If things go right for both teams this week, the Buffalo Bills and Philadelphia Eagles will claim the top seeds in the AFC and NFC playoffs, respectively. However, that may be easier said than done considering the unpredictability of NFL 2022.
Sean McDermott’ club has won six straight games but has to deal with a Bengals squad that has prevailed in its last seven outings. It remains to be seen if quarterback Jalen Hurts is back in the starting lineup for the Eagles. It’s worth noting that the Birds are 13-0 this season vs. teams not in the NFC East.
Thursday, Dec. 29
Dallas (11-4) at Tennessee (7-8): With a victory, the Cowboys would equal last season’s win total but it may not be enough to repeat as NFC East champions. The Titans have dropped five straight after a 7-3 start and are in danger of not winning the AFC South for the first time since 2019 and not reaching the playoffs for the first time since ’18.
Sunday, Jan. 1
Arizona (4-11) at Atlanta (5-10): Both of these clubs, each already eliminated from the playoffs, enter Sunday on the slide. The Cardinals have dropped five in a row and the Falcons have lost four consecutive games. A year ago, Atlanta finished last in the league with 18 sacks. This season, Dean Pees’ defense has only 19 QB traps in 15 games.
Chicago (3-12) at Detroit (7-8): In Week 10 at Chicago, Dan Campbell’s club outscored the Bears 21-6 in the fourth quarter to squeeze out a 31-20 win. The Lions look to sweep this series for the first time since 2017. In last week’s 37-23 loss at Carolina, Detroit gave up 320 yards rushing. Now they face the top running game in the league.
Jacksonville (7-8) at Houston (2-12-1): One of the two Texans’ wins was a 13-56 triumph at Jacksonville in Week 5. It was Houston’s ninth straight win in this series dating back to 2018. The Jaguars have won three straight games and continue to be opportunistic via 24 takeaways in 15 games. They forced nine turnovers in 17 outings in 2021.
Denver (4-11) at Kansas City (12-3): The clubs met three weeks ago in Denver and the Chiefs made it 14 straight wins over the Broncos via a 34-28 victory. Andy Reid’s club has won nine consecutive games vs. its AFC West rivals dating back to Week 10 of 2021. However, this season’s four divisional triumphs have come by a total of 13 points.
Miami (8-7) at New England (7-8): What could 3-3-5-4 mean to Mike McDaniel’s club? The Dolphins opened the season 3-0, lost their next three games, embarked on a five-game winning streak and are currently in the midst of a four-game skid. The good news could be the fact that the ‘Fins have beaten the Patriots four straight times.
Indianapolis (4-10-1) at N.Y. Giants (8-6-1): Opposite statistics are the prevailing themes in this interconference matchup. The Giants have eight wins, twice as many as the Colts. Brian Daboll’s club is a perfect 4-0 vs. AFC teams this season while Indianapolis is 0-4 in interconference action. Jeff Saturday’s club has dropped five straight games.
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New Orleans (6-9) at Philadelphia (13-2): The Saints visit Philadelphia for the third straight year and hope to fare better than the previous two seasons. In a 24-21 loss in ’20, the Eagles ran for 246 yards. In last season’s 40-29 win, the Birds rushed for 242 yards. But Jalen Hurts ran for 175 (3 TDs) of the club’s combined 488 yards on the ground.
Carolina (6-9) at Tampa Bay (7-8): A season ago, only the Cowboys (530) scored more points than the Buccaneers (511). This season, they are the lowest-scoring team in the NFC with 266 points. When these clubs met in Week 7 at Charlotte, the Panthers held the defending NFC South champions to a season-low three points in a 21-3 victory.
Cleveland (6-9) at Washington (7-7-1): The Browns are the only team in the AFC North that does not have a winning record (2-2) vs. NFC teams this season. Kevin Stefanski’s club is also the only club in the division that has a losing road mark (2-5). For the playoff-hopeful Commanders, quarterback Carson Wentz will start on Sunday.
San Francisco (11-4) at Las Vegas (6-9): The Silver and Black are sitting down veteran Derek Carr in place of Jarrett Stidham, who will make his first NFL start. The 49ers’ top-ranked run defense has allowed 1,125 yards and nine TDs on the ground. The Raiders’ Josh Jacobs leads the NFL in rushing (1,539 yards) and has run for 11 touchdowns.
N.Y. Jets (7-8) at Seattle (7-8): Mike White returns as the Jets’ starting quarterback. Getting after Seahawks’ signal-caller Geno Smith may be the key to Robert Saleh’s club snapping a four-game losing streak. The Jets have already totaled 40 sacks after totaling 33 QB traps a year ago. Meanwhile, Smith has been sacked 39 times in 15 outings.
Minnesota (12-3) at Green Bay (7-8): Back in Week 1 at Minneapolis, the Vikings came up with their most lopsided victory of the season in stifling the Packers by a 23-7 count. Each of Minnesota’s last 11 wins have come by eight points or less. The Vikings last swept this divisional rivalry in 2017, when they last appeared in the NFC title game.
L.A. Rams (5-10) at L.A. Chargers (9-6): Brandon Staley’s playoff-bound club has scored 332 points. They have totaled an impressive 166 points in the second quarter and a combined 166 points during the remaining quarters, including overtime. The Chargers have won three straight games and limited each opponent to 17 points or less.
Pittsburgh (7-8) at Baltimore (10-5): The Steelers are 5-2 in their last seven games after a 2-6 start. One of those losses was a 16-14 setback at home to the Ravens in Week 14 in which Baltimore ran for 215 yards. In their last two games, Pittsburgh’s defensive unit gave up a combined 79 yards rushing to the Panthers (21) and Raiders (58).
Monday, Jan. 2
Buffalo (12-3) at Cincinnati (11-4): The Bills have won six straight games and scored a combined 170 points in those victories. The Bengals have reeled off seven consecutive wins and put 205 points on the board. This could be a real aerial circus considering Buffalo (4th) and Cincinnati (7th) rank among the NFL’s top rushing defenses.