With three games already in the books, we're left with just 13 contests over the final two days of Week 16. However, what the remainder of the week lacks in quantity it more than makes up for in quality, as all but one of those games feature some sort of playoff implications.
Four teams have already clinched postseason berths, leaving only eight spots remaining for teams still in contention. Expect Week 16 to decide the fates—for better or worse—of many playoff hopefuls, as some teams will punch their tickets into January's action and others will begin looking forward to the 2015 NFL draft.
With only one game remaining for each of the NFL's 32 squads following Week 16, there's a sense of urgency to generate late-season wins, either to act as a catalyst into the playoffs or to simply end the season on a high note. With a high level of intensity expected going forward, you won't want to miss a moment of the action.
|Week 16 Schedule|
|Date||Matchup||Time (ET)||Channel||Live Stream|
|Sun., Dec. 21||Baltimore Ravens at Houston Texans||1 p.m.||CBS||CBSSports.com|
|Sun., Dec. 21||Cleveland Browns at Carolina Panthers||1 p.m.||CBS||CBSSports.com|
|Sun., Dec. 21||Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears||1 p.m.||Fox||Fox Sports Go|
|Sun., Dec. 21||Green Bay Packers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers||1 p.m.||Fox||Fox Sports Go|
|Sun., Dec. 21||Kansas City Chiefs at Pittsburgh Steelers||1 p.m.||CBS||CBSSports.com|
|Sun., Dec. 21||Minnesota Vikings at Miami Dolphins||1 p.m.||Fox||Fox Sports Go|
|Sun., Dec. 21||New England Patriots at New York Jets||1 p.m.||CBS||CBSSports.com|
|Sun., Dec. 21||Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints||1 p.m.||Fox||Fox Sports Go|
|Sun., Dec. 21||New York Giants at St. Louis Rams||4:05 p.m.||Fox||Fox Sports Go|
|Sun., Dec. 21||Buffalo Bills at Oakland Raiders||4:25 p.m.||CBS||CBSSports.com|
|Sun., Dec. 21||Indianapolis Colts at Dallas Cowboys||4:25 p.m.||CBS||CBSSports.com|
|Sun., Dec. 21||Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals||8:30 p.m.||NBC||NBC Live Extra|
|Mon., Dec. 22||Denver Broncos at Cincinnati Bengals||8:30 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
Full television info via nationwide coverage map can be found at 506 Sports.
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The Cowboys already know a victory on Sunday will clinch the NFC East following a loss by the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday. This week's contest is extremely crucial for a team that has been known to struggle in December, missing out on the playoffs in four consecutive seasons. Dallas won't want its fate decided in Week 17.
The Colts have already wrapped up the AFC South; however, they are still in contention for a first-round bye in the playoffs as they remain just one game behind both the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos. Even if Indianapolis doesn't earn a bye, it must keep winning to remain in the No. 3 seed to gain a more favorable matchup during the Wild Card Round.
Interestingly enough, this contest may very well be decided by the ultimate status of each team's biggest playmaker.
For Indianapolis, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton highlights a trio of players who may not be available for Sunday's contest. ESPN's Mike Wells tweeted the absences of the three players from Friday's practice and Cherilus has since been ruled out:
The Colts own the league's top-ranked passing offense; however, they will lose a great deal of big-play ability without Hilton in the fold. Indianapolis does have some nice reserves in Donte Moncrief and Hakeem Nicks, but the team may not be able to take as much advantage of the Cowboys' 23rd-ranked pass defense without the league's fourth-leading receiver.
Dallas has a trio of high-profile players on its injury report as well. This list happens to be highlighted by the NFL's rushing leader DeMarco Murray. NFL Network's Desmond Purnell tweeted the statuses of the trio:
Purnell also noted that Murray expects to play, which is great news for the Cowboys; however, with recent surgery on his left thumb, it's easy to wonder how difficult it will be for Murray to properly stiff-arm a would-be tackler or how reliable he will be in the passing game.
Of course, the Cowboys do have a resurgent Tony Romo at the helm and a very dangerous Dez Bryant out wide, but one could argue the reason Romo has been so efficient this season is Dallas' new run-heavy scheme. This same game plan may not be as easy to establish with either Joseph Randle or Lance Dunbar in the backfield.
It's difficult to predict the outcome of this contest before the availability of these players is finally revealed, so we should expect this to come down to which team makes more mistakes. The Colts have been the sloppier of the two teams of late, accumulating 12 giveaways over their last four games and have now turned the ball over 28 times this season, the third most in the league. The nod goes to Dallas.
Prediction: Cowboys 27, Colts 20
Playoff scenarios courtesy of CBSSports.com and current as of December 20.