It's possible that by next Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs will have a stranglehold on the AFC West race.
The Broncos play at New England on Sunday. Then they play at Arrowhead Stadium next week, and the Chiefs' pass rush will certainly better than it was at Denver. The Chiefs and Broncos are tied at 9-1, but there's a real chance Kansas City will hold a two-game lead with four to go in a little more than a week.
The Broncos are in the middle of a tough stretch, but they understand that they can't give away any games.
Even though New England is a tough place to play, and Tom Brady's teams have beat Peyton Manning's teams nine times in 13 meetings between the two, Denver is clearly the better team coming in. The Patriots are on short rest after facing a physical Panthers team. The Patriots are good, but I think the Broncos are better and can't afford to lose. The next two weeks could be instrumental in determining if the Broncos end up in the Super Bowl. Give me Denver as a 2.5-point favorite.
Here's the rest of the picks for this week:
New Orleans (-9.5) over Atlanta (picked yesterday): The Falcons showed a lot more fight than I thought they had in them, but what was with the field goal decision, Mike Smith?
Cleveland (-1.5) over Pittsburgh: The winner here might end up grabbing the second AFC wild card spot. The Browns can't win a high-scoring game, but I don't think this will be one.
Tampa Bay (+9) over Detroit: It's possible the Buccaneers are finishing strong. If Darrelle Revis can make Calvin Johnson look human, all of a sudden this might get interesting.
Green Bay (-4.5) over Minnesota: Scott Tolzien has actually played pretty well for the Packers. And we all know what a mess the Vikings are. The Packers need this to keep faint hopes alive.
San Diego (+4.5) over Kansas City: Hard to imagine the Chiefs aren't looking forward to the Broncos. There was a lot of talk of next week's game against the Broncos in the Chiefs locker room after last Sunday's night's game. The Chargers can compete.
Chicago (+1) over St. Louis: The Rams are getting harder and harder to figure out. Not sure how the Bears stop Zac Stacy, but I think they stay in the NFC North race with a win.
Miami (+4.5) over Carolina: Let's see, the two biggest wins for the Panthers in many years came over the last two weeks, and then they have a short preparation before a road game against a non-conference team. An absolute textbook letdown spot for Carolina.
N.Y. Jets (+3.5) over Baltimore: Not sure the Ravens' offense is good enough to give more than a field goal against almost anyone.
Jacksonville (+10) over Houston: Not sure the Texans' anything is good enough to give 10 points to anyone.
Tennessee (-1) over Oakland: I'm waiting one more week before buying this Matt McGloin stock that everyone is peddling.
Arizona (-2.5) over Indianapolis: The Colts live on the edge every week, it seems. Maybe we're just a year away on them being an elite team.
Dallas (+2.5) over N.Y. Giants: Again, none of the Giants' wins have convinced me they've completely transformed from the team that started the season 0-6.
San Francisco (-5.5) over Washington: The 49ers might not be able to beat good teams, but they absolutely shred the bad ones.
Last week: 5-7-3
This season: 63-96-5
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