Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

New England Patriots (3-11) at Denver Broncos (7-7): The Broncos are in a good position to earn their first postseason berth since 2015. As Tankathon noted, they have the league’s third-easiest remaining schedule. On Monday, head coach Sean Payton said, “It’s going to take three wins [to make the postseason], but it starts this week.”

When asked Tuesday whether quarterback Mac Jones will get another chance to start, Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien said, “Everybody’s gotta be ready to play.”  

However, expect Bailey Zappe to retain the starting role. Over the past two games, he was serviceable, completing 71.2 percent of his passes for four TDs and two picks. Jones, meanwhile, went 2-9 as a starter and threw more picks (12) than TDs (10).

Denver fell to Detroit 42-17 in Week 15, but the Broncos should rebound against dysfunctional New England, which is ranked last in the league in points scored (13.3). As of Wednesday, oddschecker lists the Broncos as a 6.5-point favorite.

PREDICTION: Broncos, 23-16

Las Vegas Raiders (6-8) at Kansas City Chiefs (9-5): Surprisingly, the Raiders erupted for a 63-21 victory over the Chargers in Week 15, setting a franchise record for points in a game. Per the team website, interim HC Antonio Pierce recently said if they can build off the performance, “it’ll give them a chance to play well on Christmas Day.”

The Chiefs are still trying to alleviate concerns about their receiving corps. Per Pro Football Reference, Kansas City leads the league in drops (37 in 14 games). 

After they beat the Patriots in Week 15, QB Patrick Mahomes told Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio the wideouts can’t completely eliminate drops, but “playing confident” can reduce them.

Despite the lingering questions about Kansas City’s offense, don’t expect the Raiders to pull off an upset. The Chiefs have won nine of their past 10 games against their longtime divisional rival.

PREDICTION: Chiefs, 27-24

Buffalo Bills (8-6) at Los Angeles Chargers (5-9): After they recently fired Brandon Staley, the Chargers promoted outside linebackers coach Giff Smith to interim HC. He seems confident even though he’s taking over a team that has lost six of its past seven games.

“We’ve got a three-week season, and we’re going to play to win,” he told the media Tuesday.

Conversely, Buffalo has won three of its past four and is back in the playoff hunt. During this stretch, it has scored 117 points, the fifth most in the league.  

L.A., meanwhile, is a mess. It’s 17th in the league in points scored (21.6 PPG) and 28th in points allowed (24.6). Don’t be surprised if the Bills coast to another easy win. As of Wednesday, oddschecker lists them as a 12-point favorite. 

PREDICTION: Bills, 31-19

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