Oakland Raiders (3-4) at Buffalo Bills (4-2)
A tale of two teams, here.
Oakland has underwhelmed after a strong 2016 campaign. A four-game losing streak has them far behind the AFC West-leading Kansas City Chiefs. Should it prove too much to handle, today’s road test could put the division out of reach before we even get to November.
The Bills, on the other hand, have held a fire sale in 2017. They’ve sold off a ton of talent since last year, a sale that continued this week with the trade of DL Marcell Dareus to the Jacksonville Jaguars. That has them loaded up for the 2018 NFL Draft, but having lept out to a 4-2 start, they perhaps have a spot in the AFC East they weren’t anticipating. While the New England Patriots are now humming, they dropped two games early on leaving the door open a bit in the division.
Indianapolis Colts (2-5) at Cincinnati Bengals (2-4)
It’s hard to feel like the Colts are playing for anything other than draft position and avoiding any compulsion to force QB Andrew Luck back on a football field in 2017.
The Bengals, though, have certainly disappointed through seven weeks. The bottom line is that they have to win today with a three-game road stretch in front of them starting with a trip to the upstart Jacksonville Jaguars. Rookie WR John Ross is finally active for the first time in his NFL career. Perhaps he can help the NFL’s second-lowest scoring offense.
Los Angeles Chargers (3-4) at New England Patriots (5-2)
A candidate for the game of the day.
The Chargers have won three straight including last week’s 21-0 pasting of the Denver Broncos. A win today would have them flying into their bye week with a MUCH easier schedule looming post-bye than the gauntlet they’ve navigated to this point.
The Pats, on the other hand, are the Pats. Yeah.
Chicago Bears (3-4) at New Orleans Saints (4-2)
The Bears are riding a two-game winning streak on the back of rookie QB Mitchell Trubisky, though I’m not sure his effort last week of just seven passing attempts is the kind of thing to point to to justify winning ways. For a franchise that hasn’t had a winning record since 2012, the Bears are perhaps just looking for reasons to believe that Trubisky will lead a renaissance in the years to come. Today might be a big reason.
The Saints, though, seem to have gotten back to Drew Brees-era football. The defense is no longer a complete farce and the offense is cranking. After starting the season with two Ls, they’re on a four-game winning streak. With two home games in today’s contest and next week’s clash against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they could head into mid-November with a comfortable position in a contentious NFC South.
Atlanta Falcons (3-3) at New York Jets (3-4)
Perhaps no game exemplifies the confusion of the 2017 NFL season more than this one. The reigning NFC Champion Falcons have lost three games in a row including home losses against the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins. Yeah.
The Jets, thought to perhaps be the worst team in the NFL going into Week 1, have won three games including one over the Jacksonville Jaguars...
They’re gonna win today, aren’t they?
San Francisco 49ers (0-7) at Philadelphia Eagles (6-1)
Carolina Panthers (4-3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4)
Along with Chargers-Patriots, this is my other big game from the early slate.
You’ve got a great battle between Panthers QB Cam Newton and Bucs QB Jameis Winston. You’ve got two teams in a bit of a minor tailspin with Carolina on a two-game losing streak and Tampa one worse. And you’ve got a division rivalry as both look to get the ship righted to begin pushing for the NFC South crown.