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 1 p.m. slot last Sunday featured the best group of simultaneous(-ish) finishes in recent memory. When the drab matchups of Week 15 blossom into drabber games, make sure to think back fondly on those memories. Here are you NFL viewing maps:
Buffalo at Jacksonville: The Colts and Titans both lost last week, inching the AFC South closer to a dubious distinction: second-worst NFL division all of time (well, tied). The division's teams need to win at least one of their four remaining non-division games to avoid the dishonor, and—shockingly—this game might be their best bet (the other three remaining are Titans vs. Cardinals, Texans vs. Broncos, and Colts at Chiefs).
Houston at Indianapolis: Pulling off the same bullshit as they did last year, the Colts lead their division by a safe margin despite having a negative point differential. They'll face a tough challenge this week in a surging Randy Bullock, who's connected on his last eight field goals to finally get his conversion over 70 percent.
NY Jets at Carolina: In 2012, Drew Brees and Tony Romo tied for the NFL lead with 19 interceptions, but they threw for 43 and 28 touchdowns apiece. Geno Smith already has 20 picks with three games to go, and is yet to throw his 10th touchdown. The Panthers are favored by 10 points.
Kansas City at Oakland: Even with the surprising loss to the Chargers on Thursday, the Broncos are still firmly in control of the AFC West (they hold tiebreak over the Chiefs, with just the Texans and Raiders remaining). Expect a boring, low-scoring victory for the Chiefs, just like the last time these two teams played.
New England at Miami: The Pats have won three straight, including two games that they had absolutely no business winning. Miami hasn't been as dramatic in the last few weeks, but it has quietly separated itself from the mess of teams in the middle of the mediocre AFC and is now playing against just San Diego and Baltimore for the last spot. Vegas has this one as a coin flip.
Washington at Atlanta: The Falcons are six-point favorites over the Redskins, which is just so, so sad.
Chicago at Cleveland: The Bears are switching back to Jay Cutler, despite Josh McCown's sterling performance in his five starts (66 percent completion, 309 yards per game, 11 TD/1 INT). Of course, those starts came against the 30th-, 28th-, 24th-, 18th-, and 11th-ranked passing defenses in the NFL, with his worst game—just 216 yards and a 64.8 QBR—coming against that last team, the Ravens.
Seattle at NY Giants; San Francisco at Tampa Bay: Two good teams, playing for playoff seed and byes, travel to face tw0 bad teams, whose disappointing seasons are effectively over. Classic end-of-the-year "Meh."
Philadelphia at Minnesota: Of all the bad teams in the NFL this season, the Minnesota Vikings by far have been the most exciting. In their last six games, they've blown fourth-quarter leads on drives starting with 2:44, 2:27, and 0:45 remaining. They haven't been held under 20 points since before Halloween, and Toby Gerhart—making a case that he's secretly the second-best running back in the NFL—is averaging a ridiculous 7.9 yards per attempt on 36 carries this season.
Green Bay at Dallas: No Aaron Rodgers again this week; since he went down the Packers have gone 1-4-1 and have averaged 17.3 points per game. Nevertheless, they find themselves within a game of leading their mediocre division. The Cowboys are in the same boat, but don't have the same "our star QB broke his collarbone" excuse to explain their recent performance.
New Orleans at St. Louis: The Saints are in control of the second seed in the NFC, but they've struggled on the road this season, going 3-3 with a -22-point differential. For what it's worth, those three away losses came outdoors in Seattle, New England, and New York. Brees may have better luck in the Edward Jones Dome.
Arizona at Tennessee: Just a reminder that the best rookie defensive player in the league—who just destroyed his ACL and LCL—got a third of the guaranteed money he'd typically have been owed because he smoked weed in college.
This weeks winner is Columbus, Ga., which gets stuck with NY Jets at Carolina, Washington at Atlanta, and New Orleans at St. Louis. Between the terrible seasons of the Texans, Jaguars, Buccaneers, Falcons, and Redskins, the so-so seasons of the Titans, Rams, and Dolphins, and the Cowboyish season of the Cowboys, it's been a rough year for the NFL fans in the South. Columbus gets the title this week only because I don't want to repeat winners; Savannah's schedule is arguably worse.