Let's look at 10 NFL matchups between Weeks 5 and 16 that could turn out to be key in the context of divisional and conference standings this season.
Last year, Derek Carr and the still-Oakland Raiders (28/1 to win Super Bowl, Intertops) lost both meetings to Philip Rivers and the now-Los Angeles Chargers (33/1 to win Super Bowl, Bovada), with the Bolts winning in Oakland, 17-16 in Week 1 as 3-point road underdogs (U, 48½) and then winning in Week 17, 30-10, also covering ATS as 7-point home favorites (U, 43). With the AFC West now probably the most balanced and competitive division in the NFL with the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs, this meeting could set the tone for who ends up winning it in what looks like a more important spot for the Silver & Black who host the Seahawks the following week. NFL bettors will want to remember that there have been 3 straight "unders" in this series in games averaging 36.0 ppg.
Week 6: Chiefs vs. Patriots (Sunday, October 14)
A nice "Sunday Night Football" AFC showdown and a much more important game for Kareem Hunt and the Kansas City Chiefs (33/1 to win Super Bowl, BetOnline), who will probably need every win possible to make the postseason — Kansas City watched the playoffs last year after a 5-0 start — while Tom Brady and the New England Patriots (6/1 to win Super Bowl, Bovada) should easily navigate the AFC East again in 2018. These two played the first game of the 2017 season in New England with Kansas City upsetting the Patriots, 42-27, winning outright as closing 8-point road underdogs based on the NFL odds board. Expect Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski and the Patriots to exact some revenge.
Week 7: Panthers vs. Eagles (Sunday, October 21)
This interdivisional NFC date from the City of Brotherly Love could be a tough loss for Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers (33/1 to win Super Bowl, BetOnline) with their NFC South so tough with Matt Ryan and Atlanta, Drew Brees and New Orleans, and Jameis Winston and Tampa Bay. The reigning Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles (+950 to win Super Bowl, Heritage) should be in a better spot here with QB Carson Wentz back from injury, the home-field site and an NFC East date with the deflated Giants next up. Philadelphia should win by more than a TD in this spot. When these two met last year in Week 6 in Charlotte, the Eagles triumphed 28-23, winning outright as 3-point road underdogs (O, 44).
Week 8: Patriots vs. Bills (Monday, October 29)
This crucial AFC East game at the halfway mark of the season could be big for both the defending AFC champion Patriots and the host Bills (100/1 to win Super Bowl, BetOnline), but more likely for the latter. In 2017, the Patriots won and covered ATS both meetings, holding Buffalo to 19 total points. Backing the Patriots in this spot in Buffalo (NE 4-0 ATS L4) and again in Week 16 in Foxborough (NE 5-1-1 L7 ATS) seems wise for your NFL picks, with the Bills moving on from starting QB Tyrod Taylor (traded to the Cleveland Browns) and still not in a real long-term groove despite the 9-7 SU record last season.
Week 12: Falcons vs. Saints (Thursday, November 22)
At this point in the season, this monstrous NFC South Turkey Day primetime showdown from The Big Easy between the Saints (22/1 to win Super Bowl, BetOnline) and Falcons (25/1 to win Super Bowl, BetOnline) could be a tough loss for either team, with the Panthers possibly still in the divisional race. Last season these teams split, with each winning at home, with the Falcons covering ATS (½ point), winning 20-17 as 2½-point chalks (U, 51½) in Week 14 and then losing at New Orleans 23-13 as 5½-point underdogs in Week 16 (U, 52). The Saints are 4-2 ATS over the L6 meetings.
Week 12: Packers vs. Vikings (Sunday, November 25)
A big "Sunday Night Football" NFC North clash from The Land of 10,000 Purple Lakes between Aaron Rodgers and the Packers (14/1 to win Super Bowl, Bovada) and the host Vikings (+1450 to win Super Bowl, Heritage) in what could be a game that puts the winner on top of the division to stay. In 2017, the host Vikings grated the Cheeseheads in Week 6, 23-10, covering ATS as 3-point home dogs (U, 46) and then in Week 16 in Green Bay, Minnesota shut out the Rodgers-less Packers 16-0 in a game that saw the Vikings, steamed by the public, close as big 8½-point road chalks (U, 41). The "under" is a profitable 6-1 in the L7 in this series and possibly worth backing again this season with some potential QB choppiness on both teams.
Week 14: Jaguars vs. Titans (Thursday, December 6)
A new rivalry has been born? These two finally bloomed last year in the AFC South with Tennessee going 9-7 and Blake Bortles and Jacksonville finishing 10-7, with the Titans sweeping the season series, winning 37-16 in Week 2 in Jacksonville, easily getting the money as 1-point road mini-chalks (O, 42), and 15-10 in Week 17 in Nashville, covering ATS as 2½-point home favorites (U, 40) in a game Tennessee needed to qualify for the playoffs for the first time in 9 years. Even with the two 2 ATS Covers, the Titans are still 5-8-1 ATS the L14 vs. the Jaguars. This "Thursday Night Football" showdown should be huge.
Week 14: Eagles vs. Cowboys (Sunday, December 9)
Possibly a huge NFC East date from JerryWorld with the Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys (33/1 to win Super Bowl, Bovada) likely battling for control of the division, with the Giants (2-13 SU in 2017) and Redskins (7-9 SU) both probably lucky to finish at .500. Philadelphia won 37-9 in Dallas in Week 11 last year (DAL -6, U, 48) while Dallas won in Philadelphia 6-0 in Week 17 (DAL -3½, U 41) in a game the Eagles gave exactly zero rips about, having already nailed down the postseason homefield edge and a bye for the opening round of the NFC playoffs.
Week 15: Patriots vs. Steelers (December 16)
Homefield advantage in the AFC playoffs may be at stake in this one from The Steel City and expect Ben Roethlisberger and the home crowd to be in a foul mood after a controversial call against New England last year basically ended up giving the Patriots home edge through the AFC postseason as the No. 1 seed while Pittsburgh ended up the No. 2 seed. This game may affect the fate of the Steelers (+950 to win Super Bowl, Heritage) in the AFC North as well. Pittsburgh is 0-3-1 ATS the L4 against mighty New England after failing to cover as 2½-point home underdogs to the Patriots in a that aforementioned 27-24 loss last season in Week 15 (U, 52½). This one will be bet on and watched by many.
Week 16: Falcons vs. Panthers (December 23)
Another very big potential NFC South collision, this one from the Tar Heel State on the night before the night before Christmas with simple survival a possibility here so late in the season and with the Saints still possibly in the mix. The Panthers beat the Falcons in Week 9 last season, 20-17, covering ATS as 3-point home dogs (U, 42) and then lost at Atlanta, 22-10 in Week 17, failing to cover ATS as 5-point underdogs (U, 44½). Like the AFC West, the NFC South should again be very wide open and this particular game could determine the divisional winner. The Panthers are 1-4 ATS the L5 vs. Atlanta, meaning the Falcons may be the choice in this spot.
Free Week 6 Big Game Pick: Raiders-Chargers "Under"
Free Week 8 Big Game Pick: Patriots over Bills
Free Week 12 Big Game Pick: Packers-Vikings "Under"
Free Week 14 Big Game Pick: Eagles over Cowboys