While the NFL has long made playing on Thanksgiving a tradition, playing on Christmas wasn’t always on the league’s mind. For a long stretch of the NFL’s history, the season was already wrapped up by late December. In other instances, when the league expanded the NFL schedule, the NFL used to go to great lengths to avoid playing on Christmas.
The NFL first played playoff games on Christmas in 1971, but no regular-season games were played on the holiday until 1989. This year’s Week 16 NFL matchups will feature a tripleheader of games on the holiday. Most of the rest of the schedule that week will be played on Saturday.
NFL Games of the Week
Thursday, Dec. 22
Saturday, Dec. 24
Sunday, Dec. 25
Monday, Dec. 26
Here’s a look at some interesting facts about NFL Week 16 matchups.
Showdown in Tinsel Town
The Denver Broncos will play in the middle game on Christmas Day with a chance to build their profile. Russell Wilson will have a chance to lead Denver against the defending Super Bowl champions Los Angeles Rams. The Rams will be motivated as this will be a national television spotlight among the NFL Week 16 matchups.
Denver hasn’t made many waves recently in the NFL, lacking a playoff appearance since 2015. The Rams have made the playoffs in four of the past seasons under coach Sean McVay.
Other important matchups
- Two teams with uncertain futures will renew an old rivalry on Saturday night. The Las Vegas Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers have had many battles in the playoffs, but come into this season as teams with strong pasts, but murky presents. The Steelers are looking to replace long-time quarterback Ben Reothlisberger, while the Raiders are adjusting to another first-year coach.
- While the New England Patriots aren’t quite up to their recent dynastic standards, they showed renewed vigor under rookie quarterback Mac Jones last season. Cincinnati, the defending AFC champions, will want to score a victory over Bill Belichick in company to assert its dominance in the conference. The New England Patriots have won seven of their past eight against Cincinnati, with the team’s last meeting coming in 2019.
- The Chargers and Colts will meet in a matchup of playoff contenders on Monday night. Indianapolis is hoping Matt Ryan will give them a signal caller on the level of Los Angeles youngster Justin Herbert.