The long and windy 2013 NFL regular season is entering its final days, and the parity-stricken year only means that even more teams are in the postseason hunt than usual.
With teams like the San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens holding onto wild-card chances in the AFC along with an NFC East that is far from settled and much more, there are plenty of storylines to follow heading into the final two weeks of the season.
Some clubs control their own destiny and simply need to win out, while others need that, plus some help from other teams. One thing is for sure: It's all going to unfold with some unforgettable performances.
Here's a look at the updated NFL standings and some of the biggest games on tap for Week 16.
|New York Giants||5-9|
|Green Bay Packers||7-6-1|
|New Orleans Saints||10-4|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||4-10|
|Seattle Seahawks (x)||12-2|
|San Francisco 49ers||10-4|
|St. Louis Rams||6-8|
|New England Patriots||10-4|
|New York Jets||6-8|
|Indianapolis Colts (y)||9-5|
|Denver Broncos (x)||11-3|
|Kansas City Chiefs (x)||11-3|
|San Diego Chargers||7-7|
x = clinched playoff spot, y = clinched division
Note: Standings courtesy of NFL.com.
New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens
Heading into Week 15, the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens were fortunate just to control their own shot at getting the final AFC wild-card slot. But after Cincinnati lost to Pittsburgh on Sunday Night Football, the Ravens suddenly have a shot at winning the division.
It will take a hard-earned win against one of the AFC's best to do that, however, as the Patriots are coming to town.
Fresh off a last-minute loss in Miami last weekend, New England voided an opportunity to bolster its shot at home-field advantage in the AFC. The Pats will be fighting hard to surpass Denver in these final weeks to ensure that they play every postseason game in the Northeast.
The Dolphins are nipping at the Ravens' heels for that final wild-card slot, as are the Chargers. Baltimore would put itself in a very precarious situation if it failed to pick up a win.
Of course, the Ravens have their hands full with a Monday Night Football showdown against Detroit to cap off Week 15.
Chicago Bears at Philadelphia Eagles
The Bears enter Week 16 trying to hold off Detroit and Green Bay in an NFC North division that has been incredibly tight throughout the season. They'll have to defeat another division leader to continue rolling.
Although few thought it was likely entering Chip Kelly's first season in the NFL, the Philadelphia Eagles have taken control of the NFC East, a division that seemingly nobody else is interested in competing for. After the Cowboys suffered another signature second-half collapse to the Packers in Week 15, Philly's road to the postseason got a bit easier.
Count on the Eagles' rushing attack, led by LeSean McCoy, to tear apart a Bears defense that is giving up more than 150 yards per game on the ground (last in the NFL). That will only open things up for Nick Foles, who is flourishing as a starter.
Jay Cutler threw three touchdowns and led his Bears to a road win against Cleveland in his return in Week 15, and he'll need more of the same to have a shot against Philly.
Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills
Don't look now, but after the Dolphins' come-from-behind victory over bitter division rival New England, they're 8-6 and right in the thick of things for an AFC wild-card spot.
A lot of people are up on Miami after the hard-fought win over one of the AFC's top teams, but Sports Illustrated's Greg Bedard thinks everyone should pump the brakes:
It's great for the Dolphins they got off the schneid vs. Patriots. But let's not go nuts. Surviving the Half Pats shows divide still wide— Greg A. Bedard (@GregABedard) December 16, 2013
For their aspirations of the postseason to come to fruition, they will need to get past the Bills on the road in what may be a frigid environment. Weather.com expects 30-degree weather and a 50 percent chance of showers for the contest, which could be freezing rain.
Ryan Tannehill has proven to be an above-average quarterback and flexed his clutch gene against the Patriots, but Buffalo has a top-10 pass defense that gives up fewer than 220 yards per game through the air.
However, the Bills had lost five of six before topping Jacksonville, and they get scorched on the ground, ranking 26th in run defense. If Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas can get going, it will open things up for Tannehill in the play action.