NFL Week 16 Primer Late Games

Here’s a quick Week 16 preview for all of the late games with playoff implications in the NFL this week:

Tarvaris JacksonFalcons at Vikings, 4:15PM ET
Who would have thought this game would have so much meaning when the season started? Minnesota needs just one more victory to win the NFC North and put the Chicago Bears out of their misery. They’ll start Tarvaris Jackson again at quarterback this week as Gus Frerotte continues to recovery from a back injury. With a lot of help from Adrian Peterson and the running game, Jackson has been absolutely outstanding since subbing for Frerotte two weeks ago and has thrown five touchdown passes in the last six quarters. The Vikings’ defense took a hit this week when it was discovered that run-stuffer Pat Williams would miss the next 2-6 weeks due to injury. That should help Michael Turner and the Falcons’ dynamic running game stay on track, although they’ll still need a huge contribution from rookie quarterback Matt Ryan, who struggled last week against Tampa. Atlanta needs to win out and hope Dallas or Tampa lose one of their two remaining games. And considering they host the Rams next week, their playoff hopes may reside in beating the Vikings. Can the Falcons’ defense contain Peterson and force Jackson to beat them through the air? Or will the Vikings continue to build momentum as they make a playoff push?

Jets at Seahawks, 4:05PM ET CBS
The Jets are clinging to a slim lead in the AFC East as they currently hold tie-breakers over the Dolphins and Patriots in the division. However, they’re 0-3 on the West Coast this year and a trip to Seattle is never fun for any team come December. This game will also mark Mike Holmgren’s final home game, so you can expect the Seahawks to be ready to play. Still, this is a team the Jets should beat, especially if they consider themselves a legit playoff squad. Seattle’s defense has been brutal this year and as long as Brett Favre can keep from turning the ball over, NY should come up with a big road win.

Bills at Broncos, 4:05PM ET CBS
All the Broncos have to do is win and they clinch the AFC West crown. They won’t have the fortune of facing J.P. Losman, though, as Trent Edwards will resume his starting quarterback duties after missing the past couple weeks due to injury. Denver has been consistently inconsistent this season, especially at home where they currently post a 4-3 record. Buffalo is a disaster, but they did give the Jets a game last week at the Meadowlands and Edwards might (emphasis on might) give the offense a boost. But as long as Denver’s run defense can contain Marshawn Lynch, they should (emphasis on should) be fine.

Eagles at Redskins, 4:15PM ET FOX
The Redskins were officially eliminated from playoff contention last week after an embarrassing loss to the Bengals but you’re crazy if you don’t think they would love to play spoiler. Led by quarterback Donovan McNabb and a stingy defense, the Eagles have played inspired football over the past month and proved two weeks ago in New York that they could win a huge road game. Philly needs to win their final two games to have a shot at a postseason berth and it won’t come easy. After playing in Washington this Sunday, they host the Cowboys next week, who will also be fighting for their playoff lives. If Jim Zorn continues to play things tight to the vest with his play calling, Philly defensive coordinator Jim Johnson might have a field day calling blitzes and confusing quarterback Jason Campbell. But first and foremost, the Eagles have to stop the run or else the passing game will open up and it might allow Zorn to get more creative than he has been of late. Washington’s defense has been solid all year but can anyone slow down McNabb and Brian Westbrook? As long as the Redskins are motivated to ruin the Eagles’ postseason dreams, this should be a great game.

Panthers at Giants, 8:15PM NBC
The battle for the No. 1 seed in the NFC is on the line this week in East Rutherford as the G-Men host the suddenly Super Bowl-caliber Panthers. These are two teams heading in opposite directions as the Giants have lost two straight while Carolina is winners of two in a row. The Panthers have been dominating opponents with their running game over the past two weeks, but they’ll get a huge test this Sunday against a stingy New York front seven. Still, the Giants’ offense has struggled without Plaxico Burress and a healthy Brandon Jacobs, so losing three in a row isn’t out of the question. They need to do a better job of protecting Eli Manning or else the road to the Super Bowl in the NFC will run through Carolina this year. Jacobs is expected to play so that should help, but it remains to be seen how effective he’ll be. And can anyone stop the Panthers’ Steve Smith?

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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