NFL Week 16 Previews, Predictions, TV Info, Odds and Picks Against the Spread
The next to last week of the 2015 NFL regular season began with a meaningless game between two franchises with a Christmas wish to never play in front of their own fans again, desperately wanting to relocate for greener pa$tures. AFC West division rivals San Diego and Oakland met on Thursday night in Charles Woodson’s next to last game.
While there are several games of high importance for determining this season’s playoff picture, the two most relevant matchups are Cincinnati at Denver in the AFC and Washington at Philadelphia in the NFC. The Bengals-Broncos tilt is in all likelihood a determination of which team will receive a much coveted first round bye, while the latter is an elimination game for Philly, and a chance for the Skins to mercifully end the NFC East division race – and avoid a situation where an NFL team with a losing record would be rewarded with a first round playoff game at home.
As has been the case nearly all season, this week there is a paucity of games between teams that both have winning records. There are only three games that fit in that category this week (and just two for the entire day Sunday): the Patriots at Jets in an early game, Green Bay at Arizona late, and then Cincinnati at Denver on Monday night. No wonder the NFL pushes fantasy football and jumps in bed with weekly fantasy/gambling sites to maintain fan interest; 21 franchises have not at this point produced a winning record for their consumers, the fan bases for their respective teams.
NFL Week 16 Playoff Picture with Clinching and Elimination Scenarios
NFL Week 16 TV Info: Patriots-Jets, Panthers-Falcons Receive Primary Early Game Broadcast Distribution
NFL Week 16 Television Maps
★★★★ 7-7 Washington Redskins at 6-8 Philadelphia Eagles
Saturday, December 26 at 8:25 pm ET on NFLN; Ian Eagle, Trent Green, Evan Washburn
Eagles -3 (opened at -4) . . . . over/under 48 . . . . Phi -150, Was +130
This could be a game where DeMarco Murray returns to his 2014 self, if only he could get on the field. Washington is allowing 130 rushing yards per game (28th) and 4.9 yards per carry (31st). However, the Eagles need to finish drives better on both sides of the ball. Philly’s offense ranks 26th in red zone touchdowns (1.3 per game) and hits pay dirt on only 50% of their trips to the red zone (26th). Chip Kelly‘s D isn’t much better, allowing 2.5 red zone touchdowns per game (30th) and their 68.6 RZ percentage is last in the NFL. On the other hand Washington scores touchdowns 64.1% of the time in the red zone, while the defense is limiting opponents to touchdowns 51.2% of the time (8th) and 1.5 RZ touchdowns per game (9th). A win would give the Skins a division title for only the second time in 16 seasons – and insure the NFC East will not send a team with a losing record to the playoffs. Philly has been blown out in three of their last five games, and Kirk Cousins is playing noticeably better with DeSean Jackson back in the lineup.
Prediction: Skins 28, Eagles 27
Skins +3 . . . . . over 48 (one unit) . . . . . Washington +130
★★★ 5-9 Chicago Bears at 6-8 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sunday, December 27 at 1:00 pm ET on FOX; Sam Rosen, Matt Millen, Peter Schrager
Bucs -3 (opened at -2½) . . . . over/under 46 . . . . TB -160, Chi +140
Both teams have lost three of their last four games, but there is a sense that the Bucs are heading in the right direction while Chicago is going the opposite way. Doug Martin quietly ranks second in the NFL with 1,305 yards rushing (just nine yards behind Adrian Peterson) leads the NFL with 13 carries of 20+ yards, and his 5.1 yards per rush is best among all players with at least 150 attempts. The Bears have played much better (4-3) on the road than at home (1-6), but their defense nneds to come up with some big plays: Chicago’s 14 takeaways rank 28th in the NFL. The Bears have been guilty of playing to the level of their competition, with wins at Green Bay, at Kansas City, at St. Louis and a two-point loss versus Denver – while playing poorly in home losses to the Niners and Washington. WR Alshon Jeffery will miss his sixth game with a hamstring injury; the Bears will need to make tough decisions on him and RB Matt Forte as both are set to become free agents in March.
Prediction: Bucs 27, Bears 20
Bucs -3 . . . . . over 46 . . . . . Tampa -160
★★★★ 14-0 Carolina Panthers at 7-7 Atlanta Falcons
Sunday, December 27 at 1:00 pm ET on FOX; Kevin Burkhardt, John Lynch, Pam Oliver
Panthers -6½ (opened at -6½) . . . . over/under 47½ . . . . Car -300, Atl +250
Remember in mid-October when people debated which of these two NFC South teams would lose first? How about back in August, when nobody doubted that the Falcons possessed the superior offense? Fast forward to late December and the Panthers are averaging an NFL-best 32.1 points per game while Atlanta is tied for 19th at 21.6 ppg. Matt Ryan has not thrown more touchdown passes than interceptions in a game since Week 9 when he had one TD and no picks against San Francisco. Fun fact: Carolina has only played one team with a winning record at the time the two met this year (Green Bay, Week 9).
Prediction: Panthers 31, Falcons 20
Panthers -6½ . . . . . over 47½ . . . . . Carolina -300
★★ 4-10 Dallas Cowboys at 6-8 Buffalo Bills
Sunday, December 27 at 1:00 pm ET on FOX; Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Laura Okmin
Bills -6½ (opened at -5½) . . . . over/under 42½ . . . . Buf -270, Dal +230
Why has there been such a precipitous drop off in production for the Bills, when the hiring of Rex Ryan was supposed to improve performance for an already good Buffalo defense? It is quite simple, really. Rex prefers to blitz and confuse opponents, rather than rush four linemen and drop seven defenders in coverage. Ryan’s philosophy does not mesh well at all with a great (or at least very effective) defensive line. His downfall as a coach is his stubborn inability to adapt to the strengths and weaknesses of the players on his roster.
Prediction: Bills 20, Cowboys 17
Cowboys +6½ . . . . . under 42½ . . . . . Dallas +230
★ 4-10 San Francisco 49ers at 5-9 Detroit Lions
Sunday, December 27 at 1:00 pm ET on FOX; Thom Brennaman, Charles Davis, Tony Siragusa
Lions -10 (opened at -8½) . . . . over/under 42½ . . . . Det -600, SF +450
San Francisco has scored more than 17 points just once since Week 6, and Detroit has won four of their last six games to remove themselves from contention for the top overall draft pick.
Prediction: Lions 24, Niners 16
Niners +10 . . . . . under 42½ . . . . . San Francisco +450
★★★ 3-11 Cleveland Browns at 9-5 Kansas City Chiefs
Sunday, December 27 at 1:00 pm ET on CBS; Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon, Chris Fischer
Chiefs -11 (opened at -12½) . . . . over/under 42½ . . . . KC -600, Cle +450
Say what you want about Alex Smith, but the Chiefs rank second in the NFL with only twelve turnovers – and five of those came way back in Week 2 when KC fumbled the game away to Denver. That formula should work fine against a team like the Browns, but I can’t help but wonder if that is a sustainable recipe for success come playoff time when facing the league’s elite squads.
Prediction: Chiefs 24, Browns 14
Browns +11 . . . . . under 42½ (one unit) . . . . . Kansas City -600
★★★ 6-8 Indianapolis Colts at 5-9 Miami Dolphins
Sunday, December 27 at 1:00 pm ET on FOX; Dick Stockton, David Diehl, Kristina Pink
Dolphins -2½ (opened at -1) . . . . over/under 44 . . . . Mia -140, Ind +120
Indy takes a page out of their Suck for Luck campaign and loses a game they could and should win.
Prediction: Dolphins 24, Colts 20
Dolphins -2½ . . . . . under 44 . . . . . Miami -140
★★★★★ 12-2 New England Patriots at 9-5 New York Jets
Sunday, December 27 at 1:00 pm ET on CBS; Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts, Evan Washburn
Patriots -3 (opened at -3) . . . . over/under 45½ . . . . NEP -155, NYJ +135
Did you know that according to ESPN, Ryan Fitzpatrick is having a better season than Tom Brady, and that the greatest game a quarterback has ever had was when Charlie Batch threw two picks and passed for 186 yards?
Podcast: Patriots vs Jets Preview
Patriots 2015 Opponents: Five Impressions of the Jets
Patriots-Jets Key Matchups
Key Players to Watch, Patriots at Jets
Prediction: Patriots 20, Jets 16
Patriots -3 . . . . . under 45½ (one unit) . . . . . New England -155
★★★ 7-7 Houston Texans at 3-11 Tennessee Titans
Sunday, December 27 at 1:00 pm ET on CBS; Spero Dedes, Solomon Wilcotts
Texans -3½ (opened w/Titans -4½) . . . . over/under 40½ . . . . Hou -170, Ten +150
I could not for the life of me understand why Tennessee opened as favorites by more than a field goal. Had Houston already clinched? No; had Brian Hoyer suddenly turned into a combination of Otto Graham, Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana and Tom Brady? No, the dropoff from Hoyer to Brandon Weeden was not quite that monumental; if nothing else, Hoyer and Marcus Mariota both being out is a wash. Hopefully you all jumped on that line when it was available early in the week.
Prediction: Texans 27, Titans 17
Texans -3½ . . . . . over 40½ . . . . . Houston -170
★★★ 9-5 Pittsburgh Steelers at 4-10 Baltimore Ravens
Sunday, December 27 at 1:00 pm ET on CBS; Greg Gumbel, Trent Green, Jamie Erdahl
Steelers -10 (opened at -9½) . . . . over/under 47 . . . . Pit -600, Bal +400
Perhaps with this being a division rivalry the score will remain close, but Baltimore has more starters on injured reserve than they have able to suit up and play at this point – though they have plenty of other problems as well. Thankfully this game was flexed out of the Sunday night prime time slot.
Prediction: Steelers 27, Ravens 13
Steelers -10 . . . . . under 47 . . . . . Pittsburgh -600
★★★★ 5-9 Jacksonville Jaguars at 5-9 New Orleans Saints
Sunday, December 27 at 4:05 pm ET on CBS; Andrew Catalon, Steve Beuerlein, Steve Tasker
Saints -3 (opened at -3½) . . . . over/under 51½ . . . . NO -175, Jax +155
I realize that part of the job of television announcers is to promote the game in order to maintain viewer interest, but sometimes these people just go completely off the rails. Last week on Sunday Night Football, Jon Gruden said that he “really liked the Saints’ defense“. Memo to Chucky: so does every single offense in the NFL.
Prediction: Jaguars 31, Saints 28
Jaguars +3 . . . . . over 51½ (one unit) . . . . . Jacksonville +155
★★★★★ 10-4 Green Bay Packers at 12-2 Arizona Cardinals
Sunday, December 27 at 4:25 pm ET on FOX; Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews
Cardinals -4½ (opened at -4) . . . . over/under 50½ . . . . Ariz -220, GB +190
Two weeks ago Minnesota nearly beat Arizona, but lost due to three turnovers. Green Bay is the best in the league at not giving the ball away (only 11 all season), but will be without CB Sam Shields and LT David Bakhtiari. It’s too bad that FOX was able to protect this game; it should be the league’s showcase contest on Sunday night.
Prediction: Cardinals 27, Packers 24
Packers +4½ . . . . . over 50½ . . . . . Green Bay +190
★★★ 6-8 St. Louis Rams at 9-5 Seattle Seahawks
Sunday, December 27 at 4:25 pm ET on FOX; Chris Myers, Ronde Barber, Jennifer Hale
Seahawks -12½ (opened at -14) . . . . over/under 40½ . . . . Sea -950, StL +650
I feel bad for Wes Welker for not only having to play for Jeff Fisher, but also because his only job opportunity in the NFL was on such a putrid offense.
Prediction: Seahawks 24, Rams 13
Rams +12½ . . . . . under 40½ . . . . . St. Louis +650
★★★ 6-8 New York Giants at 9-5 Minnesota Vikings
Sunday, December 27 at 8:30 pm ET on NBC; Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya
Vikings -6½ (opened at -4) . . . . over/under 45 . . . . Min -270, NYG +230
I wonder how many fantasy football championships will be won or lost due to Odell Beckham’s suspension? This is a difficult game to handicap because when the game kicks off the Giants could either be eliminated from the post-season, or have the potential to put themselves in a three-way tie for first place with a win; similarly the Vikings could be locked in to the sixth seed depending on the outcome of earlier games.
Prediction: Vikings 24, Giants 20
Giants +6½ . . . . . under 45 . . . . . Minnesota -270
★★★★★ 11-3 Cincinnat Bengals at 10-4 Denver Broncos
Monday, December 28 at 8:30 pm ET on ESPN; Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters
Bengals -3½ (opened at -3½) . . . . over/under 39½ . . . . Den -180, Cin +160
Battle of the backup quarterbacks to determine a first round bye. This is a rarity: a genuinely competitive game between two of the league’s best teams on a Monday night.
Prediction: Broncos 23, Bengals 20
Bengals +3½ . . . . . over 39½ . . . . . Cincinnati +160
★★ San Diego Chargers (4-11) at Oakland Raiders (7-8)
Thursday, December 24 at 8:25 pm ET on NFLN; Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Tracy Wolfson
Raiders -4 (opened at -6) . . . . over/under 45 . . . . Oak -200, SD +170
Prediction: Raiders 24, Chargers 17 ✓
Raiders -4 X . . . . . under 45 ✓ . . . . . Oakland -200 ✓
Final Score: Raiders 23, Chargers 20 (OT)
Considering the two team’s records, the game was far more entertaining than I had anticipated even though both defenses dominated the second half and the two clubs combined for 25 penalties worth 196 yards. San Diego led by seven at halftime but the Raider defense was stout, and sacked Philip Rivers for a safety late in the third quarter. Oakland finally took a three-point lead with less than five minutes to play when they recovered a fumble on the three, scored on the next play, and then converted on the two-point conversion. Josh Lambo hit a 45-yard field goal in the final minute to send it to overtime, and after an eight-minute drive on the first possession of OT Sebastian Janikowski kicked a 31-yard field goal. The Raiders stopped Danny Woodhead for a two-yard gain on third down on San Diego’s ensuing possession, and then a pass to Dontrelle Inman – who had to play defense as a nickel back late in the game due to injuries – fell incomplete to end the game. Oakland WR Seth Roberts – a teammate of Malcolm Butler at West Alabama – made two big plays late: scoring on that two-point conversion, and then holding on for a key 33-yard juggling catch and run to set up the game-winning field goal.