The football gods have shined on us! Christmas Eve features a whopping 12 NFL games, plus the Hawaii Bowl at night after all of the professional action has concluded. It's a loaded schedule perfect for sneaking away and watching football all day, in case you don't quite have the stomach to pretend that you love your family more than sports. Personally, I'm using my stomach for a different purpose: digesting the delicious lamb chops I just cooked.
Broncos vs. Bills, 1:00 p.m. ET on CBS
Face it, you're interested in Tim Tebow. You can tell us you don't want to hear about Tebow all you want, but we're not dumb. We see how many more people read dumb stories about Tebow than brilliant, thought-provoking pieces about anything else. Love him or hate him, you care about him. Watch and see if the Patriots game was an anomaly or a sign of things to come for the Broncos.
This is, surprisingly, a game with massive playoff implications. The winner of this game should be very much alive in the playoff chase going into the final week, while the loser will be dead as a doornail. Fun fact: John Skelton is playing a lot better than Kevin Kolb, who the Cardinals gave up Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second round pick to obtain. Oops!
The Titans are in need of a win to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. They should be able to get that win because Blaine Gabbert is not a good quarterback.
Raiders vs. Chiefs, 1:00 p.m. ET on CBS
Thanks to the lolfest that is the AFC West and some injuries to the Green Bay Packers' offensive line, the Kansas City Chiefs are still very much in the chase for the AFC West. If they win out and the Denver Broncos lose out, they're going to the playoffs. With Kyle Orton and a fired head coach. I have no opinion on any of the AFC West teams and I am simply rooting for schadenfreude.
Dolphins vs. Patriots, 1:00 p.m. ET on CBS
How did the Dolphins get to five wins? Why wasn't I told about this? Is this some kind of alternative universe? Where the hell is my car?
Ben Roethlisberger is not starting, but will be active in case his team is losing in a close game and his ankle feels fine. Sam Bradford is in a similar situation, except his team isn't in a race for a division title. Kellen Clemens vs. Charlie Batch, a battle of the titans!
With all due respect to Cardinals - Bengals and the AFC West games, this is far and away the biggest game of the early kickoffs in the NFL. Both teams are desperate for a win to stay in the drivers' seat for a playoff spot and both teams have quarterbacks who are really good at throwing interceptions. Tom Coughlin and Rex Ryan coach the teams. Literally anything can happen here.
Cue the Price Is Right lose horn for this one. Don't watch this game.
Buccaneers vs. Panthers, 1:00 p.m. ET on FOX
Cam Newton looks set to break the all-time record for passing yards by a rookie. He also has over 600 rushing yards. His team has two borderline starter-quality running backs who do not touch the ball. As a resident of North Carolina, Rob Chudzinski annoys the living hell out of me. Meanwhile, on the other side of the field, Raheem Morris might need a win here to save his job.
This might be one of the most underrated rivalries in sports, mostly because the Browns always suck. From a completely neutral perspective, how cool would it be if the Browns won a division title with a win over the Ravens in Cleveland someday? This would be one of the coolest sports things ever, assuming it happens before everyone who remembers the the old Browns relocation dies. That's all hypothetical, though. In today's reality-based game, the Ravens are going to win by a lot.
The Lions can clinch their first playoff berth since 1999 if they win this game, while the Chargers keep their playoff hopes alive with a win of their own. This one has the potential to be the most interesting game of the day. I'd say that Norv Turner needs a win to save his job, but he's been in that situation the last two seasons in a row, lost, and still kept his job.
The San Fransisco 49ers have an NFC West title, they're close to securing a first-round bye, and they have an outside shot at clinching the top seed in the NFC. All in all, a successful first year for Jim Harbaugh. The Seahawks have been a bit hot and cold and look capable of losing to anyone, but they somehow sit at 7-7. With a couple of wins and some good luck, they could sneak into the playoffs for a second year in a row. This one is surprisingly meaningful.
Whether or not the Giants win in the early games, this game will mean something. If Big Blue defeats the Jets, the pressure is on the Cowboys to win. If they lose, Philadelphia instantly has a shot to win the NFC East once again. Andy Reid's team is on about their third playoff life and should have been killed off weeks ago. The Zombie Dream Team will, at the very least, throw a wrench in the NFC East race.
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, Nevada vs. Southern Miss, 8:00 p.m. ET on ESPN
The Hawaii Warriors always have a bid to this bowl locked up if they can get bowl eligible. They choked on the last day of the season and couldn't make it happen, meaning that the bowl features two teams whose fans have to make an expensive trip to the stadium. Don't count on the stadium being too full. These teams play some fun football, though, so it's still going to be worth watching. This will be the last game in which Larry Fedora coaches USM before leaving for North Carolina.