Ranking the 10 Best NFL Games of Week 16

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistDecember 21, 2016

Ranking the 10 Best NFL Games of Week 16

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    Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers are set to take on the hated Ravens in Week 16. Will it be the best game of the week?
    Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers are set to take on the hated Ravens in Week 16. Will it be the best game of the week?Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

    Week 16 is set to kick off with the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants on Thursday Night Football. That game will be the start of not only a holiday week but one will have a heavy impact on the pending playoff race.

    The Giants vs. Eagles tilt is just one of several rivalry games taking place in Week 16. The biggest, though, is probably the Christmas Day matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens. In addition to being a physical contest between two bitter foes, this game could decide the AFC North champion.

    Even fans of other teams have come to enjoy the Steelers-Ravens rivalry. Which side are you on?

    We'll look at the Steelers and Ravens matchup, along with nine other games that will be the best of Week 16. Be sure to let us know in the comment section which games you think will be the best and which teams you're siding with in the second-to-last week of the season.

10. New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles

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    The Giants will be looking to clinch a playoff berth on Thursday night.
    The Giants will be looking to clinch a playoff berth on Thursday night.Al Bello/Getty Images

    Thursday, 8:25 p.m. ET, NBC

    Thursday's game between the Eagles and the Giants should be a good one. These teams are rivals, and the last time they played, the game was decided by a mere five points.

    However, this game still ranks low on our list because only one team has anything at stake. The Eagles have been eliminated from playoff contention, while the Giants can secure their trip to the postseason with a win or a tie. They can remain in the hunt for the NFC East title with a win and a loss by the Dallas Cowboys.

    Even if you don't appreciate the potential impact, this game should be entertaining for fans of defensive football. The Giants have steadily increased their level of defensive play this season and are now rated fourth overall by Pro Football Focus. This defense, which held the Cowboys and the Detroit Lions to a combined 13 points over the past two weeks, might just be championship-caliber.

    "We just have a relentless mentality," Giants cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said, per Dan Graziano of ESPN.com. "Nobody wants to be the guy who goes out and lets down the team. That's the way we're going right now, and that's special."

    Will the Giants dominate defensively once again, or will the Eagles get to play the role of spoiler? We'll find out Thursday night.

8. Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers

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    Matt Ryan and the Falcons look to continue their chase for the NFC South title.
    Matt Ryan and the Falcons look to continue their chase for the NFC South title.Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    Saturday, 1 p.m. ET, Fox

    The Atlanta Falcons hold a one-game lead over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC South. If they want to maintain that lead, they'll need to get through a Carolina Panthers team that finally seemed to find its groove last week.

    The Panthers defense has grown since the beginning of the season—Week 13's utter embarrassment against the Seattle Seahawks notwithstanding. It has risen to the challenge in a big way over the past two weeks, holding the San Diego Chargers and Washington Redskins to 31 combined points.

    The Panthers are now rated 10th in overall defense by Pro Football Focus.

    Carolina will look to play spoiler against a Falcons team that scores more than any squad in the NFL. Atlanta is averaging 33.5 points per game. It appears the Falcons could get star receiver Julio Jones back for this one too.

    Jones returned to practice Tuesday, according to Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

    This one should be a lot of fun.

7. Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills

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    Will the Dolphins continue their run at the postseason?
    Will the Dolphins continue their run at the postseason?Associated Press

    Week 16 is set to kick off with the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants on Thursday Night Football. That game will be the start of not only a holiday week but one will have a heavy impact on the pending playoff race.

    The Giants vs. Eagles tilt is just one of several rivalry games taking place in Week 16. The biggest, though, is probably the Christmas Day matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens. In addition to being a physical contest between two bitter foes, this game could decide the AFC North champion.

    Even fans of other teams have come to enjoy the Steelers-Ravens rivalry. Which side are you on?

    We'll look at the Steelers and Ravens matchup, along with nine other games that will be the best of Week 16. Be sure to let us know in the comment section which games you think will be the best and which teams you're siding with in the second-to-last week of the season.

6. Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans

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    Andy Dalton and the Bengals will get an opportunity to spoil things for Houston for a change.
    Andy Dalton and the Bengals will get an opportunity to spoil things for Houston for a change.Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Saturday, 8:25 p.m. ET, NFL Network

    Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton reached the postseason in each of his first two seasons, only for the Houston Texans to send him home. Last year, Dalton and the Bengals started the season 9-0, only for the Texans to derail any shot at a perfect campaign.

    This year, the Bengals have already been eliminated from the postseason, but it's their time to try to ruin things for the Texans.

    Houston sits atop the AFC South thanks to a tiebreaker over the Tennessee Titans. Both teams sit at 8-6 and will face off in Week 17. The Texans can win the division in that game regardless of what happens in Week 16. However, a win against Cincinnati and a Titans loss would clinch the division based on common-opponent tiebreakers.

    A win against Cincinnati would also help Houston's wild-card case, which would become a factor if the Titans end up as division champs.

    This should also be an entertaining game because it will be the first career start for newly minted Texans starter Tom Savage. The second-year quarterback took over for Brock Osweiler after two early interceptions last week, and the Texans are prepared to move forward with him.

    "I feel like Tom Savage gives us the best chance to win," Texans coach Bill O'Brien said, per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. "I'm going to give him a week to prepare as the starter, see what he can do for us on Saturday night against the Bengals."

    This game could well give us a preview of what to expect from Houston in the postseason, assuming it makes it there.

6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints

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    Can Mike Evans and the Buccaneers match points with the prolific Saints offense?
    Can Mike Evans and the Buccaneers match points with the prolific Saints offense?Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Saturday, 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox

    As we mentioned earlier, the Buccaneers can get back in the race for the NFC South title with a Falcons loss. However, the Buccaneers will also have to take care of those pesky New Orleans Saints this week for any Falcons outcome to matter.

    The 6-8 Saints are one of those non-playoff teams that no one wants to play this time of year. The Superdome can be a difficult place to play for visiting teams, especially division rivals, and the New Orleans offense is potent enough to match points with anyone.

    Drew Brees and Co. are averaging 29 points per game. Only the Falcons are averaging more.

    The good news for Buccaneers fans is that the resurgent Tampa defense has proved to be good enough to limit what the Saints are able to do. Even with last week's 26-20 loss to the Cowboys factored in, the Buccaneers have allowed an average of just 15 points per game over the past six weeks.

    When the Saints visited the Buccaneers two weeks ago, they managed just 11 points.

    Will the Buccaneers shut down Brees and the Saints offense again, or will New Orleans get its revenge in the Superdome? We'll find out Saturday.

5. Indianapolis Colts at Oakland Raiders

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    Can Derek Carr and the Raiders out-duel the Colts?
    Can Derek Carr and the Raiders out-duel the Colts?Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

    Saturday, 4:05 p.m. ET, CBS

    The Oakland Raiders are already in the postseason. However, they need to win their final two games to ensure they can also clinch the AFC West crown. One loss would open the door for the Kansas City Chiefs, who have beaten the Raiders twice this season.

    The immediate challenge is the Indianapolis Colts. Led by Andrew Luck and an explosive passing attack—rated third overall by Pro Football Focus—the Colts could prove to be a daunting challenge for Oakland. Indianapolis carries slim playoff hopes at 7-7 and has been especially dangerous on the road this season.

    Last week, the Colts battered the Minnesota Vikings in a 34-6 rout. If Indianapolis performs at a similar level in Oakland, the Raiders could well have their hands full.

    The key for Oakland may be avoiding a letdown after last week's emotional high. The Raiders' victory over the Chargers in Week 15 handed the franchise its first postseason ticket in 15 years.

    A great deal is at stake for both teams in this game, and it could end up being a quarterback duel between Luck and Raiders signal-caller Derek Carr.

    That sound like an enjoyable time to us.

4. Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys

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    Dak Prescott and the Cowboys can lock up the NFC East with a win in Week 16.
    Dak Prescott and the Cowboys can lock up the NFC East with a win in Week 16.Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

    The Cowboys are one step away from locking up the NFC East. The Detroit Lions are one step closer to blowing the NFC North. When the two meet Monday night, a lot will be on the line.

    Dallas has lost just two games but still hasn't clinched the NFC East because both of those losses came against the New York Giants. If the Giants win out and the Cowboys drop their last two games, New York would win the division.

    The 9-5 Lions, on the other hand, watched the No. 2 seed in the NFC slip out of their hands last week in a loss to the Giants. Now Detroit sits one game above the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North with a game against the Packers in Week 17.

    If the Packers manage to win in Week 16, next week's game will be for the NFC North title—Detroit's outcome won't matter. However, picking up a win in Week 16 would significantly help Detroit's chances of making the postseason as a wild-card team if it does lose to Green Bay next week.

    Dallas, meanwhile, would love to lock up its division and the No. 1 seed in the NFC. This would leave the Cowboys with the oh-so-difficult decision of whether to rest their starters in the regular-season finale.

    Expect both teams to come out swinging and keep swinging until the very end. Considering the Lions have already pulled off eight fourth-quarter comebacks this season, this one could be tense all the way down to the wire as well.

3. Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers

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    If the Packers want a shot at the NFC North title, they have to win in Week 16.
    If the Packers want a shot at the NFC North title, they have to win in Week 16.Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Saturday, 1 p.m. ET, Fox

    Saturday's game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers could prove to be one of the most important matchups of Week 16. While the Vikings have barely a slim chance of seeing the postseason, the Packers still have a shot at winning the NFC North.

    A loss to the Vikings, though, would extinguish all hope of a division title for the Packers.

    The last time these two teams met, the Vikings defense proved to be too much for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense. Meanwhile, Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford picked apart Green Bay's secondary en route to a 17-14 victory.

    That was in Week 2, though, and a lot has changed since then.

    The Vikings defense hasn't quite been the force it was early in the season. In fact, it was nowhere to be found last week against the Colts. The Minnesota defense is now rated 12th overall by Pro Football Focus.

    The Packers defense, meanwhile, has helped set the stage for a late-season surge with takeaways. Green Bay's turnover margin during its four-game winning streak is plus-11.

    Expect plenty of fireworks in this classic rivalry matchup.

2. Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs

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    The Chiefs need a win to have any shot at the AFC's No. 2 seed.
    The Chiefs need a win to have any shot at the AFC's No. 2 seed.Reed Hoffmann/Getty Images

    Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC

    Sunday night's game between the Chiefs and the Denver Broncos promised to be a good one before last week's shenanigans occurred. The Broncos will be battling to keep their slipping playoff hopes alive and to avenge their overtime loss to the Chiefs earlier this season.

    The Chiefs, meanwhile, will be looking to continue their march to the postseason in front of a rowdy Arrowhead Christmas crowd.

    However, this game took on even more importance after the Chiefs suffered a surprise loss to the Tennessee Titans last Sunday. That loss allowed the Raiders to take control of the AFC West and the No. 2 seed in the conference.

    If the Chiefs want a shot at reclaiming their spot atop the division, they need to beat the rival Broncos.

    This won't be an easy challenge. Denver will be bringing its vaunted defense—which is rated first overall by Pro Football Focus—into Arrowhead with the intention of crushing Kansas City's dreams of a first-round playoff bye.

    This should be a rugged, hotly contested fight. Don't expect fans to complain if it again takes more than four quarters to decide the outcome.

1. Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers

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    The Ravens need to win Sunday to have a shot at the AFC North title.
    The Ravens need to win Sunday to have a shot at the AFC North title.Matt Hazlett/Getty Images

    Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET, NFL Network

    When the Steelers and the Ravens get together, you know some punishment is going to get dished out. Heck, it can be almost painful to watch some of the hard-hitting action that these two hated rivals combine to produce.

    Their matchup in Week 16 is going to carry about as much weight as any non-playoff matchup these two teams have ever played. This one is basically for the AFC North title.

    The Steelers hold a one-game lead in the division, but the Ravens own the first head-to-head victory. If Pittsburgh wins, it clinches the division. If the Ravens win, they would need to beat the Bengals in the finale to take the crown.

    Even if this wasn't a game of such high importance, you would expect the bad blood to crank the intensity up to 11.

    “We know what they’re going to do," Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley said, per Ryan Mink of the team's official website. "They know what we’re going to do. Obviously, they’re going to scheme up some stuff, and we’re going to do the same. But at the end of the day, it’s Pittsburgh versus the Ravens, so we know it’s going to be four quarters.”

    It should be four quarters of pure, physical football at its best—with a division title potentially on the line. Football fans can't ask for much more.

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