NFL Week 16 Picks: Upsets That Will Shake Up the Postseason Race

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistDecember 18, 2012

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 16:  Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants walks off the field after a turnover on downs against the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on December 16, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

If you thought the NFL postseason race was muddled right now, wait until you see what happens after Week 16. There may not be as many marquee matchups as there were last weekend, but upsets happen every week in this league, and that can change everything. 

To date, seven teams have clinched a playoff berth. That leaves just five open slots and 13 teams to fill them. Even those teams that have already made it into the postseason are still jockeying for position. 

In anticipation of another huge weekend of games, here are the upsets that will change the landscape of the postseason race. 


New Orleans Saints at Dallas Cowboys

Depending on who you ask, this might not seem like an upset. Based on records, the way both teams are currently playing and the fact the Cowboys are at home gives us enough reasons to call the Saints an underdog. 

Drew Brees broke out of his funk in a big way against Tampa Bay last weekend, throwing four touchdowns and, more importantly, no interceptions. The Saints actually showed up to play on defense, pitching a shutout for the first time all season. 

The Cowboys got a huge, emotional victory against Pittsburgh. It wasn't always pretty, as they really shouldn't have let the game get to overtime because they were outplaying them from the start. Still, it is good to see such a talented team play up to its potential. 

Neither defense is great, though the Cowboys do have great players up front, so they need to get pressure on Brees if they hope to keep the scoring at bay. 

Don't expect to see either punter a lot in this game, which means it will come down to which quarterback you trust more. Even though Tony Romo has thrown six touchdowns to just one interception the last three weeks, Brees is still one of the three best signal-callers in the NFL. 

Look for the Saints to keep their extremely thin postseason hopes alive while putting a huge dent in the Cowboys'.

Saints 34, Cowboys 27


New York Giants at Baltimore Ravens

Considering the way these two teams have been playing down the stretch, a loss for either team would be devastating to their playoff prospects. The Ravens have already clinched a playoff spot, but Cincinnati is hot on their heels in the AFC North race. 

The Giants are a mess right now. They did have a one-game turnaround against New Orleans, which boasts one of the worst defenses in the league, but it was more of the same last week against Atlanta. 

The Ravens aren't much better, as Joe Flacco continues to make mistake after mistake and significantly damage any rhythm the offense hopes to create. To make matters worse, the defense ranks 25th in yards allowed. 

In a clash of two teams we thought would be good heading down a dark path, you have to go with the one you trust more. While that is a dangerous proposition with the Giants and Ravens, there seems to be more to like about the defending Super Bowl champions. 

Eli Manning always plays a handful of dud games but balances them out with a number of brilliant, MVP-type performances. This will be one of those games. They will keep their NFC East hopes alive while putting a dent in the Ravens' AFC North chances.

Giants 24, Ravens 23


Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers

The Bengals are suddenly players in the AFC North, while the Steelers are clinging to life for a wild-card berth. 

Even though the Steelers have lost four of their last five games, they still feel like the most dangerous team in the AFC if they are able to sneak into the playoffs. The defense is still incredible, even if they are down to their fourth and fifth cornerbacks. 

Ben Roethlisberger can make incredible plays in and out of the pocket that no other quarterback in the league is capable of. He just needs support from the offensive line in order to avoid so many big hits. 

The Bengals rarely play pretty, yet they keep finding ways to win games. They took advantage of Philadelphia's knack for turnovers in Week 15 en route to a 34-13 victory. They blew a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter against Dallas. 

This is the kind of game the Bengals need to win, as a kind of statement to the rest of the league they are prepared to make a serious playoff run. The Steelers just have to win to keep whatever playoff hopes they have alive. 

The AFC playoff picture isn't as cluttered as the NFC, but a Steelers win here will throw a lot of things, especially in the AFC North, into a frenzy. 

Steelers 27, Bengals 20