Posted on December 18, 2022
They always say that the most important game is the next game but when there are fewer and fewer ‘next games’ each week, the current game starts to become more important.
But those four weeks of games should be entertaining. Some teams are jockeying for playoff positioning while other teams try to avoid disastrous conclusions to an already less-than-ideal season.
So there are plenty of reasons to still tune into the games this week, even if your favorite team is not looking like a Super Bowl contender.
Here are some quick previews for each of the five remaining games featuring west teams this week, from games that could decide a division winner to games that may decide who picks in the top five of the draft.
Chiefs (10-3-0) at Texans (1-11-1)
Sunday, December 18
10:00 a.m. PT, CBS
The Chiefs are clearly one of the best teams in the entire league while the Texans are prospective makers of the first overall pick in the draft. It’s safe to say these teams have had two very different seasons.
The Texans did have a fantastic game last week that nearly resulted in an upset over the Cowboys. But that performance seems much more like a one-week wonder than a sign of things turning around.
Kansas City has the best player in the world, quarterback Patrick Mahomes, and a ton of other high-end talents around him. It is not going to lose to Houston.
But that doesn’t mean that this game will be a blowout. Of Houston’s 11 losses, four of them have been by ten or fewer points to teams that currently have winning records.
There’s a chance that the Chiefs overlook this matchup, in which case the Texans can pull off an upset. They’ve got talented players such as wide receiver Brandin Cooks and rookie running back Dameon Pierce that can make the game interesting.
But, as long as the Chiefs play like their usual selves, they should be able to come away with a victory.
Cardinals (4-9-0) at Broncos (3-10-0)
Sunday, December 18
1:05 p.m. PT, FOX
With Kyler Murray out for the season with a torn ACL and Russell Wilson suffering a concussion over the weekend, we could see quarterbacks Colt McCoy and Brett Rypien for the Cardinals and Broncos, respectively.
The Cardinals have looked solid with McCoy under center at times this year, but the Denver defense will pose a much stiffer challenge.
The Broncos are allowing the fourth-fewest points in the league, while the Cardinals are scoring just the 17th-most, even with Murray.
The Cardinals do have the talent to give the Broncos issues on defense, with wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and running back James Conner both capable of making big plays.
But if McCoy does not hold up his end of the bargain it’s going to be tough to score on Denver.
The Broncos’ offense, on the other hand, may have its best opportunity to turn things around.
They had their best offensive performance of the season last week against the Chiefs, although in a loss, and now they get to face off against a Cardinals’ defense that is giving up the most points in the league.
If Denver’s offense plays poorly this week, then that unit will be officially broken.
Whether it is Wilson or Rypien under center, this is a matchup that the Broncos should be able to take advantage of, especially with wide receiver Jerry Jeudy potentially hitting his stride.
Raiders (5-8-0) vs Patriots (7-6-0)
Sunday, December 18
1:05 p.m. PT, FOX
[ads_hr hr_style=”hr-fade”] This game will feature an interesting off-field storyline. With Raiders’ head coach Josh McDaniels taking on his former boss in Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick, that chess match should be worth paying attention to.
Can McDaniels use his prior experience with New England to devise the perfect plan to beat his mentor? Or does the teacher prove to the student that his time is not up yet?
That coaching battle will certainly add an interesting wrinkle to the game, but this game will obviously be decided on the field.
The Patriots are perpetually a tough defense to play against and are a top-10 defense against both the pass and the run this year.
But the Raiders will be up for the challenge. Running back Josh Jacobs is having a great year and leading one of the most efficient ground games in the league.
Wide receiver Davante Adams is still one of the most dominant pass-catchers in the league and his connection with quarterback Derek Carr has led to a potent passing attack as well.
The Raiders’ defense is what has been holding them back at times, courtesy of 24.1 points per game given up.
That shouldn’t be as much of an issue against the Patriots, who are scoring 21.2 points per game and have been held to just 10 points in two of their last four contests. Though those two games were against much better defenses—the Jets and Bills—than the Raiders.
But Las Vegas does have the blueprint to beat New England. Get to quarterback Mac Jones with players such as elite defensive end Maxx Crosby and stop the run with a front seven giving up just 4.2 yards per carry, which is ninth-best in the league.
On paper the Raiders seem to have the advantage but, as we know, these games aren’t played on paper.
To win this game, McDaniels will have to outcoach Belichick, which is far from an easy task.
Chargers (7-6-0) vs Titans (7-6-0)
Sunday, December 18
1:25 p.m. PT, CBS
The Titans are never an easy team to go up against but they are coming off a tough loss to the Jaguars. So maybe the Chargers are catching the Titans at the perfect time, especially considering they need every win they can get to try to climb back into the playoff picture.
This matchup is intriguing because it’s very clear what each of these teams does well and not so well.
The Titans are one of the most devastating teams on the ground, thanks to running back Derrick Henry, who is an unstoppable force with the ball in his hands.
Although the team’s numbers aren’t the greatest, Henry himself is still having an amazing season, racking up 1,199 yards and 11 touchdowns.
That pairs perfectly with one of the things the Chargers don’t do well: defend the run. Los Angeles is allowing the most yards per carry of any team in the entire league, and that is before going up against Henry.
The Chargers have also experienced their struggles against the pass but luckily for them, the Titans are not very dangerous through the air, averaging the fourth-fewest passing yards per game.
On offense, the Chargers will be facing a Titans’ defense that is allowing the 12th-fewest points per game but certainly has its flaws. Tennessee has given up 35 and 36 points in its last two games, although one of those was against a very good Eagles team.
The Titans are excellent against the run but are susceptible to the pass, where they are giving up the second-most yards per game.
That will surely be where the Chargers look to take advantage, especially with quarterback Justin Herbert and a group of wide receivers that is finally healthy.
This game will come down to whichever team is more effective at doing what it’s best at.
Neither team has the most favorable matchup, but with superstars such as Henry, Herbert, defensive tackle Jeffrey Simmons, and defensive end Joey Bosa (who may be returning from injury this week), the game is there for the taking.
Rams (4-9-0) vs Packers (5-8-0)
Monday, December 19
5:15 p.m. PT, ESPN
[ads_hr hr_style=”hr-fade”] This certainly was supposed to be one of the marquee matchups of the season but who could have anticipated the rash of injuries that the Rams suffered and the epic regression of the Packers?
So, as it stands, this is a primetime matchup of two teams outside the playoff picture whose better days may be behind them.
The Packers should have the upper hand in this matchup for a handful of reasons.
For one, they’re coming off the bye week, which should result in them being more well-rested and prepared for their opponent, although the Rams did play last Thursday and had a ‘mini bye’ as a result.
The Packers also get to play this game at home, so that (and the weather) could end up working in their favor.
The Rams won’t let any of those reasons stop them from trying to pull off the upset. This is a team coming off a big win over the Raiders with a new quarterback in Baker Mayfield that is looking to prove that he still has what it takes.
Unfortunately, he is still taking over a Rams’ offense that is averaging the fourth-fewest points per game and ranks better in passing yards per game (25th) than rushing yards per game (30th).
The Green Bay offense isn’t doing much better, averaging just barely over 20 points per game, but the ceiling is obviously much higher with a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers.
And with the Rams’ defense being just average this year as opposed to elite, this could be a vintage game for Rodgers and the crew.
Maybe Mayfield will reinvigorate the offense and turn things around, but it’s hard to believe that he can do so this quickly.
49ers 21 vs Seahawks 13
Thursday, December 15
5:15 p.m. PT, Prime Video
It at least should be more entertaining than their week two contest, which was a 27-7 demolition by the 49ers.
The Seahawks were still figuring out their new roster at the time and are now a much different team. The offense has certainly improved since then, developing into one of the most high-powered offenses in the league.
Despite scoring 26.3 points per game this season, it won’t be easy for the Seahawks to score against the 49ers. And quarterback Geno Smith coming off perhaps his worst game of the season certainly won’t help either.
San Francisco has arguably the best defense in the league, and it makes a good argument by giving up the fewest points than any other squad.
But the matchup of the 49ers’ offense against the Seahawks’ defense will likely be what decides this outcome.
The Seahawks’ defense has not been good this year, with their rushing defense being particularly bad of late. But, luckily for them, they won’t have to deal with a fully healthy 49ers’ offense.
Obviously, San Francisco is down to rookie quarterback Brock Purdy under center, although he has looked good leading the way. The 49ers may also be without wide receiver Deebo Samuel, which will certainly make the Seahawks’ day easier on defense.
Not that it’s going to be easy anyway. The 49ers still have running back Christian McCaffrey, wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, and tight end George Kittle, which is enough to put up some points.
If the 49ers do manage a couple of scores, then that would probably give their elite defense an insurmountable lead.
But if the Seahawks’ defense shows up and plays one of its better games, then Smith and the rest of the offense may be able to get the job done.
—More from Cody Schoeler—
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