NFL Week 16 preview: Chiefs, Dolphins among teams looking for playoff berth on Christmas weekend

It’s beginning to look a lot like playoff, er, Christmas, as the weekend rolls around. 

The next three days are filled with big NFL matchups for Week 16, and some teams are writing to Santa – or the football gods – about their wish to clinch a playoff berth. Others are simply hoping to remain in the playoff race with just three regular-season weeks left to play. 

There are also players who are going after some career milestones while others are looking to continue building an MVP resume

So, deck the halls with your favorite team’s jerseys and get ready for an action-packed Week 16, starting with the game everyone is looking forward to seeing.


The No. 1 seeds in both the AFC and NFC square up on Christmas night to wrap up Week 16, and there’s no finer game on which to end the holiday. Both teams have already clinched a playoff berth, with the 49ers having also sealed their NFC West title as well.

Speaking of milestones and MVP resumes, Christian McCaffrey is putting a season to remember, leading the NFL with 1,801 scrimmage yards (1,292 rushing, 509 receiving) and is tied for the league with 20 touchdowns.

If McCaffrey gets two rushing touchdowns on Monday, he will become the fifth player in NFL history with at least 15 rushing touchdowns and five touchdown receptions in a season, joining Hall of Famers Marshall Faulk and O.J. Simpson as well as Ahman Green and Alvin Kamara.

Brock Purdy, the 49ers’ quarterback who is also in the MVP race, could also make history as the first signal-caller to post a 119.0 passing rating or higher in seven straight games.

For the Ravens, Justin Madubuike, who already has a career-high 12 sacks this season, could become only the second player to record at least half a sack in 12 consecutive games. He’d join Jevon Kearse, who did so during the 1999-2000 season.


Despite Deshaun Watson’s absence, the Browns’ defense and their slew of quarterbacks have led them to a 9-5 record entering Sunday when they take on the 8-6 Texans.

So, there’s a variety of ways the Browns can make the playoffs, but the main thing is winning the game. Then, they’ll have to look at teams like the Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars and Indianapolis Colts to get either wins or losses. 

Meanwhile, the Texans are right outside the playoff bubble at 8-6. But C.J. Stroud will likely not be available again for Houston, which will have head coach DeMeco Ryans going back to veteran Case Keenum. 

This playoff scenario is a lot less complicated than the prior game as the Chiefs simply need to win to get their playoff spot solidified.

They defeated the Raiders in Week 12 as quarterback Patrick Mahomes threw for 298 yards and two touchdowns. The Raiders are still alive in the playoff race, too, so this isn’t a situation where they will let their AFC West rival walk all over them.

The Chiefs can also get in with a tie to the Raiders and a Broncos loss.

Another game that has game-of-theweek potential is this one. The Dolphins are looking to get their playoff spot etched in stone, and the Cowboys are trying to erase a brutal loss to the Bills.

Dak Prescott & Co. didn’t have their secret sauce in Buffalo, snapping the five-game win streak he helped put together amid a 31-10 drubbing. Meanwhile, the Dolphins took care of the New York Jets for the second time this season. 

Miami will need to beat the Cowboys and have the Bills lose or tie to make it in, or tie themselves and see Buffalo lose. The Cowboys, however, punched their ticket last week despite the loss.


A big win over the Broncos last Saturday puts the Lions in position to get their first playoff berth since the 2016 season. It wasn’t locked in last week because of the Seattle Seahawks’ win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

But a win or tie over the playoff-hungry Vikings would not just lock a playoff spot in, it would give Detroit the NFC North title. If they do lose to Minnesota, though, another Seahawks loss would lead to a playoff berth.

The Vikings, though, want to keep their No. 6 seed in the NFC playoffs right now, and head coach Kevin O’Connell has faith that Nick Mullens can deliver his first win as a starter with the team after losing in overtime to the Bengals last week.

For the first time this season, these two NFC East foes will match up, and quarterback Jalen Hurts wants to let off some steam after a miraculous comeback by the Seahawks moved the Eagles’ record to 10-4 on the year.

That’s three straight games Philly has lost, and there’s no better opportunity for getting back on track than against a team you’ve beaten in each of the last four meetings.

At the same time, Tommy DeVito’s streak of wins might have ended last week, but the Giants are not mathematically out of the playoff running. While it’s not likely they reach the playoffs, one can always play spoiler, messing up some seeds or completely wiping a team out of the playoff race.

This case would be seeding with the Eagles already in the playoffs, and it’s even sweeter to take down a rival.

The win over Dallas last week is exactly what this Bills team needed. It gave them back-to-back wins against very good teams (the Chiefs two weeks ago), and at 8-6, they’re on the cusp of popping back into the playoffs.

They get a highly favorable matchup against the Chargers, who remain without Justin Herbert and Keenan Allen. Easton Stick will be at quarterback again, and we saw how that unfolded against the Raiders on Dec. 14. It wasn’t pleasant.

And here’s a fun fact: Josh Allen has a touchdown pass and rushing touchdown in 10 games this season, the most such games in a season in NFL history.

Can they do it again? Can Carolina get its third win of the season while altering the playoff bracket?

A game-winning field goal by Eddy Pineiro might have wrecked the Atlanta Falcons’ playoff chances last week, and now they get a Packers team that’s lost two straight games and are 6-8 in the NFC race.

Jordan Love and his crew know this is a must-win game to remain in the hunt, especially with the final wild-card spot only at 7-7 on the season.

So, the Patriots are not going to the playoffs and are looking ahead to next year’s NFL Draft, where a quarterback may be taken. But that doesn’t mean they can’t ruin some playoff hopes.

The Broncos falling to the Lions moved their record to 7-7 on the year, which is 11th in seeding in the AFC. Another loss would be detrimental to Russell Wilson and Sean Payton. 

New England is always a tough place to play this time of year, and though Bill Belichick may appear to be Scrooge, he’d love Christmas if a win was involved.

Here are the rest of the Week 16 matchups: 

– Buccaneers (7-7) vs. Jaguars (8-6): Dec. 24, 4:05 p.m. ET
– Bears (5-9) vs. Cardinals (3-11): Dec. 24, 4:25 p.m. ET
– Falcons (6-8) vs. Colts (8-6): Dec. 24, 1 p.m. ET
– Titans (5-9) vs. Seahawks (7 -7): Dec. 24, 1 p.m. ET
– Jets (5-9) vs. Commanders (4-10): Dec. 24, 1 p.m. ET

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