The Kansas City Chiefs, a team that outscored their opposition by 46 points through the first five weeks of the season, might've been at their most impressive during their first loss of the season in Week 6.
On Sunday night, New England Patriots, the Chiefs -- on the road without two of their three best defensive players -- overcame a 15-point halftime deficit and pushed the Patriots to the brink until Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski went all Brady and Gronk over their shorthanded defense to set up a walk-off field goal., the Chiefs submitted the final piece of evidence that was needed to cement their status as legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Against the Galactic Empire more commonly known as the
The Chiefs lost a pivotal game that might be instrumental in determining home-field advantage in the AFC, but their stock has never been higher. They hung with a Patriots team that's journeyed to the conference championship game in seven straight seasons. Patrick Mahomes showed that he can rebound from a disastrous two-interception first half and bring his team back from the dead against a Bill Belichick-coached defense. the Chiefs might've actually won on Sunday night. The Chiefs are good enough to beat the Patriots.
Now, it's just a matter of securing home-field advantage so the rematch in January takes place at Arrowhead. Because if the Chiefs can get fully healthy (they need safety Eric Berry and pass rusher Justin Houston back) and host all of their playoff games, they should be regarded as the frontrunner in a conference lacking a third great team. The gap between the Chiefs and the Patriots is small enough that the location of the rematch might just be what decides the outcome.
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The Chiefs' attention now turns to the Bengals, another team coming off The Bengals are one of a few teams occupying the tier directly below the Chiefs and Patriots. They're good, but they're not operating on the same level as the Chiefs.
With the first of my five best bets, I'm taking the Chiefs (-6) against the Bengals. Taking the Chiefs with one of my five best bets has worked out more often than not. A loss to the Patriots, during which they covered the 3.5-point spread, won't make me back off them now.
Last week: 3-2
This year: 19-10-1
Chiefs (-6) vs. Bengals
Based on records alone, this isn't that unfair of a fight. At 5-1, the Chiefs are leading the AFC West. At 4-2, the Bengals are tied atop the AFC North. This is a game between two division leaders, but I think the Chiefs will beat the Bengals by a touchdown or more, because I think the Bengals are a good, but very beatable team that has gotten a bit lucky to this point.
In Week 1, the Colts were driving to beat the Bengals when Clayton Fejedelem returned a fumble 87 yards to give the Bengals an 11-point win that really should've been a loss or at the very least, a narrow win. In Week 4, the Bengals needed a 13-yard touchdown with one second remaining to secure a one-point win over a Falcons team that is now 2-4. In Week 5, the Bengals needed two hilarious defensive touchdowns provided by Ryan Tannehill to beat the Dolphins, who held a 17-point lead in the second half. One can even argue that the Bengals' narrow loss to the Steelers on Sunday should've been by a bigger deficit considering by James Conner, which cost the Steelers four points.
The Bengals are a good team that's gotten a bit lucky. Remove three fluky defensive touchdowns and their season would be looking a whole lot worse right about now.
The Chiefs haven't relied on luck. They've just been great. In two homes games, they have a plus-26 point differential. Their closest game at home was an 11-point win over the 49ers in a game that saw the Chiefs race out to a 25-point halftime lead.
The Chiefs' defense is still a liability, but I think their offense will jump out to a big-enough lead that they'll be able to hang on for a margin of victory that's somewhere around 7-10 points. The Chiefs are good enough that they won't give the Bengals the breaks that they've gotten against inferior opponents. Don't expect a blowout, but expect the Chiefs to win comfortably. They've got the better coach, quarterback, skill-position players, and special teams -- yes, that part of the game matters.
Just ask the Bengals, who got two huge kickoff returns against the Steelers. They likely won't see similar results against Dave Toub's unit.
What an absolute stinker of a Thursday night game. Collectively, the two teams are 3-9 with a minus-91 point differential.
It's the Broncos who have been a bit better over the course of the season -- they're responsible for two of those three wins and only -34 of those -91 points -- but the Broncos have also lost four straight games after starting 2-0. Meanwhile, the Cardinals' switch from Sam Bradford to Josh Rosen has appeared to spark something. With Rosen, the Cardinals are 1-2 and sport a minus-three point differential.
Rosen is playing better than his raw stat line indicates, showing a willingness to go downfield in a way that would make Bruce Arians proud. He'll have some chances to do some damage against a Broncos defense allowing 7.8 yards per pass, which ranks 24th.
It's almost like Josh Rosen is assuming the lingering Carson Palmer elements from that jersey. He's looked quite a lot like Palmer so far, which wasn't a comp I had for his college tape. pic.twitter.com/DzU1GnqUCf— Cian (@Cianaf) October 15, 2018
Such a smart throw. Recognizes Smith's back turned to him deep downfield. Puts it in spot where it's either a catch opportunity for his guy or DPI. pic.twitter.com/dS5xH4icnj— Cian (@Cianaf) October 15, 2018
This could be the game in which David Johnson finally gets going considering the Broncos have allowed a league-worst 5.6 yards per carry. I'm skeptical, just because Johnson's struggles are more about the way the coaching staff has used him (please stop running the ball up the middle), but if there ever is going to be a Johnson breakout game under this staff, this is it.
I don't necessarily think the Cardinals are better than the Broncos. I think this is a bad game between two bad teams. But it's a short week and the Broncos, who are favored for some reason, have to travel. Give me the home underdog on a short week.
Bears (+3) vs. Patriots
I get it. The Bears just went into Miami, looked terrible for a half, and then blew what should've been a win over the Dolphins. Now, they have to face a team that doesn't let inferior opponents get away with mistakes. I just think the Bears as home underdogs is good value.
The mistakes that happened against the Dolphins probably won't happen again. Jordan Howard probably won't fumble on the goal-line again. Tarik Cohen probably won't fumble in a critical moment. The defense probably won't allow long touchdown after long touchdown in large part because they won't be playing in a Miami heat that played a role in their second-half collapse.
There's also this: The Patriots' defense is beatable and Mitchell Trubisky has looked pretty dang good lately after the rough start to his season. Over his past two games, he's completed 71.9 percent of his passes, averaged 11.8 yards per attempt, thrown nine touchdowns and one pick, and posted a 143.3 passer rating. If Trubisky can keep playing like that and the defense can get back to looking like the top defense by DVOA, the Bears will be fine.
I don't know if they'll beat the Patriots, because the Patriots are the Patriots, but they're good enough to keep it close. Their two losses have been by a combined four points. Expect another close game.
Colts (-7.5) vs. Bills
The Colts probably aren't good enough to be favored by more than a touchdown against anyone, except when the other team can't find an NFL-caliber quarterback to start.
With Josh Allen hobbled by the Bills are shorthanded. Normally, that'd leave starting duties to Nathan Peterman. You might remember Peterman from . You also might remember him from the throw he made to lose the Bills the game on Sunday.
Peterman isn't just a bad starting quarterback. He's historically bad. Give me the Colts to beat up on a team that will start a quarterback who hands out free interceptions on 12.2 percent of his passes.
Nathan Peterman has led 36 drives for Buffalo.— Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) October 16, 2018
26 of them ended with an interception, 3-and-out, or turnover on downs.
19/36 drives gained fewer than 9 yards.
We have a table of all 36 drives https://t.co/GcOlqNZXZ1
Nathan Peterman has thrown an interception on 12.2% of his passes. That hasn't been done in the NFL (min. 50 attempts) since Rich Campbell in the early 80s. https://t.co/GcOlqNZXZ1— Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) October 16, 2018
It turns out none of that matters, because the Bills are apparently, who they just picked up off the free agent scrap heap a week ago. That's right, the Bills are starting a quarterback they signed last week over Peterman. That's how dire their quarterback situation is.
This changes absolutely nothing. It only highlights the desperation of the Bills as they try to fix an unsolvable problem.
In what might be the best game of the week between the fourth-ranked (Ravens) and seventh-ranked (Saints) teams by DVOA, I'm taking the team with the better quarterback. Drew Brees is completing an insane 78 percent of his passes and averaging 8.7 yards per attempt while throwing for 11 touchdowns, no picks, and 122.3 passer rating. Brees might deserve to be the MVP frontrunner.
Since that Week 1 loss to FitzMagic, the Saints have won four straight games.They're up there with the Rams among the best teams in the NFC. They just added Mark Ingram to an offense that was already unstoppable. They're going to be well-rested after a bye. And their defense has played better in recent weeks after a disastrous start to the season, allowing 37 total points over their past two games.
I don't know if they'll beat the Ravens in Baltimore, but I'll take the Saints as underdogs against almost anyone.