games. Therefore, here are my picks for the 3 big NFL games of the weekend.
Kansas City Chiefs (9-0) at Denver Broncos (8-1). The Broncos are probably the NFL’s best team, and are favored by 8 at home. The Chiefs, after a 2-14 record a year ago, are the last undefeated team in the league. While that fact is absolutely remarkable, considering where the Chiefs were at this time last year, the Chiefs have not beaten a team who currently has a winning record. The best record of a team they have beaten is 5-5, shared by the Cowboys and Eagles. In addition, 4 of their 9 games were decided by single digits, with 2 more being decided by exactly 10. The Broncos have the best offense in the NFL, and are on pace to have one of the best in history, on the strength of 353.4 passing yards per game. Peyton Manning is having one of his best seasons, even at age 37. The Broncos have pulled off big win after big win, and have only played 2 close games, against the Cowboys and Chargers, in addition to their loss to the Colts. The key matchup will be between that Broncos passing attack I mentioned and the Chiefs secondary, which ranks 6th in the NFL. This is the game of the year, at least so far, in the NFL, and one of the best home crowds in the NFL will be in it, for sure. Broncos 38, Chiefs 28.
New England Patriots (7-2) at Carolina Panthers (6-3). The Panthers, playing their first Monday Night Football home game since 2008, are 2 point favorites. Carolina is coming off of a big road win against the defending NFC Champions, the San Francisco 49ers, and sit a game back of the Saints in the NFC South. They also hold the first NFC Wild Card spot, and would be the NFC’s 5th seed if the playoffs started today. That’s not bad for a team that hasn’t had a winning record in 5 years. The Patriots, on the other hand, haven’t had a losing record in 13 years, and that streak is likely to continue this year, as they sit at 7-2, with a comfortable lead in the AFC East. They are coming off a bye, and in the game before the bye scored the most points ever scored against the Steelers, and also gained the most yards ever gained against them. While the Patriots are known for their Tom Brady-led offense, the Panthers are very quietly posting a solid year defensively, ranking 2nd in rushing defense, and 5th in passing defense. New England will be traveling into a fan base that is hungry, and will likely make some noise for the biggest Panthers home game since the 2008-09 NFL Playoffs. Panthers 24, Patriots 20.
San Francisco 49ers (6-3) at New Orleans Saints (7-2). The Saints, who are undefeated at home, are hosting this matchup of NFC playoff contenders, and is favored by 4. The 49ers opened the year with an impressive win over the Green Bay Packers, before consecutive losses to the Seahawks and Colts. After that, they won 5 straight games, a streak that ended last week with a 10-9 loss to the Panthers at home. While the 49ers record isn’t bad, if you take out the Packers win the best team they’ve beaten is the Cardinals. The Saints began the year 5-0, but are 2-2 in their last 4 games. Last week, however, they defeated the Dallas Cowboys convincingly, 49-17, in a game in which they had an astounding 40 first downs. This will be a game of matchups. The Saints passing offense and the 49ers secondary are both among the best in the league. The 49ers rushing offense is clearly their strength, as they rank 4th in rushing and 32nd (last) in passing, and will be facing a Saints rushing defense that ranks 23rd in the league. While I think the 49ers will have a lot of yards on the ground in the contest, I expect the Saints home-field advantage to continue, as Drew Brees continues to excel. Saints 35, 49ers 30.