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Top NFL Storylines To Watch Heading Into Sunday’s Games

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The NFL already kicked off Week 16 with four total games being played on Friday and Saturday. With that being said, there are still 11 matchups set to take place on Sunday and Monday. Several of those have intriguing storylines worth following, too.

Below are some of the things you’ll need to be paying attention to as we continue to get into the meat of the Week 16 schedule. Hunts for division crowns, playoff battles and more continue to be major talking points at this point in the season, and there are several of those taking place this weekend.

1. Browns Taking Hits at Wide Receiver

Game: Cleveland Browns at New York Jets

Time: Sunday, Dec. 27 at 1:00 p.m. ET (Noon CT)

Channel: CBS

Betting Line: Browns -7

Over/Under: 44

Breakdown: The Cleveland Browns are still in the hunt for the AFC North. At 10-4, they’re only one game back from the 11-3 Pittsburgh Steelers, who take on a formidable Colts squad this Sunday. Cleveland getting a game against the one-win New York Jets is well-timed, but who will be available to catch passes from Baker Mayfield?

The Browns were forced to place four starting wide receivers, including Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones and KhaDarel Hodges, on the reserve/COVID-19 lists. That leaves Marvin Hall, Derrick Willies and rookie Ja’Marcus Bradley as the only three active receivers left.

Expect to see a heavy rushing attack with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, as well as an uptick in usage in a tight end group that includes Austin Hooper, Harrison Bryant and David Njoku. Will the hits matter against the Jets, though?

2. Two Division Leaders Battle It Out

Game: Indianapolis Colts at Pittsburgh Steelers

Time: Sunday, Dec. 27 at 1:00 p.m. ET (Noon CT)

Channel: CBS

Betting Line: Steelers -2

Over/Under: 43

Breakdown: The Steelers started the season 11-0, but have seen fallen off a cliff. They’ve lost three straight, including two ugly losses to the Washington Football Team and Cincinnati Bengals. Ben Roethlisberger is playing terrible, to put it mildly. With that being said, Pittsburgh still leads in the race for the AFC North.

The Indianapolis Colts are 10-4 on the year and have won five of their last six games. That ties them with the Tennessee Titans for the best record in the AFC South. A lot of people will point to the Steelers being without Bud Dupree as a massive advantage for Indianapolis, but that advantage will be mitigated due to both starting offensive tackles — Anthony Castonzo and Braden Smith — being out for the Colts.

This game has a lot riding on it as far as playoff positioning.

3. Giants Get Daniel Jones Back, Still in Hunt

Game: New York Giants at Baltimore Ravens

Time: Sunday, Dec. 27 at 1:00 p.m. ET (Noon CT)

Channel: FOX

Betting Line: Ravens -9.5

Over/Under: 44

Breakdown: The New York Giants have had an interesting season. Starting left tackle Nate Solder opted out before things even got started, and star running back Saquon Barkley was lost for the year against the Chicago Bears in Week 2. The team started 1-7 before going on a four-game win streak.

Unfortunately, starting quarterback Daniel Jones has been injured the last two games, and Colt McCoy has been unable to get the job done (0-2) in his absence. There is good news, however. It was announced on Saturday that New York was likely to have Jones back against a Baltimore Ravens team still fighting for a wildcard spot.

If the Giants lose or tie in this one, Washington will have an opportunity to seize the NFC East with a win over the Carolina Panthers.

4. Washington’s Quarterback Situation

Game: Carolina Panthers at Washington Football Team

Time: Sunday, Dec. 27 at 4:05 p.m. ET (3:05 CT)

Channel: CBS

Betting Line: Washington -2.5

Over/Under: 41.5

Breakdown: It’s wild that Dwayne Haskins could still end up starting against the Panthers despite breaking COVID protocols by going to strip club following his start last week. There was hope that Comeback Player of the Year candidate Alex Smith would be able to come back from his calf injury, but there is still a lot of uncertainty about his status.

The reason this is so important? Washington can lock up the division on Sunday with a win over the Panthers. In other words, the team needs all hands on deck. Smith isn’t the only player with a questionable status heading in, though. The top two playmakers on offense, Antonio Gibson and Terry McLaurin, could also miss.

The NFC East continues to be a dumpster fire.

5. Transition of Power Continues in AFC East

Game: Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots

Time: Monday, Dec. 28 at 8:15 p.m. ET (7:15 p.m. CT)

Channel: ESPN/ABC

Betting Line: Bills -7

Over/Under: 46

Breakdown: The New England Patriots ran the AFC East for the better part of two decades, but all good things must come to an end. While Tom Brady helped end the 12-year playoff drought for Tampa Bay, Bill Belichick and company will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2000.

The Buffalo Bills, on the other hand, have now become the division’s most competitive football team. Wide receiver Stefon Diggs has been an incredible addition for rising star Josh Allen, who already has 4,383 total yards (4,000 passing, 383 rushing) and 38 touchdowns this season.

That transition of power should continue on Monday Night Football with the Bills sweeping the Patriots.

Follow Clint Lamb on Twitter @ClintRLamb.

Written by Clint Lamb

Clint Lamb is a College Football Writer for OutKick. Managing Editor for Roll Tide Wire. Sports radio host for The Bullpen on 730/103.9 The UMP. Co-host for The 'Bama Beat podcast through The Tuscaloosa News and TideSports.com.

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