NFL Week 16 questions: Who gets in the playoffs and can Patriots correct mistakes?December 20, 2018
Just two more games remain for teams to make their final push for the NFL postseason. Two more weeks for coaches to potentially save their jobs and for individual awards to be won and lost. Here are six questions on the biggest storylines in the league for Week 16:
Which teams will be eliminated from playoff chases?
There are seven teams currently on the outside looking in, but are still mathematically alive. In the AFC, there are four (Colts at 8-6, Titans at 8-6, Dolphins at 7-7 and Browns at 6-7-1). In the NFC, there are three (Eagles at 7-7, Redskins at 7-7, and Panthers at 6-8). Meanwhile, six teams can clinch postseason berths in Week 16. So as some of those squads secure spots, others in the hunt could be shut out permanently. Expect to see some clarity in the AFC North, where even though the Browns have the lowest winning percentage, they could stay alive with a winnable game against the 6-8 Bengals, while the Steelers have the 12-2 Saints and the Ravens have the 11-3 Chargers. In the NFC, Carolina is likely the next to be eliminated. The Panthers need a lot of help, but first must snap a six-game losing streak against the Falcons.
Will the Patriots get issues corrected?
New England has lost two pivotal games in the past two weeks that have sent them tumbling down the AFC bracket. While there have certainly been concerning signs in those losses – chief among them converting three of nine trips in the red zone, a leaky rushing defense that has yielded 347 yards and penalty-ridden play — these issues are self-inflicted and can be fixed. Against the Steelers last week, drops, missed assignments and breakdowns in technique all contributed to the loss. The Patriots (9-5) have their chance to correct the mistakes at home against a Bills team that has featured a stingy defense — one that leads the NFL in passing defense. New England should win, but how crisp it looks in doing so may be a telling sign of whether the Pats can make the tweaks they need to before the playoffs.
What about the Rams?
Similar to the Patriots, the Rams have stumbled and dropped two straight in large part because of errors they’ve committed themselves. Granted, Los Angeles still needs to generate more pass pressure, needs to sustain drives (the Rams have converted just seven of 24 third-down attempts) and needs to reemphasize running the ball. But penalties (14 for 107 yards) and turnovers (seven) have plagued L.A. the past two weeks. Coach Sean McVay had never lost consecutive games in his short tenure. Fortunately for the Rams, it likely won’t get to a third, with their opportunity to turn it around coming against a Cardinals team that’s tied for the worst record in the NFL.
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