The NFL Playoff heat will definitely be on in Week 16 – the schedule expands to Saturday this week now that the college football season is completed in terms of the regular season. The NFL has some strong divisional & rivalry games set up for Week 16 that will – yet again – have a huge impact on the playoff race & possible jobs for various head coaches around the league.
Here is a breakdown of Week 16 of the 2014 NFL Schedule –
Philadelphia Eagles @ Washington Redskins – Time TBD – Saturday, CBS
The NFC East Division is always one of the most insane divisions in the NFL each season & this game is going to have some division championship implications. The Philadelphia Eagles & Washington Redskins have both improved their lineups in the offseason, but because this game will be taking place so late in the season, the key to this matchup (as well as every game that we will talk about) has to go back to depth.
The backups for both teams will somehow play a factor in this game. For the Eagles, by this point, Chip Kelly’s offense has to be rolling strong even without DeSean Jackson as the key wideout. Nick Foles has to be close to being one of the more elite quarterbacks in the NFL, or at least in the conversation to be one of the best, or even better – an MVP candidate.
For the Redskins, this is a make-or-break year in many ways because of the offensive talent that QB Robert Griffin III has around him, especially with having Jackson as the #1 wide receiver, something that he has missed the last 2 seasons in Washington. On the defensive side of the ball, the Redskins bring back LB Brian Orakpo & CB DeAngelo Hall, who has been missing a step for about 2 seasons now but is still one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL.
Because of the Cowboys loss of LB Sean Lee & the pressure to be on the Dallas Cowboys offense to make big play, this race could have all 4 teams in the division (other team being the New York Giants), which means from about Week 10 on, every NFC East divisional game will have major implications, with each division matchup possibly being an elimination game. This game is no different.
Detroit Lions @ Chicago Bears – 1:00, FOX
The Detroit Lions & Chicago Bears will have a rematch of their Thanksgiving Day matchup, but this time in Chicago. The Lions are expected to be in the playoff hunt or firmly in the playoffs by the time this matchup happens. From the “experts” out there, the Detroit Lions are only expected to be 8-8, which, for Lions fans, means someone has to go, & that someone would be a guy like a Matthew Stafford, Lions quarterback, or a malcontent like Ndamakong Suh.
The Lions have been able to go into Chicago & have marginal success over the last couple of seasons & strong success against the Bears overall & that trend has to continue. As we said about their Week 13 matchup, the offense has to be able to go vertical against a strong Bears secondary led by Charles Tillman, which the same can be said for the Bears, who will look to go vertical with Brandon Marshall & Alshon Jeffery against the average-to-below average Lions secondary.
New England Patriots @ New York Jets – 1:00 p.m., CBS
This game could be a lot or nothing at all. For the Patriots, most likely the team will already have the playoff spot locked up & will most likely have home field already or will be playing for positioning.
The New York Jets are a team with so many questions & could have a breakout season or they could be playing for a spot in the 2015 NFL Draft. The team is putting its faith in second-year QB Geno Smith, who came on strong at the end of 2013, not making as many mistakes as earlier in the season & getting a better hold of the offense.
The Jets signed former Pro Bowl RB Chris Johnson from the Tennessee Titans, but his production has slipped so much from the last couple of seasons that even 1,000 or 1,100 yards can end up being a major help to Smith. The team drafted Jalen Saunders & Shaquille Evans from Oklahoma & UCLA respectively, but its clear that the team still needs to find a big time #1 wide receiver, even if its getting someone off of the streets if the rookies aren’t able to produce early on.
What the Jets have hung their hats on during the entire Rex Ryan era is defense, & the Jets will still be top 10 in overall defense by this point in the season, but in order to be strong in the NFL, you have to be able to score points, preferably 20-25 per game & I’m not sure the Jets are in position to do that just yet.
Indianapolis Colts @ Dallas Cowboys – 4:25, CBS
This is a game that could be a possible late-season flex game. The Colts will be in the playoff hunt, as noted various times in this series of blog posts. Andrew Luck is getting better & better & if healthy, will be one of the top 5 quarterbacks in the NFL by this point in the season, hands down.
The big story here, as usual, is the Dallas Cowboys. This week, the team announced that LB Sean Lee, one of the main leaders on the defense, is out for the 2014 season with a torn ACL, which will put much more pressure on Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Dez Bryant & the rest of that Cowboys offense to overcompensate. Against a stout defense like the Colts, who will have Robert Mathis back in the fold & back to his usual self after his early-season NFL suspension & other emerging players on the defense, the Cowboys will have a long day in a game where their NFC East championship hopes will be on the line, as per usual.