Miles Austin and the Cowboys were thumped in Chicago last Monday. Credit: Getty Images
With the exception of a handful of matchups, Week 15 in the NFL is “spoiler week.”
Fourteen of the 16 games on the slate this weekend do have playoff implications but the majority of the 14 involve non-playoff teams trying to hurt the postseason chances or the playoff positioning of the league’s top tier.
Here are some of the more important NFL showdowns to watch in the coming days:
Patriots at Dolphins (Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS) The 7-6 Dolphins will likely have to make the playoffs as a wild card as the 10-3 Patriots have all but conquered the AFC East once again. The 7-6 Ravens currently own the final playoff spot in the AFC over Miami thanks to a 26-23 win over the ’Fins in Week 5. But Miami has won four of its last six, with wins over the Bengals, Chargers, Jets and Steelers. The Dolphins also nearly took down the Panthers in Week 12, so it’s clear they’re peaking at the right time.
Packers at Cowboys (Sunday, 4:25 p.m., FOX) It’s put-up or shut-up time for the 6-6-1 Packers, who are clinging to life in the NFC North. Whether or not Aaron Rodgers factors into Green Bay’s last gasp remains a mystery as he reportedly took snaps with the first-team offense this week at practice but has not yet been medically cleared to play in an actual game. Cowboys QB Tony Romo, meanwhile, is already bombing on the December stage. He threw for just 104 yards in last Monday night’s blowout loss to the Bears in Chicago. But this game is in the Jerry Dome, where the Cowboys have been nearly unbeatable this season. Their lone loss in Arlington this season was that memorable 51-48 shootout against Peyton Manning and the Broncos Oct. 6.
Ravens at Lions (Monday, 8:40 p.m., ESPN) Ravens QB Joe Flacco boosted his “clutch” resume in that wild 29-26 Baltimore win over the Vikings. But it’s not as if Flacco has been lighting the world on fire. He threw three interceptions and had a 64.2 QB rating in the win over Minnesota. In fact, Flacco’s had just one game this season in which he’s had a QB rating over 100 (for reference, Ben Roethlisberger has five this season and Peyton Manning has eight). If Flacco can’t find a way to solve a Lions team that ranks 25th overall in pass defense, then the Ravens won’t likely have an opportunity to defend their crown this January/February.
A look at several other important games this weekend: • Bengals at Steelers (Sunday, 8:30 p.m., NBC) • Eagles at Vikings (Sunday, 1 p.m.., FOX) • Bears at Browns (Sunday, 1 p.m., FOX) • Texans at Colts (Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS) • 49ers at Bucs (Sunday, 1 p.m., FOX) • Jets at Panthers (Sunday, 4:05 p.m., CBS) • Cardinals at Titans (Sunday, 4:25 p.m., FOX) • Saints at Rams (Sunday, 4:25 p.m., FOX) • Chiefs at Raiders (Sunday, 4:05 p.m., CBS)