NFL Sunday Preview: Steelers, Jets, and Colts Play for the Postseason

Jeremy Maclin, Tramon Williams
The Associated Press
Bath, New York

A heads-up to football fans: beware of players dogging it on Sunday.

The last thing an NFL player wants to do in the offseason is rehab a major injury. They are one game away from avoiding that. So there will be players, on team’s out of contention, who will play not to get hurt. Their motors won’t rev as high. It’s an age old tradition.

Let’s take a closer look at Sunday’s action…

New Orleans Saints (6-9) at Atlanta Falcons (8-7)

The Falcons com off an impressive win over previously unbeaten Carolina. But it was too little, too late, to save their playoff hopes.

“I think we’ve proven we can play really good football,” Falcons QB Matt Ryan said. “But we need do it more often and we need to do it every time we show up.”

Led by QB Drew Brees, the Saints have the NFL’s #1 passing offense, but don’t play a lick of defense.

Even though it’s meaningless game, Brees vs. Ryan is always fun to watch. This game could go either way.

New York Jets (10-5) at Buffalo Bills (7-8)

The Jets control their own playoff destiny. If they win, they’re in. If they lose, they need help.

Buffalo boasts the NFL #1 rushing offense. The Jets field the #2 rushing defense. This game-within-the-game will be fun to watch.

The Bills are a little bit of house divided. Defensive linemen Mario Williams and Marcell Dareus criticized coach Rex Ryan in the press. AP reported this week Williams be released after the season.

The Jets are the more unified, healthier, and should win.

Detroit Lions (6-9) at Chicago Bears (6-9)

The Lions are likely playing to save coach Jim Caldwell’s job.

The Bears are very banged up. They are playing without both starting receivers and their center. They also list ten players as questionable.

The road team should win this game.

Baltimore Ravens (5-10) at Cincinnati Bengals (11-4)

The Bengals already locked up a playoff spot, but won’t rest any starters. They want a first-round bye.

“All hands on deck,” Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson said. “We’ve got to win the game.”

Getting talented tight end Tyler Eifert back from a concussion will help. The Bengals, at home and much healthier than Baltimore, should prevail.

Pittsburgh Steelers (9-6) at Cleveland Browns (3-12)

The Steelers fight for their playoff lives (they need a win and help). Browns coach Mike Pettine fights to save his job.

The Browns start third-string quarterback Austin Davis with Johnny Manziel and Josh McCown both hurt.

The Steelers should run early and often against the Browns #32 run defense and win this game.

Washington Redskins (8-7) at Dallas Cowboys (4-11)

Tony Romo should be the Cowboys’ 2015 MVP. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

They went 3-1 with him and 1-10 without him. His value was quite apparent during his absence. However, Dallas should be able to win this game without him. The playoff-bound Redskins likely rest a lot of starters.

Jacksonville Jaguars (5-10) at Houston Texans (8-7)

The Jags just finished Year Two of their rebuild under GM Dave Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley.

Owner Shad Khan has assured them another year to finish the job, but said “considerable work” remains to be done. Part of that work involves signing better cornerbacks. The position has lost games for them this year.

The Texans get starting quarterback Brian Hoyer back from a concussion and should win this game.

Tennessee Titans (3-12) at Indianapolis Colts (7-8)

Both teams look for new coaches after this game. According to ESPN’s Mike Wells, Colts coach Chuck Pagano loses his job after the season. Mike Mularkey, an interim coach, currently leads Tennessee. Titans owner Amy Adams fired second-year coach Ken Whisenhunt after a 1-6 start. It was a knee-jerk move that made no difference.

The Colts will be down to their third quarterback, and the Titans their second. This should be an ugly, low-scoring affair.

It’s too close to call.

New England Patriots (12-3) at Miami Dolphins (5-10)

The Patriots gear up for the playoffs. So, while they want to win, they are going to err on the side of caution with injured players.

A lot of talented players will have the week off. Two of their best defensive players won’t compete—DE Chandler Jones and LB Donta Hightower. Left tackle Sebastian Vollmer and wide receiver Julian Edelman remain out. Nine player are questionable (50-50 chance of playing).

But if QB Tom Brady plays, expect them to win. He’s so good he could probably lead the Washington Generals to a victory.

Philadelphia Eagles (6-9) at New York Giants (6-9)

The Eagles fired Chip Kelly this week, and the Dalai Lama sounds like an ideal candidate to replace him.

“You’ve got to open your heart to players and everybody you want to achieve peak performance,” Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said Wednesday. “I would call it a style of leadership that values information and all of the resources that are provided and at the same time values emotional intelligence.”

Will the new coach be required to hand out participation trophies?

Expect the Giants to play their hearts out for Tom Coughlin, who might be coaching his last game, and for the now open-hearted Eagles to lose.

Seattle Seahawks (9-6) at Arizona Cardinals (13-2)

The Seahawks #2 defense travels to Arizona to face the NFL’s #1 offense.

Seattle could have major blocking issues with two starting offensive linemen out, along with blocking tight end Luke Willson.

Arizona should win this game.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-9) at Carolina Panthers (14-1)

Carolina faces a quandary.

They need to rest players for the playoffs. But don’t want to enter the second season on a two-game losing streak.

Expect them to play enough front-line guys to win this game, and enter the playoffs on a positive note.

San Diego Chargers (4-11) at Denver Broncos (11-4)

The Chargers aren’t a very good team, but they can throw the ball, led by QB Phillip Rivers. It should be fun to watch Rivers against Denver’s #1 ranked pass defense.

The Broncos need this game to ensure the AFC West Title and a first-round bye. They should prevail.

Oakland Raiders (7-8) at Kansas City Chiefs (10-5)

The Chiefs go for their 10th straight win. They should be able to do it against a Raider team with a struggling quarterback and a porous pass defense.

St. Louis Rams (7-8) at San Francisco 49ers (4-11)

Don’t expect this game to break any scoring records. The Rams bring the NFL’s worst pass defense to Levi’s Stadium to face the 49ers, who rank 31st.

Rams star tailback Todd Gurley won’t play due to a foot injury which should help the 49ers win this home game.

Minnesota Vikings(10-5) at Green Bay Packers (10-5)

The Vikings and Packers play for the NFC Central title.

Green Bay’s passing offense is one of the NFL’s lowest ranked, which is hard to believe with Aaron Rodgers under center. But even with that said, the Packers blew out the Vikings in Minnesota a few weeks ago. While the Packers struggle through the air, the Vikings struggle more.

The Packers should figure out a way to win at home and enter the playoffs on an uptick.