Oakland Raiders @ Carolina Panthers
A couple of weeks ago, this game would have been hard to predict since both teams were struggling to keep up with their opponents. Nowadays, the Panthers look like the team that everybody thought they would be this year: they are moving the ball very well on offense, Cam Newton is looking quite sharp, and the running game is beginning to come around. They also have an underrated defense to compliment what they do on offense. After completely shutting down San Diego last week, look for the Panthers to return home and do the same to the Raiders. Although the Oakland defense did pitch a shutout last week (against an offensively challenged team in the Chiefs), they failed to score a touchdown of their own. It is safe to say that the Panther defense is much better than the Kansas City defense, so do not expect the Raiders to win by kicking a bunch of field goals. They will have to match touchdowns with the Panthers, and quite frankly that is something that they will not be able to do. Don’t feel bad Oakland fans, this is the same Panther team that embarrassed the 12-2 Atlanta Falcons at home. They are very much improved from the 1-6 Carolina team we saw a few weeks ago.
Carolina 34, Oakland 20
New Orleans Saints @ Dallas Cowboys
It is a little difficult to pick against the Cowboys given the roll that they have been on over the past month, but here goes nothing. The Saints will trot into Jerry-world and pull off the (upset?). Drew Brees will be able to chuck the ball all over the lot, and he has to have a major confidence boost after going nuts on the Tampa Bay defense a week ago. Sure, he did pick apart the last ranked pass-defense in the league last week, but the Purdue grad has the ability to make any defense look mediocre. This is a game that could end up looking a lot like the Cowboys’ Thanksgiving Day game versus Washington in the sense that the Saints could sprint out to a big lead on the strength of Drew Brees’ right arm. Tony Romo and the Cowboys will have to abandon the running game early and #9 will have to throw it 50+ times (hey, sounds like most Dallas games this season). This one could turn into a shootout, and it is probably easier to trust Brees in a game like this rather than Romo. Plus, aren’t the Cowboys due to lose a December game?
New Orleans 37, Dallas 30
Tennessee Titans @ Green Bay Packers
The Pack is back. Each proceeding week, they are looking more and more like the team that won the Super Bowl two seasons ago. The recent emergence of their running game has really helped Aaron Rodgers. He is finding a bit more time with the opposing defense respecting the option for the packers to run the ball, and an Aaron Rodgers with time in the pocket is lethal. Let’s face it; the Titans’ defense isn’t winning any awards this year. While they are not horrible, they certainly have a lot of room to improve. Couple that with a young quarterback traveling into a hostile environment with frigid weather, and you have got yourself a possible blowout. The only way the Titans win this game is if Chris Johnson runs for 150+ yards AND their defense is able to get constant pressure on Rodgers. There are just too many things that have to go right for a Tennessee upset, so it is easier just to pick the Packers. They could be the NFC’s hottest team right now. Perhaps that loss to the Giants a few weeks back was the spark they needed to get on a roll.
Green Bay 29, Tennessee 14
Minnesota Vikings @ Houston Texans
It is very tempting to pick the Vikes here, it really is, however if there is one thing that the Texans’ defense does well it is shutting down running backs. They have only allowed a 100 yard rusher twice this season, and are very good at making a team one dimensional. Unfortunately for the Vikings, they are already a one dimensional team so they are halfway defeated before even stepping on to the field. The teams that have beaten the Texans this year had elite quarterbacks who could sling it all over the field. Christian Ponder is not quite Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, so do not expect him to dominate this football game. The only way the Vikings can win is if, once again, Adrian Peterson shoulders the load. He may have been able to do it quite a bit this season, but the Houston will probably not give one lick of respect to the Minnesota passing game. Not to mention that the Vikes like to throw a lot of quick passes. JJ Watt will be salivating over the abundance of chances he will have to swat the ball down. It is quite simple to say that if you stop Adrian Peterson, you stop the Vikings. However, most teams have not been able to do so. If any team is built to do this, it is Houston. This could be a rough week for Minnesota fans.
Houston 23, Minnesota 10
New England Patriots @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Upset alert!!! Not so fast, the Jags probably do not have a chance here. They have a knack for performing poorly at home, and with New England coming to town there is almost no chance for Jacksonville to rewrite the script that has been in place for over a year. The Pats are upset about losing to a good football team, so they should come out this week and play a stellar ball game. Chad Henne has had a couple of good performances against the Patriots in the past, but this week will not prove to be his. New England should be ready to rock and roll. The Jaguars will simply be in their way on their road to a deep playoff run.
New England 38, Jacksonville 13
Indianapolis Colts @ Kansas City Chiefs
The Colts can lock up a playoff spot with a win against the Kansas City Chiefs in Arrowhead on Sunday. Andrew Luck will probably have the ball in his hands quite a bit because he will have to sling it around quite a bit in the postseason if Indy hopes to make a deep run. They should be able to take down the Chiefs in this one, but do not be surprised if they are unable to. For some odd reason this game feels like a trap for Bruce Arians and company. Despite this, this pick will reflect the Colts nailing down their first playoff berth of the Andrew Luck era.
Indianapolis 27, Kansas City 10
Buffalo Bills @ Miami Dolphins
It is awfully tough to pick the Bills after seeing the effort they put forth against Seattle last week. However, they were able to down the ‘Phins during the first meeting of these two teams and are primed to do it again. Since Miami is still grasping onto a nearly hopeless possibility of some postseason play, they should come out motivated on both sides of the ball. Reggie Bush should have a nice game while CJ Spiller may find it a little tough to gain ground against a stout Miami run defense (which ranks eighth in the league). This one has the makings of another Dolphin gritty victory; you know a 14-10/17-14/21-17 type game? The Bills have also not found a lot of success lately when traveling to the Sunshine State. They have lost three of the past four times traveling down there.
Miami 20, Buffalo 15
San Diego Chargers @ New York Jets
A couple of years ago, this would have been a must-see game. These days, the Chargers and Jets have failed to pack much of an offensive punch in their contests. Each fell to four win teams a week ago and looked horrible in the process. The Jets have not looked good at all over the past month and it is getting hard to pick them. The winner of this game will be the team that can move the ball the best against the opposing defense. In this situation, it seems right to pick the Chargers. They did have a nice showing in Pittsburgh two weeks ago, so it is always possible that they could string a performance like that together again. Also, it seems very unlikely that Greg McElroy will solve any of the problems that the Jets have. None of the quarterbacks on that team have much of a chance at turning the New York Jets’ fortunes around. That is the sad truth.
San Diego 23, New York 13
Washington Redskins @ Philadelphia Eagles
It is almost certain that RGIII will be stepping under center for this game as the young quarterback makes his first trip to a hostile Philadelphia. A win for the Redskins is paramount since they control their own destiny to the playoffs. They also have the easier opponent this week, so this will be a great chance for them to possibly claim an undisputed lead of the NFC East with one week to go (provided both New York and Dallas lose). While looking bad at home this season, the Eagles have a long history of making life tough on opponents in Philly during December. Their defense seems to have turned the corner and can probably do a much better job at containing RGIII since this will be their second time facing him. It is unlikely that they will be torched deep with such frequency in this game, but the ‘Skins should have an extra trick or two up their sleeves that will help them earn their ninth victory (and sixth straight). Expect Washington to run the ball well against a defense that has allowed two running backs to rush for over 100 yards in consecutive weeks (after not allowing that to happen in any game this season before them).
Washington 31, Philadelphia 16
Cincinnati Bengals @ Pittsburgh Steelers
This is arguably the biggest game of the week. It is essentially a playoff game for the teams involved since the winner will probably make the postseason while the loser will miss it. It is also very likely that the winner of this game will travel to Foxboro to take on the Patriots in the first round of the playoffs (if the AFC seeding remains the same over the next two weeks). The Bengals did not look good against Philadelphia last week, but they did have a week and a half to reflect on their bad play. Ben Roethlisberger is coming back home after throwing a costly pick in overtime during their loss to Dallas. The Steelers have not won since #7’s return and their defense is not playing all that well. Luckily for them, all of this can be erased with a win here. Pittsburgh seems to be the reasonable choice here because they know what to do in these types of games. Plus they are playing at home (where they are 4-2 on the season) and have dominated the Bengals over the last few meetings. Andy Dalton may play well, but in the end it will be the Steelers who close the door on the surging Cincinnati team.
Pittsburgh 24, Cincinnati 20
St Louis Rams @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Rams mounted a pretty good comeback effort last week about Minnesota, but they just could not dig themselves out of a 26 point hole by the end of the game. Jeff Fisher coached teams rarely find themselves down by that much, so expect the Rams to come back and play some much more inspired football this week. They also have slight playoff hopes (on life-support). So, they still have something to play for. Tampa Bay looks like the same team that lost ten straight to end the last season. Josh Freeman needs to get back on the horse here against a team that has looked average at best against the pass at times this year. It will be hard for the Rams to run against this #1 ranked rush-defense in the league, so look for Bradford to sling it again (who is will be coming in with a lot of confidence off of his 377 yard game from last week). Those odds play in St Louis’ favor and they should be able to go down to Tampa and win on Sunday. This one should be a very good game.
St Louis 20, Tampa Bay 19
Cleveland Browns @ Denver Broncos
The Broncos seem to be unstoppable right now. They are blowing teams out every week and sticking it to practically every opposing QB with their suffocating defensive scheme. Give a lot of credit to Jack Del Rio (who is one of the unsung heroes of this Denver team what with all of the Peyton Manning stories). He has this defense playing at a level that is reminiscent of their glory days back as the orange crush… hey, maybe it has something to do with them reverting back to orange jerseys. Anyways, the Broncos should roll the Browns to the side here. Cleveland has been playing extremely well as of late, but if they got burnt at home by a rookie quarterback in their first start, just imagine what Peyton Manning at home could do to them. It could be a long afternoon for the dog pound.
Denver 33, Cleveland 9
Chicago Bears @ Arizona Cardinals
This is a clash between two teams whose best offense is their good defense. Last week the Cardinals blew out the Lions at home, aided by two pick-sixes from Ray Horton’s unit. Well, the Bears are no strangers to defensive scores; they lead the league with eight of them. There may not be a ton of points scored, but if you like 1970’s football then this is the perfect type of game to watch. The Cards finally snapped their nine game losing streak while the Bears have lost five of their last six. There is no question that the Bears absolutely need to win this game if they want any chance at saving their season. It is that kind of desperation that will propel them to a nice victory on the road. It may not be very pretty (most Arizona games are not) but it will be effective. Chicago’s heart will still continue to beat after this week when their beloved team picks up their ninth win.
Chicago 19 Arizona 10
New York Giants @ Baltimore Ravens
Three straight Baltimore losses have the Ravens fans worried sick. They have dropped their last two at home where they looked unbeatable at for a couple of years. So it may be jumping the gun a little bit to say that there is a definite hometown advantage in this game. Also, Eli Manning has made it a habit to rain on a home team’s parade, specifically late in the season and into the postseason. After all, the Giants do have the reputation for being the ultimate road warriors. They were embarrassed by the Falcons last week on the road though, and will face a team with a similar offense in a similar situation this week. It is probably safe to say that New York will play a little bit better on offense than they did a week ago against Atlanta. Plus, the Raven defense is not as good as the Falcons’ (that is something that hasn’t been said in quite some time). Eli Manning should get back on the ball and lead his team to a significant increase in offensive production. Maybe Tom Coughlin will not go for it on fourth down and short every time he has the ball in opponent’s territory this time. With that being said, it is best to go with the Ravens here. They simply do not lose three straight at home and four in a row. The Giants have not been playing their best football as of late either and the Ravens actually have the better team in a lot of people’s eyes. Look for Baltimore to win in a statement game for them as they gear up for the playoffs.
Baltimore 30, New York 23
San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks
With the way these two teams are playing, it is hard to pick against either one of them. This is shaping up to be the most intriguing game on the Week 16 slate because it pits two fierce rivals who are each playing the best football possible. It will also take place during primetime in front of a raucous crowd. Of course, the last time that Century Link Field played host to a night game was when the infamous “Fail Mary” catch occurred. Expect nothing of the sort in this contest. But a good defensive battle is easy to anticipate… or is it? The ‘Hawks have outscored their opponents by the count of 108-17 over the past two games. The Niners are fresh off of a huge win in New England and are in the driver’s seat to take their division and possibly a first round BYE. It is so hard to pick against them here given that their offense is looking brilliant with Colin Kaepernick at the helm. It is important to keep in mind that the Seahawks are 6-0 at home and have beaten very good teams there as well. This game is a virtual toss-up and should be a good one. The Seahawks will capitalize on the home-field advantage in a late-night thriller though as they trump the 49ers in Seattle to cap off Week 16.
Seattle 22, San Francisco 20