Kansas City Chiefs (3-5) at Denver Broncos (7-1)
The AFC West matchup could essentially be an elimination game for the Chiefs. Another loss to the Broncos would put the Chiefs playoff hopes in dire straits, but when the two teams faced each other in Kansas City in September the Chiefs put up a fight, losing 31-24, as Peyton Manning threw for 256 yards and three touchdowns but still needed a Bradley Roby fumble return for the game-winning touchdown with 27 seconds left. Last year at Denver, the Chiefs lost by a touchdown, too, and Manning also threw three touchdowns.
The Chiefs mantra this week has to be finding a way to limit Manning, who has a pedestrian 75.6 passer rating and has only nine touchdown tosses and 13 interceptions. He needs one win to pass Brett Favre as the all-time winningest quarterback in NFL history. But, as crazy as it sounds, the Chiefs might actually have the quarterback advantage with Alex Smith, who is almost 200 yards behind Manning passing but has nine touchdowns and only three interceptions. In their last game, a blowout of Detroit in London, Smith threw two touchdowns and rushed for 78 yards and a touchdown, and he may need his legs against an aggressive Denver defense.
The offenses are nearly equal this year, with each team averaging 345 yards with a plus-three turnover margin, but the Broncos have the edge with their top-ranked defense, allowing only 274 yards per game. However, Denver will be without DeMarcus Ware, their sacks leader with 6½. The Chiefs counter with Justin Houston, who has 5½ sacks . And if it comes down to a battle of field position, the punters are the Colquitt brothers. Dustin is averaging 47.1 yards for the Chiefs while Britton is averaging 44.8 for Denver.
New England Patriots (8-0) at New York Giants (5-4)
Although they are known for their two Super Bowl matchups, the two teams haven’t played each other much in the regular season. The last time was in 2011, when the Giants beat the Patriots 24-20, and the last time they played at New York was in 2007, a 38-35 Patriots win in which Randy Moss had six catches for 100 yards and two touchdowns and Tom Brady threw for 356 yards and two touchdowns.
It’s Eli Manning vs. Brady, with the Patriots quarterback holding the stats edge but Manning holding the edge in the series. Brady has a league-best 22 touchdowns and only two interceptions for a league-leading 113.5 passer rating. Manning has 19 touchdowns and six interceptions for a 96.9 rating, but he has won three of his past four meetings with the Patriots, including the two Super Bowl wins. Both have productive receivers, with Julian Edelman leading the Patriots with 639 yards and seven touchdowns (tied for second in the league), while Odell Beckham Jr. has 759 yards (second in the NFC) and also has seven touchdowns.
The Patriots also hold the edge in the ground game, with LeGarrette Blount averaging 4.6 yards per carry and he has five touchdowns, as he went for 129 yards and a touchdown last week. Rashad Jennings is averaging only 3.9 yards and has one touchdown for the Giants.
Both teams have been very efficient with the ball. The Patriots have a plus-seven turnover margin, best in the AFC, and the Giants are plus-12, best in the league.
Arizona Cardinals (6-2) at Seattle Seahawks (4-4)
The Cardinals hold sway in the NFC West, but the Seahawks held the Cardinals to a combined nine points in their two meetings last year, and Seattle coach Pete Carroll is 8-3 against Arizona while Bruce Arians is only 1-3 against the Seahawks. Now, however, the Cardinals have Carson Palmer and he is playing at a high level – third in the NFC with 2,386 yards, first with 20 touchdown passes and a 110.2 passer rating. Palmer has won 19 of his past 23 starts and his 20 touchdowns in the first eight games are the most in franchise history. But Palmer will have to be very aware of Michael Bennett, who has 6½ sacks, tied for second in the NFC.
The Seahawks counter with Russell Wilson, who has won four of his past five meetings against the Cardinals and threw for a combined 550 yards and three touchdowns without an interception, as well as rushing for 161 yards and a touchdown, in the two games against the Cardinals last year. But just as Palmer has to worry about Bennett, Wilson has to be careful throwing into the Arizona secondary, as the Cardinals are tied for the NFL lead with 13 interceptions, with Rashad Johnson, Tony Jefferson, Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson each having at least two interceptions.
Interestingly, the Cardinals might also have the edge in the running game. Chris Johnson is third in the NFL with 676 yards and is averaging 4.8 yards per carry while Marshawn Lynch has only 375 yards and is averaging 3.6 yards per carry.