Back to a full schedule this week, and Thursday Night Football is back. No such thing as too much football. But in case you get overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of contests, here are five that stand out…
(Team rankings are based on our latest power rankings.)
1. No. 7 Lions at No. 11 Bears (Sunday, 4:15 ET on Fox)
Rematch! The Bears haven’t lost since falling to the Lions on Monday Night Football a month ago, while Detroit has just one win since that game. A road win would pretty much ensure that the Lions will return to the playoffs for the first time this century, but a loss means they fall into third place in the NFC North.
2. No. 8 Saints at No. 9 Falcons (Sunday, 1:00 ET on Fox)
NFC South on the line and a pick ‘em spread early on. Neither team has been a model of consistency this year, so this is a big matchup in more ways than one. The Falcons have been stellar at home in the Matt Ryan era, but they haven’t beaten the Saints in Atlanta since 2008.
3. No. 6 Patriots at No. 10 Jets (Sunday, 8:20 ET on NBC)
Make that three huge divisional matchups. It’s always ridiculously compelling when these teams play, but this one’s especially interesting when you consider that the Pats are in jeopardy of losing their third straight game for the first time since 2002 (pre-Tom Brady). The Jets have all the momentum (three straight wins) and are actually a 1.5-point favorite at home.
4. No. 12 Giants at No. 2 49ers (Sunday, 4:15 ET on Fox)
What a week. The top four matchups pit top-12 teams against one another. The Giants have won six of seven, but the Niners have won six of six. I still don’t buy the Giants completely, and I don’t like their odds travelling across the country after an emotional victory in New England. Still, they keep surprising me.
5. No. 14 Bills at No. 20 Cowboys (Sunday, 1:00 ET on CBS)
Buffalo’s season might be on the line. The Bills can’t afford to lose for the fourth time in six games, especially with road games against the Jets and Pats looming later in the year. But it’s also a huge game for the Cowboys in the NFC playoff race. Plus, the last time they played, this happened…