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NFL Week 16 preview: Pittsburgh Steelers to honor Franco Harris on bittersweet day for franchise




CNN

When the Pittsburgh Steelers host the LA Raiders on Sunday, it will be one of those rare times in sports where the outcome doesn’t really matter.

Instead, thoughts will be with Steelers legend Franco Harris, who died earlier this week at the age of 72.

Harris’ death came just days before the 50th anniversary of the “immaculate reception,” a game-winning touchdown catch by Harris that led the Steelers to a famous win over the Oakland Raiders.

The Steelers will still celebrate the anniversary but will also honor Harris’ life by retiring his No. 32 jersey at halftime of Sunday’s game.

“We are all heartbroken, but we look forward to honoring him and his legacy this weekend,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said per ESPN.

“And obviously our focus has to be on the preparation needed to put on the kind of performance that is right for a big man like Franco.”

On the court, the Steelers are hoping to hold on to their slim playoff chances with another win — the franchise has impressed lately, winning three of its last four games.

It’s a similar story for other NFL teams, which promise to be an exciting weekend of action over the Christmas period.

For Chase Young, Christmas will come a day early with the 23-year-old set to make his long-awaited Commanders season debut on Saturday.

Young hasn’t played since suffering a serious knee injury in November of last year, but coach Ron Rivera said he was thrilled to finally return to the 49ers.

“He trained with confidence,” Rivera said, per NFL.com, of Young’s progress.

“He showed us his willingness to stick that leg in the ground and roll it, plant it and cut it. He’s had a good week, so we’re very excited about that.

Chase Young hasn't played in over a year.

The defensive end had returned to training last week but has slowly stepped up his activity after an already lengthy rehabilitation process.

The Commanders are hoping for an instant impact from the second pick in the 2020 draft as they look to keep their playoff hopes alive after a disappointing loss to the New York Giants on Sunday night.

There’s not much room for another loss as the regular season draws to a close.

The Eagles (13-1) and Cowboys (10-4) meet on Saturday. The stakes are high for these division rivals, with playoff positioning on the line.

The Eagles have an opportunity to win the NFC East and the NFC’s No. 1 seed, earning a first-round bye and home-court advantage in the playoffs.

It would be a much bigger challenge for Dallas to win the NFC East. They won the playoffs last week, despite losing to the Jacksonville Jaguars. But to win the division, they would not only have to win on Saturday, but also win the rest of the season and see the Eagles lose their remaining games. It’s a tall order, but not impossible.

The last time these teams met, the Cowboys played without starting quarterback Dak Prescott. This time around, the Eagles will play without their starting quarterback, Jalen Hurts.

Hurts suffered a sprained shoulder in last week’s win over the Bears. The injury is not considered long term and he is expected to return for the playoffs. In his absence, Gardner Minshew will take over as signal caller.

There's always interest when the Dallas Cowboys take on the Philadelphia Eagles.

This game is a great opportunity for the Cowboys to get on the right track between having home-court advantage and the advantage of facing a backup quarterback. Especially after last week’s loss, they need this win much more than the Eagles; they need all the momentum they can get in the final weeks of the regular season to make the playoffs.

Tune in to the NFC East showdown on Saturday at 4:25 p.m. ET.

It will be a jaw-dropping spectacle on Christmas Day with both teams looking to keep their playoff hopes alive.

The Dolphins can secure a playoff berth by winning all of their remaining three games, but enter Sunday’s clash after three straight losses.

The Packers, meanwhile, are coming off back-to-back wins, but their playoff fate is still out of their hands.

They have to win their three remaining games and hope the New York Giants or Washington Commanders fail.

“What’s most important is that we always play meaningful football at Christmas and we’re lucky to have a lot ahead of us,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers told reporters. .

“We have to go down and get a win, and I said a couple of weeks ago, we just get one, then we get another, and things look a little different in this game. And we get this one, things look a little different for the next one.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is looking forward to the crucial game.

The Bears (3-11) will host the Bills (11-3) in Chicago.

Forecasts call for sub-freezing temperatures, gusty winds and harsh winter conditions, which could play a major role in the outcome of this game. While both teams are used to playing in adverse conditions, their game plans need to be adjusted to the elements.

This game features two quarterbacks who can produce in both the running game and the passing game. However, they are more effective in the opposite way.

Bears quarterback Justin Fields is more efficient on the run, while Bills quarterback Josh Allen has the advantage in the air. With an obvious lack of weapons on the receiving side, the Bears will try to run the ball as much as possible. Their ground game won’t be as impacted by high winds and winter weather.

The Bills, on the other hand, won’t be able to rely on their superior passing game as much; Allen will have to adapt to the impact of the winds on his accuracy. For these reasons, the Bears have a slightly higher chance of upsetting the Bills.

Kickoff is scheduled for Saturday at 1 p.m. ET.

Finally, the Bengals (10-4) have a chance to clinch a playoff berth against the Patriots (7-7).

They’ll secure their playoff spot if they win or tie, or if the Jets lose or tie. The Patriots are outside the playoff picture. They would need a win on Saturday to keep their hopes alive.

The Pats will host the Bengals at a sub-freezing Gillette Stadium. They come into this game fresh off an embarrassing last-second loss to the Raiders in Week 15. They’ve struggled this season, largely due to inexperienced leadership and questionable training decisions.

Cincinnati is in the midst of its hottest streak of the season with wins in its last six contests. Quarterback Joe Burrow hit his stride in the most important part of the regular season, preparing to push through the playoffs.

To win this game, the Bengals will need to come out strong and get an early lead; they must pass New England. The Patriots will play without three starters, which means they’re already operating at a disadvantage. If the Bengals get through the door and get points early, it will be tough for the Pats to come out of a deficit.

To see who emerges victorious, tune in Saturday at 1 p.m. ET.

Here’s how to catch these and other teams across the league in action, 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

United Kingdom: NFL Game Pass, Sky Sports, ITV, Channel 5

United States: NFL Game Pass, CBS Sports, Fox Sports, ESPN, Amazon Prime

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