Three-and-out: NFL’s best matchups of Week 16

Only four NFL teams have secured a playoff berth so far, but there are several games this weekend among playoff contenders. We highlight three of them.

Two teams in the AFC (the New England Patriots and Oakland Raiders) and two teams in the NFC (the Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks) have already clinched a playoff spot.

Here are three of the key games, starting late afternoon on Sunday and running through Monday night.

BALTIMORE RAVENS (8-6)
AT PITTSBURGH STEELERS (9-5)

The late afternoon game on Sunday features two AFC North teams that are both strongly in the playoff hunt. If the playoffs started now, the Pittsburgh Steelers would already be in the playoffs and the Baltimore Ravens wouldn’t be.

The Steelers would secure their playoff spot with a win against the Ravens.

The last time these two teams faced off, in November, the Ravens came away with a 21-14 home win as Mike Wallace had 124 yards receiving, including a 95-yard touchdown. This time, the meeting is at Pittsburgh, where the Ravens won in overtime last year.

Both teams are in the positive on turnover differential and both have a top-10 defense. The Ravens have the fifth-ranked defense, second against the rush and 10th against the pass. The Steelers are eighth overall, fifth against the run and 14th against the pass.

However, the Steelers boast the better offense at the three top skill-position spots – quarterback, running back and receiver. Ben Roethlisberger has a solid 94.9 passer rating with 3,540 yards, 26 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Le'Veon Bell already has well over 1,000 yards rushing (he’s third in the league at 1,146 yards) and has averaged over 100 scrimmage yards against the Ravens in the last six meetings. And Antonio Brown has once again proven to be one of the top receivers in the NFL – second in catches (96), third in yards (1,188) and second in touchdown receptions (11).

The Ravens have struggled much more to run the ball. Terrance West is their leading rusher with 729 yards but had 122 scrimmage yards last week. Still, the Ravens have only the 28th-ranked rushing offense. QB Joe Flacco has had a pretty average season with 3,788 yards, 19 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, but has done well against Pittsburgh in the past six outings with eight touchdowns and three interceptions.

  RAVENS STEELERS
SERIES LEADER   21-20
STREAKS Past 3  
COACHES VS. OPP. John Harbaugh: 10-7 Mike Tomlin: 8-11
LAST WEEK W 27-26 vs. Philadelphia W 24-20 at Cincinnati
LAST GAME 11/6/16: Steelers 14 at Ravens 21. Baltimore WR Mike Wallace has 124 receiving yards, incl. 95-yard TD. Ravens WR Chris Moore returns blocked punt for TD.
LAST GAME AT SITE 10/1/15: Ravens 23, Steelers 20 (OT). Baltimore RB Justin Forsett rushes for 150 yards. Ravens K Justin Tucker converts 52-yard GW FG in OT.
REFEREE John Parry
BROADCAST NFLN (4:30 PM ET): Mike Tirico, Doug Flutie, Heather Cox (Field reporter). Westwood One: Ian Eagle, Ross Tucker, Hub Arkush (Field reporter). SIRIUS: 88 (WW1), 83 (Bal), 82 (Pit). XM: 88 (WW1), 225 (Bal), 82 (Pit).
PASSING Joe Flacco: 374-579-3788-19-13-84.8 Ben Roethlisberger: 304-476-3540-26-11-94.9
RUSHING Terrance West: 178-729-4.1-5 Le’Veon Bell: 241-1146 (3L)-4.8-6
RECEIVING Dennis Pitta (TE): 67-563-8.4-2 Antonio Brown: 96 (2L)-1188 (3L)-12.4-11 (2L)
OFFENSE 347.1 374.6
TAKE/GIVE 6 3
DEFENSE 312.6 334.1
SACKS Terrell Suggs: 8 James Harrison: 5
INTs Eric Weddle: 4 Artie Burns (R): 3
PUNTING Sam Koch: 46.3 Jordan Berry: 45.5
KICKING Justin Tucker: 124 (2L) (25/25 PAT; 33/34 FG) Chris Boswell: 89 (29/29 PAT; 20/24 FG)


RAVENS

QB JOE FLACCO has 8 pass TDs vs. 3 INTs in past 6 vs. Pit. In past 3, has 89 completions (29.7 per game) for 911 yards (303.7 per game) with 8 TDs for 100.0 rating…RB TERRANCE WEST had 122 scrimmage yards (77 rush, 45 rec.) last week. Rookie RB KENNETH DIXON has 2 TDs (1 rush, 1 rec.) in past 2…WR STEVE SMITH SR. ranks 7th in NFL history with 14,618 rec. yards. Had TD catch last week. TE DENNIS PITTA is 3rd among NFL TEs with 67 catches. WR MIKE WALLACE had 124 rec. yards, incl. 95-yard TD catch in last meeting…S ERIC WEDDLE has 20 tackles, sack & INT in past 2. LB ZACHARY ORR ranks 3rd in AFC with 122 tackles. Is 1 of 2 in NFL with 120+ tackles (122) & 2+ INTs (2). LB C.J. MOSLEY ties for lead among NFL LBs with 3 INTs…K JUSTIN TUCKER has made 10 FGs of 50+ yards, tied for most in season in NFL history.

STEELERS

QB BEN ROETHLISBERGER passed for 340 yards & 6 TDs for 136.3 rating in last home meeting. Has 10 pass TDs vs. 4 INTs in past 6 vs. Bal. Has most career TD passes (28) by any player vs. Bal…RB LE’VEON BELL has 620 scrimmage yards (103.3 per game) & 3 TDs (2 rush, 1 rec.) in past 6 meetings. Has 713 rush yards (142.6 per game) & 5 TDs in past 5. Leads NFL with 158.8 scrimmage yards per game avg…WR ANTONIO BROWN had rec. TD in last meeting. Since 2013, has most catches (471) in NFL history over any 4-year span. Ranks 2nd in NFL in catches (96) & rec. TDs (11). LB JAMES HARRISON had 2 sacks in last meeting. Has 5 sacks in past 4 vs. Bal. LB LAWRENCE TIMMONS has 10+ tackles in 5 of past 7 meetings.

 

DENVER BRONCOS (8-6)
AT KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (10-4)

The Kansas City Chiefs can clinch their playoff berth with a win or a Baltimore loss or tie, but the Denver Broncos know the Chiefs well with both of them being in the AFC West.

When they squared off a month ago, the Chiefs took the Broncos down with a 30-27 overtime win in Denver, but they used a rushing touchdown, a receiving touchdown and a kick-return touchdown – all by Tyreek Hill – to get it done. However, the last time they played in Kansas City it was the Broncos that came away with a 31-24 win in September, thanks to a 21-yard fumble return for a touchdown from CB Bradley Roby.

Neither team has an offense in the top half of the NFL, but the Broncos easily have the higher ranking defense, second in the league overall and first against the pass. The Chiefs, meanwhile are 28th defensively overall with neither the rush or pass defense in the top half of the rankings.

The only players for either team with 1,000 yards rushing or receiving both reside with the Broncos – WR Demaryius Thomas with 1,016 yards receiving and Emmanuel Sanders with 1,006, but Chiefs TE Travis Kelce is on the brink of that milestone with 957 yards.

  BRONCOS CHIEFS
SERIES LEADER   58-54
STREAKS   Past 2
COACHES VS. OPP. Gary Kubiak: 3-3 Andy Reid: 3-6
LAST WEEK L 16-3 vs. New England L 19-17 vs. Tennessee
LAST GAME 11/27/16: Chiefs 30 at Broncos 27 (OT). Kansas City rookie WR Tyreek Hill has rush TD, receiving TD & 86-yard KR-TD. Chiefs LB Justin Houston has 3 sacks & FF.
LAST GAME AT SITE 9/17/15: Broncos 31, Chiefs 24. Denver CB Bradley Roby has GW 21-yard FR-TD with 27 seconds remaining. Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders has 8 catches for 87 yards & 2 TDs.
REFEREE Tony Corrente
BROADCAST NBC (8:30 PM ET): Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya (Field reporter). Westwood One: Kevin Harlan, James Lofton, Scott Kaplan (Field reporter). SIRIUS: 83 (Den), 82 (KC). XM: 225 (Den), 82 (KC).
PASSING Trevor Siemian: 255-416-3012-16-8-88.1 Alex Smith: 282-425-2994-12-6-90.3
RUSHING Devontae Booker (R): 155-528-3.4-3 Spencer Ware: 201-860-4.3-3
RECEIVING Demaryius Thomas: 83-1016-12.2-5 Travis Kelce (TE): 73-957-13.1-3
OFFENSE 326.7 331.4
TAKE/GIVE 2 +13 (2L)
DEFENSE 310.9 (2L) 375.1
SACKS Von Miller: 13.5 (2L) Dee Ford: 10
INTs Darian Stewart, Aqib Talib: 3 Marcus Peters: 5 (T2L)
PUNTING Riley Dixon (R): 45.7 Dustin Colquitt: 45.3
KICKING Brandon McManus: 109 (28/29 PAT; 27/31 FG) Cairo Santos: 107 (29/31 PAT; 26/29 FG) 


BRONCOS

QB TREVOR SIEMIAN passed for 368 yards & 3 TDs for 125.6 rating in last meeting. Has 984 pass yards (328 per game) in past 3…Rookie RB DEVONTAE BOOKER had 101 scrimmage yards (79 rush, 22 rec.) in last meeting…WR DEMARYIUS THOMAS is only player with 1,000+ rec. yards (1,016) in each of past 5 seasons. Aims for 5th in row at KC with 100+ rec. yards or rec. TD. WR EMMANUEL SANDERS had 7 catches for 162 yards & TD in last meeting. WR BENNIE FOWLER had 76-yard TD catch in last meeting…LB VON MILLER has 8 sacks in past 5 vs. KC. Had 3 sacks & PD in last meeting. Aims for 6th consecutive meeting with sack. Has 18.5 sacks, 14 TFL, 4 FFs & INT in past 16 (incl. playoffs). LB SHANE RAY has sack in 3 of past 4. LB DE MARCUS WARE has 7 sacks in past 6 vs. KC. Has 138.5 career sacks, 8th most in NFL since 1982.

CHIEFS

Aim for 10th division win in row…QB ALEX SMITH aims for 3rd meeting in row with 0 INTs. Had rush TD last week…RB SPENCER WARE had 96 scrimmage yards (64 rush, 32 rec.) in last meeting…Rookie WR TYREEK HILL had rush TD, rec. TD & 86-yard KR-TD in last meeting & is 1st player since 10/17/1965 (GALE SAYERS) to have rush TD, rec. TD & KR-TD in same game. Ranks 2nd among rookies with 10 TDs (6 rec., 2 rush, 1 PR, 1 KR). TE TRAVIS KELCE had 101 rec. yards in last meeting…LB JUSTIN HOUSTON had 3 sacks, 4 TFL, FF & PD in last meeting. Has 8 sacks in past 4 vs. Den. Since 2012, ranks 3rd in NFL with 54.5 sacks. CB MARCUS PETERS has 2 INTs & 6 PD in past 3 vs. Den. Since 2015, leads NFL with 13 INTs & 43 PD.

DETROIT LIONS (9-5)
AT DALLAS COWBOYS (12-2)

The premier game in the NFC involves two teams with plenty on the line for the playoffs – the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys – on Monday night.

The Lions need more help than just winning themselves, but that’s a start. If the Lions win and Green Bay loses to Minnesota, then Detroit wins the NFC North. If the Lions win but Green Bay wins and Tampa Bay loses, the Lions are still in the playoffs but haven’t secured the NFC North title.

The Cowboys had already secured their place in the playoffs, but with Thursday night’s loss by the New York Giants, Dallas clinched the NFC East title and home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs.

The Lions and Cowboys haven’t played in more than three years, but the Lions have won the last two meetings. This time, they are far different.

And this time the Lions have the more experienced quarterback with Matthew Stafford reaching 3,720 yards, 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions. However, the Cowboys have the more efficient man under center this year, with rookie Dak Prescott throwing for 3,418 yards, 20 touchdowns and only four interceptions for a 103.2 rating. He also registered the second-best single-game completion percentage (88.9) in NFL history last week.

The Cowboys have the most significant edge in the running game, with rookie Ezekiel Elliott leading the league with 1,551 yards and tied for second with 13 rushing touchdowns. But of all the stats Elliott has dominated in his rookie season, perhaps the most amazing one is that he would be a 1,000-yard rusher with only his first-down runs.

Detroit WR Golden Tate has the chance to become a 1,000-yard receiver, as he currently has 79 catches for 942 yards. That has helped the Lions gain an edge in the passing game with the 12th-ranked pass offense. The Cowboys, however, are much more well-rounded with the second-ranked rushing attack and the fifth-ranked offense overall. They also have the second-ranked rush defense, which should put more pressure on Stafford to have a big and efficient game to keep the Lions in contention in the fourth quarter, where they have done a lot of their damage on the way to nine wins.

  LIONS COWBOYS
SERIES LEADER   11-Dec
STREAKS Past 2  
COACHES VS. OPP. Jim Caldwell: 0-1 Jason Garrett: 1-2
LAST WEEK L 17-6 at New York Giants W 26-20 vs. Tampa Bay
LAST GAME 10/27/13: Cowboys 30 at Lions 31. Detroit QB Matthew Stafford rushes for GW 1-yard TD with 12 seconds remaining. Lions WR Calvin Johnson has 14 catches for 329 yards & TD.
LAST GAME AT SITE 10/2/11: Lions 34, Cowboys 30. Detroit WR Calvin Johnson has GW 2-yard TD catch with 1:39 remaining. Lions CB Chris Houston has 56-yard INT-TD.
REFEREE John Hussey
BROADCAST ESPN (8:30 PM ET): Sean McDonough, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters (Field reporter). Westwood One: Kevin Kugler, Kurt Warner, Laura Okmin (Field reporter). SIRIUS: 88 (WW1), 83 (Det), 81 (Dal). XM: 88 (WW1), 226 (Det), 225 (Dal).
PASSING Matthew Stafford: 336-507-3720-22-8-95.8 Dak Prescott (R): 292-431-3418-20-4-103.2 (3L)
RUSHING Theo Riddick: 92-357-3.9-1 Ezekiel Elliott (R): 310-1551 (1L)-5.0-13 (T2L)
RECEIVING Golden Tate: 79-942-11.9-3 Cole Beasley: 68-759-11.2-5
OFFENSE 335.3 389.8
TAKE/GIVE 2 5
DEFENSE 346.6 345.6
SACKS Kerry Hyder: 8 Tyrone Crawford: 4.5
INTs 4 tied: 2 Barry Church: 2
PUNTING Sam Martin: 48.4 (2L) Chris Jones: 45.5
KICKING Matt Prater: 115 (25/27 PAT; 30/33 FG) Dan Bailey: 114 (39/39 PAT; 25/30 FG)  


LIONS

QB MATTHEW STAFFORD has 2,011 pass yards (287.3 per game) with 11 TDs & 5 INTs for 95 rating in past 7 on road. Has 728 pass yards (364 per game) & 4 TDs (3 pass, 1 rush) in 2 career meetings…Since 2015, RB THEO RIDDICKleads NFL RBs with 133  receptions & ties for 1st with 8 rec. TDs…WR GOLDEN TATE has 27 receptions for 346 yards (115.3 per game) & 2 TDs in past 3 on road. Since entering NFL in 2003, WR ANQUAN BOLDIN ranks 3rd with 1,067 receptions & 13,689 rec. yards…DE KERRY HYDER has 6 sacks in past 7 on road. LB TAHIR WHITEHEAD has 42 tackles (10.5 per game) in past 4 on road. Leads team with 119 tackles. CB DARIUS SLAY has 12 PD in past 9. S GLOVER QUIN has 13 INTs since 2014, tied for most in NFC.

COWBOYS

QB DAK PRESCOTT leads NFL rookies in pass yards (3,418), TDs (20) & rating (103.2). Completed 32 of 36 (88.9 pct.) last week, 2nd-highest comp. pct. in NFL history (min. 30 att.)…Rookie RB EZEKIEL ELLIOTT leads NFL with 1,551 rush yards & ties for 2nd with 13 rush TDs. Rushed for career-high 159 yards with TD last week. In 7 career home games, is averaging 110.6 rush yards per game & has 6 TDs…WR DEZ BRYANT has 5 TD catches in 3 career meetings. Since 2011, leads NFL with 59 rec. TDs. TE JASON WITTEN ranks 2nd all-time among TEs with 11,845 rec. yards. Has 1,086 career receptions & surpassed TERRELL OWENS for 7th-most all-time...DE DAVID IRVING had 2 sacks last week, 1st career multi-sack game. LB SEAN LEE has 50 tackles (10 per game) in past 5 at home. Since 2015, leads NFL with 268 tackles.   

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