A trio of teams fighting for their playoff lives have reason for optimism this week as they hold at least one significant matchup advantage over their opponents. Among these are the Bills, who will look to keep their Wild Card hopes alive against the Eagles; the Chiefs, who currently holds the AFC's first Wild Card slot and are big favorites at home against the division-rival Chargers; and finally, the Buccaneers, who are a game-back of a Wild Card spot and take on New Orleans.
For those that read last week's column , you would know the five teams pointed out with a big edge in a particular area all won and covered. This is not meant as a tout, but the results are what they are. Here are some similar mismatches on this week's slate.
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Buffalo Bills at Philadelphia Eagles (Pick'em)
LeSean McCoy vs. Philadelphia Rush Defense
McCoy could be poised for a big game against his former team. McCoy, who has averaged 4.6 yards per carry while tallying 792 rushing yards this season, leads a Bills ground attack that ranks fourth in the NFL with 140.9 yards per game. Conversely, the Eagles rush defense has been anemic. Teams are averaging 124.7 yards per game on the ground, which ranks 27th in the league.
McCoy figures to be extra motivated as, based off his quotes this week, he still hasn't gotten over being traded by Philadelphia in the offseason. This is a big game for the Bills, and McCoy could be the difference maker.
San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs (-10.5)
Chiefs Rush Defense vs. Melvin Gordon and Spencer Ware vs. Chargers Rush Defense
The big line in this one certainly seems understandable when you consider the lopsided matchups in the trenches that favor the Chiefs. Kansas City has allowed just 96.2 yards per game to rank No. 8 in the NFL. This week they catch Melvin Gordon and a Chargers running attack that's the third-worst in the league with just 82.7 yards per game. Gordon has been fumble-prone, and the Chargers offensive line has been wrecked by injuries all season. San Diego will once again have to live or die on the arm of Phillip Rivers in this one.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs also hold a significant rushing edge on the other side of the ball. Thanks first to Jamaal Charles, then to Spencer Ware, Kansas City boasts the NFL's seven-best rushing attack with 121.3 yards per game. Ware has been a revelation for the Chiefs the last several weeks and he could be poised for another big game Sunday. He's facing the NFL's 26th ranked rush defense in the Chargers, who have allowed 124.6 yards per game). San Diego has been gouged by big plays on the ground this season. They have given up the most runs in the NFL of at least 20 yards (15) and the third-most rushes of at least 40 yards (3).
The Chiefs have been rolling the last six weeks, and they look more than capable of a dominant performance on Sunday.
New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-4.5)
Doug Martin vs. Saints Rush Defense
The Bucs have won three of four to remain on the periphery of the playoff chase, and a big reason for that has been the play of Martin. The veteran running back has rushed for 1,133 yards this season, which trails only Adrian Peterson in the NFL. This week he faces the worst run defense in the league. The Saints have allowed 137.8 rushing yards per game this season, which ranks dead-last and helped spur the dismissal of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan in mid-November. Things have gotten a bit better under new coordinator Dennis Allen, but the issue with the Saints is they simply lack the personnel up front to stop the run.
Seattle Seahawks at Baltimore Ravens (+11.5)
Seahawks Rush Defense vs. Justin Forsett and Javorius Allen
It's rare you'll see a double-digit road favorite, but that's exactly what you have here. A big reason for this is it's difficult to envision Baltimore putting up many points. The Ravens rank near the bottom of the NFL in rushing with just 98.1 yards per game and this week face the league's eighth-best rush defense. This means the game could lay in the hands of veteran journeyman quarterback Matt Schaub for Baltimore. In two starts since replacing Joe Flacco, the 34-year-old Schaub has shown he's incapable of getting the ball down the field at this point in his career and is, at best, strictly a game-manager. With no running game to speak of, the Ravens could be in for a long day.
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