NFL Christmas Games
Football at Thanksgiving is always a time-honored tradition, but recently, the NFL has made it a point to make football on Christmas a yearly tradition as well. With the big holiday falling on Saturday this year, the league has two games scheduled for December 25. But why let the fun stop on Christmas Day when the next day is also chock full of important matchups with playoff implications. So let’s pour that GameDay cocktail and dive into five of the biggest games going on this weekend.
Cleveland at Green Bay
Cleveland nearly held on for an impressive win with a shorthanded team, but last week’s loss to Las Vegas puts even more pressure on this trip to Green Bay. The Packers are the best team in the league at the moment with an 11-3 record and are riding a three-game winning streak. Green Bay has won its other three games against the AFC North this season, and they have been beating teams far better than the Browns. However, if Cleveland can get some of their key players back, it can give the Packers a challenge with its aggressive rushing attack that will keep Aaron Rodgers off the field. Cleveland also has a ferocious pass rush that will attack the Packers line and force Rodgers into some quick decisions. Now it’s just about waiting and seeing who will be available for Cleveland on Saturday.
Indianapolis at Arizona
This is one of the more intriguing matchups on the schedule with one of the hottest teams in the NFL traveling to one of the best teams in the league. The Colts have won five of their last six games and seven of their last nine to overcome a 1-4 start and put themselves squarely in position for the playoffs at 8-6. The Cardinals were the last unbeaten team in the NFL this season and are still among the league’s best with a 10-4 record led by a dynamic offense. Some injuries on offense have limited the Cardinals in recent weeks while the Colts have ridden Jonathan Taylor’s MVP candidacy to their recent success. Taylor is going to get his yards and he’s going to score, that isn’t a question. The bigger question is if the Cardinals can use the home-field advantage to reinvigorate their offense and be able to move the ball on a Colts defense that has been exceptional over the last month.
Buffalo at New England
This is a winner-takes-all game for the AFC title for all intents and purposes. A Buffalo win and it would take back control of the division. A New England win, and the Patriots would hold a two-game lead over Buffalo. A few weeks back, these two division rivals played in nasty, windy conditions which led to a low scoring win for the Patriots. With the Patriots’ rushing attack and suffocating defense against Josh Allen’s explosive offense we are expecting a higher scoring battle this time around.
Baltimore at Cincinnati
With Lamar Jackson sidelined, the Ravens haven’t missed a beat offensively thanks to Tyler Huntley. Baltimore was inches away from defeating the Packers and staying atop the AFC North, but now it must travel to Cincinnati to try and snatch the division away from the upstart Bengals. These two teams are both tied at 8-6 atop the division, and winning the division means a lot more this year with so many talented teams fighting for Wild Card berths. Whoever wins Sunday will control their destiny within the division while the loser will slide into that ferocious fight for one of the three Wild Card positions. The key will be how well the Baltimore defense steps up to slow down Joe Burrow.
Denver at Las Vegas
All of the games we’ve discussed are more or less about playoff seeding than actual playoff stakes. Yet that is the case for both of these divisional rivals as they face off with each team sitting at 7-7. The margin for error at the bottom of the AFC is already very slim with the seventh seed currently at 8-6, so a loss in this game will all but eliminate that team from being able to make the playoffs. The Raiders and Broncos are going in opposite directions at the moment, which benefits Denver despite being the visitors. Las Vegas has lost five of its last seven games, and looked unimpressive to say the least against a shorthanded Cleveland team last week. Denver will likely be without starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, but their defense has been exceptional this season and should give the Raiders a lot of trouble. It will come down to how Drew Lock can play against a vulnerable Raiders defense to be able to score enough points to keep the Broncos in the playoff hunt.