Taking a look ahead: NFL Week 16

1..   Going into the second to the last week, five teams have clinched playoff berths (Philadelphia, New England, Pittsburgh, Minnesota and Jacksonville) and four (Eagles, Patriots, Steelers and Vikings) have clinched division titles and one (Eagles) has clinched a first round bye. Two more AFC teams (Jaguars and Chiefs) can clinch division titles with a win  Christmas Eve. The Eagles can clinch top seed in the NFC with a win while the Rams can clinch a division title and the Saints, Falcons and Panthers can clinch NFC playoff berths with wins. Baltimore’s win Saturday night means they can clinch a playoff berth with a victory over Cincinnati in its season finale. Minnesota’s victory over Green Bay Saturday night means they can clinch a bye Sunday if Carolina loses to Tampa Bay.

2. The best matchup of the week is the 9-5 Falcons at 10-4 Saints. The winner clinches a playoff spot. But Carolina is still in the run for the division title. It will clinch a playoff berth with a win against Tampa Bay, which would give them an 11-4 mark. New Orleans has gone 10-2 since starting out 0-2 and the Falcons still have a shot at trying to become the first Super Bowl loser to win it the following year since 1972.

3. New England and Pittsburgh both need wins this week to remain 1-2 in the AFC seeding. The Pats figure to beat the Bills at home while the Steelers are favored to win at Houston although the Steelers are noted for playing down to the level of their competition. Still, their defense should be able to control T.J. Yates. If New England and Pittsburgh both win their final two, they get the first round byes. If either one is upset and the Jaguars win their final two, they would get the top seed. If they both win their next two and their first round play off game, they will meet in the AFC title game at New England in the best matchup of the year.

4. Tennessee is an underdog at home against the Rams, who are 10-4 and can clinch their division title with a victory. If the Titans lose or Jaguars win at San Francisco, the Titans will be eliminated from the division title race although they will be still alive in the wild card race going into the finale at home against Jacksonville.

5. So far so good for Nick Foles, who made his first start as the Eagles’ quarterback in place of injured Carson Wentz. Foles passed for four touchdowns in a 34-29 victory over the Giants. Still he showed he’s no Wentz and doesn’t give them the running dimension that Wentz does. He ran twice for zero yards. And the game was surprising close. The Giants took a 14-0 lead and were within six yards of the winning touchdown at the end when an Eli Manning pass was incomplete in the end zone although the Giants complained in vain that the receiver was held. The Eagles should clinch the top seed and home field advantage through the playoffs when they host Oakland Christmas night. Still, the question is whether Foles can lead them to the Super Bowl title they thought they’d win with Wentz. The Eagles have been to two Super Bowls and lost both and haven’t won an NFL title since 1960 when they handed Vince Lombardi his only playoff loss.

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