The NFL playoffs are still a month away, but there are three key games on Sunday that could benefit the winner once the postseason begins. In the AFC, Buffalo is hosting Baltimore, while Kansas City is at New England. The NFC has San Francisco at New Orleans.
All six of those teams are in the NFL Playoffs, and now are fighting for a bye. Right now, the byes would go to Baltimore and New England, but if Buffalo can upset the Ravens, they would be tied with the Patriots in the AFC East. If Kansas City can defeat New England, they would only be a game behind the Patriots and the Ravens.
In the NFC, the Saints, 49ers and Seahawks all have 10 victories. The Green Bay Packers are a game back. The winner of San Francisco-New Orleans will have an edge going into the last three games of the regular season.
We take a look at the three big games, and provide some insight on what to look for on Sunday.
Can Buffalo Improve its Playoffs Standing?
There has been no bigger surprise this season than the Buffalo Bills. Oddsmakers had them pegged to win 6.5 games, and they currently stand at 9-3. They have definitely benefitted from playing in the weak AFC East, but have lost games to Philadelphia and New England.
They begin a four-game stretch that includes Baltimore on Sunday, and then Pittsburgh, New England, and the New York Jets. The Ravens are one of the hottest teams in the league, and should have a bye in the first round of the NFL Playoffs.
Baltimore’s biggest weapon is quarterback Lamar Jackson, who is an overwhelming -275 to win the NFL MVP, according to BetOnline.
The Ravens are averaging more than 200 yards rushing per game, and will face a Bills team that is ranked 15th in rushing defense. Baltimore might lean more on the run than the pass, since Buffalo is third in pass defense.
The Bills are 6-point underdogs at home.
49ers Hoping to March on Saints
San Francisco is traveling to New Orleans, and is a 2-point underdog. The winner of this game will get to 11 wins, but more importantly for the 49ers, a win could get them a one-game advantage over NFC West rival, Seattle. The Seahawks, who also have 10 wins, are a pick ’em in their game against the Los Angeles Rams.
The 49ers will be depending on a run game against a surprisingly good New Orleans’ defense that ranks third in rushing defense.
San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters the team will use a rotation of four backs, including Matt Breida, who returns from an ankle injury.
“It gives us depth, first of all, because we went through four running backs last year, and it’s always tough in this league at this position,” Shanahan said. “We have four good ones that have helped in a bunch of ways.”
Trouble in New England?
The “New England Patriots are in Trouble” talk got louder after the team lost on the road to Houston last week. The team seems a lock for the NFL Playoffs, but that doesn’t mean all is well in Foxboro.
The Pats will have a much better idea of where they stand when they host the Kansas City Chiefs. The Patriots are 3-point favorites, but there are some serious questions.
Quarterback Tom Brady was seen on the sidelines of the Houston game barking at his receivers, who have been inconsistent. Rumors are the team is considering trading for Cleveland’s Odell Beckham Jr., or former Cowboy Dez Bryant. They won’t be ready for this game, however, even if they did get signed on Saturday.
Brady will have to make due with what he has, and will face a Chiefs’ defense that ranks 16th in the passing game.