A little less than a month ago I released an article on the massive Week 16 schedule the NFL had put together to be played over the Christmas period. It includes games on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, the 27th and 28th of December. What more could we ask for, Christmas and football, you love to see it. Today I’m going to talk you through three key Week 16 matchups.
Week 16 – Friday 25th December – Minnesota @ New Orleans – Sky Sports, FOX, and Prime Video – 21:30 GMT 16:30 ET
Christmas Day sees another cracker between the New Orleans Saints and Minnesota Vikings. There’s always drama when these sides meet, especially this time of year. Two of the Saints’ past three playoff campaigns have been ended by Mike Zimmer’s Vikings in spectacular fashion. In January 2018 the Minnesota Miracle sparked an immense rivalry in the NFC, with Stefon Diggs last-second touchdown eliminating Drew Brees and co from the Playoffs. Then earlier this year they achieved the same feat, again defeating the odds on the last play of the game that time with a controversial Kyle Rudolph TD.
Moving on to Christmas Day, and Week 16, the 6-8 Vikings are still just about in the Playoff race but will need to win out, so they’ll be looking to be a thorn in the 10-4 Saints quest for the Number 1 seed in the NFC. In order for Minnesota to make the postseason, not only will they have to beat the Saints, but also the Lions next week, ensuring that the Bears and Cardinals lose their next two.
Week 16 – Saturday 26th / Sunday 27th December – Miami @ Las Vegas – Sky Sports, NFL Network – 20:25 ET 01:25 GMT
You don’t have to wait much longer for the next key matchup, as December 26th (Boxing Day here in the UK) gives us a key game in the AFC playoff race. In order for the Miami Dolphins to guarantee themselves a playoff berth, they have to win these next two games. If not, they’re relying on the Ravens or Browns to lose one or two. That starts with their Week 16 fixture at the 7-7 Las Vegas Raiders.
Vegas will be looking to spoil the 9-5 Dolphins party in this game as day by day it’s looking less likely that they’ll be playing January football. Depending on whether Raiders Quarterback Derek Carr is able to return from his groin injury, history could be made. If the Raiders’ backup Marcus Mariota is to start, we will have two Polynesian quarterbacks starting a game for the first time ever. He and Tua Tagovailoa, the Dolphins Rookie QB, are from Hawaii and are of Samoan descent. The pair even went to the same school.
Week 16 – Sunday 27th December – Indianapolis @ Pittsburgh – Sky Sports, CBS – 18:00 GMT 13:00 ET
The Sunday of Week 16 is also a cracker. The 10-4 Indianapolis Colts will visit the now 11-3 Pittsburgh Steelers, who have lost three in a row, in a vital face-off that will prove pivotal to the AFC playoff seeding. Indy currently occupies the sixth seed, whilst Pittsburgh has the third. The Steelers offense has looked abysmal the past month or so, which is interesting when you look at some of the weapons they have. Ben Roethlisberger went 1/13 on deep passes on Monday Night, showing that his arm could be dying.
They’ve hit a rough patch, and don’t look like getting back there any time soon. The defense is no longer number 1 in the league and is missing a few key pieces. The Colts on the other hand have hit form at just the right time. They too have an aging quarterback however, so both are in win-now mode.
Tennessee and Baltimore also have humongous games against the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants respectively. All four of these teams could be playing January Football.