NFL Watchability Index, Week 16: Playoff spots on the line

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Only two weeks of the regular season are left, and there are still plenty of teams in the playoff race. Welcome to Week 16 of the Watchability Index.

It's Week 16 of the regular season, with only four teams having clinched a playoff spot. It's also the last week of games before Christmas, so expect lots of hackneyed holiday references from the networks.

The NFL decided to schedule more divisional games towards the end of the year, and that has resulted in some pretty nice intrigue. There's a lot on the line this week, but also some potential stinkers between teams with nothing to play for. Let's sort out their watchability, on the regular scale of one through five.

Miami Dolphins at  Buffalo Bills

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS

Ready for another round of Thad Lewis? E.J. Manuel sprained his knee and has already been ruled out for the game. That's now three knee injuries in about four months for Manuel. The Bills' return on their first-round investment is not going so well in year one.

Watchability rating: 1

New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers

1 p.m. ET, FOX

Game of the week potential here, and hopefully it goes better than the Panthers' meltdown in the Superdome two weeks ago. The Saints can clinch the NFC South with a win, while the Panthers can take first place with a win of their own. There's a ton to like about this one.

Watchability rating: 5

Minnesota Vikings at Cincinnati Bengals

1 p.m. ET, FOX

The Vikings haven't been in the playoff race for weeks, but they're still playing hard and spoiling teams down the stretch. Cincinnati remains in first place, but they're still struggling to find an identity. Which Bengals team shows up -- the one that crushed Indianapolis in Week 14 or the one that got stomped by the Steelers last Sunday night? They have to answer that question quickly if they want to make a serious run in January.

Watchability rating: 2

Denver Broncos at Houston Texans

1 p.m. ET, CBS

The Case Keenum experiment might be over in Houston. Keenum is ruled out with a sprained thumb and didn't do enough to prove that he's the answer. Matt Schaub is getting the start and probably playing his last game in a Texans uniform. It's possible that the Texans' 2014 quarterback is not on the roster right now. Houston will have a new head coach in a couple of weeks.

Watchability rating: 1

Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars

1 p.m. ET, CBS

I actually like this game despite it having no playoff implications. The Jaguars have been playing much better over the second half and have a good shot of finishing 6-10 after an 0-8 start. The Titans, meanwhile, are probably headed for a house-cleaning in the front office. They spent a ton of money in free agency and drafted high in recent years, but have little to show for it.

Watchability rating: 2

Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs

1 p.m. ET, CBS

Playoff preview? The Colts hold the No. 4 seed and the Chiefs have almost certainly clinched the No. 5 spot. The Colts are finally unleashing Da'Rick Rogers, the talented but troubled rookie. "The Rick" had a big following on Twitter during the NFL Draft process, but went undrafted after multiple off-field incidents. If he keeps his head on straight, the Colts have a legitimate No. 2 receiver to pair with Reggie Wayne next season.

Watchability rating: 4

Cleveland Browns at New York Jets

1 p.m. ET, CBS

Not much at stake here other than pride and draft position. The Jets still need to figure out the quarterback position because, so far, Geno Smith doesn't look like the answer. Josh Gordon could still do something cool so I bump up the ranking based on that alone.

Watchability rating: 2

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at St. Louis Rams

1 p.m. ET, FOX

Two mediocre teams just playing out the string with the postseason out of reach. Yawn. This game does have Lavonte David and Robert Quinn making a push for Defensive Player of the Year, so there's that.

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Watchability rating: 1

Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins

1 p.m. ET, FOX

What's better than an NFC East game? An NFC East game featuring two teams in full-blown dumpster fire mode. This is worth tuning in just to see which team will have a hilarious meltdown first and the most angry sports radio callers in the evening.

Watchability rating: 3

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New York Giants at Detroit Lions

4:05 p.m. ET, FOX

Speaking of meltdowns, what's going on in Detroit? The Lions were practically gift-wrapped the NFC North after the Bears and Packers suffered devastating injuries, but they have done nothing with it. Jim Schwartz probably won't survive this round if they miss the playoffs again. No coach has done less with more than Schwartz has over the past two years.

Watchability rating: 2

Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks

4:05 p.m. ET, FOX

How stacked is the NFC West this year? The Cardinals could finish with 10 or 11 wins and still miss the playoffs. They absolutely need this one to stay alive in the hunt, but that will be a tall order in Seattle. Russell Wilson has yet to lose a home game in his two-year career.

Watchability rating: 4

New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens

4:25 p.m. ET, CBS

Another possible playoff preview here. The Ravens got a crucial win on Monday night and stay alive for the No. 6 seed, while the Patriots are seeking a first-round bye. They failed to take advantage of Denver's loss and remain in the No. 2 spot. Tom Brady might have to do it all by himself again with Rob Gronkowski done for the year.

Watchability rating: 3

Pittsburgh Steelers at Green Bay Packers

4:25 p.m. ET, CBS

The Packers got a huge gift from the Lions, who lost again and vaulted Green Bay to second place in the NFC North, just a half-game behind the Bears. If they can stay afloat with Matt Flynn and get Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb back in time, this could be a dangerous team in the playoffs. They have to get there first, of course, and the Steelers just dealt the Bengals a big blow, so this matchup has a lot of intrigue.

Watchability rating: 3

Oakland Raiders at San Diego Chargers

4:25 p.m. ET, CBS

San Diego is still alive in the wild card hunt after a season-defining win over the Broncos. Andy Reid might have won Coach of the Year already, but Mike McCoy deserves a ton of credit for turning the Chargers around. As for Oakland, Dennis Allen may not survive the season if the Raiders play poorly over the last two games.

Watchability rating: 2

Chicago Bears at Philadelphia Eagles

8:30 p.m. ET, NBC

Somehow, the Bears have moved into first place in the NFC North. The Eagles almost lost their divisional spot after losing to the Vikings, but stay alive thanks to Dallas' latest inexplicable collapse. NBC decided to flex to this game two weeks ago and now look smart for doing it -- this game has the most direct playoff implications of the week.

Watchability rating: 4

Atlanta Falcons at San Francisco 49ers

Monday, 8:40 p.m. ET, ESPN

This game looked a lot better in August than it does right now. Not quite the electrifying matchup ESPN wanted for the season finale of Monday Night Football.

Watchability rating: 2

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