Yahoo Sports NFL senior writers Charles Robinson, Kimberley A. Martin and Terez Paylor select games this week that will leave us buzzing heading into Monday.
San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints
This isn't a tough one to figure out.
The No. 1 seed in the NFC is hanging in the balance for both teams. The Saints currently have the top spot, while San Francisco would need a win this weekend and a loss by the Seattle Seahawks (who are on the road to face the L.A. Rams) to secure the top seed.
This one has me riveted because I'm very interested to see how the Saints measure out. While the Saints have the top seed in the NFC at this point, they also have played a remarkably soft schedule dating back to the first month of the season. The only "quality" win New Orleans has since September is a road victory over the Chicago Bears on Oct. 20. Even that kind of win isn't exactly a big measuring stick.
This means the Saints have seen a whole lot of mediocrity over the past nine weeks. But not this one. If the Saints can beat a battle-tested 49ers franchise, they'll earn some stripes this weekend.
Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots
With four weeks left in the season, Tom Brady already is being written off and the defending Super Bowl champions are quickly sliding down pundit power rankings. So what better time for Belichick's army to prove its mettle than in a rematch of the AFC title game?
The Patriots (10-2) have been an enigma of sorts in 2019 – a dominant, historically good defense paired with a sporadic, sputtering offense and a future Hall of Fame quarterback often at wit's end. But if New England can run the football early and often against the Chiefs (who are allowing an average of 141.3 rushing yards per contest), that will alleviate the pressure on Brady and the passing attack.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs (8-4) were the forgotten force in the conference until fairly recently. Injuries to Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill, offensive struggles and uncharacteristic losses at home raised questions about the makeup of this Kansas City team. Last year's squad had only four losses all season, but luckily for head coach Andy Reid, the Chiefs are finally healthy and getting hot at the right time.
49ers at Saints
The stakes are real in Saints-49ers, folks.
The 49ers are in an all-out war with the Seattle Seahawks for the NFC West crown, with the loser likely having the indemnity of heading to Dallas or Philly — whichever team wins the atrocious NFC East — for a wild-card game.
The Niners lost to the Baltimore Ravens last week, and the tough teams remaining on their schedule this month include a Week 17 showdown against the Seahawks in Seattle, so they need to stack wins while they can.
The Saints could use home-field advantage if they want to get to the Super Bowl. Head coach Sean Payton is already calling for fans to bring the thunder Sunday, so expect the always-boisterous Superdome to be rockin’.
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