What to Watch For in NFL’s Christmas Day Games

It’s not a misprint.

If you’re scrolling through your television listings on Christmas Day, you’ll see two N.F.L. games on the schedule, which could be a bit of a reprieve from the holiday meal and festivities (or from the slate of N.B.A. games).

One of the matchups, on paper, should be better than the other, but both games will feature high-profile stars, including Aaron Rodgers, the league’s reigning most valuable player, as well as Davante Adams, Kyler Murray, Myles Garrett and Jonathan Taylor.

Below is everything you need to know about the N.F.L.’s games on Saturday.

4:30 p.m., Fox and NFL Network

Facing a coronavirus outbreak, the N.F.L. rescheduled Cleveland’s game last week, and the Browns (7-7) narrowly lost to the Raiders on Tuesday thanks to a walk-off field goal. But Cleveland’s roster was depleted by coronavirus absences, including its top two quarterbacks, Baker Mayfield and Case Keenum, as well as Coach Kevin Stefanski. The Browns’ postseason chances stand at 21 percent, the result of an up-and-down season with injuries and inconsistent play from Mayfield. One of the few bright spots has been Garrett, who is tied for third in the league in sacks with 15. But even he is questionable to play with a groin injury.

As of Wednesday morning, neither Mayfield nor Keenum had cleared the health protocols, putting Nick Mullens, the team’s third-string quarterback, in line to start again. But regardless of who is starting at quarterback, the matchup against Green Bay will be tough. The Packers (11-3) arguably have the best home-field advantage in the league, and forecasts call for the temperature to be near freezing with winds at 10 miles an hour.

Aaron Rodgers, as usual, is playing efficiently, completing nearly 68 percent of his passes, and he has thrown for 3,487 yards and 30 touchdowns. Eight of those touchdowns were caught by Davante Adams, who ranks third in the league in receiving yards (1,248) and fourth in catches (96).

The Packers defense has also played well, allowing only two teams to rush for more than 150 yards and allowing an average of 217.9 passing yards per game. The Packers have already clinched the N.F.C. North and currently hold the conference’s No. 1 seed, meaning the road to the playoffs runs through Lambeau Field.

Green Bay is justifiably a 7.5-point betting favorite, and if the Browns, short-handed or not, falter in any area of the game, it could get ugly.

8:15 p.m., NFL Network

Once considered the N.F.L.’s best team as they burst to a 10-2 start, the Cardinals (10-4) have lost two consecutive games and are declining, a bad sign this close to the postseason. In both of its recent losses, Arizona’s offense looked inefficient as Kyler Murray threw inaccurate passes and misfires. The Cardinals have also played without their best weapon, DeAndre Hopkins, who was placed on injured reserve with a hamstring injury. The team hopes he can return for a playoff push. A loss to the Colts (8-6) would drop the Cardinals’ chances of winning the N.F.C. West to 43 percent, meaning their hard-earned work earlier in the season could be wasted and they would be in jeopardy of losing home-field advantage for a postseason game.

The arc of the season for Indianapolis has been the opposite. The Colts started 3-5, but have won five of their last six games. In that stretch, the team unleashed Jonathan Taylor, and the running back has become one of the N.F.L.’s best players. He leads the league in the major rushing categories, with 270 carries, 1,518 yards and 17 touchdowns. His emergence has taken pressure and responsibility off Carson Wentz, whom the team traded for this off-season with the goal of reviving his career under Coach Frank Reich after Wentz’s five up-and-down seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Colts defense is also stout, especially the front seven, and allows only 109 rushing yards per game.

The Cardinals are the betting favorite (-2), and will need to play like it to reverse their downward slope.

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