Watch an NFL triple-header live on Sky Sports on Christmas Day as the Las Vegas Raiders face the Kansas City Chiefs, followed by the New York Giants against the Philadelphia Eagles and the Baltimore Ravens at the San Francisco 49ers in a potential Super Bowl preview.
Last Updated: 20/12/23 7:25am
Welcome to Christmas in the NFL! Festive football has arrived as the league enters the final three weeks of the regular season ahead of a playoff-filled January on the home stretch to Super Bowl LVIII…
Who is on the nice list?
The San Francisco 49ers are 2023’s golden child, so far, as they shimmer in pole position with an 11-3 record and the NFC West division title already wrapped up behind quarterback Brock Purdy, who is looking to cap his staggering ascent by guiding Kyle Shanahan’s star-studded cast to the Super Bowl. They are current undisputed favourites to go all the way in February.
Lamar Jackson has been scintillating as the pilot to a Baltimore Ravens team closing in on securing the top seed in the AFC, the former MVP projected to shatter his previous career-best in passing yards have been masterful from the pocket while also surpassing 700 rushing yards for the fifth time in his six seasons.
Elsewhere, Shane Steichen has amplified his credentials as one of the NFL’s smartest offensive minds by weathering the loss of rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson to thrust the Indianapolis Colts (8-6) into unlikely playoff contention behind backup Gardner Minshew.
Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has orchestrated the league’s most potent unit with the assistance of a Myles Garrett-shaped sledgehammer, the Kansas City Chiefs’ defense has compensated enormously for its offense’s persistent failings, and between them Tua Tagovailoa, Tyreek Hill and Raheem Mostert have fronted one of the league’s most frightening attacks in Miami.
Who is getting coal?
Head coach Brandon Staley and general manager Tom Telesco are gone, Justin Herbert is hurt and the Los Angeles Chargers are sliding to a gruesome losing season at the pit of the AFC West, squandering another valuable year of their talent-rich young quarterback in the process. They are firmly on the naughty list as the antithesis to their sought-after Hollywood dazzle.
The Carolina Panthers recorded just their second win of the season in front of a near-empty Bank of America Stadium on Sunday as fans swerved another dose of a team that has already fired head coach Frank Reich, failed No 1 pick quarterback Bryce Young in his rookie season and endured another year of owner David Tepper fumbling his latest attempt to steer the franchise forward.
Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots have been a miserable watch as they slump towards a top two Draft pick and, potentially, the end of an era for the league’s greatest head coach. Their offense is arguably the worst in the league, nor Mac Jones or Bailey Zappe are capable of leading the team forward at quarterback, and Belichick’s recruitment has reaped next-to-no results, even if his defense has managed to squeeze into the top-half teams as their closest thing to some kind of consistent trait.
Without wanting to pile onto one player too much, Kadarius Toney’s dropped catches and touchdown-denying offsides are too glaring to ignore as the headline to a stuttering Chiefs offense. Examples of Diontae Johnson and George Pickens neglecting assignments meanwhile underline the broken mess that has been the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 28th-ranked scoring offense, which has seen coordinator Matt Canada fired and quarterback Kenny Pickett fail to make strides in his development.
Are there NFL games on Christmas Day?
Christmas Day live on Sky
|Las Vegas Raiders @ Kansas City Chiefs
|New York Giants @ Philadelphia Eagles
|Baltimore Ravens @ San Francisco 49ers
|1.15am (Boxing Day morning)
Yes, there are! The NFL kicks off a triple-header of Christmas Day action at 6pm when the Las Vegas Raiders (6-8) visit the defending champion Chiefs (9-5) live on Sky Sports, lining up perfectly with the nation as it slumps into a post-pigs-in-blankets food coma and avoids conversations with the in-laws.
The Philadelphia Eagles (10-4) then host the New York Giants (5-9) in an all-NFC East clash at 9.30pm, before the Baltimore Ravens (11-3) are on the road against the 49ers (11-3) in a potential Super Bowl preview between the two current conference leaders from 1.15am in the early hours of Boxing Day.
But before then, a full Christmas Eve slate sees the Browns (9-5) continue their playoff charge at the Houston Texans (8-6), who were without star rookie quarterback CJ Stroud at the weekend due to a concussion, in the 6pm slot. That is followed by the Dallas Cowboys (10-4) on the road against the Dolphins (10-4) before the New England Patriots (3-11) meet the Denver Broncos (7-7) in Sunday Night Football in the early hours of Christmas Day.
Week 16 also offers up more Saturday football as Browning’s Bengals (8-6) visit the slumping Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7), before a red-hot Bills (8-6) take on the Herbert-less Chargers (5-9), who just shipped 63 points against the Raiders.
The NFL at Christmas
The NFL previously swerved playing on Christmas Day amid a mixed response to its impact on festivities, its first game on December 25 coming during the 1971 playoffs after the AFL-NFL merger when the Cowboys faced the Minnesota Vikings while the Dolphins played the Chiefs in the longest game in NFL history (82 minutes, 40 seconds).
The first regular-season game to be played on Christmas was in 1989 when the Vikings beat the Bengals 29-21, since which the total number of games played has risen to 27.
If this was your first day on earth…
… what would you tell people about the 2023 NFL season? Well, the New York Giants are led by an Italian-American quarterback named Tommy DeVito who celebrates touchdowns with the oh-so-Italian pinched fingers hand gesture. He lives with his parents close to the team practice facility, is nicknamed ‘Tommy Cutlets’ after meeting fans at a New Jersey sandwich shop, and his agent Sean Stellato could not look more like the agent of a player called Tommy DeVito if he tried.
DeVito has been among the flag-bearers for another year of the backup quarterback having taken over under center in the absence of both Daniel Jones and Tyrod Taylor. He is not the most successful stand-in, though; that crown looks set to be contested by one of Jake Browning, Joe Flacco or Gardner Minshew.
Browning, a 2019 undrafted free agent, has gone 3-1 while making his first NFL appearances to keep the Cincinnati Bengals in the playoff hunt since replacing the injured Joe Burrow, who is out for the year with a wrist problem. A 38-year-old Joe Flacco has helped the Cleveland Browns to a 9-5 record as the AFC’s fifth seed after getting off the couch in November to sign in place of the injured Deshaun Watson, and Minshew Mania is enjoying something of a renaissance as the Colts continue their pursuit of a wild card spot.
Aaron Rodgers, Burrow, Herbert, Nick Chubb, Kirk Cousins, Daniel Jones, Justin Jefferson, Matt Milano, Mark Andrews, J.K. Dobbins, Trevon Diggs, Richardson, Joey Bosa, Mike Williams, Jaelan Phillips, Matthew Judon, Christian Gonzalez Michael Thomas and Uchenna Nwosu are among some of the marquee names to have gone down hurt in a season ravaged by injury.
What else? The Philadelphia Eagles have mastered their Brotherly Shove quarterback sneak, the NFC South currently does not include a team with a winning record and Taylor Swift is getting more air time than the Dolphins and 49ers punters.
What is this year’s ‘in’ toy?
From Cabbage Patch Kids and Tamagotchis to iPhones and PS5 consoles, there is always one trendy gift coveted by all at Christmas time.
The 49ers have a stocking full of them. Christian McCaffrey has dazzled as the centre-piece to Shanahan’s talent-loaded offense with a league-high 1,292 rushing yards, a running back-high 509 receiving yards and a tied-first-most 20 touchdowns from scrimmage as one of the prime contenders to be the first non-quarterback MVP since Adrian Peterson in 2012. Deebo Samuel, proud owner of the wide-back title in 2021, has meanwhile exploded back into life down the stretch this season with 562 yards and nine touchdowns from scrimmage over the last six games.
Tyreek Hill, while slowed by an ankle knock in recent weeks, has been unstoppable as the league’s most dangerous weapon on offense amid his pursuit of a historic 2,000-yard campaign. The Dolphins receiver leads the NFL with 1,542 receiving yards with three regular season games remaining, his absence at the weekend cushioned by the presence of 20-touchdown Mostert and fellow field-flipper Jaylen Waddle.
Rookie sensation Puka Nacua has logged his first 1,000-yard season at the disposal of a Matthew Stafford who seems to be loving life in a rejuvenated Los Angeles Rams offense, CeeDee Lamb has cemented his status as Dak Prescott’s No 1 weapon in Dallas with 1,306 receiving yards and eight scores, and James Cook’s eruption has injected new life in the Buffalo Bills’ playoff hunt.
On the sidelines, Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson stands to be among the most in-demand candidates when the head coaching carousel begins to spin this offseason, alongside Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald and Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.
The Kevin McCallister of the NFL?
That honour goes to Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel, the NFL’s own fresh-faced and one-liner-savvy genius whose playbook is brimming with quirky tricks and inventions designed to inflict pain on the Harry and Marvs of the league. Kevin McCallister has his swinging paint pots and heated doorknobs; McDaniel has his multi-layered RPO wrinkles and fast-motion concepts. Miami’s high-powered offense leads the NFL in total yards, passing yards and scoring while ranking fourth on the ground as McDaniel and Tua Tagovailoa plot a deep playoff run come January.
Is Aaron Rodgers coming back?
Probably not. The New York Jets entered the 2023 campaign enthused with Super Bowl aspirations in light of acquiring four-time MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers to lead them to glory following his trade from the Green Bay Packers. HBO’s access-all-areas Hard Knocks could not pitch up in New Jersey quickly enough to track the every move of the biggest offseason story, before the red carpet was laid out with strobe lights, celebrity appearances and cinematic rock music with which to welcome the Jets’ new hero ahead of his debut.
Four plays into the season-opener against the Buffalo Bills, it was over. Rodgers had torn his Achilles, paving the way for Zach Wilson and another campaign of misery as Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich’s championship-ready defense went to waste. The Jets were officially eliminated from playoff contention last week as they fell to 5-9, extending their playoff drought to 13 seasons – the longest active streak across North America’s four major sports leagues.
Rodgers made it be known his recovery has progressed ahead of schedule, regularly hinting at a return before the end of the year. It was even suggested he could be medically cleared to play in Week 16, before Rodgers ruled that out and turned his attention to 2024.
“If I was 100 per cent today, I’d be pushing to play,” Rodgers said on the Pat McAfee Show. “But I’m not…I pushed it as far as I could.”
What does the playoff picture look like?
Here is how the playoff seedings look entering Week 16…
Current playoff standings
|1) Baltimore Ravens (11-3) (X)
|1) San Francisco 49ers (11-3) (Y)
|2) Miami Dolphins (10-4)
|2) Dallas Cowboys (10-4) (X)
|3) Kansas City Chiefs (9-5)
|3) Detroit Lions (10-4)
|4) Jacksonville Jaguars (8-6)
|4) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-7)
|5) Cleveland Browns (9-5)
|5) Philadelphia Eagles (10-4) (X)
|6) Cincinnati Bengals (8-6)
|6) Minnesota Vikings (7-7)
|7) Indianapolis Colts (8-6)
|7) Los Angeles Rams (7-7)
|(X) = already clinched playoff berth
|(Y) = clinched division
- The Ravens will clinch the AFC North title with a win plus a Browns loss or tie (among multiple scenarios)
- The Browns will clinch a playoff berth with a win plus a Bengals loss, a Broncos loss/tie, a Bills loss, a Dolphins win/tie and a Colts loss/tie (among multiple scenarios)
- The Chiefs will clinch a playoff berth and the AFC West title with a win (among multiple scenarios)
- The Dolphins will clinch a playoff berth with a win and the AFC East title with a win plus a Bills loss/tie (among multiple scenarios)
- The Lions will clinch a playoff berth with a Rams loss/tie and the NFC North title with a win/tie
- The 49ers will clinch the NFC’s No 1 seed, the first-round bye and homefield advantage with a win plus an Eagles loss, a Cowboys loss and a Lions loss
Late additions to the nice list?
The Bills are alive. Having sat 6-6 and staring from the outside in following defeat to the Eagles, Josh Allen and Buffalo have since beaten the Chiefs and dismantled the Cowboys to reignite their playoff flame as they continue their search for a long-awaited Super Bowl. Between stale tendencies on an otherwise formidable offense and marquee injuries gutting their defense, the Bills had looked a shadow of the bully that has threatened to go all the way over recent years; they have now regrouped amid off-field distractions to reassume the look of a team nobody wishes to encounter in late January.
Elsewhere a resurgent, always-gritty Baker Mayfield is trending towards the playoffs with the Buccaneers, while Sean McVay and a healthy Stafford have inspired their written-off Rams to late-season relevancy.
The socks, orange and chocolate coins in the stocking…
You know? Those unsung, but consistent contributors to your Christmas haul.
Enter Colts linebacker Zaire Franklin, who leads the NFL with 149 tackles. Enter Jaguars linebacker Foye Oluokun, the back-to-back tackles champion who sits second with 148 tackles. Enter Bengals edge rusher Trey Hendrickson, who is enjoying a career year with 15 sacks despite never quite garnering Myles Garrett or TJ Watt-calibre attention. Enter Detroit Lions center Frank Ragnow, who when healthy has his offensive line looking something close to the best in the league.
Who is Santa’s sack man?
Yes, yes, it’s a bad Christmas cracker-worthy pun, but we are having it. Steelers edge rusher TJ Watt currently leads the NFL with 16 sacks on the year heading into Week 16, followed closely by the Minnesota Vikings’ Danielle Hunter on 15.5 and 15 apiece for Khalil Mack of the Los Angeles Chargers and Trey Hendrickson of the Cincinnati Bengals. Micah Parsons meanwhile tops the pressures charts with 89, according to PFF), ahead of Nick Bosa’s 85, Aidan Hutchinson’s 81 and Josh Allen’s 76.
My first Christmas… in the NFL
The expectations had been minimal on DeMeco Ryans and his Houston Texans coming into a 2023 campaign designed to give the franchise an idea as to how it might change, recruit or progress over the years to come. Rookie quarterback Stroud, the second overall pick at the Draft, thought otherwise as he wasted no time in letting the NFL know Houston had found their man; the former Ohio State Buckeye set an NFL record for most passing attempts without an interception to start his career (192), before breaking the franchise record for single-season passing yards and touchdowns to lift his side into unlikely playoff contention.
Detroit hit gold themselves in second-round pick Sam LaPorta, who just became the third rookie tight end in history to post 700-plus receiving yards and seven-plus touchdown catches in his first season behind Hall of Famers John Mackey and Mike Ditka.
In defensive tackle Jalen Carter and cornerback Devon Witherspoon the Eagles and Seahawks have locked down team cornerstones, Lions running back Jahmyr Gibbs and Dolphins running back De’Von Achane are perfect cogs in their explosive offenses, and in Will Anderson Jr and Calijah Kancey the Texans and Buccaneers possess two of the most dynamic young trench disruptors.
Rudolph to play at Christmas.. seriously
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin announced on Monday Mason Rudolph will start at quarterback against the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday night, taking over from Mitch Trubisky who had taken over for the injured Kenny Pickett.
Best team for a Christmas production?
As nativity plays sweep schools across the nation, who in the NFL figures to be most suited for the theatrical demands of a Christmas production?
The Dolphins are leading contenders, based on the best celebrations from across the league so far in 2023…
Most likely to beat Billy Mack to Christmas No 1?
In 2003 Love Actually’s Billy Mack famously edged out Blue to win Christmas No 1 with his track ‘Christmas is all Around’.
Two decades later, the ‘Philly Specials’ – made up of Eagles offensive lineman Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson and the angel-voiced Jordan Mailata – topped the US iTunes charts with their ‘Fairytale of Philadelphia’, which includes Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.
The group have since been vying for No. 1 album on Billboard’s Vinyl Albums chart, only to be edged out by Taylor Swift, whose presence at multiple games this season amid her relationship with Kelce has been one of the more fun storylines to the season, attracting an entirely fresh fan base in the process.
Which NFL player would make the best darts player?
As the NFL season continues, so too does the World Darts Championship as one of the highlights of the festive sporting calendar. Begs the question, who from the NFL would thrive at the oche?
Andy Reid offers a Hawaiian shirt collection of which Wayne Mardle would be proud, 49ers tight end George Kittle seems among the most privy to Ally Pally’s party atmosphere, and the farm background and flowing ginger locks of Tampa Bay Buccaneers guard Cody Mauch fit the model for intriguing characters.
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Source : Sky Sports