Rex Ryan in Buffalo can ruin the playoff chances for the franchise that fired him last year, the Jets.
Dan Campbell in Miami and Mike Mularkey in Tennessee make their last statements to be kept on without the interim tags.
Adds the Colts’ Pagano: “I’m worried about Tennessee. We’ve got to do our job. We’ve got to do our part.”
One game where neither coach is in jeopardy of being dismissed is the NFC North matchup between Mike McCarthy’s Packers and Mike Zimmer’s Vikings. The winner of the night game at Green Bay takes the division, the loser is a wild card.
Minnesota (10-5) at Green Bay (10-5)
This is old news for Green Bay, which is seeking a fifth straight division crown. The Packers are playing for the third consecutive season with the NFC North title on the line in the finale, having beaten Chicago two seasons ago and Detroit last season.
“There’s a reason we were moved to ‘Sunday Night Football,'” McCarthy says. “It’s a game that’s attractive. Winning the division is important, but getting into the playoffs is the ultimate. If you ever wanted a playoff-type game to prepare us for the playoffs, we’re going to play one on Sunday night,”
As always, a key will be how the Packers handle Adrian Peterson, who is closing in on his third rushing title. Also a factor could be how the Vikings deal with the pressure of the moment.
“You can’t let the game become too big,” quarterback Teddy Bridgewater says. “We know that we’re playing for a lot right now, but at the same point you just have to go out there and be ourselves. Don’t have to do anything extra, don’t have to put any ‘S’ on our chests, capes on our backs. We just have to do our job and do our job well.”
New York Jets (10-5) at Buffalo (7-8)
Pittsburgh (9-6) at Cleveland (3-12)
This is pretty simple, yet very spicy.
If the Jets can beat the Bills and the coach they fired a year ago, they are in the postseason. If not and the Steelers win, Pittsburgh gets the spot.
The Jets lost to Buffalo on Nov. 12 when their offense sputtered in the red zone. But they’ve won their last five and it’s the Bills who have spiraled — and had some issues off the field, too. They’ve missed the playoffs for the 16th successive season.
Ryan would love nothing more than to ruin things for Gang Green and his successor in New York, Todd Bowles.
If he can do so, the Steelers couldn’t find a better opponent than archrival Cleveland against which to take advantage of the opening.
Jacksonville (5-10) at Houston (8-7)
Tennessee (3-12) at Indianapolis (7-8)
Also simple: If the Texans win, they take the AFC South. And they get back regular quarterback Brian Hoyer for this one.
Should they lose, the Colts need just about every game but the College Football Playoff title match to go their way. Not so simple.
More intriguing are the coaching futures.
Pagano led Indianapolis to the postseason in each of his first three seasons, but this one has been problematic and there already are reports he is out. Having star QB Andrew Luck injured for much of the schedule didn’t help his cause.
Mularkey has gone 2-6 since replacing Ken Whisenhunt, but also has missed his quarterback, rookie Marcus Mariota, for some games. The Titans have scored a total of 30 points in their three-game skid.
Jaguars ownership has already said Gus Bradley will return; he’s 12-35 in his tenure.
Tampa Bay (6-9) at Carolina (14-1)
Seattle (9-6) at Arizona (13-2)
More simplicity: If the Panthers win, they clinch the NFC’s best overall record. A second straight defeat after going 14-0 would allow the Cardinals to grab the top seed with a victory over Seattle, which owns a wild card.
A Carolina loss also would place plenty of doubt about how good the Panthers really are despite their gaudy record. Another strong performance by Arizona would enhance its status as a team to beat in the Super Bowl chase.
No coaching issues here. Indeed, Carolina’s Ron Rivera (2013) and Arizona’s Bruce Arians (2012, 2014), both previous winners, are among the favorites for 2015 NFL Coach of the Year.
New England (12-3) at Miami (5-10)
San Diego (4-11) at Denver (11-4)
Baltimore (5-10) at Cincinnati (11-4)
Injury-plagued New England needs a victory or tie in Miami to secure the AFC’s top seed. A stumble — the Patriots have lost three of five — opens the door for Denver if it can get past San Diego.
Cincinnati owns the AFC North crown and can get a bye if the Broncos, with Peyton Manning as the backup to Brock Osweiler, fall. The Bengals can’t take the No. 1 spot in the conference, though.
Among these losing squads, John Harbaugh is safe as coach; Campbell and McCoy are anything but.
Campbell is 4-7 since replacing Joe Philbin and Miami is 0-5 in the AFC East.
McCoy went 9-7 in each of his first two years at San Diego’s helm, but things have gone sour this season and the Chargers have designs on moving to Los Angeles. Even with QB Philip Rivers having a strong campaign, the Chargers are a last-place team.
Oakland (7-8) at Kansas City (10-5)
One of the great NFL rivalries, but there’s little of significance here. The Chiefs already are in the postseason, the Raiders try to match their best record since making the Super Bowl after the 2002 season.
Raiders safety Charles Woodson is playing the final game of his stellar 18-year career. He’s tied for fifth in NFL history with 65 interceptions.
Philadelphia (6-9) at New York Giants (6-9)
Chip Kelly was fired on Tuesday by the Eagles, but his resume doesn’t challenge Coughlin’s: two Super Bowl titles. Still, the Giants will miss the playoffs for a fourth consecutive year and will have a losing record for three straight seasons.
Philly RB DeMarco Murray enters the game with 633 yards rushing after leading the NFL with 1,845 with Dallas and winning Offensive Player of the Year in 2014.
Detroit (6-9) at Chicago (6-9)
No worries for John Fox as he concludes his first season as Bears coach; the team has made some progress and he is a master of rebuilding.
The Lions were the last team in the league to win, starting off 0-5. Their recent surge (5-2 since midseason) might be enough to save Caldwell weeks after the team president and general manager were canned.
St. Louis (7-8) at San Francisco (4-11)
Jeff Fisher’s fourth season with the Rams could be his best if they get a win. He’s been through a team relocation before, too, with the Oilers/Titans, so his status is solid, even if it is in L.A. and not St. Louis.
Tomsula took over a rough situation with the Niners, so he might survive such a poor record considering all the retirements, defections, injuries and regression by QB Colin Kaepernick.
New Orleans (6-9) at Atlanta (8-7)
Dan Quinn seemed to have the Falcons headed for big things in his first year in charge when they started 5-1. It fell apart, including a six-game slide, because of inconsistencies on both sides of the ball.
Falcons WR Julio Jones is the second player in NFL history with at least 125 catches and 1,700 yards receiving, joining Marvin Harrison (2002). Jones leads NFL with 127 receptions, 1,722 yards.
Despite rumblings Sean Payton could be on the way out as Saints coach after a second straight losing season, Payton probably has too much power in New Orleans to want to go elsewhere.
Washington (8-7) at Dallas (4-11)
A tuneup for Washington, which concluded its worst-to-first in the NFC East by beating Philadelphia last week. The Redskins can win consecutive games at the Cowboys for the first time since taking three straight from 1987-89.
Dallas RB Darren McFadden needs 3 yards rushing for his second career 1,000-yard season.