Final Weeks of NFL Season Bring Out Bitter Rivalries, Tense Matchups - NBC 6 South Florida

Final Weeks of NFL Season Bring Out Bitter Rivalries, Tense Matchups

So while there are games throughout September and October, it's not until Thanksgiving hits that we can truly define what the BIG games are

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Final Weeks of NFL Season Bring Out Bitter Rivalries, Tense Matchups
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    NFL quarterbacks Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks and Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    The accepted mantra throughout the NFL that stretches to its fandom is that each game in the schedule is equally important.

    Then we get to late November and all of December and forget that bromide.

    It's happening again, and there's nothing wrong with it.

    Think about how huge Kansas City's stunning win at New England to kick off the season seemed to be. Doesn't look so momentous right now with the Chiefs nose-diving in the AFC West while the Patriots do their usual tsunami over the AFC East.

    The league and many of the pundits who follow it couldn't find enough hyperbole for the first Sunday nighter, the Giants at Dallas.

    Well, the Giants are in range for a top-three draft choice with an abysmal 2-10 record and the Cowboys are plummeting out of contention.

    So while there are games throughout September and October, it's not until Thanksgiving hits that we can truly define what the BIG games are.

    And now they've arrived.

    The Vikings are involved in a bunch of them, even though coach Mike Zimmer keeps espousing the company line.

    "Go out and win as many games as you can and try to get in (the playoffs) and play as many games as you can at home," Zimmer says. "But we have to win and we have to take one game at a time. Talking about it doesn't do anything."

    Actually, talking about it is all kinds of fun. So here are the games that should really matter and are worth getting excited about through the rest of the season.

    WEEK 14
    New Orleans at Atlanta; Minnesota at Carolina; Seattle at Jacksonville; Oakland at Kansas City; Philadelphia at Los Angeles Rams; Baltimore at Pittsburgh.

    The nastiest rivalry in the NFL, Ravens-Steelers, is the Sunday night game and possibly Baltimore's last chance to make any headway in the AFC North. Another road go-round for the Vikings in the NFC South, where that division's most-heated rivalry has the Saints at the Falcons. We'll know a whole lot more about that sector after these games — and perhaps a whole lot more about how strong the Vikings are.

    While both the Raiders and Chiefs have hit mediocrity, their matchups always are noteworthy for intensity. AFC South leadership will still be in question.

    The Seahawks and Jaguars both will need this game, whether for division title hopes or wild-card chances. And the Eagles are staying out west after the Seattle contest for a matchup of the top two selections in the 2016 draft: No. 1 Jared Goff vs. No. 2 Carson Wentz.

    Week 15
    New England at Pittsburgh; Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City; Los Angeles Rams at Seattle.

    Very possible division deciders in KC and Seattle. Plus, by far, the AFC's most intriguing confrontation, most likely with home-field advantage for the conference championship game on the line.

    Week 16
    Minnesota at Green Bay; Atlanta at New Orleans; Los Angeles Rams at Tennessee.

    OK, the Vikings probably will be playoff-bound and the Packers won't, but hopefully we'll get a glimpse of Aaron Rodgers again, back from his broken collarbone.

    Falcons-Saints for the second time in three weeks, with lots on the line. And maybe a playoff-relevant home contest for the Titans against a Rams team headed to the postseason.

    And these don't even consider the final weekend of all divisional matchups.