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Indianapolis Colts at Atlanta Falcons (-6)
As schizophrenic as the 6-3 Falcons have been this year, the fact remains that while they probably will not catch Carolina in the NFC South, Atlanta is one of only four teams in the NFC above .500 and in great shape for a playoff spot.
Six seems like a smallish number given the bag of anvil-sized on-field and off-field problems that the Colts will be dragging into this game. Yes, Indianapolis is coming off its bye week and still rosy-cheeked after the win over Denver, but no one seems certain when Andrew Luck will return at QB and – first place in the AFC South aside – the Colts are obviously a team with flaws.
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Denver Broncos at Chicago Bears (+2)
What to do now with Peyton Manning? Play him and hope that he can survive through the last half of the season and into the playoffs? Sit him and his league-leading total of 17 interceptions? The Broncos are reeling, and now the quarterback who has loved (and thrived in) warm weather and domes heads into blustery Chicago in November.
If Manning plays, the Bears will bring all the pressure they have to bear on him and his aching ribs. If Manning sits, it’s the immortal Brock Osweiler against the world. Tough decision for the Broncos. Early bettors are split just about evenly on this game. Normally this would not be a hard call. Healthy Manning vs. Jay Cutler? But Osweiler vs. Cutler? Or perhaps and aging and ailing Manning vs. Cutler?
Total to watch
Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots (49)
On the surface, this line seems a bit high, considering Rex Ryan’s history of being able to shorten the game against the Patriots, plus the fact that Julian Edelman will be out (for perhaps a few months). In their first meeting (Week 2), New England threw the ball 59 times (just 15 runs) in almost completely avoiding Buffalo’s defensive front.
Will New England – which will be playing its first game without its leading rusher (Dion Lewis) and top receiver – flip the script and pound with LeGarrette Blount against a Bills defense that’s No. 9 in the league against the run? One interesting note: the Patriots’ last two home games (Washington and Miami, teams with talent levels similar to Buffalo) have gone Under.