There’s been a lot of talk about the decline in television ratings this season. While it’s difficult to determine exactly why the National Football League has lost viewership this season, there’s one reason that probably everyone can agree on: The oversaturation of “primetime” football games on a weekly basis.
The NFL features a minimum of three “primetime” games per week: Thursday Night Football on CBS (sometimes NBC), Sunday Night Football on NBC, and Monday Night Football on ESPN. It’s difficult for the NFL to schedule enticing matchups for each primetime slot without neglecting the 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. slate of football games. Simply put, the majority of the primetime games have been awful, and it’s just too much football for the casual fan to enjoy.
This week, the NFL is adding an additional primetime game to their slate with an all-exciting Miami Dolphins vs. New York Jets matchup, which will feature two backup quarterbacks. This will be just two days after tonight’s snoozer between the Seahawks and Rams. I have a feeling we’ll be hearing a lot more about the ratings’ decline after this weekend.
But, ultimately, it’s still the NFL, and most of us will still be locked into our couches to watch the most appealing matchups of the week. That’s why I’m here. I want to take a look at the most important and meaningful matchups for week 15 of the NFL season; matchups that have the most meaning toward the race to the postseason.
Lions @ Giants (1 p.m.)
A matchup between the only two 9-4 teams in the entire league, Giants vs. Lions should be one of the better games of the week. Both teams have made a habit of winning close games this season: 16 of their combined 18 wins have been one-possession games.
This game also has enticing playoff implications. The Giants likely won’t be able to steal the division from the Cowboys, but they are a win or two away from locking up a playoff spot. The Lions, on the other hand, hold a two-game lead over the Packers and Vikings in the NFC North, but both teams (especially the Packers) are still absolutely in the hunt for the crown. I’m siding with the Giants to win another close game in the cold at home.
Patriots @ Broncos (4:25 p.m.)
The Broncos have given Tom Brady and the Patriots trouble in the past, and I expect to see some more of the same Sunday afternoon. This is a huge game for the Broncos, who at 8-5 are fighting to get back into the playoffs as a wild card team. After the Patriots, they travel to Kansas City and play Oakland at home, back-to-back divisional games that can very well determine their playoff fate. If they win Sunday, that will give them some leeway to lose one of those two final games and still make the playoffs.
The Patriots are locked in for the playoffs as per usual, but still need to win games to secure the #1 seed and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Their offensive line has been playing better as of late, but face the ultimate test against a Denver pass rush that features Von Miller, Demarcus Ware, and Shane Ray. I think this will be a good game, and one in which the Patriots will really miss Rob Gronkowski. I still think they come out with a victory.
Raiders @ Chargers (4:25 p.m.)
The Chargers’ playoff hopes are long gone, but they still would love to play spoiler by handing the Raiders their second straight loss.
I’m interested in this game because it should tell us a lot about this Raiders team that exploded for their first winning season since 2002 this year. They need to get back on track and gain some momentum moving toward the postseason. I’m excited to see if they’re up for the task against a decimated Chargers team that’s sick of losing.
Bucs @ Cowboys (8:30 p.m.)
The most exciting primetime game this week by far, the Cowboys look to bounce back from their disappointing Sunday night loss at the Giants. The Bucs won’t make it easy; they’ve won five straight and are desperately fighting for a playoff spot. They’re currently tied for the NFC South lead with them and the Falcons at 8-5, but still have a chance to take a wild card spot if they can’t steal the division.
The Cowboys finally lost after winning 11 straight, and everybody seems to be in panic mode (including myself). A convincing win would put away any QB controversy, and they’d lock up the division with a Giants loss, too.