NFL Christmas Day Preview: Green Bay heads to Miami with huge playoff implications while Tampa Bay hopes to avoid disaster

Nov 27, 2022; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jaylen Waddle (17) takes the field prior to a game against the Houston Texans at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Christmas Day Preview: Green Bay heads to Miami with huge playoff implications while Tampa Bay hopes to avoid disaster

Green Bay Packers (6-8) at Miami Dolphins (6-8)

Time/TV: noon CT/FOX

The Green Bay Packers kept their slim hopes alive with a win in frigid conditions over the Los Angeles Rams on Monday night, but they are heading into a very different environment for another must-win game on Christmas Day. While the 54-degree day expected in Miami on Sunday is much cooler than usual for the region, Green Bay will also be adjusting to a much better offensive team than they’ve seen over the last three weeks (at Chicago, a bye week, and versus Los Angeles). The Miami Dolphins have elite speed all over the field on offense, and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has evolved into an above-average NFL passer. Miami has lost its last three games, but all three were against teams with high playoff hopes on the road. The Dolphins return home for this game with two more days of rest than the Packers, and Miami is 5-1 at Hard Rock Stadium this season. A win would move the Dolphins to 9-6 and inch them closer to clinching a playoff spot in the AFC, removing significant pressure from their last two regular season games. For Green Bay, winning is the only option from this point forward. If the Packers find a way to pick up the victory on the road Sunday afternoon, they’ll come home to the frozen tundra for two winnable opportunities for revenge versus rivals Minnesota and Detroit.

Denver Broncos (4-10) at Los Angeles Rams (4-10)

Time/TV: 3:30 p.m. CT/CBS

When the NFL’s staff in charge of building the schedule decided that the new-look Denver Broncos would head to Los Angeles for a Christmas Day showdown with the defending Super Bowl Champion Rams, both teams entering the game 4-10 likely never crossed their minds. On Los Angeles’ side, what began as a mediocre start became a lost season when almost every notable player went down due to injury as the weeks progressed. Among countless others, the Rams enter Sunday’s game without quarterback Matthew Stafford, wide receivers Cooper Kupp and Allen Robinson, seven (yes, seven) offensive linemen, and All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald. What remains of L.A.’s roster is now led by Baker Mayfield at quarterback, who joined the Rams after being released by the Panthers without another NFL team submitting a claim for him. Things look bleak for the Rams, especially on offense – and with Denver’s No. 3 ranked scoring defense in the NFL coming to SoFi Stadium, it seems unlikely that the Rams will gift their fans many points for Christmas. On the other side of the ball, the Broncos’ offense is missing plenty of talent as well – but with Russell Wilson still a factor at quarterback, it’s easy to argue Denver should be scoring more points than it has throughout this season. If either anemic offense involved Sunday afternoon reaches 20 points, they’d likely have done enough to win the game.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-8) at Arizona Cardinals (4-10)

Time/TV: 7:20 p.m. CT/NBC

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 6-8, one loss away from clinching a sub-.500 season in what was supposed to be a storybook comeback season for quarterback Tom Brady, who retired and then unretired last offseason. Brady’s numbers have been excellent; the passing volume has been there all season, but the points have not. The Buccaneers have struggled to turn passing yardage into points, partially because they have produced the fewest rushing yards in the NFL. Tampa Bay heads west to Arizona hoping to snap a two-game slide in which it has been outscored 69-24 by the playoff-bound San Francisco 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals. Luckily for the Bucs, this Cardinals team is ripe for the picking. Arizona is down to third-string quarterback Trace McSorley for Sunday night’s game and enters having lost four straight. Kliff Kingsbury might be coaching for his job the rest of the way, but it is also fair to wonder if Arizona’s ownership has already given up on the head coach amidst a disastrous campaign. The Cardinals have not just been bad; they’ve been exceptionally sloppy – Arizona has been flagged for 97 penalties this season, third-most in the NFL. If the Bucs can take advantage of the mess that is the Arizona Cardinals, they’ll move to 7-8 and completely control the awful NFC South with two weeks to go. If the Cardinals pull off a win, it might be panic time in Tampa Bay.

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