Peter Schrager NFL Insider & Sideline Reporter In honor of the holidays, here’s my wish list for Week 16 in the NFL:1. A decent Dolphins-Packers game When the NFL schedule-makers released the 2022 slate back in May, they flexed their muscles against the NBA with what they expected to be three colossal matchups in three big windows. For years, the NFL had ceded Christmas to the hardwood and let the Association have a day in the winter to get some shine, but this year there would be an all out takeover by the gods of the gridiron. Three huge matchups. Big-name quarterbacks. And playoff implications aplenty. Alas, some things happened along the way. The Broncos and Rams both started slow out of the gates, lost their starting quarterbacks, and turned in epically disastrous seasons. Talk about a lump of coal. That one is on Nickelodeon and CBS. Perhaps it’s not too late to have a simulcast of an episode of “Rugrats” or “Salute Your Shorts,” instead. Mark Schlereth on Broncos QB situation
FOX NFL analyst Mark Schlereth says Brett Rypien operates the Denver offense better than Russell Wilson.
Instead of Matthew Stafford and Russell Wilson battling for big Week 16 stakes, it’ll be Baker Mayfield subbing in for the Rams, and Wilson returning to the lineup off a concussion, with both teams eliminated from playoff contention. Let’s hope this game at least has some good “Spongebob” integrations. The evening game could be even worse. If the Rams and Broncos are the league’s biggest disappointments, the Cardinals are right there at No. 3. No Kyler Murray, no Colt McCoy and no dreams of a playoff berth — Arizona took a major step back in 2022, with conflict all over. The Buccaneers? Well, they’re technically in first place in the NFC South, despite being two games below .500 at 6-8 and coming off a couple of ugly losses.Aaron Rodgers optimistic
The “First Things First” crew reacts to Packers QB Aaron Rodgers showing optimism about Green Bay’s chances of making the NFL playoffs.
Which leaves us Miami-Green Bay (1 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports App). Miami (8-6) has lost three straight on the road, but has played formidable opponents in all three games (the 49ers, Chargers and Bills). The loss in Buffalo was by no means an embarrassment or a reason for concern. The Dolphins led by eighth in the fourth quarter, showed they can both run the football and play in the elements and looked worthy of the prime-time stage. Miami currently holds the third and final wild-card spot in the AFC, and the playoffs are very much a possibility. The Packers, meanwhile, have won two straight games for the first time all season, and have Aaron Rodgers and a suddenly gelling defense looking to make a miracle run toward the postseason. Tua, Rodgers, and two head coaches who used to work together in Houston, Washington, and Atlanta — this one could deliver. If it doesn’t? We could be 0-for-the-holiday and looking for some NBA chatter the next morning. 2. More Kayvon ThibodeauxThe Giants were reeling, having only won one game since Halloween and on the precipice of a 2022 collapse that would result in another year without the postseason for Big Blue fans. But then an underdog New York squad went into Washington, beat a Commanders team playing at home and coming off a bye and took firm control of the No. 6 spot of the NFC playoffs. “You can be great anywhere”
Kayvon Thibodeaux shares his thoughts on why young athletes need to play college football wherever they want and not just a big-name school.
The best player on the field Sunday night wasn’t Saquon Barkley or Terry McLaurin. It was 22-year-old Giants pass rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux. The No. 5 overall pick had his national coming-out party, scoring on a strip sack fumble recovery for a TD and making the big goal-line stop of Washington QB Taylor Heinicke on the final drive. The best part? Thibodeaux’s performance this season has proven his pre-draft critics completely wrong. The wrap on KT was that he didn’t have a high motor, would take plays off and was more about his personal brand than the team. That has been the complete opposite of what the rookie from Oregon has been in his stellar debut campaign in New York. When I spoke to Joe Schoen on my podcast, “The Season with Peter Schrager,” earlier this year, the Giants’ first-year GM said both he and coach Brian Daboll loved Thibodeaux in the pre-draft process, and they did their own work and didn’t read or listen to the harsh critiques. They felt confident making Thibodeaux their first-ever draft pick, and he has more than delivered. The scary thing? He’s getting better every week. Thibodeaux was awesome Thanksgiving against the Cowboys and even better Sunday in Washington. The Giants (8-5-1) head to Minnesota (11-3) on Saturday (1 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports App), and a win would all but assure them a playoff spot. Don’t be shocked if Thibodeaux makes a big play. 3. The James Houston Experience continues. I’d never heard James Houston’s name in the pre-draft process. The Jackson State linebacker, a Florida transfer, was a Day 3 pick, going in the sixth round to the Lions as what was considered a bit of a project player. Viewed as a bit raw, Houston didn’t dress for the Lions until Thanksgiving Day against the Bills. He was on the practice squad for the first 10 weeks of the season, impressing in practice, but not getting the call-up on game days. When he finally got a chance in Week 12, Houston made an impact with two sacks. And every week since, has gotten better. Houston has five sacks, and has had at least one in each of his first four career games. Only two other players had sacks in their first four career games: Terrell Suggs, the 2003 Defensive Player of the Year, and Santana Dotson, who had 10 sacks in his rookie year in 1992. In the Lions’ win over the Jets on Sunday, Houston had a sack and made the game-changing block on Detroit’s first-half punt return for a TD. The Lions have won seven of eight games, and second-year GM Brad Holmes deserve a ton of credit. In addition to Houston, rookies Aidan Hutchinson, Jameson Williams, Kerby Joseph and Malcolm Rodriguez are all making plays. And guess what? Detroit has the Rams’ first-round pick in the 2023 draft, as well as their own. The Lions are a young, fast, entertaining team. They’re also a few Washington losses away from being a playoff squad. The Lions have a lot going for them, and if they can handle their business Saturday against the Panthers (5-9) in Carolina (1 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports App), they could be looking at at least one more week of football at the end of January. 4. Haason Reddick gets some love. The Cowboys-Eagles matchup (Saturday, 4:25 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports App) is being hyped as a potential NFC Championship preview, and that’s even with Dallas (10-4) coming off a loss and Philadelphia (13-1) potentially being without its starting quarterback. Too risky to play Jalen Hurts?
Jalen Hurts is questionable this Saturday when the Eagles travel to Dallas. Craig Carton, James Jones and Cody Decker discuss whether it’s too risky to play the injured Hurts.
The guy that I’m watching Christmas Eve? Haason Redick. Last week, the Eagles linebacker had two sacks, one tackle for loss, one pass defensed, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. In doing so, Reddick became the first player to have 11 or more sacks with three different teams. Reddick was with the Cardinals, the team that drafted him 13th overall in 2017, and had a big breakout 12.5-sack season in 2020. When he hit free agency, there were oddly not many suitors. He went to play for his college coach at Temple, Matt Rhule, in Carolina. With the Panthers on a one-year deal, he had 11 sacks last season. Free agency again! And few suitors … again. The South Jersey and Temple kid went back home to Philadelphia, where Reddick now has double-digit sacks yet again. Cool story. Look for him Saturday to upstage the “bigger” names and do his thing against the Dallas O-line. I’m looking for Kevin Burkhardt, another South Jersey guy, to give Reddick his flowers on Christmas Eve. 5. A Steelers-Raiders game that does some justice on the 50th anniversary of the “Immaculate Reception.”I went back and did a bunch of research on the “Immaculate Reception” game from 1972, and some things stuck out. A fan pays respect to Steelers Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris at the Immaculate Reception memorial outside of Acrisure Stadium. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) Here are five things to know about the miraculous play by Steelers Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris, who died Wednesday at age 72:It marked Pittsburgh’s first NFL playoff win of the Super Bowl era. The Steelers would go on to win seven division titles and four Super Bowls in the following eight years.It was Terry Bradshaw’s first postseason touchdown pass. He’d go on to throw 29 more.Oakland quarterback Ken Stabler didn’t start the game. He entered in the third quarter and had a 30-yard TD scramble to put the Raiders up 7-6 with less than two minutes remaining.Steelers fans were celebrating at a local bar, when one fan, Michael Ord, climbed up on a table, and with a spoon, banged on a glass and proclaimed this day would be known “as the Feast of the Immaculate Reception.” Ord told a friend they should call Myron Cope — the Steelers radio broadcaster — and Cope mentioned it on the 11 p.m. local news. The moniker stuck.The Steelers didn’t win the Super Bowl that year. They lost to the Dolphins in the AFC Championship the following week. The week after that, Miami beat Washington 14-7 in Super Bowl VII to complete the first and only undefeated season in NFL history.Top stories from FOX Sports:Peter Schrager is an NFL writer for FOX Sports and a host of “Good Morning Football” on NFL Network. You can follow him on Twitter at @PSchrags. Get more from National Football League Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more