The holiday season is here! That means the weather gets colder, families come together, and the mood is joyous, as people celebrate Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/(insert holiday here).
For sports fans, this time of the year is quite special. College football fans get bowl season, NBA fans get a full slate of games, and NHL fans get a few outdoor games. But NFL fans, well, they weeks of football where almost every game is extremely important.
Take Week 16 for example. All but one of the noon games holds playoff implications. Both the Sunday and Monday night games carry a bevy of playoff importance, and both Saturday games were pivotal, as well. All in all, 13 of the 16 games this weekend will impact the playoff picture in some way. Here’s my matchup rankings for Week 16.
Tennessee Titans (2-12) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12) (Thursday, 8:30/7:30c, NFL Network)
Without question, the first game of the week is the least appealing. Both teams share the league’s worst record, and have been terrible this season. I actually wrote an article trying to justify it, but it’s still really bad.
3) Denver Broncos (11-3) at Cincinnati Bengals (9-4-1) (Monday Night Football, 8:30/7:30c, ESPN)
The Monday night finale is everything ESPN could’ve hoped for. It’s a game featuring two current division leaders, each with a lot to play for, and some flashy players. While the Broncos have clinched the AFC West, they need a win to keep any hopes for the top seed alive. They also need either a win or Colts loss to clinch a first round bye.
Meanwhile, the Bengals are playing to stay atop the AFC North. They are just a half game ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, having to play the former on the road next week. They are still likely to make the playoffs with a loss in either game, but any loss could spell utter disaster.
If you care about star power, this game deserves your attention. quarterback Peyton Manning being one of the faces of the league. Meanwhile, receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, as well as tight end Julius Thomas, defensive end Demarcus Ware, linebacker Von Miller, and cornerback Aqib Talib are amongst the best in the league at their respective positions. For the Bengals, there’s AJ Green, and a terrific young rushing duo in Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard.
2) Seattle Seahawks (10-4) at Arizona Cardinals (11-3) (Sunday Night Football, 8:30/7:30c, NBC)
In the most defensive-minded and physical matchup of the week, the Seattle Seahawks will pay visit to the desert. The nightcap is, simply put, a very important game. A win for the Cardinals would give them home field throughout the playoffs, while a Seahawks’ victory keeps Seattle in the running for the top spot.
This game is all about one word: defense. The two teams are as good as they get on the defensive side of the ball. The Cardinals have allowed only two teams to surpass the 20-point mark, and possess the sixth best rush defense in football. The Seahawks are the best pass defense, and fifth against the run. If you like defense, watch this one.
1) Indianapolis Colts (10-4) at Dallas Cowboys (10-4) (4;25/3:25c, CBS)
Two star quarterbacks, loaded offenses, in a game where the winner can keep hopes for a playoff bye alive? No question this was number one.