Minnesota (8-6) at Houston (12-2)
Seems like most everyone believes Adrian Peterson is a lock to break Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing mark of 2,105. But he still needs almost 300 yards in the last two games, and to average that much would be a pace for 2,400 yards in a season.
The Texans are formidable against the run and badly want to assure being at home throughout the AFC playoffs. By damaging Minnesota's push for an NFC wild card, Houston would ensure it is at home in January.
"This year he's definitely the best," linebacker Bradie James said about Peterson, who has 1,812 yards. "I played against Ricky Williams in his heyday when he would just run over everybody. I played against the Bus (Jerome Bettis); the Bus was great in short yardage. I played against Mike Alstott. I played against all these guys, and what Adrian Peterson is doing right now, I hadn't seen it before.
"We don't want to be on the end of his record setting. We've got to do our job and really not get caught up in all that."
Indianapolis (9-5) at Kansas City (2-12)
Indy's sensational turnaround from 2-14 to wild-card team will be complete with a victory at the Chiefs. The Colts have managed it despite the fewest takeaways in the NFL (10) and a minus-17.
But the Chiefs, who were shut out by lowly Oakland a week ago, are even worse at minus-22.
Cleveland (5-9) at Denver (11-3)
Consider how far the Broncos have come from a 2-3 record and tons of questions about whether Peyton Manning could once again be, well, Peyton Manning. He is every bit as good in his first season in Denver, has gotten in-tune with his receivers, particularly Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, and has a fierce defense to boot.
"I like young players that really want to get better, and those guys have done that," Manning said. "Our timing has improved throughout the season. It's not what it would be had we played together for five years."
In Cleveland, they wonder if the young cast will play another year with coach Pat Shurmur.
Tennessee (5-9) at Green Bay (10-4)
The Packers could move into the No. 2 seed in the NFC with a victory and a loss by San Francisco. That should be enough motivation to keep them humming; they've won eight of nine, including three in a row within the division to put away the NFC North.
Tennessee was the beneficiary of Mark Sanchez's generosity on Monday night. Aaron Rodgers is no Sanchez.
New England (10-4) at Jacksonville (2-12)
An angry bunch of Patriots head south to face one of the league's worst teams. Barring a misstep by Denver, New England is looking at playing in the wild-card round, by which time it had better have solved defensive woes exposed by San Francisco last Sunday night.
The Jaguars don't figure to provide any challenge as they contend for the top overall draft pick.
St. Louis (6-7-1) at Tampa Bay (6-8)
Both teams should look forward to bigger and better things in 2013. These are generally young teams being constructed in dissimilar ways.
Jeff Fisher is a defensive guy and he's put together a solid unit led by ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn, LB James Laurinaitis and cornerbacks Cortland Finnegan and rookie Janoris Jenkins. They rank ninth and have 41 sacks, third in the league behind contenders Denver, Houston and Cincinnati.
The Bucs are doing most of their good things with the ball. Vincent Jackson is first in yards per catch (19.8) and fourth in yards receiving, while rookie Doug Martin has 1,250 yards rushing and 10 TDs.
Buffalo (5-9) at Miami (6-8)
Buffalo's high expectations after a busy offseason adding talent fell apart early. The Bills could see some front-office housecleaning after they finish off their 13th straight season out of the playoffs.
Miami has taken some decent steps in its rebuild, but this could be a game of turnovers. Buffalo is minus-10 and Miami is minus-12 in turnover margin.
San Diego (5-9) at New York Jets (6-8)
To the chagrin of Fireman Ed and other Jets fans, the Sanchez error, uh, era might not be over. At least for 2012, barring injuries, the regressing QB will be on the sideline as Greg McElroy tries to secure a job for the future.
The Chargers are playing out the string, too. They found some enthusiasm when they beat Pittsburgh two weeks ago, but then the Panthers routed them in San Diego.
Oakland (4-10) at Carolina (5-9)
The Panthers, particularly Cam Newton, are playing well enough to perhaps save coach Ron Rivera's job. It seems logical that Raiders coach Dennis Allen, in his first season of what will be a lengthy rebuilding project, also is safe.
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