A guide to the best and worst of the NFL slate (and to which fans are stuck with the most of the worst). Maps via 506sports.com.
The last few minutes of Steelers-Ravens ended up being the most exciting/horrific piece of action from a weak slate of Thanksgiving games, which saw the Lions rout the Packers and the Raiders, after going up 21-7 in the second, disappear offensively until the game's final, meaningless drive. Here's hoping the Sunday afternoon games will be better. Your NFL viewing maps are below:
Jacksonville at Cleveland: Through eight games the Jaguars had been outscored by 178 points, a -22.25-point average margin that was well ahead of both the single-season record (-20.5, 1976 Bucs) and the 16-game single-season record (-17.1, 1981 Colts). With a measly -4 margin in its last three games—and two wins!—Jacksonville now sits at -16.5, and is at risk of losing both its place in history and its first overall draft pick.
New England at Houston: The Texans lost to the Jaguars last week in a game in which 19 points were scored, tied for the lowest scoring game of the season. I have no idea why this is the national broadcast.
Miami at NY Jets: After a decent-ish start, Geno Smith has fulfilled his Jets destiny and transformed into the worst QB in the NFL. In his last six games, he's completed 50.3 percent of his passes for 938 yards (156 per game), one touchdown, and 10 interceptions, while averaging 3.4 yards per rush with five fumbles. Football Outsiders gives him a net QB DYAR (defense-adjusted yards above replacement) of -522, lowest in the league by a wide margin.
Tennessee at Indianapolis: Blowouts to the Cardinals and Rams (by a combined 59 points) have the 7-4 Colts sitting on a +3 point differential for the season, worse than that of the 5-6 Titans (+5). Didn't matter last year, when the Colts somehow went 11-5 with a -30 differential. Over the last two seasons , the Colts' nine losses have had an average margin of -17.7 points, while 14 of their 18 wins have come by a touchdown or less.
Denver at Kansas City: A loss in Denver in Week 11 proved that the Chiefs weren't unbeatable, and loss to San Diego in Week 12 proved that they weren't unbeatable at home. The Chargers loss is especially tough for Kansas City; the Chiefs are now 1-2 in AFC West play, meaning that, even with a big home win this week, they'll likely need to win out to take home the division title and a first-round bye.
Cincinnati at San Diego: The Cincy defense continues to be about as rigid without Geno Atkins (288 yards and 20.7 points per game) as it was with him (323 yards and 18.0 points). The San Diego offense is a lot better than Miami's, Baltimore's, and Cleveland's, though, and with the Ravens now sitting at 6-6, this is a game that Cincinnati would really like to come away with.
Atlanta at Buffalo: The Atlanta Falcons were officially eliminated from playoff contention last Sunday, the first casualty of the NFL season. The Bills aren't in great shape, either; they need to leapfrog nearly half the AFC to make it in.
Chicago at Minnesota: Josh McCown has been outstanding for the Bears in Cutler's absence, completing 66 percent of his passes for 7.5 yards per attempt, seven touchdowns, and one interception. Now he gets to face a Minnesota defense that's allowing 31.5 points (worst in the league) and 282 passing yards (fourth-worst) per game.
Tampa Bay at Carolina: This could have been a very different season for Tampa Bay, which got jobbed by a bad penalty against the Jets in Week 1 and blew late leads to the Saints, Cardinals, and Seahawks in Weeks 2, 4, and 9. After three straight wins the Buccaneers now sit at 3-8, four games out of the NFC wild card with five to play.
St. Louis at San Francisco: Despite their continued reliance on Kellen Clemens, the Rams absolutely stomped the Colts and Bears in back-to-back games, winning 38-8 and 42-21. In the AFC their 5-6 record would put them safely in the playoff hunt, but with the 49ers and Cardinals sitting at 7-4 in the much more competitive NFC, not to mention the Bears and Eagles at 6-5, this game is a must-win for St. Louis.
Arizona at Philadelphia: All right, it's time to get serious about the 7-4 Cardinals. Their defense has been fantastic as expected—Football Outsiders ranks them second in defense efficiency, up from sixth in 2012—but the real gains have come on the offensive side of the ball. With young standouts Michael Floyd and Andre Ellington leading the team in yards from scrimmage, Arizona is averaging 334 yards per game, which is good for 16th in the NFL. Last season the Cardinals were last in the league at 263 yards per game, 36 fewer yards than the next closest team, and 20 fewer yards than this year's Jaguars.
Who's Getting Screwed?
This week's winner is Erie, Pa., which took the crown last year as the most screwed city in the entire country. This week, Erie—which roots for the Steelers—gets to watch Jacksonville at Cleveland, Cincinnati at San Diego, and Atlanta at Buffalo. Bengals-Chargers is a pretty good game, but not as good as the Broncos-Chiefs match-up that the rest of the country gets to watch. The other two games are trash.