The biggest rivalry game of the day comes at night, when the 9-0 Chiefs face the 8-1 Broncos in a matchup that will go a long way in determining the #1 seed in the AFC. Before we get to that point, several other divisional matchups highlight the Sunday afternoon schedule, and feature teams that should be in “must win” mode if they want to keep realistic hopes of alive.
On Friday, I looked at Washington, who has the same record they had after nine games a year ago. The game at Philadelphia is vital if Washington wants to start another turnaround. It looks like the Eagles are going the way of Washington from 2012, and have started to surge in the last few weeks, with Nick Foles on fire. Foles leads the NFL in passer rating after the last two weeks. Neither of these teams has a stout defense. In their first matchup, Washington did nothing on offense for the first half of the game, and Philadelphia rolled to a big lead. Robert Griffin III must match Chip Kelly’s offense early in this one.
Buffalo host the Jets in another important contest in the AFC wildcard race. As amazing as it may seem, the 3-7 Bills are very much alive in the wildcard chase. That may not be true by the end of the day. Buffalo must beat the Jets, which would mean that no one chasing a wildcard spot would have a winning record. Buffalo then has the easiest stretch of four games compared to the other wildcard hopefuls. New York, meanwhile, has the lead, but has followed a win-loss-win-loss pattern all year. They beat the Saints last time out, but this team has been so inconsistent on offense that, if you know what to expect, I’d like to subscribe to your newsletter.
Cleveland goes to Cincinnati in the other early rivalry game. The Bengals had a chance to slam the division shut on the Ravens a week ago and failed. Another division loss at home to the Browns would officially make the AFC North a clustered mess rating as an 8 on the AFC East scale.
The other issue is weather. Strong storms are expected through the Great Lakes and upper midwest and into Pennsylvania today. Tornadoes are a possibility. The Philadelphia game is probably safe from severe weather, but Cincinnati is right in the heart of it, and Buffalo could catch rain and high winds, which combined with two rookie quarterbacks could spell trouble. Chicago’s game against Baltimore is also right in the target zone, and could experience very high winds. The Detroit game at Pittsburgh could also feature thunderstorms, though the winds are not expected to be as strong as in Chicago and Cincinnati. High winds are usually the strongest factor in limiting points and passing, so plan accordingly.