By Ben Morse, CNN
It’s the time of year when the temperature drops, the big coats get brought out of the closet and the NFL action begins to have some real implications riding on it.
Whether it be draft position or playoff seedings, each game means something to each team as Week 14 of the NFL season kicks off in earnest on Sunday.
After the Los Angeles Rams’ dramatic victory over the Las Vegas Raiders on Thursday — led by new quarterback Baker Mayfield just two days after signing — there are a host of huge matches for fans to keep their eyes on.
Jets (7-5) at Bills (9-3)
It’s been years since these two were competing atop the AFC East — such has been the New England Patriots’ recent domination — but the New York Jets travel to face the Buffalo Bills with both teams holding postseason aspirations.
The teams faced off just five weeks ago in New Jersey, with the Jets stunning the high-flying Bills as the defense tormented Buffalo’s star quarterback Josh Allen.
Allen also suffered an ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) to his right arm — his throwing arm — and hasn’t looked quite as explosive since.
Although he’s not playing at the MVP level he was before, the duality to Allen’s game — notably his athleticism — have helped defensively, with the team on a three-game winning run.
The Bills are dealing with injuries elsewhere — Von Miller has been ruled out for the remainder of the season and linebacker Matt Milano is questionable for Sunday’s game — but the team still has Super Bowl or bust aspirations.
Meanwhile the Jets have revived their season under new quarterback Mike White after replacing Zach Wilson.
Between a dominant defense and an offense loaded with playmakers, the Jets have proven a threat for all opponents. And, as a result, the Jets’ season has metamorphosed from shoots of optimism to playoff hopes.
The AFC East clash, with the Miami Dolphins also having an excellent season, could have big implications as to who advances to the playoffs come January.
Buccaneers (6-6) at the 49ers (8-4)
This is a battle of the 45-year-old NFL great vs. the 22-year-old we never thought we’d see.
Sunday will see Tom Brady face off against seventh-round rookie Brock Purdy as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers travel west to face the San Francisco 49ers.
Selected with the last pick of this year’s draft, Purdy earned himself the nickname “Mr. Irrelevant,” but was thrust into the fray last week against the Dolphins after starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo broke his foot.
Despite playing his first meaningful action and with his team’s season possibly on the line, Purdy never looked fazed, leading the 49ers to an important victory.
And this week, before facing off against seven-time Super Bowl champion Brady, San Francisco offensive tackle Trent Williams praised Purdy’s composure in the face of pressure.
“You would think he’s been in the league 15 years,” Williams said, per NFL. “If you’re talking, he’ll say: ‘Shut you’re a*s up.’
“He ain’t no timid rookie feeling his way around. He will get on you’re a*s. You would think he’s like Peyton Manning or something. Wide receivers not running, you’ll hear him cussing a wide receiver out.”
Now Purdy will face Brady, who last time out led the Bucs to a final-drive victory over their division rivals, the New Orleans Saints.
Brady helped Tampa Bay to a 13-point comeback victory, completing a pass to Rachaad White to seal a win which brought the team’s record to level.
Despite having an average season so far by his high standards, Brady and the Bucs sit atop the NFC South division as it aims to make the postseason.
The clash in Santa Clara could come down to how much San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan trusts Purdy and how the injury-riddled 49ers deal with so many players missing.
Vikings (10-2) at Lions (5-7)
You might not expect a game between a 10-2 team and a 5-7 team to be of significant note, but this week’s clash between the Minnesota Vikings and the Detroit Lions is a humdinger.
The Lions, who had a terrible start to the season, have won four of their last five games and are getting key players returning to fitness at just the right time.
Meanwhile, the Vikings have had an excellent season under first year coach Kevin O’Connell, primarily down to their 9-0 record in one-score games.
And while you might think a soaring Vikings team would dispatch a scrappy Lions team, with Amon-Ra St. Brown and D’Andre Swift back and firing for Detroit, it looks to be a tough encounter.
For Detroit, with time running out on the season, they need to effectively win the remaining games of their season to hold any hopes of advancing to playoff football, and a division victory over the Vikings will go a long way in achieving their goals.
How to watch
Here’s how to catch these teams and others across the league in action, from wherever you are.
Australia: NFL Game Pass, ESPN, 7Plus
Brazil: NFL Game Pass, ESPN
Canada: CTV, TSN, RDS, NFL Game Pass on DAZN
Germany: NFL Game Pass, ProSieben MAXX, DAZN
Mexico: NFL Game Pass, TUDN, ESPN, Fox Sports, Sky Sports
UK: NFL Game Pass, Sky Sports, ITV, Channel 5
US: NFL Game Pass, CBS Sports, Fox Sports, ESPN, Amazon Prime
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