Every week in the NFL brings a new crop of games between the league's best teams. In Week 15, teams like the Chargers and Dolphins pulled off huge upsets to keep their playoffs hope alive. But will the same happen in Week 16?
Whether it's for the No. 2 seed in the playoffs or just simply a chance to make the playoffs, teams will be jockeying for postseason position all weekend with just two games remaining in the regular season.
With playoff implications in several games this weekend, there are more than just three games of huge importance, but below are breakdowns for three of the biggest matchups this weekend.
|Away Team||Home Team||Prediction|
|Miami Dolphins||Buffalo Bills||Dolphins|
|New Orleans Saints||Carolina Panthers||Panthers|
|Dallas Cowboys||Washington Redskins||Cowboys|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||St. Louis Rams||Rams|
|Chicago Bears||Philadelphia Eagles||Eagles|
|Cleveland Browns||N.Y. Jets||Browns|
|Indianapolis Colts||Kansas City Chiefs||Chiefs|
|Minnesota Vikings||Cincinnati Bengals||Bengals|
|Denver Broncos||Houston Texans||Broncos|
|Tennessee Titans||Jacksonville Jaguars||Jaguars|
|Arizona Cardinals||Seattle Seahawks||Seahawks|
|N.Y. Giants||Detroit Lions||Lions|
|Oakland Raiders||San Diego Chargers||Chargers|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||Green Bay Packers||Packers|
|New England Patriots||Baltimore Ravens||Patriots|
|Atlanta Falcons||San Francisco 49ers||49ers|
Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks
Anyone outside of Arizona who thought the Cardinals would be playing meaningful football this late in the year before the season started, please raise your hand. In a division stacked with teams like the Seahawks and 49ers, not many people probably have their hand held high right now.
But thanks to a strong record outside of their division, the Cardinals have guaranteed themselves a winning record and have a chance to make the playoffs over the 49ers. The only problem is that Arizona now has to face both teams ahead of it in the division and win out in order to keep those hopes alive.
And the Cardinals might have to do so with an injured Carson Palmer, who is hampered with a high ankle sprain, according to Mike Jurecki of Fox Sports 910 in Phoenix:
BA on Cards post game show Carson Palmer high ankle sprain, was able to play through it, heavy tape job. He'll be sore tomorrow.— Mike Jurecki (@mikejurecki) December 16, 2013
Unfortunately, it appears the Cardinals' hopes will likely run out this weekend in Seattle. The Seahawks are undefeated at home and have lost just one game in the division, to the 49ers in Week 14. The Cardinals have dropped three games in the division, including getting plastered by the Seahawks at home, 34-22, earlier in the season.
Despite the likelihood of Arizona making it a game and fighting Seattle for their playoff lives, it appears the Seahawks will be the No. 1 seed in the NFC after this weekend while the Cardinals will be praying for the Panthers to lose to the Saints.
Prediction: Seahawks 38, Cardinals 21
New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers
The Saints put a hurtin' on the Panthers in Week 14 with a 31-13 beatdown that wasn't as close as the score would entail. But with another shot at moving to the top of the NFC South on the line, it appears the Panthers might have the Saints right where they want them—at Bank of America Stadium.
As for the importance of a win over the Saints, Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer made it pretty simple:
Lots of ifs, and/ors, wins/loss/ties involved in all this. It's confusing. If CAR wins out, they're in with a bye and home game— Jonathan Jones (@jjones9) December 16, 2013
New Orleans has one of the liveliest home stadiums in the NFL at the Superdome—maybe only second to Seattle—but when the Saints have left home this season, it hasn't been pretty. The Saints are 3-4 on the road and have lost four of their last five.
The Saints also haven't scored more than 20 points on the road since Week 6 and have allowed opponents to score 26 or more in three of four games during that stretch.
On the other side of the ball is a Panthers defense that is looking to exact some revenge after the last time the two teams faced one another. Carolina has lost one game all season at home, and it came in the form of a 12-7 defeat against the Seahawks in the season opener.
Since that game, the Panthers have scored an average of 30.5 points at home while holding their opponents to an average of just 11.8 points. If Cam Newton and the Panthers offense can get going and they can hold off the Saints, a first-round bye and NFC South crown could be waiting for them at the end of the season.
Prediction: Panthers 28, Saints 23
Chicago Bears at Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles experienced a setback in Week 15 against the Minnesota Vikings while the Bears needed a fourth-quarter comeback to down the Cleveland Browns. For two teams with playoff hopes, it certainly wasn't a pretty weekend.
But what both teams have in common is that they came away with those postseason dreams still intact. In Week 16, they will face off for the chance to move closer toward solidifying their playoff berth with one week remaining.
One thing both teams can boast thus far this season is their current quarterback play. While Nick Foles has been getting it done during the last six games for the Eagles, Jay Cutler returned and was once again clutch. As ESPN Stats & Info pointed out, Cutler has been the most clutch quarterback this season:
Jay Cutler had a 99.9 Total QBR in 4th quarter. His Total QBR in the 4th quarter this season is 95.2, tops in NFL— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 16, 2013
Who is more likely to win in Week 16?
On the season, the Eagles have not been a great team at home. But since Foles took over, Philadelphia has gone 3-0 including wins over the Cardinals and Lions. During that stretch, the Eagles have also scored 24 or more points in each contest.
As for the Bears, this will be their second straight road game after defeating the Browns in Cleveland. For the same reason the Eagles' road woes can't be taken into account prior to Foles earning the starting job, the Bears losing two straight before Cutler's return doesn't say much about what the team will look like with him behind center.
When the two teams face off with huge playoff implications, it will be the Eagles flying high. Thanks to a potent rushing and passing game, Philly will dissect the Bears defense before taking on the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium in the last game of the season.
Prediction: Eagles 35, Bears 27