Every Saturday morning, I'll take a quick look at all the week's games, offering my own take on what I think will happen, as well as touching on significant injury news since our Weekly came out. I'll check in every so often over the course of the day to answer questions, too.
What follows is a brief look at all the games with how I'd react in my own lineups to injury developments or other news. The official rankings are the ones in the Weekly. Those are the ones that subscribers are paying for. Sometimes players are very close in the rankings, and if I get questions like that, I'll offer opinions. Sometimes I like certain players more or less than Ian, and sometimes I have different risk tolerance with injuries/weather issues, etc.
Titans at Kansas City: They generally stick the worst game in the early slot on Saturday. In past years we've tended to see the Texans and Bengals dominating this time slot. I remember there being a great, high-scoring Kansas City-Houston (I think) game at this time a couple of years ago. But that's not happening this time. Tennessee's offense has been an unwatchable disaster for virtually the entire season. They're not going into Kansas City and putting up big numbers. If they win at all, it will be by playing a really good defensive game and winning 20-17 or something.
DeMarco Murray has a torn MCL and was ruled out yesterday. So it will be all Derrick Henry, and probably lots of him, in what will be Tennessee's one chance of springing an ugly, low-scoring upset. And it's possible -- maybe they'll run a lot, get some turnovers, and Marcus Mariota will run for 75 yards. But in general I think the Kansas City defense will be good enough to stop (it's already slowed, exotic smashmouth don't you know) the Titans offense, not giving up a whole lot. Alex Smith will hit on a couple of big plays against this lesser pass defense, with either Tyreek Hill or Travis Kelce doing good things. Kansas City 24, Tennessee 16.
Falcons at Rams: I like and admire the Rams. The turnaround this team made is nothing short of amazing. But the Saints losing at Tampa Bay last week did the Rams no favors. Consider: Saints win, they're the No. 3, and they host the Falcons, while the Rams host the Panthers, and then go to Philadelphia rather than Minnesota if they win. The Falcons have a talented offense and tough defense. I don't think Julio Jones is going to go for 200 yards or anything, but he's the kind of guy for whom it's possible, unlike Devin Funchess.
I'm using Todd Gurley. He'll be the best running back playing this week (unless it's Alvin Kamara, who I'm also using), and if they win he'll be the entire offense at Minnesota. Just maybe they manage to win a low-scoring battle; we've all seen the Vikings underachieve in the playoffs, after all. But I'm nervous about the Rams not putting up big enough offensive numbers in this one, and the Falcons pulling it out. It could happen. Ultimately though, the season-long struggles of the Falcons to put the ball in the end zone has me thinking it will be Los Angeles 27, Atlanta 20.
Bills at Jaguars: My first thought was that Buffalo had a good chance to spring the upset. They have a defense that has been stingy at times, and the Jaguars have a limited offense with a mistake-prone quarterback. But I've drifted from that. LeSean McCoy will likely be active and play, but he's not healthy -- we've seen McCoy playing hurt in recent years and it usually went very poorly. Jaguars still have a tough defense. And the Bills are soft against the run. I don't see why they can't let Fournette carry it 20-25 times and Ivory carry it 10 more and Bortles just hand it off and run some too.
Only way the Bills win, I think, is if they hit on a big play or two (with those receivers? Good luck) and somehow force Bortles into a bunch of turnovers. But it just doesn't seem likely. I'm calling it Jacksonville 24, Buffalo 10.
Panthers at Saints: There's basically one X-factor in this game, which is Cam Newton. If he's out there running it every three or four plays, that's really tough to stop. What if he that, makes a couple of key throws to Olsen/Funchess/McCaffrey, and the Panthers put up 23-24 points, and the Saints pass rush makes Brees look old while its run defense keeps the Saints from getting any big plays? It's possible.
But that's not the game I'm expecting. Bottom line is that New Orleans' offense has too many weapons, definitely the best backfield (McCaffrey drafted two whole rounds earlier than Kamara -- any McCaffrey fans want to champion that selection right now?), better passer. They're home, they beat the Panthers twice fairly soundly. I think it's New Orleans 27, Carolina 17.
Enjoy the games.