Week 16 NFL Picks: Last-Minute Predictions for Every Game

Zach KruseSenior Analyst IDecember 23, 2012

Week 16 NFL Picks: Last-Minute Predictions for Every Game

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    Seven NFL teams have already clinched playoff spots. Five more teams can do the same with wins and some help in Week 16 of the NFL season. 

    The Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts and Seattle Seahawks can punch their ticket to the postseason dance with a win, while the Washington Redskins and New York Giants need a win and some help to get there.

    The New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers have already clinched berths. 

    In the following slides, we'll break down the 15 remaining games in Week 16 and predict a winner for each matchup. 

New Orleans Saints (6-8) at Dallas Cowboys (8-6)

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    This matchup has all the makings of a late-season Dallas letdown, in which the Cowboys blow a golden opportunity to get back into the postseason after everyone started believing. But this team has a different feel.

    The Cowboys finally appear to have mental toughness, a mostly undefinable attribute but one that has been lacking in previous seasons. Tony Romo (107.4 passer rating in December) will outduel Drew Brees to get Dallas to the doorstep of the postseason. 

    Pick: Cowboys 31, Saints 27

    Final: Saints 34, Cowboys 31

Tennessee Titans (5-9) at Green Bay Packers (10-4)

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    The Packers clinched the NFC North last week in Chicago. Might the door be cracked open for a minor letdown against the Titans? Unlikely. 

    The Titans will need more than a big day from Chris Johnson to beat Green Bay. They need Jake Locker (seven interceptions over his last four games) to play well and avoid turnovers to have a chance at beating the Packers at a below-freezing Lambeau Field. 

    Pick: Packers 30, Titans 13

    Final: Packers 55, Titans 7

Indianapolis Colts (9-5) at Kansas City Chiefs (2-12)

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    The Chiefs have turned the football over a staggering 34 times, but the Colts haven't been much better. Their 27 giveaways and a turnover differential of minus-17 rank Indianapolis near the bottom of both categories in the NFL.

    The Colts may have seven more wins than Kansas City, but the winner in this matchup may end up being the team that takes better care of the ball. 

    Pick: Colts 23, Chiefs 12

    Final: Colts 20, Chiefs 13

Buffalo Bills (5-9) at Miami Dolphins (6-8)

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    With the Bills going 1-3 over their last four games, it's clear who the better team has been over the last month.

    Miami (2-2 in last four) played competitively against the Patriots and 49ers before dominating the Jaguars last week. Buffalo is trending the opposite way, with a 50-17 beatdown in Toronto highlighting the fall.

    At home, the Dolphins should avenge a five-point loss to the Bills in mid-November. 

    Pick: Dolphins 27, Bills 17

    Final: Dolphins 24, Bills 10

San Diego Chargers (5-9) at New York Jets (6-8)

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    The Greg McElroy era officially begins Sunday when the Chargers come to town. Now the question becomes, how long will it last?

    It's possible the experiment ends before the clock at MetLife Stadium hits triple zeroes, especially with all three quarterbacks likely to be active.

    While frustratingly inconsistent, the Chargers are a better team with a better quarterback. 

    Pick: Chargers 24, Jets 16

    Final: Chargers 27, Jets 17

Washington Redskins (8-6) at Philadelphia Eagles (4-10)

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    The Redskins should have Robert Griffin III back and healthy, which likely makes it necessary for Philadelphia to play mistake-free football to win.

    With a turnover-prone offense led by a rookie quarterback, it's hard to envision the Eagles pulling that off. Washington has won five straight games, thanks in part to a turnover differential of plus-six. 

    Pick: Redskins 27, Eagles 16

    Final: Redskins 27, Eagles 20

Cincinnati Bengals (8-6) at Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7)

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    The Bengals can punch their ticket to the postseason and eliminate the Steelers with a win. But since Andy Dalton took over a season ago, Cincinnati hasn't beat Pittsburgh in three tries.

    Maybe Sunday is the turning of that page. The Steelers are hurting in the secondary and won't have Ike Taylor available, making it possible that Bengals receiver A.J. Green (85 catches, 1,208 yards, 11 TDs) has one of those season-changing games.  

    Pick: Bengals 27, Steelers 21 

    Final: Bengals 13, Steelers 10

St. Louis Rams (6-7-1) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-8)

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    These teams feel very similar, with young, frustrating quarterbacks and workhorse running backs. But the biggest difference between Tampa Bay and St. Louis? The Buccaneers' inability to play any semblance of pass defense.

    Sam Bradford can outgun Josh Freeman while facing the worst pass defense in NFL history, at least statistically. 

    Pick: Rams 24, Buccaneers 17

    Final: Rams 28, Buccaneers 13

Oakland Raiders (4-10) at Carolina Panthers (5-9)

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    Carolina has won three of four games, mostly on the back of quarterback Cam Newton. In three December games, Newton has thrown seven touchdowns and no interceptions while rushing for more than 200 yards and another score.

    Can the Raiders figure out a way to turn him over and limit the big gains outside the pocket? Three time zones away from Oakland, we doubt it. 

    Pick: Panthers 31, Raiders 17

    Final: Panthers 17, Raiders 6

New England Patriots (10-4) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12)

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    Forgive the betting side of me, but the Patriots (favored by 14.5 points) have yet to cover a spread over 10.5 points in three tries this season. Big lines against the Jets, Bills and Cardinals all resulted in closer-than-expected contests.

    With a banged-up roster, maybe New England makes it four in a row Sunday in Jacksonville. However, the Jaguars aren't pulling off this mega upset. 

    Pick: Patriots 27, Jaguars 18

    Final: Patriots 23, Jaguars 16

Minnesota Vikings (8-6) at Houston Texans (12-2)

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    Houston may have the No. 5 rush defense in the NFL, but there isn't a defense that has slowed Adrian Peterson over the last two months. Expecting that to change Sunday is probably wishful thinking.

    However, the Texans know that the Vikings can't beat them in Houston without Christian Ponder playing well. Peterson can get his, but Ponder is the only avenue to a Vikings upset. 

    Pick: Texans 27, Vikings 17

    Final: Vikings 23, Texans 6

Cleveland Browns (5-9) at Denver Broncos (11-3)

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    Of Cleveland's five wins, just one has come on the road (at Oakland). While the Browns are playing better situational football, beating Peyton Manning and the Broncos away from Cleveland is a task too tall for this team right now.

    Denver has won nine straight games and should make it 10 by the end of Sunday. 

    Pick: Broncos 27, Browns 13

    Final: Broncos 34, Browns 12

Chicago Bears (8-6) at Arizona Cardinals (5-9)

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    This has to be a scary game for the Bears at this point in their season. On the road and facing a blitz-happy, pressure-orientated defense, Chicago has to win to keep any playoff hopes alive.

    Given how poor the Bears have been up front and the slow but noticeable fade of the defense, Arizona could be in prime position to win its second straight game. Jay Cutler simply can't afford to turn over the football. 

    Pick: Cardinals 17, Bears 13

    Final: Bears 28, Cardinals13

New York Giants (8-6) at Baltimore Ravens (9-5)

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    A month ago, Giants-Ravens in the afternoon slot would have been one of the more anticipated games on the schedule. With the Giants 1-2 in their last three and the Ravens 0-3, this one feels a little dull.

    Both teams are absolutely craving a win, however, so we should get a better product than what these two have produced over the last handful of weeks. Despite an awful performance in Atlanta, Eli Manning is still the quarterback to trust in this matchup. 

    Pick: Giants 27, Ravens 24

    Final: Ravens 33, Giants 14

San Francisco 49ers (10-3-1) at Seattle Seahawks (9-5)

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    The similarities between the 49ers and Seahawks are striking. Young, dynamic quarterbacks. Turnover-causing defenses. Tough, Pro Bowl-caliber running backs.

    In looking for a winning edge, it's hard to get past the Seahawks' record at home (6-0). The advantage Seattle claims at CenturyLink Field is real, and it could be the difference Sunday night. 

    Pick: Seahawks 23, 49ers 20