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2023 NFL season, Week 16: Six things to watch for in Raiders-Chiefs, Giants-Eagles, Ravens-49ers on Christmas Day

There isn't a much better present for football fans than a Christmas Day tripleheader.

Three games are set to wrap up the Week 16 holiday slate on Monday, with each having massive playoff implications for at least one team involved.

The first matchup pits AFC West foes against each other as the Raiders travel to take on the Chiefs. Las Vegas sits in the No. 12 spot in the conference, far outside contention with just a 2% shot at reaching the playoffs going into the weekend, per Next Gen Stats, but Kansas City can clinch its eight straight division title with a victory.

Division rivals square off again in the middle of the three contests, when the slumping Eagles host the Giants amid a dead heat with the Cowboys for the NFC East.

And to top it all off, the Ravens and 49ers square off in a battle of the AFC and NFC's top-seeded teams -- a potential Super Bowl LVIII preview.

Here are six things to watch for in Monday's games:

Las Vegas Raiders
2023 · 6-8-0
Kansas City Chiefs
2023 · 9-5-0
  • WHERE: GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium (Kansas City, Mo.)
  • WHEN: 1 p.m. ET | CBS, Nickelodeon

  1. What do Raiders do for an encore? Las Vegas is coming off a 63-point performance that was as surprising as it was exhilarating. Scoring the second-most points this century is nothing to sneeze at, but that historic Thursday night explosion, which resulted in Brandon Staley’s firing, might have said more about the state of the Chargers than the Raiders’ offense. After all, this is the same team that failed to score a single point the week before. The defense, though, has been consistently solid for a while now. It forced five turnovers in Week 15, scoring twice on its own and setting up eventual touchdowns on a couple others. The unit also ensured the Week 14 shutout at the hands of Minnesota was only a three-point loss. Since Antonio Pierce became the interim head coach in the aftermath of Josh McDaniels' firing, the Raiders are 3-3 with 15.5 points allowed per game. However, the most points allowed in any contest under Pierce did come in the team’s prior game against the Chiefs -- a 31-17 loss on Nov. 26. That was the game Maxx Crosby miraculously suited up for despite a doubtful designation. He pushed through that day for a sack on Patrick Mahomes, and although Crosby's still tending to the knee injury by practicing once a week since, he is in a better spot with it than a month ago. He and the rest of the defense should smell rare vulnerability on the Chiefs, and they'll be raring to go against a team that's beaten them in six straight.
  2. Chiefs will attempt to use Raiders as launching pad. It’s a tad unfair for the rest of the NFL that Kansas City's version of the sky falling is ... ranking 10th in offensive scoring and seventh in yardage. But this is undoubtedly the biggest lull Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes have faced together. The Chiefs already tied their highest loss mark (five) since Mahomes took over in 2018, the QB has tied his career high for interceptions in a season (13) and the offense has managed just three 30-plus point games. It hasn’t had any fewer than seven (and achieved a high of 12) in each of the previous five regular seasons. Luckily, Mahomes and Co. proved capable of still owning the Raiders in their November meeting, the last time K.C. eclipsed 30 points. The Chiefs have scored 28-plus in every game versus the Raiders since 2018 (10-1 record), and Mahomes is 5-0 with 14 TD passes and no interceptions against them since 2021, per NFL Research. With an opportunity to clinch the AFC West, he'll likely look for Travis Kelce and Rashee Rice, the rookie whose evolved into his sole trustworthy wide receiver with 32 receptions for 334 yards and three TDs in his last four games. It'll also help to get Isiah Pacheco back against the league's worst-ranked rushing defense following a two-game absence.
New York Giants
2023 · 5-9-0
Philadelphia Eagles
2023 · 10-4-0
  • WHERE: Lincoln Financial Field (Philadelphia)
  • WHEN: 4:30 p.m. ET | FOX, FOX Deportes

  1. Can Giants' folk hero play the spoiler? The last time these two rivals faced was under far different circumstances. New York has waited a long time to respond to the 38-7 Divisional Round thrashing by the Eagles in last season’s playoffs. Now, sitting at 5-9 with less than a 1% chance to make the postseason entering Week 16, the best payback the Giants can hope for is hurting Philadelphia's chances at an NFC East title. If the Giants are able to do so, it’ll likely mean the further rise of their folk hero under center, Tommy DeVito. The undrafted, New Jersey-born QB has a 3-2 record with 1,032 passing yards, eight passing touchdowns, three interceptions and two game-winning drives. He’s imperfect and raw as a thrower, but Philly’s defense has allowed the fourth-most passing yards and second-most passing TDs in the league. That might be the route Big Blue ends up going considering Saquon Barkley isn’t as likely to find success against the NFL’s seventh-ranked rushing defense. He managed just 14 yards on the ground in Week 15, and the two-time Pro Bowler has had 40 or fewer rushing yards in each of his last three regular-season games against the Eagles. If DeVito pulls an upset -- and especially if he does it while carrying most of the weight -- expect more signature celebrations and pizzeria baby-holding escapades in his future.
  2. Eagles must rebound on other side of brutal stretch. Losers of three in a row, Philadelphia has to take advantage of the NFL’s easiest remaining strength of schedule. The Eagles finish the season with two games against the Giants bookending a date with the 3-11 Cardinals. They still have a strong shot at capturing the NFC East if they win out, plus an outside chance at the NFC’s No. 1 seed if the 49ers falter mightily, but blemishes are showing for last year’s Super Bowl runner-up. It starts with Jalen Hurts, who suddenly has become a liability where he previously exceled. After pacing the NFL with a 111.8 passer rating from the pocket during a breakout 2022, all 12 of his interceptions have come from the pocket in 2023, a much more unfortunate stat to lead the league in. He’s still converting and delivering points with his legs, but Hurts has thrown just one TD in December. His running backs haven’t helped much, either. As a group they've averaged 71.8 rushing yards per game since Week 4, tied for 29th in the NFL. If the offense still can’t get rolling against the Giants, Philly’s maligned defense must build on the turnaround it started last week during Matt Patricia’s first game calling plays -- a cause for optimism that was dampened after a a game-winning drive by Seahawks quarterback Drew Lock.

Baltimore Ravens
2023 · 11-3-0
San Francisco 49ers
2023 · 11-3-0
  • WHERE: Levi's Stadium (Santa Clara, Calif.)
  • WHEN: 8:15 p.m. ET | ABC, ESPN+, ESPN Deportes

  1. Lamar Jackson will be leading the charge. In a year in which he’s finally stayed healthy late, Jackson has been forced to elevate his game as his teammates have fallen injured around him. The season started with running back J.K Dobbins tearing his Achilles in Week 1, and just last week his game-changing replacement, rookie Keaton Mitchell, tore his ACL in his third straight game averaging 6.0 or more yards per carry. Nonetheless, Baltimore leads the league with 163.8 rushing yards per game. The passing game hasn’t been spared the injury bug, either. Jackson’s favorite target, Mark Andrews, is out indefinitely with an ankle injury, but the 2019 Most Valuable Player has remained undeterred. Jackson and Andrews had the NFL’s second-highest passer rating for a QB and TE in 2023 with 135.7 (behind San Francisco’s Brock Purdy and George Kittle, 137.9), but he's also part of the third-highest duo thanks to rapidly growing chemistry with Isaiah Likely (123.7). He should be targeting Likely’s highly again on Monday, and he’ll also work to get Zay Flowers, the team's leading wideout, more involved after the rookie had just seven receiving yards in Week 15. As Jackson also leads his team with 741 rushing yards, expect more of the same now that another explosive option is missing from the backfield. Putting up points will be a tough considering the 49ers boast the second-ranked scoring defense and third-best D in passing TDs allowed (15), but Jackson has historically been up to such a challenge. He has a 5-0 road record against defenses that have entered the game top five in scoring.
  2. Friendly MVP competition between Brock Purdy, Christian McCaffrey. If Purdy is a system quarterback, then every team should endeavor to find one. The second-year pro leads the league with 9.9 passing yards per attempt, 29 passing TDs, a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 29:7 and a 119.0 passer rating. He joins Tom Brady (2007) and Aaron Rodgers (2011) as the only players to have four games with a 140-plus passer rating on 20-plus pass attempts in a single season, and those two took home a Most Valuable Player award in those years. Then there’s McCaffrey, who Purdy himself admitted should be the MVP after last week’s sixth straight victory. Like Purdy, CMC leads the NFL with a plethora of gaudy numbers entering Week 16 -- rushing yards (1,292), scrimmage yards (1,801), scrimmage touchdowns (20, tied for first) and touches (301). He’s on pace to join Jim Brown as only the second player in NFL history to win the NFL scrimmage triple crown (touches, yards, TDs) multiple times. Baltimore's first-ranked scoring defense will also have to contend with weapons like Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle as it looks to slow an offense that's averaged 34 points across its 11 wins.

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