The next-to-last week of the NFL regular season is upon us, and due to Christmas falling on a Sunday, this Week is different. Most of the games will take place on Saturday. There is one game on Thursday and one Sunday and Monday. The schedule makers in the NFL front office arranged for Divisional games to take place during the last two weeks of the season to create greater Playoff implications. With two weeks left to go, 22 teams are still in the Playoff hunt adding to the importance of these final two weeks.
In the NFC 3 of the 6 Playoff berths are locked up. The Packers, 49ers, and Saints have all wrapped up their Divisions. The Cowboys, Falcons, and Lions can wrap up the remaining slots available.
The AFC sees 4 of 6 spots locked in. New England, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Houston are in. The Broncos will win the AFC West if they win out. The Bengals and Jets will vie for the Wildcard spot in the AFC.
From a former Mountaineer perspective, last week saw Brandon Hogan’s first appearance with the Panthers. Will he play this week against the Bucs? Owen Schmitt had two key blocks on two of LeSean McCoy’s rushing touchdowns last week in their blowout of the Jets. Can he help the Eagles sneak in the back door of the Playoffs? Adam Jones has been a key piece of the Bengals secondary since returning from the PUP list, and Ellis Lankster had two fumble recoveries last week for the Jets. Will they help their respective teams enter into the Playoffs as the Bengals and Jets fight for the Wildcard in the AFC?
We will discuss those games and more below in the Week 16 Rundown.
Texans @ Colts 8:20 NFL Network
The Colts won their first game of the season last week against the Titans. Pat McAfee punted the ball 7 times in that game. The Texans feature one of the best defenses in the league. McAfee should have several chances to add to his Colts special teams leading 8 tackles on the season.
Broncos @ Bills 1:00 CBS
Corey McIntyre and the Bills look to play spoiler to Tim Tebow and the Broncos’ push for the AFC West title. The Bills began the season playing well, but faltered during the second half of the season. Their record stands a 5-9.
Cardinals @ Bengals 1:00 FOX
Both of these teams are still alive for the Playoffs. The Bengals are still in the hunt despite recent struggles, while the Cards could have their first 5-game winning streak in 34 years. Adam Jones has 20 tackles total in the 5 whole games he has played this season. The Bengals have activated Robert Sands once this season, and with the Playoffs on the line, Sands will likely be inactive this week.
Raiders @ Chiefs 1:00 CBS
Anthony Becht had 2 catches last week in the Chiefs upset win over the Packers. One of those catches, a 16-yarder, put the ball at the Packers 6-yard line, setting up a Chiefs touchdown. Becht has seen his playing time increase since re-joining the Chiefs roster for the third time this season. Can he help the Chiefs hurt the Raiders’ Playoff chances? New Chiefs QB Kyle Orton likes Becht as a target.
Dolphins @ Patriots 1:00 CBS
Steve Slaton has been inactive for the Dolphins for the past several weeks, and that trend is likely to continue as Reggie Bush has been hot.
Giants @ Jets 1:00 FOX
Ellis Lankster has been a dynamo on special teams for the Jets since they added him to the roster. He had two fumble recoveries last week to go along with 1 tackle. The Jets and Giants are both fighting for their Playoff lives.
Rams @ Steelers 1:00 FOX
After losing to the 49ers on Monday night, the Steelers will likely play on Wildcard weekend during the 1st round of the Playoffs. They are likely to rest Ben Roethlisberger against the 2-12 Rams. Other banged up players could rest as well. If the Steelers rest Troy Polamalu, Ryan Mundy will see a lot of time on the field. Mundy playing sparingly last week, appearing mostly after the game was decided during the second half. Mortty Ivy has been active for the last few weeks, and has played on special teams for the Steelers.
Vikings @ Redskins 1:00 FOX
Chris Neild has seen his playing time slip in recent weeks. After not playing two weeks ago, he only played on 6 snaps last week against the Giants.
Buccaneers @ Panthers 1:00 FOX
With injuries depleting the Panthers secondary, Brandon Hogan will likely be active again for the Panthers. He could see more playing time this week against the Bucs than he did last week against the Texans with starting CB Captain Munnerlyn
doubtful on IR. Although he did not record any stats, Hogan did have a hit on the return man during a kickoff that slowed him enough to get tackled.
“[The coaches] told me I did well,” said Hogan. “I like to hear that.”
“It felt good out there. It was a good day,” Hogan said. “I knew my chance was coming with a couple of corners down, so I was ready to go when they gave me the call.
“I want to see where I’m at, to get a feel for things wherever the coaches use me. I’m looking forward to it. The speed of the game is just a little bit faster than college, but it’s the same game.”
*UPDATE* On Friday, the Panthers placed starting cornerback Captain Munnerlyn on IR. This means that Hogan will get more playing time in the last two weeks of the season.
Eagles @ Cowboys 4:15 FOX
Owen Schmitt was a key blocker on two touchdown runs last week in the Eagles’ rout of the Jets. He will try to do more of the same against the rival Cowboys.