Will Adrian Peterson be the best RB in his Week 16 matchup?
There was no Thursday Night Football and Monday Night Football is being played on Saturday. This crazy NFL season just gets wackier. Four teams in the AFC are set for the playoffs, and three in the NFC are in as well.
The NFC East is still wide open, and though the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers have clinched playoffs berths, there are still scenarios where they lose their division. With major fantasy implications taking place all across the country, Week 16 may be the most important week of the 2012 NFL season.
Next week, teams that are in the playoffs may rest players to prepare for the postseason. This is the week the true MVPs will step to the forefront. Here are the picks from the winning teams of the best players in each game.
The Detroit Lions defense is 11th in the NFL versus the pass in the NFL. But the Lions have allowed 27.1 points a game and 10 passing plays over 40 yards. Coming off a loss last week at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals, the Lions get an offensive juggernaut in the Falcons.
Both Lions safeties, Louis Delmas and Don Carey, appeared on the injury report this week. Tony Gonzalez, the 16-year professional, knows how to take advantage of hobbled defenders. Look for the future Hall of Fame tight end to exploit the Lions deep middle.
Gonzalez could end up with two long touchdowns as the Falcons blow out the Lions.
The New Orleans Saints have the second-worst pass defense in the NFL, and no doubt Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is chomping at the bit to get this game underway. While the Cowboys have worked in recent weeks to get the running attack going with DeMarco Murray, the Cowboys are still a pass-first team.
Dez Bryant is a physical receiver who has sneaky, fast speed. Bryant has scored a touchdown in the last six games. Romo knows Bryant wants to extend that streak and will be looking to his go-to player versus the Saints.
Look for Bryant to have at least one touchdown and over 100 yards receiving versus an overmatched Saints secondary.
The loss of wide receiver Jordy Nelson has forced players like James Jones and Randall Cobb to step up their games in the Green Bay Packers offense. With Greg Jennings still getting his game legs underneath him, Jones will again be quarterback Aaron Rodgers' go-to guy.
Jones has 12 touchdowns on the year to lead the NFL and should be able to continue his scoring ways versus a passing defense that is 19th in the NFL in pass defense. The Tennessee Titans give up 28.3 points a game.
Jones seems to have found a rapport with Rodgers and is coming off a three-touchdown game last week. Jones will lead both teams in yards receiving and touchdowns. Jones will be the runaway MVP selection in a huge Packer drubbing.
Andrew Luck has not thrown for over 200 yards in the last two games but has the remedy for his ills this week. The Kansas City Chiefs have the 18th-ranked defense in the NFL and give up 26.2 points a game. Luck will find his hot hand versus a Chiefs defense that does not have much to play for but pride.
The Chiefs defense, though solid versus the passing attack, has struggled versus the run. The Indianapolis Colts offense will expose the Chiefs secondary this week after establishing the run early.
Wide receivers Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton and Donnie Avery with benefit from Luck’s ability to use play-action passes. Look for Luck to pass for over 300 yards versus the Chiefs and two touchdowns as the Colts secure a playoff berth.
The Buffalo Bills defense is not very good and is allowing 5.1 yards a rush. The Bills allow their opponents 144.1 yards per game on the ground and have given up 22 rushing touchdowns.
Reggie Bush rushed for over 100 yards for the first time since Week 2 last week. Bush was given the football over 20 carries only twice in 2012. Both times, Bush produced over 100 yards rushing.
The Miami Dolphins should build their lead early and will be looking to keep the ball on the ground and eat up the clock. Look for Bush to get over 100 yards rushing for back-to-back weeks and to add a score as well.
While quarterback Robert Griffin III has been getting much of the praise in Washington, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett has his troops playing inspired football of late.
One of the leaders on defense is second-year pro, outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. The former Purdue Boilermaker can be used all over the defensive front and will give an injury-depleted Philadelphia Eagles offensive line trouble.
The Eagles have given up 42 sacks on the season and were overmatched last week versus the Cincinnati Bengals. Kerrigan had a sack versus the Eagles in their first matchup and will have at least one more as the Washington Redskins win their sixth straight game.
Granted the Pittsburgh Steelers still have one of the best rushing defenses in the NFL, but the Bengals clinch a playoff berth with a win. The weather will not favor passing the football too many times, so BenJarvus Green-Ellis will get plenty of touches.
Green-Ellis has piled up 543 rushing yards in the past five games. The former Mississippi star has topped the 100-yard mark four times during that span while averaging 5.1 yards a rush.
Green-Ellis will get the football over 30 times as the Bengals keep the football on the ground to eat up the clock and keep the game close. Green-Ellis will help his team win a huge AFC North game with another 100-yard game and a score.
As Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson proved last week, the St. Louis Rams front seven can be exposed in the running game and will be again versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Rams defensive line has shown they can rush the passer, but they have not been stout versus the run. The Rams have given up 17 rushing touchdowns.
Doug Martin is coming off his worst game as a professional and many experts are worried the Boise State rookie has hit the “proverbial” rookie wall.
The Rams have given up over 130 yards rushing the last seven games. Look for Martin to get back on track with another 100-yard effort and at least one touchdown.
The Oakland Raiders defense gives up 371 yards per game and will not be able to slow down a hot Cam Newton. Going on the road to the East Coast versus one of the most dynamic playmakers in the NFL will not make life easier on the Raiders defense.
Newton has scored 13 touchdowns in the past five games and has been playing like the star he showed last season. Newton has not thrown an interception in those last five contests.
Look for wide receiver Steve Smith to benefit from Newton’s stellar play. Newton will throw for over 300 yards and two touchdowns to take MVP honors.
The talk of Tom Brady winning the NFL MVP waned a little after the New England Patriots were beaten by the 49ers in Week 15. Brady is still one of the best in the game and will get his name back in the mix after a dominant showing versus the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 16.
Against a marginal Jaguars defense, look for Brady to throw for over 350 yards and three scores. The Jaguars have the least amount of sacks on the season in the NFL with 15. With all the time to sit in the pocket, Brady will pick apart the Jaguars secondary.
Brady has thrown for 4,276 yards and has tossed 30 touchdowns. Brady will produce a MVP-type performance in the rout this Sunday.
Paul Kruger leads the Baltimore Ravens in sacks with eight on the season. The Ravens defense has shown weaknesses this season but when healthy, the unit has shown signs of dominance. That group, led by Kruger, will need their best effort versus Eli Manning and the New York Giants.
Kruger will be facing a Giants offensive line that has only given up 16 sacks on the season. But the Giants were shut out last week by the Falcons, and major pressure on Manning forced two interceptions.
Kruger will add a sack to his total and will force a turnover as the Ravens win and clinch the AFC North.
Consideration should be given to NFL Defensive MVP candidate J.J. Watt. If the Minnesota Vikings have a shot to win the game, the MVP would be running back Adrian Peterson.
But Arian Foster, even though he will be playing against a very formidable run defense of the Vikings, will have another huge day and lead the Houston Texans to victory. The Texans offense has been very balanced this season but need to Foster to carry the load versus the Vikings.
Foster rushed for 165 yards last week and will be looking to add to his season totals versus a Vikings defense that has allowed 133 yards rushing in the last nine weeks. Foster may not rush for 165 yards, but the former Tennessee Volunteer will rush for over 100 yards and will find the end zone at least once.
Peyton Manning has already thrown for over 4,000 yards on the season and has the Denver Broncos on a nine-game win streak. That hot streak will continue versus the Cleveland Browns. Manning has 31 touchdown passes on the season. In his last five games, Manning has thrown nine touchdowns and only four interceptions.
The Browns are 25th in the NFL in passing defense and give up, on average, 22.1 points a game. The Browns defense allows 247.4 yards passing a game.
Manning will keep hitting on all cylinders and will continue to get all his offensive weapons involved. The Broncos will blow out the Browns at home as Manning throws for over 300 yards again and three touchdowns.
Marshawn Lynch continues to be the engine that makes the Seattle Seahawks offense go. In the last meeting versus the 49ers, Lynch rushed for over 100 yards and was primarily the only offensive weapon for Seattle.
Though Lynch is nursing a sore back, the bruising runner will play versus the 49ers and play well. Lynch has rushed for 328 yards and five scores in the last three games, all Seattle victories.
Lynch, who is second in the NFL in rushing, will tear up the 49ers on the ground and will score at least once. The Seahawks will get a much-needed win in the tight NFC West champion race.
The Chicago Bears have lost three in a row and need this win and help to even think about the playoffs. The former Denver Bronco and Miami Dolphin has the most receptions in the NFL at 107.
Brandon Marshall cannot be blamed for his play in the last three losses. In that span, Marshall has 381 yards receiving and two touchdowns.
While the Cardinals have the fourth-best passing defense in the NFL, Marshall will take advantage of the 40 plays of 20-plus yards the Cardinals defense has allowed.
Look for Marshall to top the 100-yard mark for the eighth time this season and add his 11th total touchdown.
The New York Jets need this win, and Greg McElroy is just the man to deliver. The second-year professional out of Alabama is getting his first NFL start at home. The San Diego Chargers struggle when flying to the East Coast, and this will play to the Jets' advantage.
McElroy has already thrown a touchdown this season and will throw at least two more. While neither team has the playoffs to play for, McElroy’s audition for the starting job in New York next year is at stake.
McElroy will lead his Jets team to victory and secure himself a place in Jets quarterback lore.