The number of anthem kneelers is starting to dwindle. The Miami Dolphins are down to one (Kenny Stills) after putting two (Julius and Michael Thomas) on injured reserve. Many football-loving patriots hope it’s soon down to zero.
It should be a fun Sunday of NFL action with many games having playoff implications.
Here is a preview of all the action:
Carolina Panthers (11-4) at Atlanta Falcons (9-6)
The Falcons need a win to guarantee a playoff spot. If they beat the Panthers, they will clinch the NFC’s sixth seed. If they lose, they need Arizona to beat Seattle.
The Panthers get back two key defensive players from suspensions, defensive end Charles Johnson and linebacker Thomas Davis.
Atlanta has the much better passing attack, are at home, and should figure out a way to win his game.
Jacksonville Jaguars (11-4) at Tennessee Titans (8-7)
The Jaguars are locked into the No. 3 seed regardless of whether they win or lose, so they might pull some starters during this game.
The Titans make the playoffs with a win, but need help if they lose.
Tennessee, at home, with so much more at stake, should prevail.
Cincinnati Bengals (6-9) at Baltimore Ravens (9-6)
The Bengals ruined the Lions’ playoff hopes last week with an upset. Will they do the same to the Ravens this week? The Bengals have the NFL’s 32nd-ranked offense, so it could be tough.
The Bengals have major injury issues and will be without several key players including linebacker Vontaze Burfict and both starting offensive tackles.
The Ravens are great at home and should prevail in this must-win game.
Buffalo Bills (8-7) at Miami Dolphins (6-9)
The Bills have a shot at the playoffs, but need a win and a lot of help, including losses from the Ravens or Chargers and Titans.
The Bills knocked the Dolphins out of the playoff picture a couple of weeks ago, and Miami would like to do the same to them this week.
The Bills have the NFL’s 30th-ranked rushing defense, so expect a heavy-dose of Miami tailback Kenyan Drake, who is playing on a high-level.
This game could go either way.
Chicago Bears (5-10) at Minnesota Vikings (12-3)
The Vikings desire a first-round playoff bye which they can secure with a win over Chicago.
“I mean, it’s like winning a round of the playoffs,” said Vikings QB Case Keenum. “For us, that’s what we’re playing for this week. That’s of utmost importance, that’s why we’re putting everything we’ve got into this.”
Bears rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky will be facing the NFL’s #1 defense with two offensive line starters out – tackle Bobby Massie and guard Josh Sitton.
The Vikings have won 10 of their last 11 games, and should make it 11 of 12.
Oakland Raiders (6-9) at Los Angeles Chargers (8-7)
The Chargers need a win and some help to make the playoffs.
The Raiders’ pass defense is struggling, and the Chargers have the NFL’s #3 pass offense, so don’t expect them to get their act together this week.
With some many fans in Los Angeles, this will feel like a Raider home game, but expect the Chargers to win.
Dallas Cowboys (8-7) at Philadelphia Eagles (13-2)
The Cowboys underachieved this season, and one reason is their 25th-ranked passing offense. Did the league figure out QB Dak Prescott after an impressive rookie campaign?
The Philadelphia Eagles have secured the NFC’s #1 seed, but claim they are still going to play their starters. However, expect some starters to get pulled at some point.
The Eagles’ run defense hasn’t been good lately, so Cowboys running back Zeke Elliott could have a big day.
This game is a toss-up.
Arizona Cardinals (7-8) at Seattle Seahawks (9-6)
Seattle needs a win and help to get into the playoffs. Seattle must beat Arizona and have Carolina beat Atlanta to get into the second-season.
Seattle should be able to do their part and beat Arizona.
New Orleans Saints (11-4) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-11)
The Saints need a win to clinch the NFC South title and a home playoff game.
Saints have the NFL’s #2 passing attack and travel to Tampa Bay to face the NFL’s 32nd-ranked pass defense.
Tampa Bay is playing hard for coach Dirk Koetter, and should put up a fight, but Saints QB Drew Brees should lead his team to a win against this lousy pass defense.
San Francisco 49ers (5-10) at Los Angeles Rams (11-4)
Since Jimmy Garoppolo became their starting quarterback, San Francisco has won four in a row.
The Rams have locked up a playoff spot, so they will rest starters including QB Jared Goff, running back Todd Gurley, left tackle Andrew Whitworth, center John Sullivan and defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Also linebacker Mark Barron is out with an achilles injury.
Expect the 49ers to make it five wins in a row.
New York Jets (5-10) at New England Patriots (12-3)
This could get ugly.
The Patriots are starting one the greatest quarterbacks of all time, Tom Brady, and the Jets will play two inexperienced, raw youngsters, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg; both still figuring out the whys and wherefores of NFL quarterbacking.
The Patriots need a win to secure the AFC’s top seed and home-field advantage in the playoffs.
New England should have little trouble winning this game.
Cleveland Browns (0-15) at Pittsburgh Steelers (12-3)
The Steelers can clinch home-field advantage with a win and a Patriots loss, but New England isn’t expected to lose to the Jets, so Pittsburgh might rest starters.
Steelers right tackle Marcus Gilbert told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Le’veon Bell and WR Antonio Brown aren’t going to play.
So this might be a chance for the Browns to avoid going winless.
However, Steelers backup QB Landry Jones, is better than Browns starting QB Deshone Kizer, so expect Pittsburgh to still win.
Kansas City Chiefs (9-6) at Denver Broncos (5-10)
The Chiefs have clinched the AFC West title and intend on resting starters, like QB Alex Smith and wide receiver Tyreek Hill.
Chiefs reserve QB Patrick Mahomes makes his first NFL start, so it’s a mystery what he can do.
The Broncos are likely starting Paxton Lynch, who is as much of a mystery as Mahomes.
Denver has the NFL’s #2 defense so this could make Mahomes first outing quite a challenge.
The Broncos’ defense should spearhead a Denver win.
Washington Redskins (7-8) at New York Giants (2-13)
The Giants have a new GM, Dave Gettleman, so the players will be auditioning for him, including their 32nd-ranked defense filled with high-paid underachievers.
Is this Kirk Cousins last game as Washington’sm9 QB? He’s a free-agent after this season and should be in demand.
Both Giants starting receivers are already on injured reserve, and this week they will be without two more, Sterling Shepard and Tavarres King.
The Giants are a dysfunctional injury-laden mess, and the Redskins are a better team, so expect a Washington win.
Green Bay Packers (7-8) at Detroit Lions (8-7)
The Lions lost a must-win game last week at Cincinnati, blowing their playoff chances. This team, owned by the Ford Family, needs some new parts, including a stud running back to fix their 32nd-ranked rushing attack.
The Packers will be without a who’s who of players due to injuries, including QB Aaron Rodgers and wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams.
The Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, is much better than the Packers’ current signal-caller, Brett Hundley, so expect Detroit to prevail.
Houston Texans (4-11) at Indianapolis Colts (3-12)
A battle of two teams that could be looking for a new head coach after the season.
According to the Houston Chronicle, Texans coach Bill O’Brien has a “toxic” relationship with GM Rick Smith. But if O’Brien is fired, he should in demand for one of the other openings.
Both teams are without their starting quarterbacks, but the Colts have the better backup (Jacoby Brissett), and are at home, so should be able to eke out a win.