NFL Week 16 Picks: Predictions for Every Game
After a wild weekend, the NFL has plenty yet to clear up in Week 16.
Two AFC playoff and three NFC playoff spots remain, along with three divisions still up for grabs.
One of those is the NFC West, which pits Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night. Earlier, the two teams met at Candlestick Park where the 'Niners won, 13-6.
Since then, Seattle is 5-2 and has outscored its opponents 131-34 in the past three contests.
Presenting a more consistently explosive attack, the Seahawks will give San Francisco everything it can handle. But will it be enough?
Well, let's first predict the rest of the weekend and then finish with this key NFC divisional showdown.
Atlanta Falcons at Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions are on a six-game losing streak and just gave up 38 points to the Arizona Cardinals.
Yes, the Cardinals actually scored and finally won after dropping nine consecutive.
Invading the Motor City this week are the 12-2 Atlanta Falcons that just bulldozed the New York Giants. Atlanta's passing game is more effective than Detroit's, simply because Matt Ryan doesn't turn the ball over nearly as much.
Also, the Falcons' pass defense is much better than the Lions at forcing turnovers.
Falcons 31, Lions 14
Tennessee Titans at Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers present too much offense for the Tennessee Titans to handle.
Lacking a pass rush, run defense and consistent coverage, Tennessee will get diced up by Aaron Rodgers.
Include Green Bay's improved ground game and the Titans will also be kept off balance throughout.
Tennessee won't move the ball on the Packers' confident defense after they held the Chicago Bears to 190 total yards.
Packers 28, Titans 3
Oakland Raiders at Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers are one of the last teams the Oakland Raiders want to see.
For one, two of Oakland's four wins have come over the Kansas City Chiefs.
Secondly, the Panthers have won two straight and demolished the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.
Newton's dual-threat ability will keep Oakland off balance. And the Panthers appear to have found a successful defensive scheme: Stop the run and get quarterback pressure.
The Raiders don't field an explosive offense, and controlling the trenches won't be as easy in Week 16 as it was against K.C.
Panthers 30, Raiders 13
Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins
Until the Buffalo Bills figure out how to stop the run, every opponent should run the rock against them.
Ironically enough, the Miami Dolphins are not overly dominant at running the ball to set up the pass.
Playing well against the Jacksonville Jaguars was expected, but Miami was stiffed for an average of 2.5 yards per carry in their first meeting with Buffalo. And unlike Reggie Bush, C.J. Spiller is quite consistent despite the Bills' unreliable passing game.
So expect another low-scoring affair with the stronger ground game winning the tempo and possession battle.
Bills 16, Dolphins 10
Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers
This is one of the key playoff contests of Week 16.
The Cincinnati Bengals are ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers by one game and both are still alive to win the division.
Pittsburgh defeated Cincy on the road earlier this season because the defense isolated A.J. Green and stifled the Bengals' ground attack. Here, expect a similar approach from the Steelers.
The end result won't be the same, however, as the Bengals are playing with added confidence defensively. Cincinnati leads the NFL with 43 sacks and Ben Roethlisberger's pass protection remains inconsistent at best.
Bengals 20, Steelers 16
New England Patriots at Jacksonville Jaguars
The fourth quarter was vintage Tom Brady against the San Francisco 49ers.
And although the New England Patriots lost, that rhythm and momentum will carry over into Week 16.
Taking on the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady and Co. will have this game won by halftime. Jacksonville has no offense to keep pace and no defense to slow the Pats down, period.
Patriots 42, Jaguars 7
Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs
The only concern for the Indianapolis Colts in Week 16 is Jamaal Charles.
Indy gives up an average of 4.8 yards per rushing attempt and Charles gets 4.9.
Still, the Chiefs don't have the passing game to match Andrew Luck's high-powered capabilities. Nor does K.C. field a defense good enough to slow down the Colts: Allows an average of 352 total yards and 26.2 points per game.
The Colts' ground game has continued to improve and gain confidence as well, which only makes Luck working off play action even more effective.
Colts 23, Chiefs 10
New Orleans Saints at Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys have won five of six and the New Orleans Saints are barely hanging on to a chance at the playoffs.
That, however, does not guarantee anything for the Saints. Dallas applies more quarterback pressure and locks down in coverage more consistently.
On the other hand, Romo can be interception-prone at times and NOLA is quite opportunistic. So, the better ground game becomes the competitive advantage in controlling the tempo.
New Orleans averages 4.5 yards per carry to Dallas' 3.5 and has a more dynamic backfield to boot.
Saints 31, Cowboys 27
Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles
It doesn't matter who is under center for the Washington Redskins.
Kirk Cousins performed impressively well on Sunday and Washington's offense didn't miss a beat.
Even better, the Redskins travel to the Philadelphia Eagles, a team that let Robert Griffin III go 14-of-15 with four touchdowns against them in Week 11.
The Eagles have marginally improved since then, but don't have a chance as their offense is not capable of matching Washington's pace.
Redskins 35, Eagles 17
St. Louis Rams at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The St. Louis Rams against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is a tough matchup for each team.
Each offense can run the ball well and set up off play action.
Each defense, though, can stuff the run and make plays for turnovers against the pass. Tampa is a bit more high powered with the Josh Freeman-to-Vincent Jackson connection, but Sam Bradford has shown capabilities to spread the field.
Also, the Bucs rank No. 32 in pass defense.
One major disparity is quarterback pressure. St. Louis is far more consistent than Tampa and can suffocate better in man coverage to keep Freeman under duress.
Rams 14, Buccaneers 10
Minnesota Vikings at Houston Texans
Unsurprisingly, Adrian Peterson is the key to this game.
The Minnesota Vikings need him to dominate the trenches and the Houston Texans must stack the box.
And despite the Texans ranking No. 5 in rush defense, Houston allows an average of 4.1 yards per carry. By contrast, Peterson averages 6.3.
In turn, Houston's offense will need to remain balanced but push the tempo.
The Vikings still lack a passing game and don't possess the talent to become one-dimensional through the air. Expect Houston to totally load the box and force Christian Ponder to throw.
There's just no reason to only play a base front against Peterson, because he'll easily control the line of scrimmage. Therefore, regardless of Peterson's impact and production, Houston's defense will only bend while the offense should score when needed.
Texans 27, Vikings 17
San Diego Chargers at New York Jets
If there's any distinct advantage between the New York Jets and San Diego Chargers, it's Gang Green's pass defense.
Ranking No. 2 against the pass, New York gives itself a chance to be in good position regardless of the down and distance.
Philip Rivers continues to struggle with turnovers and the Bolts don't offer much pass protection. Given the Jets' rushing attack's ability to move the ball, Rex Ryan wins another ugly defensive slugfest.
Jets 13, Chargers 9
Cleveland Browns at Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos are one of the most confident teams in pro football right now.
Riding a nine-game winning streak, Denver completely slammed the Baltimore Ravens in Week 15.
Hosting the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, Denver faces a turnover-prone offense that also fails immensely whenever inside the red zone. The Broncos will shut down Cleveland's offense and the Browns don't have the defensive capabilities, even with their pass rush, to halt Peyton Manning.
Denver just presents too much talent on each side for Cleveland to win the field position battle.
Broncos 34, Browns 16
New York Giants at Baltimore Ravens
The New York Giants and Baltimore Ravens are desperate for a win.
Eli Manning and Co. are 2-4 since November began and Joe Flacco's Ravens have dropped three straight.
Neither defense has been consistent all year and the offenses lack consistent explosiveness to carry the team. As for this matchup, Baltimore will get more quarterback pressure to fluster Manning.
Ed Reed still resides in the Ravens' secondary, which provides Flacco with additional possessions in Week 16.
Baltimore is also slightly better at stuffing the run and blanketing in coverage without forcing turnovers.
Ravens 24, Giants 17
Chicago Bears at Arizona Cardinals
The Arizona Cardinals have a chance to salvage their season by spoiling that of the Chicago Bears.
Coming off a nice win against the Lions, Arizona proved its potential by forcing turnovers and running the ball consistently.
Chicago has trouble when it doesn't generate turnovers, because the defense remains suspect against the run. The Cardinals then have to bring a rush-heavy approach to shorten the contest, as the Bears offense can up the tempo with Brandon Marshall.
Arizona also struggles against the run; however, and that bodes well for Matt Forte and Michael Bush to keep Chicago balanced.
Bears 21, Cardinals 17
San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks
The San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks might as well just look into a mirror, because that is their Week 16 opponent.
Each offense has a dual-threat quarterback, stud running back and a great offensive line.
The defenses control the line of scrimmage, constantly wreck in the backfield and will shield every receiver downfield. There is one distinction, though, that will determine the Seahawks-49ers victor: run defense.
Seattle may rank No. 10 against the run, but it allows an average of 4.5 yards per rush. San Francisco ranks No. 3 in rush defense and gives up a mere 3.6 per carry.
In short, Frank Gore will impact more than Marshawn Lynch for the 'Niners to squeak out a tough divisional road game.
49ers 16, Seahawks 13
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