The Minnesota Vikings are right on the edge of the NFC Playoff picture at the moment, currently the fifth seed in the NFC. But they have a difficult road ahead, as they look to make a playoff run for the second straight year. That road takes them to Foxboro this week, for a matchup with the 8-3 New England Patriots. The Pats, after getting a healthy Rob Gronkowski back last week, have begun to look like their normal selves.
The Patriots have plenty to play for as well. The Chiefs are just a game ahead of them in the win column, as the fight for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs begins in earnest. To break down this game and several other big matchups on this week’s slate, we caught up with CBS Boston sports anchor Dan Roche.
Cleveland Browns @ Houston Texans, Sunday 1 p.m. Eastern Time (CBS)
The Browns got their first road win Sunday in three years in Cincinnati. Two rookies on the offense have created excitement around the team as well, as Baker Mayfield threw for four touchdowns and Nick Chubb ran for a touchdown and caught another in the victory. Can the kids carry the momentum into Houston on Sunday?
It won’t be easy, as Bill O’Brien’s team is tough at home, and there are some matchup problems that are tough that Houston will present for the Browns. So, I like the Texans.
Baltimore Ravens @ Atlanta Falcons, Sunday 1 p.m. Eastern Time (CBS)
This is an interesting matchup. The initial reaction is to go with the Falcons at home right? But maybe not so fast here. One key matchup I see is the running game. The Ravens have won two straight behind rookie back Gus Edwards who has notched back-to-back 100-yard rushing games. The Falcons defense is giving up five yards per carry which ranks near the bottom of the league.
Atlanta is also 0-3 against the AFC North this season being outscored 106-69 in those three games. I’ll take the Ravens.
Minnesota Vikings @ New England Patriots, Sunday 4:25 p.m. Eastern Time (FOX)
Minnesota is a dangerous team that could finally be putting it all together for a big stretch run. They have won five of the last seven games, including a big win on Sunday night over Green Bay where Kirk Cousins threw for 342 yards and wideouts Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen combined for 202 yards receiving and two touchdowns.
The 8-3 Patriots remain a work in progress. The return of Rob Gronkowski helped the Pats last week in their win over the Jets. And, they ran for over 200 yards on the ground for the first time in four years. The Pats haven’t turned the ball over in four games, and they are 5-0 at home. I like the Patriots in a close game.
Los Angeles Chargers @ Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday 8:20 p.m. Eastern Time (NBC)
This is another good matchup. The Steelers have won six of their last seven games, while the Chargers have won seven of eight. Quarterbacks will decide this one. Philip Rivers has thrown 18 touchdowns and only five picks in L.A.’s big run. Ben Roethlisberger has tossed 16 touchdowns in Pittsburgh’s six wins in seven games run. But Big Ben has thrown five picks in his last two games. That could be huge.
However, I do like the Steelers at home because I don’t think the Chargers can put enough points up on the board.