Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5) at Buffalo Bills (6-6)
Huge intradivisional matchup here. The Steelers spun a four-game losing streak into the three-game winning streak they’re riding right now. They start a two-game road run facing a middle-of-the-road Buffalo squad.
Pittsburgh’s square in the mix of the AFC playoff push with a 7-5 Baltimore Ravens team leading the AFC North, a Baltimore team that will be on the road on Monday Night Football to deal with the 10-2 New England Patriots. A win for Pittsburgh could push them into the division lead.
For Buffalo, they’ve got to win to keep them on course. They’re behind both the 6-6 Indianapolis Colts as well as the Tennessee Titans holding the same record on various tiebreakers. A loss would make their path to the postseason nearly impossible.
Denver Broncos (8-4) at Tennessee Titans (6-6)
The problem for the Broncos is that the AFC West is the best division in football. At 8-4, they’d be in first place in three divisions and maybe four if they had the tiebreaker edge in against the Detroit Lions in this hypothetical alternate dimension. Instead in the AFC West, they’re in third place looking up at two 10-3 teams in the Kansas City Chiefs or Oakland Raiders. With the Steelers and the Miami Dolphins sitting at 7-5 below the Broncos in the playoff picture, they’re under pressure to keep up.
The Titans, on the other hand, are in a trio of 6-6 AFC South leaders along with the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts. The two losers among the three are all but certain to fall below the playoff threshold. Holding home field will be vital if they want to try to claim that division lead.
Washington Footballmen (6-5-1) at Philadelphia Eagles (5-7)
The 11-1 Dallas Cowboys rule the roost in the NFC East. Can either of the division’s alternates find a path to the wild card? Washington has perhaps the easier schedule, but the entire conference is up for grabs beyond the Cowboys. It’s all about December football to decide things on the NFC side.
Arizona Cardinals (5-6-1) at Miami Dolphins (7-5)
I’m not sure there’s a more disappointing team than the Cardinals in 2016 (maybe the Carolina Panthers, but give me like 50 words to get there). There are plenty worse. But for all their talent, they’ve come up short against the Bills, Los Angeles Rams, Panthers and Minnesota Vikings. Even if they do find their form for the final quarter of the season, it might well be too late with losses to teams like those.
Miami had a six-game win streak snapped last week. That put them in the mix, but with the Patriots atop the AFC East at 10-2, the Dolphins are playing for a wild card slot. A loss today would make that pretty difficult.
San Diego Chargers (5-7) at Carolina Panthers (4-8)
No thanks. But yeah, the Panthers are in that Most Disappointing Team running with the Cards. Sure, five of the losses have been by three points or less (compare that to the Rams’ two losses among their eight of three points or less), but those are the margins in the 2016 NFL.
Cincinnati Bengals (4-7-1) at Cleveland Browns (0-12)
And now the Bengals join the MDT race. No doubt they’re looking at a confusing stage in the franchise arc, especially after re-signing QB Andy Dalton to that megadeal two years ago that keeps him a Bengal through the 2020 season. After five straight playoff appearances and five straight immediate exits in the wild card round, you have to wonder if Head Coach Marvin Lewis is coaching these last four games to keep his job.
Chicago Bears (3-9) at Detroit Lions (8-4)
The Bears are ready to turn things over. QB Jay Cutler has undergone shoulder surgery and is done for 2016. His career as a Bear might be over. HC John Fox is already facing job insecurity before even completing his second season. And with all of the injuries, there’s a ton of work to do just to get ready for 2017.
The Lions are atop the NFC North with a comfortable spacer between them and the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers, both at 6-6. There’s no excuse for them not to mop things up today and all but ensure their division title.
Houston Texans (6-6) at Indianapolis Colts (6-6)
With the Titans’ hands full with the Broncos today, the winner here might go into Week 15 in the lead in the AFC South. For a game featuring two teams without a winning record in Week 14, this could be very entertaining.
Minnesota Vikings (6-6) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10)
QB Sam Bradford and the Vikings have squandered their 5-0 start. Now at .500, they need a win given the circumstances.
The question is if they’ll face any resistance. Head Coach Gus Bradley is certain not to be around next season. Are the players up for a fight down the stretch?