NFL Week 16 preview: Pittsburgh Steelers to honor Franco Harris on bittersweet day for franchise
When the Pittsburgh Steelers host the LA Raiders on Sunday, it will be one of those rare moments in sport where the result won’t really matter.
Instead, thoughts will be with Steelers legend Franco Harris who died earlier this week at the age of 72.
Harris’ death came just days before the 50th anniversary of the “Immaculate Reception,” a game-winning touchdown catch from Harris which led the Steelers to a famous win over the Oakland Raiders.
The Steelers will still celebrate the anniversary but also honor Harris’ life by retiring his No. 32 jersey at halftime of Sunday’s game.
“We’re all heartbroken, but we do look forward to honoring him and his legacy this weekend,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said, per ESPN.
“And obviously, where our attention needs to be is on the preparation required to put together the type of performance that’s fitting of a great man like Franco.”
On the field, the Steelers will hope to keep their slim playoff chances alive with another win – the franchise has impressed lately by winning three of its last four.
It’s a similar story for other teams around the NFL, with this promising to be an exciting weekend of action during the Christmas period.
For Chase Young, Christmas will come a day early with the 23-year-old expected to make his long-awaited season debut for the Commanders on Saturday.
Young hasn’t played since he suffered a serious knee injury in November last year but coach Ron Rivera says he’s excited to finally get back amongst it against the 49ers.
“He practiced with confidence,” Rivera said, per NFL.com, speaking about Young’s progress.
“He showed us a willingness to stick that leg in the ground and roll off of it, plant it and cut off of it. He had a good week, so we’re pretty excited about that.”
The defensive end had returned to practice last week but has been slowly ramping up his activity after an already lengthy rehabilitation process.
The Commanders will hope for an instant impact from 2020’s second overall draft pick as they look to keep their playoff hopes alive after a disappointing loss to the New York Giants on Sunday night.
There isn’t much room for another loss as the regular season races to the business end.
The Eagles (13-1) and Cowboys (10-4) face off on Saturday. The stakes are high for these divisional rivals, with postseason positioning on the line.
The Eagles have the opportunity to win the NFC East and the overall top seed in the NFC, therefore earning a first-round bye and home-field advantage in the playoffs.
It would be a much bigger challenge for Dallas to win the NFC East. They clinched the playoffs last week, despite losing to the Jacksonville Jaguars. But to win the division, they would need to not only win on Saturday, but also win out the rest of the season and see the Eagles lose their remaining games. It’s a tall order, but not impossible.
The last time these teams met, the Cowboys played without starting quarterback Dak Prescott. This time around, the Eagles will play without their starting quarterback, Jalen Hurts.
Hurts suffered a sprained shoulder during last week’s win over Bears. The injury is not considered long-term and he is expected to return for the postseason. In his absence, Gardner Minshew will take over as signal caller.
This game is a great opportunity for the Cowboys to get on the right track, between having the home advantage and the benefit of facing a backup quarterback. Especially after last week’s loss, they need this win much more than the Eagles; they need all the momentum they can get in the final weeks of the regular season to carry into the playoffs.
Tune into the NFC East showdown on Saturday at 4:25 p.m. ET.
It’s going to be a nail-biting spectacle on Christmas Day with both teams looking to keep their wafer-thin postseason hopes alive.
The Dolphins can guarantee a playoff berth by winning all of their three remaining games but go into Sunday’s clash on the back of three consecutive defeats.
The Packers, meanwhile, are coming off back-to-back victories but their playoff destiny is still not in their hands.
They must win all three of their remaining games and hope either the New York Giants or Washington Commanders slip up.
“What is the most important thing is that we’re still playing a meaningful football game on Christmas and got a chance to have a lot of things in front of us,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers told reporters.
“We’ve got to go down and get a win, and I said a few weeks ago, we just get one, then we get another one, and things look a little bit different going into this game. And we get this one, things look a little bit different going into the next one.”
The Bears (3-11) will welcome the Bills (11-3) to Chicago.
The forecast predicts below freezing temperatures, gusting winds, and harsh winter weather, which could play a major factor in the outcome of this game. While both teams are acclimated to playing in unfavorable conditions, their gameplans have to be adjusted for the elements.
This game features two quarterbacks who can produce in both the run game and the passing game. However, they are most efficient in opposite ways.
Bears’ quarterback Justin Fields is more effective rushing, while Bills’ quarterback Josh Allen has the edge in the air. With a clear lack of weapons on the receiving end, the Bears are going to try to run the ball as much as possible. Their game on the ground will not be as impacted by the heavy winds and winter weather.
The Bills, on the other hand, will not be able to rely as much on their superior passing game; Allen will have to adjust to how the winds impact his accuracy. For these reasons, the Bears have a slightly higher chance of handing the Bills the upset.
Kickoff is set for Saturday at 1 p.m. ET.
Finally, the Bengals (10-4) have a shot at clinching a playoff berth against the Patriots (7-7).
They will secure their spot in the postseason if they win or tie, or if the Jets lose or tie. The Patriots are on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. They would need a win on Saturday to keep their hopes alive.
The Pats will host the Bengals at a below-freezing Gillette Stadium. They enter this game fresh off an embarrassing last-second loss to the Raiders in Week 15. They’ve struggled this season, in large part due to inexperienced leadership and questionable coaching decisions.
Cincinnati is in the midst of their hottest stretch of the season with wins in their last six contests. Quarterback Joe Burrow has hit his stride at the most important part of the regular season, getting ready to power through the postseason.
To win this game, the Bengals will need to come out strong and get ahead early; they must outpace New England. The Patriots will be playing without three starters, which means they are already operating from a disadvantage. If the Bengals come out the gate and get points up early, it will be difficult for the Pats to crawl out of a deficit.
To see who comes out on top, tune in on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET.
Here’s how to catch these teams and others across the league in action, from wherever you are.
Australia: NFL Game Pass, ESPN, 7Plus
Brazil: NFL Game Pass, ESPN
Canada: CTV, TSN, RDS, NFL Game Pass on DAZN
Germany: NFL Game Pass, ProSieben MAXX, DAZN
Mexico: NFL Game Pass, TUDN, ESPN, Fox Sports, Sky Sports
UK: NFL Game Pass, Sky Sports, ITV, Channel 5
US: NFL Game Pass, CBS Sports, Fox Sports, ESPN, Amazon Prime