NFL Week 16 preview: The NFC East championship game

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ARLINGTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 20: Carson Wentz #11 of the Philadelphia Eagles hugs Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys after the game at AT&T Stadium on October 20, 2019 in Arlington, Texas.

Previewing the NFL’s Week 16 slate of games, which includes the essential championship for the NFC East division.

Ryan Honey

There are just two weeks left in the 2019 NFL regular season, with the postseason right around the corner. That means numerous games this weekend will have playoff implications, including the essential NFC East championship.

Both the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles are 7-7 and will play each other in Philly this Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET. If the Cowboys win, they take the division for the second straight year. If the Eagles are victorious, they’ll have to win their following Week 17 game to take the division for the first time in two years.

We’ll preview that and much more. Like always, we’ll additionally provide predictions and a recap of what went down in Week 15.

Week 15 Final Scores // Prediction Results

  • NY Jets 21 at Baltimore Ravens 42 // Correct
  • Seattle Seahawks 30 at Carolina Panthers 24 // Correct
  • NE Patriots 34 at Cincinnati Bengals 13 // Correct
  • TB Buccaneers 38 at Detroit Lions 17 // Incorrect
  • Chicago Bears 13 at GB Packers 21 // Correct
  • Denver Broncos 3 at KC Chiefs 23 // Correct
  • Miami Dolphins 20 at NY Giants 36 // Incorrect
  • Houston Texans 24 at Tennessee Titans 21 // Incorrect
  • Philadelphia Eagles 37 at Washington Redskins 27 // Incorrect
  • Cleveland Browns 24 at Arizona Cardinals 38 // Correct
  • Jacksonville Jaguars 20 at Oakland Raiders 16 // Incorrect
  • Minnesota Vikings 39 at LA Chargers 10 // Correct
  • LA Rams 21 at Dallas Cowboys 44 // Incorrect
  • Atlanta Falcons 29 at SF 49ers 22 // Incorrect
  • Buffalo Bills 17 at Pittsburgh Steelers 10 // Correct
  • Indianapolis Colts 7 at NO Saints 34 // Correct
  • Week 15 Results: 9-7
  • Overall Results: 137-87

Recap: What we saw during Week 15

We saw the Packers improve their record to 11-3 with a 21-13 win over the divisional rival-Chicago Bears. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw for 203 yards and one touchdown while running back Aaron Jones rushed for 51 yards and a pair of scores. Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky threw for 334 yards, one touchdown, and two picks. The lone score was to wideout Anthony Miller, who caught nine balls for 118 yards.

Was this past Sunday the last time Eli Manning will ever play a game? If it was, it’s been a great ride for the longtime New York Giants quarterback. In a 36-20 win over the Dolphins, Manning threw for 283 yards, two touchdowns, and three picks. After the victory, which was the team’s first since late September, Manning was given a standing ovation while running off the field and into the locker room. It was a tear-jerking moment, even if you’re not a Giants fan.

In what was a huge AFC South battle with playoff implications, the Texans ousted the Titans 24-21. Houston now sits atop the division with a record of 9-5. In the win, Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson was 19-for-27 with 243 yards, two touchdowns, and two picks. Houston running back Carlos Hyde, on the other hand, rushed for 104 yards on 26 carries for one score.

In Arizona, we saw a battle between two former Oklahoma quarterbacks who both have won a Heisman Trophy and were chosen No. 1 overall in their respective drafts. Baker Mayfield and the Browns took on Kyler Murray and the Cardinals, a game in which Arizona came away with the 38-24 win. Murray completed 19 of his 25 throws for 219 yards, one touchdown, and one pick while additionally rushing for 56 yards on eight carries. Mayfield was 30-for-43 for 247 yards, two touchdowns, and one pick. Browns running back Nick Chubb carried the ball 17 times for 127 yards and one touchdown.

Gardner Minshew and the Jaguars scored 14 points in the fourth quarter and defeated the Raiders 20-16. Both touchdowns in the late stages were from Minshew to wideout Chris Conley within the last 5.5 minutes of the game. Raiders fans were obviously disappointed since the loss was their team’s last game at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. The Raiders will be relocating to Las Vegas starting next season.

The Rams went into AT&T Stadium and were nowhere near competitive against the Cowboys. Dallas, who’s fighting for the NFC East division with the season winding down, defeated Los Angeles 44-21. Veteran running back Ezekiel Elliot had a dominant game. The fourth-year pro rushed for 117 yards on 24 carries with two touchdowns. Dak Prescott additionally threw for 212 yards and a pair of scores for the Cowboys.

If you took the under on this Falcons-49ers game, we understand the disappointment. On one of the final plays, Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan hit Julio Jones, who was initially ruled down just short of the goal line. But after a review from the officials, it was determined that Jones crossed the plane, thus giving the Falcons a 23-22 lead with two seconds remaining. Then, on the ensuing kickoff, San Francisco lost the ball after attempting to lateral it down the field. The ball trickled into the end zone, where it was recovered by the Falcons’ Olamide Zaccheaus. Atlanta thus won the game 29-22 and hit the over.

Josh Allen and the Bills keep rolling, with their latest win occurring this past Sunday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Allen threw for 139 yards, one touchdown, and one pick in the 17-10 win. Buffalo’s defense definitely came to play too, picking off Steelers quarterback Devlin “Duck” Hodges four times.

Drew Brees made history at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Monday…twice. In the third quarter of what was a 34-7 blowout win over the Colts, Brees found Saints tight end Josh Hill for a five-yard score. The touchdown pass was his third of the game and 540th all-time, which put him past Peyton Manning for the most career touchdown passes in NFL history. Then, Brees finished the matchup with the highest single-game completion percentage in NFL history. The veteran completed 29 of his 30 throws (96.7%).

Preview: What to watch for during Week 16 in the NFL

Bills (10-4) at Patriots (11-3) – Sat, Dec. 21, 4:30 p.m. ET

When you consider playoff implications, this is a huge game that fans simply cannot wait for. The good news is that we won’t have to wait as long to watch it. This is one of the three Week 16 games that were flexed to Saturday of this week.

The Pats have struggled, losing two of their last three games. But don’t forget, they play this Bills team twice a year. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady know who they’re dealing with and they’ll be more than prepared to oust 10-4 Buffalo. New England will need this win if they want to remain the two seed in the AFC. If they emerge victorious, they’ll take the AFC East division for the 11th consecutive season.

Buffalo, on the other hand, is another well-coached ballclub who aren’t just fighting for a Wild Card spot but could end up winning the division. If they win this upcoming matchup and win in Week 17 while the Pats lose their final regular-season game, the Bills would take the division. It’s something they absolutely know and will be motivated by when entering this Saturday afternoon matchup.

Rams (8-6) at 49ers (11-3) – Sat, Dec. 21, 8:15 p.m. ET

Believe it or not, the Rams are still in the running for a Wild Card spot. They’ll need to win their last two games for anything to happen though, and it starts with this road matchup with the 49ers.

At 11-3, the 49ers are the current five seed in the NFC. They have the same record as the Seahawks and are definitely looking to surpass them for the NFC West division title.

A key matchup within this one will be Sean McVay’s offense going up against this dominant San Francisco defense. The 49ers are second in the league with 269.0 yards allowed-per-game and are tied for fourth with 18.4 points allowed-per-game. This will prove to be a tough task for Rams quarterback Jared Goff, who’s thrown for 3,996 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 15 picks through 14 games this season.

If the Rams lose this one, they’ll be without a postseason berth for the first time since the 2016 season. During that campaign, they finished third in the division with a 4-12 record in their first season back in Los Angeles.

Steelers (8-6) at Jets (5-9) – Sun, Dec. 22, 1:00 p.m. ET

There are a few reasons to tune into this game, even if the Jets are 5-9 and eliminated from playoff contention. For one, the Steelers absolutely need a win if they want to end up with a postseason berth. At 8-6, they’re currently the six seed in the AFC playoffs. The Titans also possess an 8-6 record, with Pittsburgh holding the tie-breaker at the moment.

Therefore, this game and the Week 17 matchup with Baltimore are both huge for the Steelers when it comes to January football.

The other aspect that makes this matchup important is that it’s Le’Veon Bell‘s first game against his former team. The current Jets running back hasn’t played for the Steelers since the 2017 campaign, sitting out all of last year due to a contract dispute. Thus far in his inaugural season with New York, Bell is struggling. He’s rushed for 676 yards on a 3.3 yards-per-carry rate with just three rushing touchdowns through 13 games.

Despite his on-field issues, Pittsburgh knows what Bell is about and will have to contain him if they want to steal this game from the Jets.

Saints (11-3) at Titans (8-6) – Sun, Dec. 22, 1:00 p.m. ET

Tennessee still has the chance to win the AFC South division. If the Texans lose to the Buccaneers on Saturday and then Tennessee defeats the Saints this Sunday, the Titans will be playing for the division in Week 17. Both Tennessee and Houston will be 9-6 heading into what would be the AFC South championship against each other. Essentially, the Titans have to win-out and the Texans have to lose-out for Tennessee to win the AFC South.

The Titans could also clinch a Wild Card spot. Right now, they have the same record (8-6) as the Steelers, who would be the six seed if the season were to end right now. The Steelers would need to lose out, the Titans win at least one more game, and the Texans to win at least one more game for Tennessee to clinch the six seed.

Here’s where it becomes tricky though. Say the Steelers lose-out and so do the Titans. Then, the Titans would actually make it in over Pittsburgh due to the fourth tie-breaker: strength of schedule. If the Steelers, Titans, and Texans all win-out, the Texans would win the AFC South and the Steelers would clinch the Wild Card due to having a better conference record than Tennessee.

Therefore, the Titans are not only focusing on themselves but also how both Pittsburgh and Houston will end up over these next few weeks.

Cowboys (7-7) at Eagles (7-7) – Sun, Dec. 22, 4:25 p.m. ET

It’s arguably the game of the week and the essential NFC East championship. Both the Cowboys and Eagles are 7-7 heading into the most meaningful 2019 regular-season game for either team.

If the Cowboys take this game, they would win the NFC East for the second year in a row. They could still finish 8-8, but if Philly also finishes 8-8, Dallas would hold the tie-breaker due to beating them twice. If the Eagles want to win the division, they would need to win against the Cowboys and then against the Giants the following Sunday afternoon.

If the Eagles beat the Cowboys, but then lose the following week while the Cowboys win, both would end up 8-8. So what happens then? The head-to-head record would then be 1-1, so you’d have to go to the next tie-breaker, which would be division record. In that case, the Cowboys would take the division, due to having a 5-1 record in the NFC East compared to Philly’s 4-2.

Needless to say, this is a game most football fans will be tuning into this Sunday. Time could be running out if you’re the Eagles.

Chiefs (10-4) at Bears (7-7) – Sun, Dec. 22, 8:20 p.m. ET

Just one year after winning the NFC North, the Bears have been eliminated from playoff contention. It was a disappointing season for the whole organization, but especially for quarterback Mitch Trubisky. The third-year pro has thrown for 2,774 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 10 picks, currently possessing a 7-6 record in games in which he’s started.

Even though Chicago won’t be playing football in January, Trubisky may be playing for his job these next two weeks. Many don’t believe the former No. 2 overall pick is the answer for the Bears at the quarterback position. Mitch is looking to prove those people wrong and show in the final pair of weeks that he deserves to be the longterm solution at that spot.

As for the Chiefs, they’re just one game behind the two-seeded Patriots. There’s a chance they could still lock up a first-round bye, but multiple things will need to happen in these last two weeks. This includes the Pats losing to the Bills this Saturday and Kansas City winning-out. If the Pats win their Week 16 matchup, the Chiefs could still clinch a bye by winning-out and the Ravens losing their last two games or the Pats losing their Week 17 game. Either way, Kansas City needs to win each of their final two matchups, and that starts this weekend against the Bears.

Packers (11-3) at Vikings (10-4) – Mon, Dec. 23, 8:15 p.m. ET

The Vikings are the six seed in the NFC playoffs at the moment. Nonetheless, they still have a chance to win their division. They would need to win out while the Packers lose-out, which can only be possible if Minnesota steals this primetime game from Green Bay.

The one way Minnesota can miss the playoffs is if they lose their last two games and the Rams do the opposite. Los Angeles is currently 8-6.

Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has had a great season, throwing for 3,481 yards, 25 touchdowns, and five picks. If Minnesota wants to win this game, Cousins will have to take advantage of this Packers secondary, who’s 22nd in the league with 250.4 passing yards allowed-per-game.

In the first meeting between these two teams back in Week 2, Cousins only completed 14 of his 32 throws for 230 yards, one touchdown, and two picks.

Aaron Rodgers, on the other hand, will be looking to continue his statistically efficient season. He’s thrown for 3,463 yards, 24 touchdowns, and two picks, as the Packers will need a win en route to clinching a first-round bye. They additionally still have a chance to clinch the top seed in the conference.

Week 16 Predictions (In bold) (All Times ET)

  • Sat, Dec. 21, 1:00 p.m. – Texans (9-5) at Buccaneers (7-7)
  • Sat, Dec. 21, 4:30 p.m. – Bills (10-4) at Patriots (11-3)
  • Sat, Dec. 21, 8:15 p.m. – Rams (8-6) at 49ers (11-3)
  • Sun Dec. 22, 1:00 p.m. – Jaguars (5-9) at Falcons (5-9)
  • Sun Dec. 22, 1:00 p.m. – Ravens (12-2) at Browns (6-8)
  • Sun Dec. 22, 1:00 p.m. – Panthers (5-9) at Colts (6-8)
  • Sun Dec. 22, 1:00 p.m. – Bengals (1-13) at Dolphins (3-11)
  • Sun Dec. 22, 1:00 p.m. – Steelers (8-6) at Jets (5-9)
  • Sun Dec. 22, 1:00 p.m. – Saints (11-3) at Titans (8-6)
  • Sun Dec. 22, 1:00 p.m. – Giants (3-11) at Redskins (3-11)
  • Sun Dec. 22, 4:05 p.m. – Lions (3-10-1) at Broncos (5-9)
  • Sun Dec. 22, 4:05 p.m. – Raiders (6-8) at Chargers (5-9)
  • Sun Dec. 22, 4:25 p.m. – Cowboys (7-7) at Eagles (7-7)
  • Sun Dec. 22, 4:25 p.m. – Cardinals (4-9-1) at Seahawks (11-3)
  • Sun Dec. 22, 8:20 p.m. – Chiefs (10-4) at Bears (7-7)
  • Mon Dec. 23, 8:15 p.m. – Packers (11-3) at Vikings (10-4)

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