With the NFL playoffs getting closer, Week 16 sees a host of matches with implications for the division titles, postseason seedings and Wild Card spots.
After a stunning loss to the previously winless New York Jets, the Los Angeles Rams (9-5) are a game behind the Seattle Seahawks (10-4), who they visit this week, atop the NFC West.
The Pittsburgh Steelers (11-3) are in freefall after losing three straight games and are yet to wrap up the AFC North title ahead of what will not be an easy home meeting with the Indianapolis Colts (10-4).
AFC South glory is still up for grabs for the Colts, with the Tennessee Titans (10-4) – who themselves are in an exciting game against the Green Bay Packers (11-3) – battling them for first place.
We have used Stats Perform data to preview the key contests, including a Christmas Day meeting between the New Orleans Saints (10-4) and Minnesota Vikings (6-8).
Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks, Sunday 4.25pm (all times Eastern)
– If Seattle win they will clinch the NFC West, but the Rams have won five of the last six meetings. The Seahawks’ solitary loss in that span, a 30-29 defeat in Week 5 last season, only came when Greg Zuerlein missed a 44-yard field goal with 11 seconds left. The Rams have not lost consecutive games in Seattle since 2013 and 2014.
– The Seahawks’ defense is trending in the right direction. They beat Washington 20-15 in Landover last week, their fourth straight game holding an opponent under 20 points – something they had not done once in any of their first 10 games. It is their longest such streak since a five-game run that spanned the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
– The Rams fell to the Jets 23-20 at home on Sunday, becoming the first team with at least nine wins to lose at home to a winless team. They were just 2-for-11 on third downs, their fewest conversions this season.
– Three Seahawks (Chris Carson, Carlos Hyde and Russell Wilson) ran for at least 50 yards against Washington, just the sixth time that has happened in franchise history and the first occasion since a dramatic 36-31 loss to the Rams in 2018.
Every setback is just an opportunity for a comeback. pic.twitter.com/GWyw4oo6ep
— Cooper Kupp (@CooperKupp) December 23, 2020
OTHER KEY GAMES
Tennessee Titans at Green Bay Packers, Sunday 9.20pm
– MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers is looking to lead his team to the number one seed in the NFC. He threw for just 143 yards – his lowest ever in a winning start – and one touchdown against the Carolina Panthers but added one score on the ground, his second straight game with a rushing score (first time since 2016). The veteran has the chance to run for a TD in three consecutive games, something he has never done before.
Indianapolis Colts at Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday 1.00pm
– With their season in danger of falling apart, the Steelers will take comfort in their record against the Colts. With a 24-6 record including postseason games, this is one of the most one-sided rivalries in the NFL. Among current franchises, only the Denver Broncos, with an identical 24-6 record versus the Cleveland Browns, have been as dominant against a single opponent (minimum 25 meetings).
Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots, Monday 8.15pm
– A win for Buffalo – who narrowly beat New England in Week 8 – would mark the team’s first time sweeping the Patriots since 1999. New England’s 22-12 loss to the Miami Dolphins last week officially snapped their 19-season streak of finishing above .500, falling one shy of the NFL-record 20-season streak set by the Dallas Cowboys from 1966 to 1985.
Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys, Sunday 4.25pm
– Despite the struggles of both teams, this NFC East matchup still has high stakes with the division outcome not yet decided. Eagles rookie Jalen Hurts has 169 rush yards in his first two career starts – the third most by a quarterback over the past 60 years, topped only by Jack Concannon’s 228 yards (1964-1966) and Lamar Jackson’s 190 yards (2018).
Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints, Friday 4.30pm
– The Saints will be favourites to triumph on Christmas Day and have won four of the last five regular-season meetings between these teams, only to falter against the Vikings when it matters most. Minnesota have won two postseason games against the Saints in that span – the 2018 Divisional round, and their most recent meeting, a 26-20 overtime win in last season’s Wild Card round.
Atlanta Falcons at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday 1.00pm
– With eight catches against the Saints last time out, tight end Travis Kelce has now reached that mark in seven consecutive games, putting him in elite company. He has become just the fourth player to do so in the last 60 years. He has joined Michael Thomas (eight games, 2019), Antonio Brown (eight games, 2014), and Anquan Boldin (seven games, 2005).