Two golden weeks remain: Week 12 (Packers-Niners, Colts-Texans, Cowboys-Patriots, Ravens-Rams) and Week 14 (Chiefs-Patriots, Niners-Saints, Seahawks-Rams). And aside from thin slates in Weeks 10 and 17, the NFL should have a bevy of good games with meaning down the stretch. The biggest five:
Nov. 21 (Thursday): Indianapolis at Houston, 8:20 p.m. ET. Bad news for both teams as they, quite possibly, vie for the AFC South pole position: Texans with a short-week game, coming off a physical beating at Baltimore four days earlier … Colts with a short-week game, traveling. But the Colts have this edge: In three Indy starts against the Texans, quarterback Jacoby Brissett is 3-0 with seven touchdowns, no picks and a 114.2 rating.
Nov. 24 (Sunday): Green Bay at San Francisco, Time TBD. These two teams are a combined 15-2 this morning, and I don’t care how optimistic you are in either fan base, you’d never have called that prior to the season. Heck, in May, I picked the Niners as the league’s seventh-best team and Green Bay to win the NFC North, and I’m surprised to see them 8-0 and 7-2 on Election Day.
Dec. 8 (Sunday): San Francisco at New Orleans, 1 p.m. ET. If San Francisco’s pass-rush is healthy, it’s a race on the indoor carpet for Nick Bosa and DeForest Buckner to nail Drew Brees. And Michael Thomas versus Richard Sherman, when it happens … NFL Films needs to have extra cameras (and mics) in the ‘Dome for this one.
Dec. 8 (Sunday): Kansas City at New England, 4:25 p.m. ET. Best rivalry in football right now. I wish they played four times a year. Composite score, last four meetings: Pats 134, Chiefs 133. New England’s won three of the four, including the two Patrick Mahomes starts last year—by three and six points. Mahomes couldn’t dig out of 15 and 14-point holes he’d helped excavate for the Chiefs on those two Sundays, and, as he told me in August, those two experiences taught him this: “You can’t make mistakes against Tom Brady and Coach Belichick and the Patriots the way we did in both games, early in the game. They’re gonna keep executing, so we better too.” Andy Reid said: “Astute observation by a smart player. It’s always a short feel-out process against a championship team.” This could be a game the Chiefs need for a January bye.
Dec. 22 (Sunday): Cincinnati at Miami, 1 p.m. ET. A Finley-Rosen duel, quite possibly, for their successors, for the first pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. (I passed on two games that could have great significance on this weekend: Packers-Vikings in Minneapolis, Rams-Niners in Santa Clara. The prospect of two teams with a potential combined 1-27 record gnawing denture-less on each other for three hours is simply more appealing.)
There will be a game of playoff significance in Week 17; there almost always is. I just can’t see it right now.