As hard as it is to believe, there are only five weeks remaining in the NFL's regular season. That means that a number of good things are on the verge of coming to an end, including Thursday Night Football on NFL Network.
While the Pittsburgh Steelers will face the Baltimore Ravens on Thanksgiving night this week, it will take place on NBC, so it isn't part of the Thursday Night Football slate. Aside from that contest, there are just two Thursday Night Football games remaining, which means football fans will soon have to fill their mid-week football void some other way.
Here is an in-depth look at each of the Thursday Night Football games left to be played along with predictions for how they will ultimately play out.
|Week||Date||Away Team||Home Team||Time|
|14||Dec. 5||Houston Texans||Jacksonville Jaguars||8:25 p.m. ET|
|15||Dec. 12||San Diego Chargers||Denver Broncos||8:25 p.m. ET|
Houston Texans vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
In what can only be described as a battle of futility, the Jacksonville Jaguars will host the Houston Texans in Week 14. The league obviously knew that this wasn't going to be an ideal matchup since it involved the Jags, but it had to at least believe that the Texans would be relevant. Houston is arguably the league's most disappointing team this season, though, and it finds itself in the same position as Jacksonville.
Both teams are 2-9, but the Jaguars are actually better after beating Houston 13-6 in Week 12. This has been an awful campaign for Houston as it has lost nine straight after winning its first two games of the season, but losing to Jacksonville was a new low. In fact, the Texans would actually pick ahead of the Jaguars in the NFL draft if it happened today, according to NFL.com's Albert Breer:
If the draft was tomorrow, the Texans would pick higher than the Jaguars. Let that sink in.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) November 24, 2013
There will be no playoff positioning on the line when Houston and Jacksonville meet next, but the game is still important for a few reasons. Obviously the Texans want to get revenge, but the loser of this contest would be better off. Whichever team loses will be in much better position to gain the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft, and since both of these teams need quarterbacks, they could be vying for the same prospects.
Also, there is no doubt that fantasy football owners will be watching this game closely. Week 14 is a playoff week in most leagues, and owners will want to get a leg up on the competition. There wasn't much fantasy production to speak of in their first meeting, but that could very well change next time.
The Jags defense inexplicably shut down Houston in Week 12; however, they have been among the worst units in the league this season, so Texans running back Ben Tate and wide receiver Andre Johnson are definitely players worth watching.
This particular game won't be what most expected when they looked at the schedule at the start of the year, but there are plenty of reasons to watch anyway.
Prediction: Texans 24, Jaguars 17
San Diego Chargers vs. Denver Broncos
As insignificant as the Texans vs. Jaguars game may seem, the San Diego Chargers vs. Denver Broncos clash the following week should have major playoff implications. Not only are the Broncos going for the AFC West title as well as the No. 1 seed in the AFC, but the Chargers are currently tied with a host of teams for the final wild-card spot with a record of 5-6.
San Diego gave Denver a run for its money a few weeks ago when it fell just short in a 28-20 game at home. With the Bolts coming off an upset win over the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 12, they have a lot of momentum. Another win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 13 would unquestionably make the Chargers a very dangerous opponent for the Broncos when they meet on Thursday Night Football.
The timing of the game is interesting due to what happened to the Broncos in Week 12. Denver held a 24-0 halftime lead over the New England Patriots, but they ultimately blew it and lost the game. As Marty Caswell of The Mighty 1090 in San Diego pointed out, though, the Chargers suffered the same fate against Denver last year:
Can't believe the Denver Broncos blew a 24-0 halftime lead. Sincerely, the 2012 Chargers halftime lead vs Denver.— Marty Caswell (@MartyCaswell) November 25, 2013
That means San Diego is still seeking revenge for such an embarrassing loss, but it also means that Denver will be ornery now that it knows how blowing such a big lead feels. Although the game will probably mean a little more to San Diego since it needs a great record down the stretch to qualify for the playoffs, there is no doubt that the Broncos will feel like it's a game they have to have
Which Thursday Night Football game are you most excited for?
If Denver loses to Kansas City in Week 3, it will be one game back in the AFC West and will have to settle for a wild-card berth unless it outplays the Chiefs down the stretch. Even if the Broncos beat the Chiefs, however, the AFC West will be far from a lock.
Based on how well Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has been playing this season, San Diego will have a puncher's chance. Denver is the better all-around team, though, and it will prevail at home.
Prediction: Broncos 38, Chargers 28
Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter