It’s well-documented the NFL suffered a dip in TV ratings this year, so this week’s Sunday night game marks a great way for them to end the regular season.
NBC’s Sunday Night Football features the Green Bay Packers traveling to Detroit to play the Lions for the NFC North crown. The ratings for this game should be enormous.
This week’s slate features a few games like this with playoff implications and also a few clunkers with nothing at stake.
Let’s dive into action . . .
Green Bay Packers (9-6) at Detroit Lions (9-6)
This is the game of the year (so far), in prime time, for the NFC North crown.
If the Washington Redskins beat the Giants, the loser of this game won’t make the playoffs.
On November 23, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers said the 4-6 Packers could run the table and make the playoffs. Five wins down, and one too go.
Keep an eye on the status of top Lions corner Darius Slay who nurses a hamstring injury. If he can’t play, the Lions have little chance of winning this game against the red-hot Packers’ passing attack led by Rodgers.
If Slay plays, this game could go either way.
New York Giants (10-5) at Washington Redskins (8-6-1)
The Redskins lock up a playoff spot with a win as long as the Lions-Packers game doesn’t end in a tie.
The Giants are locked in the #5 spot, and will probably rest some starters.
Washington, with so much more at stake and at home, should prevail.
Arizona Cardinals (6-8-1) at Los Angeles Rams (4-11)
The Rams were 4-5 and in the wildcard race when they benched veteran QB Case Keenum and inserted raw rookie Jared Goff. They haven’t won a game since — very strange decision.
The horrendous Rams offense ranks 32nd overall and 32nd in points scored.
The Cardinals should win this game.
Oakland Raiders (12-3) at Denver Broncos (8-7)
If the Raiders lose this game and the division to Kansas City, they play at Houston in the first round, which almost makes foran incentive to lose. The Texans will be the NFL’s worst playoff team.
Matt McGloin takes over for injured Derek Carr as Raiders QB.
Denver, out of the playoff race, put a bunch of players on injured reserve this week.
McGloin is underrated and should lead the Raiders to a win.
Baltimore Ravens (8-7) at Cincinnati Bengals (5-9-1)
A touchdown catch by Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown with four-seconds left last week ended the Ravens’ playoff hopes.
The Bengals have been out for a while.
Ravens are still depressed from last week. Expect the Bengals, at home, to win a close game.
Kansas City Chiefs (11-4) at San Diego Chargers (5-10)
A lot of different playoff scenarios remain alive for Kansas City, but the best one is if Denver beats Oakland and the Chiefs beat San Diego. If that happens, the Chiefs would win the AFC West and get the No. 2 seed.
As per usual in recent years, the Chargers injury list is as long as War and Peace, so expect a Chiefs win.
Seattle Seahawks (9-5-1) at San Francisco 49ers (2-13)
The Seahawks have been wildly inconsistent this year, alternating wins and losses since their November 20 win over Philadelphia.
They lost to Arizona last week, and should continue the pattern with a win over the lowly 49ers this week.
Chicago Bears (3-12) at Minnesota Vikings (7-8)
Sam Bradford could use a long Caribbean vacation after this season. He’s taken an awful beating this year playing behind a Vikings line that lost both offensive tackles for the season, and now plays without their best guard, Alex Boone.
This line is also a big reason why the Vikings have the NFL’s #32 rushing offense.
But with all that said, the Vikings should be able to beat the Bears at home to finish 8-8.
Dallas Cowboys (13-2) at Philadelphia Eagles (6-9)
The Cowboys have locked up the NFC’s #1 seed, so they should rest a lot of starters. Don’t expect to see much of the star rookies, quarterback Dak Prescott or running Zeke Elliott. Cowboys backup quarterbacks Mark Sanchez and Tony Romo will both play in this game.
Also, myriad defensive players are already listed as “out” for Dallas.
Expect the Eagles, who are playing very hard for first-year head coach Doug Pederson, and are playing all their starters, to win this home game.
New England Patriots (13-2) at Miami Dolphins (10-5)
The Dolphins are back in the playoffs after an eight-year hiatus. Miami will play either Pittsburgh or Houston in the wildcard round.
Miami coach Adam Gase claims he won’t rest the team’s starters, and this certainly makes sense, since they are starting their backup QB (Matt Moore) who needs the work, and their defense gave up almost 600 yards last week in Buffalo.
New England still hasn’t locked up the AFC’s No. 1 seed. The Patriots must finish with a better record than Oakland to secure the No. 1 seed as Oakland has the tiebreaker edge. The Pats secure the top seed with a win over Miami.
The Patriots want all their playoff games to take place in Foxboro, so expect Tom Brady to start against one of the NFL’s worst defenses and lead New England to win.
Carolina Panthers (6-9) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-7)
Tampa Bay playoff chances are on life-support, needing a win and a ton of help.
The Panthers 32nd-ranked pass defense is the biggest reason for their 6-9 record. Fixing their secondary will be a major focus this off-season.
These are two very even teams and this game is too close to call.
Cleveland Browns (1-14) at Pittsburgh Steelers (10-5)
There should be no finger-pointing in the Browns’ locker room, their offense and defense are both bad, each ranked 31st.
The Steelers have locked up the AFC’s #3 seed and will rest some players.
Your guess is as good as mine on this one.
Houston Texans (9-6) at Tennessee Titans (8-7)
The Titans are coming off a devastating game in Jacksonville, where they lost to the lowly Jaguars, lost their franchise QB Marcus Mariota to a broken leg, and got knocked out of the playoffs.
Don’t expect this game to be a shootout. The Titans will be starting journeyman backup Matt Cassell, and the Texans are going with backup Tom Savage, because starter Brock Osweiler was benched.
The Texans have already clinched a playoff birth, and will hold out star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and talented tailback Lamar Miller.
The Titans, led by their terrific ground game, should grind out a home win.
Jacksonville Jaguars (3-12) at Indianapolis Colts (7-8)
The Jaguars fired coach Gus Bradley two week ago, and interim coach Doug Marrone led them to a blowout win over Tennessee last week.
Former Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin might be the leading candidate for the job.
The Colts are out of the playoffs for the second straight year as they continue to waste the talent of franchise QB Andrew Luck with a bad offensive line and defense.
But the Colts should win this game and finish the season at .500.
Buffalo Bills (7-8) at New York Jets (4-11)
Some stats are misleading, but some are telling. The New York Jets are 30th in points scored and 29th in points allowed. They can’t score and they give up a ton of points. You do the math. That is quite problematic.
The Bills will be playing under interim coach Anthony Lynn who is auditioning for the full-time job.
Jets coach Todd Bowles is probably safe, but many of his assistants probably updated their resumes this week.
The Jets should win this game because the Bills have benched their starting QB Tyrod Taylor, not for performance reasons, but for contract reasons (if he gets hurt, they owe him a fortune).
New Orleans Saints (7-8) at Atlanta Falcons (10-5)
Atlanta can secure a first-round bye and the #2 seed in the NFC with a win.
But this might not be easy. The Saints boast the NFL’s #1 passing offense, and the Falcons play without their top corner – Desmond Trufant.
However, the Saints defense remains porous (30th in points allowed), and Falcons QB Matt Ryan should have little trouble putting up points.
The game is a toss-up.