With just four weeks left in the NFL regular season (and even fewer in the Fantasy season), there’s still a ton of playoff uncertainty. 30 of the NFL’s 32 teams are still alive for a playoff spot, and with tight divisional races and a logjam of teams with a 6-7 or 7-6 record, it’s shaping up for an exciting finish to the regular season.
While many of these races will likely come down to the final week of the season in January, we could start to get a bit of clarity beginning this weekend. Week 15 features a tripleheader of games on NFL Network, and all three of them have major implications on the hunt for the playoffs. Here’s a look at all three games on Saturday, Dec. 16.
Not a DISH subscriber? Follow this link to find the best offer and subscribe to DISH today!
Minnesota Vikings (7-6) at Cincinnati Bengals (7-6) 1pm ET
The Vikings have been streaky this season; they lost four of their first five games before rebounding for a five-game win streak, which was followed by back-to-back losses. They rebounded in Week 14 with a win over the Las Vegas Raiders, but only managed to score one field goal in a 3-0 victory, just the second 3-0 game played in the last 30 years (in other words, this was not an inspiring win).
Like the Vikings, who lost Kirk Cousins to an Achilles injury in Week 8, the Bengals are dealing with a season-ending injury to their star quarterback, Joe Burrow. But unlike Minnesota’s inconsistent backups, Jake Browning has been playing at a high level for Cincinnati. Browning led his team to a very impressive road win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Monday Night Football, then followed it up with an even more impressive victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. Although both teams are 7-6, the Vikings are currently the No. 6 seed in the NFC, while the Bengals are on the outside looking in. One way or another, this game could seal the fate of both teams this season.
Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6) at Indianapolis Colts (7-6) 4:30pm ET
Although they still remain inside the playoff window, both of these teams are coming off bad losses in Week 14. The Steelers, who started backup QB Mitch Trubisky due to an injury to Kenny Pickett (who will also be out for Week 15), dropped a home game to the woeful New England Patriots, while the Colts caught a beatdown from the surging Bengals. Despite their winning records, both teams are enigmatic; the Steelers have wins over the Ravens, Packers, and Bengals to go with home losses to the Pats and Cardinals; while the Colts have victories over Baltimore and Houston. That makes this game exceptionally difficult to predict, but it also makes it a must-watch, as the playoff implications are massive for not only these teams, but the rest of the AFC playoff field.
Denver Broncos (7-6) at Detroit Lions (9-4) 8:15pm ET
The final game of the tripleheader features two teams heading in opposite directions. After a dreadful 1-5 start that included a 50-point loss to the Miami Dolphins, the Broncos have rebounded sharply. Denver has now won 6-of-7 games, including wins over five teams currently in the postseason. The Orange Crush defense has been the driver, and on Sunday, they dominated the LA Chargers to the tune of six sacks and two turnovers, while holding the Chargers to 1-of-18 on 3rd and 4th down conversions. Hard as it is to believe, the Broncos are now just one game back of Kansas City in the AFC West, and a division title is very much in-play.
Conversely, the 9-4 Lions have lost two-of-three and are desperately trying to hold onto a divisional lead that seemed insurmountable after they raced out to a 8-2 start. Detroit’s once solid defense has betrayed them during the slide, as the Lions have surrendered more than 25-points in their last five games. Detroit has the Dallas Cowboys sandwiched between a pair of Vikings games to close out the regular season, so Saturday is an important test for a team in search of its first playoff win since 1991.