There are some more powerful matchups in Week 16, but we’re concentrating on the ones with playoff bubble implications, saving the powerhouses for the playoffs.
Washington Redskins (7-7) at Philadelphia Eagles (6-8)
The Redskins are on a bit of a heater right now, at least as far as heaters go in the NFC East. They have won two in a row and currently hold sway in the division, but the Eagles would be right back in contention if they beat a team in which the last two matchups have been split and each decided by a field goal. The Redskins won the October meeting 23-20 when Kirk Cousins threw for 290 yards and the game-winning touchdown with 26 seconds left. The Eagles won the last time they hosted the Redskins, 37-34, and have won three of the past five meetings between the teams.
Cousins has a good chance for a 4,000-yard season, as he currently has 3,625 yards, 22 touchdowns and 11 interceptions for a 97.2 rating. In his last eight games, he has 16 touchdowns and only three interceptions, and last week he threw for 319 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions and a 153.7 rating. His favorite target is emerging tight end Jordan Reed, who already has 778 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Sam Bradford has struggled to take off in his first season in Philadelphia, throwing for 3,025 yards, 16 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, but in his past two meetings with the Redskins he has six touchdowns, one interception and a 119.8 rating. So, too, the Eagles’ big free-agent signing, DeMarco Murray, has struggled. He is relegated to backup duty now but still leads the team with 606 rushing yards.
New England Patriots (12-2) at New York Jets (9-5)
The Patriots have the advantage in almost every area. They have the superior record, the most accomplished history in the last decade, have a playoff spot and first-round bye wrapped up and have won nine of the last 10 against the Jets. New York, meanwhile, is still fighting to get into playoff contention. At 9-5, they are tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs for a wild card spot but would lose out to them in tiebreakers, meaning they might need to win out to get to the postseason. They’ve already won four in a row.
Despite the Patriots’ gaudy record against them in the last five years, the Jets have been close the last two times, losing by a touchdown in New England in October and suffering a one-point loss the last time they squared off in New York.
To get a much-needed win, the Jets will have to limit Tom Brady, who is first in the league in passing yards (4,405) and passing touchdowns (35), and second in the AFC with a 103.8 passer rating. But with TE Rob Gronkowski and WR Julian Edelman missing for parts of the second half of the season, things haven’t been automatic for the Patriots. Gronkowski still has over 1,000 yards and is third in the AFC with 11 touchdown catches.
Brandon Marshall has been a favorite target for Ryan Fitzpatrick and is third in the AFC with 1,261 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. Marshall has 100 yards receiving or a touchdown in 12 of his past 14 games, and Chris Ivory provides the ground support. He is second in the AFC with 951 yards rushing and aims for the first 1,000-yard season of his career.
Both teams sport an impressive advantage in turnovers, with the Jets at plus-eight and the Patriots at plus-seven on the season, and they each have a pass rusher with a dozen or more sacks – Chandler Jones has 12½ for New England and Muhammad Wilkerson has 12 for New York.
New York Giants (6-8) at Minnesota Vikings (9-5)
The Giants might know if they are eliminated from the playoffs before they face the Vikings Sunday night. The Vikings might already have clinched a playoff spot by that time.
If the Redskins beat the Philadelphia Eagles Saturday night, the Giants are out. If the Atlanta Falcons lose to the undefeated Carolina Panthers in a Sunday early afternoon game, the Vikings are in the playoffs. If the Seattle Seahawks beat the St. Louis Rams in Sunday late afternoon game, the Vikings would also get in.
All that said, there still be something on the line for at least the Vikings, who maintain they are still in search of the NFC North division title. They could get there if they remain just one game behind the Green Bay Packers, who play the Arizona Cardinals late Sunday afternoon and then beat the Packers in the season finale.
The Giants, of course, will be without Odell Beckham Jr., whose one-game suspension for his actions last Sunday against the Panthers was upheld. Beckham Jr. enters Week 16 third in the NFL with 1,396 yards receiving. Without him, the “leading” receiver role falls to Rueben Randle with 51 catches for 638 yards and five touchdowns. But the sixth-ranked passing attack that has Eli Manning approaching 4,000 yards passing is likely to take a step back without Beckham and they haven’t been able to muster much of a rushing attack with Rashad Jennings as their leading rusher with 619 yards.
The Vikings, on the other hand, have the NFL’s leading rusher in Adrian Peterson (1,314 yards) with second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater putting two of his best games as pro back to back. He had a career-high 335 yards passing two weeks ago, and four touchdowns passing and one rushing last week. Bridgewater has won eight of his last 10 home games. Rookie Stefon Diggs has emerged as Bridgewater’s favorite target the last two months and leads NFC rookies with 693 yards receiving. If the seventh-ranked pass defense can contain Manning with Beckham, the Vikings should be in the playoffs by the end of Sunday night one way or another.