Previewing NFL Week 16

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.

NFL Week 15 in review

The Green Bay Packers played the Kansas City Chiefs in the first Super Bowl in Los Angeles.

Now they have a chance to meet again in the 56th Super Bowl next February in Los Angeles.

They almost had a rematch in the 55th game last year but Green Bay failed to make it when they lost to Tampa Bay in NFC title game.

This year with three games left, the Packers and the Chiefs are the two top seeds. Three more wins and they are in.

And the top seed is more important this year because in the era of seven game playoff formats, only one team gets a bye.

Kansas City took over the top seed with its overtime victory over the Chargers and losses by the Patriots to the Colts and the Titans to the Steelers. The Chiefs are now 10-4 and the Titans and the Patriots are 9-5. The Chiefs have the Steelers, Bengals and Broncos in their last three games.

The Packers are now the only team with an 11-3 record in the NFL after their victory over Baltimore, which went for a two-point conversion at the end for second time in three weeks instead of kicking an extra point and going to overtime.

The Ravens didn’t convert either time and are now 8-6. Cincinnati, which beat Denver, is also at 8-6 in the division but has the tiebreaker over Baltimore. The two teams meet Sunday in Cincinnati. If the Bengals win, they can lose to Kansas City the following week and still wrap up the division title with a win in the finale over Cleveland.

There is another AFC division game in which first place is on the line. The 9-5 Patriots face the 8-6 Bills in that game.

Tennessee has a one game lead over Indianapolis, which beat the Patriots, in the AFC Central but faces a tough Thursday night game against San Francisco.

In the NFC, Dallas has a four-game lead in its division and is a game behind Green Bay in the race for the top seed. The Cowboys beat the Giants to boost their record to 10-4.

Arizona also is 10-4 after being stunned by Detroit and the Rams improved to 10-4 to tie Arizona for first place with the Tuesday night win over the Seahawks.

Tampa Bay was blanked by New Orleans but is still 10-4 and leading the division by three games over the Saints. Tampa Bay has two games left with Carolina and a game the Jets so it is likely to finish at 13-4 and have a shot at top seed if the Packers falter. The Packers finish with the Browns, Vikings and Lions so they are likely to finish 14-3.

The Packers Cowboys, Bucs, Cardinals and Rams figure to get five of the seven NFC playoff spots. San Francisco at 8-6 is likely to get the sixth slot and Eagles, who beat Washington Tuesday night, Saints and Vikings at 7-7, will battle for the final spot. Three of the four NFC West teams – Cardinals, Rams and 40ers — could get playoff spots.

The only NFC division title up for grabs is in the West where the Cardinals and Rams are 10-4.

They don’t play each other rest of the way. Cards play Colts, Cowboys and Seahawks and the Rams play the Vikings, Ravens and 49ers.

Previewing NFL Week 15

The NFL race down the homestretch began Thursday night. And it could have an unusual twist.

The 32 teams head into the final four games of the regular season now that there are no byes left, and it appears that the road to the Super Bowl may be decided by which teams can find ways to stay a step ahead of the virus.

The NFL switched three games Friday because teams were hit by so many positive tests.

Saturday’s game between the Browns and Raiders was moved to Monday, while the Washington-Philadelphia and the Seattle-Rams games were moved to Tuesday.

There will now be just one game on Saturday, the night game featuring the Patriots at Indianapolis in what was once a great rivalry in the Peyton Manning-Tom Brady era.

The Raiders-Browns game will be shown Monday at 5 p.m.on NFL Network, while the Washington-Philadelphia and Seahawks-Rams games will be shown at 7 p.m. on FOX.

The big question is how many quarterbacks will be affected by the positive tests. For example, Cleveland’s two quarterbacks — Baker Mayfield and Case Keenum – have tested positive. If they aren’t back, the Browns will have to go with Nick Mullens, who was activated Thursday.

Cleveland at 7-6 can stay in midst of the wild card race with a win and even tie the Ravens for the lead if they win and Ravens lose to the Packers. Cleveland, Baltimore and Cincinnati could all be tied at 8-6 if the Ravens lose and Cleveland and Cincinnati win. The Bengals play Denver. The Raiders at 6-7 need a victory to stay in the wild card hunt and Raider owned Mark Davis was unhappy his game was switched.

The New England-Indianapolis game on Saturday night will be one of the two best games of the weekend. New England goes to Indianapolis and a victory would keep the Patriots at least two games in front of the Bills going into their rematch the day after Christmas.

The Bills are playing Carolina Sunday. Indianapolis needs a victory to go to 8-6 and stay within striking distance of Tennessee and remain in wild card race. Tennessee goes to 6-6-1 Pittsburgh, which is desperate for a win to stay in wild card race.

The other key game is Green Bay at Baltimore Sunday. If the Packers win their next six games – four in regular season and two playoff games – they will be in the Super Bowl. But since Tampa Bay figures to beat New Orleans and Arizona is likely to beat Detroit, the Packers need to win to stay in the lead in the battle for the bye.

Denver’s game against Cincinnati is critical for the Broncos, who are 7-6 and can remain in the wild card race with a victory over the Bengals.

Kansas City took control of the AFC West Thursday nightwith the overtime win over San Diego, which three times went for it on fourth down in field goal range and missed it all three times.

The Chiefs now have 10-4 record and a two game lead over the 8-6 Chargers.

Dallas, which plays the Giants, and Green Bay, which plays Baltimore, and Tampa Bay, which plays New Orleans Sunday night, have virtually locked up three of the four NFC division races.

The only undecided NFC race is in the West where Arizona, which has a two game lead over the Rams, figures to beat Detroit. The Rams are playing Seattle.San Francisco at 7-6 figures to beat Atlanta to stay in the wild card race.

Then there are five 6-7 teams fighting for the final NFC wild card spot — Philadelphia, Washington, Minnesota, Atlanta and the Saints. Two of them – Washington and Philadelphia – play each other in the game switched to Tuesday so one will fall to 6-8.

Atlanta, which plays San Francisco, and the Saints, who play Tampa Bay, also figures to lose to also fall to 6-8. Minnesota figures to beat Chicago to go to 7-7.

So by the end of the 15th week, the Rams, 49ers and Vikings should be in place to get the three NFC wild card spots with three games left. There is only one game – the 49ers at the Rams in the finale — left involving those three teams the rest of the way..

NFL Week 14 in review

It turns out the Arizona Cardinals apparently aren’t ready for primetime.

They brought a 10-2 record into their second prime time game of the season Monday night and lost to the Los Angeles Rams as Kyler Murray threw two picks. They lost their other primetime game to Green Bay, so they are 0-2 in primetime and 10-1 in the rest of their games.

The loss cost the Cardinals a chance to take a three-game lead in their division. Instead they are now only one game ahead of the Rams with four left.

Five of the eight division leaders–Tampa Bay, Green Bay, Dallas, Tennessee and Kansas City — posted victories while Arizona and Baltimore lost and New England had a bye.

Now all teams have played 13 games and it is a four week sprint to the end of the season now that there are no byes the rest of the way.

In the AFC three teams – New England, Kansas City and Tennessee — are all 9-4 in the battle for the top seed and a bye in the playoffs. Since the three teams don’t play each other in the final four weeks, the schedules will be important.

Tennessee figures to beat Pittsburgh, Miami and Houston but has a tough one against San Francisco. New England plays Indianapolis this week and is a slight underdog on the road and then has a rematch with Buffalo before finishing with Miami and Houston. Kansas City has three of its last four on the road including a trip to the Chargers Thursday night. Its other three games are against Pittsburgh Cincinnati and Detroit.

In the NFC, Arizona is now tied with Tampa Bay and Green Bay for the top seed at 10-3. The Cards have their second primetime game in two weeks, a Saturday night game in Indianapolis. They also play the Lions, Cowboys and Seattle.

Green Bay takes on Baltimore and Cleveland the next two weeks and finishes with division games against Minnesota and Detroit.

Tampa Bay may have the easiest road with two games against Carolina plus games with Saints and Jets.

The Buffalo Bills lost to the Bucs, falling to 7-6, two games behind the Patriots. And Baltimore’s loss to the Browns dropped them to 8-5, just a game ahead of the Browns and Bengals. The Bengals could have tied for first if not for the overtime loss to the 49ers.

Dallas virtually wrapped up the division title with the victory over Washington. It has a three-game lead over Washington and Philadelphia, but it is behind three other division leaders in the race for the bye so the Cowboys have an uphill climb in the battle for the bye.

Green Bay has a four game lead over the Vikings after the victory over the Bears so it is only playing for a bye the rest of the way.The Chiefs at 9-4 only have a one-game lead over the Chargers. The two teams play Thursday night in a pivotal game for both teams.

The Bucs have a four game lead over the Falcons and Saints after beating the Bills in overtime and like the Packers are only playing for a bye.

Twenty six teams are no worse than home game out of playoff picture with four games left.

Previewing NFL Week 14

The NFL likes to schedule division games late in the season, so it isn’t surprising that six division leaders will play division games this week.

One of them, Green Bay at Chicago in the Sunday night game, won’t have much significance because the Packers are 9-3 with a four-game lead in the loss column over Minnesota while Chicago is 4-8.

But the other five games will give division leaders a chance to solidify their leads. New England is the only division leader with a bye.

Baltimore, 8-4 in the AFC North, takes on 6-6 Cleveland. The Ravens have a one-game lead over 7-5 Cincinnati, which plays San Francisco, which is fighting for an NFC wild card spot at 6-6.

Tennessee at 8-4 in the AFC South figures to beat 2-10 Jacksonville to maintain its two-game lead over 7-6 Indianapolis, which has a bye.

Kansas City is 8-4 in the AFC West and meets the Raiders, who are tied for third with Denver at 6-6. The Chargers, who are second at 7-5, figure to beat the Giants and can tie the Chiefs if the Raiders pull off an upset.

Dallas leads the NFC East at 8-4 and can virtually wrap up the division title with a victory over Washington, which is second at 6-6.

Arizona, with the best record in the NFL, leads the NFC West and meets the Rams, who are second at 8-4. An Arizona victory would all but wrap up the division title. This is the Monday night game.

Tampa Bay, which is 9-3 in the NFC South, has a four-game leads over Carolina, Atlanta and New Orleans, who are all 5-7. So they are only playing for a bye.

But they take on Buffalo, and it is a critical game for the Bills. After their loss to New England Monday night, the Bills trail the Patriots by a game and will fall two games if they lose this game.

For the TV fans, CBS has the doubleheader with the Raiders-Chiefs and the Bills-Bucs game being shown to most of the country. Fox has a single game and will feature the Cowboys-Washington game.

So wins by Dallas and Arizona would enable them to join Tampa Bay and Green Bay that have virtually wrapped up their titles with four games left.

This is the last week of byes so all 32 teams will be playing the final four week of the regular season.