The AFC's best teams clash in Denver and several other playoff contenders meet in colossal NFL showdowns. Here are five storylines we're watching this week:

The Battle of Ohio

Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati — 1 p.m. ET on Sunday, Nov. 17

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The road to the AFC North title goes through Ohio? This year it does. After losing in overtime in each of the past two weeks, division-leading Cincinnati (6-4) needs to stop its slide this week at home against its in-state rival. The Bengals hope rookie running back Giovani Bernard can gash the Browns' defense so that Andy Dalton doesn't have to throw so much. Cleveland (4-5) will start quarterback Jason Campbell, who has gone 45 of 71 for 555 yards for five TDs and no interceptions in the last two games.

How Far Will the Dolphins Fall?

Sun Lie Stadium, Miami — 4:05 p.m. ET on Sunday, Nov. 17

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Still reeling from the messy Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin bullying saga, Miami (4-5) will try to hold on to fading playoff hopes against the shaky Chargers (4-5). While it's still too early to call this a must-win, the Dolphins have to show that they aren't falling apart, which would be easy to assume after Monday's embarrassing loss to previously winless Tampa Bay. San Diego hopes its pass rush can take advantage of a Miami offensive line that has allowed the most sacks in the league (37).

The Clash in the Dome

Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans — 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday, Nov. 17

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Two teams who played an epic NFC playoff game in 2012 will meet again when NFC South-leading New Orleans (7-2) hosts San Francisco (6-3). The 49ers stumbled last week in a loss against the Panthers, but their defense is as stout as ever. It will need to be against Drew Brees and the Saints, who are nearly unstoppable in the Superdome. San Francisco must hope all the lights will stay on, unlike during its Super Bowl loss to Baltimore in February.

The Season's Biggest Game (So Far)

Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver — 8:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, Nov. 17

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The AFC's best teams will meet for the first time this season on Sunday, as AFC West-leading Kansas City (9-0) travels to Denver (8-1) for a Sunday night battle. The most intriguing matchup is Peyton Manning and his gimpy legs against the fierce Chiefs pass rush. Alex Smith must face a rejuvenated Von Miller and the Broncos' defense, as well. The results should make for a competitive game in primetime.

The Panthers Face a Test

Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte — 8:30 p.m. ET on Monday, Nov. 18

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Not everyone is sold on Carolina (6-3) as a legitimate NFC playoff contender, but the Panthers convinced more pundits with last week's win over the 49ers in San Francisco. Cam Newton and co. will be at home for their next test — a Monday night game against New England (7-2). Carolina's skilled defensive front will test Patriots QB Tom Brady, too.