Week 16 NFL Picks: Predicting Matchups with Playoff Implications

Josh Cohen@@arealjoshcohenCorrespondent IIDecember 18, 2013

Will LeSean McCoy and the Eagles clinch the NFC East?
Will LeSean McCoy and the Eagles clinch the NFC East?Elsa/Getty Images

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

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 08: Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Miami Dolphins drops back to pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the game on December 8, 2013 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

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

Dec 15, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel (16) celebrates his touchdown during the third quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Mall of America Field at H.H.H. Metrodome. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY
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

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 15:  Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts throws a pass during the NFL game against the Houston Texans at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 15, 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

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

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 15:  Quarterback Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys walks off the field after losing 37-36 to the Green Bay Packers during a game at AT&T Stadium on December 15, 2013 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

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

ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 15: Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints returns to the sidelines after throwing his second interception of the first quarter against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome on December 15, 2013 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Ph
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

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:



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

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 12:   Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos prepares for their game against the San Diego Chargers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on December 12, 2013 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

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

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 16: Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions drops back to pass during the second quarter of the game against the Baltimore Ravens at Ford Field on December 16, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan. The Ravens defeated the Lions 18-16. (Photo
Leon Halip/Getty Images

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

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 08:  Quarterback Carson Palmer #3 of the Arizona Cardinals during the NFL game against the St. Louis Rams at the University of Phoenix Stadium on December 8, 2013 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Rams 30-10.  (Photo
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

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

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 15: Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks to throw a second quarter pass while playing the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field on December 15, 2013 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Image
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

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

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 8: Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots reacts to the cheers of fan as he leaves the field with an injury in the 3rd quarter against the Cleveland Browns at Gillette Stadium on December 8, 2013 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

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

GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 10: LeSean McCoy #25 of the Philadelphia Eagles gets around Clay Matthews #52 of the Green Bay Packers during a first quarter run at Lambeau Field on November 10, 2013 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

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

TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 15:  Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers reacts to a first down against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during a game at Raymond James Stadium on December 15, 2013 in Tampa, Florida.  San Francisco won the game 33-14.  (Photo by S
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

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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