The gifts have been unwrapped and worn and returned or exchanged for something better. Santa has come and gone back to the North Pole after one plate of milk and cookies too many. For many teams, the Christmas party is over and for those teams that didn’t get invites to the post-season party, it’s their chance to play “Dirty Santa” and knock off a contender or two or derail another team’s chances. Carolina, New England, Cincinnati, Arizona, Seattle and Green Bay have already punched their dance cards and wait for their next marching orders. There are still some contenders that still have life in them and would like to make it to the next round.

COMEBACKS GALORE: Close contests remain a staple of the 2015 season.

Teams have won after trailing in the second half 85 times this season, the third-most through Week 15 in NFL history.

The most wins after trailing in the second half through Week 15:

YEAR – MOST WINS AFTER TRAILING IN SECOND HALF THROUGH WEEK 15
2013 – 92
2012 – 87
2015 – 85
2009 – 84
2010 – 83

Teams have won after trailing in the fourth quarter 62 times this season, tied for the third-most through Week 15 in NFL history.

The most wins after trailing in the fourth quarter through Week 15:

YEAR – MOST WINS AFTER TRAILING IN FOURTH QUARTER THROUGH WEEK 15
1989 – 67
2012 – 65
2015 – 62
2011 – 62
2013 – 61

PLAYOFF BOUND: Arizona defeated Philadelphia 40-17 on Sunday Night Football and clinched the NFC West division title.

Green Bay, 30-20 winners at Oakland and Seattle, who beat Cleveland 30-13 in the Pacific Northwest, both secured playoff berths in the NFC, while the CINCINNATI BENGALS, who beat San Francisco 24-14, earned a playoff berth in the AFC.

New England, who already clinched the AFC East division, defeated Tennessee 33-16 and clinched a first-round bye.

Carolina, who own the league’s best record at 14-0, have already clinched the NFC South division and a first-round bye.

PREEMINENT PATRIOTS: New England who defeated Tennessee 33-16 to improve to 12-2, became the second team in NFL history with at least 12 regular-season wins in six consecutive seasons. The only other team to accomplish the feat was Indianapolis, who won at least 12 regular-season games in seven consecutive seasons (2003-09).

CHARGING CHIEFS: Kansas City defeated Baltimore 34-14 for their eighth consecutive win. The Chiefs are the only team in NFL history to win eight consecutive games immediately following a five-game losing streak in the same season.

In the victory over Baltimore, Chiefs rookie cornerback Marcus Peters had a 90-yard interception-return touchdown and safety Tyvon BranchH posted a 73-yard fumble-return touchdown, as Kansas City became the first team in NFL history to have a 90+ yard interception return-touchdown and a 70+ yard fumble-return touchdown in the same game.

HISTORIC BREES: New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees passed for 341 yards and three touchdowns against Detroit on Monday Night Football, bringing his career total to 60,168 passing yards.

Brees finds himself in some pretty good company, as he joined Peyton Manning (71,871), Brett Farve (71,838) and Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino (61,361) as the only players in NFL history with at least 60,000 career passing yards.

?The players with the most career passing yards in NFL history:
PLAYER (YEARS, CAREER PASSING YARDS)
Peyton Manning (1998-present, 71,871)*
Brett Favre (1991-2010, 71,838)
Dan Marino (1983-1999, 61,361)
Drew Brees (2001-present, 60,168)*
Tom Brady (2000-present, 57,663)*
*Active

Brees, who has 4,135 passing yards this season, became the first player in NFL history to have 10 consecutive 4,000-yard seasons.

?SUPER CAM: Carolina quarterback Cam Newton passed for 340 yards with five touchdowns and rushed for 100 yards in the Panthers’ 38-35 win at the New York Giants. Newton is the first player in NFL history with at least 300 passing yards, 100 rushing yards and five touchdown passes in a single game.

Newton has 3,402 passing yards and 580 rushing yards this season and is the only player in NFL history to have five different seasons with at least 3,000 passing yards and 500 rushing yards. Newton has accomplished the feat in each of his five NFL seasons.

BIG BEN: Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed 40 of 55 passes (72.7 percent) for 380 yards and three touchdowns in the Steelers’ 34-27 win over Denver.

Roethlisberger, who completed 40 passes against Indianapolis on October 26, 2014, is the first player in NFL history with two career games with at least 40 completions.

Roethlisberger’s two games with 40 completions:

DATE – OPPONENT (COMP-ATT., PCT., YARDS; TDs-INTs; RATING)
December 20, 2015 – Denver (40-55, 72.7, 380; 3-2, 94.5)
October 26, 2014 – Indianapolis (40-49, 81.6, 522; 6-0, 150.6)

DOMINANT DOUG: Seattle wide receiver Doug Baldwin caught four passes for 45 yards and two touchdowns in the Seahawks’ 30-13 win against Cleveland.

Baldwin, who has had at least two touchdown receptions in each of his previous three games, joined Pro Football Hall of Famer CRIS CARTER (1995) and CALVIN JOHNSON (2011) as the only players in NFL history to have multiple touchdown catches in four consecutive games.

Baldwin, who has 10 touchdown receptions in Seattle’s past four games, tied Pro Football Hall of Famer JERRY RICE (1987) for the most touchdown catches in a four-game span in a single season in NFL history.

Baldwin’s past four games:
WEEK – OPPONENT (RECEPTIONS, YARDS; TOUCHDOWNS)
12 – Pittsburgh (6, 145; 3)
13 – at Minnesota (5, 94; 2)
14 – at Baltimore (6, 82; 3)
15 – Cleveland (4, 45; 2)

CONSISTENT CATCHERS: Pittsburgh WR Antonio Brown had 16 receptions for 189 yards and two touchdowns in the Steelers’ 34-27 win against Denver, while Atlanta wide receiver Julio Jones had nine receptions for 118 yards and a touchdown in the Falcons’ 23-17 victory at Jacksonville.

Brown (116 receptions, 1,586 receiving yards) and Jones (118, 1,544) rank in the top two in both receptions and receiving yards this season.Jones, who had 104 receptions for 1,593 yards last season, and Brown, who had 129 receptions for 1,698 yards in 2014, join Marvin Harrison (2001-02) and Andre Johnson (2008-09) as the only players in NFL history with consecutive seasons with at least 100 receptions and 1,500 receiving yards.

GREAT GURLEY: St. Louis rookie running back Todd Gurley rushed for 48 yards and a touchdown in the Rams’ 31-23 victory over Tampa Bay on Thursday Night Football.

Gurley, who has 1,023 rushing yards this season, joins Pro Football Hall of Famers Eric Dickerson (1,808 yards in 1983) and Jerome Bettis (1,429 in 1993) as the only Rams rookies with at least 1,000 rushing yards.

Gurley’s, Bettis’ and Dickerson’s rookie seasons:
PLAYER – YEAR (RUSHING YARDS, RUSH TOUCHDOWNS)
Todd Gurley – 2015 (1,023, 9)*
Jerome Bettis – 1993 (1,429, 7)
Eric Dickerson – 1993 (1,808, 18)
*Through Week 15

HOT PEPPERS: Green Bay linebacker Julius Peppers had 2.5 sacks in the Packers’ 30-20 win at Oakland.

Peppers, who now has 135 career sacks, surpassed John Abraham (133.5) and De Marcus Ware (133.5) for the 10th-most sacks since the stat became official in 1982.

Time is running out. With two weeks to go in the NFL regular season, it’s time for teams to make their final playoff push.

“At the end of the day, you’ve just got to take care of your own business,” says New York Jets wide receiver Eric Decker. “We’ve got two big games ahead of us against two division opponents. We’ve got to come out and play our best.”

Through the first 15 weeks, six postseason berths have been clinched. Carolina (NFC South, first-round bye), New England (AFC East, first-round bye) and Arizona (NFC West) have each won its division. Cincinnati, Green Bay and Seattle have all secured a playoff berth. And with two weeks left, there are still 18 teams in contention for a trip to Super Bowl 50.

“We have to keep living week in and week out,” Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin told KDKA-TV. “We don’t take wins for granted in this league and hopefully succeeding in the face of adversity strengthens us for the battles that await.”

There are six playoff spots up for grabs, including five division titles.

In the AFC, New England can secure home-field advantage this week. Cincinnati has a chance to lock up the AFC North and earn a first-round bye. Denver can wrap up a playoff berth and the AFC West title. Houston can win the AFC South. And Pittsburgh and Kansas City can each secure a postseason spot.

In the NFC, Carolina can clinch home-field advantage this week. Arizona can lock up a first-round bye. Green Bay can win the NFC North. Washington can secure the NFC East. And Minnesota can clinch a postseason berth.

Here are the playoff scenarios. You might want to pay attention. It’s going to cause more confusion than a mouse in a burlesque show (apologies to Foghorn Leghorn!)

AFC

CLINCHED: New England – AFC East and a first-round bye; Cincinnati – playoff berth

New England at New York Jets on Sunday

New England clinches home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs with:
1.New England win OR

2.New England tie + Cincinnatiloss or tie

Cincinnati at Denver on Monday

Cincinnati clinches AFC North division with:

1.Cincinnati win or tie OR

2.Pittsburg loss or tie

Cincinnati clinches a first-round bye with:

1.Cincinnati win or tie

Denver vs. Cincinnati on Monday

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 + New York Jets loss or tie  OR

2.Denver win + Pittsburgh loss or tie OR

3.Denver tie + New York Jets loss OR

4.Denver tie + Pittsburgh loss

Houston at Tennessee on Sunday

Houston clinches AFC South division with:

1.Houston win + Houston clinches strength of victory tiebreaker over Indianapolis OR

2.Houston win + Indianapolis loss or tie OR

3.Houston tie + Indianapolis loss

Kansas City vs. Cleveland on Sunday
Kansas City clinches a playoff spot with:

1.Kansas City win + New York Jets loss OR

2.Kansas City win + Pittsburgh loss

Pittsburgh at Baltimore on Sunday

Pittsburgh clinches a playoff spot with:

1.Pittsburgh win + New York Jets loss

NFC

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

Carolina at Atlanta on Sunday

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

2.Arizona loss or tie​

Arizona vs. Green Bay on Sunay

Arizona clinches a first-round bye with:
1.Arizona win or tie

Green Bay at Arizona on Sunday

Green Bay clinches NFC North division with:

1.Green Bay win + Minnesota loss or tie OR

2.Green Bay tie + Minnesota loss

Minnesota vs. New York Giants on Sunday

Minnesota clinches a playoff spot with:
1.Minnesota win or tie OR

2.Atlanta loss or tie OR

3.Seattle win or tie

Washington at Philadelphia on Saturday

Washington clinches NFC East division with:
1.Washington win OR

2.Washington tie + New York Giants loss

Got all that? There will be a quiz afterward.

UNPREDICTABLE NFL: With two weeks remaining in the 2015 regular season, 18 teams remain in contention for a trip to Super Bowl 50. Only three teams – Arizona (NFC West), Carolina (NFC South) and New England (AFC East) – have clinched their divisions and six playoff spots are still to be determined.

CONSECUTIVE CAROLINA: The Carolina Panthers (14-0) are the fourth team in the Super Bowl era to start a season 14-0 and have won 18 consecutive regular-season games dating back to last season.

With a win on Sunday at Atlanta, the Panthers would join Indianapolis (23 games from 2008-09) and New England (21 from 2006-08) as the only teams in NFL history to win at least 19 consecutive regular-season games.

The teams with the most consecutive regular-season wins in NFL history:
TEAM, YEARS (MOST CONSECUTIVE REGULAR-SEASON WINS)
Indianapolis, 2008-09 (23)
New England, 2006-08 (21)
Carolina, 2014-present (18)*
New England, 2003-04 (18)
*Active streak

BIG BEN: Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for 380 yards last week and leads the league with six 350-yard passing games in 2015.

With 350 passing yards on Sunday at Baltimore, Roethlisberger would tie Andrew Luck (seven in 2014) for the third-most 350+ yard passing games in a single season in NFL history. Peyton Manning and Drew Brees hold the record with eight such games in 2013 and 2011, respectively.

The most games with 350+ passing yard in a single season in NFL history:
SINGLE SEASON
PLAYER – TEAM (YEAR, MOST GAMES WITH 350+ PASS YARDS)
Peyton Manning – Denver (2013, 8)
Drew Brees – New Orleans (2011, 8)
Andrew Luck – Indianapolis (2014, 7)
Ben Roethlisberger – Pittsburgh (2015, 6)*
Drew Brees – New Orleans (2013, 6)
Drew Brees – New Orleans (2012, 6)
Tom Brady – New England (2007, 6)
*Through 14 games

RECEPTION PARTY: Below is a sampling of reception milestones that can be reached Sunday.

•Atlanta wide receiver Julio Jones (118) and Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown (116) rank first and second, respectively, in receptions this season.

With six catches on Sunday against Carolina, Jones can surpass Herman Moore (123 in 1995) and Wes Welker (123 in 2009) for the third-most catches in a season in NFL history. Jones has at least six catches in 11 of 14 games this season.

With four catches on Sunday against Baltimore, Brown can join Pro Football Hall of Famer Cris Carter (1994-95) as the only players in NFL history with back-to-back 120-catch seasons. Brown’s 129 catches last season were the second-most ever (Marvin Harrison, 143 in 2002).

The most receptions in a season in NFL history:
PLAYER – TEAM (YEAR, RECEPTIONS)
Marvin Harrison – Indianapolis (2002, 143)
Antonio Brown – Pittsburgh (2014, 129)
Wes Welker – New England (2009, 123)
Herman Moore – Detroit (1995, 123)
Calvin Johnson – Detroit (2012, 122)
Wes Welker – New England (2011, 122)
Cris Carter – Minnesota (1995, 122)
Jerry Rice – San Francisco (1995, 122)
Cris Carter – Minnesota (1994, 122)
Julio Jones – Atlanta (2015, 118)*
Antonio Brown – Pittsburgh (2015, 116)*
*Through 14 games

•New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall is tied for sixth in the league with 93 receptions this season. With seven receptions on Sunday against New England, Marshall would become the first player in NFL history with six 100-catch seasons.

The most seasons with at least 100 receptions in NFL history:
PLAYER – MOST 100+ CATCH SEASONS
Brandon Marshall – 5*
Andre Johnson – 5
Wes Welker – 5
*93 catches through 14 games

•San Francisco wide receiver Anquan Boldin (999) needs a catch on Sunday at Detroit to become the 13th player in NFL history to reach 1,000 career receptions. Boldin, who has played 184 career games, can surpass Reggie Wayne (195) for the fifth-fewest games in NFL history to reach the milestone.

The players to reach 1,000 receptions in the fewest games in NFL history:
PLAYER – FEWEST GAMES TO REACH 1,000 CATCHES
Marvin Harrison – 167
Andre Johnson – 168
Jerry Rice – 181
Larry Fitzgerald – 182
Reggie Wayne – 195
Anquan Boldin – 184*
*999 career catches

ROOKIE PASS YARDS: Tampa Bay rookie quarterback Jameis Winston has thrown for 3,422 yards this season. With 318 passing yards Sunday against Chicago, Winston would surpass Peyton Manning (3,739 in 1998) for the third-most passing yards by a rookie in NFL history.

The rookie quarterbacks with the most passing yards in NFL history:

MOST PASSING YARDS BY ROOKIE QB
PLAYER – TEAM (YEAR – YARDS)
Andrew Luck – Indianapolis (2012 – 4,374)
Cam Newton – Carolina (2011 – 4,051)
Peyton Manning – Indianapolis (1998 – 3,739)
Sam Bradford – St. Louis (2010 – 3,512)
Matt Ryan – Atlanta (2008 – 3,440)
Jameis Winston – Tampa Bay (2015 – 3,422)*
*Through 14 games

SACK ATTACK: Green Bay linebacker Julius Peppers has 135 career sacks and ranks 10th all-time since sacks became an official statistic in 1982.

With at least a half-sack on Sunday against Arizona, Peppers would become the fifth player to have nine or more seasons with 10+ sacks since sacks became an official statistic in 1982.

The most seasons with 10+ sacks since 1982:
PLAYER – MOST 10+ SACK SEASONS
Bruce Smith – 13^
Reggie White – 12^
Kevin Greene – 10
John Randle – 9^
Many tied with 8
Julius Peppers – 8*
*9.5 sacks through 14 games
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

MILE-HIGH MONDAY: On Monday night, Denver (10-4) will host Cincinnati (11-3). The Broncos’ Monday Night Football appearance this week marks their 24th consecutive season with at least one Monday night game (1992-present), the longest current streak in the NFL. Oakland holds the record with 28 consecutive seasons appearing on Monday Night Football (1970-97). The Monday night contest at Sports Authority Field at Mile High will be the final contest in the 2015 campaign.

Denver (68) also ranks fourth for the most appearances on MNF among NFL teams.

The teams with the most consecutive seasons and most games appearing on Monday Night Football:
TEAM (YEARS, MOST CONSECUTIVE SEASONS APPEARING ON MNF)
Oakland/Los Angeles (1970-97, 28)
Denver (1992-present, 24)*
Green Bay (1993-present, 23)
Dallas (1970-88, 19)
Miami (1970-88, 19)

TEAM – MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL APPEARANCES
Miami – 82
Dallas – 77
San Francisco – 72
Denver – 68*
Pittsburgh – 67
*Including Monday’s game vs. Cincinnati

As for week 15, not bad at all at 12-4 and for the season, that makes us 138-72. Yes, you could say we’re on the nice list.

Week 16 kicked off on Thursday night when Oakland hosted and beat San Diego 23-20 in overtime, continues on Saturday night when the Washington Redskins visit the Philadelphia Eagles in a key NFC East showdown on NFL Network at 8:25 p.m. Eastern and concludes on Monday when the Bengals travel to Denver for a Monday night matchup with the Broncos at 8:30 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.

Here are the Saturday, Sunday and Monday games of week 16.

Carolina (14-0) at Atlanta (7-7), 1 p.m. on FOX DirecTV 705. They meet again and this time, it’s in the Big Peach. It’s Carolina’s turn to travel the 245-mile, 4 hour trip down I-85 as Cam Newton and the unbeaten Carolina Panthers take on Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons. Both NFC South clubs enter the contest with close wins on the road under their belts.

Carolina survived a scare in New Jersey as they let a 35-14 lead after three quarters against the Giants get away from them before needing the foot of kicker Greg Gano to take a 38-35 win over Eli and the New York Football Giants. It was a contest that featured a lot of offense but had its share of chippiness as Giants WR Odell Beckham, Jr. and Panther S Josh Norman got into several physical exchanges on the field, with words being exchanged throughout the contest. Beckham was later suspended for this weekend’s contest at Minnesota and Norman was fined $27,000 by the NFL. The feud between Norman and Beckham overshadowed the performance of Newton, who ran for 100 yards and threw for 340 yards and five TDs, including two to WR Ted Ginn. Carolina ran for 171 yards, while the Giants ran for 161 (with Rashad Jennings running for 107 yards and a TD) and Eli Manning tossing four TDs and 245 yards. Beckham, with 76 yards on six catches, caught the game-tying TD with 1:46 left in regulation when he and Manning connected on a 14-yard strike in a drive that took seven plays and 66 yards, burning 2:31 of clock. The tie would not last very long, as Newton and the Panthers marched down the field and used the entire 1:46 in eight plays and 49 yards, with Gano kicking a 43-yard try through the uprights as the clock struck :00. Carolina, remaining unbeaten with the 3-point win, went 9 of 17 on third down conversions, keeping the ball for 30:52, including the final drive, while the Giants were 6 of 15 on third down, 2 of 2 on fourth down and held the ball for 29:08.

Atlanta broke a six-game losing streak in north Florida Sunday, damaging Jacksonville’s playoff hopes at EverBank Field and came away 23-17 winners. The Falcons led 17-3 at the half and broke a 17-17 tie in the fourth quarter when Sean Graham connected on the second of his three field goals with 10:28 left to play. Graham would then add another field goal with 1:42 left to play to push Atlanta further ahead. while neither club ran for over 100 yards, Atlanta did manage to outrush Jacksonville 83-72 as the Falcons’ DeVonta Freeman led all rushers with 56 yards on 25 carries and a TD, while WR Julio Jones caught nine Matt Ryan passes for 118 yards and a TD. Ryan on the day threw for 246 yards with the TD and was sacked once and picked off once, while Blake Bortles threw for 297 and a TD with an interception and was sacked twice. Atlanta was 50 percent on third down tries at 7 of 14, holding the ball for 34:33, while Jacksonville went 0 of 8 and 0 of 1 on third and fourth down, keeping the ball for 25:27.

They met in Charlotte in week 14 and it was not a good day for Atlanta as Carolina scored 37 points unchallenged in the contest at Bank of America Stadium for the Panthers’ 37-0 win. The loss was the sixth in a row for Atlanta and the first shutout in Charlotte in the series history. Atlanta was held to 54 yards rushing, while Ryan was sacked three times and picked off once. Carolina, aided by a pair of Ted Ginn TD catches from Newton, tallied 142 rushing yards, while Newton threw for 265 yards and three TDs. The Panthers, who led from start to finish, kept the ball for 31:30, going 6 of 12 and 0 of 1 on third and fourth downs. Atlanta in the blowout loss went 4 of 14 on third down conversions and 1 of 4 on fourth down, keeping the pigskin for 28:30.

Carolina easily covered the 7-point spread with the 37-point shutout win but both clubs missed the over/under of 47 by 10. Carolina’s a 7-point favorite again and the over/under this time is 47 1/2. Carolina has had several scares this season enroute to their unblemished season, while Atlanta would like to be the Jimmy Stewart of the NFL and knock off the league’s version of Liberty Valance. These cats are about to run out of 9 Lives and we don’t mean cat food. Atlanta finally knocks off the Panthers in the Big Peach, even though they won’t cover the 7.

Dallas (4-10) at Buffalo (6-8), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 706. A pair of former Super Bowl meet in upstate New York as the Bills host the struggling Dallas Cowboys in an intraconference matchup.

The Cowboys officially eliminated themselves from the post-season party with a 19-16 loss to the New York Jets last Saturday night in Arlington. Dallas let a 13-9 lead at the half get away from them as the Jets went on to outscore them 10-6 in the final 30 minuntes of play. Dallas eventually tied the contest up at 16-16 when Dan Bailey connected on a 50 yard field goal with 1:55 left in regulation. That lead lasted about as long as a sugar cookie on a plate when the Jets took the lead back and took it for good when Randy Bullock connected on a 40-yard field goal with 36 seconds left. Darren McFadden led all rushers with 100 yards, as Dallas outrushed New York 133-73 but the Cowboy passing game suffered as Matt Cassell and Kellen Moore, taking over for Tony Romo (shoulder) threw four interceptions. New York’s Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 299 yards and a TD pass to WR Eric Decker with 8:58 left to play. Dallas was 2 of 11 on third down tries but found success on fourth down, going 1 of 1 and held on to the ball for 27:43, while the Jets kept the pigskin for 32:17, going 5 of 14 and 0 of 1 on third and fourth downs.

The Bills also lost last week, dropping a 35-25 decision over Washington last Sunday afternoon at FedEx Field. Buffalo trailed 21-0 at the half before they rallied in the final 30 minutes of play to outscore the Redskins 25-14. The one bright spot for the Bills was that they did outrush Washington 240-123. Washington’s Kirk Cousins did manage to throw for 319 yards and four TDs without being intercepted, although he was sacked once, while Bills QB Tyrod Taylor threw for 235 yards and a pair of TDs but was sacked five times. Washington on third down tries went 7 of 11 on the afternoon near the nation’s capital, needing only to keep the ball for 29:04, while Buffalo was 5 of 13 and 1-3 on third and fourth down tries and actually ruled the clock, keeping the ball for 30:56.

Dallas holds a 6-3 lead in the series and have outscored Buffalo 192-135. Their last regular season meeting took place in 2011 in the Lone Star STate with the Cowboys coming away 44-7 winners. Buffalo’s last victory over Dallas came in upstate New York in 1996, as the Bills would wind up winning 10-7.

Meeting in back to back Super Bowls, it was Dallas that came away with the Lombardi Trophy in both contests.

The first meeting… Pasadena’s Rose Bowl in  Super Bowl XXVII and it was not a good day for the Bills as they were blown out of the water by Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith, losing 52-17. The blowout win over Buffalo marked the resurgence of Dallas’ Super Bowl dominance and turned out to be the first of three Cowboys Super Bowl wins to come in the next four years. Aikman connected with wide receiver Michael Irvin twice for touchdown passes, with wide receiver Alvin Harper and tight end Jay Novacek also on the receiving end of scoring strikes. Aikman’s performance was spectacular. He completed 22 of 30 passes for 273 yards to go along with his four touchdowns.

Meeting two was in the Big Peach in the Georgia Dome and for Dallas, second verse, same as the first. Another matchup with Buffalo and another win, although the second meeting was a little closer with Dallas coming away 30-13 winners in Super Bowl XXVIII. Dallas trailed at halftime and Smith’s two second-half scoring runs that propelled the Cowboys to victory for the second consecutive year over the rival Bills. Smith was a workhorse in their drive that gave them lead for keeps, as he carried the ball seven times on an eight-play third-quarter scoring drive punctuated by a 15-yard touchdown scamper. Carrying the ball 30 times for 132 yards, Smith’s steady effort helped stifle any hopes of a Buffalo comeback.

Buffalo’s favored by 6 1/2 and the over/under’s 42 1/2. This might be the next to last game for Jason Garrett as Cowboys coach and given the qb woes that the team has had, that could be the case. The Bills could hasten that for Dallas in upstate New York, while fighting for a Wild Card spot in the process. Dallas will make this one interesting but Buffalo circles the wagons and wins at home.

San Francisco (4-10) at Detroit (5-9), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 707. With nothing more to play for than pride, San Francisco travels to the Motor City to face the Detroit Lions.

San Francisco could never get on track against Cincinnati last Sunday at Levis’ Stadium and fell to the Bengals 24-14. The 49ers trailed 21-0 at the half but rallied in the second half to make things a bit more interesting. Bengals RB Jeremy Hill scored the first 14 points for the Bengals, who never trailed in the contest, while A.J. McCarron made his first NFL start, throwing for 192 yards and a TD pass to TE Tyler Kroft. San Francisco’s Blaine Gabbert did outpace McCarron, throwing for 295 yards but was sacked four times and picked off three times and as far as rushing yardage went, it wasn’t much to write home about but the Bengals outrushed the 49ers 68-55. Both teams also struggled on third down conversions, with Cincy going 4 of 14, while San Francisco was 2 of 14. San Francisco did strike gold on fourth down, going 2 of 2 and held the ball for 29:01, while the Bengals failed in their only fourth down try, keeping the ball for 30:59.

Detroit damaged New Orleans’ slim playoff hopes last Monday night in the Big Easy, taking down Drew Brees and the Saints 35-27. The Lions led 21-3 at the half before the Saints put on a rally that made things uneasy for Lions fans, as they would outscore Detroit in the second half 24-14. Golden Tate and Matthew Stafford connected for a pair of TD passes in the game, while the Lions outrushed New Orleans 150-69. Both Stafford and Brees threw three TD passes, with Brees connecting with Ben Watson on a 1-yard strike with 1:55 left in regulation. Detroit was 4 of 8 on third down conversions and kept the ball for 29:36, while the Saints were 5 of 14 and 2 of 2 on third and fourth downs, keeping the ball for 30:24.

Including games that were played at Tiger Stadium, Keezar Park, the Silverdome and Candlestick Park, the 49ers lead the series 36-26-1, have outscored the Lions 1,378-1,302 and have won the last nine meetings with Detroit, including a 27-19 win in Candlestick Park in 2012. Detroit’s last win in the series came in 1995 in the Motor City by a 27-24 final.

Detroit’s favored by 3 in the Motor City and the over/under is 43. You might want to avoid this one and try to return that ugly sweater your cousin Elizabeth got you (no wonder she’s still not married!). Both teams are bad. There’s no denying that. Neither will make the post-season when the dust settles and there has to be a winner (it’s sort of like going Christmas shopping for the last Cabbage Patch doll and you lose to some blue-haired lady with a cane!). San Francisco covers the 3 and wins in the Motor City.

Cleveland (3-11) at Kansas City (9-5), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 710. Kansas City, looking for a post in the playoff party, returns home to Arrowhead for a meeting with the Cleveland Browns.

Cleveland and Johnny Manziel were taken to the woodshed last Sunday by Seattle, losing to the defending NFC champs 30-13 in the Pacific Northwest. Cleveland trailed 20-10 at the half and shutout the Seahawks in the third quarter before the home team outscored them in the final 15 minutes of play to take the win. Seattle outrushed Cleveland 182-94 and Russell Wilson, who had three TD passes, outpaced Manziel (two TDs) in passing yardage 249-161. Both clubs did quite well on third down tries in the land of grunge, salmon and Starbucks, going 50 percent or better in that catagory (Cleveland was 6 of 12, while Seattle was 9 of 12) and Seattle ruled the clock, keeping the pigskin for 34:33 to Cleveland’s 25:27.

Kansas City never trailed in their contest with Baltimore, taking down the Ravens 34-14. The Chiefs led 24-14 at the break and then proceeded to shutout the Ravens in the final 30 minutes of play 10-0 for the win. Kansas City outrushed the Ravens 113-93 and made life less than pleasant for Jimmy Clausen, standing in for Joe Flacco (knee), as the Chiefs defense sacked him twice and picked him off twice, although he did throw a pair of TDs. Kansas City was 5 of 13 on third down tries and held the ball for 32:19, while the Ravens, whose lone bright spot came at the half when WR Kamar Aiken and Clausen connected on a 48 yard TD pass as the first half came to an end, went 4 of 13 on third down, 1 of3 on fourth down and kept the ball for 27:41. The win in Baltimore was their eighth in a row after Kansas City had lost five in a row earlier in the season.

The series between Kansas City and Cleveland is tied 11-11-2 (including games played at old Cleveland Stadium and Swope Field in Kansas City) and Cleveland has outscored Kansas City by a very slim 484-483 margin. The Browns’ last win in the series came in 2012, along the shores of Lake Erie, coming away 30-7 victors. Kansas City’s last win in the series came in 2013 at Arrowhead by a final of 23-17. The Chiefs are favored by 11 and the over/under’s 43. Cleveland would like nothing more than to spoil Kansas City’s party, while the Chiefs would like to drive the Browns one step closer to picking first in next year’s draft. With the first selection… Kansas City takes this one, even though they may not cover the 11.

Indianapolis (6-8) at Miami (5-9), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 709. Indy travels to the Sunshine State for a matchup in Miami as the Colts hope to reclaim first place in a somewhat less-than-stable AFC South.

The Colts lost their hold of first place in their division after their 16-10 loss to Houston last Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium. Indy led 10-0 at the intermission before the Texans outscored them in the second half of their AFC South contest
13-0. Houston’s Alfred Blue rushed for 107 of his team’s 155, while holding the Colts to 50 and sacked Matt Hasselbeck twice. Houston was 5 of 13 on third down tries but 2 of 2 on fourth down and kept the ball from Luck-less Indy 33:56, while the Colts were 4 of 13 on third down tries and held the ball for 26:04.

For the seventh straight season, Miami will not be going to the post-season party, putting their fans out of their misery with a 30-14 loss to San Diego at Qualcomm Stadium. San Diego led 23-0 at the half and never trailed in the contest with Miami in the contest, although the Dolphins, held to 44 yards rushing, managed to win the second half, outscoring San Diego 14-7 in the final 30 minutes of play. Miami’s Ryan Tannehill threw for 216 yards without a TD or an interception, while San Diego’s Philip Rivers threw for 311 yards and three TDs, all to RB Danny Woodhead, even though he also had a pair of interceptions and was sacked once. San Diego on third down tries went 9 of 14 and kept the ball for 38:53, while Miami went 2 of 14 on third down but found success in their three fourth down tries, keeping the ball for 21:07.

Miami leads the series 45-25, which includes games played when the Colts were in Baltimore and Miami played their home games in the Orange Bowl. Miami has outscored the Colts 1,583-1,213 and won the last meeting with Indianapolis, taking a 24-20 win in the Hoosier State in 2013. The Colts’ last win in the series came in 2012 (also in the Hooiser State) by a 23-20 final. Miami’s favored by 1 in the Sunshine State and the over/under is 44. The Dolphins know that they will be at home when the post-season gets underway, while the Colts want to catch and pass Houston to be kings of the AFC South mountain. Long live the king. Indy covers the 1 and wins in the Sunshine State.

Pittsburgh (9-5) at Baltimore (4-10), 1 p.m on CBS and DirecTV 711. They met in week four in the Steel City. They meet again in Charm City as the Steelers look to take a playoff spot against the struggling Baltimore Ravens.

Pittsburgh erased a 27-13 halftime deficit against Denver last Sunday at Heinz Field and rallied to take a 34-27 win over the Broncos. Pittsburgh and Ben Roethlisberger shutout the Broncos 21-0 in the last 30 minutes of play in the Steel City for the come-from-behind victory. Pittsburgh took the lead for keeps in the fourth quarter when Roethlisberger and WR Antonio Brown connected on a 23 yard TD pass with 3:24 left to play. After RB DeAngelo Williams opened the contest’s scoring with a 2-yard run, Denver would go on to score their first 20 points unchallenged, with Broncos QB Brock Osweiler throwing for a pair of TDs (one to WR Demaryius Thomas, the other to WR Emmanuel Sanders) and rushing for a score of his own. Thomas would catch another Osweiler pass in the contest, a 6-yard strike with 1:56 left to play before the intermission. It would be the last points that Denver would score in the contest, as the Steelers would score their last 28 points unchallenged, taking the win with the Brown TD pass. Denver outrushed the Steelers 104-23 but Roethlisberger outpaced Osweiler 380-296 (both men threw three TDs in the late afternoon contest at Heinz Field, with Roethlisberger throwing two interceptions to Osweiler’s one). Denver went 9 of 17 on third down tries (0 of 2 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 28:44, while the victorious Steelers were 7 of 15 on third down, keeping the ball for 31:16.

The Ravens limp into the Sunday contest in Charm City after they got their wings clipped 34-14 by Kansas City last week. The Chiefs led 24-14 at the break and then proceeded to shutout the Ravens in the final 30 minutes of play 10-0 for the win. Kansas City outrushed the Ravens 113-93 and made life less than pleasant for Jimmy Clausen, standing in for Joe Flacco (knee), as the Chiefs defense sacked him twice and picked him off twice, although he did throw a pair of TDs. Kansas City was 5 of 13 on third down tries and held the ball for 32:19, while the Ravens, whose lone bright spot came at the half when WR Kamar Aiken and Clausen connected on a 48 yard TD pass as the first half came to an end, went 4 of 13 on third down, 1 of3 on fourth down and kept the ball for 27:41.

It’s a rematch of a week four contest in the Steel City on a Thursday night and the Ravens erased a 13-7 halftime deficit and rallied to take a 23-20 overtime win over the Steelers at Heinz Field. For Baltimore, it was kicker Josh Tucker scoring his team’s last nine points, with a trio of field goals, a 42-yarder with three seconds left in regulation and a 52-yarder with 5:08 in overtime to take the road win. Pittsburgh’s LeVeon Bell ran for 129 yards and a TD in the contest (the Steelers ran for 167), while Baltimore’s Josh Forsett tallied 150 yards, as Baltimore ran for 191. Baltimore was 6 of 17 on third down conversions in the overtime win (they were 1 of 4 on fourth down) and held the ball for 37:43, while the Steelers were 2 of 13 and 0 of 2 on third and fourth down tries, keeping the ball for 32:09.

In the week four matchup, a Thursday night affair, the Steelers were favored by 2 1/2 and the Ravens covered the spread with their 3-point win but both the Ravens and Steelers missed the 48 over/under by 5 (that number? 43). The oddsmakers like the Steelers again, this time as 10 point favorites with a 47 1/2 over/under. The 47 1/2 makes sense. It’s the 10 that keeps us up at night, like Marley’s ghost scaring Scrooge. The Ravens may be 4-10 but they can put points on the board. Still, the Steelers march on for a spot at the post-season party and win in Charm City, even though they won’t cover the 10.

New England (12-2) at New York Jets (9-5), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 712. Tom Brady and the New England Patriots travel to upstate New Jersey for an AFC rematch with the New York Jets at Met Life Stadium.

Brady and the defending Super Bowl champions took Tennessee to task in Foxboro last SUnday, beating the Titans 33-16 at Gillette Stadium. Although they were outscored by Tennessee 13-9 in the second half, New England led 24-3 at halftime and were never really threatened. The Titans rushed for only 59 yards in Foxboro, while the Pats ran for 93, with Brady throwing a pair of TDs in the 17-point loss, including one toss to TE Rob Gronkowski. New England was 7 of 16 on third down conversions in their final home game of the 2015 campaign, keeping the ball for 29:37, while the Titans were 3 of 12 and 0 of 1 on third and fourth down, holding the ball for 30:23

GangGreen eliminated Dallas from playoff contention last Saturday night by a final of 19-16 Arlington. Dallas let a 13-9 lead at the half get away from them as the Jets went on to outscore them 10-6 in the final 30 minuntes of play. Dallas eventually tied the contest up at 16-16 when Dan Bailey connected on a 50 yard field goal with 1:55 left in regulation. That lead lasted about as long as a sugar cookie on a plate when the Jets took the lead back and took it for good when Randy Bullock connected on a 40-yard field goal with 36 seconds left. Darren McFadden led all rushers with 100 yards, as Dallas outrushed New York 133-73 but the Cowboy passing game suffered as Matt Cassell and Kellen Moore, taking over for Tony Romo (shoulder) threw four interceptions. New York’s Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 299 yards and a TD pass to WR Eric Decker with 8:58 left to play. Dallas was 2 of 11 on third down tries but found success on fourth down, going 1 of 1 and held on to the ball for 27:43, while the Jets kept the pigskin for 32:17, going 5 of 14 and 0 of 1 on third and fourth downs.

They met in Foxboro in week seven and the defending champions held off a late Jets rally to take a 30-23 win. New England led 13-10 at the intermission and never looked back, outscoring GangGreen 17-13 in the final 30 minutes of action. Brady (355 yards) threw three TDs in the contest, connecting with Amendola and Gronkowski for the scores, while Fitzpatrick threw for 295 yards and a pair of TDs. The running game for both teams went on a milk carton of sorts, as neither club came close to the 100-yard barrier (New York had 89, while the Pats had a somewhat dismal 16). Both clubs did reasonably well on third down tries, as the Jets were 8 of 14, while the Pats went 8 of 16, with New England having the only fourth down try in the game and found success in that try. Although they lost by seven to their AFC East rivals in Foxboro, the J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! did manage to rule the clock, keeping the ball for 33:03, while New England kept it for 26:57.

New England, while winning the contest at home, did not cover the 9 1/2-point spread (they won by seven) but both teams did manage to cover the 49 over/under with 53 combined points. The Pats are favored by 3 1/2 in the Meadowlands and the over/under this time is 46. New England’s already punched their dance card, while the J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! would like nothing more than to crash the party. GangGreen will make this one interesting but New England and Brady sweep the series and cover the 3 1/2.

Houston (7-7) at Tennessee (3-11), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 713. The Texans travel to the Music City to face a Titans team that is looking forward to cause chaos in the AFC South.

The Texans temporarily took claim of first place in the AFC South with their 16-10 loss over Indianapolis last Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium. Indy led 10-0 at the intermission before the Texans outscored them in the second half of their AFC South contest 13-0. Houston’s Alfred Blue rushed for 107 of his team’s 155, while holding the Colts to 50 and sacked Matt Hasselbeck twice. Houston was 5 of 13 on third down tries but 2 of 2 on fourth down and kept the ball from Luck-less Indy 33:56, while the Colts were 4 of 13 on third down tries and held the ball for 26:04.

Tennessee, meanwhile, fell to the defending Super Bowl champions in Foxboro last SUnday, falling to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots 33-16. Although they did manage to outscore New England 13-9 in the second half, Tennessee trailed 24-3 at halftime and could never really recover. The Titans rushed for only 59 yards in Foxboro, while the Pats ran for 93, with Brady throwing a pair of TDs in the 17-point loss, including one toss to TE Rob Gronkowski. New England was 7 of 16 on third down conversions in their final home game of the 2015 campaign, keeping the ball for 29:37, while the Titans were 3 of 12 and 0 of 1 on third and fourth down, holding the ball for 30:23

In their first meeting in week eight, Houston led the Titans 10-3 at the half at NRG Stadium and came out on top 20-6 winners in the Lone Star State. Tennessee did manage to outrush the Texans 86-56 but Zac Mettenberger, taking over for Marcus Mariota, was sacked seven times. Houston Brian Hoyer threw for 235 yards and a pair of TDs, including a 42-yarder to WR Nate Washington to all but seal the contest away. Third down tries in the first contest were nothing to write, text, Tweet or phone home about, as the Titans were 1 of 12, while Houston was 4 of 15 (both teams had a fourth down attempt that failed). While some things didn’t go well for the Titans, Tennessee did manage to win the clock battle, keeping the ball for 31:08, while Houston hekd the pigskin for 28:52. Houston won by 11 in that week eight contest in the Lone Star State, allowing them to cover the 4 1/2 spread with ease but the 43 1/2 over/under was safe, as both teams combined for only 29 points. The oddsmakers like Houston as 4 1/2 point favorites again and the over/under is 42. Houston wants to make it to the post-season party. Tennessee would like nothing more than to damage the Texans’ hopes. As Mick Jagger once said, “you can’t always get what you want.” Tennessee is going to be no match for the Texans, who takes this one in the Music City and covers the 4 1/2.

Chicago (5-9) at Tampa Bay (6-8), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 708. A pair of teams with Lovie Smith as a connection meet in Tampa Bay as Smith’s old team meets his new one in the Sunshine State. Both teams, out of the post-season picture, enter Sunday’s contests with losses under their belts.

Da Bears trailed Minnesota 17-7 at halftime at TCF Bank Stadium last Sunday, before the Vikings pulled away in the second half and took a 38-17 win at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. Minnesota claimed ownership of the second half, outscoring Chicago 21-10 to take the win and pull closer to Green Bay for the NFC North. Chicago was outrushed by Minnesota 129-94, while Jay Cutler was sacked five times, throwing for 231 yards and a pair of TDs with an interception. On the Vikings’ side of the ledge, Teddy Bridgewater threw for 231 yards in the air and four TDs, connecting with rookie WR Stefon Diggs twice and RB Adrian Peterson led all rushers with 63 yards on 18 carries. Chicago, who turned the ball over twice, went 5 of 12 on third down tries (1 of 2 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 27:50, while the Vikings kept the pigskin for 32:10 and went 8 of 12 on third down tries.

Tampa Bay trailed St. Louis 21-3 at halftime last Thursday night and then rallied late, only to fall short and came away 31-23 losers to the Rams at Edward Jones Dome. Winston managed to throw for 363 yards and a pair of TDs, while St. Louis’ Case Keenum threw for 234 and also had a pair of TD passes, despite being sacked twice yards. It was the offense that stopped themselves when Winston threw a key interception as Tampa Bay was in the middle of a drive. Tampa Bay went 3 of 10 and 0 of 1 on third and fourth downs, while the Rams were 2 of 10 on third down (St. Louis did not have a fourth down try). Tampa Bay did win the battle of the clock, keeping the ball for 31:20, while St. Louis kept it for 28:40.

Chicago leads the series with the Bucs 37-18, have outscored Tampa Bay 1,188-866 and have taken wins in the last two meetings, including a 21-13 win in the Windy City last year. Tampa Bay’s last win over Da Bears came in 2008, also in the Windy City, as they would need overtime to come away 27-24 winners.

They met in week 12 in the Windy City and Da Bears shattered a 10-0 deficit at the half and outscored Tampa Bay 21-3 in the final 30 minutes of play. Bears RB Matt Forte had a pair of TDs, the first being a 10 yard run that gave Chicago the lead for good. Forte, who ran for 89 yards, then added a 1-yard run to all but put the contest away. Chicago outrushed Tampa Bay 92-66 and the Chicago defense sacked Josh McCown five times and picked him off twice. Neither club gave their fan base hope on third down tries (Chicago was 4 of 16; Tampa Bay was 7 of 17 and 0 of 1 on fourth down), with Tampa Bay ruling the clock, keeping the ball for 30:10 to Chicago’s 29:50. Chicago did win the contest, covering the 6-point spread with their 8-point win but both clubs came nowhere near the 46 over/under, scoring only 34 points.

Chicago won by 8, allowing them to cover the 6 point spread but both Da Bears and the Bucs missed the 46 over/under with 34 points. Tampa Bay’s favored by 3 and the over/under is 46. While both teams are going to end their seasons next week, while others prepare for the next level of football (playoffs), Tampa will fight in this one for their new coach but his old team will prevail in the Sunshine State, as Da Bears cover the 3 and win in Tampa.

Jacksonville (5-9) at New Orleans (5-9), 4:05 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 714. A pair of last place Southern teams, separated by 548 miles along I-10 meet along I-10 as the Saints host Jacksonville in the Big Easy.

Jacksonville’s playoff hopes were damaged at EverBank Field by Atlanta as they fell to the Falcons 23-17. Atlanta led 17-3 at the half and the Jaguars managed to tie the contest at 17-17 with 6:15 left in the third when Blake Bortles and WR Allen Robinson connected on a 10-yard TD pass. Atlanta broke the tie in the fourth quarter when Sean Graham connected on the second of his three field goals with 10:28 left to play. Graham would then add another field goal with 1:42 left to play to push Atlanta further ahead. Jacksonville had one last chance to march down the field to tie the contest in front of the home folks in north Florida but Bortles’ pass attempt to Robinson fell incomplete. while both clubs did not come close to the 100-yard barrier, the Falcons find their running game, outrushing Jacksonville 83-72. (Atlanta’s DeVonta Freeman led all rushers with 56 yards on 25 carries and a TD), while WR Julio Jones caught nine Matt Ryan passes for 118 yards and a TD. Ryan on the day threw for 246 yards with the TD and was sacked once and picked off once, while Blake Bortles threw for 297 and a TD with an interception and was sacked twice. Atlanta was 50 percent on third down tries at 7 of 14, holding the ball for 34:33, while Jacksonville went 0 of 8 and 0 of 1 on third and fourth down, keeping the ball for 25:27.

New Orleans’ hopes of making it into the postseason were damaged last Monday night by Detroit, as the Lions would come away over Drew Brees and the Saints 35-27. The Lions led 21-3 at the half before the Saints put on a rally that made things uneasy for Lions fans, as they would outscore Detroit in the second half 24-14. Golden Tate and Matthew Stafford connected for a pair of TD passes in the game, while the Lions outrushed New Orleans 150-69. Both Stafford and Brees threw three TD passes, with Brees connecting with Ben Watson on a 1-yard strike with 1:55 left in regulation. Detroit was 4 of 8 on third down conversions and kept the ball for 29:36, while the Saints were 5 of 14 and 2 of 2 on third and fourth downs, keeping the ball for 30:24.

New Orleans leads the I-10 series 3-2, have outscored Jacksonville 123-108 and have won the last two meetings with the Jaguars, including a 23-10 win in Jacksonville in 2011. Jacksonville’s last win in the series also came in north Florida, a 20-19 win in 2003. New Orleans is favored by 3 points in the Big Easy and the over/under comes in at 51 1/2. This one will be entertaining to watch but it won’t be a great game. They’re both 5-9 and both will not be playing post-season football when the season comes to an end. Jacksonville will at least give their fans something to smile about as they come away with the win and covers the 3.

Green Bay (10-4) at Arizona (12-2), 4:25 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 715. A pair of playoff bound teams meet in the desert as the Packers head westward to face off against the Arizona Cardinals in Glendale.

Green Bay rallied to take down Oakland 30-20 at O.com Coliseum. The Packers trailed 20-17 with 6:48 left in the third quarter when rookie WR Amari Cooper and David Carr connected on a 26 yard pass. Green Bay, who earned a playoff spot, took matters
into their hands and erased that deficit when WR Joel Jones and Aaron Rodgers hooked up on a 30-yard pass play of their own in the third. Green Bay would add a pair of Matt Crosby field goals in the final quarter to seal the deal. Oakland did outrush the Packers 120-103 and Carr outpassed Rodgers 276-204 (Carr had a pair of TDs but threw two interceptions and was sacked three times) in the contest on the West Coast that had three lead changes but it was the two interceptions and the Packers taking the lead back that did Oakland in. Green Bay was 4 of 13 on third down tries, keeping the ball for 29:29, while the Raiders at O.co Coliseum went 5 of 167 and 1 of 4 on third and fourth downs, possessing the pigskin for 30:31.

The Desert Angry Birds took Philadelphia and Sam Bradford to task last Sunday night in the City of Brotherly Love, downing the Eagles 40-17 at Lincoln Financial Field. It was a somewhat close contest at first glance as Philly trailed 17-10 at the intermission, before Arizona put the gas on the floor and outscored the Eagles 23-7 in the last 30 minutes of play. Philadelphia was held to 74 yards on the ground, while Arizona ran for 230 yards, with Cardinals RB David Johnson leading all rushers with 187 yards on 29 carries and three TDs. Both teams did well on third down tries on the chilly Sunday night in Philly, with Arizona going 8 of 14, while the Eagles were 6 of 12 (0 of 2 on fourth down). Time was the ally of the Cardinals, who held the ball for 37:28, while the Eagles kept it for 22:32.

Green Bay leads the series 44-22-4 and that includes contests that were played when the Cardinals were in Chicago and the Packers played some of their home games in Milwaukee. Green Bay has also outscored the Desert Angry Birds 1,264-908 and were winners in their last three contests in regular season play, including taking a 31-17 win at Lambeau in 2012, while Arizona’s last win in the series came in 2003 in the desert by a final of 20-13.

Even though they’ve already clinched playoff berths, there’s a good chance that they could meet in the post-season. That makes this one by its very nature “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?”

Arizona’s a 4 1/2 point favorite and the over/under’s 50 1/2. Both numbers make a lot of sense. Both teams are in the playoffs and there’s a chance that they could meet again in the post-season. Arizona’s seeded second, while the Packers sit in the third spot and both have two games left. Arizona could make this interesting but the Packers survive in the desert and take this one, covering the 4 1/2.

St. Louis (6-8) at Seattle (9-5), 4:25 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 716. A pair of NFC West rivals meet in the Pacific Northwest as Seattle remains at home at CenturyLink Field for a revenge rematch with the St. Louis Rams.

St. Louis led Tampa Bay 21-3 at halftime last Thursday night and then held off Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers, coming away 31-23 winners at Edward Jones Dome. Despite being sacked twice, Case Keenum threw for 234 yards and a pair of TDs, while Winston threw for 363 yards and also had a pair of TDs but was picked off as Tampa Bay was in the middle of a drive. Tampa Bay went 3 of 10 and 0 of 1 on third and fourth downs, while the Rams were 2 of 10 on third down (St. Louis did not have a fourth down try). Tampa Bay did win the battle of the clock, keeping the ball for 31:20, while St. Louis kept it for 28:40.

The defending NFC champs had little if any trouble with Johnny Manziel and the Cleveland Browns, taking the Browns to the woodshed 30-13 in the Pacific Northwest. Seattle led from start to finish, led 20-10 at the half and outscored the Browns in the final 15 minutes of play after the teams played a scoreless third quarter. Seattle outrushed Cleveland 182-94 and Russell Wilson, who had three TD passes, outpaced Manziel (two TDs) in passing yardage 249-161. Both clubs did quite well on third down tries in the land of grunge, salmon and Starbucks, going 50 percent or better in that catagory (Cleveland was 6 of 12, while Seattle was 9 of 12) and Seattle ruled the clock, keeping the pigskin for 34:33 to Cleveland’s 25:27.

Seattle broke a 10-10 tie with the Rams in the first meeting and led 31-24 with 53 seconds left when Rams QB Nick Foles and TE Lance Kendricks connected on a 37-yard TD pass to tie things up in regulation. After the Seahawks had the ball and failed to score or gain a first down, the Rams got the ball back and K Greg Zuerlein split the uprights with a 37-yard field goal with 12:06 left in the extra period. A healthy Marshawn Lynch led all rushers in the contest with 73 yards, while Seattle outrushed St. Louis 124-76, while the Rams’ defense made life in the season opener miserable for Russell Wilson, sacking him six times with an interception. Although the Rams turned the ball over three times (all fumbles), they did manage to go 6 of 11 on third down tries, keeping the ball for 28:32, while the Seahawks went 8 of 19 and 1 of 2 on third and fourth downs and ruled the clock as they held the ball for 37:28.

Seattle in the week one contest was favored by 4 but St. Louis won by 3, meaning that the spread was not covered. As for the 41 over/under? Both teams did manage to cover that, combining for 65 points. The Seahawks are the darlings of the oddsmakers in Vegas and come in as 13 1/2 point favorites with a 40 1/2 over/under. The Rams would like to at the very least slow down Seattle in their pursuit of another NFC title, while the Seahawks are looking for revenge from their week matchup. Revenge is a dish best served cold and Seahawk fans hope their teams goes back for seconds. Seattle may not cover the 13 1/2 but they do come away winners in the land of grunge, salmon and Starbucks.

New York Giants (6-8) at Minnesota (8-6), 8:25 p.m. on NBC. A pair of future Hall of Famers meet in the Twin Cities as playoff contender Minnesota hosts the New York Giants.

The Giants rallied to tie Carolina 35-35 with 1:46 left in regulation before the Panthers came back in the final seconds of their contest to fall to Cam Newton and the Panthers 38-35. The Panthers surved the scare from Eli Manning and the Giants in New Jersey as they let a 35-14 lead after three quarters against the Giants get away from them before needing the foot of kicker Greg Gano to take a 38-35 win over the New York Football Giants. For both teams, there was not a lot of Christmas joy and cheer spread and things got a bit on the chippy side as Giants WR Odell Beckham, Jr. and Panther S Josh Norman got into several physical exchanges on the field, with words being exchanged throughout the contest. The feud between Norman and Beckham overshadowed the performance of Newton, who ran for 100 yards and threw for 340 yards and five TDs, including two to WR Ted Ginn. Carolina ran for 171 yards, while the Giants ran for 161 (with Rashad Jennings running for 107 yards and a TD) and Eli Manning tossing four TDs and 245 yards. Beckham was later suspended by the NFL for his on-field actions on Monday and he appealed the suspension. On Wednesday, the power that be upheld their ruling, which means that Beckham will not be available for the Sunday night contest. Beckham, with 76 yards on six catches, caught the game-tying TD with 1:46 left in regulation when he and Manning connected on a 14-yard strike in a drive that took seven plays and 66 yards, burning 2:31 of clock. The tie would not last very long, as Newton and the Panthers marched down the field and used the entire 1:46 in eight plays and 49 yards, with Gano kicking a 43-yard try through the uprights as the clock struck :00. Carolina, remaining unbeaten with the 3-point win, went 9 of 17 on third down conversions, keeping the ball for 30:52, including the final drive, while the Giants were 6 of 15 on third down, 2 of 2 on fourth down and held the ball for 29:08.

The Vikings made quick work of Chicago last Sunday, taking a 17-7 at halftime at TCF Bank Stadium last Sunday against Chicago, before the Vikings pulled away in the second half in their 38-17 win at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. Minnesota, who led from the opening kickoff to the final gun, claimed ownership of the second half, outscoring Chicago 21-10 to take the win and pull closer to Green Bay for the NFC North. Minnesota outrushed Chicago 129-94, sacking Jay Cutler  five times, although he would wind up throwing for 231 yards and a pair of TDs with an interception. On the Vikings’ side of the ledge, Teddy Bridgewater threw for 231 yards in the air and four TDs, connecting with rookie WR Stefon Diggs twice and RB Adrian Peterson led all rushers with 63 yards on 18 carries. Chicago, who turned the ball over twice, went 5 of 12 on third down tries (1 of 2 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 27:50, while the Vikings kept the pigskin for 32:10 and went 8 of 12 on third down tries.

Minnesota holds a 13-10 lead in the series and have outscored Big Blue 529-432. New York won the last two meetings, including taking a 2013 win in the Meadowlands by a final of 23-7. As for Minnesota, their last win in the series came in 2009 in the Twin Cities at the old Metrodome by a 44-7 score. Minnesota’s favored by 6 and the over/under is 45. Both numbers make sense. After all, you have two pretty good qbs in Bridgewater and Manning and the Vikings with their biggest run threat in Peterson. Add to that the fact that Eli doesn’t have his best weapon in Beckham and this could be one of the better Sunday night contests of the 2015 season. The Vikings have two goals; one, they want to win to knock Atlanta out of the postseason and two, they want to catch Green Bay and win the NFC North in the process. Those dreams are going to have to wait. New York rallies without Beckham and takes the win in the Land of 10,000 Lakes and could cover the 6.

Cincinnati (11-3) at Denver (10-4), 8:30 p.m. Monday on ESPN. A pair of playoff contenders close out week 16 and close out Monday Night Football for the year as Cincinnati travels to the Rocky Mountains to face the Peyton-less Denver Broncos.

The Bengals dismantled San Francisco last Sunday 24-14 at Levis Stadium in northern California. Cincinnati led 21-0 at the half but rallied in the second half to make things a bit more interesting. Bengals RB Jeremy Hill scored the first 14 points for the Bengals, who never trailed in the contest, while A.J. McCarron made his first NFL start, throwing for 192 yards and a TD pass to TE Tyler Kroft. San Francisco’s Blaine Gabbert did outpace McCarron, throwing for 295 yards but was sacked four times and picked off three times and as far as rushing yardage went, it wasn’t much to write home about, with neither team breaching the 100 yard barrier but the Bengals outrushed the 49ers 68-55. Both teams also struggled on third down conversions, with Cincy going 4 of 14, while San Francisco was 2 of 14. San Francisco did strike gold on fourth down, going 2 of 2 and held the ball for 29:01, while the Bengals failed in their only fourth down try, keeping the ball for 30:59.

The Manning-less Broncos let a 27-13 halftime lead against Pittsburgh get away from them last Sunday at Heinz Field and allowed the home team to rally, taking a 34-27 win over the Broncos. Pittsburgh and Ben Roethlisberger shutout the Broncos 21-0 in the last 30 minutes of play in the Steel City for the come-from-behind victory. Pittsburgh took the lead for keeps in the fourth quarter when Roethlisberger and WR Antonio Brown connected on a 23 yard TD pass with 3:24 left to play. After RB DeAngelo Williams opened the contest’s scoring with a 2-yard run, Denver would go on to score their first 20 points unchallenged, with Broncos QB Brock Osweiler throwing for a pair of TDs (one to WR Demaryius Thomas, the other to WR Emmanuel Sanders) and rushing for a score of his own. Thomas would catch another Osweiler pass in the contest, a 6-yard strike with 1:56 left to play before the intermission and those would be the last scoring plays for the Broncos, as the offense went missing, allowing the Steelers to score their last 28 points unchallenged, taking the win with the Brown TD pass. Denver outrushed the Steelers 104-23 but Roethlisberger outpaced Osweiler 380-296 (both men threw three TDs in the late afternoon contest at Heinz Field, with Roethlisberger throwing two interceptions to Osweiler’s one). Denver went 9 of 17 on third down tries (0 of 2 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 28:44, while the victorious Steelers were 7 of 15 on third down, keeping the ball for 31:16.

Denver holds a 19-9 lead in the series and the Broncos have outscored Cincinnati 606-531. They met last year in the Buckeye State and Cincinnati came away 37-28 winners (Denver’s last win over the Bengals came in 2012, also in Cincinnati, by a final of 31-23).

Cincinnati has been in 31 Monday night games with a 11-20 record (they won their one meeting last year against the Broncos), while Denver has a 29-37-1 record on MNF (they lost to the Bengals last year in Cincy in that only meeting). Cincinnati covered the 3 1/2 point spread in the week 16 affair last year and both clubs easily covered the 48 over/under with 65 points. In the final Monday night game on the 2015 docket, the oddsmakers like Denver as 3 1/2 point favorites with a 40 1/2 over/under. The last six Monday night games have been good ones and this one could follow suit. Could Denver lose again without Manning? Denver makes it close but Cincy covers the 3 1/2 and wins in the Mile High City.

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