Kansas City Chiefs (6-2) at Carolina Panthers (3-5)
SERIES HISTORY: 6th regular-season meeting. Chiefs lead series, 3-2. Their last meeting came in 2012 when the Chiefs snapped an eight-game losing streak with a 27-21 win in Kansas City.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Kansas City will try to run the ball, but they may find little room against the league's third-ranked rush defense. So it will be up to QB Alex Smith to beat Carolina's inexperienced secondary, which he should be able to do -- if he has time. The Panthers lead the NFL with 12 sacks over the past two weeks, so their renewed pass rush will have to show up again to knock off the 6-2 Chiefs.
The Chiefs have a middle-of-the-pack pass defense, but they are allowing 124.5 rushing yards per game. That lines up well for a Panthers' ground game that had a rare off game in Los Angeles. If the Chiefs can't slow down a running game led by RB Jonathan Stewart and QB Cam Newton, the Panthers have a good shot to extend their win streak to three.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Panthers RT Daryl Williams vs. Chiefs OLB Dee Ford. Williams has been in the starting lineup since Week 4 and is having a solid sophomore season. But he will have his hands full with Ford, who racked up 5.5 sacks in his past two games.
--Panthers LB Luke Kuechly vs. Chiefs TE Travis Kelce. The great Kuechly is having trouble covering TEs this year and the Panthers won't use him in coverage the entire game. Still, he will be put on the spot against the Chiefs' most dangerous pass catcher. Kelce leads Kansas City with 39 receptions for 435 yards and three touchdowns.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Chiefs WR Kelvin Benjamin. He has been OK in his return from a torn ACL, but Benjamin is not on top of his game yet. He is averaging 67.9 receiving yards per game, but has just one 100-yard outing and no TDs since Week 4.
INJURY REPORT: Kansas City -- Out: LB Justin Houston (knee), DE Jaye Howard (hip), WR Jeremy Maclin (groin). Doubtful: CB D.J. White (hand). Questionable: LB Derrick Johnson (hamstring). Carolina -- Out: S Colin Jones (concussion), T Michael Oher (concussion). Questionable: DT Vernon Butler (ankle), C Gino Gradkowski (knee), C Ryan Kalil (shoulder), DT Kyle Lowe (knee), LB Shaq Thompson (knee).
FAST FACTS: Chiefs LB Dee Ford is tied for third in the NFL nine sacks, including 5.5 sacks in past two games, and aims for his third consecutive game with multiple sacks. Since 2015, CB Marcus Peters has 13 interceptions, most in the NFL. ... Panthers QB Cam Newton passed for 232 yards, 3 TDs and 121.2 rating (adding 78 yards rushing) in last meeting. In past seven home games, he has 1,928 yards passing (275.4 per game) and 21 TDs (17 pass, 4 rush). Panthers LB Thomas Davis had 11 tackles, an interception, a sack and a forced fumble in the victory over Los Angeles. The previous week against Arizona, Davis scored his first career TD, a 46-yard fumble return. ... Kansas City WR Jeremy Maclin (groin) and DE Jaye Howard (hip) are out and LB Justin Houston (Knee) is unlikely to make his season debut.
PREDICTION: This should be a good game, with the Panthers looking for home-field advantage -- and maybe closer attention by officials to their reigning MVP QB.
OUR PICK: Panthers, 28-21.