There are some huge games on the NFL Week 16 slate this Sunday, and we’re taking a dive into the players who will determine the outcomes.
While the Saturday games play out, here’s a look at the X-factors for the four biggest games on Sunday.
New Orleans Saints vs. Tennessee Titans
X-factor: Ryan Tannehill
The Titans are in the playoff hunt because Ryan Tannehill has been really good this year since replacing Marcus Mariota.
The Titans have to keep winning Sunday against a red-hot Saints team, however, to keep their playoff vibe going strong.
Drew Brees is as on the money right now as any player in the league. Chances are, this game is going to come down to whether Tannehill can beat Brees in a shootout.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New York Jets
X-factor: James Conner
With Devlin Hodges coming off his worst game as a pro (four interceptions last week), the Steelers will almost certainly rely more on James Conner Sunday against the New York Jets than any other player on offense.
The third-year back was used sparingly last weekend in his first action since re-injuring his shoulder, touching the ball 13 times for 51 yards. He’ll need to be a lot more productive against a good Jets defense if the Steelers are going to get back on the winning track and make the playoffs.
Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles
X-factor: Greg Ward Jr.
Here’s how desperate the Eagles are for production at the receiver position: They have just two healthy wide receivers on the roster heading into Sunday’s huge game against the Cowboys that will likely decide the NFC East.
The good news is that the team’s recent rash of injuries at this critical position has led to Greg Ward Jr. coming into prominence. The past two weeks, he’s been targeted by Carson Wentz 18 times, catching 11 passes for 95 yards and a touchdown.
If the Eagles are going to make a playoff run here, Ward will need to continue showing out.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Chicago Bears
X-factor: Mitchell Trubisky
Sunday night’s game features only one playoff contender, but the Bears really have some big decisions to make this offseason. The game against the Chiefs should help provide some clarity. Young quarterback Mitchell Trubisky will be on the spot going against the great Patrick Mahomes, who was drafted eight spots after Trubisky three years ago.
Kansas City is still fighting for a first-round bye and will be playing as if it were already in the playoffs. Whether Trubisky can do enough to keep Chicago’s offense in this game will be a question that could have lasting ramifications.