NFL Picks Week 16: Bleacher Report's Expert Consensus Predictions
The NFL is in no shortage of compelling stories in Week 16.
With just one week left in the NFL season following this weekend's slate of games, plenty of playoff spots are up for grabs as we start to talk about teams who control their own destiny. This is the point of the season where the battle-tested teams who "want it more" are separated from the teams with plenty of talent but no will.
The weekend's main event is a rematch between the Carolina Panthers and the New Orleans Saints. This time, the Saints have to travel to Charlotte, and New Orleans has not been good on the road this season. If the Panthers can steal a game, the NFC South is theirs to lose.
Other teams are still just trying to work their way into the playoffs. This week, the Miami Dolphins face off with the Buffalo Bills, the Detroit Lions host the New York Giants and the Arizona Cardinals head to Seattle—all with hopes of extending their season one more week.
We'll cover all these games and more—just a few clicks ahead. Don't like our picks? Give us yours in the comments below!
Name: Last Week; Overall
Consensus: 7-9; 126-74 (63 Percent)
Andrea Hangst: 7-9; 145-78
Brad Gagnon: 10-6; 144-79
Tyson Langland: 8-8; 142-81
Matt Bowen: 8-8; 139-84
Ty Schalter: 6-10; 139-84
Chris Hansen: 7-9; 138-85
Zach Kruse: 10-6; 138-85
Matt Miller: 8-8; 137-86
Erik Frenz: 7-9; 134-89
Mike Freeman: 10-6; 129-94
Michael Schottey: 7-9; 128-95
Knox Bardeen: 10-6; 127-96
To see how Bleacher Report's experts are faring against the best at other media outlets, check out Pickwatch.
Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills
B/R Consensus Pick: Dolphins (11-1)
Bowen: Dolphins, 27-17
Ryan Tannehill is playing good football and the Dolphins defense looked impressive versus Tom Brady and the Patriots. This is a game Miami should win.
Schalter: Bills, 24-17
Buffalo has played a lot of really strong teams close at home, and the Dolphins are a streaky team coming off a three-game streak capped by an emotional upset.
Frenz: Dolphins, 30-23
It would seem like the conditions are ripe for an upset. The Dolphins are coming off an emotional win. They couldn’t even beat the EJ Manuel-less Bills in their own house earlier this season. But this is a different Dolphins team than that group. That game was part of a four-game losing streak, but the Dolphins are 5-2 since that skid.
Ryan Tannehill is playing some of the most efficient football of any quarterback in the league right now, and the Bills haven’t earned a truly convincing win in a month.
Kruse: Dolphins, 27-20
Miami can get to 10 wins and a playoff spot by cleaning up the bottom of the AFC East. That task begins by going on the road and beating a Buffalo team with just two wins in its last seven.
Other Picks: Dolphins (Schottey, Miller, Freeman, Hangst, Hansen, Gagnon, Bardeen, Langland)
Cleveland Browns at New York Jets
B/R Consensus Pick: Browns (10-2)
Freeman: Jets, 17-16
Ugly game of the day. Jets win turnover fest, barely, because they have the better defense.
Frenz: Browns, 20-17
We’re in “Pride Bowl” territory in this game for two teams that will each finish no better than .500 this season. If the Jets can somehow find some traction in the running game against a stingy Browns defense, they’ll give themselves a chance, but the greater the burden on Geno Smith, the lesser the chance of their victory. Josh Gordon should feast on Antonio Cromartie, as several top wideouts have done this season.
Hangst: Browns, 23-14
This may not be all that pretty. The Browns likely won't have Joe Haden, which generally bodes poorly, but it's not like Geno Smith and the Jets are any type of passing powerhouse. Cleveland is a better 4-10 team than the Jets are a 6-8 team. Jason Campbell should feel a lot more comfortable this week on the way to the Browns' fifth win.
Langland: Browns, 21-16
The Cleveland Browns and New York Jets have been equally bad this year. Yes, the Jets have more W’s in the win column, but their quarterback play is atrocious. Even on the road, I trust Jason Campbell more than I trust Geno Smith.
Other Picks: Browns (Schottey, Bowen, Schalter, Miller, Gagnon, Bardeen, Kruse); Jets (Hansen)
New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers
B/R Consensus Pick: Panthers (8-4)
Schottey: Panthers, 24-23
I got this matchup wrong the first time around, but I should've stuck with the home team then, which is what I'm doing now. Panthers find a way to get to Brees and Newton does just enough to get past Rob Ryan.
Hansen: Panthers, 28-24
The Saints aren’t the same team on the road as they are at home. The Panthers are also a good home team and will have learned from their trouncing in New Orleans a couple of weeks ago. Expect the Panthers to run it more successfully and get a narrow victory.
Gagnon: Panthers, 27-24
New Orleans took care of Carolina at home, but the Saints are a completely different team away from the Superdome. Look for the Panthers to get to Drew Brees just enough in a close victory.
Bardeen: Saints, 22-21
This is the second matchup between these two NFC South behemoths in three weeks. But it won’t be similar to the ugly beatdown New Orleans put on Carolina in Week 14. We’re going to see a lot of defense, as the Panthers have only lost once this season at Bank of America Stadium, but in the end, Drew Brees and the Saints offense will get it done. For some reason, I’m feeling a last-minute touchdown and two-point conversion to win.
Other Picks: Panthers (Schalter, Miller, Frenz, Hangst, Kruse ); Saints (Bowen, Freeman, Langland)
Minnesota Vikings at Cincinnati Bengals
B/R Consensus Pick: Bengals (12-0)
Schalter: Bengals, 28-14
Cincinnati had a wake-up call in Pittsburgh, and Minnesota's season has long since been put to bed.
Freeman: Bengals, 21-17
Cincy is hard to believe in, and this is a massive trap game, but that defense gets it done.
Hansen: Bengals, 28-17
The Bengals are a good team that can’t be losing to a team like the Vikings the week before a huge divisional game against the Ravens. The Bengals are playing at home and should use a balanced attack to get the win, but it won’t come easy.
Kruse: Bengals, 28-24
There is a real temptation to take the Vikings, who are finally getting consistent quarterback play from Matt Cassel. Last Sunday's win over the Eagles wasn't a fluke. Minnesota is playing much better than your typical four-win team. But the Bengals have so much at stake, and playing at home should help thwart any upset bid.
Other Picks: Bengals (Unanimous)
Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins
B/R Consensus Pick: Cowboys (11-1)
Bowen: Cowboys, 31-20
The Cowboys will bounce back after the brutal loss to the Packers against a Redskins team that is ready to move on to the offseason.
Freeman: Cowboys, 28-24
Dallas rebounds after choking away the game last week. But the Redskins get theirs and this game is again close at the end. I'm going on Einstein's theory of choke-ativity: no back-to-back chokes.
Hangst: Cowboys, 27-13
What a heartbreaking loss for the Cowboys last week, having given up a sizable lead to the Packers before giving the game away—and at home, no less. Things should be a bit easier this week against a chaos-riddled Washington team that is just trying to make it to the end of the year with no new controversies.
Gagnon: Redskins, 28-27
The Cowboys have lost to backup quarterbacks in back-to-back weeks, and Kirk Cousins and Alfred Morris have the ability to shock a depleted and shaken Dallas defense, especially in D.C. The Redskins battled in Atlanta and should give Dallas their best shot. I'll give them a last-moment victory, potentially spoiling Dallas' season.
Other Picks: Cowboys (Schottey, Schalter, Miller, Frenz, Hansen, Bardeen, Langland, Kruse)
Denver Broncos at Houston Texans
B/R Consensus Pick: Broncos (12-0)
Schottey: Broncos, 35-13
The Broncos defense gets its groove back against an inept and impotent Texans offensive unit. Meanwhile, Manning does enough to keep this team headed toward the No. 1 seed.
Frenz: Broncos, 35-10
The Texans somehow managed to take one of the most unimpressive AFC playoff teams, the Colts, and make them look like the bona fide No. 1 seed. That’s a spot the Broncos currently hold, so it wouldn’t be a shock to see Peyton Manning get the touchdown record in a blowout win.
Hansen: Broncos, 35-17
Unless J.J. Watt knocks Peyton Manning out of the game on the first offensive drive, you would be crazy not to pick the favorite in this one. Brock Osweiler might have a chance to get some playing time either way.
Langland: Broncos, 35-17
Peyton Manning or Case Keenum? This game will be over before it even gets started. The Broncos have the talent offensively to jump out to an early lead and never look back. And that’s exactly what will happen.
Other Picks: Broncos (Unanimous)
Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs
B/R Consensus Pick: Chiefs (11-1)
Freeman: Colts, 28-24
I think Andrew Luck takes his beaten-up team and throws for 400 yards and four scores against the Chiefs. Yeah, I said it.
Hangst: Chiefs, 28-17
The Indianapolis Colts have their division locked down. All that can change over the final two weeks is their seeding. The Chiefs, too, have a playoff spot wrapped up but still want to end the year with a better record than the Broncos and a first-round playoff bye. What matters most here, however, is the location of the battle. In Arrowhead, the Colts' many problems this year will be clearly evident. The Chiefs will win.
Hansen: Chiefs, 27-26
The Chiefs and the Seahawks are the only two teams in the league with a top-five scoring offense and defense. Defenses are focusing on Jamaal Charles and they still can’t stop him. The Raiders didn’t even touch Charles on his five touchdowns last week. The Colts will do a little better at slowing down Charles, but the Chiefs are a lot tougher to beat than the Broncos made it seem.
Bardeen: Chiefs, 24-10
Since Indianapolis’ bye week the Colts have alternated each week with a win and a loss. Since we’re talking trends, last week’s win over Houston should mean a loss when Andrew Luck takes his team into Kansas City in Week 16. If you need proof that’s a little less abstract, consider the fact that Indianapolis hasn’t won against a playoff-bound team since Oct. 20.
Other Picks: Chiefs (Schottey, Bowen, Schalter, Miller, Frenz, Gagnon, Langland, Kruse)
Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars
B/R Consensus Pick: Titans (8-4)
Schottey: Titans, 26-20
The Jaguars have exceeded expectations this season, but the Titans are proving to be the physical team many of us expected—even without Jake Locker. Jokes aside, this should actually be a fun game to watch.
Bowen: Titans, 20-17
Tough to pick these late-season throw-away games, but I'll go with Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Titans on the road over the Jags.
Langland: Titans, 21-13
I would be more inclined to pick the Jaguars if wide receiver Cecil Shorts were suiting up, but he’s not. It won’t be an easy game for the Titans, yet they have a more talented roster from top to bottom. Kendall Wright will prove to be the difference maker when the clock strikes zero.
Gagnon: Jaguars, 23-20
This is one of those divisional games that really could go either way. Still, the Jags are at home and they've beaten Tennessee in two of their last three meetings.
Other Picks: Titans (Freeman, Miller, Hangst, Hansen, Kruse) Jaguars (Schalter, Frenz, Bardeen)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at St. Louis Rams
B/R Consensus Pick: Rams (12-0)
Bowen: Rams, 24-16
The Rams can run the ball and rush the passer. That should translate to a win over the Bucs at home.
Freeman: Rams, 21-17
The Rams have at times been a Dumpster fire, but that defense has ability. They will also build off of an impressive win against the Saints.
Langland: Rams, 24-16
The Buccaneers are putting together more consistent performances late in the season, but they are still a long way from where they need to be. Tampa Bay’s defense is allowing 109.6 yards per game on the ground, which means Zac Stacy and the Rams rushing attack will have a heyday come Sunday.
Bardeen: Rams, 24-20
I’m of the opinion that Tampa Bay needs one more win this season for Greg Schiano to keep his job. That means beat either St. Louis this week on the road or New Orleans next week in the Superdome. Neither is an easy task, but Schiano had better get it done in Week 16. Robert Quinn may turn rookie quarterback Mike Glennon into his own personal Weeble Wobble, which will hurt Tampa Bay’s chances.
Other Picks: Rams (Unanimous)
New York Giants at Detroit Lions
B/R Consensus Pick: Lions (12-0)
Schalter: Lions, 24-14
The Lions are in a must-win situation, and only Eli Manning is tossing more picks than Matthew Stafford lately.
Frenz: Lions, 30-10
There may not be a more lopsided matchup on the slate this week. The Giants may get shut out again. At the very least, you can expect a couple of turnovers from Eli Manning and a couple of touchdowns from Calvin Johnson.
Gagnon: Lions, 35-16
You'd be crazy to pick the resigned Giants right now, especially on the road against a team fighting for its playoff life. Look for Eli Manning and Co. to have a ton of trouble with that aggressive defensive front, and don't expect the G-Men to slow down a dangerous and angry offense.
Kruse: Lions, 28-16
It's worth wondering where the Lions will be at mentally after Monday night's defeat. This team could be physically and emotionally drained. The upside here is that the Giants are asleep at the wheel and appear to have no intention of waking up. The Lions should cruise at home, but who really knows with this team?
Other Picks: Lions (Unanimous)
Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks
B/R Consensus Pick: Seahawks (12-0)
Bowen: Seahawks, 23-20
This Cardinals defense can play some good football, but that's not enough to knock off the Seahawks at home.
Freeman: Seahawks, 20-17
Nothing will derail Seattle from home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, but the Cardinals will make it interesting.
Hansen: Seahawks, 27-17
The Seahawks at home are tough to beat. Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer is playing well, but if he is the first quarterback to beat the Seahawks in Seattle, I’ll be shocked.
Langland: Seahawks, 27-20
The Arizona Cardinals are making their first postseason push since the 2009 season. All they have to do is win out over the course of the next two weeks to put themselves in prime playoff position. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, they have to go on the road and play in Seattle.
That’s a death wish for any team looking to make a postseason run. It will be close all the way until the end, but the Seahawks will have the last laugh at home.
Other Picks: Seahawks (Unanimous)
New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens
B/R Consensus Pick: Pick'Em (6-6)
Schottey: Patriots, 28-27
Taking the Pats on the road is a tricky situation against the surging Ravens, but I expect Tom Brady and that offense to have just enough in the tank to outduel Joe Flacco and Co.
Freeman: Ravens 24-21
Toughest game of the week to predict. This Pats team has few weapons and relies far too heavily on Tom Brady to bail them out of every situation. That will catch up to them again.
Frenz: Patriots, 28-24
The Gronkowski-less Patriots are not doomed if they can find their secret sauce in the red zone. Tom Brady and Josh McDaniels should be able to find a way to turn those red-zone possessions into touchdowns. They’re not going far, however, unless they find their defense, too. If the Patriots can’t get it right against a Ravens offense that has scored more than 22 points just once in the past nine games, their postseason hopes are grim. Bill Belichick finds a way to keep Joe Flacco and the Ravens grounded.
Hangst: Ravens, 24-23
The Ravens in Baltimore, hosting their newest and biggest rivals, the New England Patriots. The Ravens swept the Patriots last year, first besting them in the regular season and then again in the AFC title game. The Patriots might be out for revenge, but the Ravens have the home-field advantage and wild-card playoff hopes to fight for. They are the most dangerous dog in this race and the Patriots won't be able to make enough plays to win.
Other Picks: Patriots (Bowen, Schalter, Miller, Bardeen); Ravens (Hansen, Gagnon, Langland, Kruse)
Pittsburgh Steelers at Green Bay Packers
B/R Consensus Pick: Packers (11-1)
Bowen: Steelers, 26-20
The Steelers will show some balance on offense and work the ball to Antonio Brown versus a Packers secondary that still makes too many mistakes within Dom Capers' scheme.
Hangst: Packers, 31-27
Though Matt Flynn under center will prove less challenging to the Steelers than if Aaron Rodgers is ready to go, it's hard to see the Steelers going into the chill of Lambeau and getting a win. Regardless of the Green Bay quarterback, the Steelers look like they are going to be drawn into a shootout on Sunday, which gives a narrow advantage to the Packers.
Bardeen: Packers, 26-23
Green Bay has won its last two games by a combined two points; both have been without quarterback Aaron Rodgers. It’s not likely the Packers can make it into postseason play without winning out, so expect some more magic this week against Pittsburgh. It’ll be another close one with Matt Flynn under center, but a win nonetheless. If Rodgers returns, expect a Green Bay rout.
Kruse: Packers, 30-21
This outcome assumes that Aaron Rodgers returns from his fractured collarbone. If he's back by Sunday, the Packers become the front-runner to win the NFC North. While Matt Flynn has provided spurts of greatness, the Steelers defense is a far cry from those in Minnesota, Atlanta and Dallas.
Green Bay probably needs Rodgers to win, especially considering how well Ben Roethlisberger has played over the last five weeks (12 touchdowns, one interception). There's finally confidence that this will be the week Rodgers returns.
Other Picks: Packers (Schottey, Schalter, Freeman, Miller, Frenz, Gagnon, Hansen)
Oakland Raiders at San Diego Chargers
B/R Consensus Pick: Chargers (12-0)
Freeman: Chargers, 35-25
Philip Rivers is a punk on the field. Mouthy, jerkish, childish—but damn, he's good. And his teammates believe in him. That can't be stressed enough.
Frenz: Chargers, 24-12
The Chargers are playing almost lights-out over the past month, with a 3-1 record in their past four games. In that time, the Raiders have lost four straight, including defeats to bad teams like the Titans and Jets. If Philip Rivers can avoid multiple turnovers, the Chargers should roll.
Hansen: Chargers, 30-24
The Chargers are coming off extra rest with their playoff hopes hanging by a thread. The Chargers are also playing some of their best football this season on the heels of a big win over the Broncos. The Raiders are playing some of their worst football of the season, but they did have success against Philip Rivers earlier in the season. The Raiders also had success against Alex Smith earlier in the season, but that didn't mean anything last week.
Langland: Chargers, 31-14
Philip Rivers and Keenan Allen or Matt McGloin and Andre Holmes? Rivers and Allen are forming one of the best quarterback/wide-receiver duos in the league, which means the Raiders defense won’t have an answer for the pair. In blowout fashion, San Diego gets its third win in a row.
Other Picks: Chargers (Unanimous)
Chicago Bears at Philadelphia Eagles
B/R Consensus Pick: Eagles (8-4)
Schottey: Eagles, 30-17
The Bears defense can't stop the Eagles; it can't even hope to contain them. Any Bears turnovers will just be icing on the cake.
Bowen: Bears, 31-27
Gagnon: Eagles, 30-27
This Eagles team is mentally tough, and I believe last week's hiccup in Minnesota was just that. They'll rebound in a big way at home against a Bears team that is still pretty terrible defensively and has only capitalized on a favorable schedule the last couple of weeks. Philly clinches the NFC East in overtime on Sunday night.
Kruse: Eagles, 34-28
Chicago returned Jay Cutler and improved its running game immensely against the Browns in Week 15. Cutler will continue shaking off his rust, but how will the league's worst run defense handle the NFL's best rushing offense? The Bears can hope Lance Briggs will make a huge difference. But this is a huge mismatch favoring Philadelphia, which also needs a win. The Eagles run their way to victory at home.
Other Picks: Bears (Freeman, Hangst, Langland); Eagles (Schalter, Miller, Frenz, Hansen, Bardeen)
Atlanta Falcons at San Francisco 49ers
B/R Consensus Pick: 49ers (12-0)
Bowen: 49ers, 26-13
This is a game the 49ers should dominate along the offensive and defensive fronts. Look for plenty of Frank Gore in the San Francisco win.
Gagnon: 49ers, 30-17
Don't be fooled by what Atlanta was able to do against weak and/or shorthanded teams like Buffalo, Green Bay and Washington. The Falcons are toast and the Niners are really starting to roll. In San Fran, this is a no-brainer.
Langland: 49ers, 23-17
Head coach Jim Harbaugh and the San Francisco 49ers are hitting their stride at just the right time. Colin Kaepernick is playing at a top-notch level, Vic Fangio’s defense is shutting opposing offenses down and Michael Crabtree is starting to reestablish his dominant nature. There isn’t a team in the NFL that wants to face the Niners right now, especially the Falcons.
Bardeen: 49ers, 31-17
What schedule-makers billed as an opportunity for Atlanta to get some sort of revenge on the 49ers for ousting the Falcons from the playoffs last season now looks like a hot garbage kind of game. The only thing that will save Monday Night Football ratings is the fact that this will be the last game ever played in Candlestick Park.
Don’t forget that it’ll be the next-to-last game ever played by tight end, and future Hall of Famer, Tony Gonzalez, either. Just remember those bits of nostalgia and don’t watch the 49ers run up the score.
Other Picks: 49ers (Unanimous)