Photo: Patrick Mahomes
Source: David Eulitt / Getty Image North America

Top-seeded Chiefs will have to fend off the surging Colts to secure their first home playoff win in 25 years

The Kansas City Chiefs will host the Indianapolis Colts in Arrowhead Stadium on Saturday to kick off the AFC Divisional Round of the 2019 NFL Playoffs. These teams last met in the postseason in 2014, resulting in one of the greatest comebacks in playoff history.

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The slightly favored Colts managed to erase a 28-point second-half deficit in that game to score a dramatic 45-44 victory over the visiting Chiefs. Saturday’s matchup is setting up to be another high-scoring affair with two high-powered offenses poised to put plenty of points on the scoreboard. Only this time around, the Chiefs are the favored home team, and the expectation is a closely contested shootout for four quarters.

The Chiefs (12-4) capped off a dominant regular season in similar fashion with a 35-3 victory over the Raiders to secure the AFC West title and No. 1 seed in the playoffs. They also earned the luxury of sitting out last week’s Wild Card Round with a bye. That should pay dividends for the well-rested home team. It also bodes well that Andy Reid is 20-4 all-time as a head coach when coming off a bye week. What doesn’t bode well is Reid’s 11-13 record all-time in the postseason, including a 1-4 with the Chiefs.

After a 1-5 start, the resurgent Colts enter Saturday’s game with a record of 11-6. Under first-year head coach Frank Reich, Indianapolis has won five in a row and 10 of its last 11, including a 21-7 road victory over AFC South rival (and champion) Houston in the wild-card game. The Colts now look to carry that momentum against Kansas City, who is 7-1 at home this season. Indianapolis is just 5-4 on the road, although the Colts have won their past three such contests, beating the Texans (twice) and Titans. More importantly, the Colts are 4-0 against the Chiefs in the postseason and Kansas City’s is in the midst of a six-game home losing streak in the playoffs, a stretch that goes back to 1996.

AFC Divisional Playoff: Indianapolis at Kansas City

Kickoff: Saturday, Jan. 12 at 4:35 p.m. ET

TV: NBC

Spread: Chiefs -5.5

Three Things to Watch

1. Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City’s explosive passing game

It’s no secret why the Chiefs led the NFL in total yards (425.6 ypg) and scoring (35.3 ppg) during the regular season. Mahomes has been a force to be reckoned with, and in 2018 no NFL player has been more fun to watch. In addition to Mahomes’ 5,097 passing yards, the MVP front-runner and first-team All-Pro selection became just the third player in NFL history to throw for 50 touchdowns. And he’s doing this in his just second season, first as the starter, in the NFL. Of course, it wouldn’t have been possible without the help of a standout receiving corps, led by fellow first-team All-Pro selections Travis Kelce (103 rec., 1,336 yds., 10 TDs) and Tyreek Hill (87, 1,479 yds., 12).

On Saturday, Mahomes and company will be paired against a young Indianapolis defense that has come a long way since the beginning of the season, thanks in large part to the emergence of All-Pro rookie linebacker Darius Leonard (league-leading 163 tackles). Leonard and the Colts limited a dangerous Houston offense to just seven points and 322 yards last week. But they have a much bigger challenge in front of them — trying to slow down Mahomes and the Chiefs’ high-octane passing attack.

Indianapolis finished the regular season in the middle of the pick in pass defense, allowing 237.8 yards per game. The Colts also gave up more yards (1,194) to opposing tight ends than any other defense in the league. And they have not faced a tight end better than Kelce all season. In addition to the already daunting task of keeping tabs on Kelce and Hill, Indianapolis’ secondary may also have to contend with the return of speedy wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who has missed the last six games because of a foot injury. That’s a tall order.

2. Indianapolis’ running game

Most of the hype surrounding the Colts’ offense heading into Saturday’s playoff game centers around Andrew Luck and a potent passing game. And for good reason as Indianapolis boasts the seventh-ranked passing attack in the league (278.8 ypg), and Luck’s 39 touchdown passes in the regular season were good for second behind only Mahomes’ 50. However, it could be the running game that pays the biggest dividends against Kansas City.

Despite ranking just 20th at 107.4 rushing yards per game, the Colts’ ground game has been hitting on all cylinders of late. Last week, they ran for 200 yards against Houston’s third-ranked rushing defense, led by a franchise playoff-record 148 rushing yards from running back Marlon Mack. It marked Mack’s third 100-yard game in the last four weeks, two of which came against the aforementioned Texans and the Cowboys (fifth in the NFL in rushing defense).

The Chiefs finished 27th in that department, giving up 132.1 yards and an NFL-worst five yards per carry. This certainly bodes well for Indianapolis. Another reason the Colts need to have success running the ball is that it would them to control the clock and limit the number of possessions for Mahomes and Kansas City’s quick-strike offense.

3. Kansas City’s pass rush vs. Indianapolis’ offensive line

No one can argue that the Chiefs’ defense is good. However, they have shined in one area on that side of the ball. No other defense in the NFL had more sacks during the regular season than Kansas City’s 52. That effort was spearheaded by defensive end Chris Jones’ 15.5 sacks, with Pro Bowl linebacker Dee Ford (13), and Justin Houston (9 in 12 games) also getting in on the action.

Meanwhile, no offensive line has fared better in pass protection than the Colts’, which is a welcome sight after this being a persistent issue throughout Luck’s time in Indianapolis. A standout line led by All-Pro rookie guard Quenton Nelson has surrendered a league-low 18 sacks in 17 games. That includes last week’s dominant effort in shutting out J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and the rest of the Texans last week.

There are plenty of intriguing matchups worth paying close attention to in Saturday’s playoff showdown, but none are more compelling than the matchup between the Chiefs’ pass rush and the Colts’ offensive line. One of these groups will have to come out on top, and It could be a major factor in determining the outcome.

Final Analysis

There are a few reasons to like the underdog Colts on Saturday. For starters, history is not exactly on the Chiefs’ side in this matchup. They are 0-4 all-time in playoff games against the Colts, they are an abysmal 0-6 in home playoff games over the last 25 years, and their head coach has a long history of coming up short in the postseason. We also can take into consideration that the Chiefs are just 3-2 since releasing star running back Kareem Hunt, and that two of those wins came against the lowly Raiders. And last, but certainly not least, is Kansas City’s much-maligned defense, whose only saving grace is a stellar pass rush that might just meet its match in the form of an equally talented Indianapolis offensive line.

But this will mark the Colts’ third straight road game while the Chiefs are coming off of a bye. Arrowhead Stadium is one of the top home-field advantages in the NFL, and Kansas City took full advantage of that, going 7-1 in the regular season. And despite Kansas City’s (and Andy Reid’s) past struggles in the postseason, the Chiefs now have something, or should we say someone, they didn’t previously — Patrick Mahomes as a starting quarterback.

Indianapolis should keep it interesting with Andrew Luck leading a well-balanced offensive attack to go along with a much-improved defense. However, the Colts’ offense will be hard-pressed to keep pace with Mahomes and company. Andy Reid and the Chiefs should finally get over the playoff hump at home to advance to the AFC Championship Game courtesy of a close, hard-fought, victory.

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Photo: Oakland Alameda County Coliseum

Raiders host the Broncos on Christmas Eve for what could be their final game in Oakland Coliseum

Monday night’s game between the Denver Broncos and the Oakland Raiders won’t be unique just because it is on Christmas Eve. It will be special because it could be the Raiders’ final game played at the Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum.

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Raiders owner Mark Davis is moving the Raiders to Las Vegas in 2020. Since the city of Oakland recently sued the Raiders and the rest of the NFL over the move to Las Vegas, Davis is looking for another venue for the team in 2019.

Oakland and Denver do have one thing in common — both teams are putting the final touches on disappointing seasons. For the Raiders (3-11) and Broncos (6-8), most of the focus has shifted towards next season and the 2019 NFL Draft. But there’s still pride on the line (and maybe a head coach’s job), especially considering the first meeting between these two teams came down to a last-second field goal.

Back in Week 2, Denver overcame a 12-0 halftime deficit to beat Oakland 20-19. The Broncos scored the final 13 points of the game with Brandon McManus kicking a 36-yard field with six seconds left to complete the comeback. It also should be pointed out that several of the key participants in that game won’t be a part of the return matchup whether it be due to injury (Marshawn Lynch, Emmanuel Sanders, Chris Harris Jr.) or trade (Amari Cooper, Demaryius Thomas).

Denver at Oakland

Kickoff: Monday, Dec. 24 at 8:15 p.m. ET
TV: ESPN
Spread: Denver -3

Three Things to Watch

1. Derek Carr
Despite the Raiders’ record, Carr has played some of the best football of his career the last two months. He has not thrown an interception in his last nine games, a span of 292 pass attempts. That’s already a franchise record and the current longest active streak in the NFL since Aaron Rodgers’ record run came to an end at 402 following an interception in the fourth quarter of last week’s loss to Chicago.

For the season, Carr has 3,697 passing yards with 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Those numbers may not seem all that impressive, but Carr hasn’t gotten a lot of help from either his pass catchers or his offensive line this season. He’s been sacked 47 times through 14 games, that’s the third-highest total in the league, yet he’s seventh in the league with a completion rate of 68.4 percent, which is a career-best mark for him.

Denver can still get after the quarterback (42 sacks), but the Broncos have been susceptible through the air. They rank 25th in the league at 257.9 passing yards per game allowed and just put top cornerback Chris Harris Jr. on injured reserve. If Oakland’s line can give Carr enough time to throw, he should be able to have some success on Monday night.

2. Phillip Lindsay

Lindsay has not only been among the best rookies in the NFL this season but one of the biggest surprises in the entire league. After going undrafted in April, Lindsay has rushed for 991 yards and nine touchdowns, becoming the first undrafted offensive rookie to be named to the Pro Bowl.

“To be able to have 100 yards in a game was great,” Lindsay said earlier this week. “To get a touchdown, to be able to play [at Broncos Stadium at Mile High], that’s the stuff right there that I dreamt about. The Pro Bowl is something that you think like five years down the line, three years down the line. It’s an honor to get it.”

Oakland’s rushing defense is dead last in the league at 146.4 yards per game. The Raiders already know what to expect when facing Lindsay. He posted his first career 100-yard game against them back in Week 2, going for 107 on just 14 carries (7.6 ypc) with a long of 53 yards.

3. Emotions
Just like the fans watching and attending Monday night’s game, it figures to be emotional for Oakland’s players as well as the coaches given the uncertain status about where they will be playing in 2019.

Head coach Jon Gruden is in his second stint with the Raiders after first coming to the franchise back in 1998. So Gruden has been through the ups and downs with the Raiders.

“It’s going to be a great atmosphere Monday night, on Christmas Eve, the Denver Broncos coming to town,” Gruden said. “I get excited thinking about it. Just raging in the Black Hole. Rocking and raging down there after the Steelers game, after a lot of wins over the years. Seeing a lot of the old highlights of the great Raiders teams. I get excited, and I get emotional about it. Hopefully, we get it all resolved where we can continue to play here.”

Final Analysis

Although this game doesn’t have any playoff implications, the Raiders would love nothing more than to go out with a victory in possibly their last game in Oakland. If the Raiders can contain Phillip Lindsay and the Broncos’ running game, they will have a chance for the upset.

Denver quarterback Case Keenum, like the Broncos as a team, has been inconsistent this season. He’s on pace to set a new career high for passing yards (3,396 entering Monday night), but he has just 15 touchdowns compared to 12 interceptions.

While this game will likely be close as it reaches the fourth quarter, look for the Raiders, with a rejuvenated Carr leading the way, give the fans an early Christmas present with one last victory in the Black Hole.

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Photo: Nick Foles – 
Source: Corey Perrine/Getty Images North America

A potential NFC Championship Game preview has turned into potential rout as Eagles’ injury woes mount

Earlier this season, the Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Rams had this date circled on the calendar as a potential NFC Championship Game preview. These two teams with exciting offenses and two of the best young quarterbacks in the game appeared on a collision course to battle over conference supremacy for years to come.

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But as the 2018 season wore on, they’ve moved in decidedly different directions. The Eagles, reigning Super Bowl champions, didn’t even get Carson Wentz back from a torn ACL until Week 3. An up-and-down season followed, with major injuries, close losses and key mistakes on offense leaving the team scratching their heads. This week, the Eagles finally found out why their leader has been a step behind, at least. A broken vertebra, one Wentz has been dealing with quietly for weeks, will likely shut down their franchise player for the rest of 2018.

That puts Nick Foles up against his former Rams team with the Eagles needing a miracle. At 6-7, three wins would likely earn them the six seed in the NFC playoff race but they’ll need to beat the 11-2 Rams in L.A., the 9-4 Houston Texans, and the 6-7 Washington Redskins on the road in order to qualify. It’s a daunting task for the team even if they were at 100 percent; instead, the odds are stacked against the Eagles even mounting a Super Bowl defense.

They’ll run into an angry Rams team looking to prove themselves after an ugly loss to the Chicago Bears on the road last Sunday night. It cost them control of their own destiny as the team seeks home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. In order to have a chance, they’ll likely need to sweep their final three games with the Eagles their only serious obstacle. After that looms two opponents, the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers, with a combined record of 6-20.

Can the Rams take care of business? Or will Foles rise up to create another edition of the Philly special as he auditions for a role elsewhere in 2019?

Philadelphia at Los Angeles

Kickoff: Sunday, Dec. 16 at 8:20 p.m. ET

TV: NBC

Spread: Rams -11.5

Three Things To Watch

1. Can a ragtag bunch of substitute Eagles overcome a slew of injuries?

The Eagles have plenty of reasons they’ve fallen far behind the Rams in 2018. But one of them was left completely to the football gods. Just check this week’s injury report, where not a single Ram is listed with a physical problem as of Thursday’s writing. They’ve had a few setbacks, most notably wide receiver Cooper Kupp out for the year after tearing his ACL, but have most of their top-tier players in mint condition 14 weeks into the year.

Compare that to the Eagles, who had 10 players (nine for physical reasons) listed on Thursday’s report. They also have a number of key contributors out for the year: running back Jay Ajayi (ACL), free agent pickup wide receiver Mike Wallace (fibula), and starting cornerback Ronald Darby (ACL), to name a few. The Eagles have over a dozen(!) players on injured reserve, forcing relative unknowns or practice squad players to play major roles.

That lack of depth was evident last week against the Cowboys, when Amari Cooper torched the secondary for more than 200 yards and three touchdowns. Cre’Von Leblanc, while putting in a yeoman’s effort, is not going to keep up with the likes of Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, and even Josh Reynolds. If running back Todd Gurley opens up the passing game, Jared Goff has a chance for a field day against this weakened defense.

Just last week, Dak Prescott threw for a career-best 455 yards. And according to the injury report, the Eagles are likely to be down another player in the secondary as Sidney Jones aggravated his hamstring injury in that Cowboys game and hasn’t practiced all week.

2. Can the Rams’ offense get back on track?

Goff had arguably the worst game of his career against the Bears. A career-high four interceptions combined with a season-low 180 passing yards as he was picked apart at Soldier Field. A team that scores 32.7 points per game, third in the NFL behind the Chiefs and Saints, was limited to just six points.

One of the issues for the Rams during that game was an inability to commit to the run. Todd Gurley had just 11 carries for 28 yards, averaging a season-low 2.5 yards per carry. Second in the NFL with 1,203 rushing yards, you can’t expect Gurley to stay down for long. He now faces an Eagles defense that’s allowed the following to top-tier running backs:

Last week vs. Ezekiel Elliott: 113 yards, 4.0 yards per carry, 79 receiving yards

Two weeks ago vs. Adrian Peterson: A 90-yard touchdown run (98 rushing yards overall)

Three weeks ago vs. Saquon Barkley: 101 yards, 7.8 yards per carry, 41 receiving yards, two total touchdowns

There’s a clear pattern here. It’s a golden opportunity for Gurley to reestablish himself after the Cowboys’ comeback has Elliott threatening to take home the rushing title. And if Gurley does get going… this one could get ugly, early considering the Eagles’ inability to score in the first quarter. The Rams average 5.9 points to start the first 15 minutes, third in the NFL while the Eagles are dead last at 2.2.

3. How will Nick Foles do?

Foles will certainly be motivated to face his former team, especially with a 2019 job on the line. It’s likely he’ll move on to be a starter elsewhere after agreeing to back up an ailing Wentz for one last season. How could the Super Bowl MVP stay a backup the rest of his career?

That said, Foles has work to do to impress potential suitors. He hasn’t played since Week 2 against the Buccaneers and his stats this season are unimpressive: 451 yards, one touchdown, one interception and a pedestrian quarterback rating of 78.9. Foles did nothing to lose those games for the Eagles but he did little to win them; and back then, they had a full-fledged run game with Jay Ajayi and arguably similar receiving options surrounding him.

One benefactor of Foles’ emergence back onto the field: Nelson Agholor. Agholor had 16 catches the first two games; he hasn’t had more than six grabs since. A backup always changes the complexion of the offense and with Foles, look for a few deep plays to Agholor and potentially Golden Tate as the Philly offense should take a few more chances. At this point, they have nothing to lose.

You wonder how head coach Doug Pederson thinks heading into this weekend, by the way, after watching the Chargers go for two in the closing minute against the Chiefs and winning the game on “Thursday Night Football?” Pederson passed on the opportunity last week against the Cowboys, ended up losing in overtime and now he’s about to lose a shot at the playoffs.

Final Analysis

Nick Foles did an admirable job last season of keeping this Eagles team in the game against the Rams and hanging on after Carson Wentz suffered his ACL injury. But that thrilling, 43-35 victory in Los Angeles also came with a decidedly different team around him.

The Rams are hungry to avenge that defeat and healthy compared to an Eagles team just seven days removed from watching the NFC East (and potentially their Super Bowl defense) fully evaporate in overtime. It’s hard to see them recovering with the loss of their leader the cherry on top of an utterly disappointing 2018.

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Posted in NFL, Top Fantasy Picks

Photo: Patrick Mahomes – Source: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Image North America

Preview: Chargers at Chiefs

The Kansas City Chiefs have a chance to take a huge step toward tightening their grip on the top overall seed and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs when they host the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday night. However, the Chiefs could see control of the conference as well as the AFC West diminish in a showdown for division supremacy against Los Angeles.

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History is on the side of Kansas City (11-2), which has won nine in a row over the Chargers (10-3) and extended the streak with a 38-28 victory in Los Angeles in the season opener. “The Chargers are a good team — a team that’s on a hot streak right now — and you’re basically playing for the AFC West title,” Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. “You have to go out there and try to get yourself ready to go — physically and mentally – to win a football game.” Los Angeles has won three in a row overall and can clinch a playoff spot with a victory Thursday, but its last win over Kansas City was in 2013 — the last time the franchise advanced to the postseason. “The nine in a row is one thing, but personally I’m 0-3 against this team, and that’s too many,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. “We’re doing everything we can to try to break that streak. We’ve got to go out and play relaxed and very confident. That’s when this team plays its best football.”

TV: 8:20 p.m. ET, FOX, NFL Network. LINE: Chiefs -3.5. O/U: 53

ABOUT THE CHARGERS (10-3): Los Angeles could again be without star running back Melvin Gordon, who has 13 total touchdowns despite missing the past two games and told reporters Tuesday that he expects to be a game-day decision. Backup Austin Ekeler sustained a neck injury and concussion in Sunday’s win over Cincinnati and is expected to sit out, leaving the possibility that rookies Justin Jackson and Detrez Newsome will carry the ground game. Philip Rivers, who is third in the league in passer rating (114.5) and has thrown for 29 touchdowns against six interceptions, has connected with wideout Keenan Allen with a scoring pass in five straight games. Joey Bosa has four sacks in four games since returning to the lineup.

ABOUT THE CHIEFS (11-2): Kansas City has withstood a pair of close calls the past two weeks since running back Kareem Hunt was abruptly released, but Mahomes supplied a late touchdown pass in each game and enters Thursday’s matchup with a league-leading 43 scoring strikes. Injuries are also a major concern for the Chiefs, who are uncertain about the status of wide receiver Tyreek Hill (foot) and expect to be without running back Spencer Ware (shoulder/hamstring). Hill torched the Chargers in the season opener with a 91-yard punt return for a touchdown and two scoring passes from Mahomes, who also has passed for an NFL-high 4,300 yards. Kansas City’s defense ranks 30th in total yards and is last against the pass (281.8 yards).

EXTRA POINTS

1. Chiefs DE Chris Jones has at least one sack in nine consecutive games, the longest single-season streak since 1982.

2. Allen had eight catches for 108 yards and a TD in the Week 1 matchup.

3. Chiefs WR Kelvin Benjamin, claimed off waivers last week, is expected to make his Kansas City debut.

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NFC Wild Card Contenders face off on Monday night to conclude Week 14

The Seattle Seahawks saw any hopes of winning the NFC West evaporate when the division-rival Los Angeles Rams opened the season 8-0. The Seahawks’ playoff chances also appeared to take a major hit after back-to-back losses to both Los Angeles teams, but they have bounced back and carry a three-game winning streak into Monday night’s contest against the visiting Minnesota Vikings.

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Seattle posted three-point victories over Green Bay and Carolina before routing San Francisco last week to vault into the fifth playoff spot in the NFC – one-half game ahead of Minnesota. “We need tough matchups with teams that really challenge us in many ways, and this is one of them, for sure,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told reporters of facing the Vikings. “So we’ve got to get it cranked up, have a good week and get ready to go for a big opportunity on Monday night.” Minnesota owns a one-half game lead over three teams for the last postseason berth after losing at New England 24-10 last weekend and now must fly to the opposite coast to face resurgent Seattle. “It comes down to other teams are in the hunt, other teams are fighting for their division title and whoever has the best four-game stretch,” Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins told reporters. “It doesn’t really matter what happened before.”

TV: 8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Seahawks -3. O/U: 45.5

ABOUT THE VIKINGS (6-5-1): Minnesota has alternated losses and wins over its last five games, a stretch during which Cousins has thrown nine touchdown passes against six interceptions. Running back Dalvin Cook was effective against the Patriots, picking up 84 yards on nine carries, but he has not had more than 10 rushing attempts since the season opener as the Vikings continue to struggle to find balance in their offense. Wide receiver Adam Thielen has registered nine 100-yard performances and just as many touchdowns, but he was held under 30 yards for the second time in the last four games by New England. Defensive pressure is critical for Minnesota, which is 6-1-1 when it notches at least three sacks and 0-4 when it fails to record three.

ABOUT THE SEAHAWKS (7-5): Unlike Minnesota, the running game is a point of emphasis for Seattle, which features the top-ranked attack with an average of 148.8 yards and at least 32 rushes in eight of its last 10 games. “Because it’s the best way to not screw it up,” Carroll said. “That’s why the turnover issue is of paramount importance to us. It’s the most important thing that we taught.” Quarterback Russell Wilson is averaging only 226.4 yards passing but usually dials it up late in the season, and this year is no exception – he has 11 touchdown passes and zero interceptions over his last four contests. Linemen Frank Clark and Jarran Reed have combined for 16.5 sacks to lead a unit ranked ninth in scoring defense (21.6 points).

EXTRA POINTS

1. Seattle has won each of the last four matchups, including a 10-9 playoff victory in January 2016.

2. Thielen, who has made a league-high 98 catches, has recorded 48 receptions and five TDs in six road games.

3. Wilson has a 142.0 passer rating with eight TDs and zero interceptions in three career matchups versus Minnesota.

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Preview: Jaguars at Titans

The Tennessee Titans were 15 minutes away from a third consecutive loss that would have all but snuffed out their postseason hopes, but a dramatic fourth-quarter comeback on Sunday has the team back in contention. The Titans will look to sweep the Jacksonville Jaguars for the second straight season when the AFC South Division rivals square off on Thursday in Nashville, Tenn.

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Tennessee erased an early 16-point deficit in Sunday’s 26-22 victory over the New York Jets but is among four teams trailing the Baltimore Ravens by one game for the sixth and final playoff slot in the AFC. “When you’re playing on Monday night and Thursday night, you’re playing good football and getting more TV games,” Titans safety Kevin Byard said. “We have to take advantage of those and worry about us, not any of those other teams in the hunt.” The Jaguars showed they haven’t given up on the season, halting a seven-game losing streak by pitching a shutout in a 6-0 win over the red-hot Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. “The best we can do is play a bunch of spoilers to a bunch of teams who are in the hunt,” Jacksonville safety Tashaun Gipson said. “We want to end the season in the right way. Who says we can’t win five out?”

TV: 8:20 p.m. ET, FOX, NFL Network. LINE: Titans -4. O/U: 37.5

ABOUT THE JAGUARS (4-8): Jacksonville’s only loss in September was a 9-6 setback to the visiting Titans in Week 3 but that was without star running back Leonard Fournette, who also sat out Sunday’s victory while serving a one-game suspension. Quarterback Cody Kessler, taking over for a benched Blake Bortles, posted his first win in nine NFL starts by throwing for 150 yards and completing 18 of 24 against Indianapolis. The running game managed only 79 yards in the absence of Fournette, who rushed for 190 yards and three touchdowns in his previous two games. The Jaguars, who held Tennessee to 233 yards of total offense in the first matchup, blanked an Indy offense that averaged more then 34 points in its previous five games.

ABOUT THE TITANS (6-6): An ailing Marcus Mariota came off the bench to lift Tennessee over Jacksonville in Week 3 and produced another comeback last week by leading the Titans to 13 points in the fourth quarter, including a winning touchdown pass with 36 seconds left. “I’d rather him not have to do it, but if we have to, that has really been fun to watch,” coach Mike Vrabel said. “It is exciting to have him be able to do that and keep his composure, find the guys, make plays.” Wide receiver Taywan Taylor provided a spark to the offense Sunday, returning from a three-game absence with three receptions for 104 yards — all in the fourth quarter. The Titans rank in the top 10 in total and passing yards allowed but give up 119.8 on the ground.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Tennessee has limited Jacksonville to 32 points while winning the past three meetings.

2. Fournette has 197 yards from scimmage and a TD in two matchups against the Titans.

3. Mariota has eight TD passes and two interceptions in seven games versus the Jaguars.

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Preview: Redskins at Eagles

The Philadelphia Eagles are coming off what may have been a season-saving victory while the Washington Redskins are trying to shake off back-to-back losses that cost them the lead in the NFC East. As the division rivals prepare to clash on Monday night in Philadelphia, the Redskins will hold a one-game edge on the Eagles for the conference’s sixth and final playoff slot.

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Reigning Super Bowl champion Philadelphia appeared on the verge of absorbing a knockout blow last weekend before erasing an early 16-point deficit and rallying for a 25-22 victory over the New York Giants. “This was a big game for us,” Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz said. “Obviously in terms of the division standings and all that fun stuff, but really mentally to show the resilience that we did. To get down early like we did, then to battle back, just really builds a lot of confidence.” Washington is trying to maintain its confidence and a victory over Philadelphia could provide a huge boost in that department, particularly with the teams squaring off in the regular-season finale. “I think there should be a sense of urgency without a doubt,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “Anytime you can go on the road and get a key victory is very, very critical. It is also important for our confidence and our psyche down the stretch.”

TV: 8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Eagles -6.5. O/U: 45

ABOUT THE REDSKINS (6-5): Washington is hoping the additional time off will pay dividends for Colt McCoy, who had only three days to get ready for his first career start in four years after Alex Smith suffered a season-ending leg injury. McCoy, who was picked off three times in a 31-23 loss to division-leading Dallas on Thanksgiving, and the offense could receive a boost with the return of running back Chris Thompson, who practiced fully for the first time Friday since suffering broken ribs on Oct. 28. Thompson also would alleviate the workload on Adrian Peterson, who has been dealing with a shoulder injury. The Redskins were burned for a pair of long touchdown passes against the Cowboys.

ABOUT THE EAGLES (5-6): Wentz bounced back from a three-interception performance in a debacle at New Orleans by throwing for 238 yards and a touchdown in the comeback win over New York. Once again his favorite target was tight end Zach Ertz, who had seven catches for 91 yards and a score to boost his season totals to a career-best 84 receptions and 895 yards. Running back Josh Adams provided much needed balance to the offense and lifted a running game in dire need of a spark with 84 yards rushing on 22 carries — both season highs — while scoring for the second week in a row. Philadelphia held New York to three second-half points last week but ranks 28th against the pass (276.5 yards).

EXTRA POINTS

1. Wentz has six TD passes and two interceptions in a sweep of the Redskins last season.

2. Peterson needs two rushing touchdowns to move past Jim Brown (106) for fifth place on the all-time list.

3. Ertz has 59 receptions for 620 yards in 10 games against Washington.

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Preview: Saints at Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys have cobbled together three straight wins to alter the complexion of their season and vault into a share of first place in the mediocre NFC East. The Cowboys will encounter quite the litmus test on Thursday when they host the surging New Orleans Saints, who have won a staggering 10 in a row since their season-opening loss to Tampa Bay.

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Ezekiel Elliott leads the NFL with 1,074 rushing yards and has amassed 531 scrimmage yards (394 rushing, 137 receiving) and four touchdowns in his last three games, including 143 (121 rushing, 22 receiving) with a 16-yard scoring run in Dallas’ 31-23 win over Washington on Thanksgiving Day. The 23-year-old Elliott likely would need a similar performance against New Orleans’ top-ranked rush defense (73.2 yards) as a means to control the clock and keep NFL MVP candidate Drew Brees (league-best 76.4 completion percentage) on the sideline. With Brees under center, the high-octane Saints have scored an NFL-best 37.2 points per game and are fifth in yards (416.6). New Orleans had no issue continuing its frenetic pace last Thursday, as Brees tossed four touchdown passes in a 31-17 win over Atlanta and has 11 scoring strikes against one interception in his last four meetings with the Cowboys.

TV: 8:20 p.m. ET, FOX, NFL Network. LINE: Saints -7.5. O/U: 53

ABOUT THE SAINTS (10-1): The electric Alvin Kamara has shown no signs of slowing down with 575 scrimmage yards and nine touchdowns (six rushing, three receiving) in his past six games. Fellow running back Mark Ingram has three scores in his last three outings and Michael Thomas has proven to be Brees’ most trusted target with an NFL second-best 86 receptions. While the offense receives its fair share of headlines, the defense is getting plenty of press too, as it forced four turnovers, registered a season-high six sacks and held Falcons running backs Tevin Coleman and Ito Smith to just six rushing yards on 10 carries last week. “We all know what Dallas is gonna want to do — hand it to Zeke as many times as they can and try to pound out a win,” defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins said. “So it’s gonna be fun.”

ABOUT THE COWBOYS (6-5): Louisiana native Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper look to exploit New Orleans’ 30th-ranked pass defense after the pair hooked up for two long touchdown passes against the Redskins. Prescott has a rushing score in each of his last three games while Cooper joined Kansas City speedster Tyreek Hill in recording his second 180-yard, two-touchdown performance in the last two seasons with his sterling effort versus Washington. Cooper has seen eight-plus targets in three of four games since being acquired from Oakland, giving Dallas a new version of a familiar three-pronged attack made famous by “The Triplets” of Pro Football Hall of Famers Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin. “I think the sky’s the limit,” the 24-year-old Cooper said. “Obviously we’ll have to wait and see, but Dak is a great player. Zeke is a great player. So who knows?”

EXTRA POINTS

1. New Orleans WR Tre’Quan Smith was limited in practice on Tuesday as he attempts to return from a one-game absence due to a foot injury.

2. Dallas DE Demarcus Lawrence has three of his team-leading 8.5 sacks in the last four games.

3. The Saints have a league low-tying nine turnovers, one fewer than the Cowboys.

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Posted in NFL, Top Fantasy Picks

Preview: Titans at Texans

Their ugly start to the season now a distant memory, the Houston Texans can set a franchise record when they host the Tennessee Titans on Monday night. The Texans own a two-game lead atop the AFC South and will go for their eighth consecutive victory after opening the campaign with three straight losses, including a 20-17 setback at Tennessee in Week 2.

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Surging Houston is coming off consecutive two-point triumphs at Washington and Denver, giving the team four victories by three points or fewer during its winning streak. “We just try to keep on stacking wins and put us in position for later on down the season,” Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson told reporters. “It’s a very important game. It’s a home game. We want to win those. It’s a division game. We have to make sure we prepare well and get ready for it.” The Titans squandered a chance to make Monday’s matchup a showdown for division supremacy, following a pair of decisive wins over Dallas and New England with a 38-10 loss to Indianapolis last week. Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota was knocked out of that game with a stinger, but he practiced fully on Friday and Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur pronounced him “ready to roll.”

TV: 8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Texans -6. O/U: 41.5

ABOUT THE TITANS (5-5): Mariota had his two best games in the wins over the Cowboys and Patriots, and it was feared that last week’s injury was related to the elbow issues that have plagued him for most of the season and forced him to miss the Week 2 matchup versus Houston. Running back Derrick Henry, who was used out of the wildcat in the first meeting, could be in line for a heavier workload as part of a backfield tandem with Dion Lewis, LaFleur said after Friday’s practice. Corey Davis is Mariota’s top target with 45 receptions, but it’s unclear if fellow wideout Taywan Taylor will return after a two-game absence. Tennessee had the NFL’s top-ranked scoring defense until it was shredded by the Colts.

ABOUT THE TEXANS (7-3): Watson had his NFL coming-out party against Tennessee last season in his third career start, throwing for four touchdowns and rushing for another as Houston set a franchise record for points in a 57-14 rout. He has not thrown for more than 239 yards in his last five starts and the Texans have scored more than 23 points just twice, but wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins has at least one TD catch in five straight games and eight overall after posting an NFL-high 13 receiving scores last season. Running back Lamar Miller is providing balance to the offense with at least 18 carries and 86 yards rushing in three of the last four games. The Texans are fifth in scoring defense (20.5 points).

EXTRA POINTS

1. Hopkins has at least 100 yards in three of his last four versus Tennessee, including 110 and a TD in Week 2.

2. Mariota had a passing and rushing touchdown in his last matchup against Houston.

3. Texans DE J.J. Watt has registered 10 sacks on the season, including one in each of his last three games.

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Preview: Packers at Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers were expected to battle for the NFC North title, but both clubs are looking up at the Chicago Bears with six games to play. Although both teams are coming off losses, Green Bay is in the more desperate position, sitting one game behind the second-place Vikings and winless in five road games entering Sunday night’s matchup at Minnesota.

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“I definitely didn’t expect to be sitting where we’re sitting but our record is what it is,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “Obviously, Minnesota has a strong team. They’re probably surprised where they’re sitting as well. So I don’t think either of us are out of (it).” Rodgers was hobbled by a knee injury during the team’s first matchup, when the Vikings scored 22 fourth-quarter points in Week 2 in a game that ended in a 29-29 tie. Minnesota, which reached the NFC title game last season, had a chance to move atop the division last weekend but dropped a 25-20 decision in Chicago to fall 1 1/2 games behind the Bears. “We’re a good team. We know that,” Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks said. “It’s just about going out there and doing it. Quit talking about it. … We’ve got to point the finger at ourselves, so we’ve just got to get the job done, period.”

TV: 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC. LINE: Vikings -3. O/U: 47.5

ABOUT THE PACKERS (4-5-1): Rodgers keeps putting up big numbers — 19 touchdowns against only one interception — and threw for 332 yards and two scores last week in a 27-24 loss at Seattle, but again was unable to end the road skid. Running back Aaron Jones was held to 40 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries but set season highs with five receptions for 63 yards and a score against the Seahawks. Tight end Jimmy Graham did not practice due to a broken thumb sustained against Seattle, but Rodgers has been locked in on Davante Adams, who set a season high with 166 yards on 10 catches last week. The Packers are No. 5 against the pass (223.0 yards) but are dealing with multiple injuries in the secondary.

ABOUT THE VIKINGS (5-4-1): Minnesota has struggled offensively for the past three games as Kirk Cousins has five touchdowns passes and four interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns in losses to New Orleans and Chicago. Wide receiver Adam Thielen failed to score for the first time in seven games last week but still went over 1,000 yards while Stefon Diggs had a season-high 13 catches for 126 yards and a touchdown. The running game, however, was non-existent against the Bears as Dalvin Cook was limited to 12 yards on nine carries. The Vikings’ defense ranks sixth against the pass (226.0 yards), will get a boost with the expected return of linebacker Anthony Barr after a three-game absence.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Rodgers had 26 TDs and zero interceptions in his past 10 division games.

2. Thielen had 12 catches for 131 yards and a TD in the Week 2 matchup.

3. Adams has a TD catch in his last three against Minnesota.

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The red-hot Saints host the Falcons for a primetime Thanksgiving rematch between division rivals

The New Orleans Saints needed overtime to fend off the Atlanta Falcons in a 43-37 shootout back in Week 3. But much has changed since Sept. 23, as the Saints get set to face the rival Falcons for the second time this season Thanksgiving night inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

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New Orleans (9-1) has parlayed a league-best 38 points per game into nine consecutive victories and the NFL’s longest winning streak. The Saints’ most recent conquests include ending the Rams’ perfect season with a 45-35 victory in Week 9, followed by blowout wins against the Bengals (51-14) and the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles (48-7).

Things have taken a turn for the worse for the Falcons (4-6), who have now dropped two games in a row after reeling off three consecutive wins. Their most recent defeat came in the form of a heartbreaking 22-19 home loss to the Cowboys on Sunday. Atlanta now finds itself in must-win mode, sitting in third place in the NFC South. The Falcons will likely need to run the table to have any chance of securing a playoff spot. That lofty endeavor begins on Thursday night, as the desperate Falcons attempt to spoil Thanksgiving for the red-hot Saints by exacting revenge with a huge upset victory.

The Falcons lead the all-time series against the Saints by a slight 52-47 margin. The Saints have won each of the last two games in the rivalry.

Atlanta at New Orleans

Kickoff: Thursday, Nov. 22 at 8:20 p.m. ET

TV: NBC

Spread: Saints -13

Three Things to Watch

1. A surging New Orleans pass defense

Matt Ryan led an all-out aerial assault against an easily exploitable Saints’ pass defense when these teams met back in Week 3. It resulted in a career-best outing for the former NFL MVP quarterback, who completed 74 percent of his passes for 374 yards with five touchdowns and zero interceptions. Rookie wide receiver Calvin Ridley also took advantage with a monster performance of his own (7 catches for 146 yards and 3 touchdowns).

While New Orleans still ranks just 27th in the NFL against the pass (280 ypg) heading into the Thanksgiving rematch, the Saints have been anything but vulnerable against opposing passing games of late. They have allowed just 154 passing yards per game and one TD pass over their last two games, tallying five interceptions and seven sacks in the process. Can the Saints keep it going against a high-powered passing attack that has already torched them once this season?

The Saints’ chief objective will be a difficult one — shut down the Matt Ryan to Julio Jones/Ridley connection. Jones leads the NFL with 1,158 receiving yards, and the elite wideout is currently in the midst of a streak that includes 100-plus yards in each of his last five contests, with a touchdown in three consecutive games. But Jones hasn’t had much luck finding the end zone against the Saints, registering just one touchdown catch in his last nine games against them. And Ridley may have trouble filling the void this time around after going relatively quiet since that breakout performance in Week 3.

2. Can the Falcons slow down the Saints offense?

They certainly didn’t accomplish that goal the first time, as New Orleans racked up 43 points and 534 yards against them. And much better defenses have tried and failed since that time. The good news is that the Atlanta defense, which allows 405 yards per game on average (29th in the NFL), could get a big boost on Thursday night if Pro Bowl linebacker Deion Jones is able to make his long-awaited return from injury. Jones has been particularly effective against the Saints in four career games, recording an impressive 38 tackles, five tackles for a loss and three interceptions. But even with Jones, it is still going to be a very tall order for the Falcons to contain the blazing Saints offense.

New Orleans has been virtually unstoppable on that side of the football over the last three weeks, averaging an NFL-best 514 yards and 48 points per game during that stretch. Drew Brees, who accounted for more than 400 yards and five touchdowns (2 rushing) in the Week 3 victory over the Falcons, continues to play at a nearly flawless level. And the same can be said for offensive standouts Michael Thomas (82 catches, 1,042 receiving yards, 8 TDs) and Alvin Kamara (1,185 all-purpose yards, 15 TDs). Mark Ingram, who was suspended for the first meeting, adds to an already difficult challenge for the Falcons’ defense this time around.

3. Atlanta run game vs. New Orleans’ run defense

Atlanta produced a season-low 48 rushing yards against the Saints in the first matchup, which was a big factor in the Falcons losing that game. They will most likely suffer the same fate if they fail to find some semblance of success with the run game on Thursday night. It will be paramount for Atlanta to control the clock and keep the Saints’ potent offense off the field as much as possible to have a chance.

Of course, that is easier said than done, especially for an Atlanta run game that is averaging only 88.8 rushing yards per game (29th in the NFL) in the absence of star running back Devonta Freeman. That task is further compounded by a Saints run defense that allows only 77.9 rushing yards per game (No. 2 in the NFL). Atlanta running backs, Tevin Coleman and Ito Smith, will have their work cut out for them.

Final Analysis

The Falcons are one of the few teams that have been able to give the Saints a run for their money this season. However, it took a career-best performance from Matt Ryan to make that possible. And these two teams have gone in vastly different directions since Week 3. Even if Atlanta plays the best game it can possibly play on Thursday night, it’s unlikely that it will be enough to pull off the Thanksgiving upset against the surging Saints on the road. New Orleans is simply on a different level right now.

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Longtime divisional rivals face off on Turkey Day with first place in the NFC East on the line

The Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys have a lot to play for on Thanksgiving. First off, these are two historic franchises that have grown into one of the biggest rivalries in the NFL. As if that wasn’t enough, they’ll also be fighting for first place in the NFC East.

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Prior to Week 11, the Redskins were in control of the division after starting the season 6-3. That was until a 23-21 home loss to the Houston Texans created a small window of opportunity for Dallas.

The Cowboys capitalized in the final moments of their matchup against the Atlanta Falcons. With the game tied at 19 and only three seconds left, kicker Brett Maher nailed a 42-yard field goal attempt to send Dallas home with a .500 record. It also puts them in position to take over first place of the division, should they get the win on Thanksgiving.

Washington at Dallas

Kickoff: Thursday, Nov. 22 at 4:30 p.m. ET

TV: FOX

Spread: Dallas -7.5

Three Things to Watch

1. Colt McCoy’s first start of the season

The season-ending leg injury to Alex Smith was unfortunate. You never want to see someone suffer that sort of brutal injury – or any injury, for that matter. With that said, we also can’t forget how poorly the 34-year-old had played up to that point.

In 10 games, the former No. 1 overall pick was only averaging 218 yards and a touchdown through the air. His 6.6 yards per attempt was reminiscent of his early days with the 49ers when he struggled to get anything going consistently.

In other words, Smith had reverted back to being a game manager with little-to-no upside. The question is going to be whether the Redskins are going to be better off with 32-year-old McCoy running the offense.

The good news is there were some glimpses against Houston. McCoy’s first pass of the regular season was a nine-yard touchdown strike to tight end Jordan Reed. So, what’s the bad news? Well, he only completed five of his other 11 attempts (45.5 percent) for 45 yards (4.1 yards per attempt) while also taking two sacks.

It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the team try to get McCoy on the move more (five rushes for 35 yards last week).

2. Can the Redskins slow down Ezekiel Elliott?

Elliott and the rest of the Dallas running game went toe-to-toe with the Redskins’ defensive front back in Week 7. Sadly, things didn’t go too well for the former No. 4 overall pick.

Washington’s defense held Elliott to his worst statistical performance of the season. The third-year running back only managed 42 yards (33 rushing, 9 receiving) on 17 touches – good for just 2.5 yards per touch.

It’s been a completely different story over the last two weeks, though.

Elliott has put up up 388 total yards (273 rushing, 115 receiving) and three total touchdowns on 55 touches during that span. Granted, it was against the Falcons and Eagles, but it’s still impressive nonetheless.

3. Potential bounce back from Amari Cooper

It looks like the Cowboys have finally found a long-term replacement for Dez Bryant. The team sent over its first-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft in order to secure Dak Prescott’s new No. 1 receiver, Cooper.

Since that trade, Cooper has been a steady contributor. He’s brought in 14 receptions for 169 yards and one touchdown through three games.

Cooper’s most recent performance was his least productive, however.

The Alabama product only hauled in three of his five targets for 36 yards and no touchdowns in Sunday’s win over Atlanta. Considering the Falcons have one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL, Cooper’s performance was a disappointment.

The hope is that he’ll be able to bounce back on Thursday against a Washington defense that ranks 24th in the league against the pass (261.2 ypg).

Final Analysis

Here’s the bottom line: there are way too many injury concerns for Washington right now. Sure, Colt McCoy is capable of leading the offense to some points, but the Cowboys are finding ways to win.

The Redskins will need to once again lean on Adrian Peterson, who totaled 107 yards on 25 touches against the Cowboys in Week 7. If they can get that sort of production from the future Hall of Famer, they might have a chance to keep things close.

In the end, Dallas scores a late touchdown to put things out of reach and move into first place in the NFC East.

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Bears look to increase NFC North lead with a second straight win over the Lions

This year’s Thanksgiving Day football festivities get started with the Chicago Bears taking on the Detroit Lions in the Motor City.  The Lions are one of the traditional holiday hosts and these longtime division rivals have played each other on Turkey Day nine times since 1964. Detroit holds a 5-4 lead in those games and has won the last three meetings on Thanksgiving Day. But this year finds both teams in different situations.

Chicago (7-3) assumed full control of the NFC North with last Sunday’s home win over Minnesota on “Sunday Night Football.” The Lions (4-6) are currently in the basement of the division but snapped a three-game losing streak with a come-from-behind win over Carolina at Ford Field.

The Bears can increase their lead in the division with a season sweep of Detroit. The two teams met just two weeks ago in Chicago, a game the home team won 34-22. The Lions need a victory if they want to keep their already slim playoff hopes alive.

Chicago at Detroit

Kickoff: Thursday Nov. 22 at 12:30 p.m. ET

TV: CBS

Spread: Bears -4

Three Things to Watch

1. Kahlil Mack is practically unstoppable

Mack continued to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks as he made his presence fully felt against the Vikings this past Sunday night. Mack added to his team-leading total with his eighth sack and he also was credited with two tackles, two tackles for a loss, two quarterback hits and a pass defended. Two weeks ago, he collected two sacks and five total tackles in Chicago’s win over Detroit. You know Matthew Stafford will be looking to see where Mack lines up.

The mere presence of Mack makes the rest of Chicago’s defense that much more dangerous. Take Akiem Hicks, the unheralded anchor of the Bears’ defensive line had a huge game against Minnesota, registering a sack and five tackles for a loss. The constant pressure generated by Hicks, Mack and the rest of the defense was a big reason why Kirk Cousins completed 30 of 46 attempts for 262 yards (5.7 yards per attempt) with two touchdowns but also two costly interceptions.

2. Matthew Stafford getting the job done under pressure

Feeling pressure is nothing new to Stafford, who has already been sacked 29 times this year. But he’s still managed to find ways to make plays downfield. Over the last four games, Stafford is averaging 25 completions and more than 250 passing yards per game. He also has five touchdowns and three interceptions during this stretch. For the season, his 66.3 percent completion rate represents the second highest in his 10-year career.

Stafford already knows what to expect on Thursday from a Bears defense that sacked him six times and picked him off twice two weeks ago. The rest of the offense will have to pick up their game, starting up front with the offensive line, but the Lions also will most likely be without their leading rusher, Kerryon Johnson. The rookie suffered a knee sprain last week against Carolina and is considered week-to-week. He accounted for two of the Lions’ three touchdowns in the first meeting with Chicago, so in his absence LeGarrette Blount, Theo Riddick and Zach Zenner will need to step up against a Chicago defense that’s ranked third in the league overall and first against the run.

3. Turnovers a plenty for the Bears’ defense

Not only has this Chicago team made its mark with its pass rush, the defense also has gotten back into the habit of making takeaways a regular occurrence. During this current four-game winning streak the Bears have forced six fumbles, recovered three of them and recorded seven interceptions. They have picked off two or more passes in three straight games and lead the NFL with 18 on the season. The defense also has made the most of some of these takeaways, including Eddie Jackson’s 27-yard interception return for a touchdown against Minnesota this past Sunday. Chicago leads the league in total takeaways (27) and turnover margin (+13), two more reasons why the Bears currently sit atop the NFC North and have the third-best record in the conference.

Final Analysis

Chicago enters this game on a roll, winners of four in a row, outscoring opponents 124-61 in the process. The Bears have been stingy against the run, have kept teams from scoring much at all against them and the offense continues to find ways to get the job done. Chicago has grabbed control of the NFC North and controls its own destiny as it relates to getting back to the playoffs for the first time since the 2010 season.

Detroit has had more success at home this season (3-2, with wins over New England, Green Bay and Carolina) and has won five in a row against the Bears at Ford Field. Chicago, however, has all of the momentum on its side. It does appear that quarterback Mitchell Trubisky will miss this game because of a shoulder injury he suffered in the fourth quarter on Sunday night; but Chase Daniel was signed as the backup because of his familarity with head coach Matt Nagy’s offense. And with how well the defense has been playing lately, it may not matter who is at quarterback for this one. This Bears team is for real and will show that yet again on Thanksgiving Day.

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