Five quick takes looking ahead to Week 16 in the NFL:
1. With just two weeks left in the regular season, the NFL has no more Thursday games which most teams will welcome because they are not popular with the players. Instead, the league has two Saturday games and 13 games plus the final Monday night game of the year this weekend. In the final week all 16 games will be played on Sundays so it is an even playing field for the playoffs the following week. Three teams, the Rams, Saints and Bears, have clinched division titles and two more, the Chiefs and Chargers, have clinched playoffs berths.2. The Patriots lost control of their own destiny in their bid for a first round bye when they lost to the Steelers last week. Even if the beat the Bills and Jets, which they are expected to do, in their final two games, they won’t get a bye unless Houston loses one of its last two. And since the Texans host the Jaguars in their season finale, the last hope for the Patriots is if the Eagles beat Houston Sunday. The game is also important for the defending champion Eagles, who are fighting for a playoff spot.
3. The premier game of the weekend has the 12-2 Saints hosting the 8-5-1 Steelers, who ended a three game losing streak by beating the Patriots last week. The Saints can clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs, which means the Saints can win the Super Bowl without going outside the rest of the season because their final two games are at home and the Super Bowl will be played in Atlanta.
4. Trailing Houston by two games, the 8-6 Indianapolis Colts are basically fighting for a wild card spot when they host the Giants But they could be tied for first if not for some bold moves by coach Frank Reich that backfired He could have punted in overtime against the Texans and probably gotten a tie but he went for it on fourth down, didn’t make it and lost. And he kept going for it on fourth-and-1 against the Jaguars and lost 6-0. He might have won that game if he had kicked field goals. And be tied with the Texans 9-5-1 instead of being two games back. Playing it safe sometimes works.
5. The 8-6 Cowboys still lead the NFC East after being beaten by the Colts last week. They have a good shot at winning the division by bouncing back from that loss by beating the Bucs and Giants in their last two weeks. The Cowboys are unpredictable so they aren’t a sure thing.