The Giants have the second best overall record in the NFC, but still have not clinched a playoff spot and will likely have to settle for the Wild Card unless the Cowboys collapse. The Eagles after a fast start have been down in the dumps, losing seven of their last eight including five straight. However, the Eagles have always given their neighbors up the New Jersey Turnpike fits. In their last 17 meetings, Philadelphia has won 13 times. The Giants secondary comes into the game a little banged up with Janoris Jenkins being questionable, while their offense has sputtered despite wins over the Cowboys and Lions. Beating big blue would certainly take the sting out of another disappointing season for Philly fans.
The Dolphins have been one of the biggest surprises of the NFL season as they have won eight of nine games and find themselves on the verge of their first playoff appearance in eight years, after a 1-4 start. Last week in the first of three divisional games to close the season they slammed the Jets in the Meadowlands. Now they must win in chilly Buffalo with snow in the forecast while playing without Quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Matt Moore had a fine game, with four touchdown passes including two long bombs. He will need the same kind of effort against the Bills. It won’t be easy but the Dolphins will find a way to get the win.
This division rivalry is turning bitter as the Falcons and Panthers have battled the last few seasons for the AFC South crown. While the Panthers have sputtered through a disappointing season, the Falcons have soared behind a fast pace offense. In their first meeting Atlanta battered Carolina 48-33 knocking Cam Newton out in the process. Last year the Falcons ended the Panthers hopes of 16-0 with a stunning win in Week 16, coming just two weeks after a 38-0 beatdown in Carolina. The Panthers are coming off their best game of the season. However, I just don’t think they can slow down the Falcons passing attack.
The Redskins stubbed their toe on Monday Night severely injuring their playoff prospects with a dud against the Panthers at home. They should be able to take their frustrations out on the Bears, but not so fast. The Bears have muddled through a terrible season at 3-11, but the last two weeks gave the Lions and Packers all the could handle before losing by a Field Goal. The Bears give forth another strong effort and get rewarded with a win as the Redskins late season slide continues at Soldier Field on Christmas Eve.
The Browns are just two games away from going 0-16, with next week’s game in Heinz Field the Browns last chance to get a win is this week. The problem is lately the Browns look beaten before even taking the field, as a year for frustration has taken its toll. To win they will need a Christmas miracle. That miracle is Phillip Rivers and the Chargers who turn into Frosty the Snowman in a sauna in the fourth quarter. If any team is to lose to the Browns, it would be the Chargers who at 5-9 have severely under performed their talent level. It would just seem right and put a bow on what is looking more likely their last season in San Diego.
Looking at what the Vikings have become it is hard to imagine they were once 5-0. The purple gang has won just twice since, and despite the return of Adrian Peterson last week, suffered a 34-6 loss to the Colts at home. When they were playing at their best they shut down the Packers 17-14 in Week 2. The Packers had their struggles but are surging to the finish and will have a chance to play for the division title with a win. Look for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers to find the same holes the Colts found last week as the Vikings slip below .500.
It goes without say, the most important player on the team is the quarterback, thus selecting a quarterback in the draft is key to a team’s success. When you make the right choice, you can turnaround a bad team in a few seasons, make the wrong pick and you are doomed to more misery. The Titans appear to have gotten a touchdown with the selection of Marcus Mariota, as they go into the final weeks with a chance to win the AFC South. The Jaguars meanwhile have been intercepted with Blake Bortles as Coach Gus Bradley has been fired as they have won just two games this season, with Bortles struggling with pick sixes all season. Chances are Mariota will star in Tennessee for years to come while the Jaguars will be asking Santa for a new quarterback.
The Patriots are closing in on securing home field advantage once again as they play their final home game in the regular season against the Jets. Last week Gang Green was embarrassed as the Meadowlands turned aqua and orange for the Dolphins as Bryce Petty was crushed into a Wake-Suh Sandwich. Petty is expected to play this week, but it likely won’t matter as the Jets appear to have quit on their coach. Bryce Petty also plays into the hands of the Patriots who eat young quarterbacks for lunch. Since 2012 just two of 11 rookie quarterbacks to start against New England have won. While Petty is a second-year player last season was a redshirt year in which he never saw the field. The same principal will hold as the Jets in the words of Todd Bowles get their asses handed to them again.
The Colts are coming off their best game of the season, but still face a long shot at the playoffs as they got no help. The Raiders don’t need any help as they just need to win their last two games to win the AFC West after clinching their first playoff spot since 2002 last week. The Raiders will be playing their final home game of the season and while they are don’t have an exceptional home field edge the crowd should be fired up. The Colts can score with the Raiders, but in the end the Oakland has too many weapons and will get the win.
It has been a long season since these two teams played on a Monday Night in Week 1. The 49ers who blanked the Rams at Levi’s Stadium 28-0. Since then the Niners have dropped 13 in a row. The Rams meanwhile have their ups and downs in their return to LA as they honeymoon ended when Jeff Fisher was fired after a lackluster game against the Falcons. Rookie Quarterback Jared Goff has struggled since taking over and is questionable after a concussion in last week’s loss in Seattle. The 49ers could win the game, especially if Goff sits, but the problem is the 49ers just can’t figure out how to win as they have blown to 14-0 leads along the way.
The Buccaneers have been playing well but stumbled in Dallas last week, playing the Saints for the second time in three weeks they need to bounce back if they are to keep their playoff hopes alive. While the Saints season is all but finished a win over the division rival Bucs in their Superdome finale would be a satisfactory finish. Drew Brees who struggled two weeks ago, in Tampa is coming off his best game of the season. Look for Brees to have another solid performance as the Saints spoil the holidays for the Buccaneers.
After a one year hiatus, the Seahawks have regained supremacy in the NFC West. The Cardinals meanwhile have suffered through a disappointing season as nearly the entire team has underperformed. The turning point of the season came in their first meeting of the season with the Seahawks at home, when they settled for a 6-6 tie despite controlling the game most of the night. Over the last few weeks the Cardinals have gone into a tailspin, losing four of their last five games, including a 48-41 loss to the Saints at home. The Seahawks are the only team to have not lost at home all season and with a win they will finish 8-0 at Century Link Field.
Last week the Texans rallied to beat the Jaguars after benching Brock Osweiler, while the Bengals suffered another meltdown against the Steelers. Tom Savage will get the start after leading the Texans back from a 20-8 deficit in the third quarter. The Texans have been strong at home all season, winning six of seven, and the Bengals have struggled on the road winning just two of eight games away from Paul Brown Stadium. The Texans defense has played well despite the loss of J.J. Watt, while the Bengals inability to stay disciplined in tight games has continued to be their undoing. At one point in the fourth quarter against the Steelers last week the Bengals committed four straight defensive penalties. It seems the Bengals rather hurt the opposing team than win at times.
Christmas tidings bring together these two heated rivals as the AFC North is on the line at Heinz Field. When these two teams play, the games are usually physical and close, often decided by three points or less. In their first meeting in Baltimore, the Ravens won 21-14 as the Steelers late rally feel short in Ben Roethlisberger’s first game after a knee injury. The Steelers come into this game on a roll, winning their last five games. The Ravens have lost their last four games away from Baltimore. The Steelers seem to be the better team and now that they are whole will clinch the division title by clipping the Ravens wings.
The Chiefs stumble last week knocked them out of first place, now they must beat the Broncos at home just to assure they get in the playoffs. The defending champion Broncos meanwhile need to win their final two games and get some help just to get in. In their first meeting in Denver, the Chiefs rallied late to win in overtime. The Broncos have struggled since, losing three of their last four games. The Broncos have struggled to score over the last few weeks as they have scored just 13 points over the last two games. The Chiefs defense is solid and a fired-up Arrowhead Stadium should keep the Broncos offense in the barn.
The Cowboys just need one more win to clinch home field throughout the playoffs, while the Lions fate will come down to next week’s game against the Packers. The Lions are coming off one of their worst games of the year as Matthew Stafford’s sore finger and the Giants defense kept them from finding the endzone. Things won’t get any easier as the Cowboys will control the line and out muscle the Lions into a Monday Night Victory.