Things are getting very interesting during the NFL’s latest stretch run. The Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs have locked up playoff berths in the AFC. The Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings and San Francisco 49ers are headed to the postseason from the NFC. The Chiefs, Vikings and 49ers have won division titles.
Four more clubs (Bengals, Ravens, Chargers and Giants) could find themselves in the playoffs by late Monday night.
Thursday, Dec. 22
Jacksonville (6-8) at N.Y. Jets (7-7): The Jaguars won’t finish last in the AFC South for the first time since 2017 and can still win a division title. The Jets own the NFL’s longest current postseason drought. Their last trip to the playoffs was in 2010. Despite three straight losses, the team has almost doubled its win total from a year ago (4).
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Saturday, Dec. 24
Atlanta (5-9) at Baltimore (9-5): After showing some promise earlier in the season, the Falcons have suddenly dropped three straight games and will finish below .500 for the fifth straight year. Atlanta will have to deal with the league’s second-ranked running game. The Ravens are averaging a brisk 164.7 yards per game on the ground.
Detroit (7-7) at Carolina (5-9): Dan Campbell’s club has won three straight games and six of its last seven contests. The Lions have scored 369 points in 14 games, this after totaling 325 points during their 3-13-1 showing a year ago. Detroit’s defense has been looking better but will attempt to slow down Panthers’ running back D’Onta Foreman.
Buffalo (11-3) at Chicago (3-11): Talk about opposite ends of the NFL spectrum? The AFC East leaders have as many wins as the last-place team in the NFC North has losses. Only three teams in the league have scored more points than the Bills (385). Only the Cardinals (372) and Lions (364) have allowed more points than the Bears (358).
New Orleans (5-9) at Cleveland (6-8): Despite being four games under .500, the Saints can still win a division title. Not so the Browns, although the club is still alive for a wild card berth. Cleveland is 2-1 in its last three games, but quarterback Deshaun Watson and the Cleveland offensive unit has scored a combined two TDs in those contests.
Seattle (7-7) at Kansas City (11-3): What could happen when the highest-scoring team in the league (414 points) hosts a Seahawks’ club that has allowed the fourth-most points in the NFL (355)? It really may depend if the Chiefs can hang onto the football. Andy Reid’s team has 21 turnovers while Seattle has come away with 21 takeaways.
N.Y. Giants (8-5-1) at Minnesota (11-3): The Giants snapped out of their funk last week but only two teams in the NFL have given up more rushing yards this season. In the historic overtime comeback win over the Colts, the Vikings gave up 36 points. But Minnesota’s defensive unit allowed only one touchdown and just 341 total yards.
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Cincinnati (10-4) at New England (7-7): The Bengals have won six straight games and averaged 30.5 points per game in the process. The Patriots are likely still shaking their helmets after last week’s inexplicable 30-24 loss at Las Vegas. Bill Belichick’s team has now lost as many games (7) as it did last season when it reached the playoffs.
Houston (1-12-1) at Tennessee (7-7): The Texans own the NFL’s longest current losing streak with nine consecutive setbacks. The first-place Titans have dropped four straight games after a 7-3 start. Houston closes the season with three straight divisional games. Since 2021, the Texans own a combined 5-25-1 but are 4-4-1 vs. AFC South rivals.
Washington (7-6-1) at San Francisco (10-4): Defense figures to rule the day in this matchup. The surging 49ers have allowed the fewest total yards, rushing yards and points in the league. The Commanders are fourth in the NFL in total defense and have given up the ninth-fewest points. Washington is a surprising 2-1 on the road this season.
Philadelphia (13-1) at Dallas (10-4): Will it be Jalen Hurts or Gardner Minshew for the Eagles? Nick Sirianni’s club can not only wrap up the NFC East with a win but set a new franchise record for wins in a season. The Birds lead the NFL with 15 interceptions. That’s bad news for Dak Prescott, who has been picked off 11 times in nine games.
Las Vegas (6-8) at Pittsburgh (6-8): These clubs not only own identical win-loss records but slim playoff hopes. Pittsburgh’s run defense has been erratic and must deal with the NFL’s leading rusher in Josh Jacobs. Amazingly, 11 of the Raiders 14 contests this season have been decided by seven points or less, including three in overtime.
Sunday, Dec. 25 (Christmas)
Green Bay (6-8) at Miami (8-6): The Packers have won back-to-back games for the first time since posting three straight victories from Weeks 2-4. Matt LaFleur’s club is just 2-5 on the road in 2022. Miami comes off a three-game road trip that saw them allow a combined 88 points in losses to the 49ers, Chargers and Bills, respectively.
Denver (4-10) at L.A. Rams (4-10): This offseason, Denver traded for nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson. Sean McVay’s team won Super Bowl LVI a year ago. It’s Week 16 of 2022 and the Broncos (218) and Rams (218) are the two lowest-scoring teams in the league. McVay’s club has also gained the fewest yards in the NFL.
Tampa Bay (6-8) at Arizona (4-10): The Bucs and Packers owned the best record in the NFL last season (13-4). Both have lost twice as many games as they did in 2021. Tom Brady gave up the football four times in the second half in last week’s 34-23 home loss to the Bengals. The veteran signal caller has 11 of Tampa’s 18 turnovers this season.
Monday, Dec. 26
L.A. Chargers (8-6) at Indianapolis (4-9-1): Chargers’ quarterback Justin Herbert has thrown 21 touchdown passes in 14 games this season. In the same amount of contests, the Colts’ offensive unit has made just 21 trips to the end zone. Nick Foles will be the club’s third different starting quarterback this year. The Colts have allowed 49 sacks.