Thursday Night has been a TV powerhouse for NBC over the years, from the Cosby Show and Cheers to Seinfeld and Friends. Now with the second half of the Thursday Night NFL package it is host to the world’s greatest “Poop Show”. Richard Sherman came up with the term describing the league playing games without players getting time to heal from Sunday. He may as well have been talking about the Rams, who a week after giving Jeff Fisher an extension fired their coach and did so when they play a Thursday Night game giving John Fassel no time to prepare as they play in the home of the 12th man with the Seahawks paying tribute to body suit man.
The Dolphins come in winning seven of their last eight games, but will be without Quarterback Ryan Tannehill as they finish with three division rivals. The injury was not as bad as originally feared as Tannehill will not need surgery as the ACL was merely sprained. If they can somehow win two of three and get in the playoffs the Dolphins could have their quarterback for the playoffs. The first test for backup Matt Moore will be the struggling Jets, who were fortunate to beat the 49ers last week. The Dolphins first got on a roll with the running of Jay Ajayi and a strong defense. If each comes through that should be enough to win on a cold rainy night in the swamps of Jersey.
Despite losing, the Ravens had a strong showing on Monday Night in Foxboro. At 7-6 they could either way. Their big test will be next week in Heinz Field with the AFC North on the line. However, first they must beat the Eagles who come in to this game on a four-game losing streak. The Eagles who started the season well under rookie Quarterback Carson Wentz have fallen apart, as their lack of a reliable receiver has stunted Wentz early development. With Joe Flacco playing strong and the Ravens offense surging this one looks like an easy win for Baltimore in their final home game of the season.
The Bills have been the ultimate yo-yo this season, going up and down on the way to a 6-7 record. The Browns meanwhile have been down in the dumps and taking their lumps as 0-16 looks more and more probable with each passing defeat. After playing competitive in most of their games has begun to look like a team worn down by it all. The Browns have begun to take on a hopeless feel, where it looks like they don’t even believe they can win the game before they take the field. The Bills meanwhile will need a strong finish just to give Rex Ryan a chance to save their job. A loss to Cleveland could lead to Rex getting the axe for Christmas.
After a miserable November, the Packers are trying to have a December to remember as they have crept back in the playoff race with three straight wins, highlighted by a 38-10 stomping of the Seahawks at Lambeau Field last week. The secondary which before Thanksgiving was getting carved like a Turkey have now begun feasting on opposing quarterbacks, as they picked off Russell Wilson five times, while offense Aaron Rodgers has got his groove back. The Packers will likely need to run the table to get into the playoffs, but this one should be the easiest of the final three games as the Bears are just looking forward to the draft holding record of 3-10.
It has been a disappointing season for the Cincinnati Bengals as they have languished at 5-7-1. The playoffs are out of reach in Cincinnati, but a win Sunday could feel like the Super Bowl as it could put a crimp in the hopes of the hated Steelers. With a big division showdown, next week against the Ravens, the Steelers could be caught looking ahead as that game is the true key for their season. Expect this game to get down and dirty as the Bengals, known for their rough play will not only try hurt the playoff chances they will look to physically hurt their hated rivals. This one will be ugly and if the Steelers get out without being to banged up it will be a real win.
Last week with their season on the line, the Texans went into Indianapolis and beat the Colts to take control of the muddled AFC South. Winning the divisional games has become a habit for Houston, as they are a perfect 4-0 this season. The Jaguars meanwhile are just counting down the days until the season ends, as Gus Bradley is all but certain to be out as coach when the season ends in three weeks. Blake Bortles who has been awful all season may also be on his way out as he has been prone to the costly interception on a weekly basis. It is hard to imagine any of those trends not continuing as the Texans get an easy win at home.
The Titans are one the rise with the strong play of Quarterback Marcus Mariota. Sitting at 7-6 they are tied for the division lead, though behind the eight ball when it comes to all tiebreakers, despite an upset over the Broncos last week. The Chiefs meanwhile at 10-3 have their sights set higher as they are not only in position for the division title they can get a playoff bye and perhaps home field if the Patriots slip up. The Chiefs have become experts at finding ways to win with their special teams play and defense seeming to do something big every week. With this one at Arrowhead Stadium, Mariota faces tall task. Look for the Chiefs to show their experience as they continue their playoff march.
Last week was the last stand of the Colts, as their loss against the Texans all but ended their playoff hopes. Andrew Luck must at times feel like the loneliest man in the NFL as the Colts have not done enough to surround him with talent, leading them to back-to-back disappointing seasons. With the playoffs now a long shot and the Vikings able to key on Luck, the struggles will likely continue in Minnesota. As the season comes to a close for the Colts, the only question that will remain is how do they justify bringing back Coach Chuck Pagano for another season, as fans in Indianapolis have begun calling for his head.
Last week the Giants got their most satisfying win of the season, as they completed a season sweep of the Cowboys, completely shutting down Dez Bryant in the process. A key to the Giants success was the play of Janoris Jenkins who had a pick and strip tackle of Bryant on his only catch of the game. This will be the Giants last home game, and with a win they can clinch a playoff spot. The Lions are also in good shape, but with the hand injury to Matthew Stafford, one must question how they will play the final three games. Even with a healthy Stafford you would have to consider the Giants a favorite.
It has been a disappointing season for both the Saints and Cardinals as each team has won just five games, and suffered some of the most frustrating losses along the way. Special teams have often been a reason for their struggles as both teams have lost games due to a blocked PAT being returned for two points the other way. This one can go either way, but with the game in Arizona I would tend to favor the Cardinals to win at home as most their struggles have been on the road.
There is no denying that the San Francisco 49ers are a total mess. With 12 straight losses, the Niners are having one of the worst seasons in franchise history as each week brings more embarrassment and questions over the viability of Colin Kaepernick and the future of Chip Kelly. The Niners dominated the Jets in the first half and vanished in the second half last week. In Atlanta, it is hard to even imagine they will show up as the Falcons coming off a blowout over the Rams has a crack at another easy win against a pathetically run NFC West franchise.
At 8-5 the defending Super Bowl Champion Broncos will need to do some heavy lifting to get into the playoffs. The Broncos final three games are against teams that already have ten wins, beginning with the Patriots who are out to avenge last year’s AFC Championship loss. Coming off a loss to the Titans on the road, the Broncos can’t afford another slip up as they return home. The Patriots currently hold the best record in the NFL, but their offense is a tad hobbled without Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amedola. Look for the Broncos defense led by Von Miller and Aquib Talib to put up a super effort as they win a tight battle.
There is no more Jeckyl and Hyde team then the San Diego Chargers, who may be the best bad team in the history of the NFL. A play here and there and the Chargers could be right up there with the Raiders at the top of the AFC West. More often than not it is the fourth quarter that dooms, the Chargers have blown six games they could have won. Phillip Rivers has been a major reason for their fourth quarter troubles as he has found the hands of defenders when the game is on the line. The Raiders coming off a loss in Kansas City will be looking to bounce back as they could get a home field edge on the road, with at least half the stands decked in black and silver.
As the season comes to an end the Cowboys rookie backfield appear to have hit a wall, scoring just 24 points over the last two games. The Buccaneers defense meanwhile has been outstanding lately as they have won five straight games. Look for those trends to continue as Jameis Winston in his first Sunday showcase to out play Dak Prescott and keep the Buccaneers late season rise on track as they close in on a playoff berth.
It has been a season of disappointments for the Panthers as they have not had the same magic as last year when they went to Super Bowl 50. A big reason has been a struggling secondary that has sorely missed Josh Norman, who they let walk away after a contract dispute. Norman now with the Redskins will love a chance to stick it to his team one more time this season, as he will look to cash in against Cam Newton on Monday Night. The Redskins are still in the playoff hunt and need a win at home to keep pace.