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.
The Kansas City Chiefs (5-7) and the New York Jets (7-5) will meet up in a 1:00 PM ET game on Sunday, and the NFL betting odds don’t seem to indicate this one will be all that close.
The Jets are currently listed as 9-point wagering favorites and much of that has to do with the tremendous 5-1 record they’ve amassed at home this year.
New York is in a must-win type of game and it simply isn’t easy to take them on when they are in their home stadium.
That being said, Kansas City used strong defense to win 10-3 on the road last weekend as 9-point underdogs against the Chicago Bears.
It was the first win for the Chiefs over the course of their last 5 games, but they’ve still managed to cover the point spread in 7 of their 12 contests this season.
Kansas City games have gone under in 9 of their last 10 because their offense is one of the worst in the NFL.
New York is on a 2-game winning streak and has only been bested by playoff contenders so far this year.
The New England Patriots were the only team to go into New York and leave with a win all season long.
The Jets have covered the point spread in just 1 of their last 4 games, while they’ve gone over in 3 of those matchups.
Leading the AFC West by one game with two weeks left in the regular season, the Denver Broncos hope to avoid another collapse and finally return to the playoffs for the first time in six years.
That challenge might be a little easier with the reeling Buffalo Bills awaiting.
The Broncos look to bounce back from their first loss in more than a month when they try to hand the Bills an eighth straight defeat Saturday at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
For the third time in four years, Denver took an 8-5 record into the final three weeks. In 2008 and 2009, the Broncos dropped their final three games and failed to make the playoffs. Memories of those collapses might have resurfaced after Denver's six-game winning streak ended with a 41-23 home loss to New England on Sunday.
"We have to play a whole lot better if we want to win," cornerback Andre' Goodman said. "We haven't played our best football yet, but I think we feel good about the position we're in, in terms of the division race and right now that's the only thing we can focus on."
At 8-6, Denver has a one-game division lead over Oakland and San Diego, and is two ahead of Kansas City. If the Broncos beat Buffalo (5-9) and the Chiefs at home on New Year's Day, they will reach the playoffs for the first time since the 2005 season.
Denver also could clinch the division this weekend with a win and a Raiders loss at Kansas City. The Broncos can clinch a playoff spot with a victory and losses by the New York Jets, Cincinnati and Tennessee on Saturday.
Though the Broncos control their own destiny, they must improve after blowing a 16-7 first-half lead by committing three turnovers and allowing the Patriots to score 34 points in the final 39 minutes.
"We need to concentrate on getting better," cornerback Champ Bailey said. "We showed (Sunday) that we're not ready to go to the playoffs and make a push."
Though Tim Tebow lost for the second time in nine starts, he threw for 194 yards and rushed for a team-high 93 and two touchdowns on 12 carries.
"We definitely have to be consistent," Tebow said. "It's something we have to improve on."
Tebow, who has thrown 11 TDs with two interceptions and rushed for 610 yards and five scores, is 5-0 as a starter on the road. He's the only quarterback with at least five starts who is currently undefeated away from home in 2011.
Willis McGahee rushed just seven times for 70 yards against New England, leaving him 10 yards shy of reaching 1,000 for the first time since gaining 1,207 with Baltimore in 2007.
A first-round pick of the Bills in 2003, McGahee has rushed for 178 yards and two TDs on 30 attempts in two games against his former team.
The Broncos defense had not allowed more than 13 points in four of its previous five games prior to Sunday, but has a chance to rebound against a Buffalo team that's averaged 14.3 points during a seven-game skid.
Denver has won its last three trips to Buffalo, most recently 15-14 in 2007.
Once a playoff contender at 5-2, the Bills are in the midst of their longest skid since dropping their first eight games of 2010. Buffalo guaranteed a 12th straight season without a playoff appearance after falling 30-23 at Miami on Sunday.
Though injuries to key players like running back Fred Jackson have plagued the Bills, those who are healthy have been unable to keep the team afloat.
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has taken most of the heat while going 1-7 with 10 touchdowns and 13 of his league-high 19 interceptions since signing a six-year, $59 million contract extension. Fitzpatrick threw for 316 yards with two touchdowns but was intercepted three times against the Dolphins.
Things could get worse for Fitzpatrick if receiver Stevie Johnson is unable to play due to a groin injury. Johnson leads the team with 68 receptions for 872 yards and six TDs.
Coach Chan Gailey, however, won't place all the blame on his struggling quarterback
"You lose this many games in a row, we all get criticism," Gailey said. "There's nobody that escapes criticism when you're doing what we're doing right now."
Buffalo's defense remains ripe for criticism while giving up 32.0 points per game during the losing stretch. The Bills allowed a season-high 254 rushing yards against the Dolphins last weekend.
Buffalo snapped a five-game overall losing streak to the Broncos with a 30-23 win at Denver in their most recent meeting in 2008. The Bills have not beaten the Broncos at home since a 27-20 victory in 1994.
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.
After a weekend in which every relevant result broke the New England Patriots' way, their path to the No. 1 seed in the AFC couldn't be clearer.
It remains murky, however, whether their struggling defense can improve enough to make a playoff run - especially without their biggest pass-rushing presence.
The Patriots must move on without standout defensive end Andre Carter as they try to move closer to securing home-field advantage throughout the postseason Saturday by defeating the Miami Dolphins.
Home victories the next two weeks over 5-9 foes Miami and Buffalo would ensure New England (11-3) won't play anywhere but Foxborough until either the Super Bowl or next season.
Of course, the Patriots also had the conference's top seed last postseason, only to be upset by the rival New York Jets in the divisional round - the second straight year they've dropped their playoff opener at home.
Despite its stellar record, Bill Belichick's team hardly seems like a safe bet to return to the Super Bowl for the first time since its bid for a perfect season was spoiled there four years ago.
The Tom Brady-led offense is typically potent, having averaged 35.8 points during the club's six-game winning streak. New England's defense, though, has allowed more yards than any other team's, and the season-ending quadriceps injury Carter suffered last week in Denver certainly won't help.
"That's tough. Andre puts so much in with his leadership alone," defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said. "He hasn't really won a lot in his career, but now he's winning, he's happy here, he's having fun, he's playing well. To see him go down, it's a blow."
Playing primarily at end in a newly installed 4-3 scheme, Carter provided the Patriots with a team-high 10 sacks. Without him, it's possible the club could return to more of the 3-4 arrangement it has used in past years.
"We used them both at different times for different reasons," Belichick said. "In the end, it comes back to the players - beating blocks, making tackles, hitting the quarterback, covering the receivers."
New England didn't do much of any of that while allowing 167 yards on the ground in the first quarter Sunday, falling behind 16-7 early in the second. But the offense responded with 27 straight points and the defense tightened to cool down Tim Tebow and the Broncos in a 41-23 drubbing.
Not only did the win clinch the club's ninth AFC East title in 11 years, but the three other teams that had been tied at 10-3 atop the conference - Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Houston - lost.
"I don't think we've got enough time to smile," cornerback Devin McCourty said. "We see that happen, but I think it really (emphasizes) how important it is for us to keep playing well and to be ready to go on Saturday."
Saturday's game seems straightforward enough for the Patriots, who've outscored the Dolphins 117-45 in winning all three meetings over the last two seasons.
Miami has looked like a vastly improved team lately, however, winning five of seven since an 0-7 start. The revival wasn't good enough to save Tony Sparano's job, but the Dolphins won their first game under interim coach Todd Bowles, overcoming wintry weather for a 30-23 victory at Buffalo last week.
While Matt Moore has thrown 11 touchdowns and just two interceptions in the last seven games, Reggie Bush's renaissance has powered Miami lately, with the former USC star finally fulfilling the lofty expectations placed on him when he was drafted No. 2 overall by New Orleans in 2006.
With one 100-yard rushing game in five seasons with the Saints, Bush has four for the Dolphins this season - including each of the last three contests. He posted career highs of 203 yards and 25 carries against the Bills, ripping off a 76-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to all but seal the game.
"I understand the questions," Bush said. "I was hurt a few years and I wasn't getting a lot of touches and yards. Rightfully so, people should be questioning whether I can do it or not. But I know given the opportunity, I can show that I can be a good back."
The Patriots limited Bush to 38 yards on 11 carries in the season opener while Brady stole the show, passing for a team-record 517 yards and four touchdowns in a 38-24 victory Sept. 12.
"Embarrassing," Miami safety Yeremiah Bell said. "That can't happen."
Wes Welker had eight catches for 160 yards in that game, including a 99-yard touchdown. The NFL leader with 104 receptions for a career-high 1,380 yards, Welker has averaged 105.4 receiving yards in eight meetings with the Dolphins, who traded him to New England in 2007.
The Patriots' passing attack proved last week that opponents must pick their poison. With Welker and star tight end Rob Gronkowski combining for just eight catches and 94 yards, tight end Aaron Hernandez stepped up with nine catches for 129 yards and a touchdown.
"You never know who is going to be heavily involved," Gronkowski said.
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.