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Eight NFL teams poised to play spoiler in Week 15

For every NFL team fighting to clinch a playoff spot or stay in the postseason hunt, there’s another one that is out of the race and prepared to embrace the role of playoff spoiler during the final three weeks of the season.

Here are eight teams that could play the spoiler role in Week 15.

New York Jets

The Jets are one of just three AFC teams that have been eliminated from playoff contention, but Sunday’s game against the Dolphins provides an opportunity for New York to significantly hurt its division rival’s chances of playing in January.

While Miami is 8-5 and in possession of the AFC’s sixth and final postseason berth, Adam Gase’s team will head to New York without quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who sprained his knee during Miami’s win over Arizona last Sunday. That means Matt Moore, who hasn’t started since 2012, will be under center for the Dolphins. A Jets’ win could really open up the race for the final AFC playoff spot.

Chicago Bears

The Bears are 3-10 and riding out the last fews weeks of the season with Matt Barkley auditioning at quarterback. Still, the Bears appear to be embracing the spoiler role. After nearly upsetting the Detroit Lions last Sunday, Chicago will welcome the red-hot Green Bay Packers to a possibly-frozen Soldier Field in Week 15.

Despite winning three straight games, the Packers are still chasing the Lions in the NFC North. A loss to the Bears on Sunday would be crippling to Green Bay’s playoff hopes. In fact, Detroit can clinch the division title with a win over the Giants and a Bears’ win over the Packers. Knocking out a long-time rival could help ease the pain of a lost season in Chicago.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Many involved in sport betting believed the young but talented Jaguars would be competing for the AFC South title this season. Instead, Gus Bradley’s disappointing squad is once again relegated to playing spoiler in a division Jacksonville has never won since the NFL’s realignment in 2002.

Sunday takes the 2-11 Jaguars to Houston to play the AFC South-leading Texans. Jacksonville has lost eight straight games, but snapping that losing streak on Sunday would create more chaos in a division with three teams still in the hunt. The Texans simply can’t afford to lose the game, especially after last Sunday’s important win over the Indianapolis Colts.

Philadelphia Eagles

The first year of the marriage between head coach Doug Pederson and quarterback Carson Wentz won’t end in a playoff appearance, but the Eagles can still start building momentum for 2017. Beating the Ravens in Baltimore—and throwing a monkey wrench in the AFC North race—would be a good place to start.

Despite a loss to the New England Patriots last Monday, the Ravens maintain control of their playoff destiny. Win out, and Baltimore will be the AFC North champion and likely No. 3 seed in the playoffs. Lose to the Eagles, however, and the Pittsburgh Steelers—Baltimore’s biggest rival—would become the overwhelming favorite to win the division.

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals aren’t yet mathematically eliminated at 5-7-1, but it would still take a miracle for Cincinnati to make the postseason. Playing spoiler looks much more likely than a playoff run, especially with the AFC North-leading Steelers coming to Cincinnati on Sunday.

Pittsburgh has won three straight games at Paul Brown Stadium, including last year’s controversial AFC Wild Card game. Beating the Steelers on Sunday wouldn’t make up for last January’s loss, but it’s the best the Bengals can do to help turnaround a disappointing 2016 season.

San Francisco 49ers

One of the biggest mismatches of the 2016 season will play out on Sunday in Atlanta, where the Falcons’ high-flying offense will take on a 49ers defense that has allowed an NFL-high 30.2 points per game this year. Still, a San Francisco win would be one of the biggest upsets of the season, and would significantly change the outlook of the NFC South.

The Falcons are 8-5 and in a tie atop the division with the surging Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A loss to the 49ers would hurt Atlanta in two important categories: conference record (in which the Falcons and Buccaneers are currently tied) and common games, as Tampa Bay has already beat the 49ers this season.

Carolina Panthers

Just one year removed from a 15-1 record and a trip to the Super Bowl, the Panthers are currently out of the playoff race, and still have three games remaining. At 5-8, Carolina can do nothing but play spoiler over the rest of the season.

Ironically, the Panthers’ first opportunity to play spoiler comes against former cornerback Josh Norman and the Redskins on Monday night. Washington is 7-5-1 and fighting for a wild-card berth in the NFC. But with the Buccaneers surging and the Vikings and Packers both making a late playoff run, the Redskins can’t afford any slip-ups the rest of the way.

San Diego Chargers

Back-to-back losses have all but sunk the Chargers’ season. But with the Raiders coming to San Diego on Sunday, the Chargers have an opportunity to potentially delay Oakland’s first trip to the postseason in 14 years.

The Raiders can officially clinch a playoff spot with a win.  However, Jack Del Rio’s team suddenly looks vulnerable, especially after last Thursday night’s loss in Kansas City. The Raiders desperately need a win if they want to have any chance of regaining control of the AFC West, with the Chiefs now in the driver’s seat.

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