Week 15: vs. San Francisco (Dec. 16, 8:20 p.m.)
Six days later one of the best teams in the NFC comes calling for a Sunday night game.
The 49ers don’t wow you offensively — Alex Smith limits mistakes at quarterback, and Frank Gore is averaging close to 6 yards per carry. It’s the defense that impresses.
Week 16: at Jacksonville (Dec. 23, 1 p.m.)
Another December trip to Florida, this time to face a Jaguars team with only one win so far and thousands of empty seats in the stands. The Patriots are 8-1 all time against Jacksonville, with the only loss coming on Jan. 3, 1999, in the playoffs. No playoffs for the Jaguars this season.
Week 17: vs. Miami (Dec. 30, 1 p.m.)
Will this game determine who wins the AFC East? Might the Dolphins need it to get a wild-card berth? Or the Patriots? There are always final-week story lines regarding the playoffs, and with both teams above .500 right now, both should enter the second half of the regular season with postseason plans.