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2013 NFL Week 16 Preview — 5 Intriguing Storylines to Watch

Carolina Panthers  v New Orleans Saints
Getty Images

Both the AFC and NFC have several playoff spots to fill as the 2013 NFL season heads into its next-to-last weekend. Here are five storylines we’ll be watching:

AFC Playoff Teams Battle

Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City — Sun. Dec. 22 at 1 p.m. (ET)

Kansas City Chiefs v Oakland Raiders
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Both Indianapolis (9-5) and Kansas City (11-3) have already secured AFC playoff spots. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid would love for his team to grab the top seed in the conference and make other AFC squads go through Arrowhead Stadium in order to get to the Super Bowl. For that to happen, Kansas City needs to win out and hope Denver slips again like it did last week. The AFC South-champion Colts just need to convince everyone that they aren’t backing into the playoffs.

NFC South Bowl II

Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte — Sun. Dec. 22 at 1 p.m. (ET)

Carolina Panthers  v New Orleans Saints
Getty Images

The Saints (10-4) crushed the Panthers (10-4) two weeks ago inside the Superdome. For the rematch, New Orleans travels to Charlotte where it may not be frigid, but it will be outdoors. Carolina’s offensive line must not allow the Saints to again sack quarterback Cam Newton five times. Newton needs to keep the Panthers’ offense on the field, so Drew Brees doesn’t wear out the Carolina defense. New Orleans can clinch the NFC South and a first-round bye with a win. The Panthers can lock up a playoff spot with a victory.

This Seems Familiar

M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore — Sun. Dec. 22 at 4:25 p.m. (ET)

Baltimore Ravens v New England Patriots
Getty Images

Normally when New England (10-4) plays Baltimore (8-6) this late in the season, the AFC title is on the line. Before we see Pats-Ravens again in January, the teams who have split the last two AFC Championship Games have to qualify for the post-season. Baltimore clinches a playoff spot with a win and losses by the Dolphins and Chargers. New England clinches the AFC East with a win or tie or a Dolphins loss or tie. The Patriots can wrap up a playoff spot with a Bengals’ loss or tie.

NFC Division Leaders Clash

Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia — Sun. Dec. 22 at 8:30 p.m. (ET)

Detroit Lions v Philadelphia Eagles
Getty Images

The NFC East-leading Eagles (8-6) host the NFC North-leading Bears (8-6) in a crucial inter-division game for both teams. Depending on what Dallas does against Washington earlier in the day, Philadelphia could potentially clinch the division title with a win. If both Detroit and Green Bay lose their respective games, Chicago can wrap up their division with a victory against the Eagles in prime time. Or, the game might be rendered “meaningless,” because both teams would have to win next week to make the playoffs anyway. NBC probably didn’t think that way when they flexed this game into the “Sunday Night Football” spot.

Candlestick’s Last Hurrah

Candlestick Park, San Francisco — Mon. Dec. 23 at 8:30 p.m. (ET)

New York Giants v San Francisco 49ers
Getty Images

A long season for Atlanta (4-10) might get a little longer. The Falcons must travel to San Francisco (10-4) for the final regular season game in the history of Candlestick Park. The 49ers could still host a playoff game at their venerable old digs, but this could be their last contest there before moving to Levi’s Stadium in 2014. Presumably Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and other Niner greats will stop by (but they won’t suit up). San Francisco can clinch a playoff spot with a win or an Arizona loss.

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