Week 16 NFL Picks: Predicting Matchups with Playoff Implications

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Week 16 NFL Picks: Predicting Matchups with Playoff Implications
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Will LeSean McCoy and the Eagles clinch the NFC East?

With the NFL playoff picture so wide open, 13 of the 16 games in Week 16 will have an impact on the postseason race.

Eight of the 12 berths for January play remain available, and as many as nine different teams can clinch their spot this week.

Of course, not all will be able to do so, as a clinching scenario for one team will maroon another on the bubble. Keep a particularly close eye on multiple matchups between playoff hopefuls. When the New England Patriots take on the Baltimore Ravens and the Carolina Panthers host the New Orleans Saints, the ramifications will be widespread.

So let's take a look at this highly influential slate of games and see how it might affect the playoff standings.

Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills

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Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins beat the Steelers in a snowy Week 14 game in Pittsburgh, but Miami is still not suited for a rainy game in Buffalo.

Despite temperatures in the 30s, The Weather Channel is forecasting rain, not snow this Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Without making generalizations about warm-weather teams traveling to face the Bills, it's safe to say Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller give Buffalo better weapons on the ground than Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas do Miami.

The Dolphins can nail down the sixth seed if they win out, but their division rivals aren't going to let that happen.

Bills 21, Dolphins 14

Minnesota Vikings at Cincinnati Bengals

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport

Let's get this out of the way: Banged up as the Bengals are, there's no way they're going to let Matt Cassel and the Vikings explode on offense for a second week in a row.

The Vikings will come back to earth even if Adrian Peterson does return to play, because Matt Cassel is a below-average NFL quarterback. Minnesota has yet to win on the road, and the world has to make sense sometimes.

Considering the Bengals lost just once at home, they should preserve the natural order in this one. With a win and Miami's loss, Cincy would lock down at least a wild-card berth with a chance for the AFC North title, too.

Bengals 34, Vikings 16

Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs

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Andrew Luck has not been his world-beating self since Reggie Wayne went down in Week 7, and it's only gotten worse lately; he has been held to fewer than 250 yards passing in four of his last five games.

Indy's defense has done him no favors, either. Before finally holding the Houston Texans to just three points in Week 15, the Colts had allowed at least 20 points in the seven previous games.

Those are not ideal circumstances when you face the Chiefs at Arrowhead. K.C. won't need Jamaal Charles to score five touchdowns in this one, and the hosts will continue their charge toward an AFC West crown.

Chiefs 37, Colts 27

Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins

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Don't put all the blame on the offensive play-calling for the Cowboys' ridiculous collapse against the Green Bay Packers. Their defense showed everyone just how dramatically bad it can be.

If Robert Griffin III were still under center and Washington still looked mediocre on offense, Dallas' D wouldn't be much of an issue. But Kirk Cousins seems capable of quarterbacking a competent passing attack, and again, Matt Flynn just carved up the 'Boys with four second-half TD passes.

Dallas needs to be better than it was against Green Bay, but there's no guarantee that it will, which means its playoff hopes are in serious jeopardy.

Redskins 31, Cowboys 28

New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers

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Here's a sneaky fact about Drew Brees: he's been markedly worse on the road this season.

Playing away is harder, of course, so let's quantify just how big the disparity is:

  CMP% YPA TD INT Rating
Home 73.2 8.76 23 3 122.5
Away 63.4 6.94 11 7 86.4

Yikes. Everyone knows how hard it is to beat Brees in the Superdome, but anywhere else, he turns into an average passer.

He threw for 313 yards and four touchdowns against Carolina in Week 14, but that was in New Orleans. This time will be different, and Carolina will steal the NFC South title in the process.

Panthers 23, Saints 20

Denver Broncos at Houston Texans

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Peyton Manning has 47 touchdown passes this season. The Houston Texans have allowed 25 touchdowns passes against just six interceptions, part of the reason why they are 2-12.

Whether Peyton catches or surpasses Tom Brady's record of 50 TDs in this game is a bigger question than whether the Broncos will win. Don't think too hard about that. They'll keep hold of the AFC's top seed for now.

Broncos 37, Texans 10

Detroit Lions at New York Giants

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Matthew Stafford has been terrible for two straight weeks, only one of which he can blame on inclement weather. He needs to step up, and the Lions need to lock down on D if they want to keep their playoff chances alive.

Enter the New York Football Giants, fresh off a listless shutout at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks and showing zero signs of life at this point in the season.

Nothing holy will come of Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush facing the G-Men. It will be devastating and awe inspiring.

Lions 35, Giants 7

Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks

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At 9-5, Arizona is still gunning for the wild card, but the Cards surprisingly find themselves in the NFL's toughest division, facing off with its best and hottest team with everything on the line.

For this epic bout, Arizona will throw Carson Palmer at Seattle's juggernaut of a defense. Last time the Cardinals tried that in Week 7, Palmer was held below 6.0 yards per attempt and threw one touchdown against two picks.

This game is in Seattle. This game will be uglier. The Seahawks will clinch the top seed in the NFC.

Seahawks 27, Cardinals 9

Pittsburgh Steelers at Green Bay Packers

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Whether the Green Bay Packers start an oddly heroic Matt Flynn or a returning Aaron Rodgers, it won't be ideal. Even when you're the home team, Green Bay in the winter is not forgiving for a quarterback.

If only because he's both fully healthy and good at playing the position, Ben Roethlisberger should be the most reliable quarterback on the field Sunday. When the weather gets bad, competence can be even more important than ability.

These are two flawed, damaged teams that should play a flaw-filled game. It'll be close, but Pittsburgh should keep its postseason dreams going by eliminating the Packers.

Steelers 23, Packers 21

Oakland Raiders at San Diego Chargers

Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead are by no means Jamaal Charles, but did you see how Kansas City burned that excuse of a defense for the Raiders?

Here, watch what happened:

Philip Rivers deserves to go to the Pro Bowl this season, and he's going to want revenge on Oakland for intercepting him three times in a Week 5 Oakland upset. Chargers roll and stay alive.

Chargers 38, Raiders 24

New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens

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The Pats would love to capitalize on the weak AFC and nab a first-round bye, but there's only one problem: without Rob Gronkowski, they're as vulnerable as anyone.

They have no reliable rushers and nothing but safety valves for receivers, and that won't cut it against the Ravens. Baltimore won't have any problem shutting down New England on offense, and Joe Flacco and company will be able to beat the depleted Patriot D for a couple big plays.

A win locks up at least a wild card for the Ravens, setting up a Week 17 showdown against the Bengals to see which AFC North team wins the division and gets that sweet home playoff game.

Ravens 24, Patriots 19

Chicago Bears at Philadelphia Eagles

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Sure, the Eagles did find a way to get torched by the AD-less, Christian Ponder-less Vikings, but they still do have LeSean McCoy, so they have a chance to run on anybody.

That's convenient, because the Bears don't just have an uncharacteristically bad run defense—they're giving up 5.2 yards per carry, worst in the entire NFL.

The questions of how Jay Cutler performs and whether he'll keep pace with Nick Foles won't even come into play. McCoy is going to run circles around the Bears, and Philly is somehow going to lock up the NFC East.

Eagles 31, Bears 23

Atlanta Falcons at San Francisco 49ers

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This must have seemed like such a sweet Monday Night Football game back when the schedule-makers conjured it up. Colin Kaepernick and the imposing Niner defense against Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White and the high-flying Falcon offense.

Well, only half of that is true. Kaepernick and San Francisco are looking like world-beaters again, but the vaunted Atlanta offense has gone off the rails this season and is backed up by a sieve of a defense.

Prime time is just a time slot, not a measure of quality. This is going to be a laugher, but it will lock up a playoff spot for the Niners.

49ers 34, Falcons 17

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