NFL TV Schedule Week 15: Breaking Down Week's Best Games to Watch

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistDecember 12, 2012

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 09:  Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers drops back to pass during the third quarter against the San Diego Chargers on December 9, 2012 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Only four playoff berths have been secured with three weeks left in the NFL regular season. Since there are so many spots still up for grabs, there are no shortage of intriguing games for fans to keep an eye on during Week 15.

Of all the games on this week's slate, only a handful don't have any playoff implications. For fans, it means plenty of intriguing games to watch on Sunday. For players, it means crunch time has arrived and it's time to step up.

Let's examine the best game to watch during each time slot on Sunday. All listed times are Eastern Standard Time, and for a complete look at the Week 15 schedule with television listings, click here.


New York Giants at Atlanta Falcons (1 p.m.)

It's December and the Giants are fighting for their playoff lives, while also being viewed as a strong Super Bowl contender at the same time. In other words, nothing has changed in New York as they get prepared for a key matchup with the Falcons.

While the Giants look to maintain their one-game edge in the NFC East, it's a statement game for Atlanta after getting handled with relative ease by the lowly Carolina Panthers. The Falcons must prove that was simply a fluke result and not an ominous sign.

Pass rushing will be the key. New York's vaunted defensive line ranks in the middle of the pack with just 31 sacks this season. The Falcons are close behind with 28. Pressure is crucial with two quarterbacks who can shred secondaries if given time in the pocket.

Whichever team is able to register more hits on the opposing quarterback will have a big edge.


Pittsburgh Steelers at Dallas Cowboys (4:25 p.m.)

Ben Roethlisberger's return to the lineup wasn't enough to propel the Steelers past the San Diego Chargers last week. Luckily for Pittsburgh, the Cowboys helped them out by beating the Cincinnati Bengals, keeping the Steelers in the lead for the second AFC wild card.

The Cowboys are in a tight race of their own. They are one game back in both division and wild card races, after being written off in early November. If Dallas does make the postseason, it will have earned it because the schedule is brutal down the stretch.

So both teams clearly have a lot on the line. It will be especially interesting to see how the Cowboys handle the pressure. Every time expectations begin to rise, they usually suffer another letdown. Fans in Dallas will be hoping it doesn't happen again on Sunday against an equally-hungry team.


San Francisco 49ers at New England Patriots (8:20 p.m.)

There's no competition for the top game at 8 p.m., but this game would have made the list regardless of its start time. It falls under the category of potential Super Bowl previews, and both teams are still trying to improve their playoff standing.

The Patriots were extremely impressive on Monday night, routing the Houston Texans in front of a national audience. If they were to secure a similar blowout of the 49ers, talk about New England being unstoppable would surely begin.

San Francisco isn't going to go down without a fight, though. The 49ers never do. Jim Harbaugh has done a great job of making the quarterback switch to Colin Kaepernick a non-issue. Kaepernick will be tested by the Patriots, and how he reacts will decide the outcome.