Three games left.

That’s all.

For some teams, it’s a chance to make up ground in the post-season hunt, while for others, it’s a chance to look at what they have in the cupboard for next year.

4,000-YARD PASSERS: New England quarterback Tom Brady passed for 226 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 116.8 passer rating in the Patriots’ 27-6 win at Houston.

Brady leads the NFL with 4,138 passing yards in 2015 and joined Peyton Manning (14) and Drew Brees (nine) as the only players with at least eight 4,000-yard seasons.

The players with the most 4,000-yard passing seasons:
PLAYER – 4,000-YARD SEASONS
Peyton Manning – 14*
Drew Brees – 9*
Tom Brady – 8*
Brett Favre – 6
Dan Marino – 6
Philip Rivers – 6*
*Active

STAYIN’ ALIVE: With three weeks to play in the regular season, 25 teams remain in contention for a trip to Super Bowl 50.

That ties for the fourth-most teams remaining in contention with three weeks to play since the NFL instituted the 16-game schedule in 1978.

The most teams remaining in contention for a trip to the Super Bowl with three weeks to play since 1978:
YEAR – TEAMS REMAINING IN SUPER BOWL CONTENTION WITH THREE WEEKS TO PLAY
2004 – 27
1995 – 27
1982 – 27
2015 – 25
2013 – 25
2006 – 25
1994 – 25

KC EXPRESS: Kansas City has won seven consecutive games to improve to 8-5. The Chiefs, who lost five games in a row before their current winning streak, are the second team in NFL history to win at least seven consecutive games immediately following a losing streak of at least five games (1970 Cincinnati Bengals).

With a win against Baltimore in Week 15, Kansas City would become the first team in NFL history to win at least eight consecutive games immediately following a losing streak of at least five games.

The teams with the most consecutive wins immediately following a losing streak of at least five games:
TEAM – SEASON (LOSING STREAK; CONSECUTIVE WINS FOLLOWING LOSING STREAK; FINAL RECORD)
Cincinnati Bengals – 1970 (6; 7; 8-6)*
Kansas City Chiefs – 2015 (5; 7; ???)**
*Won division
**Current streak

FITZ VS. PHILLY: Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has 38 receptions for 650 yards and eight touchdowns in six career regular season games against Philadelphia, including at least one touchdown catch in each game.

With a touchdown catch against Philadelphia on Sunday Night Football, Fitzgerald would eclipse Pro Football Hall of Famer Jerry Rice (six), Isaac Bruce (six) and Rob Gronkowski (six) for the second-most consecutive regular-season games with a receiving touchdown against an opponent to start a career since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.

The players with the most consecutive regular-season games with a receiving TD against an opponent to start a career (since 1970):

PLAYER – OPPONENT (YEARS; CONSECUTIVE GAMES WITH A RECEIVING TD TO START A CAREER)
Isaac Curtis – Cleveland (1973-76; 8)
Jerry Rice – Green Bay (1986-98; 6)*
Isaac Bruce – New Orleans (1994-97; 6)
Rob Gronkowski – Buffalo (2010-12; 6)
Larry Fitzgerald – Philadelphia (2005-present; 6)

*Pro Football Hall of Fame

SACK MASTER: Oakland defensive end Khalil Mack posted five sacks in Week 14 against Denver. Mack, who has four multiple-sack performances this season, currently leads the league with 14 sacks.

In his previous three games, Mack has posted nine sacks, tied for the third-most sacks through any three-game span in a single season since the statistic became official in 1982.

With 2.5 sacks on Sunday against Green Bay, Mack would surpass ALDON SMITH (11 in 2012; 10.5 in 2012) and Pro Football Hall of Famers Richard Dent (11) and Michael Strahan (10.5) for the most sacks over a four-game span in a single season since 1982.

The players with the most sacks over a four-game span in one season since 1982:
PLAYER, TEAM (SEASON; WEEKS; SACKS OVER FOUR-GAME SPAN)
Aldon Smith, San Francisco (2012; 8-12; 11)
Richard Dent, Chicago (1984; 7-10; 11)
Aldon Smith, San Francisco (2012; 7-11; 10.5)
Michael Strahan, New York Giants (2001; 3-6; 10.5)
Khalil Mack, Oakland (2015; 12-14; 9)*
*Through three-game span

23 & UNDER: Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles passed for 250 yards and accounted for four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing) with no interceptions for a 114.6 passer rating in the Jaguars’ 51-16 win against the Colts.

At age 23, Bortles has a single-season franchise record 30 touchdown passes and has joined Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan  Marino, Matthew Stafford and Daunte Culpepper as the only players in NFL history with at least 30 touchdown passes in a season at age 23 or younger.

The players with 30+ touchdown passes in a season at age 23 or younger:
PLAYER – TEAM (YEAR, TD PASSES)
Dan Marino – Miami Dolphins (1984, 48)
Matthew Stafford – Detroit Lions (2011, 41)
Daunte Culpepper – Minnesota Vikings (2000, 33)
Blake Bortles – Jacksonville Jaguars (2015, 30)*
*Through 13 games

CONSECUTIVE 100-CATCH SEASONS: Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown had seven catches for 87 yards in the Steelers’ 33-20 win at Cincinnati. Brown, who ranks second in the NFL with 100 receptions this season, is the sixth player in NFL history with at least three consecutive 100-catch seasons.

Brown is the only player in NFL history with at least 100 receptions and a punt return-touchdown in multiple seasons and has done so in each of the past three seasons (2013-15). New England’s Troy Brown (2001) and Cleveland’s Eric Metcalf (1995) are the only other players to accomplish the feat in one season.

•Carolina defeated Atlanta 38-0 to improve to 13-0 for the first time in team history. The Panthers, who clinched the NFC South division title last week, secured a first-round bye with Last Sunday’s victory.

Entering 2015, seven teams started a season 13-0 during the Super Bowl era. Of those seven clubs, all seven made the playoffs, five advanced to the Super Bowl and three of those teams won the Super Bowl.

The Panthers (NFC South, first-round bye) and Arizona (playoff spot), who defeated Minnesota 23-20 on Thursday night, are the only two teams to clinch a playoff berth this season. New England clinched a playoff spot with a 27-6 win tonight against Houston.

•Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson completed 23 of 32 passes (71.9 percent) for 292 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions for a 139.6 passer rating in the Seahawks’ 35-6 win at Baltimore. Wilson has passed for at least three touchdowns with no interceptions in four consecutive games, tied for the longest streak in NFL history with Tom Brady (2007), Peyton Manning (2013-14) and Aaron Rodgers (2014). Only Brady (17) had more touchdown passes than Wilson (16) during their respective streaks.

Seahawks rookie wide receiver Tyler Lockett had six catches for 104 yards and two touchdowns in the victory. He joins Pro Football Hall of Famer Gale Sayers (1965) as the only rookies in NFL history to have at least five touchdown receptions, a kickoff-return touchdown and a punt-return touchdown.

•New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees passed for 312 yards and two touchdowns in the Saints’ 24-17 win at Tampa Bay. Brees has 93 career 300-yard passing games, tied with PEYTON MANNING for the most in NFL history.

Brees has 421 career touchdown passes and surpassed Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino (420) for the fourth-most in NFL history.

•Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown had seven catches for 87 yards in the Steelers’ 33-20 win at Cincinnati. Brown, who ranks second in the NFL with 100 receptions this season, is the sixth player in NFL history with at least three consecutive 100-catch seasons.

•Kansa City defeated San Diego 10-3 and won their seventh consecutive game to improve to 8-5. The Chiefs, who had lost five games in a row before their current winning streak, are the second team in NFL history to win at least seven consecutive games immediately following a losing streak of at least five games (1970 Cincinnati Bengals). Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith passed for 191 yards with one touchdown and one interception, his first interception in his past 10 games. Prior to that interception, Smith had not thrown an interception in his previous 312 pass attempts, the second-longest streak in NFL history (Tom Brady, 358 attempts).

•Jacksonville defeated Indianapolis 51-16 and set the single-game franchise regular-season record for points scored (49 points vs. Oakland on December 23, 2007). Jacksonville, which scored 21 points in both the third and fourth quarter today, is the third team to score at least 21 points in both the third and fourth quarter of the same game since 1970 and the first to accomplish the feat since 2006 (San Diego on November 12, 2006 vs. Cincinnati). Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles passed for 250 yards and accounted for four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing) with no interceptions for a 114.6 passer rating against the Colts. The 23-year old Bortles has a single-season franchise record 30 touchdown passes and has joined Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino, Matthew Stafford and Daunte Culpepper as the only players in NFL history with at least 30 touchdown passes in a season at age 23 or younger.

•Tennessee rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota had a 41-yard touchdown reception in the Titans’ 30-8 loss at the New York Jets in the Meadowlands. Mariota, who has scored touchdowns of at least 40 yards via passing (long of 61 yards), rushing (long of 87 yards) and receiving (long of 41 yards) this year, is the first player to accomplish the feat in a single season since Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton in 1983.

Jerry Rice (1994-1996, 3)
Herman Moore (1995-1997, 3)
Brandon Marshall (2007-2009, 3)
Wes Welker (2007-2009, 3)
Antonio Brown (2013-2014, 3)*
*Active streak

STEELER SUCCESS: With yesterday’s 33-20 win at Cincinnati, Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin improved his regular-season record to 90-51 since joining the Steelers in 2007. The Steelers are the only NFL franchise to have three head coaches with at least 90 career regular-season wins as Tomlin joins Pro Football Hall of Famer Chuck Noll (193) and Bill Cowher (149).

YO, ADRIAN!: Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson rushed for 69 yards and one touchdown against Arizona on Thursday night. Peterson now has rushed for 11,441 yards and has 100 career touchdowns (95 rushing, five receiving) in 117 career games and joined Pro Football Hall of Famers Jim Brown and Emmitt Smith and La Dainian Tomlinson as the only players in NFL history with at least 10,000 rushing yards and 100 total touchdowns in the first 117 games to begin a career.

Welcome to week 15. Two teams have already punched their tickets to the post-season party (Arizona and Carolina), while others are looking to join them. For teams that are ahead, they want to stay ahead; for those in the chase, it’s not a good time to stumble. It’s football’s answer to the kid’s game “musical chairs.” As long as the music plays and there are chairs, you have a chance. When the music stops, that’s when the chaos begins.

It’s a fight not just to be the top dog in your conference, it’s a fight to have a spot at the playoff party. Week 15 is a chance to see who’s on the NFL playoff nice list and who’s on the NFL playoff naughty list.

KEEPING IT CLOSE: Close contests remain a staple of the 2015 season as eight games were decided by seven points or fewer in Week 14, including the New York Giants’ 31-24 victory over Miami on Monday Night Football.

Through Week 14, there have been 108 games decided by seven points or fewer, the most through the first 14 weeks of a season in NFL history.

The most games decided by seven points or fewer through Week 14:
MOST GAMES DECIDED BY SEVEN POINTS OR FEWER
SEASON – THROUGH WEEK 14
2015 – 108
2012 – 105
2011 – 103
2002 – 102
2013 – 102

TDs GALORE: There have been 687 touchdown passes this season, tied for the most through the first 14 weeks in NFL history (2014).

GREAT GREEN BAY: Green Bay defeated Dallas 28-7 in Week 14 at Lambeau, the 750th total victory in franchise history. The Packers are 750-565-37 and joined Chicago (757-571-42) as the only teams in NFL history to reach 750 total wins.

SUPER STAFFORD: Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford passed for 245 yards and two touchdowns against St. Louis, bringing his career total to 25,123.

Stafford reached 25,000 career passing yards in his 90th NFL game, surpassing Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino (92) for the fewest games to reach the milestone.

The quarterbacks to reach 25,000 career passing yards in the fewest games in NFL history:
PLAYER – FEWEST GAMES TO REACH 25,000 PASS YARDS
Matthew Stafford – 90
Dan Marino – 92
Peyton Manning – 97
Kurt Warner – 97
Aaron Rodgers – 98

SOARING SEAHAWK: Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson passed for 292 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions for a 139.6 passer rating in the Seahawks’ 35-6 win at Baltimore.

Wilson has passed for at least three touchdowns with no interceptions in four consecutive games, tied for the longest streak in NFL history with Tom Brady (2007), Peyton Manning (2013-14) and Aaron Rodgers (2014).

The players with the most consecutive games with at least three touchdown passes and no interceptions:
PLAYER, TEAM (YEARS; CONSECUTIVE GAMES WITH 3+ TD PASSES AND 0 INTs)
Tom Brady, New England (2007; 4)
Peyton Manning, Denver (2013-14; 4)
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay (2014; 4)
Russell Wilson, Seattle (2015, 4)*
* Active streak

COOL BREES: New Orleans quarterback DREW BREES passed for 312 yards and two touchdowns in the Saints’ 24-17 win at Tampa Bay. Brees has 93 career 300-yard passing games, tied with PEYTON MANNING for the most in NFL history.

Brees has 421 career touchdown passes and surpassed Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO (420) for the fourth-most in NFL history.

The quarterbacks with the most touchdown passes in NFL history:
PLAYER, YEARS (CAREER TD PASSES)
Peyton Manning, 1998 to present (539)*
Brett Favre, 1991 to 2010 (508)
Tom Brady, 2000 to present (425)*
Drew Brees, 2001 to present (421)*
Dan Marino, 1983 to 1999 (420)
* Active

MARCUS MARIOTA: Tennessee rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota had a 41-yard touchdown reception in the Titans’ loss at the New York Jets.

Mariota, who has scored touchdowns of at least 40 yards via passing (long of 61 yards), rushing (long of 87 yards) and receiving (long of 41 yards) this year, is the fifth player to accomplish the feat in a single season and the first since Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton in 1983.

RISING ROOKIE: St. Louis rookie running back Todd Gurley rushed for 140 yards and two touchdowns in the Rams’ 21-14 win over Detroit. The performance marked Gurley’s fifth game with at least 125 rushing yards, trailing only Pro Football Hall of Famer ERIC DICKERSON (seven in 1983) for the most such games by a rookie in NFL history.

The rookies with the most games with at least 125 rushing yards:
PLAYER, TEAM (YEAR, GAMES WITH 125+ RUSH YARDS AS A ROOKIE)
Eric Dickerson, Los Angeles Rams (1983, 7)
Todd Gurley, St. Louis (2015, 5)*
Doug Martin, Tampa Bay (2012, 5)
Mike Anderson, Denver (2000, 5)
Curtis Martin, New England (1995, 5)
Rueben Mayes, New Orleans (1986, 5)
Billy Sims, Detroit (1980, 5)
* Through Week 14

WONDROUS WILLIAM: Pittsburgh cornerback William Gay returned an interception 23 yards for a touchdown in the Steelers’ 33-20 win over Cincinnati.

Gay has now scored a touchdown on each of his last five interceptions, surpassing Tedy Brushc (four), Charles Tillman (four), and Captain Munnerlyn (four) for the longest such streak in NFL history.

The players with the most consecutive interceptions returned for a touchdown in NFL history:
PLAYER, TEAMS (YEARS; CONSECUTIVE INTs RETURNED FOR TD)
William Gay, Pittsburgh (2013-present; 5)*
Tedy Bruschi, New England (2002-03; 4)
Captain Munnerlyn, Carolina (2012; 4)
Charles Tillman, Chicago (2012-13; 4)
* Active streak

While some playoff spots were secured, others are still up for grabs. For those teams that are still in the hunt, they can either control their destinies or have them controled by others.

Here’s a look at the scenarios for week 15… pay attention. It’s going to cause more confusion than a mouse in a burlesque show.

2015 NFL PLAYOFF SCENARIOS FOR WEEK 15

AFC

CLINCHED: New England – AFC East

New England vs. Tennessee on Sunday

New England clinches a first-round bye with:
1.New England win + Denver loss OR

2.New England win + Cincinnati loss + Denver tie OR

Cincinnati at San Francisco on Sunday

Cincinnati clinches AFC North division with:

1.Cincinnati win or tie + Pittsburgh tie OR

2.Pittsburgh loss

Cincinnati clinches a playoff spot with:

1.Cincinnati win OR

2.New York Jets loss OR

3.Kansas City loss OR

4.Cincinnati tie + Kansas City tie OR

5.Cincinnati tie + New York Jets tie

Denver at Pittsburgh on Sunday

Denver clinches AFC West division with:
1.Denver win + Kansas City loss or tie OR

2.Denver tie + Kansas City loss

Denver clinches a playoff spot with:

1.Denver win OR

2.Demver tie + New York Jets loss

NFC

CLINCHED: Carolina – NFC South and a first-round bye; Arizona – playoff berth

Carolina at New York Giants on Sunday

Carolina clinches home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:
1.Carolina win + Arizona loss or tie OR

2.Carolina tie + ARI loss

Arizona at Philadelphia on Sunday night

Arizona clinches NFC West division with:
1.Arizona win or tie OR

2.Seattle loss or tie OR

3.Arizona clinches strength of victory tiebreaker over Seattle

(Note: Arizona clinches strength of victory tiebreaker over Seattle in scenario 3 if all of the following occurs: Cincinnati win, New Orleans win, Dallas loss, Pittsburgh loss)

Arizona clinches a first-round bye with:
1.Arizona win + Green Bay loss or tie OR

2.Arizona tie + Green Bay loss

Green Bay at Oakland on Sunday

Green Bay clinches a playoff spot with:

1.Green Bay win or tie OR

2.Tampa Bay loss or tie + Washington loss or tie OR

3.Tampa Bay loss or tie + New York Giants loss or tie

Seattle vs. Cleveland on Sunday

Seattle clinches a playoff spot with:
1.Seattle win + Tampa Bay loss or tie + New York Giants loss or tie OR

2.Seattle win + Tampa Bay loss or tie + Washington loss or tie OR

3.Seattle win + Tampa Bay loss or tie + Atlanta loss or tie + Minnesota loss + Green Bay win or tie OR

4.Seattle tie + Tampa Bay loss + Atlanta loss or tie + New York Giants loss OR

5.Seattle tie + Tampa Bay loss + Atlanta loss or tie + Washington loss + Philadelphia loss or tie

Minnesota vs. Chicago on Sunday

Minnesota clinches a playoff spot with:
1.Minnesota win + Tampa Bay loss or tie + Washington loss or tie + Atlanta loss or tie OR

2.Minnesota win + Tampa Bay loss or tie + Washington loss or tie + Seattle loss or tie OR

3.Minnesota win + Tampa Bay loss or tie + New York Giants loss or tie + Atlanta loss or tie OR

4.Minnesota win + Tampa Bay loss or tie + New York Giants loss or tie + Seattle loss or tie OR

5.Minnesota tie + Tampa Bay loss + Atlanta loss or tie + Philadelphia loss or tie + Washington loss OR

6.Minnesota tie + Tampa Bay loss + Atlanta loss or tie + Philadelphia loss or tie + New York Giants loss OR

7.Minnesota tie + Tampa Bay loss + Atlanta loss or tie + Washington loss or tie + New York Giants loss or tie (as long as WAS and NYG both don’t tie)

With three weeks remaining in the regular season, the suspense continues to build as teams make their final playoff push.

“It’s the pretenders in the beginning of the season and at the end of the season, it’s always the contenders,” says Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett, whose Seahawks team has won four in a row. “The great teams play great football in December.”

With three games to go, there are 17 teams either in or within one game of a playoff spot.

“Every win is huge,” says Philadelphia safety Malcom Jenkins, whose team is tied for first in the NFC East. “To put two wins in a row together, at this time of year, in December, it’s important. We are trying to separate ourselves. We are jockeying for position. Every win matters.”

As we approach the final three weeks of the regular season, there are still nine playoff berths up for grabs. Three teams have clinched a spot in the postseason: the Carolina Panthers (NFC South and first-round bye), New England Patriots (AFC East) and Arizona Cardinals (playoff spot).

The Panthers, who are 13-0 for the first time in franchise history and have won 17 consecutive regular-season games, secured a first-round bye last week with a 38-0 win over Atlanta. Carolina will travel north to face the New York Giants – who are tied for first in the NFC East – this Sunday at 1 p.m. Eastern on FOX in a matchup that has postseason implications for both clubs.

“Each game is significant as we go forward,” says Carolina head coach Ron Rivera. “We’re going to play next week obviously to win the football game and see whatever happens. We have to take each week as it comes. That’s the only way we can do it. I can’t predict what next week’s game is going to mean and the week after that. Right now, we are guaranteed a home playoff game – at least one – and a bye.”

Carolina is the eighth team in the Super Bowl era to start 13-0. Of the previous seven, five advanced to the Super Bowl and three of those teams won the Super Bowl.

In week 15, there are three Super Bowl rematches, with Cincinnati and San Francisco meeting on the West Coast, Buffalo traveling to Landover to face off against the Redskins and Green Bay and Oakland meeting in northern California.

Week 15 got underway in St. Louis as St. Louis beat Tampa Bay Thursday night and concludes in the Big Easy as Drew Brees and the Saints host Calvin Johnson, Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions in primetime. As for week 14, it was a pretty good week, going 9-7 for the week and 126-68 for the year. There’s still a lot of football left and three teams have filled out their playoff dance cards, while there are others that would like to join Arizona, Carolina and New England. Here are the picks for Saturday, Sunday and Monday’s contests in week 15.

New York Jets (8-5) at Dallas (4-9), 8:25 p.m. Saturday on NFL Network. One team is trying to join New England in the post-season, while the other is looking to hang on for dear life. The New York Jets and Ryan Fitzpartick travel to the Lone Star State for a Saturday evening encounter with the Dallas Cowboys.

GangGreen held Tennessee to 8 second half points last Sunday in the Meadowlands in their 30-8 win over the Titans. Curtis Ivory ran for 101 of New York’s 183, while they held Tennessee to 24 and sacked Marcus Mariota five times. New York led 27-0 at the break at Met Life Stadium and never looked back, even though they were outscored in the second half 8-3. Fitzpatrick threw for 263 yards and three TDs without being picked off, while the J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! mande life miserable for Mariota, picking him off once. New York was 7 of 15 and 1 of 1 on third and fourth down conversions, keeping the ball for 35:56. As for Tennessee? 3 of 14 and 1 of 3 third and fourth down-wise, holding the ball for 24:04.

Dallas once again fell to back luck in Green Bay, falling to the Packers at Lambeau 28-7. Dallas’ lone score in the contest came in the third quarter when RB Rob Turbin scored from a yard out with 8:25 left in the period. The Cowboys were outrushed 230-171, with Packers RB Eddie Lacy (124, TD) and Dallas RB Darren McFadden (111) each ran for 100 yards in the contest, which once again has its Dez Bryant controversy. As in the playoff game last year, Bryant appeared to have caught a Matt Cassell which would have been good for 28 yards. Green Bay challenged the call on the field, arguing that Bryant allowed the ball to hit the Lambeau Field turf and once again, the football gods were in favor of the Packers, as the call on the field was reversed. Bryant would finish with one catch for nine yards. Dallas struggled on third down conversions last Sunday against the Packers, going 1 of 11 on third down tries (0 of 2 on fourth down) and held on to the ball for 22:12, while Green Bay was 50 percent on third down at 7 of 14 (0 for 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 37:48.

Dallas leads the series with GangGreen 7-3 and have outscored the J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! 284-151. GangGreen did win the last meeting with Jerry’s boys, taking a 27-24 win in 2011 in the Meadowlands, while Dallas’ last win in the series took place in 2007 in the Lone Star State by a final of 34-3. New York’s favored by 2 1/2 and the over/under is 43. Both teams are playing in survival mode, as it were. Dallas is hanging on for dear life in the race for the NFC East, while GangGreen looks to pull a little closer in the hunt for a wild card spot in the AFC. Dallas gets voted off the playoff island in the Lone Star State Saturday night as GangGreen covers the 2 1/2 and wins in Arlington.

ATLANTA (6-7) at Jacksonville (5-8), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 709. A pair of Southern teams looking for a playoff spot meet in north Florida as the Atlanta Falcons make the 346-mile trip south to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Falcons fell below the .500 mark last Sunday in Charlotte as they were shut out in the Tar Heel State by Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers 38-0. Atlanta found themselves trailing 28-0 at the intermission and had two chances to break the shutout bid but both chances fell short. The Falcons were held to 54, while Carolina ran amuk, tallying 142 on the ground. Matt Ryan struggled in the air against Newton, throwing for 224 yards and an interception, while he was sacked four times and picked off once (Newton threw for 265 yards and three TDs). Atlanta was 4 of 14 on third down conversions, 1 of 4 on fourth down at Bank of America Stadium, while holding the ball for 28:30, while Carolina kept the pigskin for 31:30 and went 6 of 12 on third down and 0 of 1 on fourth down.

Jacksonville wiped away a 13-9 deficit against Indianapolis last Sunday at EverBank Field, coming away 51-16 winners over the Luck-less Colts. The Jaguars outscored Indy 42-3 in the final 30 minutes of play, scoring their last 28 points unchallenged. Jacksonville held the Colts to 95 yards on the ground, while rushing for 154 of their own and made life somewhat less than pleasant for Colts QB Matt Hasselbeck, sacking him three times in the lopsided win. Blake Bortles threw for 250 yards and three TDs to take the win, while Hasselbeck threw for 252. The Jaguars, who fumbled the ball twice, went 2 of 9 on third down conversions (1 of 1 on fourth down tries) and kept the ball for 29:12, while Indy was 4 of 16 on third down, 1 of 2 on fourth and held the ball for 30:48.

Jacksonville holds a 3-2 lead in the series but the Falcons have outscored Jacksonville 93-90. Atlanta won the last meeting with Jacksonville in the Big Peach in 2011 by a final of 41-14, while Jacksonville’s last win in the series came in the Sunshine State by a final of 13-7 in 2007. The Jaguars are favored by 3 1/2 with a 47 over/under. Jacksonville at times have been streaky, while the Falcons would like nothing more than to spoil the Jaguars Christmas party. Atlanta gets back on track in the Sunsshine State and wins this one, even though they may not cover the 3 1/2.

Houston (6-7) at Indianapolis (6-7), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 706. They meet again and this time, it’s in the Hoosier State.

The Texans and Colts meet in Week 15 with first place on the line in an important AFC South showdown. Both clubs enter the game tied for first place in the division.

“It’s right there in front of us,” Houston quarterback T.J. Yates told the Houston Chronicle, KHOU-TV and KPRC-TV. “We can’t control what happens after that. All we can do is worry about Indianapolis and go up there and get a win.”

The teams met earlier in the season with the Colts defeating the Texans 27-20 in Houston. In that contest, Indianapolis quarterback Matt Hasselbeck threw two touchdown passes to former Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson and Colts running back Frank Gore rushed for 98 yards and a score.

Last week at home, Houston fell to New England 27-6 Sunday night. Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champs led 17-6 at the half and proceeded to shut out the Texans in the second half. Brady threw for 226 yards and three TDs, including one to TE Rob Gronkowski. Houston was held to 87 yards rushing, while the Pats racked up 116 and sacked Brian Hoyer five times, eventually knocking him out of the contest with a head injury. The Pats were 7 of 16 on third down tries at NRG Stadium Sunday night and held on to the ball for 35:14, while the Texans were 3 of 14 and 0 of 2 on third and fourth down tries and held the ball for 24:46.

“This is a must-win situation coming up this week,” says Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, who has 749 receiving yards (107 per game) and six touchdowns in seven career games against Houston. “We’ve got to win it. Got to have it.” Indy let a 13-9 halftiime lead against Jacksonville last Sunday at EverBank Field get away from them, falling to the Jaguars 51-16. The Luck-less Colts were outscored by the Jaguars outscored Indy 42-3 in the final 30 minutes of play, scoring their last 28 points unchallenged. The Colts were held to 95 yards on the ground last weekend in north Florida, while Jacksonville rushed for 154 of their own and made life somewhat less than pleasant for Colts QB Matt Hasselbeck, sacking him three times in the lopsided win. Blake Bortles threw for 250 yards and three TDs to take the win, while Hasselbeck threw for 252. The Jaguars, who fumbled the ball twice, went 2 of 9 on third down conversions (1 of 1 on fourth down tries) and kept the ball for 29:12, while Indy was 4 of 16 on third down, 1 of 2 on fourth and held the ball for 30:48.

They met in week five on a Thursday night in the Lone Star State and Indy came away 23-20 victors. The Colts took a 13-10 lead with them to the intermission at NRG Stadium and held off a late Houston rally to claim the win. Indy outrushed Houston 110-82, while Blaine Hoyer threw for 312 yards and a pair of TDs, while Matt Hasslebeck, taking over for Andrew Luck, threw for 213 yards and a pair of TDs without an interception or sack. Indy was 3 of 11 and 1 of 1 on third and fourth down tries in the Lone Star State, keeping the pigskin for 27:33, while the Texans ruled the clock, holding the ball for 32:27, while going 8 of 16 on third down, 1 of 1 on fourth down.

The Colts won by 3, allowing them to cover the 1-point spread but both clubs barely missed the 45 over/under by 2 points. This time, in the Hoosier State, the Colts are favored again by 1 but this time, the over/under’s 42. Both clubs are looking for a playoff spot. The winner of this one could be the only team from the AFC South to make it to the post-season, while the loser is all but done. Colts covered the 1 last time in Houston and they’ll do it again in Indy, taking the win.

Tennessee (3-10) at New England (11-2), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 707. A struggling Tennessee team travels to Foxboro to face off against Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champs.

Tennessee and Marcus Mariotta were held to to 8 second half points last Sunday in the Meadowlands in their 30-8 to New York last Sunday at Met Life Stadium. New York’s Curtis Ivory ran for 101 of his team’s 183, while they held Tennessee to 24 and sacked Marcus Mariota five times. Tennessee trailed 27-0 at the break at Met Life Stadium and could never catch up, even though they outscored the Jets in the second half 8-3. Fitzpatrick threw for 263 yards and three TDs without being picked off, while the J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! mande life miserable for Mariota, picking him off once. New York was 7 of 15 and 1 of 1 on third and fourth down conversions, keeping the ball for 35:56. Tennessee in the 22-point loss went 3 of 14 and 1 of 3 third and fourth down-wise, holding the ball for 24:04.

New England took back first place in the AFC playoff race after their 27-6 win at Houston last Sunday night. The defending Super Bowl champs led 17-6 at the half and proceeded to shut out the Texans in the second half. Brady threw for 226 yards and three TDs, including one to TE Rob Gronkowski, who missed a couple of contests with a knee injury. The Pats held Houston to 87 yards rushing, tallying 116 and sacked Brian Hoyer five times, eventually knocking him out of the contest with a head injury. The Pats were 7 of 16 on third down tries at NRG Stadium Sunday night and held on to the ball for 35:14, while the Texans were 3 of 14 and 0 of 2 on third and fourth down tries and held the ball for 24:46.

New England leads the series 22-15-1, which includes contests that were played when the Titans were in Houston and known as the Oilers and the Pats played their home games in Fenway Park. The Pats have outscored Tennessee 960-762 and have taken victories in their last four contests, including a 34-13 win in 2012 in the Music City, while Tennessee’s last win over the Pats came in 2002, also in the Music City by a final of 24-7. New England’s a 2-TD favor with the over/under coming in a 46 1/2. The Titans are bad but not 14 points bad. Then again, they are 3-10 and they’re not going to the post-season this year. New England may not cover the 14 but they do close out the home half of their season with the win.

Kansas City (8-5) at Baltimore (4-9), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 705. The resurgent Kansas City Chiefs, winners of seven straight, travel to Charm City to face the struggling Ravens. It’s KC Bbq vs. Crabcakes in Baltimore.

Kansas City held San Diego to a 30-yard field goal in the third quarter by Josh Lambo to take the Chargers 10-3 at Arrowhead. The Chiefs led 10-0 at the intermisson and held San Diego in check in the second half after their lone score. Kansas City outrushed San Diego 150-44 and sacked Philip Rivers five times, picking him off once and stopped a late San Diego rally that would have tied the contest and sent it into overtime. Kansas City went 6 of 11 on third down tries and held on to the ball for 28:52, while the Chargers held the pigskin for 31:08, going 6 of 18 on third down, 3 of 3 on fourth.

Baltimore was held to a 30-yard field goal by Justin Tucker as the clock struck :00 before halftime against Seattle, falling to the Seahawks 35-3 in Charm City. The Ravens were outrushed by Seattle 123-28 and Russell Wilson threw five TDs without an interception or a sack (Wilson tallied 292 yards, while Jeff Clausen, subbing for Joe Flacco threw for 274 with a pick). The Seahawks, who forced a pair of turnovers in Charm City, was 8 of 12 on third down tries and held the ball for 35:43, while the Ravens kept the ball for 24:17, going 3 of 11 and 0 of 1 on third and fourth down.

The series between the Chiefs and Ravens? Even at 3-3, with the Chiefs outscoring the Ravens 119-109. Baltimore did come away with a win the last meeting between the two clubs, coming away 9-6 winners in Kansas City in 2012 (Kansas City’s last win over the Ravens? 2004 in Charm City by a 27-24 count). The Chiefs are favored by 7 1/2 and the over/under is 42. It’s been a tough year for the Ravens, with injuries to Steve Smith, Sr. and Joe Flacco hitting them hard. As for Kansas City? They’re trying to keep pace with the Broncos in the AFC West and could make a run for a spot at the post-season party. Kansas City takes this one in Charm City but expect the Ravens to make it closer than the 7 1/2.

Buffalo (6-7) at Washington (6-7), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 708. A pair of 6-7 teams that met in Super Bowl XXVI meet in Landover as the Redskins, tied for first in the NFC East, host the Buffalo Bills at FedEx Field.

A late Bills’ rally in Philadelphia fell short as Buffalo lost to the Eagles 23-20 at Lincoln Financial Field. Trailing 17-10 at the intermission, Buffalo rallied in the second half, outscoing Philly 10-6 in the 3-point loss. Buffalo tied the contest at 20-20 with 46 left in the thrid quarter on a 19-yard run by RB Mike Gillislee. The Eagles would take the lead back and take it for keeps when Craig Sturgis connected on a 30-yard field goal with 3:26 left in regulation. Buffalo would try one last drive down the field, which fell short when Eric Reynolds picked off QB Tyrod Taylor with 1:23 left. The Bills outrushed the Eagles 152-116, with Bills RB LeSean McCoy returning to his old ballpark to lead all rushers with 74 yards. In the passing game, both Taylor and Eagles QB Sam Bradford threw a TD and an interception, with Taylor outpacing Bradford in yardage 268-247. Buffalo on third down conversions went 6 of 16 and kept the ball for 35:02 to Philly’s 24:58, with the Eagles going 9 of 18 on third down tries (neither club had a fourth down attempt).

Washington led Chicago 14-7 at the half at Soldier Field and then held off a late Bears rally to win 24-21 in the Windy City. Kirk Cousins threw for 300 yards in Chicago and rushed for a TD of his own, while the Redskins outrushed Da Bears 99-87 (Chicago’s Jay Cutler outpaced Cousins, throwing for 315 yards and a pair of TDs; both Cutler and Cousins were sacked three times). Washington was 7 of 12 on third down conversions, keeping the ball for 34:22, while Chicago was 5 of 11 on third down, holding on to the pigskin for 25:38.

The Bills lead the series 8-4, have outscored Washington 240-201 and won the last six meetings, including a 23-0 win in Toronto in 2011. Washington’s last regular season win came in  1990 in our nation’s capital by a final of 29-14.

They met in Super Bowl XXVI in the Metrodome and Washington manhandled the Bills, taking them to task and came away 37-24 winners. It was Mark Rypien and his Redskins that handed the Bills their second Super Bowl loss as Washington secured its third Super Bowl title. Passing for 292 yards and two touchdowns, Rypien’s 35-yard touchdown pass to Gary Clark in the second half provided some much-needed breathing room for Washington.

The Redsksins are the underdog at home by 1 with a 44 over/under in Landover. Washington’s trying to keep the Giants and Eagles at bay in the NFC East, while Buffalo is trying to make the post-season party for the first time since 1983. Washington covers the 1 in Landover and will have their fan base singing “Hail to the Redskins” on the way home from FedEx Field.

Chicago (5-8) at Minnesota (7-6), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 710. A pair of NFC North teams chasing Green Bay meet for the second time this season as the Vikings host Da Bears in the Twin Cities at TPC Field on the campus of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.

Da Bears trailed Washington 14-7 at the half at Soldier Field, losing to the Redskins 24-21, although they did manage to outscore Washington 14-10 in the final 30 minutes of play in the Windy City. Jay Cutler outpaced Kirk Cousins 315-300 and the Redskins outrushed Chicago 99-87. Both Cutler and Cousins threw a pair of TDs and a pair of interceptions in the contest as Chicago turned the ball over three times in the 3-point loss at home. Washington was 7 of 12 on third down conversions, keeping the ball for 34:22, while Chicago was 5 of 11 on third down, holding on to the pigskin for 25:38.

Minnesota fell to Arizona 23-20 in the desert last Thursday night at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. Tied 10-10 at the half, Arizona outpaced the Vikings in the final 30 minutes of play 13-10 and took the lead for good when Cardinals K Chandler Catanzaro connected on a 47 yard field goal with 83 seconds left in regulation. Arizona outrushed Minnesota 97-72 but Teddy Bridgewater did manage to outpass Carson Palmer 335-310 in the contest (Palmer threw a pair of TDs, while Bridgewater had a TD toss in the game). Minnesota in the 3-point loss in the desert went 6 of 11 and held the ball for 28:01, while Arizona kept the ball in their nest for 31:59, going 6 of 13 and 1 of 1 on third and fourth down tries.

They met in week eight in the Windy City and Minnesota left Chicago 23-20 winners. Tied at 10-10 at the half, Minnesota pulled away in the final 30 minutes of action to take the win, outscoring Da Bears 13-10. Peterson led all rushers with 103 yards in the contest, as the Purple Gang outrushed Chicago 147-97. As far as third down tries, there was nothing spectacular as far as either team was concerned (Minnesota was 5 of 12, while Chicago was 3 of 12) but Da Bears did have success in the only fourth down try of the game at Soldier Field. Chicago did rule the clock, keeping the ball for 32:42, while Minnesota held the ball for 27:18.

In the week eight contest in the Windy City, Minnesota covered the 1-point spread with their 3-point win and both teams covered the 42 1/2 over/under (barely) with 43 points. The Vikings are favored again in the Land of 10,000 Lakes as a 5-point favorite with a 43 over/under. History could very well repeat itself. Both teams are trying to catch Green Bay in the NFC North and that division could go down to the final day of the season. Minnesota makes this one interesting but Da Bears get revenge in the Land of 10,000 Lakes with the upset in the Twin Cities, covering the 5.

Carolina (13-0) at New York Giants (6-7), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 711. The Giants and Eli Manning return home to the Meadowlands to face off against Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers at Met Life Stadium.

Carolina manhandled Atlanta last Sunday at Bank of America Stadium 38-0. The Panthers and Newton led 28-0 at the intermission and had stopped two Atlanta bids to break the shutout, while holding the Falcons to 54 yards rushing. Carolina ran for 142 yards and Newton threw for 265 yards with three TDs and no inteceptions. Atlanta was 4 of 14 on third down conversions, 1 of 4 on fourth down at Bank of America Stadium, while holding the ball for 28:30, while Carolina kept the pigskin for 31:30 and went 6 of 12 on third down and 0 of 1 on fourth down.

The G-Men broke a 17-17 tie against Miami last Monday night in the Sunshine State as Eli Manning and the Giants came away 31-24 winner. Manning connected with his favorite target, WR Odell Beckham, Jr. for a pair of TDs in the fourth quarter, the last one going for 84 yards to give the Giants the lead for good with 11:13 left in the contest. Miami did manage to outrush the Giants 128-92, while Manning outpassed Ryan Tannehill 337-236 in the Monday night affair. Miami on third down went 7 of 16 and 1 of 2 on fourth down, keeping the ball for 29:29, while New York went 5 of 11 on third down and kept the ball for 30:31.

Carolina and New York come into Sunday’s contest tied at 4-4 in the series and the Panthers have outscored Big Blue 209-178. Carolina’s last win over Eli and the G-Men came in 2013, when they shutout Big Blue 38-0 in the Tar Heel State, while the Giants last beat Carolina in upstate New Jersey in 2010 by a final of 31-18. Carolina’s a 6-point favorite and the over/under is 49. The Panthers have already claimed their spot in the post-season party, while the Giants are looking to pull ahead of Washington and Philadelphia in the NFC East. New York could make this one closer than the 6 but Carolina prevails this week, winning along the Jersey shore.

Cleveland (3-10) at Seattle (8-5), 4:05 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 713. A 3-10 Cleveland team travels to the land of grunge, salmon and Starbucks for a late afternoon meeting (Eastern time) with the defending NFC champs at Century Link Field.

Johnny Manziel and the Cleveland Browns took San Francisco to task last Sunday, beating the 49ers 24-10 along the shores of Lake Erie. Cleveland led 10-3 at the half and never looked back in the contest, outrushing San Francisco 230-71, while Manziel threw for 270 yards with Blaine Gabbert throwing for 194 yards wtih a TD and nine sacks. Cleveland was 6 of 12 on third down conversions last Sunday, keeping the ball for 37:39, while the 49ers were 2 of 13 and 1 of 3 on third and fourth downs, holding the ball for 22:21.

The Seahawks flexed some muscle in Baltimore, holdng the Ravens to a 30-yard field goal by Justin Tucker as the clock struck :00 before halftime against Seattle, falling to the Seahawks 35-3 in Charm City. The Ravens were outrushed by Seattle 123-28 and Russell Wilson threw five TDs without an interception or a sack (Wilson tallied 292 yards, while Jeff Clausen, subbing for Joe Flacco threw for 274 with a pick). The Seahawks, who forced a pair of turnovers in Charm City, was 8 of 12 on third down tries and held the ball for 35:43, while the Ravens kept the ball for 24:17, going 3 of 11 and 0 of 1 on third and fourth down.

The defending NFC champs lead the series with Cleveland 11-6 and they may have outscored the Brownies 366-277. Cleveland has won the last two contests with Seattle, taking a 6-3 win in the Buckeye State in 2011, while Seattle’s last win came in the land of grunge, salmon and Starbucks in 2003 by a final of 34-7. Seattle is favored by 14 points with the over/under at 42 1/2. To say it’s safe that the Browns will not make the post-season this year is like saying Colonel Sanders doesn’t like chicken. The Seahawks have some business to tend to if they want to go back to the Super Bowl for the third straight year. Manziel will make it an interesting contest but Seattle comes away in the land of grunge, salmon and Starbucks with the win.

Green Bay (9-4) at Oakland (6-7), 4:05 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 712. A pair of old Super Bowl foes meet in northern California as the Packers travel to Oakland to face the Raiders.

Green Bay rushed for 230 yards last week in the team’s 28-7 win over Dallas. The Packers, who lead the NFC North, racked up 435 total yards of offense in Week 14. Running backs Eddie Lacy (124 rushing yards, one touchdown) and James Starks (103 scrimmage yards, two touchdowns) led the way for Green Bay. Dallas’ lone score in the contest came in the third quarter when RB Rob Turbin scored from a yard out with 8:25 left in the period. Green Bay outrushed Dallas at Lambeau 230-171, with Packers RB Eddie Lacy (124, TD) and Dallas RB Darren McFadden (111) each ran for 100 yards in the contest. As in the playoff game last year, there was controversy invloving Cowboys WR Dex Bryant controversy involving a catch. As in the playoff game last year in January, Bryant appeared to have caught a Matt Cassell which would have been good for 28 yards. Green Bay challenged the call on the field, arguing that Bryant allowed the ball to hit the Lambeau Field turf and once again, the football gods were in favor of the Packers, as the call on the field was reversed. Bryant would finish with one catch for nine yards. Dallas struggled on third down conversions last Sunday against the Packers, going 1 of 11 on third down tries (0 of 2 on fourth down) and held on to the ball for 22:12, while Green Bay was 50 percent on third down at 7 of 14 (0 for 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 37:48.

“It’s definitely a springboard for us,” says Lacy, who has three 100-yard rushing performances in the past four games. “We have three games left and we’ve got to finish these games out.”

The Raiders remain in the hunt for a playoff spot and knocked off the division-leading Broncos last week 15-12 in Denver. Oakland quarterback Derek Carr threw two touchdown passes in the victory and linebacker Khalil Mack was a force on defense, notching five sacks, seven tackles and a forced fumble. Mack tied the franchise single-game record with five sacks, equaling the mark set by Pro Football Hall of Famer Howie Long (October 2, 1983). The Silver and Black erased a 12-0 deficit against Denver last Sunday and came away from Sports Authority Field at Mile High 15-12 winnners. Outscoring the Peyton-less Broncos 15-0 in the second half, the contest was somewhat a snooze-fest rushing-wise, as neither team came anywhere near the 100-yard barrier (Denver tallied 34 yards, outrushing Oakland, who had 27). Manning’s replacement, Brock Oswelier, outpaced David Carr in passing yardage 308-135 but the Silver and Black made life less than pleasant for him, sacking him five times. Third down conversions in the AFC West affair in the Mile High City was nothing to write home about, as Denver was 4 of 18 (1 of 3 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 35:58, while the Raiders held the ball for 24:02, going 3 of 15 on third down.

“Khalil is unbelievable,” says Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio about his defensive star. “He’s just getting better and better.”

The Packers hold a 6-5 lead in the series (which includes contests that were played in Milwaukee and Los Angeles), the Packers have outscored the Silver and Black 248-184 and Green Bay has won the last six meetings with the Raiders, taking a 46-16 win in the land of beer, cheese and bratwurst in 2011, while Oakland’s last win in the series came all the way back in 1987, also at Lambeau, as they shut out Green Bay 20-0.

They met in Super Bowl II in Miami’s Orange Bowl and Green Bay picked up their second Super Bowl win, taking a 33-14 win over the Raiders. For Green Bay, Bart Starr was Green Bay’s guiding star (bad pun, we know!) as they won win their third NFL championship and second Super Bowl with a second half for the ages. Green Bay’s offense rattled off 17 second half points unchallenged in the third and fourth quarters to pull away from the Raiders for the win. Starr completed 13 of his
24 passes, including a 62-yard scoring strike to Boyd Dowler. Green Bay’s favored by 3 and the over/under’s 46. The Packers control their destiny in the NFC North, while the Raiders are trying to make it to the post-season for the first time since 2002. Raider fans will have to wait a little longer, even though they’ve surpassed their win total from last year. Packers cover the 3 on the West Coast and win in Oakland.

Cincinnati (10-3) at San Francisco (4-9), 4:25 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 716. Two teams going in opposite directions meet in northern California as the Bengals take on San Francisco at Levis’ Stadium.

Cincinnati, who would wind up without the services of QB Andy Dalton (dislocated thumb) against Pittsburgh last Sunday in the Buckeye State, trailing 16-7 at the half against the Steelers and could never recover, taking a 33-20 loss. The Steelers forced three Bengal turnovers and outrushed Cincinnati 84-64 and Roethlisberger outpaced Dalton’s replacement A.J. McCarren 282-280, although McCarren did toss a pair of TDs, his first of the game and careeer going to WR A.J. Green. Pittsburgh went 8 of 14 on third down conversions at Paul Brown Stadium, keeping the ball for 35:47, while the Dalton-less Bengals were 3 of 8 on third down and held the pigskin for 24:13.

The 49ers were manhandled by Johnny Manziel and the Cleveland Browns 24-10 along the shores of Lake Erie. Cleveland led 10-3 at the half and never looked back in the contest, outrushing San Francisco 230-71, while Manziel threw for 270 yards with Blaine Gabbert throwing for 194 yards wtih a TD and nine sacks. Cleveland was 6 of 12 on third down conversions last Sunday, keeping the ball for 37:39, while the 49ers were 2 of 13 and 1 of 3 on third and fourth downs, holding the ball for 22:21.

San Francisco leads the series with Cincinnati 9-3, have outscored the Bengals 272-231 and have won the last two contests in the regular season, taking a 13-8 win in 2011 in the Buckeye State. The Bengals’ last win over San Francisco came in 2003 at old Riverfront Stadium, coming away 41-38 victors.

Cincinnati and San Francisco have met in two Super Bowls and the 49ers have won both contests.

First meeting… Super Bowl XVI in Detroit at the old Silverdome and the 49ers under Bill Walsh beat the Bengals 26-21. The win over the Bengals gave them their first Lombardi and was the start of a San Francisco dynasty, with Joe Montana (14 of 22, 142 yards) leading the way. In addition to an 11-yard touchdown pass to Earl Cooper, Montana also ran for one score in the first quarter en route to a 20-0 halftime lead. Despite a serious comeback attempt by Ken Anderson and Cincinnati, Montana and the 49ers held on for the franchise’s first Super Bowl title.

Rouhd two… Super Bowl XXIII in Miami and it was another close contest but the 49ers were 20-16 winners. San Francisco became the first NFC team to win three Super Bowls in this come-from-behind 20-16 win over the Bengals. Jerry Rice totaled 11 catches for a Super Bowl-record 215 yards. Though Montana racked up more than 300 yards passing and directed a memorable game-winning drive (92 yards in 11 plays), Rice’s dominant performance was the difference in this game. In addition to owning every significant receiving record in NFL history, Rice still holds several Super Bowl records, including most career receiving yardage and touchdowns.

Cincy’s favored by 4 1/2 on the West Coast and the over/under’s 40 1/2. Both clubs would love nothing more than to somehow restore some order as far as their respective clubs are concerned. San Francisco would like to spoil the Bengals’ post-season party plans. Cincy? They’re having nothing of it on the Left Coast, coming away with the win and covering the 3 1/2.

Denver (10-3) at Pittsburgh (8-5), 4:25 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 714. Denver, in first place in the AFC West, travels to the Steel City for a late afternoon affair with the Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger at Heinz Field.

The Broncos lead the AFC West by two games and can clinch the division title this weekend. Denver’s defense leads the NFL in points allowed (17.3 per game), total defense (272.5 yards per game) and passing defense (188.2 yards per game) and ranks third in the league in rushing defense (84.3 yards per game). The Broncos are the only team in the NFL to rank in the top three in all four categories.

“We’re motivated every week but this is like the AFC Championship Game,” says Broncos cornerback Chris Harris, Jr. about the upcoming showdown with the Steelers. “This is what we’re motivated for. This is what we play for,” he told the Rocky Mountain News and KUSA-TV.

Denver let a 12-0 lead against Oakland get away from them at Sports Authority Field at Mile High a15-12 winnners. Outscoring the Peyton-less Broncos 15-0 in the second half, the contest was somewhat a snooze-fest rushing-wise, as neither team came anywhere near the 100-yard barrier (Denver tallied 34 yards, outrushing Oakland, who had 27). Manning’s replacement, Brock Oswelier, outpaced David Carr in passing yardage 308-135 but the Silver and Black made life less than pleasant for him, sacking him five times. Third down conversions in the AFC West affair in the Mile High City was nothing to write home about, as Denver was 4 of 18 (1 of 3 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 35:58, while the Raiders held the ball for 24:02, going 3 of 15 on third down.

Pittsburgh has won four of its past five games and is in the AFC playoff mix. Over the team’s past five games, the Steelers are averaging 35.2 points per game and the offense is averaging 494 total net yards per game. During that stretch, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has passed for 1,815 yards (363 yards per game) and 10 touchdowns.

“We’re doing some good stuff on offense and we’ve been getting wins,” says Roethlisberger. “Offensively, we want to score touchdowns. We get disappointed when we don’t put points on the board.”  Pittsburgh led Cincinnati 16-7 at the half and never looked back, taking a 33-20 win over the Bengals and knocked Andy Dalton out of the contest in the process with a dislocated thumb. The Steelers forced three Bengal turnovers and outrushed Cincinnati 84-64 and Roethlisberger outpaced Dalton’s replacement A.J. McCarren 282-280, although McCarren did toss a pair of TDs, his first of the game and careeer going to WR A.J. Green. Pittsburgh went 8 of 14 on third down conversions at Paul Brown Stadium, keeping the ball for 35:47, while the Dalton-less Bengals were 3 of 8 on third down and held the pigskin for 24:13.

Denver leads the series with Pittsburgh 14-7-1 and have outscored the Steelers 489-454. Denver’s last win in the series with Pittsburgh came in 2012 in the Mile High City by a final of 31-19, while Pittsburgh’s last win in the series came in 2009, also in Denver by a 28-10 count.

Even without Peyton in the lineup, this one’s “DRILL WORTHY!” (For those of you that know what The Drill is, you are excused. Everyone else, pay attention. We don’t want any rookie mistakes here, k?)

After you go to the 9:30 mass on Sunday (the 4:30 vigil mass on Saturday counts as a mass attended, people! Don’t make us send the nuns after you! If we do, it is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OVER!), head to your favorite store (a trip to Wal Mart, Target, K-Mart or Costco counts) and get the vittles and the beverages (soda, beer, wine, coffee, et al… if you live in a state that allows the purchase of the items in question) and invite the co-workers, the neighbors (including that really cute kindergarden teacher that knows what to do with a cover-2 defense) and your cousin Connie (remember her? She’s the one that’s been married twice that’s just turned 56 last June and dates a 41-year old ex-Marine, who’s now a football coach at the high school in your town. She’s also the one that ate an entire Oreo cheesecake, two bags of Cool Ranch Doritos, two bacon cheeseburgers with blue cheese and chugged two 2-liter Cokes at your Super Bowl party last year and didn’t gain a pound. You look at her and say to yourself, “what the hell?” The oddsmakers in Vegas like the Steelers at home as 6 1/2 point favorite and the over/under comes in at 45. There’s a chance that these two could meet in the post-season and both teams are treating this like it’s a post-season game. The Steelers are trying to catch up to the Bengals in the AFC North, while Denver may be without Manning for another week or so in an effort to remain kings of the hill in the AFC West. Steelers make this one interesting but Denver walks out of the Steel City with the win.

Miami (5-8) at San Diego (3-10), 4:25 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 715. A pair of teams looking to end their seasons meet on the west coast as Miami travels to San Diego to face the Chargers at Qualcomm.

Miami let a 17-17 tie against the New York Giants get away from them last Monday night in the Sunshine State as they fell to Eli Manning and the Giants 31-24. Manning connected with his favorite target, WR Odell Beckham, Jr. for a pair of TDs in the fourth quarter, the last one going for 84 yards to give the Giants the lead for good with 11:13 left in the contest. Miami did manage to outrush the Giants 128-92, while Manning outpassed Ryan Tannehill 337-236 in the Monday night affair. Miami on third down went 7 of 16 and 1 of 2 on fourth down, keeping the ball for 29:29, while New York went 5 of 11 on third down and kept the ball for 30:31.

San Diego found themselves held to a 30-yard field goal in the third quarter by Josh Lambo for their only points against Kansas City, losing to the Chiefs 10-3 at Arrowhead. The Chiefs led 10-0 at the intermisson and held San Diego in check in the second half after their lone score. The Chiefs outrushed San Diego 150-44 and sacked Philip Rivers five times, picking him off once and stopped a late San Diego rally that would have tied the contest and sent it into overtime. Kansas City went 6 of 11 on third down tries and held on to the ball for 28:52, while the Chargers held the pigskin for 31:08, going 6 of 18 on third down, 3 of 3 on fourth.

Miami leads the Bolts 14-12, have outscored the Chargers 582-574 and have won the last two contests in the series, including taking a 37-0 shutout win last year in the Sunshine State. San Diego’s last win over Miami came in 2011 at Qualcomm, with San Diego coming away 26-16 winners.

Meeting in week nine in the Sunshine State, Miami led 20-0 at the half and proceeded to score their final 17 points of the contest unchallenged. Miami held San Diego to 50 rushing yards, while the ‘Fins tallied 132 on the ground and Tannehill threw for 288 yards and three TDs without a sack or interception, while Rivers was sacked three times and picked off three times. Miami was 8 of 14 on third down tries and held the ball for 36:07, while San Diego kept the ball for 23:53, going 3 of 11 on third down (both clubs had one fourth down try and both were unsuccesful).

In the week nine contest in the Sunshine State, Miami easily covered the 1 1/2 point spread with their 37-point win but missed the over/under of 44 by a TD. This time, the Chargers are favored by 1 1/2 and the over/under is 45. Both teams are not going to the post season and it’s almost safe to say that you should avoid this one (unless you’re a fan of either team) and watch that “Bar Rescue” marathon on Spike (Jon Tapper blowing his top at a bar owner is kinda cool!). Miami sends Chargers fans into a deeper depression and wins this one on the West Coast.

Arizona (11-2) at Philadelphia (6-7), 8:30 p.m. on NBC. It’s Tex-Mex vs. Philly cheesesteak as Arizona travels to the City of Brotherly Love for a Sunday night primetime meeting with the Eagles.

The Cardinals have won seven in a row and have posted back-to-back 11-win seasons for the first time in franchise history. Arizona clinched a playoff berth with a dramatic 23-20 win over Minnesota last Thursday night.

“We have bigger goals,” says Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer, who has set the single-season team record with 31 touchdown passes and is the only player in club history with two 4,000-yard seasons.

At 11-2, Arizona is closing in on the division title and a first-round bye. The Desert Angry Birds beat Minnesots 23-20 in the desert last Thursday night at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. Tied 10-10 at the half, Arizona outpaced the Vikings in the final 30 minutes of play 13-10 and took the lead for good when Cardinals K Chandler Catanzaro connected on a 47 yard field goal with 83 seconds left in regulation. Arizona outrushed Minnesota 97-72 but Teddy Bridgewater did manage to outpass Carson Palmer 335-310 in the contest (Palmer threw a pair of TDs, while Bridgewater had a TD toss in the game). Minnesota in the 3-point loss in the desert went 6 of 11 and held the ball for 28:01, while Arizona kept the ball in their nest for 31:59, going 6 of 13 and 1 of 1 on third and fourth down tries.

“You want to have momentum going into January,” Cardinals linebacker Dwight Freeney told the Arizona Republic. Freeney sealed his team’s Week 14 victory with a sack and forced fumble on Minnesota’s final offensive play. “We are still fighting to lock down that one or two seed. We have to take every game seriously and treat it like it’s a playoff game.”

The Eagles have won two in a row and are tied for first place in the NFC East with three games left to play. Last week, Philadelphia defeated Buffalo 23-20 and got touchdowns from running back Darren Sproles and rookie wide receiver Nelson Agholor. Leading 17-10 at the intermission, Buffalo rallied in the second half, outscoing Philly 10-6 in the 3-point loss. Buffalo tied the contest at 20-20 with 46 left in the thrid quarter on a 19-yard run by RB Mike Gillislee. The home team would take the lead back and take it for keeps when Craig Sturgis connected on a 30-yard field goal with 3:26 left in regulation. Buffalo would try one last drive down the field, which fell short when Eric Reynolds picked off QB Tyrod Taylor with 1:23 left. The Bills outrushed the Eagles 152-116, with Bills RB LeSean McCoy returning to his old ballpark to lead all rushers with 74 yards. In the passing game, both Taylor and Eagles QB Sam Bradford threw a TD and an interception, with Taylor outpacing Bradford in yardage 268-247. Buffalo on third down conversions went 6 of 16 and kept the ball for 35:02 to Philly’s 24:58, with the Eagles going 9 of 18 on third down tries (neither club had a fourth down attempt).

“Our team is playing together and we’re playing better in all three phases,” says Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. “There are still a lot of things to correct but we’re 2-0 in December against two good opponents. But now we’ve got to get ready because we’ve got a really good Arizona team coming in here on Sunday.”

Including contests that took place in Chicago and St. Louis when they were known as the Cardinals and the Eagles played their home games in Erie before moving to the City of Brotherly Love, Arizona leads the series 56-54-5 and have outscored the Eagles 2,455-2,246. The last two contest have been close with the Desert Angry Birds’ last win in the series came last year in Glendale as they would hang on to win 24-20, while the Eagles won the year before in the City of Brotherly Love 24-21.
In the week eight affair at University of Phoenix Stadium, Arizona overcame a 17-14 third quarter deficit in the desert, outscoring Philly 10-3 in the final 15 minutes of play for the 3-point win. Philly outrushed Arizona 110-71, while Nick Foles outpaced Carson Palmer 411-329, with each man throwing a pair of TDs (neither man was sacked but Foles did manage to toss a pair of interceptions). Philadelphia was 9 of 20 on third down tries in the desert, while Arizona was 7 of 17 with both clubs finding paydirt in their only fourth down try in the contest. Even though they lost, the Eagles did manage to rule the clock, holding the ball for 31:10 to Arizona’s 28:50.

The Desert Angry Birds made the oddsmakers happy as they covered the 2 1/2 point spread, winning by four but both clubs barely missed the 48 over/under with 44 points. In the Sunday night affair, the Desert Angry Birds are favored by 4 with the over/under coming in at 50. Arizona’s already found a playoff spot, while the Eagles are trying to keep the Giants at bay and catch Washington at the same time in the NFC East. Philly makes this one interesting but Arizona prevails in the City of Brotherly Love and could cover the 4 on the East Coast.

Detroit (4-9) at New Orleans (5-8), 8:30 p.m. Monday on ESPN. A pair of teams that play their home games in the great indoors close out week 15 play in the Big Easy as the Lions travel to New Orleans to square off against the Saints.

Detroit (without WR Calvin Johnson) trailed St. Louis 7-0 at the intermission last Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome and came away on the short end of a 21-14 loss to St. Louis. Both clubs did manage to play even football the rest of the way, St. Louis rookie RB Todd Gurley gave his team the lead for good in the third quarter on a 5-yard run with 3:57 left and added a 15-yard run with 12:14 left in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Detroit’s Golden Tate made the contest closer when and Matthew Stafford connected on a 2-yard pass with 2:05 left to play in regulation (Tate had a 9-yard pass in the first half to tie things up). Gurley ran for 140 yards in the contest (St. Louis tallied 203 to Detroit’s 111), while Stafford threw the ball 30 times for 245 yards and an interception with a sack. Detroit went 5 of 13 on third down tries (0 of 1 on fourth down) and held on to the ball for 33:50, while the Rams were 4 of 11 on third down (St. Louis did not have a fourth down try) and possessed the ball for 26:10.

The Saints led the Jameis Winston-led Buccaneers 17-10 at the half in Tampa before New Orleans pulled away to take the 24-17 win in the Sunshine State. While Tampa Bay did outrush New Orleans 115-87, Brees threw for 312 yards and a pair of TDs, while Winston threw for 182 and a TD. Both clubs played a turnover-free game, as New Orleans went 12 of 17 on third down tries and kept the ball for 37:14, while the Bucs held the pigskin for 22:46, going 4 of 11 and 1 of 1 on third and fourth downs.

New Orleans leads the series 11-10-1, which includes contests that took place at old Tulane Stadium and Tiger Stadium and the Saints lead the Lions 445-383. They met last year in the Big Easy and the Lions were 24-23 winners, while the Saints last took a win in the series over Detroit in 2011 in the Big Easy 31-17. In the week seven contest at the Superdome, Detroit led 17-3 at the half and then held off a late New Orleans rally for the one-point win. New Orleans did manage to outrush the Lions 132-88, while Stafford outpaced Brees in passing yardage 293-209 (Stafford had a pair of TD passes, despite being sacked four times, while Brees threw a TD and an interception, while being sacked twice). Detroit was 6 of 15 on third down conversions and kept the ball for 34:53, while the Saints were a little better on third down, going 7 of 15, keeping the ball for 25:07 (neither club had a fourth down conversion).

Detroit was a 3-point favorite and won by a single point and both teams barely missed the 49 over/under with 47 points. Under the bright lights on Monday night, the Lions are 13-15-1 and won their only MNF contest last year, while the Saints are 18-19, going .500 in their two contests in 2014. New Orleans is favored on Monday night by 3 and the over/under’s 50. There have been some really good Monday night games of late and this one might be one of them. Both teams are on the outside looking in and it may be too late for either to make a move in the post-season race. Detroit pulls off the upset in the Big Easy and wins on the road, derailing New Orleans’ playoff hopes.

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