The 1961 Sports Broadcasting Act is why NFL football annually pops up on Saturdays in December. Or, more accurately, it’s why we don’t get Saturday NFL games year round.
The rule states that the NFL can’t broadcast games on Friday nights or Saturdays during the high school and college seasons through the second Saturday in December. So after Army and Navy square off, we end up with some bonus NFL football on Saturday.
The three Saturday games in Week 16 this season, which can be live-streamed on the Yahoo Sports app, all have playoff implications, including an interesting AFC East game in the middle of the tripleheader.
Houston Texans (9-5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-7), 1 p.m. ET
The Houston Texans got a massive win last week over the Tennessee Titans. That cleared the way for them to clinch the AFC South in Week 16, and perhaps rest starters in a Week 17 rematch against the Titans.
The Texans win the division with a victory over the Buccaneers, or a Titans loss to the Saints on Sunday. A Buccaneers win would keep alive the possibility of Texans-Titans in Week 17 being an AFC South championship game, and Tampa Bay is no easy out.
The Jameis Winston roller coaster is maddening and thrilling, frustrating and fun. He still has a chance to lead the NFL in passing yards, passing touchdowns and interceptions this season. As with any Buccaneers game, expect a lot of points and some plays that will mystify everyone, good and bad.
Buffalo Bills (10-4) at New England Patriots (11-3), 4:30 p.m. ET
It has been a while since the Patriots played an AFC East game this late in the season with actual intrigue in the division.
The Bills still have a long road to the division title. They need to win at Foxboro on Saturday, win in Week 17 and have the 3-11 Miami Dolphins win the season finale at New England. The Patriots will win any tiebreaker over the Bills, either through a season sweep with a win Saturday or due to record against common opponents if the Bills win this week. The Bills need to finish ahead of New England in the standings.
Still, the Patriots haven’t clinched with two games to go and that’s rare. They also need to keep winning to hold off the Kansas City Chiefs for the second bye in the AFC playoffs. Even if the Bills don’t end up winning the division, Saturday could be a statement that they’re ready to make a real run at the Patriots and the AFC East title in 2020.
Los Angeles Rams (8-6) at San Francisco 49ers (11-3), 8:15 p.m. ET
Nothing can be clinched in the third game on Saturday, but one team will be trying to keep its season alive and the other will be trying to preserve its path to a top-two NFC seed and a bye.
The Rams are alive for a wild-card spot, but barely after a loss to the Dallas Cowboys last week. Football Outsiders give the Rams a 1.8 percent chance to make the playoffs. The defending NFC champs could be officially eliminated on Saturday.
The 49ers are tied with the Seattle Seahawks for first place in the NFC West, but the NFL has said neither team can clinch the division this week. The Seahawks and 49ers play in Week 17 and that game will very likley be for the NFC West (and in prime time) no matter what happens this week. The 49ers’ path to winning the tiebreaker is convoluted but it appears San Francisco will take it if they end up tying Seattle at 12-4 when the season is done. The short version is that Saturday’s game isn’t critical for the 49ers in the NFC West race, though it is big in the race for seeding. The 11-3 Packers and Saints will be rooting for the Rams because it would improve their odds of getting a top-two seed in the NFC and a bye.
The bulk of the NFL schedule for Week 16 will still be on Sunday, but Saturday should give us a few key answers when it comes to the playoff picture.
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