NFL Week 16 Picks: Predictions for Crucial Division Matchups
The NFC East is deadlocked with three teams sporting 8-6 records. That's all the more reason the Washington Redskins can't afford to lose to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.
The Eagles are of course the only NFC East team out of playoff contention at 4-10, but you can bet they'll be looking to play spoiler. No matter how dreadful the Eagles have been this season, this is still a division game.
A win won't come easy for the 'Skins.
Whether Robert Griffin III plays is still up in the air. Per NFL.com, RGIII's availability is based on the opinions of Redskins' doctors. Kirk Cousins proved he was capable to fill in, though. He threw for 329 yards and two scores in the 'Skins' 38-21 win over the Cleveland Browns.
Because of Cousins' play, and because of what RGIII means to the organization, and the potential risk of playing on an injured knee, I'd say Cousins will likely get the start.
Does that drastically hinder the Skins' chances to win?
Not in this particular game.
The Eagles are going to have to find a way to stop the Skins' ground game. Alfred Morris has been somewhat lost in the Griffin hype, but he is having a phenomenal season. The rookie has 1,322 yards and nine touchdowns this year.
He's a huge part of why the Skins are the league's best running team.
The Eagles' run defense has not shown the ability to slow a run game of this caliber. They are ranked just 20th in the NFL against the run. In their first matchup, a 31-6 win for the Skins, Griffin was near perfect. He completed 14-of-15 passes with four touchdowns, and he ran for 84 yards.
Morris set the tone in the game, though. His 76 yards helped to setup the play-fakes, and the Redskins' defense stamped out the Eagles attack.
This game won't be as lopsided, but the 'Skins will still be victorious, 24-17.
49ers at Seahawks
If this game were in San Francisco, it would be a much easier win for the 49ers. But it's in Seattle, and the Seahawks are the league's best home team, in my opinion.
The questions in this game will be whether Justin Smith can play after injuring his arm against the New England Patriots on Sunday night, and if Colin Kaepernick can handle himself in such a hostile environment.
When the Pats were making their furious comeback from 25 points down on Sunday night, Kaepernick and the offense couldn't sustain a drive to slow them down. Without Smith, the Niners defense couldn't stop Tom Brady and the Pats from scoring either.
Per the Mercury News, Harbaugh seems to be "optimistic" about Smith's availability for the Seahawks game. That will have a huge effect on the Niners' ability to contain Marshawn Lynch, and to pressure Russell Wilson up the middle.
Kaepernick didn't generate a substantial drive in the second half, but with the aid of a huge kickoff return from LaMichael James, he made the biggest play of the game.
Kaepernick made a key adjustment at the line of scrimmage and hit Michael Crabtree with a short pass that turned into a big play, and the game-winner.
Can he repeat that type of performance?
I say yes.
The Seahawks are a solid team, and they have been unbeatable at home. Neither QB has a ton of experience, but Kaepernick has the better supporting cast. The Niners will laminate their badge as the NFL's top team with another huge road win.
My prediction, Niners 20, Seahawks 17.
Bengals at Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers are reeling. They lost on the road in Dallas on Sunday, and now they are in a must-win situation against the Cincinnati Bengals.
At 7-7, they are a full game behind the Bengals and two full games behind the Baltimore Ravens. They most certainly need to win out to have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs. They already knocked off the Bengals in the team's Week 7 meeting, but things have changed since then.
The Steelers have lost two in a row, and four of their last five; while the Bengals have won five-of-six.
Can the Steelers right the ship?
No, not against a hungry Bengals team that sees an opportunity to smash the hopes of one of their biggest rivals. The Bengals will end the Steelers' playoff hopes with a 31-20 win.
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