Two weeks left until the end of the regular season. Playoff positioning in the line. Bitter rivals facing off. NFL Week 16 has it all.
Here, we dive into the biggest NFL games in Week 16, and more specifically which questions will have the biggest bearing on the outcomes once the answers are found.
Bills vs. Patriots: Can Josh Allen outplay Tom Brady?
The New England Patriots are suddenly vulnerable due to Tom Brady and the offense, which has been rather lackluster in 2019. The Bills could have beaten New England earlier this season due to their defense holding the Pats to just 16 points. However, in that game second-year quarterback Josh Allen had his worst outing of the season, completing well under half his passes while throwing three interceptions.
If Allen can continue the strong play he’s put on tape in recent weeks and avoids those big mistakes, the Bills can absolutely win Saturday in Foxborough.
Steelers vs. Jets: Will Devlin Hodges bounce back?
The Pittsburgh Steelers have done the unthinkable and are still alive in the AFC for a playoff spot, thanks to a dominant defense and superb game management by head coach Mike Tomlin. Yet as we saw in Week 15, the team’s situation at quarterback is tenuous, at best.
Devlin Hodges is coming off a four-interception game against Buffalo and has to bounce back fast if the Steelers are going to avoid a late-season skid. New York is no slouch right now and has a defense that can take advantage of a poor outing from the undrafted rookie.
Rams vs. 49ers: Can SF avoid the late-season slide?
Heading into last weekend’s game against Atlanta, the San Francisco 49ers had endured the toughest late-season stretch in NFL history and came away from it with a 2-1 record. The toll those games took on the franchise led to half the team’s starting defensive lineup being out for the Falcons game, and then the 49ers lost a heart breaker when Julio Jones scored at the last second.
The team’s Week 16 opponent is no slouch. The Los Angeles Rams are coming off a bad loss but strung together three wins out of their previous four games. With an offense that is capable of putting up points in bunches and a defense that’s coming on strong, the Rams can definitely sink the 49ers Saturday night if Jimmy Garoppolo and Co. aren’t sharp.
Saints vs. Titans: Can anyone get to Drew Brees?
Drew Brees is coming off one of the best two-game stretches in NFL history. He racked up 350 yards and six touchdowns in a narrow loss to San Francisco, then followed that up with a record-breaking performance for the ages Monday night against the Indianapolis Colts.
One common theme for Brees of late is that he’s getting superb protection. Opposing teams have exactly zero sacks on Brees in New Orleans’ last three games. Tennessee has a strong defensive front and can bring pressure. But so did the 49ers two weeks ago. The Saints have an outstanding offensive line, and if the Titans can’t crack the code and get to Brees, they won’t win.
Cowboys vs. Eagles: Is Dak Prescott healthy enough?
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott has an injury to his throwing shoulder that head coach Jason Garrett said made it hard for him to function this week. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones — ever the optimist — thinks Prescott will have a huge game Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Despite Jones’ outward confidence, you have to imagine there’s a lot of upset stomachs in Dallas’ front office right now. A loss to the Eagles Sunday could doom Dallas to another lost season, as Philly would take a one-game lead in the division with one game left to play.
Needless to say, if Prescott isn’t healthy, the Cowboys will be hard pressed to hold onto their tenuous position atop the NFC East.
Packers vs. Vikings: Can GB protect Aaron Rodgers?
The final “Monday Night Football” game of the 2019 NFL season is a doozy, as the Green Bay Packers will be in Minneapolis for an NFC North rivalry game against the Minnesota Vikings. The first matchup of the season between these teams saw Aaron Rodgers outplay Kirk Cousins as the Packers won a close one by five points, 21-16.
The Vikings did get to Rodgers, however, hitting him nine times and logging two sacks. The veteran had to settle for shorter throws and averaged just 6.1 yards per attempt. Given how Minnesota’s offense has gotten better since early in the season, Rodgers may need to have a bigger impact on Monday’s game to vault the Packers over their rival and claim the NFC North.