Let's start by getting this out of the way: Thursday night represents a classic trap game, no matter what Matt Conner says. The Kansas City Chiefs have won five straight games, just beat the defending Super Bowl champs, and have the big, bad bully in the way on national television in Arrowhead Stadium next Sunday night.
Everything points to the Chiefs having a massive letdown against a winless Oakland Raiders team. For the Raiders, this is their Super Bowl and a chance to really hurt Kansas City and escape potential history with a victory. Oakland is at home and the crowd will be desperate not to join the ranks of the worst teams of all-time.
Luckily for the Chiefs, Andy Reid is their coach and Tony Sparano is on the other sideline. If that isn't enough, think of the talent disparity this way: if Knile Davis was on Oakland (sorry, Knile), he would be its best offensive weapon ... easily.
So, can Kansas City avoid a complete and utter disaster?
Kansas City Chiefs (-8) at Oakland Raiders
Matt Verderame: Chiefs 27, Raiders 10
Short of absolutely gift-wrapping the game, I can't envision the Raiders beating the Chiefs. Oakland literally does not have one player on that roster who scares me. Khalil Mack is talented, but has one sack. Derek Carr is promising, but has nine interceptions and no viable weapons. The Raiders run game is the worst since the 1940's, averaging 63 yards per game. Who is beating Kansas City in this one? Where is the offense coming from? On defense, Oakland has eight sacks all year. The Raiders rank 27th against the run, allowing 130 yards per game. Honestly, this should be over by halftime.
Joel Thorman: Chiefs 20, Raiders 9
Coming off a short week I don't see either team ready for a big blowout. Kansas City gets up by a couple of touchdowns early and only has to hang on for the win after that.
Seth Keysor: Chiefs 34, Raiders 13
The Raiders generally play KC tougher than they have any right to, even when they're bad. But the gap is too great here. The Chiefs are way more talented, and that loss to the Titans will continue to serve as a tool for Reid to keep the team locked in.
Matt Conner: Chiefs 31, Raiders 3
This train keeps rolling and there's no need for it to stop. "Short week for the Chiefs" is no reason to drop off. It's not like the Raiders are coming off a bye week either. A rookie quarterback who can be rattled is just what this defense needs to tee off a truly great performance.
Cleveland Browns at Atlanta Falcons (-3)
Atlanta (4-6) has not won a game outside of the NFC South, but yet still leads the division because its a total disgrace to football. Meanwhile, poor Cleveland (6-4) is in last place of the AFC North, screwed over by the most competitive division we have seen in decades. Still, I think the Falcons take the day at home with that passing attack.
Pick: Falcons 27, Browns 23
New York Jets at Buffalo Bills (-4.5)
Buffalo (5-5) has to be so disappointed with the way its season has gone. After the bye, the Bills have lost to Kansas City and Miami in a tough fashion. New York (2-8) must be disappointed the games still have to be played. Look for the Bills' defensive line to be a nightmare for Michael Vick.
Pick: Bills 22, Jets 16
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Chicago Bears (-7)
Chicago (4-6) plays defense like a blind man searching for a page of newspaper in a wind tunnel. Luckily for the Bears, Tampa Bay (2-8) lacks the general level of ability required to be an NFL team. In this humdinger, I have to believe the Bears can outlast the Buccaneers, in a game that will have fans dousing their eyes with bleach.
Pick: Bears 28, Buccaneers 20
Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans (-1)
This is an intriguing matchup. Cincinnati (6-3-1) is the better team but can it put together two solid performances on the road. Ryan Mallett looked capable for Houston (5-5) last week and while the Texans aren't making the playoffs, the players will still play like its possible. This could come down to a field goal at the end.
Pick: Bengals 23, Texans 20
Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts (-14.5)
Remember when you were a little kid, and your younger sibling was annoying you? If you couldn't get them to go away, you would simply pick them up and move them elsewhere? I expect Indianapolis (6-4) to do that to Jacksonville (1-9) in a brutal fashion. The Colts are going to want blood after last week's embarrassment.
Pick: Colts 42, Jaguars 14
Green Bay Packers (-11) at Minnesota Vikings
Green Bay (7-3) is the hottest team in the NFL right now. Aaron Rodgers looks all-world and he has top receivers in Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. Minnesota (4-6) plays hard and is well-coached, but it has Jerick McKinnon and Teddy Bridgewater. Good luck keeping up in this one.
Pick: Packers 37, Vikings 19
Detroit Lions at New England Patriots (-7.5)
Tom Brady and the Patriots are 19-1 in their last 20 regular-season games at Gillette Stadium. New England (8-2) is an excellent team hitting its stride at the right time, led by a resurgent Rob Gronkowski. Detroit is for real, coming to town with a top-ranked defense and elite passing attack. Still, winning in Foxboro is near impossible.
Pick: Patriots 24, Lions 20
Tennessee Titans at Philadelphia Eagles (-12.5)
Philadelphia (7-3) is going to be inconsistent with Mark Sanchez under center. Frankly, I don't see the Eagles beating top teams with The Sanchize at the helm. Luckily for Philadelphia, Tennessee (2-8) is absolutely atrocious is all facets of the game. The Eagles will do enough to win comfortably.
Pick: Eagles 31, Titans 13
St. Louis Rams at San Diego Chargers (-5.5)
St. Louis (4-6) is a bad matchup for San Diego (6-4). The Chargers can't block and struggle to cover deep, something Shaun Hill will try, and I emphasis try, to exploit. The Rams will hit Philip Rivers early and often, but can they do enough to win on the road against a San Diego team that has to win?
Pick: Chargers 20, Rams 19
Seattle (6-4) has to win this game, but how are the Seahawks favored by a touchdown here? By Vegas standards, that means Seattle would be a 1-point favorite at Arizona. The Cardinals (9-1) are extremely underrated but will have a tough time winning at CenturyLink Field with Drew Stanton.
Pick: Seahawks 20, Cardinals 16
Miami Dolphins at Denver Broncos (-8)
Denver (7-3) is facing all kinds of adversity and now draws a team that can rush the passer and cover downfield. It's unclear if Julius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders will play, creating even more confusion. Miami (6-4) needs to win and is coming off a mini-bye week. This is going to be a fun game to watch. I'm going with Denver, but I don't have much confidence in it (happily). Something tells me the Broncos are going to have a tough day.
Pick: Broncos 30, Dolphins 24
Washington at San Francisco 49ers (-9.5)
This is going to be a massacre. San Francisco (6-4) is getting healthy and needs to roll off some wins. On the flip side, Washington (3-7) is coming apart at the seams. Jay Gruden or Robert Griffin (or both) are going at the end of this disastrous season.
Pick: 49ers 27, Washington 16
Dallas Cowboys (-3) at New York Giants
New York (3-7) has no offense at the moment and a spotty run defense. It's tough to see Dallas (7-3) being slowed down very much by the Giants, even at MetLife Stadium. The Cowboys appear primed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
Pick: Cowboys 30, Giants 17
Baltimore Ravens at New Orleans Saints (-3.5)
I have no idea what to make of this game. Is New Orleans (4-6) ever going to get it together? Is Baltimore (6-4) a solid team or only capable of beating bad ones? I'm rolling with the Saints only because I don't believe they will lose three straight at the Superdome.
Pick: Saints 33, Ravens 26
Last Week: 8-6 (8-6 ATS)