The NFL’s premiere attraction of this holiday weekend won’t be played in primetime.
The 9-5 Patriots and the 8-6 Bills will battle for control of the AFC East at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Although it will be shown to much of the country, there will be three other games being shown on CBS at the same time including the Ravens at Cincinnati. Both teams are 8-6, and the winner will take the lead in the AFC North at 9-6.
The other two games being played at the same time are the Chargers at Houston and the Jaguars at the Jets.
The 8-6 Chargers, who trail the 10-4 Chiefs by two games, need a victory to stay in the wild-card race.
The significance of the Pats-Bills game is that a Pats victory would give them a two-game lead over the Bills with two left and would likely mean they will win the division and resume their dominance of the division without Tom Brady. Since the Patriots play the Jaguars next week, it is almost a certainty that they will win the division if they beat the Bills.
Kansas City and Green Bay, currently the top two seeds, will both be home and favored. The Packers host Cleveland on Christmas afternoon and the Chiefs host Pittsburgh Sunday.
Tennessee remained on top of the AFC South by rallying to beat San Francisco Thursday night. The Titans are 10-5 with a game lead over the Colts, who play at Arizona Christmas night. They are 8-6 and can remain a game behind the Titans.
The AFC wild card race is wide open with only three of the 16 teams having losing records going in the Christmas games. They are the Jaguars, Jets and Texans.
Dallas, which clinched the NFC East title Thursday night, hosts Washington Sunday night. The 10-4 Cowboys went into the Christmas games as one of four NFC teams with 10-4 record along with the Cardinals, Bucs and Rams. Green Bay is on top at 13-3 and those five teams are likely to make the playoffs.
The other two NFC spots are wide open with three teams at 7-7. The 7-7 Vikings face the toughest task against the 10-4 Rams. The 7-7 Eagles host the Giants and the Saints host Miami in a game in which both teams are 7-7. Miami and the Saints will play Monday night in a game that will have a playoff feel since the loser falls to 7-8. Washington goes to Dallas in the Sunday night game and the Washington team falls to 6-9 if it doesn’t pull an upset.
One factor that makes it difficult to handicap the weekend is because so many teams are losing players to Covid. That could have a big impact as teams may not know until Sunday morning which players will be available.