New York Jets (6-5) at New York Giants (5-6)
Both of these New York teams are relevant, yet not dominant. And both teams are currently on the outside of the playoff picture looking in, but with plenty of opportunities to get back into the top six seeds in their division.
The Jets are just one game out and a win, coupled with losses by the Houston Texans or Kansas City Chiefs, would put them right back in it. The Giants are the ninth seed in the NFC right now, tied with the NFC East-leading Redskins, so a win by the Giants and a loss by the Redskins would put the Giants ahead of them for at least one week.
Needless to say, there is plenty of importance on every game from here on out for both the Giants and Jets, and it’s the first time they’ve faced each other in four years.
The Jets have a mediocre offense led by a mediocre quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick, but he has some weapons to work with. RB Chris Ivory is leading the NFC with 766 yards and seven touchdowns and has 100 or more scrimmage yards in two of his past three games. WR Brandon Marshall is tied for third in the conference with 931 yards, has 100 or more receiving yards or a touchdown in 10 of his past 11 games, and is tied for second with nine touchdowns.
But mostly the Jets are based on defense, where they have the top-ranked rushing defense and third-ranked defense overall.
It will be up to Eli Manning to navigate the Giants through Gang Green and he is 2-0 against the Jets. Manning is third in NFC with 23 touchdowns and has over 3,000 yards already – his 11th consecutive season eclipsing that mark – but he also has nine interceptions, including a season-high three last week. Despite that, the Giants are plus-10 in turnover ratio, third-best in the league.
Of course, Odell Beckham Jr. is known for his incredible catches, but his production is nearly as impressive, as he has 30 receptions for 481 yards and five touchdowns in his last four games, and he’s averaging more than 100 yards in 11 career homes games.
Kansas City Chiefs (6-5) at Oakland Raiders (5-6)
Right now, the Chiefs are the projected fifth seed in the AFC, but the Raiders can knock them from that perch with this AFC West rivalry. Kansas City has won three of the last four between these two, but the Raiders won last year in Oakland.
The Chiefs are winning with a good defense and taking care of the ball on offense, good for an impressive plus-12, best in the AFC.
Alex Smith has only 12 touchdowns passes, but just three interceptions and has the longest active streak and fourth-longest in NFL history without an interception – 283 passes and counting. The Chiefs are on a five-game winning streak and Smith hasn’t thrown an interception in his last eight games. Jeremy Maclin is his favorite target – 57 catches for 772 yards and three touchdowns – and had a season-high 160 yards on nine catches last week.
Derek Carr has the better numbers with double the amount of Smith’s touchdowns and also double the amount of interceptions. Carr needs one more 300-yard game to join Rich Gannon as the only Raiders quarterbacks with seven 300-yard games, and Carr has done that in four of his past five, including a 330-yard, three-touchdown, 120.3-rating game last week.
Amari Cooper is fourth overall in the NFL and leads rookies in catches (58), receiving yards (851) and 100-yard games (four) while Michael Crabtree has five touchdowns in his last six games. Carr also has a solid running game with Latavius Murray second in the AFC with 765 rushing yards.
Indianapolis Colts (6-5) at Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5)
The Colts are in the thick of the playoff contenders (currently seeded fourth) thanks to 40-year-old QB Matt Hasselbeck. The ageless wonder is 4-0 as a starter, has over 1,000 yards with seven touchdowns and only two interceptions. He is only the third quarterback in his 40s in the Super Bowl era to win four consecutive games.
Although the Colts are 26th in overall defense, LB D'Qwell Jackson leads the NFL with 111 tackles and is shooting for his third straight game with a sack, and S Mike Adams has four interceptions in his last four games and 10 interceptions since the start of the 2014 season.
But the Steelers have won nine of the last 11 in this series, including a 51-34 win in October 2014 when Ben Roethlisberger threw for 522 yards and six touchdowns. Roethlisberger has three straight 300-yard games, including 456 yards last week, giving him three 450-yard performances in his career, tied for second-most in NFL history.
He knows where his bread is buttered, with Antonio Brown leading the AFC with 85 catches for 1,192 yards and has 33 catches for 474 yards in his last three games. RB DeAngelo Williams is averaging 130.3 scrimmage yards in his last four games.
Despite all that offensive production, the Steelers are currently on the outside fringe of the playoffs as the No. 8 seed in the AFC.