Friday Five, Week 15

Washington-Eagles game slotted for Week 17 Sunday night game

It’s Week 15 of the NFL Season which means a couple things of note: bye weeks are over; the fantasy playoffs are here and we get a return of Saturday games for the NFL. That leaves a couple of incredible Week 15 matchups—the AFC West battle between the Chargers and Chiefs and AFC battle between the Patriots and Colts—prior to Sunday. No worries though, there’s still plenty of intrigue in the Sunday slate. Let’s dive into five matchups I’m pumped to see.

Sunday Early Games:

Washington Football Team (6-7) at Philadelphia Eagles (6-7)
Yes, this is a battle of sub-.500 teams, but it’s also a key battle in the NFC playoff race. While six teams in the NFC sit above .500, another five sit at 6-7, vying for a Wild Card slot. Washington owns the current tiebreaker, but Philly is in the mix, too. And these two teams play each other twice the next three weeks, including Sunday. So, the battle for the Wild Card might well be decided by how these NFC East opponents play each other. At the end of the day one of them will be back to .500 and in position for a run while the other will be down in a hole. Both have been dealing with quarterback injuries so it will be interesting to see which team can get it together long enough to come out on top.

Tennessee Titans (9-4) at Pittsburgh Steelers (6-6-1)
The Titans effectively have a three-game lead in the AFC South with four games to play. Despite losing Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown and Julio Jones for big parts of the season, the Titans keep winning. At 9-4, they’re tied for the best record in the conference as the season comes in for a landing. Jones is back now, and the others may soon join him, giving the Titans’ hope. The Steelers, meanwhile, are on the cusp of being out of the playoff race. While there’s a logjam of teams at 7-6, the Steelers are in a pack of six-win teams that need to keep winning and get some help. Can they get a big victory at home against the Titans? If they can’t, the Steelers may be fading from the playoff picture in the AFC altogether.

Sunday Late Games:

Cincinnati Bengals (7-6) at Denver Broncos (7-6)
This is a battle of two seven-win teams currently on the outside looking in at the playoff race. The Broncos earned a huge win over the Lions last week to move back into contention. The Bengals, meanwhile, have lost two straight—to the Chargers and 49ers—seeing their playoff chances slip to a precarious place. Both teams have a difficult closing stretch and ever win will count. The Broncos are third in the AFC West, chasing the Chargers and Chiefs. The Bengals are third in the AFC North but have a chance to win the division with good play and a little luck. The outcome here will have a huge impact on the AFC playoff chase.

Green Bay Packers (10-3) at Baltimore Ravens (8-5)
Don’t look now, but the Packers are the No. 1 seed in the NFC, again. The Packers keep chugging along, smothering the Bears last week and dispatching with Arizona on the road a few weeks ago to be in the driver’s seat as the season comes in for a landing. They just need to keep winning. The Ravens were once the top seed in the AFC, but back-to-back division losses not only dropped them to fourth in the conference but the Ravens have seen their lead in the division shrink to one game. The Ravens are 1-3 in their division with two big divisional clashes left in addition to this battle with the Packers. Lamar Jackson is also ailing, meaning the Ravens could be in danger of losing a third straight and falling out of first in the division.

Sunday Night Game:

New Orleans Saints (6-7) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-3)
Tom Brady has done a lot since coming to Tampa Bay but one thing he hasn’t done is record a regular season win over the Buccaneers’ chief NFC South rivals, the New Orleans Saints. The Saints swept the Buccaneers in 2020 and earned a surprise win earlier this season. The Saints are just 1-5 in the six games since, while the Buccaneers are tied for the best record in the NFC, having won four straight games. This second divisional clash of 2021 comes at a crucial time. The Saints are one of five teams in a 6-7 logjam in the NFC, their playoff fate resting on a successful final four games. The Buccaneers, meanwhile, are in contention for the conference’s top seed and a First Round Bye as they seek to repeat as NFL champions. Who gets it done in Florida? That answer will help shape the NFC playoff field.

Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.

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