Bleacher Report's Expert Consensus Week 16 NFL Picks
Last week was billed as "Statement Week" in the NFL, but the only statement made was the same one being proclaimed in Weeks 1-14: The NFL is a crazy place.
No one expected the San Francisco 49ers to jump out to such a convincing lead against the New England Patriots. Just as unlikely? The Patriots' surge to make it a close game at the end. What should've been a great game turned into a blowout and then back into an amazing game.
Lots of people are hoping that was our Super Bowl preview.
No one expected the New York Giants to get shut out against the Atlanta Falcons. No one expected the Carolina Panthers to fly across the country and steal the San Diego Chargers' lunch money. No one expected the Seattle Seahawks to do their best Oregon Ducks impersonation (complete with alternate uniforms) and hang a 50-spot on the Bills.
Week 16 should be even crazier as teams ramp up for the playoffs and wind down for a long offseason of answering critics.
Our B/R Panel of Experts
Note: All betting odds are for informational purposes only and courtesy of Statfox.com. Although spreads are provided, all picks are straight up.
Atlanta Falcons vs. Detroit Lions
B/R Consensus: Falcons (Unanimous)
Vegas: Falcons (-3)
The Lions are playing for draft position now, and there's little chance of them being able to do their "Cardiac Cat" routine against the Falcons. Look for them to get down early and stay down.
The Falcons made a big-time statement against the Giants. There's a legit fear of a letdown here, especially with Detroit's defensive line being able to dominate up front against the Falcons. But Mike Nolan's defense keeps the Lions in check.
The Falcons finally played a full 60 minutes of quality football in Week 15 and need to continue building on that body of work as they prepare for the playoffs. Instead of resting players or tuning up as the season comes to a close, watch Atlanta keep pushing on offense.
Months ago, this already looked like a tough game for the Lions. But now that they've packed it in and traveled to "Don't Care No Moreville," I have a hard time believing they can make a game of it.
Honestly, they don't have the secondary to stop the trio of Tony Gonzalez, Julio Jones and Rowdy Roddy White. I'd like to say it is a close one, but who am I kidding? Unless Detroit wakes up, this could be real ugly.
New Orleans Saints vs. Dallas Cowboys
B/R Consensus: Cowboys (8-3)
Vegas: Cowboys (-3)
If the Saints play like they played last week, they win this game handily. Both of these teams have been wildly inconsistent from game to game, but I like Tony Romo to get the job done here.
This Cowboys team just keeps finding ways to win, even with an extremely banged-up defense. Drew Brees and the Saints are playing better than they were early in the season, but the Cowboys keep their playoff hopes alive.
With the way New Orleans played against Tampa Bay, you have to wonder where this team has been all season. Drew Brees and Co. have made it their mission to finish the season strong.
I love what Dallas is doing right now, and I'm not putting a ton of stock into the unpredictable Saints trashing the Buccaneers last week. Dallas stays alive with another close home victory.
Tennessee Titans vs. Green Bay Packers
B/R Consensus: Packers (Unanimous)
Vegas: Packers (-11.5)
The Titans have an outside chance if they're able ramp up their pass rush and get Chris Johnson rolling early. That said, it's just not happening. Even if they harass Aaron Rodgers all day long, the Packers just have too much talent not to put this one away.
This is a classic mismatch. The Titans aren't on this level. Green Bay wins big.
The only hope for the Titans is if Chris Johnson can take advantage of the poor Packers run defense and they somehow manage to get a big lead. Otherwise, the Packers will stomp them. They have too many weapons for Tennessee to stop.
Indianapolis Colts vs. Kansas City Chiefs
B/R Consensus: Colts (10-1)
Vegas: Colts (-6.5)
It's tough to believe that Indianapolis' run defense will stop Jamaal Charles, but it might be even harder to remember the last time the Chiefs scored on offense. The Colts shouldn't take this game lightly, but only one of these teams has a capable QB.
Andrew Luck will have to be aware of where Tamba Hali is on each and every play. Kansas City's pass rush can dominate Indy's offensive line, but Luck will make all the difference.
Even if the Chiefs were playing the Jaguars at home, I wouldn't pick them to win a game at this point. The Chiefs have been strangely capable at times this season, but mostly awful. Without Dwayne Bowe, they are just going to be awful.
Picking the Chiefs: Miller
Buffalo Bills vs. Miami Dolphins
B/R Consensus: Dolphins (9-2)
Vegas: Dolphins (-4.5)
It's tempting to go with the home team here, but the Bills had the Dolphins' number last time around, and I'm giving them a bit of a pass after getting embarrassed by the Seahawks. They shut down Miami's ground attack before and can do it again.
Ryan Tannehill should be the starter in Miami for a long time. Ryan Fitzpatrick's time as the starter in Buffalo is coming to a close. Dolphins fans may be less than thrilled with their team this year, but Joe Philbin's group gets a division win.
The Bills packed it in a long time ago. Miami has at least remained competitive throughout the season.
San Diego Chargers vs. New York Jets
B/R Consensus: Jets (10-1)
Vegas: Jets (-3)
There's little reason to pick either of these teams to win a game, but San Diego's injuries, especially to Ryan Mathews, should mean a field day for the home team.
This will be an ugly display of football. The Chargers can't block New York's pass rush. The Jets can't move the ball on the ground or through the air on anyone. The Jets win because they're at home and because Norv Turner is involved.
The Chargers didn't even show up on Sunday at home against the Panthers. That's by Takeo Spikes' own admission. Traveling to the East Coast isn't going to help them get motivated to play.
How anyone could have confidence in the Chargers to win this game after what happened to them against the Panthers is beyond me. The Jets pick up the win by making fewer mistakes than their opponent.
Picking the Chargers: Miller
Washington Redskins vs. Philadelphia Eagles
B/R Consensus: Redskins (Unanimous)
Vegas: Redskins (-4)
A few weeks ago, I thought the Redskins were on the outside looking in for the playoff race. Another convincing win with a healthy RGIII should pretty much end that notion. The only question is if the Redskins defense can outscore the offense with all the turnovers the Eagles are sure to provide.
Hard to know how this plays out without knowing who will be starting for Washington. Not that it matters. The Eagles defensive linemen have been playing out of their minds, but it won't be enough to win.
Doesn't matter who starts at quarterback for the Redskins. This team is greater than the sum of its parts and should be able to hammer an unmotivated Eagles team.
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
B/R Consensus: Steelers (7-4)
Vegas: Steelers (-4)
Look for the Steelers to pressure Andy Dalton and throw him off his game early. Dick LeBeau knows he can't cover A.J. Green, but he can make darn sure the ball doesn't get anywhere near him.
The Bengals are probably the better team, but I'm taking the Steelers because I can't see Mike Tomlin and Big Ben losing a big game at home late in the year with the playoffs in sight. That's it.
The Steelers are on a two-game losing streak and can't do anything to bump the Baltimore Ravens out of the playoffs. Still, Heinz Field is not a good spot for the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
If the last few weeks are any indication, this won't be pretty, especially with both teams' January hopes on the line. I have the Steelers winning a close one.
**AGAINST THE GRAIN**
The Steelers have lost four of their last five games. The Bengals have won five of their last six games. Pittsburgh can't run it, and that doesn't bode well against a defensive line that leads the league in sacks. That should allow the Bengals to tee off on Roethlisberger
Also Picking the Bengals: Miller, Hansen, Gagnon
St. Louis Rams vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
B/R Consensus: Rams (7-4)
Vegas: Buccaneers (-3)
Long term, I love where the Buccaneers are headed. But in this game, I think the more experienced coach (Jeff Fisher) and the tougher defense (Rams) gets the edge.
The Bucs were thoroughly embarrassed by the Saints. The Rams couldn't have looked less intimidating against the Vikings. The Bucs get back on track by running the football and getting the ball to Vincent Jackson off play-action.
This is a matchup between teams that have exceeded everyone's expectations from a record standpoint. Yet, they just aren't quite good enough to take that next step as playoff contenders.
Even though Tampa Bay is losers of four straight, it still has the edge over a Rams team that is 2-7 outside the NFC West. Doug Martin will set the tone for the Bucs offense by topping the century mark for the fifth time this season.
With a secondary that leaves much to be desired, the Buccaneers will have a tough time stopping Sam Bradford, who threw for 377 yards against the Vikings. Both Josh Freeman and Doug Martin have been sluggish of late and won’t have enough to keep up with the Rams.
Also Picking the Buccaneers: Hansen, Dunlevy
Oakland Raiders vs. Carolina Panthers
B/R Consensus: Panthers (Unanimous)
Vegas: Panthers (-8.5)
I predicted Oakland's offensive ineptitude before the season, and none of the fans believed me. Any points Cam Newton gets will be enough to win this one for Carolina.
The Panthers are in the midst of saving Ron Rivera's job by beating up on bad teams, and Oakland certainly qualifies for that distinction.
The Raiders haven't traveled well, and the Panthers are not nearly as bad as the Chiefs. The Raiders will actually have to score touchdowns to win this game. Cam Newton is capable of burning Oakland's terrible secondary and evading a paltry pass rush.
Cam Newton has bounced back from a slow start. He not only looks like the complete package he was during his rookie season, but he is also limiting mistakes. As long as he keeps the turnovers to a minimum, Carolina will win games.
New England Patriots vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
B/R Consensus: Patriots (Unanimous)
Vegas: Patriots (-14.5)
Maybe the Jaguars can catch a plane to London and tell Roger Goodell they thought the game was there this week. Pats roll.
Poor Jacksonville. It gets Tom Brady and the Patriots a week after New England lost a tough game to San Fransisco. You can expect the Pats to take it out on the Jaguars. Make sure you bring your Jag Rags, Jaguars fans!
After the way the Patriots lost to the 49ers, it's hard not to feel bad for their next opponent. The Patriots will be ready to make a statement heading into the playoffs against a very bad team.
New England has forced its opponents to execute long drives down the field, and the Jaguars have proven utterly incapable of doing that this year.
Pats will win a laugher. I don't think Jacksonville fans will be laughing, though.
Minnesota Vikings vs. Houston Texans
B/R Consensus: Texans (Unanimous)
Vegas: Texans (-7.5)
It is tempting to pick the Vikings here, if only because Adrian Peterson cannot be stopped. Still, I look for the Texans to force Christian Ponder into enough mistakes and Arian Foster to control the ball well enough to equalize Peterson's efforts.
The Texans will use their running game to keep Adrian Peterson off the field and use Andre Johnson to score points. Peterson will be held to fewer than 200 yards for the first time in seemingly forever.
Adrian Peterson will have a good day, but the problem is he might be the only one. The Vikings defense, which has forgotten how to tackle for the most part, is going to have to stop Arian Foster.
If it does that, it then has to control Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels. And if the Vikes fall behind, which I expect, then it's on Christian Ponder to win. That is exactly how J.J. Watt could break the sack record.
This is a tough game to pick. Houston didn't defend the run well last week, but I'm not ready to back Christian Ponder on the road. Houston locks up home field with a solid win.
Cleveland Browns vs. Denver Broncos
B/R Consensus: Broncos (Unanimous)
Vegas: Broncos (-13.5)
The Browns are tough against the pass, so maybe that spread is a little high. But the Broncos are playing better football than anyone right now, and Brandon Weeden and Co. won't be able to match point for point.
The Browns have the makings of a good football team. The Broncos are a good football team. It's almost unfair to Browns fans to make them watch Brandon Weeden while having to watch Peyton Manning play for the opposing team.
The Broncos may well be the best team in the NFL at present. Though trap games can happen, it won't be this Sunday against the Cleveland Browns. There are positives about Cleveland's season, but the Browns can't beat a team like Denver just yet.
With two more wins, the Broncos will secure a first-round bye in the playoffs and ensure that the Patriots (or another team) have to come to Denver.
The last thing the Broncos want is to have to travel to Foxborough in January. Handling the Browns at home shouldn't be a problem for Peyton Manning and Von Miller.
Chicago Bears vs. Arizona Cardinals
B/R Consensus: Bears (Unanimous)
Vegas: Bears (-5.5)
The Bears are fighting for their playoff lives and have a lot more to play for than the Lions, the last team the Cardinals beat up on. Bears roll thanks to the Cardinals' inept offensive line.
We expected the Lions to stomp the Cardinals last week, but that didn't happen. The Bears have a much better defense and, despite some uneven play, a better offense. This shouldn't be a hard game to win, even on the road. The Bears absolutely have to win if they want to make the playoffs.
Don't expect another surprise victory for the Arizona Cardinals in Week 16. They were fortunate enough to have the Lions make every mistake possible on Sunday.
While the Bears may not be that same 7-1 team we thought they were after Week 9, they are still the more talented team, even on the road.
New York Giants vs. Baltimore Ravens
B/R Consensus: Giants (9-2)
Vegas: Giants (-2.5)
Weeks ago, I said that Baltimore's defensive injuries wouldn't matter if the offense could continue to carry the team. It didn't, and it got Cam Cameron fired. However, with the injuries to the Giants defense, I'm looking for a better day for Joe Flacco and Co.
Two teams coming off embarrassing butt-kickings. Who do you trust to shake it off and show up to play this week: Joe Flacco or Eli Manning? Yeah, me too.
New York is sliding quickly, but so is Baltimore. Under those circumstances, I'll take Tom Coughlin. I know this is a tough road game, but I'll take a more desperate Giants team.
Both the Giants and Ravens have been maddeningly inconsistent, and now the Ravens don't even look like the unbeatable-at-home squad they've been over the past few seasons.
The Giants, however, just got shut out by the Atlanta Falcons and could well miss the playoffs after winning the Super Bowl last season.
If New York plays to the level of its talent, it will get the win on Sunday. Pound for pound, the Giants are in far less trouble on both sides of the ball than Baltimore.
Also Picking the Ravens: Frenz
San Francisco 49ers vs. Seattle Seahawks
B/R Consensus: Seahawks (8-3)
Vegas: Pick 'em
Two of the best teams in football playing some of the best football. At home, with that crowd and defense, it's impossible to pick against the Seahawks.
This could be a tough game to watch. Not because of the quality of play on the field, mind you, but because the hitting will be so fierce that you can expect a number of injury timeouts.
I tend to think the Niners are the more talented team. But on this night, in this stadium, the Seahawks will find a way to win.
Talk about a hard decision. This was by far the toughest choice I've had to make all year. Right now these clubs are the hottest in the NFL.
San Francisco just went to Foxborough and put it on the Patriots in historic fashion, but the Seattle Seahawks have outscored their opponent 108-17 over the last two games.
These are evenly matched teams without a doubt, yet I'm picking Seattle because of its 6-0 home record.
Michael Schottey is the NFL national lead writer for Bleacher Report and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff at The Go Route.