A Saturday doubleheader will kick off the final week of the N.F.L.’s regular season, with teams competing for seeding and playoff berths.
First is an A.F.C. West matchup between Kansas City, which sits atop the division, and the Denver Broncos, the division’s worst team. After that, the N.F.C. East’s playoff-bound Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles will meet at Lincoln Financial Field.
Though Saturday’s games don’t seem quite as consequential as the ones to be played Sunday, the two matchups will feature three teams that have been among the league’s hottest at various points in the season.
Below is a look at what you need to know to watch Saturday’s matchups.
Kansas City at Denver Broncos
4:30 p.m., ABC and ESPN
In Week 17, the Broncos (7-9) were eliminated from playoff contention with their loss to the Chargers, and Kansas City’s loss to the Bengals pushed the team out of the A.F.C.’s top seed, giving it to the Tennessee Titans by way of a head-to-head tiebreaker. If the Titans lose to Houston on Sunday, Kansas City (11-5) could reclaim the No. 1 seed, which comes with a bye in the first round of the playoffs.
Kansas City won its first matchup against Denver in Week 13 amid an eight-game win streak. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City’s quarterback, wasn’t great in that game, throwing for just 184 yards without a passing touchdown (though he did rush for one) and an interception.
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Teddy Bridgewater was the Broncos’ quarterback then, throwing for two interceptions in the game, but he will miss Saturday’s matchup with a concussion that has kept him out since Week 15. Drew Lock, who has started in Bridgewater’s place, figures to be Denver’s starter Saturday, though he is nursing a shoulder injury.
Kansas City’s defense, which had seemed to be a liability against both the run and the pass early in the season, was at its best during the team’s winning streak before giving up over 400 yards of offense against Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow last week. It may not need a perfect game to contain Denver’s offense, though.
The Broncos’ offense, which has been really deficient in recent years, is averaging barely 19 points per game this season and — if for nothing more than pride — will need to keep pace with a Kansas City offense that sometimes only needs a couple of plays to score.
Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles
8:15 p.m., ABC and ESPN
Dallas (11-5) clinched a playoff spot and the N.F.C. East title in Week 16 and is the No. 4 seed in the N.F.C. heading into Saturday’s matchup. The Eagles (9-7) have won seven of their last nine games after starting the season 2-5 and grabbed the No. 7 seed with last week’s win over the Washington Football Team. This game isn’t about making the playoffs but could determine seeding. Dallas could move as high as the No. 2 seed with a win over Philadelphia, plus losses by Arizona and the Rams, while Philadelphia will finish with either the sixth or the seventh seed.
In their first meeting, the Cowboys blew out Philadelphia in quarterback Dak Prescott’s first home game for Dallas since his gruesome ankle injury last season. Prescott had three touchdowns and over 200 passing yards in that Week 3 game.
Dallas’s high-powered offense has sputtered in recent weeks, however, stamped by a 25-22 loss to the Cardinals last week. The Cowboys’ run game has been inconsistent (Dallas rushed for just 45 yards last week), and the offense has not pushed the ball down the field — both, in part, because of struggles on the offensive line.
Running back Ezekiel Elliott hasn’t had the same impact many are used to seeing as he deals with a knee injury. Micah Parsons, Dallas’s 2021 first-round pick, has been part of its defensive turnaround this season but was put on the reserve/Covid-19 list this week and could miss Saturday’s game.
Still, Jerry Jones, the Cowboys’ owner and general manager, indicated in a radio interview on 105.3 the Fan this week that the team had no plans to rest its starters.
Much of Philadelphia’s success this season has come behind a dominant ground game, led by running back Miles Sanders, who is the team’s second leading rusher behind quarterback Jalen Hurts. Sanders will miss this game with a fractured hand. Hurts has been a hesitant runner in recent weeks as he plays through a high ankle sprain.
Philadelphia could also be without a host of other starters as the team placed 12 players, including center Jason Kelce, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and tight end Dallas Goedert, on the reserve/Covid-19 list on Monday. It remains unclear whether Eagles Coach Nick Sirianni plans to rest any of his starters.