Monday, December 18, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFL notes

Power rankings

1. Broncos (8-1)

2. Seahawks (9-1)

3. Chiefs (9-0)

4. Saints (7-2)

5. Panthers (6-3)

6. Patriots (7-2)

It's Peyton vs. Perfection.

The Chiefs have been one of the league's best stories this season, boasting a remarkable turnaround from their two-win team of a year ago. They've got the potential coach of the year in Andy Reid, an MVP candidate in RB Jamaal Charles and a stout defense.

Yet Kansas City is still an eight-point underdog for tonight's showdown at the Peyton Manning-led Broncos. It's the biggest game of the season and a chance for the Chiefs to earn respect — not to mention take control of the AFC West.

No matter what Kansas City has done or how far it has come, there are still many doubters out there (myself included). The Chiefs haven't beaten anybody with a winning record with their opponents a combined 29-54. To be fair, the Broncos' opponents are just 34-49. Though QB Alex Smith has been steady, their passing offense ranks 27th in the league.

The Chiefs haven't faced a team with as many weapons as the Broncos, who have put up video game-like offensive numbers with Manning (right). But you can also argue Denver hasn't faced a defense as good as Kansas City, which has an NFL-best 36 sacks.

The Chiefs have to get after Manning, who is sporting a sprained right ankle, or keep him off of the field by leaning on Charles. They'll need some plays from WR Dwayne Bowe, who will start despite his recent arrest for speeding and possession of a controlled substance.

The matchup is in prime time for a reason. The combined winning percentage of .944 (17-1) of the teams is the highest for a game this late in a season since 1969, when the 10-1 Vikings played the 11-0 Rams.

And with the rivals facing each other twice in the next three weeks, the Chiefs' quest for a perfect season faces its toughest — and most telling — tests.

"I've heard people say we haven't played any winning teams," Chiefs LB Derrick Johnson said.

"But in the NFL, it's hard to win. The best you can be is 9-0 right now. That's where we're at. If you can't respect it, well, we're going to keep winning."



Who's hot?

Nick Foles: The Eagles quarterback has racked up 10 touchdown passes over the past two games, both wins, with a rating of 155.3. (Perfect is 158.3.) Overall, Foles, who likely will help usher out the Michael Vick era in Philadelphia, is 3-1 in his starts with 16 touchdowns, no interceptions and a 132.5 rating.

Who's not?

Dolphins: They have unraveled, losing five of six, including Monday to the previously winless Bucs, following a 3-0 start. Off the field, they're a mess with the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin bullying scandal hanging over their heads. No wonder they've become a national punch line.

Upset special

Packers over Giants

Green Bay will lean on RB Eddie Lacy enough to take the pressure off of QB Scott Tolzien, who is making his first career start.

Marshall law

There's no love lost between the Bears and Lions, and Chicago WR Brandon Marshall put fuel on the fire in comments on QB Jay Cutler's radio show last week. Marshall called the Lions the Bears' "little brother," despite Detroit beating them last week to take the NFC North lead. "They're the little brother who grew a little bit, may be a little taller than the bigger brother," Marshall said. "He's not stronger. He's not better than the big brother at anything. But it's just that one day, he says, 'I'm fed up. I'm done. I'm going to punch my brother in the face.' It's the little brother (complex). The big brother wants to go out and play with his friends, and the little brother is annoying. 'Hey, can I go?' No you can't go, Detroit Lions. Sit back. Sit in your little city. Know what I mean? Fix your financial problems and all of that. You can't come with us right now."

Quote of the week

"You'll end up dead if you're not careful."

Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger on facing the touted Lions defensive line today

Quick reads

• Bold prediction: The Panthers will win the NFC South. They're just one game back of the Saints with two games against them next month. With QB Cam Newton playing this well, they should be poised for a playoff berth; though a tough test looms Monday against the Patriots.

• While S Ed Reed had an unceremonious end to his seven-game Texans tenure, getting put on waivers, it doesn't take away from what should be a Hall of Fame career. And it's definitely fitting he got picked up by the Jets, reuniting with coach Rex Ryan just a week before they face the Ravens.

• As beloved as Monte Kiffin is in Tampa, not sure how much longer he will last as Dallas' defensive coordinator. The Cowboys had never allowed 600 yards in franchise history but now have done so twice in the past three weeks.

Information from Times wires was used in this report. Follow Joe Smith on Twitter at @TBTimes_JSmith.

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