Those issues begin with Thursday night’s prime-time and big-time matchup in the AFC West between the Chiefs (9-4) and Chargers (8-5). Kansas City, which has won six straight games to move atop the division it has dominated the past five seasons, placed defensive tackle Chris Jones in the COVID-19 protocol on Tuesday. Jones has been a catalyst for the team’s defensive resurgence.
Wide receiver Josh Gordon has also tested positive.
“When you’re down the stretch run you have to take it serious,” Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said, “because you want to be available. It’s just like any injury you would get at this point. You want to do whatever you can to be available to the team. Whether that’s distancing in the locker room or with your family, we understand it’s part of the world.
“Do the best you can to help yourself and help the guy next to you so that you can be available.”
The Chargers, who beat KC in September, put offensive tackle Rashawn Slater on the COVID-19 list, while star receiver Keenan Allen and backup center Scott Quessenberry had positive tests last week and remain on it.
Kansas City, ranked fourth in the AP Pro32, is a 3-point favorite at No. 9 Los Angeles. It’s difficult to pick against the Chiefs right now.
KNOCKOUT POOL: The Chargers did us right not only here, but as the Best Bet. This week, we’ll go with MIAMI.
No. 18 Washington (plus 6 1/2) at No. 21 Philadelphia
Too many points to be spotting the erratic Eagles.
BEST BET: EAGLES, 23-21
No. 3 New England (plus 2 1/2) at No. 12 Indianapolis, Saturday
We don’t get this spread with the way the Patriots have been performing.
UPSET SPECIAL: PATRIOTS, 20-17
No. 24 Las Vegas (plus 1) at No. 15 Cleveland, Saturday
The Browns might be the hardest hit by a recent coronavirus outbreak. But the Raiders are a mess.
No. 25 Seattle (plus 4 1/2) at No. 6 Los Angeles Rams
The Rams also figure to be short-handed because of COVID-19 issues and the Seahawks are playing better.
No. 5 Arizona (minus 13 1/2) at No. 30 Detroit
Here come the huge betting line games. The Cardinals are unbeaten on the road.
No. 26 Carolina (plus 10 1/2) at No. 11 Buffalo
If the Bills falter here, they might not even make the postseason.
No. 7 Dallas (minus 10 1/2) at No. 28 New York Giants
Rivalry games shouldn’t have such a big line. Yet this one makes some sense.
No. 29 New York Jets (plus 9 1/2) at No. 20 Miami
Rivalry games shouldn’t have such a big line. And Miami can’t score a lot.
No. 23 New Orleans (plus 10 1/2) at No. 2 Tampa Bay
Rivalry games shouldn’t have such a big line. But Tampa can score a lot.
No. 22 Atlanta (plus 9) at No. 13 San Francisco
Both teams are in the NFC wild-card mix.
No. 1 Green Bay (minus 4 1/2) at No. 10 Baltimore
Pro Picks feels sorry for the banged-up Ravens. Green Bay won’t.
No. 19 Minnesota (minus 3 1/2) at No. 27 Chicago, Monday
Not exactly the prime-time showcase the Thursday night game is.
No. 8 Tennessee (minus 1 1/2) at No. 16 Pittsburgh
Kind of a toss-up game and the Steelers somehow have life in the AFC North.
No. 14 Cincinnati (plus 2 1/2) at No. 17 Denver
The winner here might have realistic hopes for the postseason.
No. 31 Houston (plus 3 1/2) at No. 32 Jacksonville
Well, we have to pick every game, so …
Last Week: Straight up: 11-3. Against spread: 7-7.
Season: Straight up: 134-73-1. Against spread: 117-88-2.
Best Bet: Straight up: 8-5-1. Against spread: 10-4.
Upset Special: Straight up: 12-1. Against spread: 12-1.