NFL Picks Week 16: Shocking Upsets That Will Stun Playoff Contenders

Joseph SchmidtContributor IIIDecember 18, 2012

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 16:  Running back Mikel Leshoure #25 of the Detroit Lions celebrates with  Kevin Smith #30 after scoring a 1 yard rushing touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals during the second quarter of the NFL game at the University of Phoenix Stadium on December 16, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Atlanta Falcons are one of the best teams in football, sitting atop the NFC at 12-2 and undefeated at home. But when they go to Detroit this week for a Saturday night matchup, they might find difficulty in a frustrated Lions team looking to rebound.

After an ugly 38-10 trouncing from the Arizona Cardinals, the Lions are eager to once again put a beatdown on Matt Ryan.

Last season, Roddy White made comments about Ndamukong Suh and Cliff Avril, who appeared to taunt Ryan when he went down with an ankle injury.

Ryan said he holds no ill will toward the Lions players since the incident. But the Lions are probably nothing but ill will, however.

After a couple of promising seasons, the Lions have dropped six in a row and are now out of playoff contention, once again achieving a losing season.

Now, they’re playing for pride, and a win against the NFL’s best team would sure bolster their spirits.

The Baltimore Ravens have clinched a playoff spot, but their play of late makes it seem as if their season has already ended. Despite firing Cam Cameron and promoting Jim Caldwell, the offense has yet to find a rhythm this late in the season.

And instead of turning to the tried and true talent of RB Ray Rice to carry them through, they’ve relied on QB Joe Flacco’s flaky arm.

A few weeks ago, this wouldn’t be an upset, but with the way the New York Giants have been playing, even the Ravens can be considered a clear favorite in this contest.

But the Giants have been beaten down so much that their postseason chances have all but dwindled.

Now that Eli can feel the pressure, it’s time he does something with it. His team still needs help to make the playoffs, but that means it has to play that much harder in the games it actually has control over.

With the Ravens' play continuing on a downward spiral, expect a similarly sluggish Giants squad to rebound with a big win.

Minnesota has been a surprise of the season, with experts split between the Bears and the Packers in their predictions. But the Vikings have shown up where the Bears have not in the second half of the season, specifically in the running game.

The phenomenal recovery of Adrian Peterson might warrant him the Comeback Player of the Year Award, but he’s got his sights set firmly on the MVP.

A dominating performance against what is arguably one of the League’s best defenses might make a convincing case.

And though the Texans are certainly impressive, led by second-year pro DE J.J. Watt, the Minnesota Vikings are playing well enough to beat the AFC's best team.

The Vikings might stun the Texans, leaving questions about Houston as we go into the playoffs.