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#pounditFriday, March 5, 2021

5 most important remaining games on NFL schedule

Alex Smith

It may be hard to believe, but we’ve reached the final stretch of the 2020 NFL regular season.

Despite the presence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NFL has managed to maneuver their way to the tail-end of the schedule. And with just two weeks remaining this season, playoff contenders are beginning to separate themselves from the pretenders, which also means each game is of the utmost importance.

With plenty left to be decided, here’s a look at the five most important games remaining on the NFL schedule.

5. Week 16: New Orleans Saints vs. Minnesota Vikings

The Saints currently lead the NFC South by one game, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are looming. Meanwhile, the Vikings find themselves on the outside of the wild card race looking in and cannot afford to lose again this season. Although these two teams seem destined for different outcomes, they collectively make up one of the most important remaining games of the season — third in terms of importance factor heading into Week 16. The reason for that is simple: regardless of the outcome, it will impact both the Saints and Vikings, as well as the Buccaneers, Chicago Bears and Arizona Cardinals. And that’s the fun of late-season games during a tight playoff race.

4. Week 16: Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks

The Seattle Seahawks have already clinched a playoff spot, and the Los Angeles Rams would like to do the same. However, after losing to the 0-13 New York Jets in Week 15, the Sean McVay-coached Rams now find themselves in a dire situation. They are one game back of the division-leading Seahawks and just one game ahead of the Arizona Cardinals in a very tight NFC West. The good news for L.A. is that they currently hold tiebreakers over both teams and finish the season with back-to-back games against their division rivals. The big game comes in Week 16, however. If Seattle wins, they take the division. If the Rams win, they’ll play for the division title against the Cardinals in Week 17.

3. Week 16: Miami Dolphins at Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders are clinging to playoff life by the skin of their teeth, while the Dolphins reside in the seventh spot due to a tiebreaker over the Baltimore Ravens. A loss for Las Vegas dooms them. A loss for Miami could very well do the same. Needless to say, this is an essential game in Week 16, and one that also carries weight for the aforementioned Ravens, as well as the Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts. And depending on how things shake out this coming week, the Dolphins-Raiders result could also become significant for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans in Week 17. There are a lot of moving parts here, and the result will impact the overall structure of the AFC playoffs.

2. Week 16: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Indianapolis Colts

After dropping three consecutive games, the Steelers are not only at risk of losing their AFC North lead, but could soon find themselves battling for a wild card spot. And one of the team’s breathing down their neck may very well be the Colts, who are trail the Tennessee Titans (via tiebreakers) in the AFC South with a 10-4 record. Either way you slice it, this Week 16 matchup is huge for both Pittsburgh and Indianapolis because of what’s on the line. It has ramifications for two divisions, could impact the wild card race, and will play a major role in how the AFC playoffs are ultimately structured. And if the Miami Dolphins continue to win and further cloud that playoff picture, this game becomes even more significant.

1. Week 17: Washington Football Team vs. Philadelphia Eagles

The only thing crazier than the New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles somehow still battling for the NFC East crown, is that the Washington Football Team, which began the year about as poorly as a franchise could, are leading the way. On the field, Ron Rivera’s crew went 2-7 out of the gate. However, they flipped a switch and will head into the final weeks of the season competing for an improbable playoff spot. That will ultimately boil down to one final game against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 17 with the Giants and Cowboys squaring off at the same time. Depending on how things go in Week 16, it could be a “win-and-in” scenario for Washington. It’s also possible they will need some help.

Photo: All-Pro Reels/Flickr via CC BY-SA 2.0

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