With two weeks to go in the regular season, things are getting pretty nip and tuck. This is especially true for the wild card spots in each conference, all NFC divisions, and the AFC North. This weekend there are the usual 16 games being play. Astoundingly, 14 of these contests have playoff implications. This is exactly what the league wanted when it released the schedule back in April. Highlighting these fourteen match-ups are colossal battles between the Chiefs and Steelers in the steel city, the Colts and Cowboys in Jerrah World, the Seahawks and Cardinals in the desert, and (despite both having losing records) the Falcons and Saints in the Big Easy. The Broncos-Bengals Monday night tilt is a good one too. That said, this week should provide plenty of action to satisfy even the casual fan’s hunger for competition. Here are my picks.
Last Week: 12-4
Thursday, December 18th, 12:30 e.t.
Tennessee Titans (2-12) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11)
In a week loaded with this games, this one is going to be overlooked. However (I’ll say it for the third straight Titans game), it is important because the loser will almost be assured of the #1 pick in next year’s draft. Tennessee fans might be tired of hearing this, but if so their team should do something to change this. Unfortunately, it looks like Charlie Whitehurst is going to be given the car keys for this game. The Jacksonville front four will give him problems in this one and force him into some bad throws. The Jags have also been better against the run as of late. I’m gonna roll with the home team here strictly because of their defense.
Jacksonville 19, Tennessee 10
Saturday, December 20th, 4:30 e.t.
Philadelphia Eagles (9-5) @ Washington Redskins (3-11)
After losing their second straight game to the likes of December’s Cowboys, this game becomes a must-win for the Eagles. Chip Kelly returns to the venue where his whole offensive experiment started. Over a year later we know that the Redskins are in search of a franchise quarterback while Philly has the explosive offense. This is odd because Washington will be starting the same quarterback they sent out there in the 33-27 loss in Week 1 last year while the birds will feature their third different starter in Mark Sanchez (since that time). Philadelphia has been in a funk on offense lately, but the Redskins are a good team to wake up against. They have not been good against the pass at all over the last month. Sanchez takes advantage of this as Philly notches the much need win, in style.
Philadelphia 45, Washington 23
Saturday, December 20th, 8:25 e.t.
San Diego Chargers (8-6) @ San Francisco 49ers (7-7)
With the Niners dropping out of the playoff hunt after losing to their arch nemesis last week, one would think that they have nothing to play for in this game. However, I see San Fran playing hard this time out. The Bolts have been solid on defense over the past two weeks, but their offense has left much to be desired. The 49ers have the defense at their disposal to frustrate Philip Rivers and the Chargers and should be able to run the ball at John Pagano’s unit. I see San Diego having a tough go of it in this one. Furthermore, this is the NFL. Most probably see the Chargers coming in and kicking a team when they are down, but nothing ever makes sense in this league. Niners win… big.
San Francisco 31, San Diego 13
Sunday, December 21st, 1:00 e.t.
Cleveland Browns (7-7) @ Carolina Panthers (5-8-1)
Well the Johnny Manziel experiment certainly did not go as planned last week against Cincinnati. He posted a combined 93 yards of offense and turned the ball over twice. The Browns as a team mustered only five first downs in that contest; two of ’em via penalty. Yuck! He will have to be better this week against a Carolina team whose defense has shown flashes of last year’s great unit over the past two weeks. The Panthers have been running the ball and winning the battle at the line of scrimmage lately and when they take on a team that is in a tail-spin, I like their chances. Cam Newton likely won’t play, but it won’t matter. Derek Anderson has proven to be a more than competent backup plan.
Carolina 24, Cleveland 9
Detroit Lions (10-4) @ Chicago Bears (5-9)
The Bears have been a train-wreck on offense this season and their defense has helped their cause. Hence the 5-9 record. Reports have been swirling about how the team plans to cut ties with Marc Trestman after this season (which I think would be a bit premature). Anyways, this is a Chicago team that is in shambles right now. Meanwhile, we have all been waiting for this Detroit team to fall apart this season and they just haven’t. Their offense has been decent and their defense has been dominant. Although, I am calling for a bunch of unexpected outcomes in a wacky Week 16 and this is going to be one of them. Chicago will catch the Lions napping in this game and come out with a surprising win. No joke. Jay Cutler doesn’t suck in this one and the Bears score one defensive touchdown en route to an upset victory.
Chicago 24, Detroit 23
New England Patriots (11-3) @ New York Jets (3-11)
Hmm an 11-3 team takes on a 3-11 team in Week 16. The Patriots win 45-10 right? Not quite. I am calling for a New England victory, but it is going to be tough for them. The Jets normally play the Pats tight, and that is what makes these games exciting to watch despite the records of the individual teams entering the battle. This could be the last time that Rex Ryan the head coach goes up against Bill Belichick and his Patriots, so I expect his team to fight hard for him. In the end, they don’t have enough offensive firepower to keep up with Tommy Brady and the rugged Pats.
New England 21, New York 17
Atlanta Falcons (5-9) @ New Orleans Saints (6-8)
This is probably the most important match-up of a 5-9 and 6-8 team of all-time. It is taking place in New Orleans, which, in years past, would be an automatic for the Saints. However, they have lost four straight in their place (three of them by double digits) and they have to play on a short week since they just played on Monday night. Also, Atlanta has gone 4-0 within the division. So things do set up well for the Falcons. Unfortunately I cannot trust them to get’r done on the road. Julio Jones is banged up and their defense if not to be trusted. The four teams that the Saints have lost to in their last handful of home games sport top-20 defenses (with three of them in the top half of the league). The Falcons? Well, they’re ranked last. Saints pick up the “W”.
New Orleans 30, Atlanta 20
Minnesota Vikings (6-8) @ Miami Dolphins (7-7)
The Dolphins have lost two straight games and look like they are headed for another 8-8 season. The best they can hope for is a 9-7 finish and it will take a miracle for them to make it into the big dance. That said, I think they come out flat this Sunday after getting flattened by the Patriots in Foxboro last week. The Vikings have been playing good football lately and Teddy Bridgewater’s success this year has gone under the radar. I say the rook outperforms Ryan Tannehill this week and Minnesota picks up the road win. Yup, Week 16 is chock-full of upsets!
Minnesota 31, Miami 20
Kansas City Chiefs (8-6) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5)
This is definitely the toughest game to call this week. The Steelers are always unpredictable and the Chiefs have been pretty streaky this season. This one comes down to how well the Kansas City defense can stop Big Ben’s passing attack. Do I trust them to do it? Well, I’m feeling frisky this week so here is a very bold prediction: Bob Sutton’s unit holds Antonio Brown to only four catches this week, snapping his steak of games with 5+ catches. This won’t matter though because the Steelers still have a certain #26 who can pick up the slack. Since I am predicting a Charger choke job in Santa Clara on Saturday, I’ll pick Pittsburgh here as well. In fact, I’ll say it: the Ravens and Steelers replace the Chargers and Chiefs in the AFC playoff picture from last year. Yup, the post-season prediction comes one week early!
Pittsburgh 28, Kansas City 21
Baltimore Ravens (9-5) @ Houston Texans (7-7)
The Ravens won ugly at home over the Jaguars last week, and now they take their show on the road and face the Texans who will be throwing either rookie Tom Savage, Case Keenum, or Thad Lewis under the fire. Savage wasn’t awful in his impromptu cameo last week in Indianapolis, but he also wasn’t great. Unless Arian Foster runs for 160 yards and scores a couple of times to help whoever starts at QB, I don’t see the Houston offense doing much against the Ravens. The Texan defense is very opportunistic though. J.J. Watt is obviously an animal and the secondary has a knack for forcing turnovers and converting those into scores. So before I predict a Raven blowout, I want to keep these points in mind. Baltimore still wins, but the Texans keep it interesting.
Baltimore 23, Houston 21
Green Bay Packers (10-4) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-12)
After losing by eight points in Buffalo, the Packers look to rebound on the road against the Buccaneers. Easy pickings, one would think. The Bucs have not won a home game all year and the Packers don’t look like a team that is about to lose two games in a row. Aaron Rodgers would have to lay an egg for the second straight week for Tampa to even have a chance. Let’s face it: Josh McCown isn’t winning no shootout on Sunday. The Bucs need their defense to step up like the Bills’ did last week, and I just don’t see it happening. Green Bay keeps pace in the competitive NFC North with a much-needed win on the road before hosting Detroit for all the marbles at Lambeau next week.
Green Bay 36, Tampa Bay 22
Sunday, December 21st, 4:05 e.t.
New York Giants (5-9) @ St. Louis Rams (6-8)
The Odell Beckhams, err, I mean the Giants have been on a bit of a roll lately. They have won two straight games and have actually looked like a decent offense lately. With that being said, the Rams have only given up 12 points over the last three games and haven’t allowed a touchdown since Week 12. St. Louis is for real on that side of the ball and I think that Eli Manning struggles to stand in the pocket and find his receivers down the field. The Rams sack him five times and force him to throw two picks in a dominating win. Well, dominating stat-line wise, but the scoreboard will read different. The Giants either get a garbage-time touchdown or a return touchdown to make the score respectable.
St. Louis 20, New York 13
Sunday, December 21st, 4:25 e.t.
Buffalo Bills (8-6) @ Oakland Raiders (2-12)
I am so tempted to pick the Raiders to win this game, but I won’t simply because that Bills defense has been excellent lately. They have gone up against Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers in consecutive weeks and did not allow them to throw a touchdown pass against four picks. The Broncos and Packers scored a combined 38 points in those games against Buffalo, so predicting Derek Carr and the Raiders to fare better against them just seems wrong. Although stranger things have happened. Something feels weird about this game, but since I have picked enough upsets this week I’ll play it safe with this contest.
Buffalo 16, Oakland 9
Indianapolis Colts (10-4) @ Dallas Cowboys (10-4)
The Cowboys are coming off of a satisfying win in Philly and are now 7-0 on the road this season. Now they return home where they have posted a 3-4 record on the season. Also, with DeMarco Murray’s hand surgery on Monday, the star running back’s status for this game remains unknown. Jerry Jones seems to think that him playing on Sunday is not out of the question. Anyways, whether he plays or not, it will not affect my pick. The Colts have not played their best football as of late, but they have been winning their games. Andrew Luck is a beast and he should not have much trouble exploiting holes in the Dallas secondary. T.Y. Hilton is going to be a nuisance for them to defend. Furthermore, Coby Fleener is going to have a big impact in the middle of the field. I think Indy scoops up the big “W” because their offense will be too much for this average Dallas “D” to handle.
Indianapolis 35, Dallas 27
Sunday, December 21st, 8:30 e.t.
Seattle Seahawks (10-4) @ Arizona Cardinals (11-3)
The last time these two hooked horns in Week 12, it was the Seahawks who won 19-3. That was the unofficial start to this Seattle resurgence. Now, four weeks later with the division crown up for grabs, the two squads meet again in Glendale. The Cardinals have posted a 7-0 record at home this year and would really benefit with a win here. A win would give them the division and guarantee them at least one home game in the playoffs. So it is important for them to knock off the ‘Hawks. However, the Seattle defense has been incredible over the last month. Also, Ryan Lindley has hardly been a world-beater in his career. I don’t trust the inexperience QB to outsmart the Legion of Boom in this game. I think the Seahawks win big on the road.
Seattle 26, Arizona 9
Monday, December 22nd, 8:30 e.t.
Denver Broncos (11-3) @ Cincinnati Bengals (9-4-1)
The Broncos have been pretty great on defense and on the ground over the past month, but Peyton Manning has not been lighting up the scoreboard like we had become used to. If Manning could return to his MVP form and combine that play with the defense and C.J. Anderson’s legs, this Denver team could be unstoppable. I get the feeling that John Fox and Adam Gase are setting this up for the post-season. It is clear that the Broncos are trying to become a more physical team, and they will test their strength on Monday night against the Bengals. Next week they have the Raiders at home, so this is really their final test before the playoffs to see the final product. I don’t expect much mercy from #18. He tosses four touchdowns and C.J. Anderson adds two more on the ground. Andy Dalton plays an average game and doesn’t get much help out of his running game and the road team runs away with this game. Denver is the better team here and they will prove it in a dominant win.
Denver 42, Cincinnati 24
Week 16 Bonus Predictions
Upset of the Week: Chicago over Detroit
Sure Bet of the Week: Seattle over Arizona
Rookie of the Week: Aaron Donald
Offensive Player of the Week: Peyton Manning
Defensive Player of the Week: Mario Williams
Best Overall Offense: Philadelphia Eagles
Best Overall Defense: Seattle Seahawks
Feel free to leave a comment stating what you think will happen in this weekend’s games!