By Lucas Kochevar
The Bengals are officially dead and maybe Zach Wilson isn't terrible? The Bengals felt dead in the water as they watched their playoff odds diminish before their eyes when they lost to the Titans on Sunday. Its brutal to see a team look as lifeless as the Bengals have this season. It's especially tough when you consider the record-breaking deal they made with Joe Burrow. I don't know what it'll take for them, at the very least, look competent this season, but they need to lose with a little bit of pride. Zach Wilson had his best game as a pro on Sunday night against the Chiefs. He was hitting his spots and made plays with his feet that had some controlled chaos. Obviously his turnover at the end crushed their hopes, but there was some positive signs. Also in the AFC East, the Bills demolished the Dolphins. Josh Allen looked electric as he connected with Stefon Diggs for three scores. The AFC continues to be surprising as we look ahead to next weeks action.
Before we get into that, the NFL suffered a tragic loss before Thursday Night Football. Hall of Fame linebacker Dick Butkus passed away at the age of 80. Butkus was an eight-time Pro Bowler and five-time All-Pro. Butkus was so dominant in his time that he was also selected to the All-Decade teams for the 60s and 70s. He's one of the first real defensive monsters in NFL history and it stinks to see him pass away. Butkus' passing comes on a night where the Bears had to show they weren't a joke and they showed up with a 40-20 win over Washington. D.J. Moore had a huge night and made sure to shout out the Bears legend.
Dallas Cowboys (+3.5) @ San Francisco 49ers
This is the marquee game of the week and it features two of the leagues best teams. The 49ers have been flat out dominant this season whole playing a relatively soft schedule. The dominance of this stretch of games has been very impressive, even when you consider who they're playing. Christian McCaffery is having an MVP season and Nick Bosa is equally as impressive on the defense. Quarterback Brock Purdy has also been impressive and appears to be a legitimate starter in the league. The Cowboys have also been on neutral. Outside of a loss to Arizona, the Cowboys have been hammering teams with their ferocious defense and consistent offense. Both of these teams have a ton of talent, but the real difference will be between the coaches.
49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan is an offensive wizard, but he'll matchup against his former boss in Dan Quinn. When Quinn coached the Falcons, he hired Shanahan and the whole Super Bowl fiasco happened. Both guys will say they've moved on and they have a great relationship, however, I would bet these guys are fired up to get that negative energy out on the field. The chess match between these two will be fascinating to watch. I think these will be the exciting units to face off. The Cowboys offense against the 49ers defense will be the real test to see. The Cowboys haven't been challenged and their first test will be against the best defense in the league. I won't be shocked at all if the Cowboys start off slow. I like the 49ers to win this game because of a fast start, but don't count the Cowboys out.
Kansas City Chiefs (-5.5) @ Minnesota Vikings
There's not a ton of games that feel like they could be close and, frankly, this might not be a close either. I think there's a chance this game could be very fun, however, with stars on both offenses. I also think it could be interesting to see how the Chiefs continue to improve, especially since they had a scare against the Jets last Sunday night. Patrick Mahomes wasn't particularly sharp and their continues to be a lack of weapons stepping up outside of Travis Kelce. The Vikings finally got their season on track with a win over the lowly Panthers, but it still wasn't pretty. The defense played better and Justin Jefferson continues to be a cheat code. The Vikings passing offense against the Chiefs defense can be a fun battle to monitor.
Jordan Addison has been a productive rookie, but saw zero catches last week. His success this week will predicate on how the Chiefs approach Jefferson. It's no secret that Jefferson can explode for 150 yards on a weekly basis, but will the Chiefs commit to trying to slow him down or will they let him get his and stop everyone else. It's a strategy that's interesting when teams employ it and it could be particularly effective against a Vikings offense that relies on Jefferson. I think this game is a get-right spot for the Chiefs offense as the Vikings defense is bottom half in the league in multiple defensive categories. I think this should be a blowout win for the Chiefs, but maybe we can get a fun game similar to the Bills-Vikings last year that ended with some fireworks.
Jacksonville Jaguars (+5.5) @ Buffalo Bills
We move over to London town for the last game I'm curious to see. The Bills have been on a war path since their embarrassing loss in week one. It's been straight dominance from their offense and their defense has been really strong too. Now, in a blowout against Miami, they did lose several secondary members to injury. They'll have to navigate these muddy waters, but they're still a great team with a defensive line that's finally come into their own. Gregory Rousseau is showing the signs that had him as a highly-talked about prospect at one point. On the other side, the Jaguars have been stuck in a funk. The offense doesn't look nearly as explosive and the defense continues to look young in spots. The Jaguars might just be a team that starts off the year slow and picks it up, but so far they haven't been inspiring.
The slow starts for Jacksonville scare me here, especially against the Bills. If you're caught sleeping, you can quickly find yourself in a three touchdown hole. The Bills offense is finally starting to incorporate the run into their offense and it's working wonders. Funny how that works. Rookie guard O'Cyrus Torrence is doing wonders to the physicality of this offensive line and I think Josh Allen has his swagger back. Gabe Davis will be an X-factor on Sunday because he's an element that works so well when he's under the radar. He's found the endzone in three straight games and if the Jaguars focus on Diggs too much, Davis could have a big day. The Jaguars offensive line will also have their hands full with this defensive line. Outside of my praise for Buffalo's defensive line, the Jaguars offensive line has just been meh. This is another one that could get out of hand quickly, but I'll tune in for Allen versus Trevor Lawrence.
LK's Bet of the Week: Philadelphia Eagles -4 @ Los Angeles Rams
Another road favorite? Don't mind if I do. The Seahawks bet was the easiest lock of my life. I would've put everything on that blow out. This week, I love the Eagles at this number. They were tested last week against the Commanders, but squeaked out of the game with a win. There's a chance that struggle was because of a look ahead to this game. I wouldn't even say that they looked ahead because they were worried about the Rams, but they weren't concerned about the Commanders. Even then, I think they'll win this game by a lot in the trenches. Their offensive line will handle this defense and their defensive line will make Matthew Stafford's life hell. I also like the way the Eagles passing game has been humming. A.J. Brown had a monster day last week and looks to keep this momentum going.
Sources: Image via USA Today