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NFL-Play Offs- Wild card game-Seahawks at Cowboys game preview

Russell Wilson won a wild-card game with Seattle as a rookie, a Super Bowl in his second season and another NFC championship the third time around.

The best Dak Prescott can hope for with the Dallas Cowboys is to join Wilson on that list of title winners in his third year, a quest that will start with the first playoff meeting of quarterbacks with quite a bit in common.

Both were mid-round draft picks who became instant NFL success stories. The difference is that Prescott lost his first playoff game after guiding the Cowboys to the top seed in the NFC two years ago, then had to wait two years for his second chance. It comes in a home wild-card game Saturday night.

‘When you say success of a quarterback or a quarterback’s success depending on what they do in the playoffs, I think that’s where the checks are written and they make their money,’ Prescott said. ‘Our job is to win no matter what happens, no matter how you played individually. At the end of the day, it’s to get the job done.’

When Wilson finally missed the playoffs in his sixth season last year, the Seahawks were eliminated on the final weekend – after they bounced Prescott and the Cowboys from contention with a road win in Week 16.

Seattle was 0-2 this year when the season turned on a 24-13 win over the visiting Cowboys (10-6), with the Seahawks following a familiar formula from their Super Bowl days: an efficient Wilson, strong running game and playmaking defense.

The Seahawks (10-6) kept it up despite overhauling the roster, mostly notably dismantling key pieces of the ‘Legion of Boom’ defense. An important exception has been linebacker Bobby Wagner, who was just selected an All-Pro for the fourth time in five seasons.

‘The great thing about this team is the fact that everybody was telling us we couldn’t,’ Wilson said. ‘It shows the heart of this team and it shows the mindset of this team to be able to think the way that you want to think and the places that you want to go. To think big, to believe big.’

Wilson was a third-round pick out of Wisconsin in 2012 and won the job in his first training camp. Prescott was drafted in the fourth round out of Mississippi State four years later and became the starter after preseason injuries to Tony Romo and backup Kellen Moore.

In his first three years, Wilson won more games than any other NFL quarterback with 36. Prescott just finished tied for fifth on that list with 32. Two quarterbacks have an NFL-leading 24 games with at least a 100 passer rating in their first three seasons: Wilson and Prescott.

Now it’s time for their third – and most meaningful – meeting, with Prescott looking to beat Wilson for the first time.

‘Dak had a phenomenal year to get started and get rolling and has just been solid since,’ Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. ‘I think it’s the dynamics of the mobility that when you add that together, and of course they can both throw the ball way down the field. You’ve got the same kind of problems.’


Both teams figure to try to control the pace with their running games. Ezekiel Elliott just won the NFL rushing title for the second time in his three seasons, and Chris Carson heads a group of Seattle backs that led the NFL in rushing. The Cowboys were 10th, fueled by Elliott, and have had a top-10 defense most of the season led by pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence and young playmaking linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. Dallas was fifth against the run.

‘We’re feeling great,’ Elliott said. ‘I believe we have the best defense in football and a pretty good offense, a lot of weapons. I think we have the right recipe to make some noise.’


Seattle has won six straight wild-card games, a streak that started when Romo, a first-year starter and still the holder, flubbed the snap on a potential go-ahead field goal in the final two minutes of the Seahawks’ 21-20 home win during the 2006 season. Oddly enough during this streak, Seattle has lost every time in the divisional round.


With left guard Xavier Su’a-Filo listed as doubtful because of an ankle injury, the Cowboys are likely to have this season’s original starting offensive line before Su’a-Filo replaced injured rookie Connor Williams and kept the job.

The starters are left tackle Tyron Smith, Williams, center Joe Looney, All-Pro right guard Zack Martin and right tackle La’el Collins. Looney has filled in all year for four-time Pro Bowler Travis Frederick, who was diagnosed with a nerve disorder during the preseason.


The Seahawks settled their offensive line in the first Dallas meeting with their best rushing game to that point. A key addition was right guard D.J. Fluker, who sat out Week 17 to nurse a nagging hamstring injury but will play. Left guard J.R. Sweezy is questionable with a sprained foot.

Both teams have had issues protecting their mobile quarterbacks. Prescott (56 sacks) and Wilson (51) were among the four QBs dropped at least 50 times this season.

NFL-Play Offs- Wild card game- Colts at Texans game preview

Saturday’s wild-card game between the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts is a matchup that seemed improbable early this season after Houston dropped its first three games and the Colts limped to a 1-5 start.

Instead of letting their tough starts lead to disappointing years, these teams which both finished 4-12 last season turned things around to lead the AFC South and charge into the postseason.

Houston’s rebound began at the expense of the Colts (10-6) and it was thanks in part to a controversial call by Indianapolis coach Frank Reich in overtime. The game was tied 34-34 when, instead of punting on fourth-and-4 from his 43-yard line and likely settling for a tie, Reich called for a short pass from Andrew Luck to Chester Rogers. Luck’s pass fell incomplete, Houston got a 24-yard completion on the next play, and Ka’imi Fairbairn made a 37-yard field goal as time expired to give the Texans (11-5) a 37-34 victory.

‘We knew that to be able to come out on the winning end of that game was a big thing for us, but that’s a long time ago,’ Houston coach Bill O’Brien said. ‘The teams have evolved over time, so it’s a new ballgame now.’

The win was the first of nine straight for Houston. The Texans didn’t lose again until a visit from the Colts on Dec. 9, a 24-21 Indy victory. Houston then won two of its last three games, capped by a 20-3 victory over the Jaguars on Sunday to clinch the division – and become the sixth team since 1980 and first since 1998 to make the playoffs after a 0-3 start.

The Colts’ loss to Houston in Week 4 was the second of four straight that dropped them to 1-5. Indianapolis then won its next five and nine of its last 10 to make its first playoff appearance since a 2014 AFC championship game loss at New England. Yes, the ‘Deflategate’ game.

The Colts are the third team in NFL history to reach the postseason after losing five of the first six games.

These teams have more in common than their difficult starts. They’re both led by a player making a comeback after an injury.

Luck returned after missing the 2017 season with a shoulder injury to throw for 4,593 yards and rank second in the NFL with 39 touchdown passes. His best games this season have come against Houston, piling up 863 yards passing with six touchdowns.

Trying to slow him down on Saturday will be Houston’s comeback star J.J. Watt, who played all 16 games after starting just eight games combined in the previous two years because of back surgeries and a broken leg. Watt led the AFC with 16 sacks, had 25 quarterback hits, 18 tackles for losses and forced a career-high seven fumbles, which tied for most in the NFL.

Watt said Luck has been getting rid of the ball quicker this season, which makes his job as a pass rusher much more difficult.

‘You try and do different things, but at the end of the day, you try and get there, and if you can get your hands up, you get your hands up,’ he said. ‘You just try and get there. You can’t really let it affect you, and you hope maybe he holds it for an extra second.’

Some things to know about Houston’s game against Indianapolis:


Some of T.Y. Hilton’s most memorable moments have come against the Texans – especially when he visits Houston.

The Colts’ top receiver has caught 41 passes for 933 yards with seven TDs in seven games at NRG Stadium, and in the last two trips to Houston Hilton has 14 receptions for 374 yards and two TDs. So even though he’s been hobbled by a bad ankle, which he initially injured at Houston on Dec. 9, Hilton insists he’ll be fine Sunday.

‘That’s probably why it’s starting to feel better,’ Hilton joked earlier this week when asked about playing in Houston for the second time in a month.


Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson will make his playoff debut in his second year in the NFL. Don’t expect the 12th overall pick in the 2017 draft to be daunted by the challenge after he played plenty of huge games at Clemson, highlighted by leading his team to the national title game twice. The Tigers lost to Alabama when Watson was a sophomore before he helped Clemson beat Alabama 35-31 for the 2016 national championship.

‘It’s just another opportunity for myself and this whole team to be able to show what we’ve got and put in the work,’ Watson said. ‘I’ve played in a lot of big games before in college and stuff, but you can’t really pit college playoffs with the NFL. This is the hardest business, top-notch. It’s a whole new season, a whole new speed of game. So it’s going to be new for me (and) it’s going to be a lot of fun.’


Indy didn’t just rebound from a 1-5 start to make the playoffs. It rewrote the book.

While the oft-criticized offensive line allowed a league-low 18 sacks after giving up a league-high 56 in 2017, the biggest change came on defense, where the Colts were ranked No. 11. They had the league’s leading tackler, 26 takeaways, allowed only 16.4 points over the final eight games, and were one of three teams that didn’t allow a 100-yard rusher all season.

The Colts know it will take more of the same to advance.

‘The last time we did a good job, that was great for us, but this is a new challenge this week,’ Reich said when asked about defending Pro Bowl receiver DeAndre Hopkins. ‘I’m sure they are going to try to get him going.’

NFL-Week 17-Sunday football- NFL final round betting preview

Dallas at N.Y. Giants (-6.5/41), 1 p.m. ET, FOX: Talented guard Zack Martin’s knee is improving enough that he’ll be counted on to play in the Wild Card round but he’ll be absent here. Tackle Tyron Smith is working his way back from a knee injury but isn’t expected to play more than a series or two, which means you should take the pledge Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett made to utilize all healthy starters with a grain of salt. It’s hard to imagine the Cowboys exposing Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott behind backup offensive linemen even with the Giants having struggled so much this season. Linebacker Sean Lee should see a heavier workload as he tries to get back to 100 percent following his latest hamstring injury. Defensive linemen David Irving and Tyrone Crawford have been ruled out, which should make life easier for New York’s rookie running back to finish his season off in style.

Barkley opens this contest 236 yards behind Dallas’ Elliott for the rushing title and will likely get his typical workload barring something unexpected. With Odell Beckham, Jr. out, Eli Manning struck up a nice connection with Sterling Shepard last week, hooking up with him six times for 113 yards. Between Barkley, Shepard and tight end Evan Engram, the Giants have enough ammo to justify them being favored here with the Cowboys expected to ride backups for the majority of this one.

Carolina at New Orleans (-7.5/43), 1 p.m. ET, FOX: The rumor is that Ron Rivera should survive Black Monday, so the head coach may finally dial back the workload on Christian McCaffrey, who has set an NFL record for running backs with 103 catches and got over the 1,000-yard mark, joining LaDainian Tomlinson and Matt Forte as the only players ever to post those numbers in a season. If he gets a well-deserved week off, the most likely candidate to replace him is fourth-year back Cameron Artis-Payne, who had a seven-yard carry and a 13-yard catch last week. The Auburn product has four career TDs and is looking for his first this season. Backup Taylor Heinicke had a turnover-filled debut last week and ended up injuring his elbow, so the Panthers will have their third QB in as many weeks in Kyle Allen, once an elite recruit who played at Texas A&M and Houston before and completed all four of his passes last week in spot duty against the Falcons.

The Saints have nothing to play for, already having clinched homefield advantage in the NFC as the No. 1 seed. Teddy Bridgewater will start instead of Drew Brees. He’s thrown one pass all season. While both teams will try and replicate their usual offensive packages and have players elated to finally get their shot, both will be operating behind backup offensive lines. The Saints have been perfect in the Superdome since a season-opening upset against Tampa Bay. Carolina is looking to avoid closing the season with an eight-game losing streak and has only won once outside Charlotte. Red-zone issues have plagued this group all year and Allen will be looking to pick up an offense that will likely be without their top weapon and has scored a season-low 19 points over a two-game span entering Sunday.

N.Y. Jets at New England (-13.5/46.5), 1 p.m. ET, CBS: Rookie Sam Darnold was sidelined with a foot injury when the teams met in Week 12, so this will be his first look at Bill Belichick’s defense. Josh McCown was at the controls for the Jets and had a full bye week of preparation for his second start of the season but didn’t manage much in a 27-13 loss. After becoming the youngest player ever to throw for 300 yards and three TDs in an OT loss to the Packers last week, Darnold will look to close his first season on a high note. Todd Bowles is probably done as head coach and comes in 1-6 against the Patriots, continuing a 2-14 run for the Jets against the Pats since December 2010. The Jets haven’t defeated New England at Gillette Stadium since 2008, dropping nine straight.

With a much coveted first-round bye at stake for the Patriots, they’re going to go all out to secure a victory that would make their road back to a third straight Super Bowl far more manageable. Last week’s win over Buffalo saw them fail to cover the spread for a third straight contest but did secure double-digit wins in a season for a 16th consecutive campaign. New England will be looking to finish off a perfect 8-0 regular-season run in Foxboro and may not have tackle LaAdrian Waddle in the mix, so ensuring they keep the Jets from Tom Brady while picking up the win will be the primary motivation here. Brady threw for 283 yards and two scores against New York on Nov. 25 and will be looking to close out the season with a sharp effort where he again avoids being sacked as he managed in Week 12. Temperatures are expected to be in the mid-30’s, but winds shouldn’t be a factor.

Detroit at Green Bay (-8/45.5), 1 p.m. ET, FOX: The Packers demonstrated last week that they’re up for playing for pride, rallying to survive the Jets in overtime as Aaron Rodgers put his body on the line in showing off the wheels to fuel the comeback with a couple of late touchdown runs. He’s moving much better than he did earlier in the season and will likely have tackles David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga in place. Top WR Davante Adams is also questionable, but if the Packers declare everyone available, there’s certainly motivation to finish strong since they’re looking for a 6-1-1 finish at Lambeau Field. Temperatures will be frigid and winds will be a factor, but the Packers are looking to avoid their fourth consecutive loss to the Lions after dropping the first meeting this season 31-23 to drop a third straight, something that hadn’t occurred in this one-sided series since 1991. Detroit is looking for back-to-back sweeps for the first time since 1982 and ’83.

The Lions are without DE Ziggy Ansah again after being without him for the first meeting and have major absences in the secondary with Nevin Lawson and Jamal Agnew ruled out. Top corner Darius Slay and safety Glover Quin will look to keep Rodgers from finishing with a career-high in passing yards for a single season if he throws for 228 here. Detroit scored 24 or more points in five of its first six games but have failed to top that total in each of its last nine, scoring under 20 in seven of its games. Matthew Stafford threw for two touchdowns against Green Bay in Week 5 but has only thrown for multiple scores in one of his last eight games and has failed to reach the end zone in three of his last five. Not surprisingly, the Lions have seen the ‘under’ prevail in eight of nine contests.

Jacksonville at Houston (-7/40), 1 p.m. ET, CBS: The Texans are likely going to be playing next weekend but want to ride into the postseason fresh off a division title and can guarantee avoiding the Chargers with a victory here, likely ensuring a matchup with an AFC South rival they’ll know well since the Colts and and Titans are playing for a bid on Sunday night. If Houston loses, it could find itself on the road in Indy or Nashville, so count on seeing all hands on deck. WR Demaryius Thomas was lost to an achilles injury, so getting rookie Keke Coutee back in the fold would help. RB Lamar Miller will be back from an ankle sprain suffered a few weeks ago, which means Deshaun Watson can count on a loaded backfield behind him. WR DeAndre Hopkins was limited all week due to an ankle sprain but should be out there dueling with Jalen Ramsey.

The Jaguars played spoiler against the Dolphins last week thanks to a strong defensive effort and will be looking for consecutive wins for the first time since opening 2-0. Ramsey’s tag-team partner in the secondary, A.J. Bouye, has been ruled out due to a toe injury, but safety Tashaun Gipson (foot) will participate. Corner D.J. Hayden is questionable with a groin strain. Offensively, Blake Bortles should be back under center instead of the ineffective Cody Kessler, but RB Leonard Fournette (ankle) isn’t likely to go and Carlos Hyde (knee) is questionable, which means T.J. Yeldon should get the bulk of the work in the backfield. Bortles is 1-3 with a passer rating of 56.7 in four career games in Houston. The Texans are 1-1-1 ATS as a favorite of a touchdown or more.

Atlanta (-2/51.5) at Tampa Bay, 1 p.m. ET, FOX: The Bucs would love to drag the Falcons into the NFC South basement, snapping a three-game losing streak in the process. The Falcons hope to close with three consecutive wins, sweeping Tampa Bay for the season. Matt Ryan threw for three TDs and 355 yards in a 34-29 Week 6 win, outdueling Jameis Winston’s four touchdown passes. Julio Jones caught 10 balls and will be looking to add to his gaudy receiving numbers, while rookie Calvin Ridley could reach double-digits in TD receptions if he gets into the end zone. Ryan’s job will be a lot easier if Jason Pierre-Paul can’t go since he and William Gholston are questionable and edge-rusher Carl Nassib has been ruled out. Temperatures will get into the 80s for this one, so conditioning and depth will count for this unusually hot Week 17 clash.

Miami at Buffalo (-5/39.5), 1 p.m. ET, CBS: This game was rendered meaningless when the Jaguars got out of South Florida with a turnover-fueled upset, so it remains to be seen how much fight the Dolphins will have as they wake up to snow flurries in Northern New York. In-game weather isn’t expected to include snow, but both teams will have to survive wind gusts that could climb as high as 40 miles per hour. This should definitely favor the Bills, who have won five of six at home in this series. Rookie Josh Allen will look to cap a promising first season in which he leads the Bills in rushing in passing.

Miami looks to finish 8-8 here and will employ everyone healthy enough to help them get it done. It remains to be seen whether everyone is still as willing to put in a solid three hours of work once they get a load of how cold and uncomfortable the weather will be. Head coach Adam Gase’s ability to get his guys to put in the effort for him may dictate whether he keeps his job. QB Ryan Tannehill has thrown for nine touchdowns against just two interceptions since returning to the starting lineup. He threw for three scores in a 21-17 win over Buffalo on Dec. 2.

Oakland at Kansas City (-14/52.5), 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS: The Chiefs closed as a 14-point favorite against the Raiders in Oakland back in Week 13 and prevailed 40-33, giving up a late scoring flurry to avoid securing the cover. They’re looking for an easier time of it at Arrowhead as they look to wrap up the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC and a West Division title. Avoiding taking a three-game into the payoffs would be nice too since it would guarantee that they’ll get to watch everyone else play next weekend instead of suiting up themselves. Kansas City is looking to finish 7-1 at Arrowhead by beating the Raiders at home for the sixth straight time.

Derek Carr has had a rough time of it but will look to finish off the season without an interception for a 12th consecutive week, bringing a streak of 325 passes without being picked into this finale. He’ll have a number of willing targets in Jordy Nelson, Seth Roberts, rookie Marcel Ateman and tight end Seth Roberts, so count on the Kansas City secondary having its hands full. Eric Berry isn’t likely to play, so the Raiders cold make this game interesting if they have success through the air. Patrick Mahomes will try and close out his MVP campaign by finishing up a December in which he’s thrown for over 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns. RB Damien Williams, Kansas City’s third starter at the position this season, has topped 100 yards rushing in consecutive weeks and just signed a two-year extension.

Philadelphia (-6/42) at Washington, 4:25 p.m. ET, FOX: The Eagles will need to take care of business here and get help from the Bears in Minnesota in order to defend their Super Bowl title in the actual postseason, so they’re looking like a longshot. On the bright side, it’s surprising that they’re even in this mix given how bleak things looked when they fell to the Cowboys for a second time on Dec. 9. With Carson Wentz lost for the season, Nick Foles has led Philadelphia to a shocking upset of the Rams in L.A. and last week’s 32-30 rollercoaster ride of a home win over the Texans. Foles’ emergence has sparked Alshon Jeffery, while veteran RB Darren Sproles has come up clutch in what could be his final weeks as a pro. Despite being on the road, the defending champs are a substantial favorite in Landover against a Redskins’ team on their fourth starting quarterback.

Weather isn’t expected to be a factor, so Foles should be able to let it fly as he looks to follow up a 471-yard effort against the Texans, against whom he threw four touchdown passes. The ‘Skins will be without safety D.J. Swearinger, the latest to fall in a cursed season for a team that has lost both starting tight ends while suffering through issues up front and at receiver. Running back Adrian Peterson has been a bright spot and broke off a 90-yard run in the first matchup with the Eagles, a 28-13 loss on Dec. 3. Philadelphia will have Jason Peters and Jason Kelce available to anchor the offensive line and have one of the stronger defensive fronts in all of football to get after Josh Johnson.

Cleveland at Baltimore (-6.5/40.5), 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS: Although the Ravens only need to win to eliminate their arch rival Steelers while reclaiming an AFC North that they haven’t won since 2012, these aren’t the same old Browns they’re used to pushing around who are taking the field against them. Baltimore had won 18 of 20 before losing 10-7 in OT at Cleveland Browns Stadium on Oct. 7. If it can avoid being swept by Cleveland for the first time since ’07, it will open the playoffs right back at M&T Bank Stadium next weekend, hosting a playoff game for the first time since ’12.

Rookie Lamar Jackson has only lost once since taking over as the starter, while top pick Baker Mayfield has similarly won five of six and finds himself thriving under the play-calling of new coordinator Freddie Kitchens. Hue Jackson and Todd Haley were still employed when the Browns took down the Ravens. For that matter, so was Joe Flacco. This will be a chess match where Gregg Williams’ aggressive defense will look to bait Jackson into mistakes while being careful with all their trademark blitzes not backfiring with the speedy quarterback running right by them. The physical Ravens will look to harass Mayfield, who has thrown for six touchdowns while being intercepted only once during a three-game winning streak that has the Browns on the brink of their first winning season since 2007.

Cincinnati at Pittsburgh (-14.5/45.5), 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS: The Steelers find themselves in the precarious position of missing the playoffs for the first time since ’13 due to losses in four of five. This stretch has come on the heels of six consecutive wins, but the bottom has fallen out due to careless turnovers and shockingly stupid in-game decisions from people who should know better, namely Mike Tomlin and Ben Roethlisberger. Although rookie backup Jaylen Samuels has been productive, James Conner’s production has been missed. He’ll return from a foot injury that has cost him multiple games, but WR Antonio Brown and his 15 touchdowns could be missing due to a knee injury. The decision will come closer to kickoff, but reports aren’t optimistic. JuJu Smith-Schuster, fresh off a costly fumble that helped prevent OT in New Orleans last Sunday, would be Roethlisberger’s top target if Brown can’t go.

The Bengals have been without top targets A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd for weeks. They’ll come into this one with most of their top defensive players sidelined, so it’s no surprise they have lost six of seven. It remains to be seen whether this disastrous season finally costs Marvin Lewis his job, but there isn’t much hope that they’ll be able to hang here despite the fact they only lost 28-21 in the first meeting. Temperatures are expected to be in the 30s but winds shouldn’t be a factor.

Chicago at Minnesota (-5.5/40.5), 4:25 p.m. ET, FOX: – Outside of Sunday night’s Colts-Titans showdown, this is the lone matchup where both teams are playing to improve their playoff standing. While those two are playing a winner-take-all to see who gets in, the Bears are looking to secure a No. 2 seed with help from the 49ers and the Vikings are attempting to solidify their spot in the NFC’s top-six. If Chicago sees that events out in the Bay Area aren’t going its way, it’s conceivable that key players could find themselves rested in the second half of this one, which makes backing the visitors dicey. WR Allen Robinson has already been ruled out, while safety Eddie Jackson and linebacker Aaron Lynch are considered doubtful.

The Vikings don’t have the luxury of resting anyone, which is why banged-up corner Xavier Rhodes is likely to play if at all possible. Leading tackler Eric Kendricks, corner Marcus Sherels and safety Andrew Sendejo remain out, so the Bears have an opportunity to build some confidence on the offensive side of the ball after scoring only 14 points against San Francisco last Sunday. Chicago has allowed just 10.7 points over its past three games, all wins that have gone ‘under’ the posted total. The Bears won the first meeting 25-20 in a contest that featured six turnovers, putting them in position to sweep Minnesota for the first time since ’12. The Viking has have won six of eight in the series.

L.A. Chargers (-6.5/43) at Denver, 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS: – The Broncos come off an awful 27-14 loss in Oakland on Christmas eve and can’t even finish at .500, which likely means that Vance Joseph will be fired in the morning regardless of what happens in this final home game. LB Shane Ray may play, but the team’s biggest bright spot, rookie Pro Bowl RB Phillip Lindsey, will miss the game with a wrist injury. Receiver Emmanuel Sanders also played a large role in Denver’s 23-22 upset on Nov. 18 and is currently sidelined, which is one reason Case Keenum has struggled down the stretch.

That upset loss has the Chargers behind the Chiefs due to a divisional record tiebreaker since the teams split their matchups, so they’ll certainly have revenge on their minds. L.A. has only won three of the last 14 meetings between the teams but will be going all out to try and gain a split in order to get to 12-4. Philip Rivers is coming off a rough night in a home loss to Baltimore that produced his worst performance of the season, so he’s got to be pleased to get another crack at finding a rhythm without weather being too significant a factor at Mile High. Although temperatures will be in the mid-30’s, neither wind nor snow is expected to be an issue.

Arizona at Seattle (-13.5/38), 4:25 p.m. ET, FOX: – The Seahawks can still get bumped to No. 6 in the NFC by the Vikings, but having wrapped up a playoff berth through Sunday night’s huge win over the Chiefs mean they can exercise caution against a team that has been outscored 88-26 over the last three games and will finish with the NFL’s worst record if they falter here. That could spell trouble in covering such a large spread, but Pete Carroll always plays to win and will have the majority of his team available and ready to go.

San Francisco at L.A. Rams (-10.5/48.5), 4:25 p.m. ET, FOX: – Todd Gurley has been ruled out, but the Rams still want to pick up this victory to lock up the No. 2 seed in order to avoid playing next weekend. Jared Goff got back on track in a 31-9 victory at Arizona and will be facing a talented defense that had helped pull off upsets against Denver and Seattle before holding the Vikings to just 14 points in a game they could’ve also won. The Rams won 39-10 in Santa Clara back on Oct. 21 and will be the healthier group here, so it’s no surprise to see a double-digit spread.

NFL-Week 16-Monday night football-Christmas edition-Broncos at Raiders game preview

Neither the Oakland Raiders nor the Denver Broncos are going to the playoffs, so the focus of their game on Monday night might be the stadium.

The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum was built specifically for the Raiders in the mid-1960s, but Monday night’s game against the Broncos might be the Raiders’ last game there.

Owner Mark Davis is moving the Raiders to Las Vegas in 2020, and since the city of Oakland recently sued his team and the rest of the NFL over the move, he is looking for another venue for his team next season.

“I’ve spent five years playing in the stadium and we have people talking trash about it, but I love it,” said quarterback Derek Carr of the only home stadium he has known as a pro. “It’s ours. It has been fun, and the fact that it could be the last (game) is crazy. When that time comes, we’ll enjoy it.”

Head coach Jon Gruden routinely talks with the fans in the “Black Hole” behind the south end zone before games and after Oakland victories, which have been rare in this 3-11 season.

“I get emotional about it,” Gruden told reporters this week. “Hopefully, we get it all resolved to where we can continue to play here (next season). … It’s going to be a great atmosphere, Monday night, Christmas Eve, Denver coming to town. I get excited thinking about it

“It’s a real football stadium. It’s dirt, grass. It’s got tradition. It’s where some of the best games in the history of football have been played. It’s where some of the best players in the history of the world played football games at. There are a lot of (great) things that happened in that stadium.”

Opposing teams get an earful from the rabid Oakland fans, and that hasn’t changed much in this lame-duck season.

“It’s going to be live out there,” Broncos cornerback Bradley Roby said this week. “The fans are going to be into it. They’re always into it, especially when they play us. It being Monday night, last game there, I’m sure it’s going to be like a playoff game.”

The Raiders’ offense is centered on quarterback Derek Carr, who has passed for 3,697 yards and 19 touchdowns and has not thrown an interception in the last nine games.

The Raiders’ young and injury-plagued offensive line might have trouble protecting him. Carr has been sacked a career-high 47 times this season, and Denver’s pass-rushing duo of Von Miller (14.5 sacks) and Bradley Chubb (12.0 sacks) might make things difficult for him.

Oakland averages only 99.1 yards rushing per game and has missed injured Marshawn Lynch for most of the season.

That will make it difficult to take advantage of a Denver defense that ranks 20th in the NFL in rushing defense (120.2 yards per game) and yards per carry (4.6).

Denver will counter with a pretty good running game led by rookie running back Phillip Lindsay, who is nine yards short of 1,000 yards for the season.

This week he became the first undrafted offensive rookie to be named to the Pro Bowl.

“At one point, I was just trying to make the team. I was hoping to do some (gunner) reps, some kick return and hopefully catch some balls at punt return,” Lindsay said. “When they gave me the news that I was going to the Pro Bowl, it was just a real emotional moment.”

The numbers for Broncos quarterback Case Keenum (15 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions) are not great, and things have been more difficult for him since wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders went down with a torn Achilles tendon two weeks ago.

Denver (6-8) was eliminated from the postseason with a loss at home to Cleveland last week. The only thing the Broncos can hope for now is not to finish with a losing record in consecutive seasons for the first time since the 1970s.

“We want to win. These next two games are important for us to finish the right way,” head coach Vance Joseph said this week. “That part is very important to me. It’s about winning. That’s what it’s about.”

It might be important to Joseph, whose job is said to be in jeopardy.

NFL-Week 16-Sunday football- Betting preview

Tampa Bay at Dallas (-7/48), 1 p.m. ET, FOX: Last week’s 23-0 loss in Indianapolis shut down a five-game winning streak, but that run still has them in great shape to win the NFC East since it includes a pair of wins over the second-place Eagles. Taking care of business at home against the Bucs would take a lot of pressure off a Week 17 visit game at the Giants, but it’s going to require getting the offense back on track against a defense that has improved over the past five games, surrendering 20 or fewer points in four of six after spending the first half of the season near the bottom of the league due to injuries and poor play. Jameis Winston is struggling to generate offense and does get De’Sean Jackson back as a target, but those two have never enjoyed great chemistry. It’s no coincidence Jackson is coming back specifically for this game after being out all month with various ailments.

The Bucs boarded a plane to Texas specifically to play spoiler, so the Cowboys don’t have the luxury of being complacent. Key LB Sean Lee will be available for more action than he saw last week and offensive linemen Tyron Smith and Zack Martin should play, although Martin’s status is more tenuous due to a knee issue. Tampa Bay has seen the ‘under’ prevail in four straight games and came in last week despite being set lower (44.5) than it had been all season.

Buffalo at New England (-13.5/44.5), 1 p.m. ET, CBS:The Patriots won the first meeting between these teams 25-6, but Tom Brady failed to throw a touchdown pass and New England didn’t pull away until the fourth quarter, settling for four field goals through the first three quarters. Derek Anderson was the quarterback for the Bills in Week 8, so rookie Josh Allen will be getting his first taste of Bill Belichick’s sting. The veteran coach eats first-year signal callers the way the rest of us consume late-night sweets, snacking on them without fail. New England has owned Buffalo, so this game has the potential to restore order considering it has dropped consecutive games for the second time this season despite being a road favorite in Miami and Pittsburgh.

Of course, struggling to put away the Bills would further hammer in the narrative that New England is falling off, one that has been proven wrong over and over again the past few years but only needs to come to fruition once to change everything. Rob Gronkowski has been dealing with back and ankle issues that contributed to him catching just two passes last week and Josh Gordon stepped away due to an impending suspension after his latest positive drug test, so Brady will have to solve a talented defense with depleted options. Rookie Sony Michel has only reached the end zone once in the past six games. Buffalo will have DT Kyle Williams and RB LeSean McCoy in the fold to try and put an dent in a stretch that has seen it drop 32 of 36 games against New England since 2000. Both of the Bills’ wins in Foxboro during that stretch have come via shutout. Temperatures will hover around 40 degrees, but it it is otherwise expected to be a mild December day at Gillette Stadium.

Atlanta at Carolina (-3/45), 1 p.m. ET, FOX: The Panthers are giving Cam Newton the week off to rest the ailing shoulder he’s been playing on for the past few months, essentially ending their playoff pursuit. The Falcons are already done, having been besieged by injuries and inconsistent play, but they come off a 40-point outburst in their home finale against Arizona last week and are favored here with Julio Jones cleared to play after suffering a rib injury last week. The defense held the Saints to 12 points last week with LB Deion Jones back and will have DT Terrell McClain and corner Desmond Trufant available to make life difficult on first-time starter Taylor Heinicke, who has completed three of five passes in his short career. The 25-year-old was born in Atlanta and played at Suwannee H.S. before becoming attending Old Dominion. The Falcons have won five of six in this series and may further benefit from Carolina pulling back some if RB Christian McCaffrey’s workload decreases.

Jacksonville at Miami (-3.5/38.5), 1 p.m. ET, CBS: Between these two, the Dolphins are alive for a playoff spot as they take the field for their home finale looking to go 7-1 at Hard Rock Stadium, where they’ve already beaten Tennessee, Chicago and New England. The Jaguars have dropped nine of 10, beating only the Colts (6-0, Dec. 2) and topping 20 points only twice within that stretch. QB Cody Kessler was the team’s leading rusher with 68 yards on six carries in last week’s 16-13 loss to Washington but finished just 9-for-17 for 57 yards through the air.

The Jaguars have only played in Miami twice since coming into the league, winning their first meeting in ’06 before losing 24-3 in their last trip back in 2012. Leonard Fournette will play, but it remains to be seen how much he can do as he comes in off a foot injury and hasn’t looked like himself throughout most of the season. The Dolphins hope to have LB Kiko Alonso out there despite a knee issue but have ruled out safety T.J. McDonald. RB Frank Gore was placed on IR, so fourth-round pick Kalen Ballage is expected to get more carries next to Kenyan Drake, who scored on a 69-yard miracle play last time he touched the ball at home against the Patriots. Miami fell 41-17 in Minnesota last week.

N.Y. Giants at Indianapolis (-9.5/48.5), 1 p.m. ET, CBS: The Colts also remain alive for a playoff spot but got no help on Saturday night with the Titans rallying past the ‘Skins and the Ravens pulling off an upset over the Chargers to each post their ninth victory. Indianapolis will visit Nashville next week and now needs to close on a four-game winning streak to try and reach the postseason. Andrew Luck threw touchdown passes in his first 11 games this season and had a run of eight games throwing at least three, but he’s come up empty in two of his three December outings. It’s vital that he gets up and running again and will have top target T.Y. Hilton back after being cleared to return despite an ankle sprain.

New York’s Eli Manning has made it to Week 16 as the starter, which is a small wonder given how this season has gone for the Giants. Odell Beckham Jr. was ruled out for a second straight week but Manning will have Sterling Shepard to throw to after some concern that he’d join Russell Shepard and OBJ in missing this contest. The Colts will look to keep Saquon Barkley from finding a rhythm and will sell out to do so, which means Manning will have opportunities to push the ball downfield. Indianapolis impressively blanked the Cowboys last week but will be without a couple of key defenders here. Look for the x-factor here to be Indianapolis RB Marlon Mack, who touched it 28 times for 149 yards in last week’s win over Dallas and has scored eight touchdowns in eight wins. The Colts are 5-0 when he finds the end zone.

Houston at Philadelphia (-2.5/47), 1 p.m. ET, CBS: The Eagles are hoping Nick Foles’ magic can deliver another playoff appearance after he came up with another upset of the Rams last week, prevailing as a 13.5-point underdog. The defending champs have still been collectively outscored by seven points despite getting back to .500 after Carson Wentz was again lost for the season. The defense came up with a huge effort to aid the cause last week but is still a mess in the back due to injuries. The strength of the unit remains up front, so look for that group to try and make Deshaun Watson’s first visit to Philadelphia unpleasant. DT Fletcher Cox has been upgraded to probable, while guard Senio Kelemete remains questionable. The Texans will be without RB Lamar Miller, who didn’t make the trip after suffering an ankle injury in last weekend’s win over the Jets.

Houston has won 10 of 11 games to put itself in position to earn a first-round bye ahead of the Patriots, but would lose a head-to-head tie-breaker against them and need to stay one game clear by winning out. The Texans are expected to see D’Onta Foreman debut alongside Alfred Blue to try and minimize the damage over losing Miller. They won’t have rookie slot receiver Keke Coutee again but will have top target DeAndre Hopkins gutting it out through an ankle issue. Corner Kayvon Webster was activated from IR, which definitely helps since the availability of top CB Johnathan Joseph will be in question until game-time. Temperatures are expected to be in the mid-40s for this one.

Minnesota (-6.5/43) at Detroit, 1 p.m. ET, FOX: The Vikings are hoping to celebrate Christmas with a playoff spot assured, but can only unwrap that present if the Texans aid their cause and they’re able to take care of business on the road against a division rival that they didn’t trail against once in a 24-9 Week 9 win to open November. DE Danielle Hunter recorded 3.5 sacks and scooped a fumble and rumbled into the end zone, so keeping him from Matthew Stafford is Detroit’s top priority. After dealing away Golden Tate and losing WR Marvin Jones, Jr. and rookie RB Kerryon Johnson for the season, the Lions offense has sputtered and hasn’t produced more than 17 points in any of the last four games. Top target Kenny Golladay (chest) has been cleared to play to aid the cause, while tackle Rick Wagner has been cleared from concussion protocol.

Minnesota’s defense has overcome a shaky start and is again imposing. The Vikings sacked Detroit 10 times and held Detroit to under 10 points, so Mike Zimmer will be counting on making sure Stafford doesn’t find a rhythm enough to play spoiler. Offensively, the Vikings must be wary of Matt Patricia’s defense, which does come in relatively healthy and has been productive over the past month-plus with DE Ziggy Ansah and top corner Darius Slay both in the mix. The Lions have dropped consecutive games against the Vikes.

Green Bay (-3/47) at N.Y. Jets, 1 p.m. ET, FOX: Aaron Rodgers continuing to play despite the Packers being eliminated is a mild surprise, but does speak volumes about his leadership after essentially winning a power struggle with the now fired Mike McCarthy. Any progress the Pack can make now will benefit them next year, so count on Rodgers continuing to work with rookie receivers Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown, who will both be pressed into larger roles with Randall Cobb not in the mix. Tackle Bryan Bulaga has also been cleared to play, so Rodgers should have support up front.

The Jets have dropped seven of eight and haven’t won at home since rookie Sam Darnold won a shootout against Andrew Luck and the Colts way back on Oct. 14. He won’t have top target Quincy Enunwa and lost RBs Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell weeks ago, so Darnold is working short-handed. Rodgers will have Jamaal Williams as his primary back since Aaron Jones was lost to an ankle injury last week. Temperatures in East Rutherford will be in the low 40s with mild wind, so the quarterbacks won’t have to battle the elements.

Cincinnati at Cleveland (-9.5/44), 1 p.m. ET, CBS: The Browns have been officially eliminated from playoff contention, but remain engaged as they try to win out in order to finish above .500. A lot has been made about the Browns being such a heavy favorite for this matchup, but the Bengals do arrive in town depleted and got beat 35-20 at home a few weeks ago in a game where Andy Dalton was lost for the season and backup QB Jeff Driskel came in and produced a few scores to try and save face. Cleveland has won four of five games and has really responded to the play-calling of Freddie Kitchens on the offensive side of the ball in addition to Gregg Williams’ aggressive defense.

The Bengals lost WR Tyler Boyd and have been without A.J. Green as well, so Driskel will have to beat the Browns’ blitz with his legs and perhaps the speedy John Ross in addition to a heavy dose of the screen game with Joe Mixon featured. Linebacker Vontaze Burfict is questionable to return for a defense that has already been without numerous key contributors. Cleveland is favored to sweep the Bengals for the first time since ’02. The Browns secondary should be at full strength since Jabrill Peppers hopes to return from a neck injury and standout rookie safety Denzel Ward has cleared concussion protocol. There will be some wind gusts to deal with, but temperatures will be above freezing throughout this contest.

L.A. Rams (-14/43.5) at Arizona, 4:05 p.m. ET, FOX: – The availability of standout running back Todd Gurley will be up in the air until just before kickoff since he’s looking to play but the team wants him to warm up so they can feel comfortable with his knee injury being a thing of the past. Although they’re looking to lock up homefield advantage in the NFC and is chasing New Orleans while trying to hold off Chicago, the cautious approach would definitely be recommended given the opposition. Backup Justin Davis is unlikely to play due to a shoulder injury, so newly-signed veteran C.J. Anderson may be in for a heavy workload.

L.A. is looking for Jared Goff to bounce back in Glendale after throwing five interceptions without a touchdown in the team’s two losses the past few weeks, contributing greatly to setbacks against the Bears and Eagles. He’s missed Cooper Kupp, but has Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks available. Patrick Peterson can’t cover them both at the same time, so it’s important to see Goff get going again. Sean McVay would also love to see him avoid being picked off since it’s happened to him in all three December contests after he tossed only two in a six-game stretch between Oct. 14 and all of November. The Cardinals have a laundry list of injuries and are the week’s biggest underdog.