Buffalo Bills (10-4) @ New England Patriots (11-3)
In what will almost certainly be a battle of the defenses the Bills will roll into Foxborough with 3rd best YPG defense. The Bills D has been consistent all season which is currently 3rd in YPG. QB Josh Allen will be the X factor. He has struggled this season and will face the NFL’s best defense on the road in a hostile environment. Allen’s best game thus far has been 266 yards passing. He has failed to reach 200 passing yards in 6 of the team’s 14 games (that’s nearly half for the mathematically challenged). If Allen can throw for 250 or more yards and take care of the ball then anything can happen. This Bills D is that good.
Divisional opponents simply do not win in Foxborough especially in December. The Pats and Bills are nearly mirror images of one another. And for Patriots fans who are accustomed to watching their team score seemingly at will that is a bit alarming. That Pats offense has stumbled to 18th in YPG. Brady has failed to throw for more than 216 yards in 4 of the last 5 games (3 of the 5 he had less than 200 yards through the air). The Patriots’ offense is a mess. They have no weapons to lean on. And the fear factor is evaporating. Yet their defense is 1st in YPG, 1st in PPG, and 1st in turnovers. No matter what is happening on offense the Pats can still beat any team thanks to their defense. They may flip the switch or continue to win ugly. But despite recent struggles the Pats are still capable of beating anyone.
New Orleans Saints (11-3) @ Tennessee Titans (8-6)
The Saints have already clinched their division. But still have plenty to play for as the race for postseason byes in the NFC is as tight as it could be. The defense which has been a surprise for the Saints got back on track last week allowing only 1 TD in garbage time at the end of the game. This team can run the ball with the 2-headed monster of Kamara and Murray, throw the ball with annual MVP candidate Drew Brees healthy, and has no lack of receivers including Michael Thomas who is arguably the best in the NFL.
Last week the Titans had their 4-game winning streak snapped in the worst possible way: at home, against a divisional rival, with first place one the line. There is still hope for the postseason, but it’s no longer under their control. The defense has been playing well though not as dominant of late. The Titans will need a great game plan and performance from their D if they are to emerge victorious against the Saints. The key will be their ability to limit the Saints’ number of big chunk plays. RB Derek Henry and QB Ryan Tannehill have been as good as any in the league during the second half of the season. Both struggled a bit last with a slow start. That is something they cannot repeat this week.
Dallas Cowboys (7-7) @ Philadelphia Eagles (7-7)
Does anyone want to win the NFC East? Anyone? The Cowboys are certainly the most talented team in the division. Yet the team has struggled against quality opponents. Until last week the Cowboys had not beaten a team with a winning record. But then last week happened when the Cowboys obliterated the surging Rams. QB Dak Prescott, the team’s unquestioned leader, is danged up. Most think he will play, but at this point no official decision has been made. The Cowboys D is 7th in YPG and will need to carry the load if the Dak is limited by his shoulder injury.
The Eagles are 7-7 and in the middle of the pack for YPG on both offense and defense. Their season is the definition of mediocre. And yet they find themselves playing a game in week 16 with the winner taking 1st place in the NFC East. The Eagles’ offense needs QB Carson Wentz to play like an MVP. Wentz has been up and down much of the season. But he’s showed signs of breaking out the last couple of weeks. The running game has been there all season long. And perhaps the two can start to feed off one another.
Green Bay Packers (11-3) @ Minnesota Vikings (10-4)
TEO Game of the Week!
The Pack keep winning yet cannot seem to get any respect. Some argue that their pile of wins is a product of a weak schedule. QB Aaron Rodgers has set the bar so high that 25 TD’s compared to just 2 INT’s feels like a disappointment. Much of the Packers’ new offense centers around the running game which has been inconsistent. With the division still in doubt will head coach Matt LeFleur turn Rodgers loose or stick with the plan?
The Vikings are the only team in the NFL who is still undefeated at home. They rank 6th in PPG on both offense and defense. This is one of the most balanced teams in the league. Winning the division could mean the difference between a postseason bye and “sneaking” in as the 6th seed! The NFC is loaded with so many great teams this season that the Vikings are often overlooked. But the same knock on Green Bay applies to Minnesota: they have an easy schedule. The Vikings have only played 3 teams with a winning record (Packer, Chiefs, Seahawks) and lost all 3. However, the average margin of defeat was only 5 points.