Seven of the 16 games this week feature two teams fighting for a playoff berth or a higher playoffs seeding. Yet, these games might just be a prelude to the one a week from Sunday, when the 49ers play the Seattle Seahawks.
That is, if the 49ers lose to the New England Patriots on Sunday and the Seahawks take care of business against the Buffalo Bills, which are distinct possibilities.
The 49ers would be 9-4-1 and the Seahawks 9-5 entering their game in Seattle on Dec. 23, with the NFC West title on the line.
The Seahawks have won four out of their past five games, including a 58-0 shellacking of the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday.
Throw in a raucous home crowd, dynamic rookie quarterback Russell Wilson and workhorse running back Marshawn Lynch, and you have the potential for the regular-season game of the year.
The 49ers did a nice job against Wilson in the teams' first meeting Oct. 18 in a 13-6 victory at Candlestick Park. History says the 49ers are in for a tougher matchup in Seattle.
Wilson has 12 touchdowns and one interception at home, versus eight touchdowns and eight interceptions on the road. His passer rating at home spikes from 80.7 to 118.4
In many ways, the Seahawks and 49ers are model franchises for how to rebuild a floundering team.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll cites Lynch as the player who spearheaded the team's turnaround.
Carroll traded fourth- and fifth-round draft picks to the
"I don't know if anything is more symbolic than what we've done with Marshawn and him playing the way he's played, and him being the guys he is," Carroll said. "He really is the key element to putting this thing together."
Carroll drafted Wilson in the third round of this year's draft and let him battle Matt Flynn, their marquee free-agent signing, in training camp.
He jettisoned linebackers Aaron Curry and Lofa Tatupu and replaced them with K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner, respectively. He also found former Stanford cornerback Richard Sherman in the fifth round of the 2011 draft.
This game also has numerous subplots. There's the history between 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and Carroll, dating to their days when Harbaugh was at Stanford and Carroll at USC.
Sherman earlier this season referred to Harbaugh as a "bully" for contacting the league about the physical play of the Seahawks secondary in the teams' first game.
Few thought Peterson would rebound anywhere near this well less than a year after tearing the ACL and MCL in his left knee, so who's to doubt that he will pile up 506 yards in his final three games and break Eric Dickerson's mark of 2,105?
Certainly not Peterson.
"You hear a lot of people talking about how Adrian Peterson might crack 2,000 yards," Peterson said on "Inside The NFL" on Showtime, "(but) I'm reaching past that. I'm always looking at the bigger picture, the bigger goal to accomplish. That would be to edge Eric Dickerson. It's something that I feel like is right there and ... we can get it."
Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson has 1,546 yards through 13 games. He needs to average 101 yards in the next three games to surpass Rice.
Johnson has nine games of 111 yards or more so far this season, including a 151.3-yard average the past six games.
Just what Raiders fans want to see happen, too. The Raiders selected quarterback JaMarcus Russell No. 1 overall in 2007, despite then-coach Lane Kiffin and just about everyone else in the draft room not named Al Davis pushing for Johnson. The Lions drafted Johnson with the next pick.
Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league intends to consider expanding from 12 teams over the next few months. The league has been at 12 playoff teams since 1990.
This sounds like another money grab at first glance. Is anyone clamoring for the New York Jets in the playoffs this season?
Under a 16-team format, three teams that currently are 7-6 and the Jets at 6-7 would be in the playoffs, if the season ended last week.
It's a rarity when a team with a losing record qualifies for the playoffs now. It likely would be commonplace if the league expanded to 14 or 16 teams.
"It's stupid," Vikings defensive end Jared Allen said. "It's a dumb idea. The reason our league is so much better than other leagues is because of that competition. Every game means something."