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NFL Week 16 Preview: We May Finally Sort out This NFC East Mess – The Ringer

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The are three NFL games on Saturday. Weird. It’s even weirder that televising NFL games before this weekend is illegal. Fifty-nine years ago, the American Football League created the modern sports business model as we know it. Rather than let its teams negotiate individual TV deals, the AFL packaged the rights to all of its teams’ games and sold the bundle to ABC. National Football League commissioner Pete Rozelle was concerned about the competition. The next year, Rozelle sold the bundled rights of all NFL games to CBS for $4.6 million per year, but the deal was blocked after a judge ruled it would monopolize the market. Rozelle successfully lobbied Congress and convinced President John F. Kennedy to sign the Sports Broadcasting Act, which allowed the league to negotiate as a cartel. Sixty years after selling TV rights for $4 million per year, the NFL now sells them for more than $3 billion per year.

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The law came with a catch (this was back when the NFL knew what a catch was). As part of the law, the NFL was forbidden from broadcasting any football games on Friday or Saturday night from the second weekend of September through the second weekend of December. This cemented America’s fall sports calendar. High school and college football are on Fridays and Saturdays while the NFL is on Sundays. Eventually the NFL expanded to Mondays and Thursdays, and as soon as the third weekend of December rolls around, it creeps into Saturdays. There’s your history lesson. Onto Week 16.

Saturday Football (Brought to You by a Monopolistic Cartel That Aggressively Lobbied Congress Six Decades Ago)

Houston Texans (9-5) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-7)

Kickoff time: Saturday, 1 p.m. ET
Channel: NFL Network
Announcers: Rich Eisen, Nate Burleson, Joe Thomas, Melissa Stark (sideline reporter)
Opening line: Tampa Bay -1 (Now Houston -3)
Over/under: 53
Key Texans injuries and absences: Receiver Will Fuller V (hamstring), running back Carlos Hyde (ankle), tight end Darren Fells (hand), tackle Tytus Howard (meniscus), defensive end J.J. Watt (pectoral), linebacker Benardrick McKinney (concussion), linebacker Jacob Martin (knee)
Key Buccaneers injuries and absences: Quarterback Jameis Winston (thumb/knee), receiver Mike Evans (hamstring), receiver Chris Godwin (hamstring), tackle Donovan Smith (ankle/knee), center Ryan Jensen (elbow), safety Justin Evans (foot)
What to watch: Jameis Winston and Deshaun Watson chuck it

If the Texans win this game, they clinch the AFC South division. The Buccaneers have long been eliminated from the playoffs. Quarterback Jameis Winston is the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 450-plus yards in back-to-back games, but he’ll be without his top-two receivers in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. With head coach Bruce Arians and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich scheming up plays, it may not matter. The Texans pressure the quarterback at the second-lowest rate in football, so Winston could have plenty of time for his less-successful receivers to get open.

Buffalo Bills (10-4) @ New England Patriots (11-3)

Kickoff time: Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET
Channel: NFL Network
Announcers: Mike Tirico, Kurt Warner, Peter Schrager (sideline reporter)
Opening line: New England -7
Over/under: 38.5
Key Bills injuries and absences: Tackle Ty Nsekhe (ankle), defensive tackle Corey Liuget (knee), linebacker Maurice Alexander (knee)
Key Patriots injuries and absences: Receiver Julian Edelman (knee/shoulder), fullback James Develin (neck), center David Andrews (illness), defensive tackle Danny Shelton (shoulder), cornerback Jason McCourty (groin), cornerback Jonathan Jones (groin), kicker Stephen Gostkowski (hip)
What to watch: Defense, specials teams, rinse, repeat

The 10-4 Bills have already clinched their second playoff spot of the 21st century, but this game is about overthrowing the Patriots’ divisional hegemony and starting a revolution. The Bills’ odds of winning the AFC East are slim, but it’s possible if they win this game and beat the Jets next week, and the Dolphins beat the Patriots in Week 17. That’s unlikely, but Buffalo has a real chance on Saturday. The last time these teams played was in Week 4 in Buffalo, when Buffalo lost by six points in a game they turned the ball over four times. New England’s lone touchdowns in that game came after getting the ball on a short field and a blocked punt. The Bills defense has been one of the league’s best this year, and the Patriots’ flailing offense will likely struggle to move the ball in this game.

Buffalo’s offense might have an equally hard time. The New England Patriots have not allowed 300 passing yards this season. For context, 27 teams allowed that many by Week 4. Even that number sells the Patriots short. Nobody has passed for more than 276 yards against New England for this season, and Josh Allen is an unlikely candidate to break that streak. Allen has never had more than 266 yards passing in his 26 career games. Saturday’s matchup may need to be fought on the ground.

Los Angeles Rams (8-6) @ San Francisco 49ers (11-3)

Kickoff time: Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET
Channel: NFL Network
Announcers: Kevin Burkhardt, Charles Davis, Pam Oliver (sideline reporter)
Opening line: Pick ’em (Now 49ers -6.5)
Over/under: 46.5
Key Rams injuries and absences: Right tackle Rob Havenstein (meniscus), tight end Gerald Everett (knee), center Brian Allen (MCL), safety John Johnson III (shoulder), cornerback Troy Hill (thumb), kicker Greg Zuerlein (leg)
Key 49ers injuries and absences: Center Weston Richburg (kneecap), defensive end Dee Ford (hamstring), defensive tackle D.J. Jones (ankle), defensive end Damontre Moore (forearm), defensive end Ronald Blair (ACL), defensive tackle Jullian Taylor (elbow), inside linebacker Kwon Alexander (pectoral), safety Jaquiski Tartt (ribs), defensive back K’Waun Williams (concussion)
What to watch: The trenches

Kyle Shanahan’s offense has been able to do whatever it wants this season because it can block. Sean McVay’s L.A. offense hasn’t because it can’t. The blocking disparity between these teams could be exacerbated this week. The 49ers’ defensive line is tailor-made to dominate the Rams offensive line, though San Fran is missing D.J. Jones and Ronald Blair, and Dee Ford is hobbled. Still, every single 49ers defensive lineman can beat their Rams blocker one-on-one. L.A.’s best lineman is left tackle Andrew Whitworth, and look what likely Defensive Rookie of the Year Nick Bosa did to him when the 49ers beat the Rams in Week 6:

San Francisco could find similar success on offense this Saturday. Last week, the Rams were shredded on the ground by Dallas, who ran 45 times for 263 yards (5.8 yards per carry) and three touchdowns. The 49ers are behind only Baltimore in rushing yards per game (147.0). San Francisco had only lost this season to the Seahawks and Ravens, currently the no.1 seed in the AFC and NFC, but the 49ers blew their game last week against Atlanta. As Spider-Man once said, “Everybody gets one.” Expect the 49ers to get back on track.

The NFC Least

Dallas Cowboys (7-7) @ Philadelphia Eagles (7-7)

Kickoff time: Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
Channel: Fox
Announcers: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews (sideline reporter)
Opening line: Pick ’em (Now Dallas -1.5)
Over/under: 47.5
Key Cowboys injuries and absences: Quarterback Dak Prescott (shoulder/right index finger/sprained left wrist), guard Connor Williams (ACL), defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford (hip), linebacker Leighton Vander Esch (neck), linebacker Luke Gifford (arm), cornerback Anthony Brown (triceps), safety Jeff Heath (shoulder), defensive back C.J. Goodwin (thumb), punter Chris Jones (abdomen)
Key Eagles injuries and absences: Running back Jordan Howard (shoulder), receiver Alshon Jeffery (foot), receiver DeSean Jackson (abdomen), receiver Nelson Agholor (knee), right tackle Lane Johnson (ankle), defensive end Derek Barnett (ankle), cornerback Ronald Darby (hip flexor)
What to watch: Failing upward

If the Cowboys win, they clinch the division title. If the Eagles win, they need to beat the Giants next week or have Washington beat Dallas to win. Either way, the winner will be the third NFC East champion this decade to have fewer than 10 wins. In the previous four decades, that hadn’t happened once. This is the worst regular-season stretch in NFC East history, but certainly not in the postseason. Amid the futility, the Giants and Eagles each won the Super Bowl.

This year’s division will likely come down to health. Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott was limited in practice this week with injuries to his right (throwing) shoulder and index finger and his left (nonthrowing) sprained wrist. This is the first time he has not practiced fully in his NFL career, though he has never missed a game to injury and is expected to start on Sunday. If he is fully healthy, the Cowboys have an excellent matchup against the Eagles secondary, which has been unable to stop outside receivers all season.

The only part of Philadelphia more injury-plagued than their secondary is its wide receiving corp, which will make it hard for the Eagles to move the ball if Dallas jumps to an early lead. The Cowboys want nothing more than to go up early and sit on their opponent with their run game, which is exactly what Dallas did to the Rams in their 44-21 win last week. It’s also what they did to the Eagles when they beat Philly 37-10 in Week 7, when Dallas jumped to a 27-7 first-half lead. Dallas won’t be as dominant in this game, but the Eagles haven’t shown much in recent weeks to suggest they are at Dallas’s level.

AFC Playoff Impact

New Orleans Saints (11-3) @ Tennessee Titans (8-6)

Kickoff time: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
Channel: Fox
Announcers: Kenny Albert, Ronde Barber, Sara Walsh (sideline reporter)
Opening line: New Orleans -1.5
Over/under: 51
Key Saints injuries and absences: Left guard Andrus Peat (forearm), right guard Larry Warford (knee), defensive end Marcus Davenport (foot), defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins (ankle), outside linebacker Kiko Alonso (quad), defensive back Patrick Robinson (calf), safety Vonn Bell (knee), defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (concussion), defensive back Johnson Bademosi (foot), defensive back Saquan Hampton (undisclosed)
Key Titans injuries and absences: Running back Derrick Henry (hamstring), running back Dion Lewis (ankle), receiver Corey Davis (ankle), tight end Delanie Walker (ankle), pass rusher Cameron Wake (hamstring), cornerback Adoree’ Jackson (foot), cornerback Malcolm Butler (wrist), cornerback Chris Milton (ankle), kicker Ryan Succop (knee)
What to watch: Ryan Tannehill save Tennessee’s season

The Titans probably need to win this game to make the playoffs, and that’s a tough task. The Saints are coming off a dominant 34-7 win over Indianapolis in which Drew Brees became the all-time leader in passing touchdowns.

Even if the Titans win, they’d be eliminated from the AFC South race with a Texans victory on Saturday. That would put Tennessee in a race with Pittsburgh for the second wild card, which will come down to Week 17 no matter what happens this weekend.

Pittsburgh Steelers (8-6) @ New York Jets (5-9)

Kickoff time: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
Channel: CBS
Announcers: Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts, Evan Washburn (sideline reporter)
Opening line: Pittsburgh -3
Over/under: 38.5
Key Steelers injuries and absences: Receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee), tight end Vance McDonald (concussion), defensive end Stephon Tuitt (pectoral), safety Sean Davis (labrum)
Key Jets injuries and absences: Running back Bilal Powell (ankle), receiver Demaryius Thomas (hamstring/knee), tight end Ryan Griffin (ankle), tackle Chuma Edoga (MCL), defensive tackle Quinnen Williams (neck), linebacker C.J. Mosley (groin), safety Jamal Adams (ankle), cornerback Brian Poole (concussion), cornerback Arthur Maulet (calf)
What to watch: Pittsburgh’s remarkable playoff run

The Steelers will secure the final playoff spot in the AFC if they can finish 2-0. That means beating the Jets this week and then Baltimore in Week 17. The former is easy, and the latter may not be as hard as it sounds. If the Ravens beat Cleveland, they’ll secure the no. 1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, so the Ravens may bench their starters in Week 17.

Baltimore Ravens (12-2) @ Cleveland Browns (6-8)

Kickoff time: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
Channel: CBS
Announcers: Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, Tracy Wolfson (sideline reporter)
Opening line: Baltimore -7
Over/under: 49
Key Ravens injuries and absences: Left tackle Ronnie Stanley (concussion), center Matt Skura (knee), linebacker Chris Board (concussion), linebacker Pernell McPhee (triceps), safety Tony Jefferson (ACL)
Key Browns injuries and absences: Receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (sports hernia), tackle Kendall Lamm (knee), defensive end Olivier Vernon (knee), safety Eric Murray (knee), safety Morgan Burnett (Achilles), defensive back Robert Jackson (ankle)
What to watch: The Browns’ playoff hopes finally end

Cleveland’s playoff chances are less than 1 percent. Meanwhile, Baltimore can clinch the 1-seed with a win. The Browns’ victory over the Ravens in Week 4 is the lone aberration on Baltimore’s otherwise sterling 12-2 record (their other loss is a close one against Kansas City). Since that Browns game, the Ravens have scored the most points per game (33.7) and allowed the second fewest (15.7). They have outscored their opponents by 180 in that span, while the 49ers are the only other team over 100. Expect the Ravens to correct the record in this game.

NFC Intrigue

Arizona Cardinals (4-9-1) @ Seattle Seahawks (11-3)

Kickoff time: Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
Channel: Fox
Announcers: Chris Myers, Daryl Johnston, Laura Okmin (sideline reporter)
Opening line: Seattle -9.5
Over/under: 48.5
Key Cardinals injuries and absences: Tackle Jordan Mills (knee), outside linebacker Haason Reddick (groin), defensive end Zach Allen (neck), defensive end Jonathan Bullard (hamstring), defensive tackle Rodney Gunter (toe), defensive tackle Clinton McDonald (neck), linebacker Brooks Reed (hamstring), linebacker Tanner Vallejo (ribs)
Key Seahawks injuries and absences: Running back Rashaad Penny (ACL), tight end Will Dissly (Achilles), tight end Ed Dickson (knee), tight end Luke Willson (hamstring), center Justin Britt (ACL), defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (core), defensive end Ezekiel Ansah (neck), linebacker Bobby Wagner (ankle), linebacker Mychal Kendricks (hamstring), cornerback Shaquill Griffin (hamstring), defensive back Quandre Diggs (ankle), safety Tedric Thompson (labrum)
What to watch: Seattle try to hold onto the no. 1 seed

Welcome to the second of the infinite times we will be reminded that both Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray are football players who also played baseball. It’s important to note that Kyler Murray actually could have played professional baseball, whereas Russell Wilson merely enjoys baseball cosplay.

Come to see the short baseball guys throw long passes (from multi-angular throwing platforms!), stay to see whether the Seattle Seahawks can get a decisive win. Seattle is 11-3, but the team’s only win of the season by more than eight points came against … Arizona in Week 3. The Seahawks have played in 11 games determined by one possession (!) and are 10-1 in those contests (!!!). The football math suggests that winning 90.9 percent of one-possession games is absurdly lucky. The Seahawks have outscored their opponents by just 26 points, tied for 11th most in the NFL, but somehow are currently the no. 1 seed in a loaded NFC. Even if the Seahawks lose this game, their game next week against San Francisco will likely determine who wins the division and gets the first-round bye. All we’ll get from this one is seeing whether the Seahawks can beat Arizona by two touchdowns twice and a bunch of photos of Russell Wilson showing up to spring training because he was bored.

NFL Draft

The four teams in line for the top four picks in the NFL draft play each other this week.

Cincinnati Bengals (1-13) @ Miami Dolphins (3-11)

Kickoff time: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
Channel: CBS
Announcers: Andrew Catalon, James Lofton, Michael Grady (sideline reporter)
Opening line: Miami -3
Over/under: 45.5
Key Bengals injuries and absences: Receiver A.J. Green (ankle), receiver Auden Tate (knee), guard Alex Redmond (biceps), guard John Miller (concussion), defensive tackle Renell Wren (hip), defensive end Kerry Wynn (concussion), cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (knee)
Key Dolphins injuries and absences: Running back Kalen Ballage (Achilles), receiver Preston Williams (ACL), receiver Gary Jennings (shoulder), defensive tackle Gerald Willis (hip), inside linebacker Raekwon McMillan (hamstring), cornerback Xavien Howard (knee), cornerback Aqib Talib (ribs), cornerback Ryan Lewis (hamstring), defensive back Ken Webster (ankle), cornerback Cordrea Tankersley (ACL), safety Reshad Jones (chest), safety Bobby McCain (shoulder)
What to watch: How low the league can go

In February, Miami will host the Super Bowl. On Sunday, Miami will host the exact opposite of the Super Bowl. This game will be disgusting. It will also be hard to look away. The Cincinnati Bengals, who have nearly clinched the no. 1 pick in the Joe Burrow NFL Draft (that’s its new name), will go up against the Miami Dolphins, who are close to playing themselves out of the top three.

The Dolphins have cycled through so many guys via trade and injury that they have used 80 players this season, an NFL record, despite having two games left. Their leading rusher is Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has 219 yards on 44 carries. Miami does not have a player who’s averaging 30 rushing yards per game. The team has churned through so many running backs that they do not have a qualifying rusher, which is defined as someone averaging 6.25 rushes per game. They’ve benched their starting guards two weeks in a row. They may need to replace more than half of their starters on offense and defense this offseason. Everything has gone wrong for this team imaginable, and yet they have two more wins and are laying three points to the Bengals.

New York Giants (3-11) @ Washington (3-11)

Kickoff time: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
Channel: Fox
Announcers: Thom Brennaman, Chris Spielman, Shannon Spake (sideline reporter)
Opening line: Washington -3
Over/under: 43
Key Giants injuries and absences: Quarterback Daniel Jones (ankle), tight end Evan Engram (foot), tight end Rhett Ellison (concussion), guard Kevin Zeitler (ankle), cornerback Janoris Jenkins (released), linebacker Chris Peace (knee), safety Jabrill Peppers (back), long snapper Zak DeOssie (knee)
Key Washington injuries and absences: Running back Derrius Guice (MCL), receiver Paul Richardson Jr. (hamstring), receiver Trey Quinn (concussion), tight end Jordan Reed (concussion), tight end Vernon Davis (concussion), right guard Brandon Scherff (elbow), outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan (calf), cornerback Quinton Dunbar (hamstring), cornerback Jimmy Moreland (foot), cornerback Fabian Moreau (hamstring), defensive back Deshazor Everett (shoulder)
What to watch: Bengals-Dolphins

This game is just as pathetic and sad as the Bengals traveling to the Dolphins, but without the fun parts. The only intrigue would’ve been whether Eli Manning would add a win or loss to his 117-117 career record, but Daniel Jones will likely return for this game. If you’re going to tune into abject misery, do it right and watch the Dolphins and Bengals.

Playing for Pride

Oakland Raiders (6-8) @ Los Angeles Chargers (5-9)

Kickoff time: Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET
Channel: CBS
Announcers: Greg Gumbel, Trent Green, Melanie Collins (sideline reporter)
Opening line: Chargers -6.5
Over/under: 47
Key Raiders injuries and absences: Running back Josh Jacobs (shoulder), receiver Hunter Renfrow (ribs/lung), tackle Trent Brown (pectoral), guard Richie Incognito (ankle), defensive end Arden Key (foot), linebacker Kyle Wilbur (ankle), cornerback Daryl Worley (neck), safety Johnathan Abram (labrum), safety Karl Joseph (foot)
Key Chargers injuries and absences: Left tackle Russell Okung (groin), center Mike Pouncey (neck), guard Forrest Lamp (leg), defensive back Desmond King (undisclosed), defensive back Nasir Adderley (hamstring)
What to watch: Philip Rivers’s last “home” game?

If Philip Rivers has anything left in his gas tank, he has to show it here. Rivers has had three interceptions in three of his last five games and has looked atrocious, even by the Chargers’ lofty standards. He won’t have an easier game left this year—and possibly in his career—than this Raiders defense, which has given up a league-leading 16 passes of 40-plus yards this season plus 66 plays of 20-plus yards, tied for the league lead. Rivers is chucking it like his career depends on it—or like his career is already over and he’s out of shits to give. Either way, if he has another three-pick day, it will be time for him to hit the hay.

If Rivers, whose contract expires after this year, does retire, this will have been his last home game. Ironically, the game could be overrun by Raiders fans. That would mean the Raiders’ last game in Oakland was last week, but the Oakland Raiders’ last game in front of their own fans is this week.

Detroit Lions (3-10-1) @ Denver Broncos (5-9)

Kickoff time: Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET
Channel: CBS
Announcers: Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon, Jay Feely (sideline reporter)
Opening line: Pick ’em (Now Denver -7)
Over/under: 37.5
Key Lions injuries and absences: Quarterback Matt Stafford (hip/back), running back Kerryon Johnson (knee), running back Bo Scarbrough (ribs), receiver Marvin Jones Jr. (ankle), right tackle Rick Wagner (knee), defensive end Da’Shawn Hand (ankle), defensive tackle Mike Daniels (arm)
Key Broncos injuries and absences: Guard Ron Leary (concussion), right tackle Ja’Wuan James (knee), fullback Andy Janovich (elbow), outside linebacker Bradley Chubb (ACL), defensive end Derek Wolfe (elbow), defensive end Adam Gotsis (knee), defensive end Dre’Mont Jones (ankle), defensive end DeMarcus Walker (ankle), safety Kareem Jackson (suspended)
What to watch: David Blough vs. Drew Lock (yeesh)

Detroit Lions owner Martha Firestone Ford told reporters this week head coach Matt Patricia will not be fired this season, immediately making him the odds-on favorite for the first coach to be fired next season. Patricia has had to deal with injuries to quarterback Matthew Stafford, which affected the offense. Those injuries did not affect the defense, which is the fourth-least efficient in the league by Football Outsiders’ weighted DVOA. Perhaps Martha owes former Lions coach Jim Caldwell an apology. Caldwell was fired after consecutive 9-7 seasons, and Patricia may not surpass that win total in his first two seasons combined.

Carolina Panthers (5-9) @ Indianapolis Colts (6-8)

Kickoff time: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
Channel: Fox
Announcers: Dick Stockton, Mark Schlereth, Jennifer Hale (sideline reporter)
Opening line: Indianapolis -6.5
Over/under: 46.5
Key Panthers injuries and absences: Quarterback Kyle Allen (benched), tackle Greg Little (ankle), guard Greg Van Roten (toe), defensive tackle Kawann Short (shoulder), defensive tackle Dontari Poe (quadriceps), defensive end Marquis Haynes (knee)
Key Colts injuries and absences: Receiver T.Y. Hilton (calf), receiver Parris Campbell (foot), receiver Devin Funchess (collarbone), receiver Chester Rogers (knee), tight end Eric Ebron (ankles), defensive end Kemoko Turay (ankle), defensive tackle Denico Autry (concussion), inside linebacker Anthony Walker (hamstring), cornerback Kenny Moore (ankle), cornerback Quincy Wilson (shoulder), kicker Adam Vinatieri (knee)
What to watch: Will Grier’s Instagram follower count

Huge day for the Grier family. The third-rounder out of West Virginia, who is also the third-most-famous person in his own Instagram influencer family, is taking over for the benched Kyle Allen. If his siblings Instagram live from the game, he could get a lot of exposure.

Playing for Pride (and Their Coaches’ Jobs)

Jacksonville Jaguars (5-9) @ Atlanta Falcons (5-9)

Kickoff time: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
Channel: Fox
Announcers: Joe Davis, Brady Quinn, Jenny Taft (sideline reporter)
Opening line: Atlanta -7
Over/under: 46
Key Jaguars injuries and absences: Receiver DJ Chark (ankle), tight end Josh Oliver (back), tight end Geoff Swaim (concussion), tight end James O’Shaughnessy (ACL), guard Brandon Thomas (knee), defensive end Josh Allen (shoulder), inside linebacker Myles Jack (knee), linebacker Jake Ryan (hamstring), linebacker Najee Goode (knee), linebacker D.J. Alexander (foot)
Key Falcons injuries and absences: Receiver Calvin Ridley (abdomen), tackle Ty Sambrailo (hamstring), guard James Carpenter (concussion), defensive end Takkarist McKinley (shoulder), cornerback Desmond Trufant (forearm), defensive back Johnathan Cyprien (foot), safety Keanu Neal (Achilles)
What to watch: Dan Quinn and Doug Marrone’s second-to-last stand

Falcons head coach Dan Quinn is likely making his last stand after Atlanta’s Super Bowl core has crumbled. The only coach with a more certain fate to be fired may be Jacksonville’s Doug Marrone. The Jags already fired their head of football operations, Tom Coughlin, who poisoned the locker room culture and Marrone could be gone as soon as this week.

Sunday Night Football

Kansas City Chiefs (10-4) @ Chicago Bears (7-7)

Kickoff time: Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET
Channel: NBC
Announcers: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya (sideline reporter)
Opening line: Kansas City -4
Over/under: 45
Key Chiefs injuries and absences: Running back Damien Williams (ribs), running back Darrel Williams (hamstring), guard Martinas Rankin (knee), guard Andrew Wylie (illness/ankle/shoulder), defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah (pectoral), defensive end Alex Okafor (pectoral), cornerback Morris Claiborne (shoulder), defensive back Rashad Fenton (hamstring)
Key Bears injuries and absences: Receiver Taylor Gabriel (concussion), tight end Trey Burton (calf), tight end Adam Shaheen (foot), tight end Ben Braunecker (concussion), tackle Bobby Massie (ankle), guard Kyle Long (hip), defensive tackle Roy Robertson-Harris (foot), linebacker Roquan Smith (pectoral), inside linebacker Danny Trevathan (elbow)
What to watch: Patrick Mahomes and Mitchell Trubisky

Mitchell Trubisky was asked this week about facing Patrick Mahomes, the reigning MVP whom Chicago passed on to take Trubisky no. 2 in 2017.

”The comparisons are out there and they are never going to stop,” Trubisky told reporters. “It’s kind of me, Pat, and Deshaun [Watson] are kind of all grouped together because we are in the same draft class, drafted in the first round and all that. But there are no do-overs. We are where we are.”

Well said.

Monday Night Football

Green Bay Packers (11-3) @ Minnesota Vikings (10-4)

Kickoff time: Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET
Channel: ESPN
Announcers: Joe Tessitore, Booger McFarland, Lisa Salters (sideline reporter)
Opening line: Minnesota -4.5
Over/under: 46.5
Key Packers injuries and absences: Guard Cole Madison (ACL), guard Lane Taylor (biceps)
Key Vikings injuries and absences: Running back Dalvin Cook (shoulder), running back Alexander Mattison (ankle), center Brett Jones (MCL), outside linebacker Ben Gedeon (concussion), cornerback Xavier Rhodes (ankle)
What to watch: Minnesota Expose the Posing Packers

This Christmas Eve Eve game is the last Monday Night Football of the year, and the stakes are surprisingly fun. If the Packers win, they’re the NFC North champs, but they’d need a victory in Week 17 to clinch a bye. If the Vikings win, they clinch a playoff spot but need the Lions to beat the Packers for the chance to win the division. That part is boring. The real impact of a Vikings win could be knocking the Packers to the no. 3 seed, which would put these teams on track for a rematch at Lambeau in Green Bay for the first round of the playoffs. Bitter rivals in the playoffs is always great. Rivals playing for the second time in three weeks is even better.

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