NFL Week 16 preview and predictions

Attention football fans! Week 16 is well underway, and it’s off to a great start! The week is loaded with important games, from Saturday games, through the early and late Sunday afternoon slates. The night game is also incredibly important, as is the final Monday night game of the year.  But first, lets recap the early games of the week.

The Thursday game was decent, but the two Saturday games were nothing short of great. Mark Sanchez got picked off late in the early game, and despite blowing a 24-14 lead, the Washington Redskins turned the interception into a game winning field goal. They prevailed 27-24, and severely damaged any playoff hopes the Philadelphia Eagles had.

In the late game, despite throwing three picks, Chargers quarterback rallied his squad from a 28-7 first half and a 35-21 deficit, ultimately winning a 38-35 thriller in overtime.

Speaking of picks, I went 14-2 with my Week 15 edition, upping my overall record to 160-59-1. Granted, my Week 16 picks have not gotten off to a great start, but I have hope that most of them will be on target.

Thursday Night Football (8:30/7:30c, NFL Network)

Tennessee Titans (2-12) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12)

Prediction: Titans 14, Jaguars 22. Result: Titans 13, Jaguars, 21.

 

Saturday games

Philadelphia Eagles (9-5) at Washington Redskins (3-11) (4:30/3:30c, NFL Network)

Prediction: Eagles 28, Redskins 17. Result: Eagles 24, Redskins 27.

San Diego Chargers (8-6) at San Francisco 49ers (7-7) (8:25/7:25c, CBS and NFL Network)

Prediction: Chargers 17, 49ers 20. Result: Chargers 38, 49ers 35, ot.

 

Sunday noon games (CBS & FOX, 1/12c)

Kansas City Chiefs (8-6) at Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5) (CBS)

LIne: Steelers by 3. O/U: 48.

There are quite a few intriguing games in the early slate, but no other noon game features a matchup in which both teams need a win. The Steelers are just half a game behind the Cincinnati Bengals for the AFC North lead, and are tied with the Baltimore Ravens with a 9-5 record. As a result, the two teams are holding on to the two AFC wild card playoff slots.

The Steelers have a quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger who has had some truly fantastic games this season, one of the league’s top receivers in Antonio Brown, and a running back in Leveon Bell who has topped 2,000 total yards. But, while they have some impressive home wins over the Ravens and Colts, they have lost questionable games too.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs are also an enigma. They have won games at Miami, San Diego and Buffalo, but also lost at the Oakland Raiders. At home, they have won against the Seahawks and Patriots, with the latter being a Monday night blowout, but also have an embarrassing home loss to the Tennessee Titans, whose other win came against the Jags.

As for this game, I see it being similar to other games the Chiefs have played on the road, against contending teams. They held leads at Arizona and San Francisco, but lost those games by three and five points. In Week 2, they played a close game against the Broncos, but lost 24-17. I want to pick them, and it would be awesome to see some more chaos in the standings, but I’m not buying it. Still, this game’s a must watch. Prediction: Chiefs 24, Steelers 27.

New England Patriots (11-3) at New York Jets (3-11) (CBS)

Line: Patriots by 10.5. O/U: 46.5

Let’s get one thing out of the way. The Patriots are the vastly superior team, no doubt about it. Aside for 2008, when Tom Brady suffered an ACL tear in Week 1, the Patriots have been better than the Jets since the turn of the century. But, the Jets seem to always play the Patriots tough.

Since 2008, three of their meetings have gone to overtime. Almost every season, the Jets win at least one of the meetings. And, this might be the last time Rex Ryan coaches against Bill Belichick as the Jets’ head coach. Add in the fact that running back LeGarrette Blount and receiver Julian Edelman will not play, and this game looks more like a trap for a team hoping for the AFC’s  top spot.

That said, Since 2001, there have only been two seasons in which the Patriots did not blow out the Jets at least once. I’m not saying this game will be a blowout. But, I do believe the game will be close for three quarters, before things get out of hand in the fourth. Prediction: Patriots 37, Jets 23.

Baltimore Raves (9-5) at Houston Texans (7-7) (CBS)

Line: Ravens by 6. O/U: 42

One of the games that looked better a few weeks ago is this tilt in Houston. That’s back when the Texans were still had legit playoff chances, and they were not preparing to start a quarterback the same week they picked that player off another team’s practice squad. Alas, that’s exactly what the Texans are preparing to do.

Starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was decent over the course of the season, before getting benched for Ryan Maalett. Then, Mallett got injured for the remainder of the season in the team’s Week 12 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, and Fitzpatrick returned with a vengeance.

He threw a team record six touchdown passes against the Tennessee Titans, and played solid in a win at the Jacksonville Jaguars, before snapping his leg last week in Indianapolis. He wound up being declared out for the season, and Tom Savage looked like, well, a fourth round rookie. So, now they have to play a ferocious pass rush with a quarterback that started and lost eight games for them a season ago.

That Ravens pass rush is quite special, and the team overall has been playing its best football since the first half of the season. They have won four of five, with the only loss being a heartbreaking 34-33 defeat at the hands of the feisty San Diego Chargers three weeks ago. They have the league’s third best rush defense, so they can limit Arian Foster. Add in the fact that the Texans are 1-3 against teams still in the playoff hunt, and there’s not much else there is to say. JJ Watt is still an MVP candidate, but he cannot save them here. Prediction: Ravens 28, Texans 20.

Detroit Lions (10-4) at Chicago Bears (5-9) (FOX) 

Line: Lions by 9.5.  O/U: 44.

The past few previews have been longer than usual, so here’s a short one. The Lions may have clinched a playoff berth with the Eagles’ loss, and they do not need a win to get the NFC North crown, but does anybody expect anything less than a blowout? The Lions hate the Bears, who have benched Jay Cutler, and are starting Jimmy Clausen. Oh, and the Lions defense is tops in rush defense. Bloodbath guaranteed. Prediction: Lions 34, Bears 6.

Green Bay Packers (10-4) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-12) (FOX) 

Line: Packers by 12.5. O/U: 49.

The next game is a somewhat intriguing game solely because it’s in Tampa. If this game were in Green Bay, I’d pick the Packers to win 63-6. But, since it’s a road game, and the Packers are just 3-4 away from Lambeau Field, I’ll say it will be a bit closer. Still, make sure to start all your Green Bay Packers in fantasy. Prediction: Packers 34, Bucs 16.

Cleveland Browns (7-7) at Carolina Panthers (5-8-1) (CBS)

Line: Panthers by 4. O/U: 40.5

Is Johnny Manziel starting again? Is Cam Newton Back? Have the Panthers garnered their mojo back?  Have the Browns lost three straight? Will they get blown out again? Yes on all counts. Prediction: Browns 13, Panthers 34.

Atlanta Falcons (5-9) at New Orleans Saints (6-8) (FOX)

Line: Saints by 6.5. O/U: 56.

Up next is the lone early FOX game in which both teams have playoff hopes. However, neither team is worthy of a spot, or a high notch on this article. Both have blown away leads and have been major disappointments. That said, the Saints look to be back to at least somewhat reliable, and the Falcons have lost three of four, after doing the exact opposite a few weeks ago. Expect a high scoring affair, even if Julio Jones sits. Prediction: Falcons 31, Saints 38.

Minnesota Vikings (6-8) at Miami Dolphins (7-7) (FOX)

Line: Dolphins by 5.5. O/U: 42.

The final noon game to address should be an enjoyable one. Both teams are eliminated from contention, but are very competitive teams. The Vikings are a surprising 6-8, with three of their losses coming by three points or less. They may be playing without much of a running game, but they are finding ways to play close games.

Meanwhile, the Dolphins are on a slide. They have lost three of four, and four of six. But, those losses came against New England, Detroit, Baltimore and Denver. The only one of those teams that is not atop its division is the Baltimore Ravens, who are within a half game of the AFC North’s top spot.

Ryan Tannehill has been up and down as always, which is the same way receiver Mike Wallace’s season has gone. But, running back Lamar Miller has been consistently good, as has the defense, despite allowing 69 points the last two games. I’ll roll with the home team, in a very close contest. Prediction: Vikings 21, Dolphins 23.

 

Late afternoon games (4:05/3:05c on FOX, 4:25/3:25c on CBS)

Indianapolis Colts (10-4) at Dallas Cowboys (10-4) (CBS)

Line: Cowboys by 3.5. O/U: 55.5

While all but one of the early games holds playoff implications, this is the only late afternoon game where the same applies. That said, this might be the biggest game of the day. Each team is still in the running not only for a first round bye, but also the top spot in their respective conferences.

As a result, a few paragraphs was not enough to dissect this matchup. So, I actually did a matchup focus for this game. For that, as well as my prediction for the game, here’s the link:

https://shanpsports.wordpress.com/2014/12/21/nfl-week-16-indianapolis-colts-10-4-at-dallas-cowboys-10-4-matchup-focus/

Buffalo Bills (8-6) at Oakland Raiders (2-12) (CBS)

Line: Bills by 7. O/U: 39

As loaded as the Colts/Cowboys game is, the other CBS game is anything but. Yes, it’s relevant for both teams, seeing how the Bills are still in the hunt for the playoffs, while Raiders still have a shot at landing the top pick of the draft.

This is a clear trap game for the Bills, who are coming off an emotional 21-13 home victory over the previously scalding Green Bay Packers. Next week, they face the New England Patriots, and prior to the Packers’ game, they battled the Broncos to a ferocious 24-17 loss. Basically, this game is sandwiched between three tough matchups against potential top two seeds. The Bills split the first two, and the final game might be the biggest of all. So, this game is a cushion compared to those games.

However, the Raiders are not to be taken lightly at home. They’ve already defeated the Chiefs and 49ers in Oakland, and played teams like Arizona and San Diego hard. In fact, they actually had a lead for most of the first half against the Denver Broncos here, until Peyton Manning ripped that defense apart. But, I will still pick the road team. I believe they are focused and ready for the grind down to the wire, and while this game will be closer than many would expect, this defense will do enough to get the win. Prediction: Bills 27, Raiders 17.

New York Giants (5-9) at St. Louis Rams (6-8) (FOX)

Line: Rams by 6.5. O/U: 43.

The lone FOX late game is not all that intriguing, but does provide some fascinating side notes. The Rams have lost a bevy of close games this season, blowing double-digit home leads against the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers, losing a controversial heartbreaker in San Diego, and falling last Thursday to the Arizona Cardinals, despite not allowing a single touchdown. Basically, their record should be a lot better than it is.

Meanwhile, the Giants are looking to close out the season on the right foot. They began the season losing their first two games, winning the next three, and losing seven straight thereafter. The latter three games were very close, and likely should have been wins. However, Eli Manning threw five picks against the 49ers, they blew a 14-3 lead on a Sunday night to Dallas, and blew a 21-0 lead at Jacksonville to lose by a point. Had they won those three games, they’d be in the playoff hunt as of now. Instead, they have to settle for a ceiling of seven wins this season.

On the bright side, despite that horrid showing against the 49ers, Manning may end up with his second lowest interception total in any season he’s fully started in his career. He would need to avoid throwing one in the final two games, and can only afford one if he wants to tie his 2009 mark. His offense is riddled with injury, but rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. might just wind up winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. As has been the case all year, he was great last week too, setting a career high with three touchdown receptions.

However, that game was against the Redskins. The Rams are playing defense as well as anybody the past month or so, and this will be a tough game for the Giants. I see them competing, but losing a close, hopefully entertaining affair. Prediction: Giants 21, Rams 27.

 

Sunday Night Football (8:30/7:30c, NBC)

Seattle Seahawks (10-4) at Arizona Cardinals (11-3) 

Line: Seahawks by 9. O/U: 36.

The nightcap is, simply put, a very important game. A win for the Cardinals would give them home field throughout the playoffs, while a Seahawks’ victory keeps Seattle in the running for the top spot.

This game is all about one word: defense. The two teams are as good as they get on the defensive side of the ball. The Cardinals have allowed only two teams to surpass the 20-point mark, and possess the sixth best rush defense in football. The Seahawks are the best pass defense, and fifth against the run.

Basically, this game will come down to who conjures a better offensive output. The Cardinals have no quarterback, and will likely have to go with Ryan Lindley. Lindley, ladies and gentlemen, has never thrown a touchdown pass. Starting running back Andre Ellington is out for the season, and both Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd, the team’s top two receivers, are hampered.

Meanwhile, the Seahawks boast the league’s top rush offense, anchored by “Beast Mode” Marshawn Lynch. Even if the Cardinals manage him, their 29th-ranked pass defense will create opportunities for Russell Wilson, who may not have the best weapons, but does have some decent ones. In the end, I see the Seahawks putting up a decent amount of points on the board, while shutting down the Cardinals yet again. They won 19-3 in Seattle, and this game will be similar. Prediction: Seahawks 23, Cardinals 13.

 

Monday Night Football  (8:30/7:30c, ESPN)

Denver Broncos (11-3) at Cincinnati Bengals (9-4-1) 

Line: Broncos by 3.5. O/U: 48.

The Monday night finale is everything ESPN could’ve hoped for. It’s a game featuring two current division leaders, each with a lot to play for, and some flashy players. While the Broncos have clinched the AFC West, they need a win to keep any hopes for the top seed alive.

The Broncos also need either a win or Colts loss to clinch a first round bye. They also provide the bulk of the stars, with quarterback Peyton Manning being one of the faces of the league. Meanwhile, receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, as well as tight end Julius Thomas, defensive end Demarcus Ware, linebacker Von Miller, and cornerback Aqib Talib are amongst the best in the league at their respective positions.

Despite the passing atack, the Broncos have shifted to a more balanced offensive outlook. Despite being without running backs Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman, they have used CJ Anderson as a battering ram and reliable pass catcher out of the backfield. This is a strategy they hope will make the difference from last year’s finish to this year.

Meanwhile the Bengals are playing to stay atop the AFC North. They are just a half game ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, having to play the former on the road next week. They are still likely to make the playoffs with a loss in either game, but any loss could spell utter disaster. Andy Dalton has had his ups and downs, while AJ Green is having yet another terrific season, and rookie running back Jeremy Hill has been terrific as part of a rushing duo with speedster Giovanni Bernard.

This game is one where the Bengals will put up some points. However, I cannot see them thriving over the Denver Broncos. The Broncos have a better defense, and their second-ranked rush defense may stifle Cincinnati’s duo. I see the Broncos utilizing a balanced attack to win this game. Prediction: Broncos 34, Bengals 21. 

 

Enjoy the games!

 

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