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Patriots-Dolphins becomes headliner of NFL Week 15

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Week 15 of the NFL season has a tough act to follow on Dec. 15. While many of the day’s 14 games have playoff stakes, they will be hard pressed to be as wild, thrilling and snowy as last week’s action. But after one of the more thrilling Sundays in recent NFL history, there doesn’t seem to be many marquee pairings on the schedule -- although the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins come close.

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This game became even more important after Dec. 12, when the Denver Broncos got upset by the San Diego Chargers. As a result, the 11-3 Broncos have become the Dolphins' biggest fans, now that the 10-3 Patriots can take over the No. 1 seed in the AFC by beating Miami.

However, while New England can control its destiny for AFC home field, it could go as far as to lose a bye altogether with a loss. By dropping to 10-4, the Patriots then have to hope the 9-4 Cincinnati Bengals don't beat the Pittsburgh Steelers that night and leap over for the No. 2 seed. The Bengals would have had it already, had the Patriots not had their improbable comeback over the Cleveland Browns on Dec. 8.

Nevertheless, the Patriots still lost big when Rob Gronkowski was lost for the season in that game. At the time, their Super Bowl hopes looked grim, but now they will look as bright as possible with a win in Miami.

Of course, the Dolphins have a lot to play for themselves, as they are locked in a tie with the Baltimore Ravens for the No. 6 seed -- and now have to hold off the 7-7 Chargers too. If Miami wins, it can then take over sole possession of the final spot if Baltimore loses to the Detroit Lions on Dec. 16.

This is one of the few battles in Week 15 where both clubs have major playoff stakes. This suggests an obvious letdown from last week's thrilling finishes, yet the last Sunday did prove anything can and will happen in the NFL.

Regardless, the accompanying slideshow lists the best and worst looking games for the third-to-last NFL Sunday of 2013.



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