NFL Week 15 preview: Teams in playoff hunt poised to make statements

The San Francisco 49ers clinched an NFC West title Thursday night, the NFL started its first slate of Saturday games and Sunday’s schedule is sure to be a doozy.

Welcome to Week 15.

The Kansas City Chiefs and Dallas Cowboys will be the teams to watch as both could potentially clinch a playoff spot this week or next. There are plenty of teams still vying for a playoff spot. The Houston Texans, Denver Broncos and Chicago Bears are the only teams mathematically eliminated.

Every other team is still very much in the mix. With four games already in the books for the week and one more set for Monday, the Sunday schedule is a little thin. Not to worry, though, here are a few games fans should keep an eye on Sunday.

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Jets (7-6) vs. Lions (6-7) – 1 p.m. ET, CBS

Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell reacts during the first half of a game against the Minnesota Vikings Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022, in Detroit. 

Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell reacts during the first half of a game against the Minnesota Vikings Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022, in Detroit. 
(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Who would’ve thought a December matchup between the Jets and Lions would carry so much weight? The Lions have looked good their last few games and bring a 6-7 record into East Rutherford, New Jersey, after starting the year 1-6.

Lions coach Dan Campbell and quarterback Jared Goff have the team right where it needs to be to make a run, and it starts against the Jets.

The Jets have been in flux all season and, even with their issues, are 7-6 and have a plus-21 point differential. Mike White will no longer be the starting quarterback after taking several licks in a loss against the Bills last week.

Zach Wilson was named the starting quarterback again. There is a lot to prove for the second-year quarterback, and Sunday is a good spot to make everyone remember why he was the No. 2 pick of the 2021 draft.

Jaguars (5-8) vs. Cowboys (10-3) – 1 p.m. ET, FOX

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence, left, scores past Tennessee Titans linebacker Dylan Cole (53) during the second half of a game Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. 

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence, left, scores past Tennessee Titans linebacker Dylan Cole (53) during the second half of a game Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. 
(AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

The Cowboys nearly fell into the Texans’ trap last week, and they face another trap game Sunday against the Jaguars.

The Jaguars have looked good at times and have prompted some head scratching at others. Trevor Lawrence is beginning to look like a No. 1 draft pick. He hasn’t thrown an interception since Week 8, and, during that span, the team has gone 3-2 and he’s had 10 touchdown passes.

But Jacksonville goes up against a defense as good as the one it faced against the Broncos — if not better. Dallas is third in points allowed and fifth in yards allowed. Micah Parsons and Demarcus Lawrence are absolute beasts, and if the offense can function at a high level, it could be an easier week.

To clinch a spot in the playoffs, Dallas needs a win. Should it tie, it would have to hope the Giants-Commanders game doesn’t end in a tie. They got the Seahawks’ loss to the 49ers on Thursday, which would help them if they tie too. Should the Lions lose or tie or the Commanders lose, the Cowboys would be in due to the Seahawks’ loss.

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Texans (1-11-1) vs. Chiefs (10-3) – 1 p.m. ET, CBS

Kansas City Chiefs running back Jerick McKinnon leaps into the end zone for a touchdown during the first half of a game against the Denver Broncos Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022, in Denver. 

Kansas City Chiefs running back Jerick McKinnon leaps into the end zone for a touchdown during the first half of a game against the Denver Broncos Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022, in Denver. 
(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

For the Chiefs, a win would mean everything.

Kansas City faces a Texans team that put up a good fight against the Cowboys last week. The Chiefs nearly blew a giant lead to the Broncos. A win would clinch the AFC West for the Chiefs as would a Chargers loss to the Titans. A tie and a Chargers tie would also give the Chiefs the division title.

Should the Chiefs tie, the team still clinches a playoff berth with losses by the Jets and Patriots or losses by the Dolphins and Patriots and a Jets tie or losses by the Dolphins and Jets and a Patriots tie.

Kansas City is 5-2 away from Arrowhead Stadium this season.

Chargers (7-6) vs. Titans (7-6) – 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS

Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) signals as he runs for a first down during the second half of a game against the Miami Dolphins Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022, in Inglewood, Calif. 

Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) signals as he runs for a first down during the second half of a game against the Miami Dolphins Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022, in Inglewood, Calif. 
(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The Chargers impressed fans with their win over the Dolphins in primetime last week. The defense showed up to shut down the dynamic passing attack led by Tua Tagovailoa, Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. On Sunday afternoon, there’s going to be another unstoppable force to contend with — Derrick Henry.

Tennessee is on a three-game losing streak, and this matchup against the Chargers comes at a pivotal time of the season. The Jaguars are barking up their tree and inconsistency on offense has certainly hurt them. The Titans are 26th in points scored and 29th in yards gained. Ryan Tannehill and the wide receivers will have to step up and play a bit better to win this game.

Justin Herbert and the Charger offense looked decent against the Dolphins, but it was the defense that really stepped up. The Chargers have been hurting all season, and clutch plays propelled them to victory last week. It will have to be the same Sunday afternoon.

Commanders (7-5-1) vs. Giants (7-5-1) – 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC

New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) is pressured by Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (91) during the second quarter of a game, Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022, in East Rutherford, N.J. 

New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) is pressured by Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (91) during the second quarter of a game, Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022, in East Rutherford, N.J. 
(AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)

Just, please, no more ties.

Both teams need a victory as the Commanders and Giants vie for a playoff spot. New York blew a lead against Washington in their first meeting, and they went to overtime. Their tie might be a saving grace but, in the end, a win is going to be better.

It comes down to that Sunday night. Both teams are in good spots to make the playoffs, but the Seahawks, Lions and even the Panthers and Falcons are right there with them.

The NFC East rivalry hits primetime.

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How the rest of Sunday looks

  • 1 p.m. ET: Bears (3-10) vs. Eagles (12-1), FOX
  • 1 p.m. ET: Saints (4-9) vs. Falcons (5-8), FOX
  • 1 p.m. ET: Panthers (5-8) vs. Steelers (5-8), CBS
  • 4:05 p.m. ET: Broncos (3-10) vs. Cardinals (4-9)
  • 4:05 p.m. ET: Raiders (5-8) vs. Patriots (7-6)
  • 4:25 p.m. ET: Buccaneers (6-7) vs. Bengals (9-4)

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