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What are the best NFL playoff-race matchups?

You never know when a Big NFL game is coming. The type of game that defines a season, a division. It may arrive at midseason, but the league has done a better job of making the final weeks of the season matter by loading up late division games.

When I first got to peak at the schedule, I immediately jumped to Week 15. What were the playoff race games that were likely to matter the most in the final three weeks? Here are a few highlights:

Week 15

Giants @ Falcons: This playoff rematch will help to show if the Falcons offense has made strides since their embarrassing loss in the Meadowlands. Half of the playoff teams every year don't make it back, so one of these teams will likely be out in the cold.

Packers @ Bears: Chicago defends Aaron Rodgers as well as any team. We'd love to see a three-team NFC North race with the Lions also in the mix.

Broncos @ Ravens: Peyton Manning always seemed to have Baltimore's number when he was a member of the Colts

Steelers @ Cowboys: This is just one of those matchups that makes you take notice if you are a fan of football history. 

49ers @ Patriots: New England has won the AFC East or tied for the division lead every year since 2001. So it's a good bet that this game will stay in its Sunday night slot.

Week 16

Falcons @ Lions: ESPN gets a rare Saturday night game on December 22 as the NFL avoids having a game on Christmas Eve. Getting to the playoffs was a huge step forward for Detroit, but getting back to the playoffs would be a far more impressive achievement.

Bengals @ Steelers: Because I believe that the Bengals resurgence under Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, and that nasty defensive line is for real.

Chargers @ Jets: Why does this feel like a game where one of the coaches will be on the hot seat?

Saints @ Cowboys: Sean Payton will be in town (he lives in Dallas), but he won't be able to attend the game.

Redskins @ Eagles: RG3 makes Washington must see T.V., especially in a big division game.

Week 17

Eagles @ Giants: From DeSean Jackson's Miracle at the Meadowlands reprise to Vince Young's upset last year, Philadelphia has the Giants number of late.

Jets @ Bills: How fired up will Ralph Wilson Stadium be if a playoff spot is on the line in this game?

Bears @ Lions: Perhaps the two biggest-armed quarterbacks in football face off.

Panthers @ Saints: Because Cam Newton vs. Drew Brees is going to be appointment television every team they face off. 

Chiefs @ Broncos: Denver has Peyton Manning. Kansas City has the deeper, more talented young roster.

Raiders  @ Chargers: There may not be a more balanced, wide-open division than the AFC West. 

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