Holiday cheer could be in order in New Orleans, Carolina, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Kansas City this weekend.
They might even be singing playoff praise of the Titans in Music City.
Of the 16 games in Week 16 of the NFL schedule, 13 have some sort of postseason implication.
Leading the parade are the NFC South matchups between the Falcons and Saints, and the Buccaneers and Panthers.
“This is definitely a type of game that we’d love to win and roll on to the playoffs,” says defensive end Cam Jordan, one of the main reasons the Saints are in such a strong position. “It’s crazy to think that 10 wins doesn’t (necessarily) get you in. ... But we’ve got our work cut out for us.”
So do the Falcons, who beat the Saints in Atlanta, but trail them and the Panthers by one game.
All three teams are accustomed to contending, particularly Carolina, which has won the division three of the last four years.
“It’s a big weekend in the NFC South. It feels like in the NFC South the last few weekends our playoffs have started,” tight end Greg Olsen said. “Every game has been critical for playoffs and seeding and alignment. It’s fun. This is the time of the year that you hope you are part of the discussion, and we are. We have a chance to make a move to get to 11 wins on Sunday and that is what our focus is on.”
Atlanta (9-5) at
New Orleans (10-4)
Atlanta has won five of its last six this year, and also has won three straight vs. the Saints. It has been getting balanced performances on both sides of the ball, from star receiver Julio Jones to rookie defensive end Takkarist McKinley.
Ranked first in offense, the Saints are the only NFL team with three players who’ve each surpassed 1,000 scrimmage yards: running back Mark Ingram has 1,420, rookie RB Alvin Kamara has 1,336, and receiver Michael Thomas has 1,085. Kamara leads NFL rookies with 12 TDs.
The winner clinches a playoff spot. New Orleans could own the division crown with a victory and a Panthers defeat.
Tampa Bay (4-10) at
Carolina also moves into the postseason with a victory, though it can’t secure the NFC South title this weekend.
The Panthers are 6-1 in the last seven and have won four straight at home. Tampa Bay has lost its last four.
Cam Newton tears up the Bucs. He has 12 TDs (eight passing, four rushing) in the last four home games against Tampa Bay. Newton needs 31 yards rushing to move into third place all-time among NFL quarterbacks.
Newton unveiled a new target last week when Damiere Byrd had two TD catches.
Los Angeles Rams (10-4) at Tennessee (8-6)
A vital game for both squads.
The Rams can clinch their first NFC West title since 2003 with a win. Otherwise, losses by Atlanta, Carolina and Detroit give Los Angeles a playoff berth.
Meanwhile, the Titans can clinch playoff spot with a win combined with losses by both Baltimore and Buffalo. To get that victory, Tennessee must slow a Rams team tied for the league lead in scoring (438 points, same as Philadelphia). Todd Gurley last week became the first running back since 2010 with three-plus TDs rushing and a TD receiving in the same game. Jared Goff is averaging 261.7 yards passing and has five TDs and no interceptions in his past three games vs. the AFC. Rams rookie receiver Cooper Kupp has 323 yards receiving in the past four games. Kupp leads NFL rookies with 804 yards receiving and is first among rookie receivers with 58 catches.
Miami (6-8) at
Kansas City (8-6)
Despite their midseason swoon, the Chiefs stand ready to clinch the AFC West they led all the way. A win or a Chargers defeat does the trick; they have never won successive AFC West titles.
But the Dolphins have won seven of their last 10 against KC, and their last loss at Arrowhead Stadium was in 2002.