New York Jets @ Buffalo Bills (Bills -7)
The Bills have lost 4 out of their last 6 games – this season they’ve lost to the Jets and the Patriots. They fumbled the ball on the first play of the game on Monday night against Denver and they committed 4 turnovers. It was not a good game of football – highlighted by the Bills putting 12 men on the field, which wiped out Denver’s missed field goal attempt, allowing them to try again and ultimately cost the Bills the game.
Buffalo look a disorganised mess right now and if the playoffs were today, they wouldn’t be involved. Now they face a New York Jets team, which upset them in week 1 and are fighting to still be in the hunt if/when Aaron Rodgers returns from injury. There’s no secret to the Jets gameplan for this one – play good defense and run the ball on offense. Breece Hall was problematic for the Bills when they last met, and Denver had success on the ground when they beat them on Monday night. But if Buffalo can cut out some of their own mistakes and put points on the board, this becomes a totally different proposition. If the Jets are forced to put the ball in QB Zach Wilson’s hands, that plays heavily into Buffalo’s favour. Wilson hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass since the 1st quarter of week 8 against the Giants!
I’ve written this before in this column, you don’t become a bad team overnight. If the Bills want to be contenders this season, it’s “go time” right now! Buffalo are still a top 10 ranked team in overall offense, passing offense and scoring offense – averaging 26 points per game. If they put 26 on the board in this one, it’s over! The Jets will point to a defense which, despite poor offensive production, is still only giving up 19 points per game but they are 31st when stopping the run. Like the Bills, their defense has been put in some tough spots this season when their offense has turned the ball over, so this is a unit which has to be respected. We’ve seen what happens though when they get behind on the scoreboard, it becomes a struggle. They haven’t scored more than 20 points in over a month.
For Josh Allen and the Bills, the time for excuses is over, the time to show up and show out is here. Big time players, make big time plays, in big time games. This is an AFC East rivalry; you could say it’s a potentially season defining game – a big time game! The Real Buffalo Bills need to show up and I think they do!
PICK: Buffalo Bills -7
Vikings @ Broncos (Vikings +2.5)
What is there left to say about QB Josh Dobbs, that hasn’t already been said. What he achieved while playing for Arizona at the start of the season was good. The level he’s played at since being traded to the Minnesota Vikings two weeks ago is nothing short of sensational! He makes good decisions; he’s got a good arm, and he can make plays with his legs. He’s steered them to back to back wins – without star wide receiver, Justin Jefferson. Well, his hand likely gets stringer this week, with Jefferson expected to return from a hamstring injury and the Vikings, occupying a wild card spot if the playoffs began today.
It makes this matchup all the more fascinating against a Denver Broncos team, apparently rejuvenated in the past two weeks. Beating the Chiefs and then the Bills in dramatic fashion on Monday Night Football. There’s been an obvious change in the point of emphasis to the Broncos offense. In the first part of this season, QB Russell Wilson was being relied on to make plays. Recently, they’ve leaned more heavily on the run game. They’ve cut out sloppy offensive mistakes and that’s allowed this Denver defense play at a level we’re more accustomed to. Against both Kansas City and the Bills they grabbed 9 takeaways – they’d only had 7 all season prior to these two games! As a result, they’re now riding a 3 game winning streak headed into this Sunday Night Football match-up.
Despite this, they could – and perhaps should – have still lost to the Bills. They missed the field goal attempt to win the game…. only to be reprieved by Buffalo inexplicably having 12 men on the field – and the retry was good.
I’ve written this before in this column, the Vikings defense is a much improved unit this season. 12 months ago, they were the Achilles heal of this team. Now they’re a difference maker. They forced game winning turnovers against the 49ers. They largely shut down the Saints last weekend. They are a big reason Minnesota is riding a 5 game winning streak right now. They’re a top 10 unit against the run, giving up 100 rushing yards per game. They’re a top unit in forcing takeaways. They’ve found a way to win games against good teams with good defenses, despite missing their franchise quarterback! That’s the difference between these two teams. Denver’s offense will have to come to play in this game, if they are to beat Minnesota – an offense which ranks 23rd overall and 28th in passing. Until I see that happen, I won’t believe it. The Vikings have been more impressive to this point and a trip into Denver under the lights will not daunt Josh Dobbs
PICK: Minnesota Vikings +2.5
Philadelphia Eagles @ Kansas City Chiefs (Chiefs -2.5)
Saving the best for last on Monday Night Football – a repeat of last season’s Super Bowl matchup when a defensive holding call ended the Eagles hopes, in a thriller! Of course, this is a different season, and these are different teams…
The Eagles go into this game with the best record in football (8-1) and off the back of a gutsy win over the Cowboys. The Chiefs are just a game back (7-2) and having just beaten the Dolphins in Germany. While both have had a bye week to rest, both are aware of issues they need to clean up.
Philadelphia’s defense, particularly their pass defense is not good this season. They are in the bottom 5 in the league, giving up 257 yards per game. Both Washington and Dallas in their last 2 outings calved them up – throwing for 397 and 374 yards respectively. To their credit, the Eagles found a way to win both games. The bye week has given QB Jalen Hurts time to rest up a right knee injury which was visibly bothering him against Dallas, and he’s masterminded an offense which is scoring 28 points per game BUT he’s also given the ball away on 11 occasions, losing 3 fumbles and throwing 8 picks.
Kansas City’s defense is the best unit on this team through 10 weeks. Top 10 in total defense, passing defense and giving up under 16 points per game. They shut out the red hot Miami Dolphins offense in the first half in Germany and then turned them away with the game on the line. Patrick Mahomes himself said, going into their bye, the Chiefs offense needed to get right and perhaps ominously promised they will. Well, this is the game when that might happen.
Potentially a tipping point game for the Eagles, as they embark on their toughest stretch in the schedule. They can’t keep on edging one score games – the law of averages states, sooner or later the balance tips. So, either this stretch steels them for another run to the Super Bowl or by the time they go into Dallas in December, they’ll be battling to retain their NFC East crown.
The question for Kansas City is, can their resolve their offensive issues? It’s a unit which ranks 8th in overall offense but is only putting 23 points per game on the scoreboard – a poultry number compared to what we’ve become used to – and can they look after the ball better? Going into the bye week they were 28th in turnovers – they’ve given the ball away 17 times this season.
One thing we should know by now is that you never underestimate this Chiefs team. Somehow, someway Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes find a way to get it done when it matters most. The business end of the season starts here, and this is when the Chiefs come into their own
PICK: Kansas City Chiefs -2.5