The Jacksonville Jaguars will hit the highway in a week six NFL pro football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday afternoon.
The Houston Texans behind Matt Schaub will travel to play Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens in a week six NFL pro football game on Sunday afternoon.
The Cleveland Browns will make the cross country road trip out west to play the Oakland Raiders in an NFL pro football game on Sunday afternoon.
There are just two weeks left in the regular season, and all four AFC West teams still have a chance to win the division. Both the Oakland Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs need help to do it, making their game Saturday at Arrowhead Stadium potentially vital to that race.
Denver sits atop the West and controls its own destiny, but Oakland (7-7) and San Diego are one game back and the Chiefs (6-8) trail by two thanks to Sunday's 19-14 upset of Green Bay. The Broncos will play in Buffalo while this game is happening, and the Chargers visit Detroit later in the day.
Kansas City clearly has the momentum edge over Oakland, loser of three straight and coming off a devastating 28-27 loss to Detroit. The Chiefs, in their first game Sunday after interim coach Romeo Crennel took over for the fired Todd Haley, had a season-best 438 yards of offense and held the previously undefeated defending Super Bowl champions to a season-low 315.
"Hey, you beat the Green Bay Packers, that was great," Crennel said. "But if you don't get prepared, you don't get ready to go, we're going to lose to the Oakland Raiders, and then the game (Sunday) will be kind of down the drain."
Remarkably, that win kept the Chiefs' hopes alive for winning a second straight division title. Besides having to win out, Kansas City needs Denver to lose its final two games and for San Diego to do no better than split.
The Raiders were in good position to snap their eight-year postseason drought before blowing the division lead with their three-game skid. If they come up short again, they may look back to Sunday's loss as the difference. Oakland blew a 13-point lead in the final five minutes, and the Lions blocked Sebastian Janikowski's 65-yard field-goal attempt as time expired.
The Raiders need help from the Broncos to win the division, but they also still have an outside chance at a wild-card spot.
"Three weeks ago we were 7-4 and feeling pretty good about ourselves and now all of a sudden we've gotten to .500, so that's not where we want to be," coach Hue Jackson said. "I think we understand the predicament that we have put ourselves in. So what we need to do is get the ship riding and go to Kansas City and play well."
It would be hard for the Raiders to play much worse than the last time these teams met. In its first game after Jason Campbell suffered a season-ending collarbone injury, Oakland was routed 28-0 on Oct. 23. Kansas City's defense had two touchdowns and six interceptions, three off Carson Palmer as he entered in the second half in his first game after being acquired from Cincinnati.
The Chiefs offense had just 300 yards in that game with Matt Cassel under center, but the Raiders' 27th-ranked defense (378.8 yards per game) now face Kyle Orton and a Kansas City team coming off its highest-scoring game since Week 7.
With Cassel (hand) out for the season, and with the Chiefs averaging just 264.8 yards in the previous four games with Tyler Palko under center, Orton has taken a firm grasp of the No. 1 spot. In his first start since being acquired off waivers last month from Denver, he threw for 299 yards and connected with 10 receivers Sunday.
"That was about the most fun as I've had on a football field," Orton said.
The Raiders' secondary was torched for 391 passing yards last week, but Orton needs to improve in the red zone after missing five passes inside the 20 against Green Bay. Ryan Succop, the AFC special teams player of the week, made three of his four field goals from 32 yards or shorter.
"We have to try to get touchdowns when we get to the red zone, which will become critical for us in the next couple of weeks here so we have to try to get that done," Crennel said.
Darren McFadden has been out since suffering a mid-foot sprain against the Chiefs and is not expected to play. Receiver Jacoby Ford (foot) also is unlikely to be available, but the Chiefs' secondary should be concerned about Darrius Heyward-Bey, who set career highs with eight receptions and 155 yards against the Lions.
Palmer, 207 yards shy of 25,000, threw for a season-best 367 yards and didn't get picked off for just the second time in seven starts.
He'll try to help the Raiders post their fifth straight win in Kansas City. Oakland finished last season with a 31-10 victory at Arrowhead behind Michael Bush's 137 rushing yards.
Bush has been held to an average of 60.5 yards in the past four games after a four-game stretch in which he averaged 115.3.
Following the 2010 season, Rex Ryan guaranteed that the New York Jets would win this year's Super Bowl.
His team first needs to make the playoffs, which alone would be quite an achievement.
Needing a win along with several other outcomes working in their favor to make the postseason, Ryan's Jets visit the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.
Sitting with an 8-5 record heading into Week 15, New York (8-7) seemed to be in good shape to secure a third straight postseason berth. The Jets have looked nothing like a playoff-caliber team in either of their two games since, however, losing to Philadelphia 45-19 on Dec. 18 and falling to the New York Giants 29-14 last Saturday.
Now to make the playoffs, the Jets must defeat the Dolphins (5-10) and have Cincinnati lose at home to Baltimore, Tennessee lose in Houston and either Denver or Oakland lose. The Broncos host Kansas City while the Raiders face San Diego at home.
New York defeated Miami 24-6 on Oct. 17, but hasn't swept the season series since 2007.
"Have we had the results we were hoping for? No, but again, the season is not over," Ryan said. "Maybe we'll look at everything, obviously, at the end of the season, but right now we are competing for it. We've got a chance and we need to find a way to get it done this week."
If the Jets don't, it would be another unfulfilled prediction from the outspoken Ryan.
Weeks after losing a second straight AFC championship game last January, Ryan guaranteed New York would win this year's Super Bowl. The third-year coach, known for his controversial statements, claimed last week that his Jets were the best team in New York, superior to the Giants based on their two previous playoff runs. That statement backfired and may have served as motivation for the Giants.
Mark Sanchez had another rough outing last weekend, and his future with the team is in question. He threw a career-high 59 passes, completing 30 of them, and had a forgettable fourth quarter - tossing two interceptions, losing a fumble near the goal line and getting sacked for a safety.
"It wasn't Mark's best day by any stretch of the imagination," Ryan said. "But we know he's done it, and he's been doing it, and we have great confidence in him, and I have great confidence in him."
Sanchez, however, also had two interceptions and a fumble in the blowout loss to the Eagles.
"Have we played our best? No," he said. "We just have to keep pressing, be smart, win the game and see what happens."
Sanchez completed 14 of 25 passes for 201 yards with a touchdown in New York's first game of the season versus Miami.
That game's turning point occurred in the first quarter. Up 3-0, the Dolphins were poised to add to their lead, but Darrelle Revis returned an interception 100 yards for a touchdown on a pass intended for Brandon Marshall to put the Jets ahead.
Revis, selected to a fourth consecutive Pro Bowl on Tuesday, may have got away with defensive pass interference to make the play. Marshall, chosen to his second Pro Bowl, said this week that a flag would've been thrown "nine times out of 10" if he wasn't covered by Revis, one of the NFL's biggest defensive stars.
Miami's Matt Moore made his first start of the season in that game, completing 47.1 percent of his passes for 204 yards with two interceptions. He has shown steady improvement since.
He nearly led the Dolphins to an upset victory at New England last Saturday, throwing for 281 yards with three touchdowns and a pick. It was his third three-touchdown game of the season, and he has 11 TDs to two interceptions in the last six contests.
Miami squandered a 17-0 halftime lead to the Patriots, losing 27-24. The Dolphins outgained New England 248-107 in the first half, but were outgained 293-126 after the break.
"This one's pretty tough," said Reggie Bush, who ran for 113 yards, his fourth consecutive 100-yard game.
Bush has been ruled out of this game due to a right knee injury, ending his first 1,000-yard season with 1,086. Marshall has 1,177 receiving yards, giving the Dolphins a 1,000-yard runner and 1,000-yard receiver for the first time in franchise history.
New York's Shonn Greene is a yard away from his first 1,000-yard season. He'll be facing a Dolphins team third in rush defense (93.4 yards per game).
Miami's defense has also been strong lately against the pass. Since Week 9, the Dolphins are tied for fourth with 11 interceptions and have the third-most sacks with 24.
One of the pillars of the defense, linebacker Jason Taylor, will be playing in his final game Sunday after 15 NFL seasons. Taylor, who spent last season with the Jets, is second on the Dolphins with seven sacks.
After the then-undefeated Buffalo Bills shocked the New England Patriots in Week 3, the season-ending rematch in Foxborough looked like it could be a showdown for the AFC East title.
Instead, New England has had the division wrapped up for weeks and the Bills have been out of contention even longer.
The Patriots look to secure the AFC's No. 1 seed Sunday by resuming their dominance over Buffalo, which has never won a game at Gillette Stadium.
With a record four games better than the second-place Jets, New England (12-3) has clinched its third straight East title, eighth in nine seasons and ninth in 12 years under coach Bill Belichick. The Patriots boast a league-leading seven Pro Bowl starters and eight Pro Bowlers in all - led by Tom Brady, who needs 103 passing yards to reach 5,000.
The future Hall of Famer has an outside chance to end up with the NFL single-season record in that category, depending on how much action Drew Brees sees for New Orleans. Brees has already surpassed Dan Marino's previous record of 5,084 by three yards, but with the Saints unlikely to improve their playoff position or get a bye, they could opt to rest their star QB.
Given all of that, it would seem New England has cruised through the season. Yet the truth has told a far different story.
The Patriots defense has been the NFL's worst, getting run over for 412.1 total yards per game - the most allowed by a defense since the 1981 Baltimore Colts gave up an average of 424.6. Defensive end Andre Carter had been a bright spot, making the Pro Bowl with a team-high 10 sacks, but he's out for the season with a quadriceps injury. The secondary has been so banged-up that receivers Julian Edelman and Matthew Slater have been pressed into meaningful duty on the other side of the ball.
Last week, New England trailed also-ran Miami 17-0 at halftime before storming back, holding on to win 27-24 and clinching a first-round bye.
"It's good to clinch," said Deion Branch, who caught Brady's lone touchdown pass of the game, "but not by the way we played. It's not the way you want to do it."
Despite their weaknesses, the Patriots would own the No. 1 seed in the AFC for a second consecutive postseason with either a win Sunday or losses by Baltimore and Pittsburgh. They should be plenty motivated to turn the tables on Buffalo, which rallied from a 21-0 deficit to stun the Patriots 34-31 on Sept. 25, when Rian Lindell's 28-yard field goal as time expired snapped New England's 15-game winning streak in the series.
"I think everyone still has a pretty bitter taste in our mouths from the last time we lost to the Buffalo Bills," Brady said Monday on WEEI radio. "It was an incredibly difficult loss for our team. Everyone is going to be excited to go out there and see if we can do a better job."
One area where Brady and the Patriots have done a much better job recently is in protecting the football. New England had three four-turnover games - including the loss to Buffalo - in the first half of the season, but has a total of just two giveaways during its current seven-game winning streak.
Defensively, the Patriots have forced 16 turnovers in that same span for an AFC-leading plus-14 ratio.
"Tom has done a much better job of taking care of the ball and he's very, very conscious of it and it carries over to the rest of the offense," offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien said. "If we can just continue to do that, that's one of the major stats that equals wins, just taking care of the ball. The way our defense has been playing opportunistic football, that's going to help us going forward."
Buffalo (6-9) appeared to be steaming toward ending its 11-year playoff drought as it was 3-0 after beating the Patriots, but proceeded to drop nine of its next 11 including a seven-game skid.
Injuries certainly played a part. Sixteen Bills have landed on injured reserve - most notably running back Fred Jackson, who was enjoying a career year with more than 900 rushing yards through the first nine games before fracturing his fibula in Week 11 at Miami.
The Bills gave up an average of 32.0 points per game during their skid, but thrived in a spoiler role while snapping it last week, routing AFC West-leading Denver 40-14. Buffalo picked off Tim Tebow four times - doubling its interception total from the seven-game losing streak - while beleaguered quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick went 15 of 27 for 196 yards with no interceptions.
Fitzpatrick had thrown 12 interceptions during the slide.
"It obviously feels a lot better," said coach Chan Gailey, who rewarded his players with three days off after the victory. "It took all three phases playing well and winning each phase to win a ball game. We're not that good of a football team yet that we can go win with just winning one or two phases."
However, the thrill of the win was tempered by Monday's injury news. Starting offensive linemen Demetrius Bell (knee/ankle) and Kraig Urbik (right knee) have both been ruled out of Sunday's season finale.
New England's line is dealing with injury woes of its own as the playoffs near. Left tackle Matt Light didn't play last week after hurting his ankle in pregame warmups, and left guard Logan Mankins suffered a knee injury in the first quarter. Brady was sacked four times, matching a season high.
The Bills are 0-9 all-time at Gillette Stadium and have lost 10 straight road games to the Patriots since a 16-13 overtime win Nov. 5, 2000, during Belichick's first season as New England's head coach.
The Tennessee Titans enter their season finale needing a victory and plenty of help to reach the postseason.
The AFC South champion Houston Texans hope they won't be carrying a three-game losing streak into their first playoff appearance.
Tennessee visits slumping Houston on Sunday hoping to set up a rematch in the wild-card round the following week, though the Titans will have to contend with Texans star wide receiver Andre Johnson.
The Titans (8-7) avoided a third straight loss with a 23-17 victory over Jacksonville on Saturday, staying in the hunt for their first trip to the playoffs since 2008.
In order for that to happen, though, plenty more than a Tennessee victory needs to take place Sunday, with the Titans also requiring Baltimore to defeat Cincinnati. Then a victory by the New York Jets coupled with a loss by Oakland or Denver, or a loss by the Jets paired with victories by Oakland and Denver, would give Tennessee the last wild card.
If any of those scenarios occur, Tennessee would return for a matchup with Houston, which has locked up the AFC's No. 3 seed.
"We hope that we have that problem, that we have to reorganize for that one," coach Mike Munchak said. "We'll take that gladly. So we're going to do everything it takes to win."
One thing helping the Titans is that the Texans seem to be only a shell of the team that routed Tennessee 41-7 on Oct. 23.
Houston got 234 total yards and three touchdowns in that contest from running back Arian Foster, who was named to his second straight Pro Bowl on Tuesday.
That victory began a club-record seven-game winning streak for the Texans (10-5), though they've lost two straight since clinching their first division title with a 20-19 win at Cincinnati on Dec. 18.
Houston allowed a touchdown pass with 19 seconds remaining in a 19-16 loss Dec. 22 to lowly Indianapolis despite 158 yards and a touchdown rushing from Foster.
"I just think somebody's got to make that play. It's almost like responsibility and that's the way I talked to the team," coach Gary Kubiak said. "Defensively, you need one interception, one sack, one strip. Somebody's got to take the responsibility, step up and make that play. We just got to look at ourselves and be willing to step and do those things that would've got you out of there with a win."
Houston received the news Friday that Johnson will make his return for this game, though he'll be on a play count. Johnson has played only six games this season after missing six in a row with a right hamstring injury that required surgery.
"It was all depending on how the week went and everything went fine this past week, so I'll be able to go out and play a little bit on Sunday," Johnson said.
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who underwent kidney surgery Dec. 15, could also be back. Phillips has been the architect of Houston's second-ranked defense that allows 280.7 yards per game.
Tennessee, though, compiled 407 yards in the win over Jacksonville, good for its second-highest total of the season. Matt Hasselbeck threw for 350 yards, including a 55-yard touchdown pass to Jared Cook in the first quarter.
However, that is Hasselbeck's only scoring pass compared to four interceptions over his last two games. He completed only 46.7 percent of his passes for 104 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in the first meeting with the Texans.
Houston is tied for second in the league with 184.0 passing yards allowed per game.
Chris Johnson ran for 56 yards against Jacksonville, leaving him 14 short of his fourth consecutive 1,000-yard season. He was held to 18 yards on 10 carries in the first meeting.
The Texans have won four of six meetings between the teams but have not swept the season series since 2004.