Article Written by: Julian Beck
Week 16 brings us some pretty interesting match-ups. There are a handful of games that will decide if many teams make the playoffs or not. All the players on the sidelines will be scoreboard watching, to see if the teams they needed to win to help their team clinch a playoff spot.
Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills
Despite the lingering distraction of the bullying scandal, the surging Miami Dolphins have a chance to reach the playoffs for the first time in five seasons. Looking for a season-high fourth consecutive victory, the visiting Dolphins can possibly clinch that playoff berth Sunday while trying to avenge an earlier loss to the Buffalo Bills, who will be without their starting quarterback and top receiver. Miami opened the season winning three in-a-row then dropped the next four after the bullying scandal. If the fins win their next two match-ups they will have a chance to clinch a playoff birth, but if Baltimore and Cincinnati lose this week also then Miami can clinch that spot by Monday night. Buffalo won’t have EJ Manuel or Stevie Johnson this game, so Thad Lewis will be under center again. Last time Lewis faced the Dolphins he went 21 of 32 for 202 yards with an interception and no TDs, while getting sacked 4 times. Miami only allows 117 yards rushing per game so CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson will have a tough match-up since they will be relied upon most of the game. Dolphins will force multiple turnovers and play physical against a young Bills team.
Prediction: 28-17 Dolphins
Minnesota Vikings at Cincinnati Bengals
Looking to bounce back from their first loss in a month and remain undefeated at home, the Bengals can possibly secure a playoff berth and the AFC North title Sunday while trying to make sure the Minnesota Vikings go win-less on the road for the third time in franchise history. Riding a three-game winning streak in which it topped 40 points twice, Cincinnati (9-5) took a step back with last Sunday’s 30-20 loss at Pittsburgh. The Bengals were held to 279 total yards at Pittsburgh, falling to 2-2 this season when recording fewer than 300 yards. Andy Dalton threw for 230 yards with two touchdowns and A.J. Green caught nine passes for 93, but Cincinnati’s longest gain of the night covered 19 yards. Cincy won’t let a mediocre night like that happen again with their offensive fire power. Green and Bernard are set to have big nights, along with the defense disrupting Matt Cassel. The Vikings have been playing much better football as of late, the injury bug just won’t stop biting this team. Set to make his third straight start, Cassel has thrown for 890 yards with five TDs and two INTs in the last three games. Cassel has a connection with Greg Jennings but it won’t be enough to win this game.
Prediction: 32-21 Bengals
Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs
Because of some surprising results last week, both the Indianapolis Colts and Kansas City Chiefs still have an outside shot at earning a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs. There’s also a decent chance Sunday’s matchup at Arrowhead Stadium won’t be their last this season. Already in the postseason, both the Chiefs and Colts will have their minds set on improving their seeding in what could wind up as a preview of an AFC wild-card matchup. To win out, the Colts must show better consistency than they have over the past six weeks. Since Nov. 10, the team has alternated wins and losses every week, most recently beating Houston 25-3 last Sunday. However, Indianapolis’ inability to string together impressive performances could be costly come playoff time. The Chiefs (11-3) have bounced back from their three-game losing streak by scoring a combined 101 points in two road wins. Running back Jamaal Charles had 195 yards receiving and accounted for five touchdowns in last Sunday’s 56-31 rout of Oakland. Colts will have a tough match-up against a very stingy Chiefs defense. Their defense has some flaws as we found out in later weeks, but with the Colts missing Reggie Wayne to open up Hilton on deep passes it will be hard to move the ball up field with a weak running game. Alex Smith doesn’t turn the ball over and won’t start this week. Bowe will have a solid game, helping Kansas City to being able to have a first round bye.
Prediction: 28-14 Chiefs
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at St. Louis Rams
St. Louis (6-8) hasn’t been to the postseason since the 2004 campaign while Tampa Bay’s last playoff appearance came after the 2007 season. Optimism for the future is possible since the Rams have won three of their last five games while the Buccaneers have won four of six since an 0-8 start. Neither team is using the quarterback it began the season with since Sam Bradford is out after season-ending knee surgery and Josh Freeman was cut by Tampa Bay (4-10) on Oct. 3. Tampa is coming off a 187 total yard day against the 49er’s last week. While the Rams shut down the high powered Saints last week, allowing them to only score in the 4th quarter. Zac Stacey rushed 28 times for 133 yards and one touchdown, closing in on 1,000 yards rushing for the season. He has 854 yards rushing in only the six games he has started. Janoris Jenkins will have a tough test on Vincent Jackson, but he was able to knock passes away from Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham last week. Look for the Rams to force many sacks on Glennon and win with their defense.
Prediction: 27-21 Rams
Cleveland Browns at New York Jets
New York (6-8) is officially out of the playoff race for a third consecutive season under Ryan after reaching the AFC championship in his first two. The Jets lost for the fourth time in five games, 30-20 at Carolina last weekend, and their postseason fate was sealed with Baltimore’s 18-16 win over Detroit on Monday. Geno Smith has been playing bad football all year. Making horrible decisions and throwing interceptions from left to right. He doesn’t have any offensive weapons but you can’t put all the blame on that. Chris Ivory has shown some flashes of brilliance, showing he can carry the work load. But the Jets defense is what kept them in the playoff race for most the season. They only allow and eye popping 87 yards a game on the ground. The Browns will try to capitalize on the Jets’ recent defensive issues and record their first victory since beating the Ravens on Nov. 3. They blew a fourth-quarter lead for the third straight game Sunday, falling 38-31 to Chicago. Cleveland has lost at least 10 games in six straight seasons. Jordan Camerons status is still up in the air, the Browns have no running game, and Josh Gordon can’t do it all on his own. The Jets front seven will wreck havoc and force some turnovers, Geno Smith will have to take advantage of those turnovers though.
Prediction: 20-14 Jets
Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins
Even after two disastrous losses have left them a game back of the NFC East lead, the Dallas Cowboys control their playoff fate with two games to play. They’ll try to remain in that position with a road win Sunday over the Washington Redskins in their final game before a potential Week 17 showdown with Philadelphia for the division title. The Cowboys offense hasn’t been bad at all this season, it’s their defense that has been historically bad for them. For the season, they’re allowing a league-worst 427.3 yards per game, 297.4 of which come through the air. They’ll get a third straight shot at a backup quarterback in Washington, which chose last week to sit starter Robert Griffn III for the final three games of the season. Kirk Cousins, however, didn’t have much trouble moving the ball against Atlanta, another bottom-five defense, in a 27-26 loss that was a failed two-point conversion attempt away from ending the Redskins’ losing streak. Cousins went 29 for 45 with 381 yards, three TDs and three of the team’s seven turnovers in his first start of the year. Alfred Morris will be relied up this game to open up the passing game on a very vulnerable Dallas defense. Look for Cousins, Garcon, and Morris all to have big games and ruin the Cowboys season.
Prediction: 38-32 Redskins
New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers
It’s a pretty straightforward scenario for the New Orleans Saints this week: win and they’ll not only clinch the NFC South, but also the conference’s No. 2 seed and a first-round bye. If they lose, the exact same circumstances will await the Carolina Panthers in Week 17. Nola is coming off a unexpected loss to the Rams last week. Brees and the offense weren’t able to get anything going until the 4th quarter. Carolina’s only loss in its last 10 games came at the Superdome, and it has been especially dominant at home. The Panthers have won six straight there by an average of 18.7 points. Cam Newton was sacked five times at New Orleans and an NFL-high 28 on the road, but he’s been sacked just 10 times in seven home games. Like Brees, big plays have been a much more common occurrence for Newton at home. He’s averaged 8.36 yards per attempt in Charlotte with 12 plays of 25-plus yards. He has only one in his past three road games while throwing for 4.84 yards per pass. Carolina is very comfortable at home, and will have the crowd on their side in this match-up. Newton doesn’t have much fire power on offense but that hasn’t stopped him from producing this year. The Panthers front seven may be one of the best in the league and will try and make Brees uncomfortable while dropping back. Carolina will step up big.
Prediction: 28-14 Panthers
Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars
The Titans (5-9) have gone 1-9 within their division since the start of last season, including 0-4 in 2013. Tennessee, which fell 30-24 at Houston on Sept. 15 and was swept by Indianapolis, also suffered a shocking 29-27 home loss to previously win-less Jacksonville on Nov. 10. The Jaguars have had multiple injuries all year. Cecil Shorts was just placed on IR earlier this week, Luke Jokel has been on IR after tearing his ACL, MJD sat out last weeks game, and Justin Blackmon was having monster games until getting suspended indefinitely. Seeking its first division win, Tennessee tries to avenge last month against the Jags. Titans have been playing decent football all year. Chris Johnson isn’t doing as bad as everyone believes, and Ryan Fitzpatrick has been playing stellar in place of Jake Locker. Delaine Walker has been producing big numbers these last two games, and Kendell Wright has been a stud all season, totaling 85 catches for 1,007 yards and 2 touchdowns so far this season. Look for CJ2K to produce a big play or two and help move the ball this week.
Prediction: 31-21 Titans
Denver Broncos at Houston Texans
Still in good position to claim home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, the Denver Broncos are poised to move on from last week’s humbling defeat. The visiting Broncos can possibly clinch a division title and the No. 1 seed in the conference when they try to extend the Houston Texans’ team-worst losing streak Sunday. Denver (11-3) entered last Thursday’s home game with San Diego averaging league highs of 39.6 points and 465.6 yards, but was held to a season-low 295 while scoring its fewest points of 2013 in a 27-20 loss. Fortunately for the playoff-bound Broncos, New England couldn’t overtake them for the top spot in the AFC as it lost to Miami on Sunday. Peyton won’t have Welker once again and maybe for the final game as well, but that isn’t going to hold this offense back. With their 3-headed monster at receiving core can tear any defense apart. Thomas, Decker, and Julius Thomas have had stellar seasons and will continue to add to those stats against a weak Texans defense. Texans just placed Ben Tate on IR and seems like they are giving up on the season just to secure that number one pick in the upcoming draft. Broncos will win easily and the starters may end up sitting the second half of this game.
Prediction: 42-17 Broncos
New York Giants at Detroit Lions
Detroit now needs to win out and have Chicago and the Packers each lose at least once over the final two weeks to make the playoffs. A stunning 61-yard field goal dealt the Detroit Lions’ playoff hopes a major blow and left them needing a good deal of help to make the postseason. Matthew Stafford was responsible for a good deal of the offense’s struggles, throwing three interceptions, though he was victimized by some drops. Calvin Johnson dropped two big passes in the first half and had six catches for 98 yards, below his lofty standards. Don’t expect them to struggle again against a weak Giant defense. Reggie Bush should be called upon to carry a good workload to open up the passing game and relive pressure off of Stafford. While New York won’t be playing for a postseason berth the last two weeks, there’s something of a sense of urgency around the team regarding Manning, as two more poor performances could add to the growing concern surrounding the franchise quarterback. Manning has an NFL-high 25 interceptions and his 69.7 rating is the lowest of his career. Victor Cruz won’t be available this week and may be out the rest of the season. Andre Brown was no where to be found last week against the Seahawks and may have another tough match-up against a strong front seven. Lions should have no problem in this game if they trust Reggie.
Prediction: 32-21 Lions
Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks
The Seattle Seahawks reached the Super Bowl the last time they earned home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. They can secure home field again with a win Sunday over the visiting Arizona Cardinals — who would be all but eliminated from postseason contention with a loss. With just Sunday’s game against Arizona and next week’s contest versus St. Louis remaining, Seattle (12-2) could be playing at CenturyLink Field until the Super Bowl, should they get that far. The Seahawks, who have won 14 regular-season home games in a row since losing Dec. 24, 2011, to San Francisco, lost Super Bowl XL to Pittsburgh after finishing with the NFC’s best record in 2005. The Seahawks offense has been clicking well these last couple of weeks. Being very balanced and not turning the ball over at all. Their defense is the best in the league and just causes nightmares to every team. The Cardinals have been playing consistent football since Bruce Arines took over the coaching duties. Creating a balanced offense and very strong defense. Palmer and Fitzgerald have been making plays and caring this offense the last three weeks. Don’t believe it will be enough to beat the Seahawks and the 12th Man in Seattle.
Prediction: 28-14 Seahawks
Pittsburgh Steelers at Green Bay Packers
Back-to-back come-from-behind victories have the Green Bay Packers in control of their postseason chances, but they’ll have to make do without Aaron Rodgers for at least one more week. Rodgers will miss his seventh straight game due to a fractured left collarbone Sunday against the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers, leaving Matt Flynn under center again as the Packers try to keep pace in the NFC North. Since averaging 15.5 points while going win-less in four games after losing Rodgers, the Packers (7-6-1) have found an offensive rhythm with Flynn in their last two. He’s gone 50 of 71 for 557 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions while rallying Green Bay to back-to-back victories. The Packers trailed visiting Atlanta by 11 at halftime before pulling out a 22-21 win Dec. 8, then stormed back from a 26-3 halftime deficit to stun Dallas 37-36 win last week. Eddie Lacey has been a work horse all season and has been carrying this offense since Rodgers went down with the broken collarbone. The Steelers also remain alive for a postseason berth following a 30-20 win over AFC North-leading Cincinnati on Sunday, though they’ll need a lot to go their way over the final two weeks. Pittsburgh has to win out against the Packers and Browns, and have Miami, New York, San Diego and Baltimore finish with 8-8 records for the tiebreakers to work in its favor. Since committing 15 turnovers — 10 interceptions — over his first nine games, Roethlisberger has two giveaways in his last five contests. He’s thrown 12 touchdowns and one pick over that span. Antonio Brown has been Roethlisberger’s top target this season, reaching career highs with 95 catches for 1,307 yards and eight touchdowns. He scored for the fifth time in as many games in last week’s win. Even though Rodgers will be out another week, the Packers are rolling at the right time and Lacey will find holes and carry this team once again.
Prediction: 27-20 Packers
Oakland Raiders at San Diego Chargers
While another impressive victory over one of the top teams in the AFC kept their slim chances alive, the San Diego Chargers still need plenty of help down the stretch to secure a postseason berth. They’ll try to take care of what they can control when they host the struggling Oakland Raiders, as San Diego looks to avenge an earlier loss and win for the fourth time in five games Sunday. Three weeks after snapping a three-game losing streak with a 41-38 victory at Kansas City, San Diego (7-7) pulled off another big road upset with a 27-20 win over conference-leading Denver last Thursday. With three wins in four games, the Chargers remain alive for the second and final wild-card berth in the AFC — though Miami damaged their long-shot chances with Sunday’s victory over New England. Philip Rivers is playing sensational football, completing a league leading 70% of his passes. Ryan Mathews has finally stayed healthy all season and is having a career year, leading the league with five 100 yard games. Keenan Allen may win Offensive Rookie of the Year with how consistent he has been. Raiders are coming off one of their best offensive performances of the season. They reached a season high in points while finishing with 26 first downs and 461 total yards in a 56-31 loss to Kansas City on Sunday. Making his fifth straight start, Matt McGloin completed 18 of 35 for a career-high 297 yards with two touchdowns but added a career-worst four interceptions. He’ll need to take better care of the ball after committing eight turnovers over the past four games. Raiders have had an inconsistent passing game. McFadden has been the typical McFadden, always getting injured. Rashard Jennings has been their MVP so far this season, doing everything out the back field. Jennings won’t be enough to beat the Chargers.
Prediction: 42-21 Chargers
New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens
After four straight wins, the Ravens control their fate in the AFC North and can clinch a playoff berth for the sixth straight season this week with a little cooperation from the league. First, they’ll need to take care of business at home Sunday against the New England Patriots, for whom the playoff formula is a little easier to follow: Beat the Ravens and a fifth straight AFC East title is theirs. In Monday night’s 18-16 win at Detroit, Justin Tucker’s leg bailed out an offense that continued to stall in Lions territory and failed to reach the end zone. He made six field goals, including a 61-yard winner in the final minute to set a franchise record. Baltimore plays well during the second half of the season under Harbaugh. Flacco flips the switch and plays some of the best quarterback in the cold, hardly turning the ball over. After a slow start to the year, the passing game has been more Patriot-like over the last six weeks. Brady leads the league with 2,225 passing yards since Nov. 3, and he’s throw 14 touchdowns with four interceptions in that span. Whether they can convert in the red zone without Gronkowski, something they struggled with in the first six games without him, remains to be seen. With Gronk out yet again Brady will heavily rely on Amendola, Eldelman, and hopefully the running game can come back alive. Flacco and his offense control the possession time during this time of the year, and since he doesn’t turn the ball over much during crunch time it seems to be enough to sneak on by with a win.
Prediction: 28-27 Ravens
Chicago Bears at Philadelphia Eagles
While the Eagles had a five-game win streak snapped last Sunday with a surprising 48-30 loss in Minnesota, the Bears welcomed back Jay Cutler and won 38-31 at Cleveland. The following day, Chicago (8-6) took a one-game lead in the NFC North when Detroit lost to Baltimore. The Bears will earn the division crown with a win Sunday if second-place Green Bay loses to Pittsburgh and the Lions don’t beat the Giants. Of those North rivals, if only Detroit loses, this game won’t mean as much to Chicago because regardless of the result, they would face the Packers for the division title next Sunday. The Bears were moving the ball up the field with force when Josh McCown was under center. Turning the ball over just once and scoring at will with Brandon Marshall and the rising star in Alshon Jeffrey. The head coach Trestman has made everyone better on this offense. It shows in Matt Forte and Alshon as well. Forte has stayed healthy all year doing it all, rushing for over 100 yards in three straight games, and receiving out the back field. While the Eagles have been playing unstoppable offense as well. Nick Foles got under center and this offense has taken off. He is making great decisions and connecting on the deep ball better then any QB playing today. LeSean McCoy is the x-factor of court, because when the running game is going good so is the passing game. With Cutler back under center and cringing at every throw cause you never know if it will be picked off or not. McCoy will run all over this defense and help the Eagles get closer to the playoffs.
Prediction: 38-28 Eagles
Atlanta Falcons at San Francisco 49er’s
Atlanta squeaked on by last week with a one point victory against the struggling Redskins. The running game wasn’t strong by Steven Jackson who was able to rush on in for 2 touchdowns. Roddy White is playing like Roddy White before his injury. Matt Ryan was making good decisions under center and had enough offensive fire power to beat the RGIII-less Redskins. While Kapernick and his offense are connecting on all cylinders. The rushing attack is opening up the passing game for Davis, Boldin, and Crabtree. Davis benefits from it the most, getting open down field and making huge plays. The 9er’s defense isn’t to be messed with either. Creating turnovers and allowing the offense to take advantage of it. Even though the Falcons were able to perform well on offense last week it won’t carry on into Monday night. Kapernick and the passing game will win them this game.
Prediction: 28-14 49er’s
Do you have the same predictions as me? If not, leave your comments down below.