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.
While there's still a bunch of pointless football to slog through this week, tight finishes in the NFC East, NFC North, and AFC Wildcard are keeping Week 16 interesting this season, and eight playoff spots remain unclinched. Unless some truly crazy shit goes down, it seems very likely that a bunch of those spots will be clinched by the time Tuesday rolls around, so enjoy the exciting games while you can! Here are you NFL viewing maps:
Tennessee at Jacksonville and Cleveland at NY Jets: Meaningless Week 16 football between teams that are not particularly fun to watch (Josh Gordon excluded).
Miami at Buffalo: The Bills have had a rough reason but they've been strong at home, posting a 3-3 record and taking the Chiefs, Patriots, and Bengals down to the wire in their losses. The forecast calls for a nice December rain, so expect a slow, ugly game in a very important matchup for the Dolphins.
Denver at Houston: The first seed in the AFC is Denver's for the taking, as long as they don't blow easy matchups against Houston and Oakland. They won't. This game gets a "Meh" instead of an "Unwatchable" because there's a decent chance that Peyton Manning will tie, and maybe beat, Tom Brady's single-season record of 50 touchdown passes, which is apparently enough to put it on most of the country's TVs.
Indianapolis at Kansas City: We've been tracking this the last couple of weeks, but Week 16 features the last non-divisional games of the season, and a couple divisions have a chance to make history. If the Colts lose this game—and the Texans lose to the Broncos—the AFC South will end up with a .359 winning percentage, tied with the 2008 AFC West for second-worst in NFL history.
Oakland at San Diego: Even with their huge upset over Denver, the Chargers still need a lot of help to make the playoffs. Specifically, they need the Ravens and Dolphins to lose the rest of their games. There's a very good chance they'll be eliminated either before this game starts or right as it ends, but on the plus side, they should run ragged over a Raiders defense that's allowed 35 points per game (!) over its last seven.
Pittsburgh at Green Bay: The Steelers are hanging by an even thinner thread than the Chargers, but the Packers suddenly find themselves right back in a close race for the NFC North. With no Aaron Rodgers, and a Steelers offense that just lost to a team that only kicked field goals, I can't see this game being too watchable, though.
New England at Baltimore: Justin Tucker has kicked 35 field goals this season. Stephen Gostkowski has kicked 32. That's good for number one and number two in the NFL, making this the ultimate kicking showdown in a game sure to feature a lot of great kicks.
Tampa Bay at St. Louis: The flip side of the AFC South: If the Rams pull off this win— and the 49ers beat the Falcons on Monday night—the NFC West will finish with a .656 winning percentage, putting them in a tie for best division of all time. That's about all this game has going for it, so don't blow it, St. Louis.
Minnesota at Cincinnati: After last season's MVP Adrian Peterson went down, and Toby Gerhart and his ridiculous 7.9 yards per carry went down, the Vikings third-string running back scored three touchdowns last week, which means it's time for you to go actually learn the names of their offensive linemen.
Arizona at Seattle: You've got to feel for the Cardinals, who hold the fifth-best record in the NFC after a disastrous 2012-13, but will probably miss the playoffs anyways. This is still a meaningful game for the Seahawks, who are likely the best team in the NFL, and certainly the best when they're playing at home. Seattle's getting a 10-point spread against a 9-5 opponent, which is pretty ridiculous.
NY Giants at Detroit and Dallas at Washington: The Lions and Cowboys desperately need wins, and threw away huge opportunities last week in tough matchups that they probably should have won. Now they both get easy match-ups that they really should win, but who the fuck knows with these guys?
New Orleans at Carolina: The Saints handled the Panthers pretty easily in their last matchup, but the Saints also suck on the road, as illustrated by their Week 15 meltdown against the Rams. The winner will almost certainly take the NFC South and a first-round bye, since these guys face the Bucs and Falcons next week, and the Bucs and Falcons suck.
Who's Getting Screwed?
This week's winner is Richmond, Ind., which gets Cleveland at NY Jets, Pittsburgh at Green Bay, and Minnesota at Cincinnati. Richmond roots Colts—like pretty much all of Indiana—but the city is victimized by the awkward border-drawing of the Dayton media market. This means that Lynn, Ind., just 20 minutes north of Richmond, gets Indianapolis at Kansas City, New England at Baltimore, and NY Giants at Detroit—a significantly better slate.