Broncos at Colts
Talk about a horse race! In the most anticipated game of the year so far, Peyton Manning returns to Indianapolis for the first time since the team released him after 13 incredible seasons. But perhaps none of those years tops his 6–0 start this year in Denver. The Colts are 4–2 and QB Andrew Luck is just the best NFL prospect since Manning. The game doesn't start till 8:30 Eastern Time, so you all day to play one of the best courses in the area, the Kampen Course at Purdue University's Birck Boilermaker Golf Complex (above), a links-style design by native son Pete Dye that is as demanding as it is fun.
Browns at Packers
Most years this game would be a yawner save for masochistic Cleveland fans and Cheeseheads who love to see the Pack demolish lesser opponents. But the upstart Browns have a formidable D and the Green Bay offense is reeling from injuries. Both teams are in a must-win situation to keep up with the leaders in their respective divisions. Sitting on a glacial ridge and designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., University Ridge Golf Course at the University of Wisconsin in Madison is a must-play. The recently renovated layout is one of the best public courses in the state.
Bengals at Lions
The claws will be out for this catfight between these two divisional leaders who are both 4–2. Led by QB Matthew Stafford, Detroit’s passing attack ranks No. 2 in the league, but Cinci has the No. 9 ranked pass defense. Located on dramatically rolling and wooded land 40 miles north of Detroit, Shepherd’s Hollow Golf Club feels like it’s in Michigan's Upper Peninsula instead of the metro area. The 27-holes by Arthur Hills are known for their excellent conditioning, generous fairways, and large, flowing greens.
Niners at Titans
Meeting for the first time since 2009, San Fran and Tennessee excel at causing turnovers. The Titans will have to find a way to contain Niner QB Colin Kaepernick and hope their once fleet-footed running back, Chris Johnson, gets his mojo back. Named the Best Public Course in Middle Tennessee by GolfWeek the past three years, the Larry Nelson-designed Gaylord Springs Golf Links sits along the banks of the Cumberland River and is bordered by scenic limestone bluffs.
Pats at Jets
This is a must-win for the 3–3 Jets if they hope to keep pace with New England, their biggest division rival who beat them in September and are 5–1. The Pats have a number of injuries, but their most important player, QB Tom Brady, is still playing at a high level. New York’s rookie QB, Geno Smith, is doing better than expected but then expectations were pretty low to begin with. Designed by Roger Rulewich and located on 250 acres of rolling terrain in northwestern New Jersey, Ballyowen at the Crystal Springs Golf Resort is an open, linksy layout with long fescue grasses edging serpentine fairways.
By: Tom Cunneff