A number of NFL teams put a damper on their playoff hopes with tough losses in Week 15. Fortunately, they will get a chance at redemption in Week 16.
Each squad has only two games remaining to make its mark on the standings. A number of teams once forgotten about are still fighting for a spot, while those in front continue to provide opportunities for a comeback.
The good news is a lot of these division favorites have favorable matchups on Sunday that will allow them to close in on a playoff spot. These teams looked awful in losses in Week 15, but you can expect better things this time around.
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Minnesota Vikings
The Cincinnati Bengals have had a lot of chances to put the AFC North away, but they keep coming up short. After they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night, it's the Baltimore Ravens who actually control their own destiny in the division.
Still, head coach Marvin Lewis is doing his best to keep his team focused on the next set of games, via Bengals.com:
We've got to go play and win football games. We have to do exactly the same thing I sat here and told you last Wednesday we needed to do; that’s win the games. We didn’t win one. So we've got to win the next two. If we take care of that and take care of ourselves, that’s all we have to worry about.
It will be important for Cincinnati to not look ahead to the Ravens game in Week 17 and instead focus on the Vikings first. This is especially true after Minnesota upset the Philadelphia Eagles at home without Adrian Peterson.
Of course, the Vikings are nowhere near as competitive on the road, where they have yet to win a game this year. Meanwhile, the Bengals are a perfect 6-0 at Paul Brown Stadium.
Andy Dalton should be able to complete plenty of deep passes against the No. 30 pass defense in the NFL to secure a win and keep the lead in the AFC North.
Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins
After getting out to a 26-3 halftime lead against the Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers, the Dallas Cowboys could not hold on and ended up losing 37-36. Obviously, most fans have started blaming Tony Romo due to two late interceptions.
ESPN Stats & Info provided this look at the quarterback's lack of success at the end of seasons:
Tony Romo is now 13-21 in December/January starts (including postseason) in career— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 16, 2013
However, Adam Schein of NFL.com points out that there are plenty of others to blame in Dallas:
Chide Romo first, if you're lazy. But really, you should blame Jones, Garrett, Callahan, Kiffin and the defense before you get to the quarterback.
They will be the ones who doomed Dallas if the Cowboys wind up missing the playoffs, not Tony Romo.
No matter who you blame, the upcoming battle against the Washington Redskins will be necessary for almost all of the aforementioned people to keep their jobs heading into next season.
Fortunately, Washington is in an even bigger mess thanks to the recent benching of Robert Griffin III. Kirk Cousins took over and had some highlights against the Atlanta Falcons, but he still turned the ball over three times.
Dallas will not have an easy time on the road against its biggest rival, but Romo and company should be able to come through with a narrow victory over a team that has lost six in a row.
Detroit Lions vs. New York Giants
Matthew Stafford had a similar ending to his Week 15 game as Romo. The Detroit Lions quarterback threw three interceptions in a loss to the Ravens, including one in the final minute on a comeback attempt.
His struggles have gotten to the point that reporters were forced to ask if his job was on the line:
News of the weird: Schwartz was asked if he has considered benching Stafford http://t.co/P0WlmWOOQE— NFL: AroundTheLeague (@NFL_ATL) December 18, 2013
Of course, Bleacher Report's Ian Kenyon points out that Eli Manning has still been worse:
Room and Stafford threw game ending interceptions. Eli threw so many (5) that his team didn't have a chance.— Ian Kenyon (@IanKenyonNFL) December 17, 2013
The two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback leads the NFL by a wide margin with 25 interceptions, while his 69.7 quarterback rating is the lowest since his rookie year.
New York certainly has its problems on both sides of the ball, but Manning has barely given his team a chance to win in some games. With Detroit's ability to pressure the quarterback, he will likely make even more mistakes to hurt his squad.
Stafford will then get a chance at redemption against a weak secondary to remain competitive in the NFC North.
|Miami Dolphins||Buffalo Bills||Dolphins|
|Minnesota Vikings||Cincinnati Bengals||Bengals|
|Indianapolis Colts||Kansas City Chiefs||Chiefs|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||St. Louis Rams||Rams|
|Cleveland Browns||New York Jets||Jets|
|Dallas Cowboys||Washington Redskins||Cowboys|
|New Orleans Saints||Carolina Panthers||Panthers|
|Tennessee Titans||Jacksonville Jaguars||Titans|
|Denver Broncos||Houston Texans||Broncos|
|New York Giants||Detroit Lions||Lions|
|Arizona Cardinals||Seattle Seahawks||Seahawks|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||Green Bay Packers||Packers|
|Oakland Raiders||San Diego Chargers||Chargers|
|New England Patriots||Baltimore Ravens||Ravens|
|Chicago Bears||Philadelphia Eagles||Eagles|
|Atlanta Falcons||San Francisco 49ers||49ers|
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