There will not be a playoff appearance in January for the Broncos. So what should Denver soccer fans do when the regular season ends on New Year's Eve? Consider this month an audition to find the team that wants to cheer on the Super Bowl in Minneapolis in February. There are some promising candidates – the Rams, Vikings, Eagles and Saints among them – who all have great opportunities this weekend to prove they are at the top of the short list of true championship contenders. Of course, the old guard – Steelers, Patriots, Seahawks – seems strong too. Oh, the elections. (Games on Sunday unless otherwise indicated.)
Game of the Week: Eagles (10-2) in Rams (9-3), 2:25 p.m. The first place in the NFC could be at stake. It's the second straight West Coast game for the Eagles, which he practiced in California this week after his loss in Seattle on Sunday. Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles could be as noisy as it has been for any game since the Rams returned to the city in 201
Santos (9-3) in Falcons (7-5), 6:25 p.m., Thursday. An improved attack, led by veteran Mark Ingram and rookie Alivn Kamara, has done wonders for quarterback Drew Brees and has made New Orleans one of the most effective offenses in the league. Atlanta, which is coming off a disappointing home loss to the Vikings, must find a way to stop that train or its playoff prospects will take a big hit.
Colts (3-8) in Bills (6-6), 11 am Buffalo is one of three teams in the AFC that lags behind the 7-5 Ravens in the last wild-card spot The conference. The Bills could be without QB Tyrod Taylor, who suffered a knee injury in a 23-3 loss to the Patriots last week.
Cowboys (6-6) in Giants (2-10), 11 a.m. The Giants cleaned the house this week, fired their head coach and general manager, and returned Eli Manning to the starting quarterback position after a controversial bench. For Dallas, mathematics is simple. Losing two NFC wild cards for two games, the Cowboys will probably have to win to have any hope of reaching the playoffs.
Lions (6-6) in Buccaneers (4-8), 11 a.m. Both teams expected much more than they have produced this season. For Tampa Bay, quarterback Jameis Wintson did not make the jump the Bucs expected in their third season. The Lions have been knocked down by a non-existent ground game and irregular games in defense.
Raiders (6-6) in the Chiefs (6-6), 11 a.m. Who would have thought, after a 5-0 start, that Kansas City would enter Week 14 fighting for his life in the playoffs? The Raiders already have a victory over the Chiefs this season and could move to first place in the AFC West if they sweep the season series.
49ers (2-10) at Texans (4-8), 11 a.m. All quarterbacks that Jimmy Garoppolo made in his first start for San Francisco after being traded from New England were the 49ers in a series more than five minutes ahead of the Bears. It's too early to tell if a star was born, but it was an encouraging first step to Tom Brady's long-standing support.
Packers (6-6) in Browns (0-12), 11 a.m. The Packers, who probably need to win their remaining games to have any hope of making the playoffs, could get Aaron Rodgers back for his Week 15 game against the Panthers. For now, reserve QB improvement Brett Hundley must respond to the bell against Cleveland.
Bears (3-9) in Bengals (5-7), 11 a.m. The progression of rookie QB Mitchell Trubisky has been slow in Chicago. The next four games are key to their confidence and development in the future, and Bears coach John Fox would be wise to loosen the reins of the armed quarterback.
Vikings (10-2) in the Panthers (8-4), 11 a.m. Could Minnesota be looking at the home advantage up to, and including, the Super Bowl? Philadelphia's loss to Seattle on Sunday night moved the Vikings to a draw for the NFC's top seed. The Panthers are a game behind New Orleans in the NFC South title race, but just one more game in Atlanta for the final wild card spot.
Redskins (5-7) in the Chargers (6-6), 2: 05 pm The Chargers have recovered from a 0-4 start winning six of their last eight games. A win over staggering Washington would keep Los Angeles tied for the AFC West with three games to play.
Titans (8-4) in Cardinals (5-7), at 2:05 p.m. Arizona is 8-1 in its last nine games at home against AFC teams. But Tennessee, which has won six of its last seven games, has no margin of error in its race for the AFC South crown. The Jaguars also enter Week 14 with a record of 8-4.
Seahawks (8-4) in Jaguars (8-4), 2:25 p.m. It's Russell Wilson, the Seattle escape artist of a quarterback, against the league's best attacking pass unit in Jacksonville. The winner of the upper hand in that battle will get a great blessing for their hopes of division title and the playoff.
Ravens (7-5) in the Steelers (10-2), 6:30 p.m. Pittsburgh can not count on rookie WJ JuJu Smith-Schuster, who was suspended for an illegal hit against Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict on Monday night. Baltimore has fought back in the playoff hunt behind a familiar formula: brave defense and efficiency in the running game.
Patriots (10-2) in Dolphins (5-7), 6:30 p.m., Monday. The Dolphins seemed to find their offensive pace against the Broncos last Sunday. But the Patriots, who have achieved a major improvement in the season thanks to their defense in eight consecutive wins, present a much more rigid challenge, even without TE star Rob Gronkowski (suspension).