In the penultimate week of the NFL regular season, there is certain to be a lot of drama throughout the league. The question is which teams are capable of coming through with key wins.
Although the playoff picture is becoming clearer every week, only four teams have clinched spots in the postseason. This leaves space for eight more teams to punch a ticket to the playoffs. Plus, squads will jockey for seeding up until the last day of the year.
This leaves a lot of important matchups set to take place in Week 16. Here is a look at predictions for the full slate, with a breakdown of those games that will likely be watched closely by the entire NFL.
|Miami Dolphins||Buffalo Bills||Dolphins|
|Minnesota Vikings||Cincinnati Bengals||Bengals|
|Indianapolis Colts||Kansas City Chiefs||Chiefs|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||St. Louis Rams||Rams|
|Cleveland Browns||New York Jets||Jets|
|Dallas Cowboys||Washington Redskins||Cowboys|
|New Orleans Saints||Carolina Panthers||Panthers|
|Tennessee Titans||Jacksonville Jaguars||Titans|
|Denver Broncos||Houston Texans||Broncos|
|New York Giants||Detroit Lions||Lions|
|Arizona Cardinals||Seattle Seahawks||Seahawks|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||Green Bay Packers||Packers|
|Oakland Raiders||San Diego Chargers||Chargers|
|New England Patriots||Baltimore Ravens||Ravens|
|Chicago Bears||Philadelphia Eagles||Eagles|
|Atlanta Falcons||San Francisco 49ers||49ers|
Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs
The Colts utilized a great team effort to earn a 25-3 win over the Houston Texans in Week 15. Of course, this was only the second time since Week 7 that they did not go into halftime with a double-digit deficit.
Focus has been a serious problem all season for Indianapolis, and things could get even worse with the division already clinched. Head coach Chuck Pagano recently discussed this issue, via Kevin Bowen of Colts.com:
Having clinched the division, we said in these final three weeks, starting with the ballgame yesterday that we wanted to catch fire if you will, start trending in the right direction, get some momentum going, play a complete game and we did that in all three phases.
The problem is the Chiefs have a lot more to play for and have been performing much better as of late. Although they have been known for defense this year, they also have scored 101 points in the last two games combined.
Meanwhile, the defense will be as good as ever and should force Andrew Luck into mistakes throughout the game. This will be enough to help Kansas City win its final home game of the year as it tries to keep pace with the Denver Broncos in the NFC West.
Prediction: Chiefs 27, Colts 17
New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers
Over the years, the narrative has been that the Saints were miles better at home than on the road. Despite that, they had been one of the best road teams in the league over the past few seasons.
However, the mindset among fans has become the reality, as New Orleans fell to 3-4 on the road with a loss to the St. Louis Rams in Week 15. Interestingly, the problems go beyond just wins and losses as there are issues on both sides of the ball:
This gives the Panthers a huge advantage in this matchup, even after losing 31-13 to the Saints just two weeks earlier.
Carolina should be able to do a better job of running the ball, which will set up the offense and help keep Drew Brees off the field. As long as the defense can keep up its strong play to slow down the opposing offense, the Panthers should sneak out an important win.
Prediction: Panthers 20, Saints 17
New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens secured a tough win on the road over the Detroit Lions thanks to Justin Tucker's 61-yard field goal in the game's final minute. This dramatic finish had huge stakes, which were noted by the Monday Night Football Twitter account:
The @Ravens have won 4 straight after a 4-6 start and control their own destiny in the AFC North.— ESPN Monday Night (@ESPNMondayNight) December 17, 2013
With the win, Baltimore has the confidence to beat a good team and the momentum to take on anyone in the league. This is much more than you can say about the Patriots, after they dropped a close game to the Miami Dolphins in Week 15.
Playing without Rob Gronkowski, New England struggled in the red zone and had to settle for a couple of short field goals. The big tight end has made an enormous difference this year, as the Patriots have averaged 32 points per game with him in the lineup and only 20.7 points per game without.
Baltimore's defense has been playing as well as it has all season, and it should keep Tom Brady and company from running up the score.
If Joe Flacco can avoid mistakes like he did in the win over the Lions, he will extend the winning streak once again and put the Ravens in good position to make the playoffs.
Prediction: Ravens 23, Patriots 20
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